Cristall's story

A Story of Hope: Surviving Pancreatic Cancer During COVID-19


Cristall felt as if her world had come tumbling down in 2020 when she received her diagnosis. “Life changed overnight,” recalled Cristall—a healthy young mother with two daughters. “One moment, we’re gearing up to move—my husband had a new job—and the next we’re facing the biggest battle of our lives.”

Add the pandemic to their story and Cristall’s family was confronting an immense challenge.

When she first felt ill, Covid restrictions prevented Cristall from seeking care at her first-choice medical facility, a nearby urgent care center. Her best option was to go to a hospital, something she was reluctant to do because of Covid. In the end, it turned out that this sequence of events saved her life. Hospital doctors found a tumor. “Within a week I was meeting with a surgical oncologist,” Cristall remembered. At home, in a quiet moment, reality suddenly sank in. While putting away Easter decorations, Cristall broke down. “I wondered if I would be around to put them up next year.”

More difficult news followed. The tumor was entwined with an artery and surgery, Cristall’s best shot at survival, was not yet possible. Doctors had to shrink the tumor with chemotherapy and radiation first—which they were able to do!

“The tumor shrank away from the artery. Then it was surgically removed, along with my entire pancreas,” Cristall said. “I’m a Type I diabetic now, but I can live with that…a very small price for survival and for having more time with my family!”

Cristall has been cancer-free since November 2020 and has participated in the Lustgarten Foundation Atlanta Walk for Research with her family for the past two years.Facing a pancreatic cancer diagnosis and coping with treatment and side effects while navigating the reality of parenting in a Covid bubble was very challenging. But she found hope in the darkness through Lustgarten and people like you.

Cristall shares her story with you because you make stories like hers possible. The scientific progress you fund is helping more patients beat the odds. Her message to you is:

“One hundred percent of everything donated to the Foundation funds research,” she said. “You’ll be hearing more survivors’ stories—like mine—because of your generosity and the kind of research you make possible. Thank you.”

“You’ll be hearing more survivors’ stories-like-mine because of your generosity and the kind of research you make possible. Thank you.”

Cristall Harkins, survivor

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