SELINSGROVE — Chrissy Findlay had played on enough team sports to know that, when a goal is needed, every player must do her part.
So when the Selinsgrove wife and mother of two teens was diagnosed in March with breast cancer, she accepted the help of her team and fought for the win.
Chrissy’s yearly mammogram screening had a good result, but she has dense breast tissue, which prompted an automated ultrasound, which led to a biopsy and a diagnosis of cancer.
At the age of 47 and with no family history of breast cancer, Chrissy was shocked. She got the call from the Thyra M. Humphrey’s Center for Breast Health at Evangelical Community Hospital while she was at Bucknell University, where she is an associate dean of the office of admissions.
“I kind of plopped in the chair,” she said. “I was trying to hear the information and struggling to know it’s me when I never felt a lump and didn’t feel sick.”
She called her friend, Barb, who was in a nearby office, “and she just came in and, that was rough, but …,” Chrissy trailed off.
She called her husband, Jim Findlay, men’s soccer coach at Susquehanna University, and they both hurried home to talk.
“The coach in Jim comes out in these moments,” Chrissy said. “He said, you find out what it is, you deal with it and you beat it. It was the best thing I needed to hear. Someone who trusted that we deal with it and we’ll be fine.”
“All the credit has to go to her, for how tough she is physically and mentally,” Jim said, “fighting it head-on like she did.”
He and Chrissy told their children, Caitlyn, a freshman at York College, and Colin, 13, that weekend.
“As a mother, you just find the strength and have that conversation without sugarcoating anything,” Chrissy said. She also called her mother, siblings and friends.
“Obviously you don’t want to see a loved one go through something like that,” Jim said, adding that being an athletic family helped them pull together and fight the cancer much like they would an injury that sidelined them. “We wanted to offer as much moral support for her as we could, to let her know we’re behind her in this fight.”
Growing up in a family with five kids, Chrissy said she always felt like part of a team. On top of that, she’s an avid runner and she and her siblings all played competitive sports.
“With the mindset of an athlete and working on and with teams, you just know you have people who are like teammates around you,” Chrissy said. “You have your own role, the team’s mission, and you have to do whatever you can to get the job done.”
Family, friends rally
Chrissy’s team consisted of friends, family members and co-workers who each helped in their own way. As soon as Chrissy told her mother, she said she’d be there for the lumpectomy.
“My mom is my rock,” Chrissy said. “My mom will drop everything and drive the four-and-a-half hours to be here.”
“I was there for her surgery,” Judy Sassaman, of Wildwood Crest, New Jersey, said. “Other than that, it’s just listening to what she has to say.”
The fear comes and goes, she said, but she chooses not to think about scarier outcomes and focuses instead on being there for Chrissy.
“Her two sisters were on the phone with her, listening to her,” Sassaman said. “You hope for the best. She’s done everything she could. She maintains a healthy lifestyle. You can’t do more than that.”
Chrissy’s sister, Jill Neuhaus, of Chester County, said she and Chrissy were close enough in age to go to high school and college together. Living so far away and tending to her own four children made it doubly hard for her to see Chrissy and “give her a hug on a bad day.” Phone calls had to suffice.
“She doesn’t like to unload on everybody, so just to be a listening ear for her,” Neuhaus said. “Just being there for her to vent to.”
She did manage to pop in one day, to Chrissy’s surprise.
“She broke down and cried,” Neuhaus said, “which to me was healing, and it was good for me to see her.”
Sharing the highs and lows of the diagnosis and treatment brought the whole family closer.
“You feel really bad for her at having to go through it at such a young age,” Jim said. “But you just offer words of encouragement. How tough she was in dealing with the surgery and the radiation treatment, it almost made our job easier.”