This is a story about a 21 year old, Krysta Marie Schildwachter from Florida who was diagnosed with stage 2 “Bulky” Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when she was 13 years old. Her symptoms were simple – fatigue and cough. Further testing revealed she had a large mass in the middle of her chest. After 4 gruesome rounds of chemotherapy, she was cured.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma is most likely to come back in the first two years. Remission may occur in the same part from where it originally grew or a different part of the body. The American Cancer Society states that the 5 year survival rate for stage 1 & 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma is about 90%. This means that the patients survive at least 5 years after their diagnosis. In many cases, people live much longer and several people are cured.
Krysta’s cancer came back 6 years later.
She was re-diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, this time it was not bulky. The only symptom she had was an enlarged lymph node in her left shoulder. After the necessary testings, a biopsy confirmed the dreadful diagnosed. Even Krysta’s doctors were surprised her cancer came back so late after the original treatment.
Krysta shares her story with us…
When I was 13 it was not hard finding my oncologist doctors at Nemours Children Hospital. Everything happened so fast and my parents liked the oncologist doctors that my normal doctor sent us too. Now the second time around, we went to three different doctors.
First we went to my oncologist at Nemours Children Hospital. They diagnosed me again with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma but because of my age they wanted us to start looking for an adult oncologist because they could only treat me until my 21st birthday. My parents and I decided to go to Moffitt Cancer Center. At the time I was going to the University of South Florida and Moffitt Cancer Center was on campus.
The doctor I saw there jumped to an extreme form of treatment and scared me. She told me there was a good chance I would be infertile after and thought that was not a big deal. Well, it was to me, so we agreed not to go back to Moffitt Cancer Center. Since I was scared of not being able to have kids I prayed to have one now. A few weeks later I was about to have surgery to insert a Port that would carry the chemotherapy into my bloodstream, and they did a precautionary pregnancy test that came back positive.
I was pregnant!
My mom was in shock and my fiancé had a big smile on his face. We called her our little miracle. My doctor at Nemours Children’s Hospital told us I needed to abort the baby because he could not give me treatment while pregnant. That was never going to happen, so the search began for a new doctor.
We called around a few different places and finally found a doctor at UF Health Shands Hospital to accept me as a patient. She had past patients find out about cancer while they were pregnant before but never the other way around like me. She worked closely with a high risk obstetric. They monitored my cancer through ultrasounds of my chest and neck. I was also seeing an alternative medicine doctor that practiced Chinese Herbal Medicine. Throughout my entire pregnancy I took herbs to help keep my body strong.
In December of 2014, Krysta gave birth to her little miracle! To her doctor’s surprise, in January I had another PET scan done to see the growth of my cancer – but it had barely grown! Her doctors, although pleased, were ready to start the treatment. She and her family ultimately made the decision to get treated at UF Health Shands from March of 2015 and went until June 2015.
I had 4 rounds of ABVD chemotherapy before heading off to Proton Radiation, which is a new more precise form of radiation. I had 20 days of radiation before completing treatment in August 2015. I am now less than a month away from my wedding and ready to begin a new healthy and happy life with my family! During my treatment I continued taking my herbs to help with the side effects of chemotherapy and build my body back up between treatments. I also used penguin cold caps to keep me from losing my hair. The cold caps work by freezing your hair follicles so the chemotherapy drugs do not get to your hair. Well they worked! I still have my hair for my wedding day!
Krysta is a stronger and more motivated person after having dealt with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma not once – but twice! Now, this beautiful young lady is getting ready to marry her wonderful fiancé and live a happily ever after with their daughter Paityn Marie.
This disease has greatly affected my life but I think it has for the best. I couldn’t imagine my life without my amazing fiancé who stuck by my side every step of the way and our amazing miracle daughter, Paityn Marie. Having gone through Hodgkin’s Lymphoma twice now I want to make a change to hopefully stop it from coming back. That means eating healthier and exercising more. I am also in school and hope to one day be able to work with children and young adults who are faced with a cancer diagnosis. These past couple years have shown me how precious life the gift of life is. It has made me stronger and more motivated to finish school and achieve everything I want out of life.
My advice to people reading this would be to not to push symptoms or strange bumps off thinking it is nothing. You never know and it is better to get things caught early before it is too late. Also, we all know our bodies so we know when something isn’t completely right. So listen to your body. If something seems wrong there is no harm in getting it checked out. You would rather be safe than sorry later.