Cancer survivor discusses life after remission

Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 7:59 AM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Sunday, June 6 marks an important holiday for all those who’ve taken on cancer and beaten the disease. The day celebrates National Cancer Survivors Day.

Deb Krzyzaniak is one of those survivors. She discovered healthy living later in life. Just several years ago, Krzyzaniak delved into a journey of exercise and nutrition. It just so happened, that would be the same time her body had other plans. She underwent surgery for potential appendicitis.

“It was just supposed to be an outpatient thing, and when I went in for it, my whole family decided they needed to come with me,” said Krzyzaniak. “As it turned out, like an hour and a half later into my surgery, when it was supposed to be well over, my husband got a call that they found more than they expected.”

Krzyzaniak’s surgeon found a tumor in her appendix and had to remove part of her colon, part of one of her Fallopian tubes and part of her intestine. She was dianosed with Stage 3 colon cancer.

“I could not believe that diagnosis,” said Krzyzaniak. “Stage 3 anything sounds horrible. And then I had to make some hard decisions.”

A combination of doctor’s recommendations, chemotherapy and her own nutrition path ended up be the recipe for remission.

Life after cancer, though, isn’t easy.

Carissa Anderson, an oncology nurse navigator at Marshfield Clinic Health System, helps people like Krzyzaniak who find themselves in a new chapter of the cancer journey.

“Our patients have so much thrown at them, even once they go into remission and they’re in that survivorship status, a lot of that follows them for quite a long time,” said Anderson. “They have side effects from surgery, from cancer, from radiation, treatment. Financial issues are often a huge concern.”

“Everytime you go for that three month checkup, I’m always, ‘have everybody pray for me, because I’m a bit freaking out here,’” said Krzyzaniak. “Each time you get your blood work done and they check everything and your tumor marks look good, you breathe that sigh of relief.”

Things that have helped to ease Krzyzaniak’s anxiety include regular exercise with her walking buddy, a supportive family, and patient navigators who shine a light on the path ahead.

“Giving me so much information before I even met with the oncologist of what to expect, what all of this meant, because it’s all just gobble-de-gook to you and there’s so much emotion flying around,” said Krzyzaniak. “To have someone you feel like you can trust who knows what the story is.”

“We are going to take this a day at a time with you, we are here for you if you have any questions of any sort and we’re going to help you get through whatever happens, whether it’s good news or otherwise. We’re here,” said Anderson.

“I feel pretty grateful that I can live the life that I was living before and actually have a better perspective going forward on how much I want to enjoy that life and what’s really important,” said Krzyzaniak.

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