Through Press On: Moving Lives Through Cancer, we want to remind people affected by cancer that there is hope — that through the disease, it’s possible to harness a fruitful spirit through activity, movement and a natural zest for life. Let the following story serve as such a reminder.
Christa Charter didn’t think she was old enough for mammograms. The experts couldn’t agree whether annual screening should begin at age 45 or 50, so Christa, not a fan of doctor visits, decided to wait.
She’d just turned 46 when she felt a lump in her right breast, and by March 2015, she’d been diagnosed with Stage III infiltrating ductal carcinoma. The hardest part was telling her Kindergartener that “Mommy has a yucky thing in her boob and the doctor’s going to fix it.”
Since her tumor was HER+ and aggressive, her team of doctors decided to do chemotherapy before surgery. When Christa’s long, curly hair started coming out after the first round of chemo, her retired Marine husband and three kids helped shave her head. Her friends told her she looked like Furiosa from Mad Max, but she felt like a weak, broken thing.
Summer ended, and Christa had a lumpectomy and lymph node dissection. After that was six weeks of radiation and painfully burned skin. Christa’s doctors kept telling her to go for walks and get some exercise, but she just didn’t have the energy.
Hair began to sprout, scars began to fade, and slowly, her energy returned. She went back to the gym and walked on the treadmill. It felt great to hit her step goal every day! Almost a year after her first round of chemo, Christa and her family moved to a house with a big yard.
Before cancer, she’d never been very interested in the outdoors, but now she found peace and joy putting her hands in the soil and making things grow. She and her daughters raised some chickens. She bought herself a turquoise beach cruiser bicycle. She took her time cooking meals with fresh, local foods. She went back to college and is working toward a psychology degree. She plans to be a hospice counselor.
Christa likes to tell people, “Cancer did me a favor by resetting my priorities. What’s important to me are my family, my health, and my peace of mind. Period.”