What school did/do you attend?
Booth Memorial High School in St.John’s, NL
What is/are your career goal(s)?
She plans on becoming a speech pathologist!
Your Cancer experience
Who did you support with cancer?
My cousin, Krista Hong.
How did you find out about the cancer? What event(s) led to the diagnosis?
Well in November, Krista was developing problems within different joints of her body, mainly her knees and elbows. I went away that Christmas so we didn’t see each other on Christmas Eve as normal. Once I came home we had heard that Krista was getting different tests done to find out what was going on with her. First we thought it was arthritis, however it wasn’t. I came home one day, the whole day I felt like there was something wrong, things just weren’t right. Once arriving my dad was sitting at the dinning room table, alone in the dark. That’s when I knew something went wrong with the test results. He told me “Krista has cancer, it is called lymphoma, they are not sure wether or not it is Hodgkins or Non-Hodgkins, or what the future holds.” This was the beginning of a long journey.
What year was it? How old were you?
This was in March of 2004, I was 15.
What kind of cancer was he/she first diagnosed with?
She was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s, lymphoblastic lymphoma. It was at the forth stage, this being the worst stage.
What were your first thoughts when you found out about the diagnosis?
At first I was in shock, just like everyone else would be. Once talking about it with my dad my first question was whether or not she was going to make it through. Was there anything to cure her, and how was she feeling.
How did your family react?
My family was very shocked, and upset. They really never knew how to react other than just knowing that they had to be there for Krista and her family, whatever it may be that they needed.
How did your friends react? Did your friends begin treating you different?
My friends were just surprised, not many of my friends knew her as well as others, but they were just there for me whenever I needed a shoulder, and sometimes that’s all you really need. Other than that they just casually asked me how everything was going with her procedure, and when she would begin treatments of chemo.
How did you support him/her with cancer?
Well, I was just there to listen. Krista was very open about her diagnosis, and she had taken in a lot from all of the doctors and I’m sure could explain it 10 times better. I was just there for her, whether it was to make her smile when talking about old childhood memories, just have a chat on the phone, but never once did she need a shoulder to cry on, she was a strong and positive girl.
What resources would you have liked to avail of personally since his/her diagnosis?
Well really, I never looked up anything on the internet, I would just speak to her about the different treatments she would have to go through, and if there were any questions I would have other than that and I did not feel like it was appropriate to ask her, I would ask other family members.
Do you know what the treatment consisted/consists of?
Describe the medical side (chemo, radiation, in-patient, out-patient)
Well at the beginning after all of the tests to find out what exactly had to be done, Krista would get four rounds of Chemotherapy, lasting for four days. She would get Cyclophosphamide, Doxorubicin, Vincrstine and then Methotrexate. She also received steroids. I felt drained from all of the emotional stress, however seeing Krista so constantly positive really kept my spirits up as well as everyone else’s. Krista was often tired after being out of hospital for a little while after receiving her chemo.
In which Hospital(s) was he/she treated?
She was treated at the Health Sciences Center in St. John’s, Newfoundland, as well as A. Jackson Memorial Hospital, in Abington Virginia, USA.
What was the outcome?
The outcome from Krista staying at the Health Sciences Center was that she completed her full cycle of chemo, steroids etc. At the beginning the doctors were hopeful about the outcome. Krista and her family also looked into getting a stem-cell transplant. Because of Krista’s background it would be very hard to find a donor that would be compatible. They then heard about an experimental drug at the A. Jackson Memorial Hospital. This news was a leap of hope for everyone and they took this experiment on with great anticipation. Unfortunately, the results were not successful. Krista passed away peacefully on January 22, 2005, while in Virginia.
How is life different for you now that you have had a cancer experience?
Well it hasn’t been that long since Krista has passed. I know now at first, it’s very strange to see her family without her, and it will be for sometime. Knowing that she is watching over us and out of pain is a sense of relief; however the pain of such a great loss really has taken a chunk out of my heart. Krista really did inspire me. She was the cousin I had always looked up to, always imitating her when I was younger. I know I never told her this, but when I talk with her at night I know that she can hear me and I cannot wait to see her again after life on earth.
What was the hardest thing about adjusting to life after a cancer diagnosis?
The hardest thing about adjusting to life after Krista’s diagnosis was not knowing what would happen next. Anything could happen at anytime, and knowing that really scared me. Seeing Krista in so much pain, although she never complained, was just one of the worst things you could experience. Trying to know the right things to say when she was emotional was also very hard.
What is/was the toughest part of having a cancer experience?
Knowing that it could happen to anyone at anytime has to be one of the worst experiences that I had. Seeing the drastic measures the patient and the family have to go through is really heart breaking.
What is/was the best part about having a cancer challenge?
What hurts you can only make you stronger. This was by far one of the most painful things I think my entire family has gone through. Losing a family member, especially Krista, is one of the hardest things to deal with. Krista was not only a family member; she was a true and great friend. She inspired everyone each and everyday. We really did think that she could pull through this, she was so strong. However Krista is not the only family member who has passed in our family due to cancer related problems, my aunt, Shelia Hong passed away in October of 2004. Going through all of this in such a short period of time is really draining. But both of these wonderful, independent women were worth all of the time and energy in the world, and still are to this very day.
What really motivated you to keep going while he/she was sick?
Just to keep her positive, and let her know that you really felt that she could pull through this long haul. Giving her support and staying enthusiastic was the best thing you could do for her, or anyone in that matter. She was such a positive person and to have the influence of everyone else being positive around her would never let her spirits go down.
What lessons or messages have you taken away from your experience?
Not to take anything for granted. Life is so short so just live it to its fullest. Always stay positive, being negative is such a waste of time and life. Spend as much time as you can with the people you love, because you never know what could happen. Most importantly, express your feelings, it does go along way.
What are your thoughts and feelings about cancer now? How has your perception changed since before you were faced with a challenge?
At the beginning I’ll be honest; I thought that cancer could never happen to me or anyone in my family. But out of no where you get this big smack in the face and it really does wake you up to reality. I knew cancer was a very powerful disease, but it can be defeated. I really don’t like cancer; I don’t want to have another experience with it again in my life. The reality is that I more than likely will, and you don’t know when or who it could be. Cancer can be controlled, and staying upbeat with everything really does go along way in the long run as well as having an affirmative outlook on what will be up coming.
What are some (if there are any you know of) preventative measures that people can take to lower their risk of having an experience?
Do not smoke. I know people say I’m around it all the time anyways its just as well. But that is way the malls and offices are now smoke free, to try and prevent it. Solariums. Stay out of them. I am guilty for going to them, as dark and as warm as they make you, it really isn’t worth it, just turn up your heat and waste your money there. Other than that, Sun block, and don’t stand in front of the microwave. I was always told as I was growing up not to stand in front of it because of the radiation, whether or not that is true is another story, but for now, lets just not take the chance.
Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?
No, I never.
How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer?
Well I first heard of it when Krista had her own articles on the Portal. Reading hers, as well as others actually helped me get through the hard time. I also heard about The Young Adult Cancer Climb, so that really inspired me to share my story as well. Young Adult Cancer really does help youths when going through a cancer experience, it is also good for any questions a person may have, whether it be about what a type of drug means, or how to deal. Young Adult Cancer is by far one of the best ways to express yourself, it really has helped me, and I’m positive it will help anyone when going through the rollercoaster of cancer.