In May of 2019, at only 38 years old, Crystal was diagnosed with stage 2 ER PR positive breast cancer. She had just begun the process for international adoption when she found out the news. Despite breast cancer running in her family, she was surprised at her diagnosis, thinking she was too young for breast cancer.
“As I drove to get my results, I felt sick to my stomach, but kept trying to be positive. I thought for sure they would call me and tell me it was negative and no need to come in. No luck. I got there and they took me into a dimly lit room and I thought “Man they sure make a big deal out of telling someone they don’t have cancer.” Deep down, I knew better. Then the nurse said she would go get the doctor to give me my results. I knew then it was cancer, but still tried to talk myself out of it. The doctor came in and he said,‘Well, it is cancer, but I think you knew that already.’ He told me it was an easily-treatable cancer so I was trying not to cry because I didn’t want to over-react.”
Crystal struggled with how to tell her family and coworkers. “People have asked me what went through my mind, and honestly my first thought was, ‘How do I tell my son?’ He was 14 and just finishing up junior high.”
Once she had some time to process, Crystal took to social media to announce her diagnosis, spread awareness, and remind everyone to do self checks as mammograms are not always accurate.
“I felt like I had 5 million appointments scheduled immediately. So I started off counting them. I ended up with over 144 appointments”
When Crystal met with her plastic surgeon. The first date they could both do the surgery was August 13th, 2019. Almost 2 whole months away. 2 months to worry if it was growing or spreading.
But alas, the day finally came and the surgery went well. They found stage 2 ER PR positive cancer in the right breast. This means that the breast cancer cells have both estrogen and progesterone receptors.They did end up finding a stage 0 area in the left breast as well, meaning it is limited to the inside of the milk duct and non-invasive.
Crystal started chemo early that November. “I had chemo treatments every other week for 16 weeks. 8 total treatments. Chemo wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but it wasn’t fun either.” She had radiation shortly after. Crystal wanted to get it over with and start it as soon as possible.
In addition to her breast cancer treatments, Crystal had to have an oophorectomy. This was right before the Covid pandemic hit. “I had to choose between medically induced menopause or having my ovaries removed. I chose to remove my ovaries. So I skipped a day of radiation and had them removed on March 9th. I barely made it in time. They locked our city down the following weekend, and stopped all elective surgeries.”
Crystal continued with radiation through Covid. “It was strange. Every day I went and everyday things seemed to change. Masks and temperature taking rules changed frequently. The roads were empty on my drives home. Since I was going out, I didn’t feel safe visiting with my family, even though they weren’t going anywhere either. So I was basically alone for the duration of my radiation. I had terrible burns. I never want to do radiation again. I mean honestly, I’d rather not have cancer again either, but definitely not radiation.”
After radiation and healing, Crystal had her final surgery on October 27, 2020. Just five days before that surgery, she received the call that she was matched with a child and was finally able to adopt! “God’s timing was perfect!”, she exclaimed.
Despite contracting an infection in February of 2021, and having her implant exchanged, Crystal has had a smooth recovery. Crystal received an individual grant from us. She shared, “I was able to completely heal from everything and traveled to Africa in 2021 to pick up my beautiful daughter! My cancer journey spanned over 3 calendar years, so I had 3 years of max out of pocket deductibles. The money that I was awarded through the UBCF Grant was one of the best things that could happen! I am so grateful! It was able to pay off my Oncology bill that was piling up for 2 calendar years. It gave me such peace of mind! Thank you so much!!!”
United Breast Cancer Foundation is honored to have provided Crystal the help she needed on her cancer journey and road to recovery. We have numerous grant programs available and our team is here to provide assistance to those in need. This October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We hope Crystal’s journey has provided hope and inspiration to those currently fighting breast cancer and those on their road to recovery.