Crystal Johnstone shares how her breast cancer diagnosis along with her parents’ cancer diagnoses inspired her brother to raise funds for The Breast Health Foundation by taking part in a 24-hour endurance historic car race.
Crystal Johnstone (34) lives in Fourways, Gauteng with her fiancé, Scott.
In May 2021, Crystal was diagnosed with luminal B breast cancer at the age of 32. She underwent six months of chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy, lymph node removal with immediate reconstruction, then 36 sessions of radiation. “Before my treatment started, menopause was induced to protect my reproductive organs. I get a hormone-blocker injection every three months and take tamoxifen every day,” Crystal explains.
When asked what kept her going during treatment, Crystal responds, “I’m passionate about children. I’m a preschool teacher and they need their teacher around as they are only two years old. So, I continued working as much as I could throughout treatment. My nephew, who is now seven months old, also gave me hope and something to look forward to and I wanted to be better to meet him.”
Fortunately, Crystal had minimal side effects and chose to have chemotherapy done on a Friday so that she could recover over the weekend and get back to school. She also never had to take off work during radiation.
Crystal’s mother was a great pillar of strength as she had HER2+ breast cancer nine years ago so she could help navigate her daughter through the ups and downs. Unfortunately, a week after Crystal had finished treatment, her father was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
“Currently, my dad is battling due to the diet, plus he has diabetes and the stoma bag so it’s rather complex. He is weak and frail but we, as a family, try and encourage him,” Crystal says.
After Crystal had her surgery, one of her friends gifted her a mastectomy pillow. “I loved it so much that my mom and I decided to make some and sell them on World Cancer Day 2022 to raise funds for The Breast Health Foundation. We then decided to donate to the rest of the pillows to Helen Joseph Breast Care Clinic patients.”
When asked why it’s important to Crystal to pay it forward, she responds, “I had a fantastic support system when I was undergoing treatment; for this I will always be grateful as this helped me push through, and today they still helping me push through but sadly many people aren’t as fortunate. So, maybe by getting a small gift like a mastectomy pillow, someone will feel loved and supported.”
24-hour endurance race day
Alastair, Crystal’s brother decided to take part in a 24-hour endurance race day held at Red Star Raceway in Delmas with three other team mates to raise funds for The Breast Health Foundation. “Since cancer runs in the family, this motivated my brother to do it. We accepted ‘lump sum’ donations and R2 donations per lap completed. Their aim was to do around 55 laps in the 24-hours racing historic cars. In the end, they did 229 laps and raised R12 160.”
“We chose to support The Breast Health Foundation as they do amazing work in the breast cancer community and hopefully with what we have raised, they can continue to do good work.”
Crystal and Scott plan to get married next year and would like to start a family once Crystal has completed the required years of tamoxifen.
MEET OUR EDITOR – Laurelle Williams
Laurelle Williams is the editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. Write to the firstname.lastname@example.org