Hill military spouse shares story

  • Published
  • By Lee Ann Hensley
  • Hilltop Times writer
Three years ago, military spouse Stacey Christopherson led a healthy, normal life. She taught fitness classes five days a week while stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., and was a full-time mother of two young children and wife to Col. Patrick Christopherson.

During a routine health exam at the base medical center, her doctor found a small lump in one of her breasts. A mammography was performed and it produced suspicious results.

"Literally within two weeks, we did a tissue biopsy, an MRI, bone scan, CAT scan, one hundred percent checked everything," she recalls. "I was diagnosed with Stage IIA breast cancer at age 37 with no family history of breast cancer. It came as a total one hundred percent shock."

Stage IIA breast cancer is the type of cancer that has spread to other areas of the body.
"When they performed the lumpectomy surgery to remove the lump, they found that it had spread to two of 13 lymph nodes," said Christopherson. "All of this happened within two weeks after receiving the suspicious-looking mammogram."

Also within that time period, her husband was reassigned to Hill Air Force Base.

"Literally, that same week I was diagnosed he was offered his dream job as the Operations Group commander of the 388th here," she said. "We considered not coming so that I could finish my treatments in Alabama, but then I wasn't willing for him to lose out on that just because of this. We figured that cancer would win if we stayed."

After the lumpectomy surgery, Christopherson had a chemotherapy port inserted into her chest to allow the medication to be injected directly to her heart and blood stream.

"I did four treatments of Adriamycin and Cytoxin.They call Adriamycin 'The Red Devil' because it is bright red. When the nurse came out to inject it she was in full chem-gear, and she said, 'If this touches me, it's bad,' and I'm like, 'And you're going to inject me with that?'" Christopherson joked.

Once she completed the chemotherapy treatments, Christopherson then started taxol treatments. Taxol is an anti-cancer chemotherapy drug that suppresses disease progression.

"At about week six of the treatments, we moved from Alabama to Utah," she said. "I went for a treatment on a Thursday in Alabama ... and a week later I was doing another treatment in Utah."

In between that week's time, she helped her family complete a do-it-yourself move across the country. Like any permanent change of station move, whatever could go wrong did go wrong. Yet Christopherson just kept going.

"Life goes on for everybody, and for me I felt like it stopped, especially during those first eight weeks of treatment. But I had two small kids and you don't have much of a choice but to keep pushing through."

Christopherson also elected to undergo genetic testing for the BRAC cancer gene to see if there was any possibility of passing it along to her children. Thankfully, the results came back negative. "My children were 7 and 4 years old when I was diagnosed, so I did it for them," she said.

Christopherson took no chances and received all care and treatments she was eligible for. "Since I was young and my cancer was so aggressive, I had every treatment. We did it all; there wasn't any drug that I was eligible for that I didn't take. But I have to say, with Tricare, we haven't paid a dime. So Tricare has one hundred percent been awesome as far as helping us get through it."

Christopherson is now living a normal, active life as a realtor for Coldwell Banker in Clearfield and is operating a real estate investment business with her husband. She is on the tail end of her treatments and now takes tamoxifen, a medication that helps prevent breast cancer in women who are at high risk of developing the disease, twice each day for the next few years.

"As bad as it was going through it, anyone can do it. It's a lot easier to say afterward, but modern medicine is an amazing thing now," she says. "I am so grateful for all of the (survivors) before me, especially the ones who were (test subjects) for the experimental drugs I take now to prevent me from getting it again. I am thankful for those warriors before me."