Fourteen years ago I walked into a party at a home where I knew no one. My friend Paul invited me because he told me I had to meet his friend Krista. Paul was right because Krista and I did have a lot in common. We became fast friends, and I found myself engulfed in her natural life. Then one day all of it came to a crashing end. Only weeks before my wedding, she told me she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Krista told me she was refusing chemotherapy. Instead of following the standard of care for her early stage breast cancer, she opted to use a naturopathic doctor. Less than five years later she died.
Krista had the best laugh. The two of us could sit together for hours laughing about ridiculous things. She hated conformity, normalcy, and opted for a more natural way of life. I learned about sustainable agriculture through our friendship.
On weekends, she picked me up in her used Honda Civic. We roamed through thrift stores and picked out retro clothes to fill our closets. Her house was filled with her thrift store finds. I loved her natural beauty, her laugh, and her intense devotion to natural living.
She opened up my life to think about living more sustainably. We talked about composting, gardening, and she canned pickled beans for me. Krista forced me to sit through a documentary on the downfall of the electric car. The documentary was years before hybrids or the existence of Prius.
Her mind often wandered off into conspiracy theories about government suppression of natural energy, electric cars, and pharmaceutical companies controlling our lives. For a while, I believed what she shared with me. I listened intently to her words, and I read the books she suggested that I read.
However, I could never reach the same conclusions she had about life. Our differences in politics, consumerism, and sustainability fostered intense arguments and debates. We had more than one loud discussion about agriculture, vegetarianism, and pharmaceuticals.
When I started taking anti-depressants for debilitating anxiety, she tried to persuade me to try other options. Eventually, our friendship grew strained by our philosophical differences.
We never stopped being friends, but time and distance separated our connection. When I met my husband, she and I rarely spoke. Even though we weren’t as close, I still wanted her to meet him and approve of him. Her approval always meant to the world to me.
She loved my husband, and they got along amazingly well. When he proposed to me, I couldn’t wait to tell her. I wanted to include her in everything. Around the same time as I prepared to walk down the aisle, Krista’s life shattered with devastating news.
In an email from her then-boyfriend, I learned that Krista was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. The cancer was very treatable, and the email said she had a great prognosis. He wanted to cheer her up by buying her boots. The email was a simple request to donate money to buy Krista boots.
I remember falling apart on the inside when I heard the news. Shortly after I received the email, I called Krista. She told me the cancer was isolated to a single breast. We talked about treatment options, and she felt positive about her outlook. Doctors said that the cancer was treatable.
After our conversation, I felt better knowing that Krista could beat cancer. Unfortunately, my positivity and support for her journey ended on the same day as my bridal shower.
My friend Sarah hosted a beautiful day at her home. Krista arrived in a dress and her new cancer boots. In the haste of my wedding planning, I hadn’t had time to catch up with her. At my bridal shower, Krista dropped a massive bomb on me.
While sipping on wine, Krista told me the doctors removed her breast. We talked about reconstruction surgery, and she admitted that she didn’t want a fake breast. Instead, she opted to have a single breast and would pad the other side.
I knew standard treatment for her stage of cancer was breast removal and chemotherapy. Inquisitively, I wanted to know when she planned to start chemo. Her piercing blue eyes shot straight at me, and she said, “I’ve decided not to have any chemotherapy.”
My heart dropped to the floor, but I wasn’t surprised by her choice. Krista told me she found a naturopathic doctor to keep her in remission. We talked about the diet her naturopath wanted her to be on and her next steps. She told me about supplements, juices, and various therapies her doctor planned for her.
Inside my heart sank even further. I remember trying to persuade Krista to do at least a few rounds of chemo. Due to her illness, I read and studied the most effective treatments for her stage of cancer.
For almost an hour, I tried to share what I learned and gently nudge her to reconsider. Krista could not be swayed, and she told me emphatically she would not put toxic chemicals into her body.
A few weeks later, she arrived at my wedding. I tried not to think about her choice, but I could not escape my fears. Again, I wanted to get her to reconsider her decision to forego chemotherapy, but she quickly shot down my suggestions.
Krista believed in her naturopath, and there was no way for me to convince her otherwise. Soon Krista started a diet with no sugar, no carbs, and no alcohol. She began taking supplements, and she met with her naturopath frequently.
When I delivered my son, Krista sent me warm wishes. She checked in to see how my son was doing. We talked about planning a get together to have them meet. The last conversation we ever had we talked about making apple pie.
Right before the holidays, I messaged her to get together; we swapped a few messages. She told me her back hurt, and she was going to the chiropractor. We briefly talked about her treatments, and then agreed to reconnect after the first of the year.
Time flew by, and by March I realized I still needed to see Krista. Around the same time, my Facebook feed filled with photos of her. I thought it unusual that all of our mutual friends were posting pictures of Krista. Then I scanned a set of the images, and the caption read, “Rest in Peace.”
I burst into tears, and my face went flush. Frantically, I reached out to a friend to find out what happened. Our mutual friend Stephanie told me the horrific news. Her treatment plan with the naturopath doctor failed to keep her in remission.
Stephanie said her cancer returned the previous fall. By the time she got the diagnosis nothing could be done to treat her cancer. That fall doctors told her she had terminal breast cancer, and Krista told only a few people.
When she and I spoke that day in December, she knew she was dying and never told me. Krista only told me her back hurt. That should have been a queue for me to know something was wrong. Instead, I brushed it off and never inquired into the source of the pain.
As I look back now, I know why she never told me. Our disagreements about her treatment were a source of friction. Krista had been so steadfast that her naturopathic doctor would cure her. I now believe she didn’t want to admit to me that she trusted the wrong person.
I get angry today wishing I could have been more convincing of her getting chemotherapy. My heart hurts, and I miss her every single day.
No one should have to bury a friend prematurely. Krista died only days shy of her 40th birthday. A naturopath killed my friend. I knew I had to use my pain and productively use my voice. As a way to honor Krista, I knew I needed to expose charlatans that harm and kill the sick.
Today I work tirelessly to expose doctors, practitioners, and quacks that hurt others. Krista did not have to die. I won’t stop fighting this fight. Krista deserves to be here, but instead, I talk to her in my dreams.
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