Breast Cancer is Second Most Difficult Thing This Super Survivor Faced
Christina Nation knew she could face her battle with breast cancer. She had already endured the most difficult thing a mother or father could face—the death of a child.
Certain moments in our lives are so earth-shattering, whether the news is good or bad, that we never forget the date. For Christina, her world shattered on May 22, 2013, when her 14-year-old son, Wyatt, took his life.
“He was such a happy kid. He loved to be funny and joke with people,” Christina said. He enjoyed video games but was equally at home outside, including fishing or taking boat rides on the river. He was eager to help others, whether giving money to a guy holding a sign on a street or dropping some change in the Salvation Army kettle at Christmas. He looked, acted and talked like his dad and loved to hear his dad’s hunting stories. “And he loved it every time someone told him that he was just like his dad. He was just an all-around great kid.”
Wyatt’s death was also a stark reminder that we never know the personal pain that others are going through, even those who are closest to us, Christina said.
“I knew if I could get through the loss of our son, I could get through this.”
Christina is one of three women who were randomly chosen as Super Survivors to be honored at this year’s Memorial’s Be Aware Women’s Fair. The sixth annual event will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3, in the Orr Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
Super Survivors are women whose breast cancer journeys have been an inspiration to others. Their unique stories will be shared with fair-goers when the Super Survivors reveal their makeovers, courtesy of BJ Grand Salon and Spa, and their new outfits. Check out the reactions of our three Super Survivors when they were surprised with the news.
Christina serves as office administrator and general assistance caseworker for Clear Lake Township, northeast of Springfield in Sangamon County. She has worked for the township since 2004. One of her greatest joys is organizing the Christmas assistance program to help families in need during the holidays.
“It’s overwhelming how much help we get from our community. People donate so much stuff, it’s amazing,” Christina said. “There are so many people that need help. This was a way to provide our residents with a little something extra at a time when they need it.”
Cancer runs in Christina’s family on her mother’s side. Two aunts had breast cancer, and a great aunt and cousin had ovarian cancer. She started getting annual mammograms when she was 36, four years before the recommended age for annual mammograms.
In October 2014, she went in for her annual mammogram and was called back for another screening. That second screening revealed a spot in her left breast, which turned out to be an aggressive cancer.
“I feel I was very blessed,” Christina said. “It would have been a whole different situation if I had had to wait until my 40th birthday for my first mammogram.”
After she found out about the cancer, Christina and her husband, Jerry, didn’t tell the rest of their family right away. “We kind of kept it to ourselves at first because we didn’t want to upset the family until we knew what was exactly going on,” she recalled.
When they did learn, “I was able to calm their fears because I knew what was going on. I knew I was going to have surgery.”
She had a lumpectomy in December 2014. Tests of the surrounding tissue revealed the cancer had not spread. She followed her surgery with four rounds of chemotherapy—one round every three weeks—and then began six weeks of radiation treatment, five days a week. Her last treatment was June 2.
Christina has another son, Gregory, and her first grandson, Landyn, was born in April, the day before she started her radiation treatments.
Christina urges other women who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer to not lose hope when they get the news. “It’s great if you have a huge support group,” she said. And if you don’t have breast cancer, don’t neglect getting your annual mammogram every year.
Her friend since kindergarten, Dee Chasten, who’s a nurse at Memorial Medical Center, was particularly supportive when Christina lost her son and again when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. To show their support, Dee and Christina’s husband both buzzed their hair at the same time Christina did. “None of us had ever had hair that short,” Christina said. “They were both there every step of the way.”
And they weren’t the only ones.
“I had so many people praying for me. I feel all those prayers to the Lord really helped me get through this. Just keep pushing forward.”