Tahlequah Daily Press

October 15, 2013

Cancer survivor credits her healing to God

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — When life is at its bleakest point, people often turn to faith to lift them up.

Cancer survivor Betty Kosterlistzkey credits the Lord for her remission from multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood that affects the bone marrow.

In 2007, Kosterlistzkey was working at the Stilwell hospital. She was losing weight, and her co-workers began to notice.

“They were wondering why, and it kind of irritated me at first,” said Kosterlistzkey. “I was eating, and I had always been quick to say if something was wrong with me.”

Shortly thereafter, Kosterlistzkey took a trip to California with her daughter. When they returned, Kosterlistzkey noticed her back was aching.

“It was like a pinched nerve; the pain ran all the way down my leg,” she said. “I went to [W.W.] Hastings [Hospital] to find out what was wrong. This would have been in July 2007. It took a long time to get a diagnosis. They kept sending me to the emergency room and I couldn’t understand why.”

Finally, that November, Kosterlistzkey returned to the emergency room one more time.

“Dr. [Randall] Turner was the physician on that trip,” said Kosterlistzkey. “I had had X-rays before, but they couldn’t seem to explain what was wrong with me. He’s the one who found [the cancer].”

Turner sat down with Kosterlistzkey, and she felt a sense of foreboding.

“He patted me on the knee, and I thought, ‘Oh, no,’” said Kosterlistzkey. “That’s when he told me I had cancer. He tried to get me into the Tulsa hospitals, but we couldn’t because of the ice storms. He finally got me into Tahlequah City Hospital, where they did a bone marrow test and found out what I had: multiple myeloma, exactly.”

Kosterlistzkey didn’t have to undergo surgery, but she did spend the next year in treatment.

“At first, my kidneys were in bad shape, so they sent me to Fort Smith for dialysis,” she said. “Once that was over with, they turned my name in to the hospital in Little Rock, Ark., and within 30 days my name was drawn and I was admitted.”

Her daughter, who was working at the time, quit her job to help her while she stayed in Little Rock.

“I underwent chemotherapy, along with treatment to split my blood up,” said Kosterlistzkey. “They were giving me my own platelets. They say there’s no such thing as chemo vein, but there is.”

Kosterlistzkey chokes back tears when relating the story. “I tell you, if it weren’t for the Lord...,” she said, as her voice trails off. “He’s the one who cured me.”

She also credits prayer for medical success.

“My sister, my family, all of them prayed for me,” she said. “If it wasn’t for them, I’d not have made it.”

During Kosterlistzkey’s treatment, her daughter tried to keep her mind off the negative side of the situation.

“My daughter kept my spirits up; she wouldn’t let me dwell on it,” she said. “We’d go to Walmart and shop. It’s funny; there were times when she’d air out the room, because she said I smelled like burnt corn. My children and my family kept me going. I praise God.”

As with most cancer patients, once the disease is in remission, doctor visits occur every three months for a year, then every six months, and finally are reduced to once a year.

“I go once a year now,” said Kosterlistzkey. “It’s kind of funny, because when they told me I didn’t have to come back for a year, I didn’t know what to do. It was like losing a security blanket. As long as I was going to the doctor regularly, I knew I was OK. They kept telling me I am just like everyone else now, but sometimes I have trouble understanding I’m cancer-free. It’s hard to make your brain understand that, that I’m cancer-free.”