SAN ANTONIO -

This Saturday, thousands of people will lace up their tennis shoes to participate in the American Diabetes Association's annual Walk to Stop Diabetes.

The "Step Out" walk raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for research to find a cure for the deadly disease.

Among the estimated 3,000 walkers will be Chad Thompson, who'll be walking in honor of his wife who died from diabetes-related complications in early October.

Thompson married the love of his life, Jena Evans Thompson, on March 3, 2012. She was a firecracker, full of personality and seemingly full of life, he said.

None of her friends or family imagined they would be attending her funeral just 19 months later.

"She would not let people know how bad it was and so I know it was a shock when she passed," Thompson said. "Her 40th birthday was a month before she died and people saw there that she was struggling and that was the first time anybody really saw that and it was the last time anybody really saw her."

Diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at the age of 11, Jena managed her disease for years and didn't let it stop her from achieving her dreams.

She had a successful career in public relations, working for the Dallas Cowboys and the San Antonio Spurs before starting her own firm. 

As her disease progressed, she was unable to work.

"The last couple of years, her health just started declining and I didn't ever know much about diabetes. Frankly, I was sort of naive," Thompson said. "In the last year, especially six to eight months (before her death), she was basically bed-ridden."

Shortly after her 40th birthday party, Jena's body began shutting down.

"Her kidneys started reaching Stage 3 of disease and then in the last few weeks there, she just declined to the point where she was in the ICU for two weeks and just couldn't hold on anymore," Thompson said.

Jena Thompson passed away on Oct. 7, one month and one day after her birthday.

Sadly, Jena's story is not that uncommon.

"Diabetes is a huge problem in San Antonio and Bexar County," said Dr. Curtis Triplitt, a researcher at the Texas Diabetes Institute Research Center.  "About one in seven people in Bexar County have diabetes currently."

Triplitt said while there is no cure, the disease can be managed.

"Everything from getting Type 2 diabetes, or adult onset, to managing Type 1 diabetes, we can prevent all the complications of diabetes from good glucose control, good blood pressure control, good cholesterol control," Triplitt said. "This will help decrease the risk of complications tremendously."

According to Triplitt, fundraisers like this weekend's walk help fund the fight to stop the disease and raise awareness in the community.

"Every time someone comes and walks, a lot of that money comes right back to someone who has diabetes or helps fund a project that will actually help find a cure for diabetes," Triplitt said.

Even though Jena lost her battle with the disease, Chad has vowed to pick up the fight in her name.

"It's made me realize the diabolical nature of the disease," Thompson said. "I had no idea she would pass this young, but obviously I know now it can kill you at an early age and it can debilitate you possibly even younger than that."

Chad has found some relief from his grief by raising money for this weekend's walk.

In a short time he's raised nearly $2,000. He will be joined by many of Jena's friends as they walk in her honor.

The Step Out Walk To Stop Diabetes kicks off Saturday, November 2, at the AT&T Center.  Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. and the walk starts at 9:00 a.m.

To join or make a donation Chad's team, visit this website.