Survivor Stories 2014:
1. How did you first find out you had cancer?
I had a sense for several months before my diagnosis that something was wrong with my breasts. I don’t know why, I just seemed to know. I eventually went to the doctor, who found the lump. I was diagnosed a few days later after an ultrasound and needle biopsy.
2. How did you react when you heard the news?
I had been diagnosed with a malignant tumor on my spinal cord when I was 25 and went through surgery and radiation at that time, so I kind of always suspected cancer would enter my life again. So, actually I wasn’t that surprised.
3. What course of treatment were you prescribed?
Lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. I also did several alternative/holistic modalities.
4. What most surprised you about your treatment?
I was surprised at how easy it was. I hesitate to use that word, but chemo was much less difficult than I expected it to me. Modern medicine has come a long way in handling the nausea. Also, I went to one of the Cancer Treatment Center of America hospitals, where they fractionated my chemo dose. I received a weaker dose over 4-5 hours for 3 days in a row. I believe that made the side effects less severe.
In addition, when I had radiation at the age of 25, I was knocked out every day. I could barely get out of bed and make it to work by 11:00 a.m. This time I prided myself on not one daytime nap during 7 weeks of radiation. (Not that there is anything wrong with napping, it was just something I was dreading – the extreme exhaustion I experienced the first time.)
5. What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
I am a big advocate of holistic and alternative health and believe they can go hand in hand with western medicine. My biggest recommendation is to find a naturopathic or functional medicine doctor experienced in cancer to help throughout the treatment. This type of doctor will also have more of a focus on WHY you got sick, rather than just treating the symptoms.
6. How long have you been cancer free?
It has been over 7 years since my diagnosis date of July 3, 2007.
7. What lessons did you learn from the experience?
I have been interested nutrition and holistic health most of my adult life. I think the biggest lesson I learned was that it was time to put that passion to use and make it my mission to help others become healthier. While I have not fully transitioned yet, in the past couple years I have launched a health and wellness website called at thevaildiet.com; completed a Certified Health Coach Program at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition; and completed my first book called Leave Cancer in the Dust: 50 Tips to Prevent Breast Cancer and Supercharge Your Health.
8. If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
My mission in life is to spread the word about prevention – both of the initial disease and a recurrence. A relatively recent MD Anderson study concluded that approximately 90-95 percent of cancers are preventable. I don’t believe we get that message from the media nearly enough.
Breast cancer awareness month has become all about pink ribbons, consumerism, mammograms, and expensive, painful and sometimes disfiguring treatments. Yes, mammograms and treatments do often save lives. However, I think we need to find a balance where we focus on prevention and let the miracles of modern medicine help those for whom prevention efforts were not enough. The conversation is too lopsided right now, with so much more focus on early detection and treatment.
Kristina Sampson is an author, speaker, holistic health coach and breast cancer survivor. After being diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer in 2007, she used a holistic lifestyle to help her thrive during treatment and beyond. Today, she wants to share that message of hope and healing with others.