Updated: Oct 19, 2018
In 2014, Kristine was diagnosed with Type I B II Cervical Cancer. She successfully treated it with surgery and dietary changes, but her real story is just beginning. Kristine now focuses on giving hope to others by helping them manage some of the lingering effects following cancer surgery and lymph node removal.
Kristine thought she always took good care of herself, never missing her annual female wellness visits. At 22 she had an abnormal pap smear, with cancerous indications, but the results of a second test were normal. The first lab technicians assumed they must have mixed up the original pap-smear results. While Kristine felt this was strange, she didn’t give it another thought after a second set of testing was clear and carried on with her life. She got married and at age 26 had her first baby. She had a healthy baby boy and no one expressed any concern when she didn’t dilate during labor and delivery. Kristine continued with her annual female wellness visits and all was good. Four years later, she had another baby. Once again, she did not dilate during labor and delivery and once again, no one expressed any concern. Her second son was perfectly healthy. However, when Kristine returned to her Ob-Gyn for her post-partem C-section check-up, her doctor told her that she could actually see the cancer on her cervix during the exam. That was when everything changed.
Kristine underwent a cone biopsy at the James Cancer Center in Ohio. The biopsy results came back without clear margins, so Kristine’s oncologist gave her two treatment options: (i) a partial hysterectomy or (ii) a full radical hysterectomy. Unable to decide, Kristine asked her oncologist what he would do for treatment. He said if she wanted more kids, she should do the less invasive, partial hysterectomy. However, this procedure would not remove 100% of the cancer, so she would need to follow up with chemotherapy and radiation. On the other hand, a radical hysterectomy would hopefully remove all the cancer without the need for chemo and radiation, but then she would forego the option of having more children. Kristine decided to follow her oncologist’s advice, which was to have the radical hysterectomy, since she already had two children. She would rather have the best chance of seeing them grow up than leaving the door open to more children, but also an ongoing cancer battle.
In addition to the full hysterectomy (minus her ovaries, which she was able to keep), 28 of Kristine’s lymph nodes were removed. Fortunately, her lymph node test results came back clear of cancer, which meant that additional cancer treatment was not necessary.
Two years after her last surgery Kristine was invited to participate in a “Diet and Lifestyle Research Study” at the James Cancer Center at Ohio State University Hospital. Her specific study was called “NExT (Nutrition and Exercise Cancer Survivor Trial)”. The goal of the study was to assess whether nutrient-rich lean beef can be incorporated into a healthy dietary pattern forcancer survivors. The study included two test groups: the beef eaters and the plant-based diet eaters. Kristine was part of the latter group. While her diet excluded dairy and meat, she was able to eat fish as well as any plant-based foods. When the trial ended in May of 2018, Kristine and her entire family decided to continue this diet as they all enjoy it. Kristine, in particular, found that her entire body felt better, was less inflamed and retained less water while she was on the diet. This was important, because following her cancer surgery, Kristine’s body never returned to normal.
Life without a uterus and 28 lymph notes was and continues to be an adjustment. Kristine continues to suffer from Lymphedema (commonly caused by the removal of or damage to your lymph nodes as a part of cancer treatment), Lipedema (a symmetric deposition of painful fat tissue that was likely caused by the hormonal fluctuations of cancer treatment) and chronic venous issues.
Finding Hope in Helping Others
While Kristine cannot go back and return physically to how she once was, she decided to do something to help others suffering from Lymphedema, Lipedema and Chronic Venous Disease. Kristine has found the use of medical gradecompression garments very helpful in dealing with her own ailments. In fact, they have been so helpful, that she started her own online shop called MDEMA MEDICAL to bring these garments to her city and to all patients across the United States. (If you live near Columbus, Ohio you can meet with her in person, and she will help you select the compression garments that are right for you.)
Kristine is now 4 years clear of cervical cancer and is looking forward to celebrating her 5-year anniversary next fall when she will be officially inremission.
Since her cancer experience, she has run a half marathon and taken even greater control of her health and wellbeing. She wants others to know that they are not alone and that they can do it, too. As she says, “You are only going to be as good as you try to be”.
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