One Face, One Voice: Kim Crist’s Metastatic Breast Cancer Story

Guest Post By: Kim Crist

 

After I finished treatment for early stage breast cancer, I never considered that I was in remission. I told everyone I was cured. The doctors told me after four months of chemotherapy and 40 rounds of radiation that I would be just fine. It took me a long time to really believe that I was going to be okay. For years, I couldn’t drive by my oncologist’s office without having that “sick to my stomach, I had just had chemo” feeling. But the nauseating fears were finally gone when I hit the five-year mark. I remember driving by my doctor’s office and realized I didn’t think about my cancer. I had finally let go of my fears and realized I really did beat this.

It turns out there is no way to know if you have a cancer cell tucked away. It was almost 10 years after my first diagnosis that I was diagnosed with Metastatic, or stage four, disease. They say if you go five or 10 years, you’ve beat it… I thought I was home free. Not one doctor told me the true statistics for recurrence. If I had known, maybe I would have been more diligent in taking my estrogen blocker. Maybe I would have done more research at the time. Perhaps I would have known what symptoms to look out for. The maybes, the what ifs take a toll.

Funny thing is, I thought I was taking care of myself. I worked out and lifted weights, I took exercise classes. I even thought I was doing too much because on two separate occasions I ended up in the ER with crippling back pain. I had to actually leave during the middle of a workout class. Each time being sent home with pain meds and muscle relaxers. Not one doctor asked about a cancer history.

It wasn’t until a routine yearly blood work and oncologist visit to get my mammogram prescription that my doctor saw a rise in my tumor markers…the results you have figured out. What does this diagnosis mean; Metastatic Breast Cancer?? As far as I’m concerned Metastatic disease is a polite way of saying you have stage IV cancer. Stage IV?? We get it now. At least one would think so.

I believe Susan G. Komen is a wonderful platform. We have so much information to share and research left to be done. Walking and raising money allows me to share my story and hopefully teach someone else what to look out for and what questions to ask. Why didn’t those doctors know to ask if I had a history of cancer? Why didn’t I know that bones are the most likely place for initial metastasis? Why didn’t I think to, or better yet, why didn’t I know to ask for an MRI over an X-ray? X-rays don’t show cancer. This is important information that I wish I had known and needs to be shared.

“We need to laugh. We need to laugh at ourselves”

Now, people ask me, “Are you in remission? You’ll be cured, right? Are you done with your medicine?” The answer? No, no and no. They ask, things like, “how long will your medicine work?” Until it doesn’t. Then I’ll find another drug. All in hopes of going another three months praying and stressing that the next scan is stable. I can live with it in my bones, I dread the day it attacks my organs.

Right now, there is no time for being sick and no time for stinky thinking. No time for rest. Now is the time for faith and giving back. Being a Susan G. Komen walker and super supporter has given me an opportunity to talk to people from all over the country. The 3-Day brings together a large community of fighters, survivors and the surviving.

As a 14-year walker I’ve not only seen the impact we have made in research, but I’m living

proof. Coming up on five years, I would have never thought I’d have the quality of life that I do. My bones are weakened by the cancer slowly eating away at it, but now there is a simple shot I take every quarter to keep me strong. My freedom and quality come from not being stuck in a chemo chair. Breakthroughs have happened!! But we have to keep working.

“It’s important to keep your strength and be out in nature”

Thank you, Susan G. Komen, thank you fellow supporters, sponsors and researchers. This walker will never give up and I will never give in.

Learn more about Metastatic Breast Cancer. If you or a loved one has questions or needs support, please call 1-877-GO KOMEN.

 

Official Sponsor of the 3-Day®

10 Ways to Update Your 3-Day Training as the Weather Cools

Last month was the official start of Fall, and now October is here! Where has the time gone? But we still have three more 3-Day walks ahead for the year, and we know that many of you are kicking your training into high gear for these final weeks. As the days get shorter and the weather gets cooler, your training plans need to change with the season. There are a few simple steps you can take to make your fall training safer and more productive.

Tip 1 — Plan ahead: Temperature isn’t the only thing you should be monitoring as fall and winter arrive. You should also look out for rain and/or fog in the forecast. Plan your route for places you know well, and that have areas to step off the route for a rest or to seek shelter if rain begins.

Tip 2 — Increase stretching: Stretch inside before you begin your walk, then do another quick stretch outside right before you start. Finally, don’t forget to stretch when you’re back home and the walk is done! You need to keep your muscles limber and as warm as much as possible.

Tip 3 — Stay in the sunshine while you can: Many parts of the country will have warmer weather for a bit longer, so take advantage while you can! Also, no matter where you live, check the weather for the day to make sure there isn’t rain or snow coming up, and to schedule your walk for when the sun is highest, and the weather is warmest.

Tip 4 — Layer up but keep your layers thin: Avoid bulk that will get annoying as you walk! Instead, dress in multiple layers that you can easily remove if you get warmer. Pack items like a hat or scarf in your pack in case the wind shifts or it gets cooler.

Tip 5 — Don’t forget your fingers and skin: They need to be kept warm, too! People often remember a warmer hat, but don’t forget your gloves. Pack lotion and lip balm for longer walks because your skin will need extra hydration and protection in cooler temps. And don’t forget sunscreen! Even when it’s cold, you still need to protect your skin from the sun’s rays.

Tip 6 — Space out your steps: Instead of aiming for much longer walks only once or twice a week, plan your schedule to include more frequent walks with less miles in each one. This will keep you from being outside for longer than necessary.

Tip 7 — Go with your gut: Don’t insist on walking for a set number of times or hours. If you feel too chilly, weather pops up, or you just need to turn back, listen to your body! If need be, you can even pop into the next shop or café you see and order a cab to take you back to your starting point. Don’t push yourself unnecessarily!

Tip 8 — Stay alert: Keeping eyes on the ground and on your surroundings will keep you safe! Many people walk with headphones in, and this is an extra important tip for all of you. From icy patches to big puddles, to cars or snowplows and more… there is a lot to keep an eye out for.

Tip 9 — Hydration is still key: You might not feel thirsty, but you still need to drink and pee! We always remind you of this on the 3-Day but on your training walks, please remember to hydrate even more than you think you do.

Tip 10 — Grab a buddy! Laughter might not technically warm your body, but having a walking partner will warm your heart 😊 They can also track your hydration, help you keep an eye out for traffic or looming rain clouds, and keep you motivated on your walk.

What are your training goals for Fall 2019? Tell us in the comments, and share your tips for making the most of those walks…

For tips about healthy living, click here for advice and support to keep you on track for the 3-Day and beyond. Thanks to the support of Amgen and in partnership with American Bone Health, the Healthy Living series was designed to prepare your mind, body and bones for the 3-Day.

I Walk for Mary Beth: Linda Harris’ 3-Day Story

“We meet people every day; it is important to pay attention to the ones who will make an impact. We all have a warrior in us, but I know my fight started with Mary Beth. She was the one.”

Linda H. began walking the 3-Day in 2012, and since then has joined our pink family everywhere from Michigan to San Diego to the Twin Cities this past year. She has walked and crewed and has supported Susan G. Komen’s mission throughout the years even when she’s not on one of our 3-Day weekends. This commitment didn’t happen by accident.

In 2012, she never thought she’d be able to walk 60 miles. But then she met Mary Beth L., and everything changed. Linda walks for Mary Beth, and for all of those in her life who have felt the cruel impact of breast cancer. She will never quit. After honoring Mary Beth at our Twin Cities 3-Day this past August, Linda shared her full story with us.

How did you first come to join the 3-Day?

About 10 years ago I was sitting at my son’s football practice. I had become friendly with one of the moms, Mary Beth, through our sons. We had met years earlier, but we only really started to get to know each other through football. Then one day, I noticed this well put together woman had extremely ugly feet. Not necessarily ugly, but blisters and toenails missing!

“Excuse me, I have to ask: What is going on with your feet?!”

She laughed and said, “I just completed the Susan G. Komen 3-Day.”

My heart immediately began to race! That was something that I had always wanted to do. She began to tell me that she had walked for years but had been diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer, so this past walk was especially meaningful to her.

All I could say was, “You just walked 60 miles AND you have cancer?”

I had always told myself that I was too busy or could never complete 60 miles in 3 days. This was the push I needed. I was meant to meet Mary Beth. I immediately went home and signed up. Over the course of training and fundraising we became extremely close. We shared our work obstacles, talked about our marriages and children all while she was undergoing surgeries, chemo, radiation and reconstruction. She had cancer but she always seemed to be helping me and taking care of others. Her smile, laughter and amazing outlook on life were contagious.

In 2012 we walked together in the Michigan 3-Day. It was absolutely life changing. The tears, laughter, pain and the emotional experience bonded us together FOREVER. After completing the walk, we both decided to crew together the next year.

And how did your and Mary Beth’s 3-Day journeys grow from there?

In early November 2012, I saw a post on Facebook from Mary Beth.

“Well, it looks like I am walking this year.”

I realized this was her way of telling us that the cancer was back. I jumped in my car to be by her side. She was extremely positive and always wanted to be strong for those who were around her. So, Mary Beth and I signed up to walk again, positive that we would walk together for years to come. We trained and spent time watching old movies and laughing. I remember so much laughing 😊

In retrospect, she was giving me her story to carry on what she had started.

My dear friend lost her battle with cancer on May 15, 2013, at the age of 39. She supported the Susan G. Komen organization until her dying breath. She was passionate about the cure and believed the research that this organization does will not only find a cure for breast cancer but pave the road to end all cancer. So, I will walk until I no longer am able to.

Mary Beth leaves behind a legacy of walkers who believe in her vision. Her amazing parents have supported me every year with encouragement and very generous donations. They have even donated to my teammates who were struggling to meet their goal.

In addition to Mary Beth, for whom do you walk?

I walk for my teammates and lifelong “Sisters in Walking Bonds” friends.

Andrea S.K., who has walked the 3-Day twice now. Karry C., who has walked with me four consecutive years and her beautiful daughter Lexi, who walked with us for the first time this year.

Colleen S. has also walked with me four times. She was diagnosed a few months prior to our San Diego walk last year, but she scheduled her radiation around the walk and didn’t let it stop her. I am proud to say she is now cancer-free!

I walk for my beautiful sister Lisa, who was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is also cancer-free today. I walk for all those who cannot. There will be a day in our lifetime, a WORLD WITHOUT CANCER.

What are some of your fondest 3-Day memories from years past?

Walking with Mary Beth in 2012 and in 2015 with my best friend since kindergarten to support her mom, who had just been diagnosed. I flew to Dallas, and my husband and son went with me ❤ Her mom is now cancer-free! And then, of course in 2019, speaking to the 3-Day community about why I started walking for Mary Beth, and raising the flag in her honor.

As a long-time walker, do you have any training tips for new walkers?

Train outside (always!), and train at least 5 miles at a time. Strength training is key, too! It helps with breathing and muscle memory helps with hills.

Any tried and true fundraising tips?

Email your target contributor with the intention of just saying, “I’m walking!” Make it personal and ask if you may send them the link. If you ask instead of just sending, 99 times out of 100 they will ask for it.

What does the word “commitment” mean to you?

Commitment to me, it is a part of my heart. It’s not an obligation. It’s who I am.