Christine Lo: TikTok llama brings cancer relief
To get a sense of who Christine Lo is, start by checking out this TikTok video she created, featuring her beloved Llama named Cosmo. Cosmo has many followers on TikTok (Drama Llama Cosmo) – his fame is due to his cheeky antics, and the exuberant demeanor of his owner. This glimpse into Christine’s spirited farm life will tell you a bit about who she is … and how she stays positive after her dire cancer diagnosis at age 47.
“I woke up one morning in January 2021 and I could not walk on my one foot at all. The pain was excruciating. I had to crawl on my hands and knees to the ensuite,” she shares, from her country home near Carstairs.
Christine had recently had surgery on that same foot to repair Morton’s neuroma, a painful condition that affects the ball of your foot, but this was something else. This was pain on the top of her foot.
A trip to her local ER and X-rays did little to reveal the cause. An MRI request was sent to Red Deer Hospital but with little urgency, Christine hobbled around on crutches while the pain intensified.
“It was outrageous pain. Worse than childbirth with no meds,” she said.
Taking matters into her own hands Christine went to see a new doctor in Crossfield. “He took one look at my foot and said, ‘you are not waiting any longer for an MRI’.”
Within a few days, she had the scan results and a doctor called to say he suspected cancer.
Further tests proved him right. First diagnosis was Stage 1 Diffuse large B cell lymphoma. A tumour in that bone of the foot was a most unusual presentation of this type cancer, and although the doctor called it aggressive, he felt strongly they could get it.
Then a PET scan and worse news … Stage 4 not Stage 1. Chemo was started immediately but Christine, now at home in her air cast, was not about to roll over and let go of the reigns.
“I needed to stay busy so I refinished a kitchen table and kept taking care of our animals. I figured out how to ride my horse in a cast – getting on and off using a trailer. Luckily, I have a very good horse,” she said laughing. “Before that, I was out shoveling manure with the air cast on. A neighbour who had experience foot troubles gave me her old cast, so I had two – a nice clean going to town cast, and a less clean farm cast.”
By the fourth treatment fatigue set in and Christine was relegated to some couch time. Around that time she found space for Wellspring.
Wellspring in the Moment
“I had heard about Wellspring from the Tom Baker Cancer Centre but frankly I was too overwhelmed to look into it. Then I joined the U of C EXCEL exercise program for people with cancer, and there I heard a number of people mention Wellspring so I decided to check it out. Wow! I couldn’t believe all the programs Wellspring offers. I wished I had started with Wellspring earlier.”
Christine immediately joined Wellspring’s online community and sampled several programs including Guided iRest Meditation, Returning to Work, Peer Support, and Money Matters. She found them all very helpful. Her favourite program at the moment is Time to Talk.
“I have met some really great people through the Time to Talk program. It’s so nice to hear stories of other people going through what I’m going through. I appreciate the success stories and sometimes even the not so upbeat stories … they help put things in perspective,” she said.
The Bright Side
After four rounds of chemo, Christine’s PET Scan came back all clear! What a gift!
She and her family and friends were elated. For added protection, she opted to proceed with the final two rounds of chemo, but was relieved she didn’t have to do radiation.
Christine says she feels incredibly fortunate to have a second chance to appreciate her life. “Now I see everything with new eyes. Amazing gifts. I am just trying to be present to take it all in.”
She explains that after being off work this past year, she now realizes how stressful her life was prior to cancer.
“It’s unfortunate that it took cancer to make me realize how important it is to be present and mindful and to really enjoy the little things like the sun, the moon, the hawks, the northern lights that I can see just by stepping out my door. I feel like I have a second chance and I don’t want to waste it!” she said.
Indeed, judging by her Drama Llamma TikTok adventures, and the twinkle in her eye, Christine is on a new path.
“I remember during the treatment thinking ‘I just want to be back to normal – back to myself.’ But as time goes on I realize, I don’t actually want to go back to who I was – I want to be a better version of myself. I’m trying to figure out what that looks like – maybe it’s therapy with my farm animals for people going through treatment, I don’t know. I’ve planted a seed – we’ll see what comes of it,” she said.