Krystal’s story about living with cancer and what she’s doing to raise awareness… This is one tough Little Miss!
A little bit of background
I am from a small country town in Michigan, raised on a farm. I am the second oldest out of four (three girls and the boy being the youngest). Growing up I was pretty shy and laidback. My favorite subject is Math and my most hated subject is English. I was raised catholic, but believe in god no matter what church I go to. I am also a big believer in everything happens for a reason. Which a lot of my morals I learned from my parents. I truly had a great set of parents that raised their children in the best way possible. That is the only explanation for how we all turned out so well.
I graduated high school in 1999 and started college that fall. I my mind I was ready for college just for the fact that it marked another step in growing up, but mentally I was ready for fun. My mom said that I broke out of my shell in my senior year of high school. I became more outgoing and more of a trouble maker. So my first year of college was an expensive year of partying, missing classes, and learning about life. As I look back I see it as a great investment to who I am today. But the year 2000 I was heading nowhere. I had a few friends that joined into the military. They inspired me to look into the idea. I went to see different recruiters but found myself signing on to go into the Air Force. Another best move I could have ever made.
I left for the Air Force September 13th 2000. For my luck they over booked us girls and I got stuck there for an extra week. An experience I will so never forget. I met a lot of great people in training that still to this day I keep in contact with. We helped and encouraged each other to keep moving. I still think we do that for each other. My job was supply management, and my first official base was Eglin, AFB Florida. Before I knew it September 11 2001 came on, and I put myself out there for whatever they needed. I was only an airman at the time and so my training was only still in the beginning which meant staying put. I am still proud to have been apart of the military on that day. The year 2003 I found myself preparing for deploying to Iraq. I am not going to lie I was scared. I was in a squadron that was first to go over to set up. Two weeks before I was to head out I found out I was pregnant and already 2 to 3 months in. In a way I say my son is my blessing. After I had my son my squadron had returned and was preparing to deploy out again to Iraq and I was on the list to go, but then I also received orders to Korea. I am a true mom before military cause I didn’t want to leave my son only months of having him. When my four years was coming to an end, my husband and I decided that it would be best to get out. On September 13th 2004 ended my journey in the military. I was worried about the decision because I so greatly wanted to server for my country and it gave me direction, but not long after I got out my husband deployed out to Iraq, and right before our son’s first birthday, thanksgiving, Christmas, and our first anniversary. I was going to miss him greatly so I figured it would be heart saving if I went to stay with my parents for a few of the months my husband was gone. Everything worked out great.
After my husband returned I learned that I wasn’t very good at playing the stay at home mom. So to get out here and there I went to work at a video store. It was an interesting job, but easy. After only a few months I got a call asking if I would be interested in a job working with Boeing. Wow, another great experience. At the same time my husband and I knew we would be leaving sometime because he was accepted into Officer training. He left for training in January 2006 in Alabama and Connor and I stayed in Florida where I stayed working for Boeing until end of March. April 7,2006 Mark graduated and became Lt.Stallings. We had orders to Scott AFB, IL. We were only there a few days with no time to get a house because Mark had to go for more training. Since I hadn’t been home home in awhile Connor and I went to live with my parents.
Mark and I spent lots of time on the phone going back and forth about buy a house and what we were looking for in the house., in July it became official, we were home owners. And that is where my Journey begins.
In 2007 I was 25 years old and pregnant with my second child. I had passed 6 kidney stones while I was pregnant, and I also complain about lower back pain. I told the doctors that my butt hurt so bad it felt like it was going to fall off. They told me that it was just pregnancy symptoms. Well I had my daughter Sept. 5th 2007, and the pain seemed to have gone, so I thought it was because my pregnancy. I had bleeding but thought it was hymriods. March 2008 I went into the ER for a vaginal assist, which ended up bursting on the way there. They couldn’t tell where it was at, and they had to use a catheter to get a urine sample, and some how in that procedure they loosed up another kidney stone. They did a CT scan, and found that both my kidneys were full of stones and the one I was passing was a 9mm. They gave me pain meds and sent me home. The next day the ER doctor called and said they reviewed my scan again and they found some swollen lymph nodes. She told me that she hoped that it was cause of the assist but for just in case wait a month and go get another scan done. In May 2008 I went in for another CT scan. The Radiologist said he couldn’t identify my ovaries so he wanted me to go get the original CT scan so he could compare. The radiologist called me himself and said that I needed to get an MRI and go see an OB specialist ASAP. So I went to get the MRI done, soon after I met with a OB doctor. The OB doctor asked if I knew what was going on and I told him no not really. He says “Oh great I get to tell you the good stuff”. He tells me that there seems to be solid objects on one of my ovaries and one to be close to the other. I told him everything I had been through and he told me that he was going to send me to another OB doctor that specializes in my situation. One thing lead to another and July 13th (Friday the 13th) I went in for an office visit and they did a rectal exam, the doctor says he sees blood so I needed to get a colonoscopy done. From there I went to see another doctor and said that I needed the colonoscopy done asap, where he personally lead me out to the office to schedule it. This was a Tuesday and I was in there on Thursday. He did find a large mass and sent it off to be tested. June 23, 2008 I was officially diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Everything happened quickly, I was in for radiation and chemo end of July for 5 weeks. I got a couple weeks break and then had surgery October 9, 2008. They did a full hysterectomy and colostomy. They took out 9 to 10 inches of colon with 21 lymph nodes. Out of the 21, 12 came back positive for cancer. End of November I started chemo again until may 09 where I was told I was cancer free. But for maintenance I did 5 more months of chemo. In September 2009 we had to discontinue the chemo because it was causing heart attack symptoms, in which I was excited to begin the new normal.
February 2010 my husband was transferred to Wright Patterson AFB, I was very nervous moving to a different health care team. But when we got here I never had so many appointments. They have taken care of everything; I met the cancer care team here, and had more scans. The scan came back with the original spot on my liver that they have been keeping an eye on, but a lymph node in the pelvic region is in flared I guess is how you would say it. Then I went for PET scan, and results showed no evidence of cancer. My oncologist is worried because my case is so unusual and I am at high risk for reoccurrence there is no textbook answer to what they should do next. So they are being proactive and I go for surgery on July 6, 2010 so they can biopsy the spot on my liver and they are removing the lymph nodes in the pelvic area. If they come back non cancerous then I will be good for another 3 months, but if it comes back as cancer they will have to do more chemo. My case just makes it difficult cause there hasn’t been anything like me so they are not sure what exactly to use and for how long. They are also afraid because I have had so much chemo that my body will maybe at some point become immune.
There is so much that I want to do. I was asked to be a board member on the American Cancer Society that they are building in my county. I am going to be on the Colorectal tasks force, and I am on the speaker bureau. I want to make colorectal cancer more aware of, even though I have colostomy I still have to have colonoscopy. Since I was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 26 my children will have to get colonoscopies when they are 16. I would love to find away so they wont have to go through what I did or going through now. Also I have many ideas and ways to help people I would love to share them and put them out there for other cancer patients. One thing to I think needs to be addressed is that the military needs a good cancer support. Being a part of the military we do not have family and so little of friends around us for that we don’t have the closeness like most people do when they are living in the same area for years.
Cancer is a terrible thing but I feel I was blessed with it so that I can help find a cure.