(KFVS) - In 2009, Kristi Whitehead of Bernie, Missouri was in her mid-30′s. Too young to be thinking about a colonoscopy.
And, she said, too strong-willed to admit her symptoms could lead to such a serious diagnosis, especially with no family history of colon cancer.
“I still just wanted to ignore it because I didn’t want to be sick,” explained Kristi.
Kristi Whitehead wanted to focus on her husband and two young kids, but she couldn’t ignore what her body was trying to tell her.
“I gained probably about 35 to 40 pounds pretty quickly, couldn’t figure out why but then I think also what really scared me was that immediately the weight started dropping off of me,” said Kristi. “And I knew then with the bleeding I was experiencing and I was so tired, I was just so tired all the time.”
After the pain became so severe, Kristi scheduled a colonoscopy.
“The doctor said you have what we call a carcinoma tumor,” said Kristi. “They’re extremely rare, but even whenever I got to St. Louis and saw the doctor and they used the word cancer it still just did not seem right. I can remember telling people well they say I have cancer."
Kristi soon learned her stage three cancer was spreading.
“It was my ovaries and my uterus and then my thyroid and lungs as well,” said Kristi.
She needed surgery immediately.
“Even now, those emotions kind of come back and you think how much your kids mean to you and how much more they have to experience in their life and am I going to be there for that,” Kristi explained fighting back tears.
Kristi’s surgery was a success, but what came next hit just as hard.
“So in order for me to heal properly and allow my body time to heal, I was given an colostomy bag," said Kristi.
Kristi said that’s when her depression took over.
"I let the colostomy bag define who I was as a person, said Kristi. “That was just so hard for me and you know I went through counseling.”
“We just took it day by day and week by week," explained Kristi’s husband Jonathan. "Yeah, it was tough it definitely was.”
Kristi credits her husband with getting her through the journey.
“I’ve never doubted that he loved me, you know, but when he took care of me that’s when I knew because I tried so hard to push him away and he never ever left me,” said Kristi.
Today, Kristi is cancer free. The story her body tells now? One of strength and perseverance.
“Every day I see my scars, you know, and that’s a reminder but I’m happy I still have my husband and I still have my kids and they still have me,” said Kristi.
Kristi said she wanted to share her story because she wants people to truly listen to their bodies. She admitted hers was telling her something years before she got checked out. She said she now knows the isolated stomach pains, flushing, rapid heart rate and weight gain were all early symptoms of her cancer.
March is colon cancer awareness month and according to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer will claim more than 50,000 lives in 2019.