In 2006, my friend who was 22 years old was diagnosed with leukemia. The news shocked me, as I couldn’t imagine how someone so young could have cancer. Back then, it was typically older people being diagnosed.
It hit me hard. I began to be concerned for my own health. Out of curiosity I began searching the symptoms of leukemia when I saw one curious symptom: a firm portion just beneath the ribcage. After poking around for a moment, I felt a spot, hard as a rock, on my right side.
I panicked and called 911.
After a series of tests, it turned out I didn’t have leukemia.
I had a tumor nearly the size of a football on my right kidney.
Words will never contain the heart-dropping shock and fear I experienced in the moment I first heard those words. For me, at 19 years old, I felt invincible. How could I too have cancer?
After further testing, I was diagnosed with Wilms tumor. A cancer that is typically found in young children. Up to this moment, I had no symptoms. I had been healthy my whole life. It was a miracle that I happened to find it out of pure curiosity.
After receiving a second opinion, it was unavoidable, my right kidney and the tumor would have to be removed. The oncologist suggested that I do post-operative chemotherapy, but I denied it. As a young woman, I was more concerned with losing my hair than avoiding cancer at some undetermined point in my future. So, I surrendered to surgery and quickly moved on with my life.
For two years life proceeded as normal…well, as normal as possible for a cancer survivor. Knowing I’d had cancer once, I lived in fear every day that it would come back. Which is why the sharp, paralyzing pain down my right side that immobilized me for the better part of one afternoon deeply frightened me. Assuming I pulled a muscle or had a pinched nerve, I scheduled an appointment with the chiropractor.
I will never forget the moment the chiropractor sat across from me and solemnly said there was something on the x-ray that shouldn’t be there. I stood up from my chair and backed into the wall, hands searching behind me for something solid, something that would make the room stop spinning. I wanted to scream and run away and pretend this wasn’t happening to me because this couldn’t be happening again. Not again.
Numbly, I walked through the motions of another scan, with more doctors, and heard the new diagnosis: stage 4 cancer. A recurrence of the previous Wilms tumor was up against my heart, wrapped around my arteries and pressing on my right lung, taking up space throughout the whole middle of my chest.
At first, I denied chemotherapy again. I wanted to try homeopathic remedies before resorting to pumping poison into my body. After three months of IV vitamin therapy and a strict plant-based diet, the only thing that had changed for the better was my ability to eat healthier than I ever had before – the specific cancer I had wasn’t responding to any of the holistic treatments. My new tumor doubled in size.
Defeated, I found myself facing the oncologist who I’d told two years earlier I wouldn’t be doing post-op chemo because I didn’t need it.
Based on the advancement of the cancer the doctor gave me three months to live. A death sentence I refused to accept. They were skeptical that chemotherapy would help due to the progression and size of the tumor.
The inevitable journey of chemotherapy I spent years avoiding began. Over the next year my life unraveled. I lost my job, all of my hair, and feeling in my hands and feet. It was difficult to lift my feet to walk or hold anything in my hands. All that was left of me was the shell of a body fighting for its life. I felt lifeless against the disease but somewhere deep inside of me I was determined to win the war.
Chemotherapy shrank the tumor to an operable size, which led me to a surgery where its remains and two lobes of my right lung were removed. Recovery was no sunny cloudless day, but I healed quickly.
It’s been 13 years since I was almost pronounced dead. Looking back, I believe my faith in God and the healing affirmations I spoke over my body was my saving grace. Which inspired me to write my first book, “Claim Your Healing”, to share the tools I used to win the battle for my life.
While natural remedies didn’t heal the cancer, the education I received in healthy living taught me how to eat life-giving foods. This journey proved to me that these foods are not as easily found as I believe they should be. For many years, I’ve found myself circling gas stations and convenience stores, searching for healthy options while on the go. But even with the increase in interest for healthy lifestyle choices, you still must go out of your way to find a health food store.
After leaving enough stores empty handed, in 2014, I decided to no longer stand idly by. I launched my company, ESSTAR, to make organic snack foods accessible through convenience stores with “Healthy On The Go” branded kiosks.
I sold almost everything I owned and moved into a 500-square-foot studio apartment in order to make my vision a reality. It became my mission in life to help create a preventative healthcare system. Access is key and everyone should have access to healthier foods – no matter their income or location. Today we are expanding the vision to hospitals, universities, airports and anywhere food is sold.
It’s a dream come true to watch a vision to bring America back to health unfold. I’m thankful that my life was saved for something like this. The suffering I went through wasn’t wasted and it’s been my honor to pay it forward.
By Krista Anderson