Cancer is a heavy word.
It carries an entirely new weight when it happens you.
A Sioux Falls family is finding their new normal after a recent breast cancer diagnosis turned their lives upside down.
At only 38-years-old, Crystal Erickson now knows how heavy the word "cancer" can be.
But she's not letting it weigh her down.
"I thought I was doing everything right. I was a healthy young mother of three kids and guess what? You have cancer."
Cancer is not a word Crystal and Andy Erickson thought would become a part of their everyday lives.
"This is something that always happened to other families,” said Andy. “We do the Cure Kids Radio-A-Thon every year. I've gotten to know a lot of cancer survivors. I never really ever thought it would touch us. Never in a million years. And it did."
Now sporting a pink mohawk, Hot 1047's Andy Erickson is all-in to support his wife.
"I figure if my wife doesn't get to have hair, I don't get to have normal hair."
They made it a family ordeal. Andy went pink, Crystal went pink, and the kids got cuts and a little color too. It’s just one way the Ericksons are making the best of a situation they never planned to be in.
"When I found the lump I was kind of like, what is this? What am I feeling? Never thought it would be cancer, just thought it was a cyst, never thought it would be cancer."
Crystal found the lump in her breast in May. Within days, it was confirmed Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.
"I just knew it was going to be cancer,” said Andy. “I don’t know why I had that feeling, I just did. Before we even got the diagnosis I already knew but I also knew it was going to be okay."
After three rounds of chemo, Andy and Crystal are positive and ready to face the cancer head-on.
“I like to look at the positives. Andy and I have sat down and said look at all the positives that have come out from me having breast cancer. And we can laugh about things and some people hear my story and they want to cry about things. And that’s okay. You can laugh, you can cry, but don’t be sad. Because Andy has had a few people say, ‘Oh I’m so sorry you’re going through this,’ and he’s even told people ‘Don’t. We’ve got this.’ We have such an amazing support system and my cancer is treatable.”
Crystal is not letting a cancer diagnosis turn her into a victim. She's allowing it to make her a spokesperson.
“People always ask us when they hear my story, ‘How can we help?’ and really, I’ve come up with two things, do your self-breast exam, and get your mammogram. Don’t have the mentality ‘This won’t happen to me, I don’t have to have a mammogram, I don’t have to do self-breast exams.’ Because you don’t know. The stats are out there now. One in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, and you could be that one, just like I was that one.”
Crystal will share her message and journey this Sunday, October 9 at the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Sioux Falls. The events will start at the Downtown River Walk at 12:30.
More information on the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk can be found here.