Media Music Jam 2019

Most of the lineup for the 2019 Media Music Jam at Buck Owens' Crystal Palace. The event's founder, Steve Flores, is ninth from left, flashing the peace sign.

Almost to a person, each of the 30 media people and community leaders who performed in the sold-out recent Media Music Jam, have explained to me how they have been personally affected by cancer. And although no survey was taken, my suspicion is many in the audience have also dealt with the emotional and financial devastation cancer can bring.

Before the music begins for each MMJ, my wish has been to load all the performers and audience into huge buses. I would take them on a tour of each lobby of all the cancer treatment centers here in Kern County ... a place nobody wants to be. My purpose for the “place nobody wants to be” lobby tour would be to serve as a gentle reminder of the reason for MMJ — to help cancer patients with their financial uncertainty.

Since that wish is impossible, we asked Kristen Krafthefer, a Kern County Cancer Fund recipient, to speak to the audience right before the concert began. KCCF is one of the programs that receives proceeds from MMJ.

As you would suspect, a sold-out concert where food, conversation and the buzz of seeing your favorite media personalities and community leaders perform, can be a tough crowd to quiet down. Kristen not only brought a quiet hush over the entire audience, but her revealing and heartfelt story of her cancer journey took everyone for an emotional ride into anxiety, despair and faith.

Kristen was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018. In the early stages of her diagnosis and treatment, asking for any kind of financial assistance wasn’t even a consideration. Kristen explained to the audience she is a self-described blue-collar worker. “I have never asked for financial help,” she proudly stated.

“I have worked and saved my whole life. I felt as though if I asked for help, it would be taking from someone who really needed it much more than I,” she explained.

She told the audience how she went to every cancer treatment center in Kern County, as well as Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, looking for a second, third and fourth opinion on her condition. As her cancer diagnosis became a clearer reality, so did the increase in insurance co-pays and other related treatment costs. It became evident to her and her husband, John, that cancer was not only a threat to her health but was also a threat to things for which they had saved for their whole life.

They began selling family items, cutting expenses and minimizing all unessential activities to help meet the financial demands of treating cancer. Her blue-collar pride didn’t allow her to consider asking for help.

The financial pressure was beyond her expectations and too much for her and her husband, John.

“I kept my pride for as long as I could, but cancer has a way of chipping away at your pride,” she said. “I literally got on my knees and prayed one night to God for help. The Kern County Cancer Fund was the answer to my prayers,” she emotionally recounted.

Kristen explained to the quiet crowd, “I have gone through 28 radiation sessions, eight chemotherapy treatments and four surgeries and because of the Kern County Cancer Fund and God, I am standing on the Crystal Palace stage at the Media Music Jam with you all to tell you my story tonight.”

The concert continued after Kristen spoke. Thirty media personalities and community leaders left their egos at the door and brought their “A” game for the show. There were many talent-laden and surprisingly energetic performances.

I asked people who attended the concert who their favorite performer was. Each person picked their favorite and in the same breath explained how Kristen touched their hearts with her courage and bravery in sharing her story.

I interviewed Kristen for this column and asked her if there is anything else she would like to say to people who may unfortunately be going through a similar experience.

She paused for a moment and quietly said, “Let the community love you.”

And fall in love with her, I and others did that night. MMJ raised $70,000 to help other “Kristens.”

Thank you, Kern County, for showing the love.

Email contributing columnist Steve Flores at His work appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are his own.


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