My Story by Kristen Caldwell
“I became determined and motivated…
you do not win a fight against cancer alone.”
– Kristen Caldwell
My life was forever changed during the summer of 2013 when I went for my yearly exam. My doctor discovered a pea-sized abnormality on my right breast. This was the first sign that something might be wrong. Then I had a mammogram and ultrasound. The radiologist saw no concern. However, the abnormality continued to grow. I returned to the radiologist two weeks later and again was told that everything looked benign, and it was the start of cellulitis. The doctor began antibiotic treatments and, after 10 days with no improvement, I was referred to a dermatologist. The dermatologist took one look at me and said, “You need to see a surgeon.” Three days later I was sitting in my surgeon’s office receiving a biopsy, which resulted in “the worst phone call of my life.” The abnormality was Stage III BREAST CANCER!
After that, it all seems a blur. In a 10-day span, I had an MRI, a CT scan, a port inserted and my first infusion of chemotherapy. At first, I was afraid and very concerned about my two young daughters, Casey (7) and Claire (6), and my husband Mark. I could not understand, nor did the doctors, why at age 38 I had developed an aggressively growing, invasive breast cancer. This type of cancer normally develops later in life. Literally, I was in for the fight of my life! I became determined and motivated. I would WIN! I had too much to live for and an arsenal of superior weapons – a phenomenal support group of doctors, family, friends, my Jason’s Deli associates and most importantly, faith in God Almighty.
To WIN this fight, my battle plan consisted of 16 chemotherapy infusions over a five-month period, each requiring about five hours. These treatments were followed by six hours of surgery, requiring six weeks of recovery. The process continued with 33 daily radiation treatments. I tried to maintain a normal lifestyle so that our children would not experience any negative effects. I was exhausted at the end of each day, and my husband Mark had to assume many of the household duties. Needless to say, cancer does impact the whole family, regardless of how we tried.
My Jason’s Deli family has been a cornerstone in my battle. Early on, our owners and senior management offered support and extended special arrangements so I could complete the above program. The values ingrained in our company culture were demonstrated throughout this trying experience. To me, it is a tribute to our organization, and I am so fortunate to have them at my side.
You do not win a fight against cancer alone. I was privileged to have an Elite Group that I cherish each day-my family, friends and God! Prayers for me were offered at all times of day and night from all corners of our great country. Churches and individuals allotted time each day, asking God to heal me and bless my two adorable daughters and wonderful husband. My faith strengthens me and gratitude overwhelms me each day.