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Kristen’s Story

Published on April 11, 2018 in Share Your Story

At the end of June 2014, I was in a hit-and-run accident on the freeway while coming home from work in San Francisco. Amazingly, I walked away with nothing but a sore back and a stiff neck. My family and friends were grateful that my car took the brunt of the damage, but encouraged me to get a CT scan just to rule out any possibility of a concussion. Less than 24 hours later, the doctors delivered the news: thankfully, my CT scan had been negative for a concussion, but shockingly, they discovered a brain tumor. The news left myself and my family reeling.

I spent the next 2 months preparing for brain surgery, I then made it through a 5 hour brain surgery only to awake with no feeling in the left side of my body. Two days after her surgery, I moved to a rehabilitation center in Vallejo and spent the next 2.5 weeks learning how to hold a fork, tie my shoes, and give myself a shower again. To go from being a healthy and active 25 year old to being wheelchair-bound was immeasurably difficult. While in the rehabilitation center, the tumor results came back, and the news was nothing short of unbelievable. I was diagnosed with a grade 3 anaplastic astrocytoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. Needless to say, this curve ball was unexpected and devastating.

Only a few weeks after being released from the rehabilitation center, I began an intensive 6 week/30 treatment radiation plan. The radiation burned my head in many spots and caused my hair to fall out and even go completely bald in some patches. Because my type of cancer is aggressive, only a month after finishing the radiation, I started chemotherapy that would continue for a year in 28-day-cycles. The chemo had left me feeling weak, tired, and nauseous, but I remained positive and optimistic with the support of my team at Kaiser Redwood City, my family and my friends.

Today, I am at the point where my regular MRI checkups and appointments with my Neuro-oncologist are every 4 months rather than every 3 months. No matter how often, these appointments are emotionally draining. So having one less per year is great. I was able to do this because comparing a recent scan to ones from over a year ago looked the same. Shout out to Scott Peak, Nisha Hazari and Laura Cruz!! I still have many side effects from all of the treatments, but over the course I have had more good days then bad days.

I have learned that always having something to look forward to really helps me. I’ve been traveling a lot, mostly to Los Angeles to work events such as The Voice, Golden Globes, NBA All Star Game and recently the iHeart Radio awards. These opportunities are so exciting and continually teach me new things. I have also made life long friends. I have planned trips to Texas to see family, Vegas to see Britney and a few other new cities just for fun!

I have also found that staying involved with events such as this has brought me so much pride and joy. In the past, when someone I knew got sick or got diagnosed I never knew what to say. I would ask how to help but not know how. I would feel sorry for them. I have lost some friends to cancer since I was diagnosed and have found the one way I was able to help was not to feel sorry for them but to encourage them. “You are not alone” “Stay Resilient” and “You are strong” were some of the ones that stuck with me. The biggest game changer was to get introduced or connect with someone else fighting this horrific disease. That was the moment you realize you are not alone and have someone that can relate to you and understand. Those were the moments that really helped me and made me feel like I was helping them.

I’d like to thank anyone who can make the event and want to walk with me and my team. Also, thank you to those who have donated. You are all the motivation behind the fight!

Opinions expressed within this story belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views or opinions of the National Brain Tumor Society.

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