My Story by Kristin Hess
“I never had any doubt that I would not overcome this disease
and fight it through to the end.” – Kristin Hess
At 42 years old, I was in the prime of my life. I had just won the Senior National Women’s Clay Court Tennis Championships in Houston, and was working hard and loving my career at The Coca-Cola Company. When I was diagnosed with stage 4 Non Hodgkin Lymphoma, I was devastated.
I was quickly rushed into chemotherapy and given the standard course of treatment which was a medicinal cocktail called R-CHOP, every 21 days, for eight months. I received a diagnosis of remission but it was short-lived. Two years later I was back in the chemo chair getting hooked to an IV for a different and more aggressive cocktail of anti-cancer drugs. If there is one thing a cancer patient will tell you is that the diagnosis is almost as brutal as the constant monitoring of the variety of problems and side effects they will undergo while receiving treatment. In the last five years, I have received 28 chemotherapies and in October of 2014 underwent the most grueling procedure I have ever experienced. A stem cell transplant.
Through all of these difficult times, friends and family showed their love and support in numerous ways. My dear tennis friends rallied around me to help with support, cheer, positive talk and meals on a weekly basis. My parents immediately packed their bags and drove from Arizona to Houston and moved in with me for 4 months. Their compassion, love and help was unparalleled to no other. I am most grateful for my brothers John and Jim and all my family, especially Jennifer and Suzanne, with the individual care they provided. I have battled this disease and am currently holding it at bay with an experimental cancer vaccine that was made just for me as part of a clinical trial going on in the Texas Medical Center.
It was my experience as a semi-professional tennis player that helped to endure the “match.” When I was first diagnosed I simply stated, “When can we start treatment?” So it began, one month at a time. Over the course of five years I felt an array of emotions and some not so cognitive thoughts went through my mind. For me, the hardest part of cancer treatment was the neurological effects of chemotherapy, often called chemo brain. It truly caused me a lot of angst. I used many positive thought analogies to pass the days like, “It is a third set tie-breaker, you got this” and “In the whole scheme of things, and it is only a couple years of your life…out of the 85+ that I will live.” Time and days started to blur together and my sole job was to get well and stay strong. I never had any doubt that I would not overcome this disease and fight it through to the end. At work and in my daily life, I am a very task driven, detail oriented and a focused individual. I used these strengths towards healing, coping and treatments.
My advice to other cancer patients is to stay focused, let the doctors work their magic and allow friends and family to help you to take the everyday burden off of you. It is your time to fight and heal. God Bless You, Kristin Hess