Colon Cancer Grad (Masters Degree)- Christina Crespi
Name: Christina Crespi
Age at Enrollment: 27
Major: Stage IV Colon Cancer
What were the primary symptoms you experienced prior to diagnosis? Fatigue, muscle weakness, fevers, abdominal pain, bowel changes, nausea, and vomiting.
What symptom(s) lead you to go to the doctor? Weight loss, abdominal pain, and bowel changes.
Courses Completed: Colon surgery (colon resection), lung surgery (wedge resection), IVF, and 12 rounds of chemotherapy.
What was your hardest moment (or moments) and how did you get through it/them? My recurrence occurred right around the time of my first “cancerversary.” At the time, I was recovering from my first diagnosis and felt as though I was finally moving forward. I transitioned to a new job that was more accommodating to my physical limitations, was accepted into graduate school, and was planning to move out of my parents’ home. Just as I was making progress, my plans were once again put on hold. All of my fears came to fruition in the form of a lung mass on my CT scan. Despite the fears and uncertainties, I quickly learned that all the coping strategies I developed throughout my first diagnosis prepared me conquer the second diagnosis. I know for certain that the skills I have developed are invaluable and will continue to guide me through future challenges.
What advice would you give to someone who is newly diagnosed? Be kind to yourself. It’s okay not to be strong all the time. Giving into the emotional rollercoaster of cancer is not a sign of weakness.
Cancer treatment alters your identity and forces you to put your life on hold. However, please know that time is a gift. Take the time to try something new and explore a different side of yourself.
How did your family and friends respond? My brother was my rock throughout the entire process and remains my biggest supporter. My friends and family rallied behind me.
Are there any bad platitudes/bad recommendations that you’ve heard from other people regarding your diagnosis? I don’t recall any bad recommendations, but I try to remember that everyone responds differently to treatment.
When you feel overwhelmed or anxious, what do you do? I write in my journal and I crochet!
Have you created any meaning out of this experience? If so, what was it/how did you do it? I worked as an ICU nurse prior to my cancer diagnosis. I spent most of my life learning how to care for patients until I became one. Relinquishing control and transitioning from nurse to patient was incredibly challenging for me. However, I am grateful that my experience provided me with a unique insight. I feel blessed to have experienced both sides and feel a sense of duty to teach others. I am currently pursuing my Master’s degree in pursuit of a career as a nurse practitioner and hope to some day teach nursing at the college level.
How did/do you find joy during this experience? I realized quickly through my experience that I have the greatest friends in the world. Their unwavering support will always mean the world to me. Spending time with them brings me so much joy and continues do to so post cancer.
Since your diagnosis, what new belief, habit or behavior has most improved your quality of life? The most significant thing I have learned throughout this experience is to trust my inner voice. I constantly questioned my instincts prior to my diagnosis. I spent two years feeling ill, went from doctor to doctor in search of answers, and was dismissed by countless healthcare professionals. Some told me I was fine, while others wanted to treat me psychiatrically and told me it was in my head. Yet, I knew deep down something was terribly wrong. I now know to trust my instincts and listen to my body. It never ceases to steer me in the right direction.
Did you learn anything about yourself or your life? If so, what was it? I am intuitive, I am self-reliant, and I am resilient.
If you could write anything you wanted on a billboard in NYC’s Times Square that would reach millions of people, what would it read?
The Serenity Prayer is what I live by:
God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the power to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.