Thursday, November 23, 2017

Standing strong

Standing strong

A first-person account of being young and living with an advanced-stage cancer diagnosis

Kristen Allen was diagnosed with advanced stage colon cancer at the age of 28.

BY KRISTEN ALLEN

It all started when I was in Los Angeles attending my niece’s graduation. I felt an irritating pain in my side, but
I ignored it and just wrote it off as a muscle strain that might have happened while enjoying my boxing workout. At 28 years of age, I have always been very healthy. And even though the irritation didn’t go away, I figured I would wait to return home to Las Vegas and then go see my doctor.

I presumed that it was nothing really wrong and decided to see a doctor later in that week when I got home. Well, I arrived home to Las Vegas — and while sitting on the couch watching television, a thunder of pain came upon me, in my side, and I couldn’t get up from the couch. My parents had to carry me and rushed me to the emergency room. We still didn’t expect that the cause of my pain would be anything serious, because
I am the one in the family who has run marathons for the past four years to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma
Society. I thought it might be my appendix.

Within a 24-hour period of time — after ultrasound and blood test — the doctor told me I had stage 4 colon cancer. It is almost like being underwater, not quite sure what a person is saying to you. I went into shock and
immediate denial. This was the first time in my life that I felt all emotions at one given time. I am a third-grade teacher; I have to go to San Francisco in October to run a marathon; I just met a great new guy who I am dating. WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? The date was June 2, 2013.

Thank God for my family, who are always by my side. Currently, I receive chemotherapy every other week for
three days, four to five hours a day. The chemotherapy seems to be working — I just received news that the masses are shrinking — but I understand it will be a long journey.

I still am training for the Nike Women’s Marathon 2013 on Oct. 21, because my doctor says that I can walk
it. Nevertheless, I am excited to see all the wonderful friends I have made during the past four years of my participation, and it is a great cause to help others who have leukemia or lymphoma.

My family and I have all wondered how I could have gotten this form of cancer at such a young age. The doctors are still researching my DNA test, and are preparing to take DNA from my parents to see if the cancer gene was passed on by them, or if there was a mutation that caused it. If it turns out to be a mutation in my birth egg, then I have probably had the cancer since I was 10 or 12 years of age. I have good days and bad days, and the doctors have increased my chemotherapy treatments three times. I try to smile all the time, no
matter how I’m feeling.

I take methadone for pain, three different medications for nausea, and Vitamin D each day. I try to stay as positive as possible, though I am on hiatus from teaching school so that I can focus on my health.

I am presently on a COBRA health insurance plan, which is very expensive. My employer-based health insurance expired — so I do hope Obamacare is passed, so that I can have affordable health care.

Talking about my journey really helps me, as does writing in my journal. Also, talking with my family and friends keeps me encouraged during the emotional roller coaster. Still, prayer is my best friend.

Today, I go for another marathon training — and I will walk 10 miles. I am looking forward to going back to teaching my third-grade class next year. Yes, I have a lot to do.

Send messages of love and encouragement to Kristen at kballen_84@yahoo.com

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