Krista Hong

kristahuang - profile

Sadly Krista Hong passed away on January 22, 2005. Krista has been an amazing part of the RTC community and was an inspiration to everyone whose path she crossed. The preceding profile is one which she completed during the summer of 2004.

In April, Maya Angelou was interviewed by Oprah on her 70+ birthday. Maya really is a marvel who has led quite an interesting and exciting life. Oprah asked her what she thought of growing older, and, there on television, she said it was “exciting.” She is such a simple and honest woman, with so much wisdom in her words.

I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: A rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.” I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. “I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

-Maya Angelou

Age at Diagnosis: 18 (2004)

Hometown: Paradise, NL

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

In November, I started to have problems with all of my joints, mostly knees, elbows and wrists. Once January came, it was a lot worse. There was a point when I couldn’t even stand up because my knees were so bad, let alone walk. My elbows hurt so much that I couldn’t bend them, and my wrists were so bad that I couldn’t even pick anything up. My family doctor did some blood work on me, and then she started to treat me for arthritis (it’s on both sides of my family). The medications they were giving me were not helping at all. In late January, I started to develop little “peanut-nut” bumps underneath my skin, all over my chest, back, and also on my neck. My doctor was convinced it was a condition called “Sarcoidosis”, “Sarcoid” for short. Sarcoid is a disease in which the body’s immune system becomes activated for unclear reasons, it can also bring arthritic conditions along with it. I was sent to an internal medicine specialist who did an examination of me, and who also agreeded that it was indeed Sarcoid. I had all the symptoms! I was sent to have a biopsy done on one of the bumps as a final conformation that it was just that. The results usually take about two weeks to come back, unless they find something. Just over a week later I was called into my doctor’s office. I was then told that it wasn’t Sarcoid I had at all, it was lymphoma, cancer of the lymph nodes. They weren’t sure if it was Hodgkin’s, or Non-Hodgkin’s at the time.

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

I was diagnosed March 23rd, of this year (2004). I was 18 years old.

At what level of education were you at diagnosis?

I was attending College of the North Atlantic at the time. Doing business courses to transfer to MUN for the following year.

What was your diagnosis?

I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s, lymphoblastic lymphoma. It’s a very fast-growing, aggressive cancer, and it was in the fourth stage. I had to undergo many different tests such as CT scan’s, lots of blood work, Lumbar Puncture’s, bone marrow biopsy’s, and I also had a hickman catheter put in. I am soon scheduled to undergo a stem cell transplant as well.

What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?

When I first found out, I was in shock and couldn’t really think at all. Once it had settled in, a lot ran through my mind. What would I have to go through for the next little while?…Was it treatable, and would I be alright?…Will I lose my hair?…How do I tell my family and friends?…Am I strong enough to handle this?…Those were only a quarter of my thoughts.

How did your family react?

My parents took it harder then what I did. The rest of my family were upset as well, but they all said that they would be there with me throughout the whole thing, and that they were there no matter what… (Thanks everyone–I Love You!! xo)

How did your friends react?

Some of my friends understood what this meant, and some of them didn’t know what to think. I had a lot of explaining to do. I got a lot of visits from people who were always around me, and also people who I haven’t seen or heard from in a very long time. It only stays that way for a while, and eventually people stop coming around as much, which is understandable because we all have our own things to do, but there are a select few who totally wander off and never come around anymore. They treat you a lot differently then what you expect them to. It’s not always pleasant. You don’t get to see them when you’d like to, and the sad part is that sometimes it’s your closest friends that treat you this way. You REALLY find out who your true friends are, and who cares about you. On the other side, there are some amazing people who never leave your side, and it’s these people that make everything a lot better for you.

What did your treatment consist of?

Medical Side: My treatment consists of four rounds of chemotherapy. Each round has a part A and part B. Part A for me consists of four days. The first three I receive 6 doses, every twelve hours, of Cyclophosphamide, and the fourth day, a treatment of Doxorubicin, and Vincrstine and then Methotrexate (into my spine). A week later I get another treatment of vincristine. Part B consists of 4 days as well. The first day is a 24 hour infusion of Methotrexate, then four doses of Cytarabine. During chemo I am given many other drugs such as anti-nausea’s and steroids. Plus I get other prescriptions to take home in case of any side effects.

Non-Medical Side: I find my emotions to be very sensitive. I am more irritable, and other times I get upset for the smallest reasons. I was told that the drugs they are giving me will make me really moody for the next few months. This has proven true.

In which hospital(s) were you treated?

I am being treated at the Health Sciences, 4 North A, and 5 North A….everyone there is great!

What is your current medical status?

I’m not sure if I am in remission yet, I still have to get a few tests done, but I should have all of them done soon, and then I’ll know…I’ll keep you posted!

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

What is/was the toughest part of your challenge?

The toughest part about having cancer is having to see the people who care about you worry so much and be upset. That’s the hardest, but there are other things as well. Knowing that you can’t live a normal life like all of your friends is hard. When everybody else are making plans to go somewhere, it’s hard knowing that most of the time you can’t be included. When you are going through chemotherapy, you become really prone to infections, so you have to be careful about where you go and who you are around. It’s sad to have to sit around and hear about what a great time everyone has had, or will have, and knowing that you can’t be a part of it. It’s like your social life slowly disappears, and it gets lonely. Then you go through a period where you can go around people because you are feeling a lot better, then before you know it, you end up back to the beginning. Thinking about what your future will be like is hard as well. Not knowing if once you are finished your treatments, if it will come back, or if you can ever really live a normal life again. You will always have to be extra careful (which is fine if that’s what it takes), but it’s still depressing. I try to look at everything in the best way possible, and stay positive no matter what. I have never thought about giving up, and I know I never will. I love life-even if it isn’t that great right now. I still manage to smile more then I frown.

What is/was the best part of your challenge?

You really get a whole new outlook at life. You appreciate everyone and everything around you much more. You learn to listen more, not only to yourself, but to other people. It really opens your eyes to everything and allows you to be more sympathetic and put yourself in other people’s positions, to see their point of view. I think you become more considerable of things, and more respectful and accepting. You don’t take advantage as much, and you become an overall better person, more caring. You let the people that you love and care about know it a lot more often as well.

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

All I have to do is look around at everyone and everything that surrounds me.

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

Don’t EVER think that it can’t happen to you. I never imagined that something like this could happen to me, but it has. Don’t ever think that something is not possible, because if you keep thinking that way, you could really be taken by surprise. You also need all the support you can get from family and friends, without them you would be nowhere. You need to keep yourself happy, and put yourself first. Don’t let anything drag you down, and don’t put up with anything you don’t deserve. It’s enough to have to deal with cancer, who needs someone or something making it worse!? Keep your head held high, and don’t ever give up. Always think positive, and if you need to talk to someone, talk. If you feel like crying, cry. And if you feel like getting mad and screaming, then do it!

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

I’ve come to learn that it’s not an easy thing to deal with in any way, shape or form. It takes a lot of strength and will-power. Before, when I thought of cancer, I thought of death. I can almost bet that thought will never change for most people, but it doesn’t always turn out that way! We are strong, and we’ll all be alright

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?

Don’t smoke!!! It’s not only the most disgusting thing in the world, but it’s so unbelievably bad for you. Reading these profiles should be enough motivation to make you want to quit. Think about what you would have to go through if anything ever showed up. Lung cancer I’m sure is NOT fun. I’ll admit, I was once one of those DISGUSTING smokers, but I’ve been quit for a long time now. Also, you need to eat healthy. I know it’s hard with all those great fast food restaurants around because I love them too, but it’s not good for your body. One more thing is stay out of the sun, or at least protect yourself from it. I was once a guilty party of soaking up as much sun as I could, but now I know that it won’t only give you premature wrinkles, but it causes a lot more harm then what you think. A bit of sun doesn’t hurt, but don’t bake in it. And stay away from those tanning beds as well!!