Abby Crisp spent most of a decade in bed, sick from chronic pancreatitis.
“I used to love to play with my grandson, Samuel, but as time went on that just wasn’t possible,” remembered Abby.
“A lot of his play scenarios were about being sick, it was sad,” she said.
Then Abby was dealt another blow when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. What Abby never imagined was that this new health challenge would eventually lead her on a journey to a better, healthy life.
Discovering expert cancer care close to home
A routine annual mammogram in 2013 revealed abnormal cells and a later biopsy confirmed the presence of intraductile carcinoma. “I never would have felt the lump in my breast,” Abby said. “It was sitting right on my chest wall.”
At hearing the diagnosis, Abby said she was in a state of shock. But her Harrison HealthPartner doctor clearly outlined treatment options, arming her with information for treatment, help, and support.
“I left knowing what to do, feeling very prepared to tackle this,” Abby said. The next step was to find a doctor to treat the cancer.
A relative suggested Abby travel to Seattle to receive treatment. But because of her pancreatitis, she wasn’t sure if she could drive to Seattle every day. So she and her husband, Troy, did some research and discovered Charles Springate, MD, at the Harrison Radiation Oncology Center.
“We learned that Harrison has the state-of-the-art equipment, and was as good as the top-billed hospital in Seattle for cancer care,” Abby said.
“After meeting with Dr. Springate, I knew immediately that this was the right place for me,” she said. “Everyone was so kind and warm. It was as if I was their only patient, though they treat everyone with the same respect and care.”
Treatment that cares for the whole person
As Abby received treatment, a Harrison nutritionist contacted her. “She actually gave me more information than my naturopath,” Abby said. “She told me about fats I could eat with my pancreatitis. Even doctors in Seattle couldn’t really tell me what to do.”
Abby also began attending Harrison’s cancer support group, though the cancer radiation treatment made her extremely sick. It was through the group that she was able to find others to lean on and inspire her to carry on.
On a particularly rough day toward the end of her cancer treatment, Abby was approached by a Harrison employee she knew well. He could just tell by looking at Abby’s face that she needed to talk. He took her to see the social worker in his department.
“She cleared her desk as if she had nothing else to do and just listened as I cried, and she offered many options that we were not aware of for both me and my husband so we could get through this,” Abby said.
One of those options was support for Troy, who had been Abby’s caregiver through the pancreatitis and cancer treatments.
“He’s been really patient and good to me, but he gets tired, too, and he’s never had any support; he’s never asked for it,” she said.
“Everyone at Harrison is just invested in your care, in you as a person, not just as a patient or a client,” Abby said. “I would never have gotten that if I was over in Seattle.”
A vibrant new life
Through her treatment for cancer at Harrison, Abby said she found a lot of solutions to her pancreatitis issues that have freed her from the confines of her bed and home.
Most importantly, she is able to play like never before with Samuel. “Now we go to his room or play outside. I can even climb trees. And, his toys are no longer sick. To me, that is a huge victory right there,” she said.
“This has been a real journey for me,” Abby said. “It wasn’t that cancer saved me. My experience at Harrison has really opened a lot of doors for us as a family, in many ways.”
“There are good treatment options here in our community that not only address the medical side,” Abby said, “they address the need that each one of us has to feel that we are not alone, that people truly care, and they will go above and beyond to make us feel comfortable and understood.”
Abby has also been able to volunteer at Samuel’s school. “I am so happy to be a part of something that’s bigger than myself and I don’t feel like I’m going to die,” she said. “I’m going to live!”