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®

From Pain to Gain – and $1.4 Million

When Tina McDonough was asked to walk in the 2007 Seattle 3-Day with three friends in honor of her friend Michelle, who was living with breast cancer,  she couldn’t refuse. She remembers vividly how she felt physically while walking those 60 miles. “I had not trained enough, and was hurting – bad!” Tina confessed. That, she thought, would be her first – and last – 3-Day walk.

When Michelle lost her fight against cancer just two months later, Tina  was no longer deterred by her memories of the physical discomfort of her first walk. “I watched Michelle’s 12-year-old daughter and her husband fall apart,” said Tina. “Attending her funeral was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I knew I had to do something, so I started a team to walk in her memory. I figured training and fundraising as a group would make it easier.” So her team, Valley Girls and Guys, was born.

VGG 1

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The 3-Day: Atlanta Style

Saturday night’s Camp Show said it all: from the choir Shades of Pink to the dance party that just kept going, the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® in Atlanta this year was one good time after another. The Crew of more than 300 volunteers gathered before the event and very early on Friday morning to make sure the kickoff at Stone Mountain was just perfect. A chilly but dry morning blossomed into a beautiful sunrise as more than 1,000 walkers stretched, did Zumba, and cheered to the launch of a 60-mile walk that would raise over $2.9 million for breast cancer research and local support. Many first-time walkers enjoyed the inspirational Opening Ceremony and over 100 men joined the Komen 3-Day in Atlanta this year!

“Playing it cool” was the name of the game as walkers circled Stone Mountain through the large production set and onto the streets of Clarkston, Avondale Estates and Decatur. A large group of Bank of America employees at Pit Stop 3 cheered walkers who had started to feel the pains of the challenging walk. “No one said anything about those first hills!” smiled one walker when I asked how the day was going. Cheering stations in Decatur and possibly one of the most adorable group of pre-schoolers near the Clarkston First Baptist Church kept spirits high as participants finished the 21.6-mile day at the World Congress Center in Atlanta. Shelley Middleton gave a moving speech that night at the camp show and the Milestone Award was presented to Beth White for her eight years of dedication to the 3-Day®. She has personally raised $65,600 to date and counting! What an inspiration for the fight against breast cancer.

Day 2 rained on and off, enough for walkers to don ponchos on the 19.3-mile route through the northern areas of Atlanta. The Youth Corps once again provided some entertainment at lunch in the Buckhead neighborhood, and the cheering stations, including the Komen Greater Atlanta Affiliate were just awesome. The much anticipated Shades of Pink Choir (made up of 18 breast cancer survivors) rocked the house while the walkers and crew dined after the long day, and an impromptu duet of “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” (Martina McBride) by two of the younger walkers made the evening a musical delight. Joe Moore, a co-survivor, and Melissa Traylor, a young survivor, reminded  the large crowd of why we all work so hard. After the great camp show, things didn’t slow down. A dance party to rival any 3-Day Dance Party exploded with the Youth Corps leading things off!

Day 3 included a 15.3-mile route through Atlanta. The walkers enjoyed especially sunny and cooler weather and a great sunrise as they moved through Piedmont Park and Freedom Park. The Woodward Eagles cheerleaders entertained at a private station near Emory University. Walkers and crew finished the route at Turner Field to the cheers of family and friends (and two wedding proposals!) and celebrated the fight against breast cancer through a program of remembrance of lost loved ones and an appreciation of the survivors of breast cancer. The Survivors’ Circle gathered to raise the flag: “We Will Never Give Up!”

What is your favorite memory of the Atlanta 3-Day?

ADDITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHS

Atlanta 3-Day Day 1 Atlanta 3-Day Day 1 Atlanta 3-Day Day 1 Atlanta 3-Day Day 2 Atlanta 3-Day Day 2 Atlanta 3-Day Day 2 Atlanta 3-Day Day 2 Atlanta 3-Day Day 2 Atlanta 3-Day Day 2 Atlanta 3-Day Day 2 Atlanta 3-Day Day 2 Atlanta 3-Day Day 2 Atlanta 3-Day Day 2 Atlanta 3-Day Day 2 Atlanta 3-Day Day 2 Atlanta 3-Day Day 2 Atlanta 3-Day Day 2 Atlanta 3-Day Day 2 Atlanta 3-Day Day 2 Atlanta 3-Day Day 2 Atlanta 3-Day Day 2 Atlanta 3-Day Day 2 Atlanta 3-Day Day 2

Atlanta 3-Day Day 3 Atlanta 3-Day Day 3 Atlanta 3-Day Day 3 Atlanta 3-Day Day 3