Kristina & Judy’s Story

Kristina: When you walk down the street, you can’t really pick out who had cancer and who didn’t. I remember when I first got cancer, that’s something that I struggled with. But now when I walk down the street that is my goal. I don’t want anyone to even suspect that I had it. I can look like the picture of health, but you don’t know what I had, and what I overcame. That was important to me – I didn’t want the stigma of having cancer. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. You can be healthy – that’s me: I eat healthy, I exercise 3-4 times a week – and everyone was like, “I can’t believe it happened to you of all people.” Personally how I feel I got breast cancer was because of in vitro. Going through my experience with in vitro and not realizing that that can kick-start the cancer cells, it made me realize it’s all about getting the word out that this does happen to younger people, too, and it’s serious. It has nothing to do with age. When you go through in vitro, these are some of the complications or side effects that can happen to you. When someone’s going through in vitro they’re not old enough for a mammogram. Thankfully, mine was caught early; I went for my first mammogram and that’s how I learned I had cancer.

Judy: I was always very diligent about going yearly for my mammograms but my husband had passed away and I didn’t give it thought. I kept getting letters, “You’re due for your next mammogram.” Okay, yeah. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go for it, my priorities were elsewhere. It went into four years that I didn’t go. When Kris was diagnosed, we were devastated. It took us all by complete surprise, and that was when I thought, I’d better go. I didn’t have any issues – there were no signs of any concerns. I did go, and I did get a letter stating that there is an issue. I can honestly say I wasn’t affected by it as much because I was so focused on Kris. It took the focus off of me having it, which helped me (not that I’m happy that she had it). That was 3 weeks after her. I’ll never forget. I got the call at around 8 in the morning. I answered the phone and they said “Yes, it is cancerous.”  I got off the phone and didn’t say anything. My son-in-law said “Who is that?” Uh-oh, he caught me, I thought, so I told him. And he said, “Why didn’t you tell us that you went?” and I said, “Because you’ve got enough on your plate, and I didn’t want you to have to worry about me when you need to concentrate on Kris.” And that’s how it started. I was there for her, and she was there for me. She bounced back so quickly. We had each other to lean on for support and it was great.

Kristina: To be able to go to this race and see a sea of pink survivors, it’s incredible. What we take from it is gratitude.

Kristina: We continually worked out through treatment. Trish, our trainer, stretched us. We had drains in us and we went to Trish. She worked with us with stretching and she helped reduce our scar tissue. She was instrumental in our whole treatment. We’re blessed to have her – she’s a survivor herself: she is battling lupus, which is a debilitating disease, and she has the best attitude. It’s very similar because cancer can be very debilitating. The treatments – whether it’s chemotherapy, radiation – they are all debilitating. I remember with my surgery, my husband stayed with me – he slept on the couch in my room – and then when mom had her surgery, I stayed in her room. That was 3 weeks after I had my surgery, I still had one drain left. We knew that we had to be strong for each other.

Judy: Women sometimes have the misconception when they hear ‘breast cancer’ that it’s death.

Judy: The only reason why I seemed strong was because I was focused on her. I don’t know how I would’ve reacted had it just been me. She is very strong.

Kristina: It does make you stronger, no doubt. Not only physically, but emotionally. It’s still hard. It’s hard to talk about but I think it’s important to do that for awareness. I don’t understand why I got this, but for whatever reason I did. For now, I want to be able to get the message out there for other women because if me speaking helps one person, it’s so worth it. To be able to go to this race and see a sea of pink survivors, it’s incredible. What we take from it is gratitude. I signed up for the race after diagnosis because of what we went through. We do it every year with our family. It’s a really special time to do this as a family.

Judy: Women sometimes have the misconception when they hear ‘breast cancer’ that it’s death. But it isn’t. There are so many treatments, plans and doctors that know so much more about it.  It just goes to show you that you don’t realize how many women have been affected by this, and when I see all this pink – women wearing their survivor shirts – I just can’t help it. I stare. It wakes you up, it’s a rude awakening. I feel very lucky and fortunate that I can attend the race as a survivor where I know there’s a lot of women who are not as fortunate – it’s more like an honor, really.

Kristina: You just feel blessed. You take so many things for granted every day – the gift of life is the most taken-for-granted, as well as the gift of good health.

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