Breast cancer survivors hope to ‘be a light,’ inspire others with their stories

Jenny Mills, Darilyn Krempin share diagnosis, goal to help those in their shoes


Soomin Chung

Talking to teachers Natalie Merrill and Jenny Mills, anatomy and physiology teacher Darilyn Krempin hugs Prestonwood Baptist Church member and teacher Holly Hollingsworth-Ervin in a digitally constructed image by senior Soomin Chung. Mills, Krempin and Hollingsworth-Ervin are breast cancer survivors and were honored at the pep rally. “When I heard the word cancer – in the same sentence with my name – it stops you in your tracks,” Krempin said. “And, you start immediately thinking. You start realizing what really becomes important. It made me realize that I need to spend more time with my kids. I needed to spend more time with my friends and family. They needed to know how grateful I was for them and how much I love them.” (Digital constructed image by Soomin Chung, photo by Amanda Hare).


Two years ago, Jenny Mills helped Darilyn Krempin through her breast cancer diagnosis. Today, with a silent strength, she reaches out to hold Krempin’s hand, tears welling in her eyes, as the two friends continue to support each other and others who experience the same diagnosis.

Mills and Krempin first met when they both taught at Wakeland High School in Frisco. Krempin was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2019, and Mills, who was diagnosed in 2011, supported her and helped her through her diagnosis and treatment. They both moved to Prosper for the 2019-2020 school year, and now Krempin teaches the anatomy and physiology course while Mills teaches biology.

“I found out through a yearly mammogram that I always have done,” Krempin said. “I knew that I had felt something and it just seemed odd. So I was like, ‘You know what, if there is anything, you’re gonna see it in my mammogram’ – because I actually had one scheduled. It was just from my routine mammogram that I was able to find it.”

Meanwhile, Mills said she found a lump in her breast when she was putting her then 3-year-old daughter to sleep.

“I was lying down, and I just had my arm cockeyed underneath me, and I felt a little lump,” Mills said. “And I thought, ‘what is that?’ I was 34 years old, and I thought: ‘That can’t be cancer.’ But, the doctor didn’t think so either. And so she was like, ‘Go, just have a mammogram, and see what it is, but it’s not cancer.’ And, it was cancer.”

At the time, Mills taught at Wakeland, later becoming the head girls basketball coach from fall of 2015 to spring of 2019. Krempin had worked as the head girls coach since she started in the fall of 2006. Mills took the position after she left in 2015.

“I was 34. I was teaching and coaching,” Mills said. “It was difficult for me because I’ve always been a very healthy person, and I thought: ‘How could this be happening?’ But, through it all, it made me a better person because it made me realize that I need to appreciate the living. There were a lot of people that were looking at me, and I was able – I hope – to be a positive light for them.”

Krempin said she “realized what was important” and “what really matters” when she heard her diagnosis.

“When I heard the word cancer – in the same sentence with my name – it stops you in your tracks,” Krempin said. “And, you start immediately thinking. You start realizing what really becomes important. It made me realize that I need to spend more time with my kids. I needed to spend more time with my friends and family. They needed to know how grateful I was for them and how much I love them. When you get that news, it just immediately makes you look at things differently. It makes you immediately realize what really is important in life and that we spend our time on things that really, at the end of the day, don’t matter.”

Just like Mills, Krempin said she asked herself: “Why me?”

“Of course, I asked the ‘Why me?’ question, and I was healthy,” Krempin said. “I was in the middle of training for a marathon. I thought ‘this can’t be happening to me.’ But it was, and it was God’s plan for me, and I now know my answer to the ‘why’ question is that I can be a light to others and I can share my story and encourage and help other moms and sisters and friends and whoever I can through their journey.”

Mrs. Krempin made Anatomy and Physiology engaging, and I looked forward to every class. She briefly mentioned her diagnosis one time during class, and I find her strength and courage to be awe-inspiring.

— Senior Tiana Albino

Krempin’s friends, family and kids motivated her to fight breast cancer.

“Things may get us (Mills and Krempin) down for a little bit, but things won’t keep us down,” Krempin said. “We fight a disease like that for our kids, we fight for other women who are going to get the same diagnosis someday, so that they can see that there is hope, and there is so much that can be done and treated. That’s why I decided to fight the disease, to spread hope for others and just be a light.”

Mills also said it’s all about getting back up after being knocked down.

“She (Mills’ daughter) has revealed to me now, as a 13 year old, that my fight meant to her, as a 3-year-old, more than I ever could have imagined,” Mills said. “Yes, I’m a fighter, and I can’t say that all days were great. But what you do about it is who you are. It’s not about what’s happening to you. What are you going to do about it? Are you going to sit down and let it defeat you? Or, are you going to continue to fight?”

As October brings attention to the disease for being “Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” Mills said she hopes to “comfort” and help those who are diagnosed with the disease.

“I think right now, doing what we’re doing, even though it’s difficult, being able to talk to other people,” Mills said. “The amount of people that I’ve met through this disease are innumerable. I never imagined the number of people who go through the same thing that I did. So to be able to be a sounding board or a comforting hand or ear is how I bring awareness to breast cancer.”

Krempin said the experience was the “same” for her.

“Being able to, even though it’s difficult, sit and share your story and think back to that whole journey,” Krempin said. “That’s how we spread awareness and going back to ‘why did this happen to me?’ Well, I know why it happened to me. Now I can do something with it. Just being able to be there for someone else and let them know, ‘Look, you’re not alone, and I’m going to be with you through this journey.’ I had Coach Mills to walk with me through the journey and numerous friends and family. Now, I get the opportunity to do that for others.”

When someone is diagnosed, Krempin said the best thing to do is just “love” and support them.

“If you know someone who’s going through this, just loving on them, hugging on them,” Krempin said. “The best thing that you can give someone is your time and just sitting and listening. I try to remind my own children of that. Sometimes the best thing you can do is slow down and stop and sit with them and listen. If you know anyone, if they are struggling with cancer or anything for that matter, that’s the best thing you can do for them, just listen.”

Similarly, Mills said it’s all about “caring” for someone.

“A lot of times people don’t know what to do in this situation, and they want to help,” Mills said. “Time is one thing, just a little note of encouragement. Of course, people always want to do monetary things, but sometimes people don’t have that option, just caring about someone and showing up.”