Kris Kohler

Kris_Kohler - profileAge at Diagnosis: 17

How did you find out you were sick? What events led to the diagnosis?

I found out I was sick when I went to a specialist about vision problems and headaches. The specialist thought I would need some glasses and the problem would be solved, but he also thought that it was strange for this to just happen out of nowhere so he sent me for an MRI. The MRI came back and it showed a large lump in the middle of my head pressing on my brain distorting my vision and causing fluid to build up in my head by not allowing it to flow down through my spine, which caused intense headaches, for which I was taking about 8 Ibuprofen at a time.

What year was it? What was your age at the time?

It was 2003-2004 in the summer before my grade 12 year which made me angry and upset because I wouldn’t graduate with my friends which was important to me. I was only 17 at the time.

At what level of education were you at diagnosis?

Not even a high school grad.

What was your diagnosis?

A malignant brain tumor the size of a quarter in the middle of my head

What are your career goals?

He plans on making the most of his experience by working as a councillor in a children’s hospital.

What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?

I was very upset I remember crying a little, but then I told myself I was going to get through this and be a normal kid again and do what I wanted to do.

How did your family react?

They were all really upset and came to see me my first day in the hospital.

How did your friends react?

My friends were all shocked because never thought a friend our age could get something like this.

What did your treatment consist of?

Medical Side: At diagnosis I was immediately put in the hospital because I was scheduled for surgery to relieve pressure on my brain and to get a biopsy of the tumor to see if it was malignant or benign. After the surgery found the tumor to be malignant I was scheduled for 6 months of chemo. I was told if chemo killed the tumor it would be 3 months, but if it didn’t, another 3 months would be necessary. Well after 3 months the tumor shrank more than 50%, which was great but after another 3 months the tumor had grown and I thought this was it, I am done for, not even 20 years old and I’m dead. During chemo I never lost my hair and I only became sick at the very end of the treatment, the worst side effect of the chemo was gaining about 40, 45 pounds leaving my body full of stretch marks. After chemo I had radiation which was 5 weeks Monday to Friday, which was very intense and it made me extremely sick. I lost all of the weight I had gained from chemo because I couldn’t eat anything, and if I tried to eat it would make me throw up. In the end all of that stuff they put in my body killed the tumor but it left me weak and still very, very tired if I don’t get at least 7 hours of sleep. That is frustrating because I like to go out with friends and we usually stay out pretty late.

In which hospital(s) were you treated?

I was treated at the VG and QEII in Halifax Nova Scotia.

What is your current medical status?

I am currently in perfectly normal health except for lingering vision problems from the tumor pushing on my brain

How is life different for you now post diagnosis (physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually)?

My life is pretty well back to what it was before. I have been going to the gym and working out and am strong, I have a girlfriend and we go out all the time. I am going to be involved with a relay for life for the second year in a row and at school am involved with a RealTime Cancer Climb.

What is/was the toughest part of your challenge?

The toughest part of the cancer was not going to school and seeing my friends because I was sick and went through a bit of a depression I think.

What is/was the best part of your challenge?

The best part about me having gone through cancer is now I know what I want to do and I love being involved with the Climbs and Relays for Life.

What really motivated you to keep going while you were sick?

What motivated me to keep going was I wanted to play football again and go to the gym and just be me again because I had felt like my life was taken from me and I was not going to let that happen without a fight. So I fought it head on. I embraced the fact that I might not make it and I told myself I would not regret anything from here on in, and I haven’t, I have done everything I said I would.

What lessons or messages have you taken away from your experience?

I have learned that I know what I am meant to do. I know I am supposed to help people get through things like this and show them that there is hope and they can do the same

What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now? How have they changed since before your diagnosis?

I feel there is a reason for people to go through things like this and if they look hard enough they will see them. Before cancer I thought it was awful, which it is, but there is a reason for you being sick you just need to find out what it is.

What are some (if there are any you know of) preventative measures that people can take to lower their risk of having an experience like yours?

To be honest I don’t know how you could prevent it maybe eat well more often.

Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?

I didn’t go to a support group.

If you did not attend a support group, why?

I didn’t go because I thought it would be awkward because I would be the youngest one there because I was in an adult hospital not a children’s hospital

How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer?

I first heard of Young Adult Cancer when Geoff came to my school and told everyone about it. I was interested and it took me a while to contact him about this but I am glad now that I have and it is fun helping with the Young Adult Cancer Climb in Halifax.