Kristina Udall (Breast Cancer)
New Mom Gains Strength From Her Children
It was at Mount St. Vincent that Storey got to know Kristina Udall, who brought her sons Nico and Tino to the learning center. When Storey was diagnosed, Kristina shared her own experience with the disease, which gave Storey hope.
Kristina’s cancer was discovered after her son, Nico, who was then about 13 months old, accidentally kicked her right breast. When she touched the sore spot, she also felt a lump and quickly made a doctor’s appointment to have it evaluated. At that appointment in July 2006, Kristina was told there was nothing to worry about and to come back in a few months.
But Kristina, an attorney, was worried and decided to make an appointment at Swedish, where she was diagnosed with Stage 3++ breast cancer. (Stage 4 is the most serious, and there is no Stage 5.)
At the time of her diagnosis, Kristina and her husband, Bill, were in the process of adopting a second child from Guatemala, Nico’s birthplace. They knew there was a chance that Kristina would not survive her cancer, and after carefully considering what that would mean, Bill and Kristina decided to proceed with adopting Tino, who is now 2 years old. They haven’t regretted that decision for a moment, even though their lives became even more complicated when Tino was diagnosed at 10 months old as being profoundly deaf.
“We could not have done any of this without the help of family and friends,” says Kristina, who adds that when she was having the hardest time with her treatment, it was the children who kept her going. “I didn’t want Nico to see me in bed all day, so I would get up to be with him.”
When Tino joined the family, Kristina says she redoubled her efforts to be available, especially when it came to cuddling with her kids. As with many patients undergoing chemotherapy, during treatment Kristina’s hair came out by the handful. “We laugh now because Nico will climb on my lap, tug on my hair and say, ‘Mommy, it stays on,’ ” says Kristina.
Proposed Cancer Center Will Meet Pressing Need
Like Storey, Kristina is happy to share her story if it will be helpful to others facing similar challenges. They’re both eager to see, through community support, the creation of a Women’s Cancer Center at Swedish that will provide care in a women-centered environment.
“I think women need a place where they can get their questions answered by people who truly understand the emotional impact of something like breast or ovarian cancer,” says Storey.
And Kristina points out that women need help with questions about reconstructive surgery and aftercare issues, such as buying a wig when they lose their hair during chemotherapy.
Storey is also hoping for a place where newly diagnosed patients can connect with other women who’ve had similar experiences. When she was undergoing treatment, one of her physicians asked her to speak to a woman who was about to have her first round of chemotherapy and needed support.
“I think this type of ‘giving back’ is going to be a big part of the Women’s Cancer Center,” says Storey. “It feels good to help someone else through this process.”
Since her diagnosis and treatment, Storey has become a generous contributor to Swedish and plans to make ongoing annual gifts. She’s confident that Swedish saved her life, not just with state-of-the-art surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but also by encouraging her to get that mammogram back in September 2007. And the self-care brochure that suggested she maintain medical appointments? Storey’s colleague had given it to her almost a year before she had to make a decision about scheduling her mammogram.
“It’s amazing that it came to my mind when it did,” says Storey, who pulled it out of her files after her diagnosis only to see that it had originated at Swedish. “I will always be grateful for that,” she says.