With Elizabeth Stevens
As a parent, you put your kids in activities for their benefit, but every once in a while, it turns out just the opposite, and it’s the parent who comes out ahead.
This is how I met Kristy Conniff. When Chloe and McKenzie were 4, both were signed up for preschool dance and their younger siblings, Scarlett and TJ were equally busy toddlers in the waiting room. Sliding ballet slippers on little feet while simultaneously rationing out snacks and for Kristy, watching down on Ryder playing tennis just below, we were Saturday morning Moms being Moms.
Over the years, our friendship grew closer as our kids went to preschool together and our husbands discovered they shared the same obsession with golf. I knew Kristy was a Radiologist, but to me, Kristy didn’t talk much about work. As all Drs. Are, she was forever obliged to answer everyones health questions and concerns from sore throats to confusing test results. She was steadfast that she loved being a Dr, and she felt blessed that she had found a great clinic to work for that allowed her to be flexible, allowing time for her passionate work and be with her family.
I specifically recall the end of year picnic for Scarlett and TJ’s last year of preschool when Kristy mentioned that her Flint practice had purchased an office in Novi and she was going to be there once a week. Thus allowing her to get to our ladies 4 holer golf group on time. Little did I know, this one small detail was going to make a huge impact on my life.
By the end of that same summer, my husband, Tom, was offered an opportunity with a company in Canada that we knew we had to take. After much heartache, including a few late night discussions around the Conniff pool, we were going to move to western Canada for at least 3 years. As part of the process to get ready to move to, I followed up with my Dr for an annual exam, cutting it close just 3 business days before our movers were coming and simultaneously while Tom was in Canada enrolling our kids in school. I had zero concerns going into this appointment, just wanted all things squared away before entering a new country’s healthcare system. And then, the Dr became suddenly gravely concerned and asked me if I’d felt a certain lump. I replied I had not and she advised I have this checked as soon as possible. Immediately, I grabbed my phone and texted Kristy, “Are you working? I need to be seen and movers coming in 3 days”. How the stars aligned that day and put her in her new Novi office just a few miles from where I was I will forever be thankful for. Within 30 minutes I was having my first ever mammogram and ultrasound, I was only 36. After the tests, I’m sitting in the waiting room and I hear her voice in the ultrasound room, calm, cool, collected…organized. Then, she opens the door and looks at me. Her beautiful eyes are rimmed in red and in that moment, my world changed. I knew that she knew. Her professionalism kicked in and she was immediately empathetically explaining what she saw in the scans and what we were going to do next. A biopsy followed requiring precision and skill, and she maintained all of it while tears streamed down both of our faces. Before we left, she asked if she could talk to Tony about it, which I knew was a first for her, working in Flint for so many years, her patients had never been her friends.
She rushed the results because she knew this would mean moving to Canada or not. On Monday, she expertly explained the pathology results over the phone to Tom and I and as she thought it was Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, but now she could confirm the stage and the make up. Not good news, but far from the worst. We began further scans, tests, insurance issues, etc. We stayed in the US and she was my partner and my ally. Ultimately, she wasn’t part of my treatment team because her hospital is in Flint. But, she was always there, never forgetting to check in a date of a procedure or scan, even years later, as we’d be hanging out, she knew how many years or months it has been and what I would have coming. Even when I didn’t like to burden anyone and talk about it, she didn’t forget. Our friendship didn’t become about my disease and her expertise, but I believe she taught me how to handle all of it. I’m better now, but I still have occasional issues and scans that are suspect, but each time I can feel her, hear her and miss her but I know each time that she has prepared me for these moments.
Why some of us get a chance to fight our enemies like viruses, etc while others don’t, I’ll never understand. But what I do know, is that Kristy Krizmanich-Conniff was put on this earth to be a Dr. I am only one story in years of patients that she diagnosed and counseled. I know I can speak on behalf of her patients everywhere when I say thank you my friend.
Help us continue Kristy’s fight against Breast Cancer
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. All proceeds from The KC Pink Hat will be donated to the Hurley Medical Center’s Breast Cancer Navigation Program. This program financially helps patients during treatments so they can concentrate on their health and wellness. Gas and grocery cards, rides, rent/mortgage and co-pays for medications and treatment are provided for qualifying patients. Learn more about the Hurley Center Here:
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