October 21, 2002 was the day cancer knocked on my door. I was 39 years-old, happily married to my college sweetheart, and a mother of two beautiful daughters. We had recently moved to Austin from Houston and were busy settling into our new home. I had decided to go back to work part-time, my husband was enjoying his new job and our daughters were making new friends and going to school.
Then, there was a knock on the door, and cancer had arrived. Its name was Pseudomyxoma Peritonei; otherwise known as cancer of the appendix. My life and the life of my family changed in an instant.
I had been sick for three weeks prior to being diagnosed in Austin. After the first surgery, looking back, it is a miracle that I am here today. That is how sick I was. The surgeons in Austin removed my appendix, performed a full hysterectomy and “cleaned up” what they could. Still to this day thanking the powers that be for my wonderful oncologist in Austin, I decided that MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston would be my next stop.
“My unwavering faith, the love of my husband and daughters…these are the things that keep reminding me, “I Think I Can, I Know I Can!”
There were only a handful of surgeons in the United States that specialize in this type of cancer. MD Anderson’s Dr. Paul Mansfield was the closest of them to me.
February 22, 2003, I would undergo a 14 hour surgery, also known as “MOAS” or the “Mother Of All Surgeries.” This surgery entailed debunking, removal of my gallbladder and spleen, and the re-sectioning of my large and small intestine; after which, while still on the table, a two-hour heated hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy session was administered. This technique works by delivering heated chemotherapy directly into the abdominal cavity through catheters. The end result was that the surgeons were able to get the cancer back to a microscopic level.
With the tremendous love of my family, and the wonderful kindness of friends, I was able to heal and move on.
I have since had two more “clean-up” surgeries, and am now on “maintenance chemo” as they like to call it. I have a stubborn streak in me about nine miles long and I refuse to lie down and give up. As I told my husband after my second surgery “you know, it could always be worse!”. And that’s the truth!
After all that I have been through and as bad as I have felt, I have always known that someone else probably had it worse. Having said that, I decided to volunteer with Hospice Austin, and what an honor that was. Now that my husband and I have recently moved back to Houston, I look forward to volunteer work with Hospice Houston and CancerForward; all three, near and dear to my heart.
My unwavering faith, the love of my husband and daughters… seeing my oldest daughter ride from Austin and seeing her cross the finish line in Anchorage, Alaska this summer with Texas 4000 helping raise funds for cancer research and cancer awareness…watching proudly as my youngest daughter walked across the stage to receive her high school diploma knowing she has set out on her own journey in college…proudly observing my oldest receive her college diploma from the University of Texas this May…these are the things that keep reminding me, “I Think I Can, I Know I Can!
My name is Kristina Waldrop and I am an eight year survivor of cancer of the appendix.
Category: Survivor Stories
Tags: appendix, gallbladder, heated chemotherapy, Hospice Austin, Hospice Houston, hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, Pseudomyxoma Peritonei, spleen, Texas 4000