Sadly, Christina passed away in November 2016. Christina filled a room in the best way, and we will forever miss her gusto, tenacity, and kind spirit. We will keep her family in our thoughts, and hope they take some comfort in knowing how much of an impact her story and her presence made on the YACC community.
Name: Christina Lindquist
City: Sooke, BC
What was your diagnosis? Pancreatic cancer stage IV
What year was it? What was your age at the time?
It was August 27, 2015, and I was 37 at the time.
What is something you’ve done that you’re really proud of?
Taking control of my health!
What is a top item on your life to do list?
Go to the Canary islands with my husband
What are your hobbies?
Being with my family, singing with my band, travelling, snowboarding, and learning to play guitar.
What was your life like before your diagnosis?
My life was busy! Very, very busy. I have three kids, two in hockey, one in Kung Fu, I own a business and have a toddler. I was constantly on the go.
How did you find out you were sick? What led to your diagnosis?
In February 2015, I went to the local after hours clinic to talk to the doctor about the stomach pain I was having. He said it was most likely gastritis, gave me a blood test request, and sent me on my way. Over the next five months, the pain was fleeting, so I assumed it was celiac disease and I must have had a hit of gluten. By late June, I was having pain every time I ate.
I went back to the clinic on July 3 and saw another doctor as I could not eat any food without immense pain. This doctor looked up my file, said it was most likely gastritis, gave me a blood test and a prescription. I then went back to the clinic on July 10, saw yet another doctor who said it looked like a gallbladder problem, ordered an emergency ultrasound, gave me two prescriptions, and sent me on my way. By the time I arrived home 10 minutes later, I had a call from the clinic stating my blood test results were back, my liver was failing, and I needed to get to the hospital right away.
I was in the hospital for three weeks, I had two CT scans, one MRI, two endoscopic ultrasounds, three failed ERCPs, and they still did not know what was wrong. After three weeks, they sent me home with heavy doses of Prednizone to hopefully reduce the swelling. In five days, my bilirubin levels doubled from 60 to 126! I was then told by my doctor to get back up to the hospital and pack for an extended amount of time.
I had one more CT scan and it revealed that there was a tumour on the head of my pancreas. The only option at this point was a Whipple procedure or death. I choose Whipple, which I had three weeks later. Whipple is one of the most extensive surgeries that can be performed and it took five and a half hours to complete. I then found out 10 days later that the tumour was in fact cancerous and it had spread to the nearby lymph nodes.
What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?
I am going to die! I won’t see my kids graduate, get married, see grandkids.
In which hospital were you treated?
Victoria General Hospital
What did your treatment consist of?
I had a Whipple procedure, 12 rounds of chemotherapy (four cycles/months), and my creatinine levels were getting worse each treatment. My body was eating itself to survive. I was on seven different anti-nausea drugs and none of them worked.
I was horrendously ill. I could not keep anything down for four days after treatment. The onset of nausea would be four hours after treatment, and then the vomitous days would then begin shortly after. I called them torture Tuesday-Thursdays. I felt like the shell of the person I used to be.
What is your current medical status?
The healthiest terminal patient you will ever meet.
Life after cancer:
How is life different for you now post diagnosis?
Immediately after diagnosis, I was terrified. I had done so much research which didn’t help matters. The literature, books, online materials, no matter where I looked, there was NO positive reinforcement for pancreatic cancer. Statistics were more than ominous! That is when the counselors suggested that I may want to stop reading. Once I did this, it helped to quiet the mind so I could actually sleep at night.
During treatment I felt like the shell of myself. I was extremely ill. I could not do anything but take trips from the bathroom to the couch all day and all night for four days after.
Once I was finished treatment, I started to feel like myself again. I could spend time with my kids and actual hold my head upright. I now wanted to be intimate with my mate. My spirits grew daily once I was off chemo and my zest for life returned with vigor.
I was healthy, living clean and feeling great. Then, the ceiling came crashing down when my tumour markers went up. My world fell apart the day my PET scans results came back and I heard the news over the phone! The cancer had spread to the liver even with chemotherapy.
What is the toughest part about having cancer as a young adult?
The fear of death. Fear can consume you, it fills you with doubt, and prevents you from living. I was — and still am — afraid of dying. Every time I have that fear, I stop, breathe, and tell myself it isn’t happening now. None of us are getting out of this life alive, but being present helps us appreciate every day we are on this planet.
What really helped you to keep going while you were sick?
Family and music. These two things give me light and happiness. Whenever I was down, I cuddled with my kids, or picked up the guitar, and in no time at all, my mood would change. I also had weekly practice with the band when I was feeling up to it.
What kept you busy during treatment?
I always brought a different person to each treatment so that we could have a visit. It took my mind off of being in the room with a bunch of others getting treatment. I always warned those coming with me that it is a bit shocking the amount of people who are suffering with this disease, and that seemed to help.
How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer Canada? How did it happen?
I first heard of YACC from the cancer clinic. I also heard about the Big Cancer Hook-up through Inspire Health. I have been so happy that I signed up with YACC, and I am looking forward to meeting everyone at Conference.
Did you feel isolated from your peers since your diagnosis? If so, how did that affect you?
Being the only 37-year-old in North America with pancreatic cancer, I felt extremely alone. Not to mention, most people with PC have died! Meeting someone with PC was next to impossible. I frantically went online to attempt to find someone else. I wanted some hope, any hope of survival. I found one, much older, three-year survivor in Canada. This gave me the hope I needed to fight this with all my might.
Has your cancer diagnosis affected any of the relationships in your life? If so, how, and how are you managing them?
Unfortunately, everyone handles a diagnosis differently. Some relationships that were so tight prior to my diagnosis have disappeared. Others I wouldn’t have expected to be there were right by my side. My husband is my everything. He has done so much throughout this whole journey, loved me when I was very unlovable, and was my strength when I needed it. My family was supportive, yet to their own ability. It took me a while and many counselling appointments to discover that they were only giving me what they could give, and what I expected from them was not attainable. Once I came to the realization, relationships took on a different role.
How has your diagnosis affected the way you parent?
I have three children and I find that I am far more gentle and calm now when talking to them. I try to teach them all I can whenever I can. They probably get tired of the drives talking relentlessly about health, values, etc. If my time is limited, I want them to know their mom, who I was, and what I stood for.
Do you have any tips for other parents on talking to their children?
When your child hears that you have cancer, like our own minds, they associate death. Kids learn about Terry Fox in school, and that is probably why they think that way. One of my children would have meltdowns at school or at sporting events. I did get him in with the counsellors at the cancer clinic and it helped greatly. We discovered the root of the problem and learned strategies to help going forward.
How has your cancer experience affected your body image, and your relationship to your body?
Cancer has taken my wardrobe! I have closet and a dresser full of beautiful clothes that are now double my size. I feel like I am a size 12 mind in a size 4 frame, and it is depressing. Shopping is a challenge for a different reason. I keep going to pick out clothes that are not my size and find it extremely frustrating as I am not sure what size I am. This used to be the opposite way prior to cancer, but I must tell you, it is equally as frustrating both going up and going down in size. I will admit that wearing cute things that I only dreamed about before is delightful!
What are some lifestyle changes you’ve made since your diagnosis?
I have changed everything! My makeup, hair products, skin care, toothpaste, cleaning supplies for the household, and most importantly, what I put in my body! I eat mostly organic, add in cancer fighting foods and supplements. I have now started the Hoxsey Tonic and natural supplements to hopefully combat cancer, or at the very least, prolong my life. I feel better now than I did years prior to this happening to me.
Resources and recommendations:
What are your favourite blogs and websites for passing the time?
Youngadultcancer.ca and Facebook.
Have you participated in any other retreats, conferences, programs, or support groups you’d like your cancer peers to know about?
Inspire Health because they have so many resources and have helped me get through my treatment. The docu-series The Truth About Cancer explains cancer and how diet and modalities can aid in your treatment and success.
Stay in touch:
What would you like to say to other young adults dealing with cancer who are reading this profile?
YOU ARE NOT ALONE! There is always hope, so never give up! This cancer diagnosis is something that has happened to you, don’t let it define you. You can control what you do in life. You may not be able to control circumstances, but you can control what you put in/on your body, you can control the products you use, and you can control what you take in! Be the power you want to be and the force you want to live. If you want something bad enough, it can be so. NEVER GIVE UP!
Are you interested in helping others facing cancer challenges?
I would love to help anyone in any way I can. I want to be that beacon of hope for someone and pay it forward.
If you would like to get in touch with Christina, please send a message to email@example.com and we’ll make sure to forward it along.