Crissy Zapf - Saskatoon

Crissy Zapf

Saskatoon SK

My cancer story, just like many others, started before I even heard the words “you have cancer”.

It started In April 2018 when I noticed a lymph node in my neck that was larger than usual but I didn’t feel sick. I watched it for a while and finally went to my family doctor who sent me for an ultrasound. This confirmed it was an enlarged lymph node. She referred me to a Ear Nose and Throat specialist.

We started in June with a needle biopsy which came back clear, however, the lymph node was still there. I went back to my specialist where he advised we would have to remove the lymph node and that they were looking for potential cancer. I had an inkling that was what they were looking for but hoping it wasn’t going to be.

A week after having that surgery and having missed a couple of calls from my specialist, I received a call shortly after I got to work. Honestly all I can recall from that conversation is the word lymphoma and with treatment, there are positive results.  He would refer me to the Cancer clinic.  Thanks to my co-workers I made it to my mom's house where I started to process everything. So many thoughts were going through my head but the biggest one was disbelief. The following week my family and I went on with our already planned summer vacation. I did my best to enjoy this time, but in the back of my head I didn’t know what to expect when we returned. I had several appointments on return and the process began......scans, bloodwork and other required tests.

The most notable was when I met my Oncologist for the first time. I was nervous, intimidated and very anxious. Fortunately I wasn’t alone........I had my “entourage” who helped me throughout this entire experience. When I had an appointment, so did they! I was fortunate and was never alone.

When the doctor came into the room and started explaining my diagnosis........Hodgkins Lymphoma stage 2, my immediate reaction was to start crying but he looked at me and said, you don’t need to cry.........your cancer has a 80-90% curability rate. This did eliminate some of the anxiousness, however, it didn’t eliminate the treatment that I would have to go through. 4cycles of Chemotherapy which consisted of 4 different drugs and would take approx 4-5hrs once every two weeks. Initially I thought I might be able to work while I was going through chemo but that wasn’t the case. It was an aggressive treatment and would affect my immune system so I wouldn’t be able to work. My chemo treatment started 5 days after I heard my official diagnosis.   It all happened so quickly I don’t think I had a lot of time to think about things too much.   Which I think ended up being a blessing in disguise.

It didn’t seem real. I found as I was telling my friends and family, I couldn’t believe I was telling them I had cancer.

Going through Chemo was tough. I started to lose my hair after my 3rd treatment, food didn’t taste right, I was exhausted but had trouble sleeping because of the night sweats and nausea, but I didn’t experience it as bad as some and I was grateful for that.

After chemo I had a month off of treatment before I started radiation in January 2019. One morning I woke up and noticed I couldn’t move part of my face. After a trip to the emergency room, they told me I had Bell’s palsy. An inflammation of the cranial nerve. They weren’t sure why it happened but I researched it a bit and it could have been caused by the swelling from the chemo. This cleared up somewhat in time for radiation. I had 15 radiation treatments which were relatively quick but I was really tired after and developed a severe sore throat during this which didn’t go away until a couple of weeks after treatments were was my excuse to eat lots of ice cream........

A few months after radiation was completed I had a follow up PET scan. I was eager for the results to see if the treatments were successful.  All the doctors were happy on all of my follow up appointments.

I received a phone call from my Oncologist a few days after my appointment telling me they found some spots around my lungs, which I found out after, the doctor thought I may have relapsed. After 2 biopsies it turned out to be Sarcoidosis which is common in cancer patients, however it doesn’t present so quickly after treatment.  I was referred to yet another doctor. During the 2nd biopsy, they were able to remove the majority of them but there were a few they couldn’t get at. I was nervous that these could turn into lymphoma. My mind started working overtime. However, after another CT scan, it confirmed that the ones that were still there were shrinking. I was super relieved.

I turned my thoughts to life after treatment. I started doing more things and getting back into somewhat of a routine but noticed that I wasn’t remembering things as I should have.  I was having trouble retaining information and I would still tire out quickly.

It was coming up on the 1yr mark of my initial diagnosis and I found myself at my family doctors office again. This time it was a bit different. After an ultrasound I was told I had a mass in my bladder. I was now referred to another specialist. My initial thoughts were......are you kidding me.........not again! After my appt with him, I was told it was a cancerous tumor and it had to be removed. Fortunately it was caught early, they removed it all and treatment wasn’t required but I had another doctor to add to my list.

So far all my doctor appointments have been good ones but definitely are approached with slight anxiety as you just never know! I have been in remission from my lymphoma for a year and a half now and I am grateful for that.

What an emotional roller coaster. Any one who knows me knows that I am an emotional person and my feelings tend to come out in tears. There have been lots of tears, anxiety, prayers and even some laughter. I couldn’t have gone through all of this without the love and support from my family and I was given a bracelet from some family members that had a charm on it that said ”Stronger that the Storm”. I wore this to all my appointments and still wear it to remind me that with the help of my family and friends that I am stronger than the storm.

I learned about Light the Night just after I was diagnosed as my cousin was participating in the walk in Edmonton as a supporter and was raising money. I made my first donation then. I looked at the photos I knew I wanted to be apart of our local walk the next time I was able. I volunteered and participated in the walk in Saskatoon last year and I knew I would be involved in it for the years to come. I am honored to be this year's Honored Survivor Hero and I walk as a proud survivor and in memory of my nephew who passed away from Leukemia at 2yrs old.  I walk so that we can raise money so other people can hear the words I heard on my initial diagnosis of an 80-90% curability rate. We need to raise the funds so there can be more survivors.

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