Growing up in Huntsville, Alabama, I ran for all kinds of reasons. I loved playing soccer, which would require me to run for long periods of time. I loved running freely around Jones Valley and playing with my friends daily. Sometimes I would get into adolescent trouble, and if the opportunity to exit the situation ever presented itself, I’d run away from that as fast as possible. As an adult, I run to stay healthy. I’m sure most people would answer the question of “Why we run?” with very similar responses. Never in my life did I think I’d answer this question because of Cancer.
We, The Plaxcos, are a family of four; five if you count the dog. My beautiful wife Krista, my two boys Mason (8) and Hayes (5), and Hank our 8-month-old Rotti-Poo (yes, he’s a Rottweiler/Poodle mix). I’m not sure what I did to deserve it, but life has been very good to me. Krista is the rock of our family – our glue. She keeps this family running on all cylinders, so on a cold January day in 2018 we were brought to our knees when we found out Krista had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
I remember the day—it was beautiful outside, but extremely cold. The biopsy was performed, then we waited to speak with someone. I sat with Krista in a room you could tell was not for giving good news. It had nice chairs, an extremely comfy couch, and little pamphlets laying around talking about cancer. I sat there not knowing what to say anymore. Krista had worried for days and days about it since she found the lump. I comforted her before telling her it was a cyst or fatty tissue. Even the Google Gods backed me up! The lump was soft and rolled in your fingers. All the signs pointed towards a cyst, but the doctor would soon tell us that Krista had a rare form of breast cancer – Mucinous Carcinoma. Game on.
Receiving the diagnosis felt like being shot out of cannon. We didn’t have much time to grieve or process our feelings about everything because we were thrust into quick meetings with surgeons and oncologist to discuss action plans. Our plan ended up being a total mastectomy, hormonal therapy and chemotherapy. We did our best to get ready for it all.
Krista was tough and, as always, didn’t complain, but I could tell she was tired. She would come home after working 12-hour shifts and try to work on laundry or something around the house (and mind you this was after her mastectomy). I did my best to have the house in pristine shape or laundry done, but if you know Krista, you know she likes to stay busy. That would all change once she started chemo.
In the case of breast cancer, chemotherapy is obviously necessary for survival, but I had a hard time watching it take over my wife. Chemo can send the entire family down a dark path. The house we’ve lived in for 12 years felt different, shadows seemed longer even though spring was all around us. Krista was usually in one of two places: her bed trying to sleep or in the bathroom. We did our best to keep the boys out of the house, and I made sure that Krista had what she needed to be comfortable, if that was possible. Months down the road we started to see the light. The last day of chemotherapy was upon us and Krista was going to ring the bell.
Before we headed to CCI for the last treatment we had to see the surgeon who performed Krista’s mastectomy. It was her 6-month post-operation check-up that was supposed to be routine. The doctor came in and mentioned there was an area of concern that needed to be biopsied. Here we go again… We had stress and anxiety through the roof.
Krista didn’t get to ring the bell that day. Instead, we found out the following day that the cancer was back. The sneaky bastard had mutated and gotten into her skin cells and was heading towards her head. We rushed into surgery, which didn’t produce good margins, so Krista was forced under the knife a second time within a week. Clear margins came with the second round of surgery, and with that a new plan from the oncologist.
The new plan was for Krista to get radiation treatments five days a week for seven weeks. Krista got up every day, got the boys ready for school, got herself ready for work, went to hospital to get her treatments, and then went and worked 12-hour shifts. SHE’S ONE TOUGH GIRL. Finally, Krista completed her last radiation treatment in December 2018 and was considered cancer free. We were more than ready to bring in the new year and say goodbye to 2018.
Through all of this, our friends and family kept us going. They poured their hearts out to us in the form of warm cooked meals, supplies needed to keep Krista comfy, helping with the kids, gift cards, prayers, and visits to CCI with Krista. Some even chose to take the journey with Krista by cutting their hair off when hers fell out. I honestly had no clue how much we were loved until that dark period. I know that I will no longer take things for granted. I watch my patience with the boys and try to always make sure I hug and kiss Krista before going to bed. We have a second chance at life, and I plan on getting it right.
I will run in the Liz Hurley Ribbon Run this October, and every October that follows, for my wife and all others who have kicked cancer’s ass. I’ll run for those that are still fighting this horrible disease and will continue praying that someone will soon find a cure. Cancer takes a toll on the body and on the family in a way that no one should endure. This month, I encourage you to run, hug your loved ones, spread love, get screened, or do whatever you can to spread awareness about breast cancer. Together, I believe we can kick this disease in the ass once and for all, Krista-style.