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Surviving cancer’s whirlwind

Edward StonerVail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyBeth Kutansky, 28, who has Hodgkin's lymphoma and faces many medical expenses that are not covered by insurance, with her dog Reggie at her home in Eagle-Vail.
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AVON – Beth Kutansky got engaged in August. Two days later, she took a new job as a manager of a big lodge in Beaver Creek.At the same time, Kutansky, 28, started feeling sick. She had a big lump on her neck, headaches and chills. She went to the doctor thinking maybe she had mono.She was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphona six days after her engagement.”It was just a whirlwind,” said Kutansky, of Eagle-Vail. “It all happened so fast. I wasn’t processing anything. I was going through the motions.”Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system. It most commonly affects people between ages 15 and 40 and older than 55. All of a sudden, Kutansky was taken to another world – a world of doctors’ offices and medical tests. She saw a doctor every day for a month after her diagnosis.She first had surgery to remove the cancerous lump. Then, because doctors feared that the chemotherapy might make her sterile, she went to a fertility clinic in Denver to have her eggs harvested.After that, she started a six-month course of chemotherapy. Turns out, it’s going to be seven or eight months. But doctors expect Kutansky to eventually go into remission and, one day, be cancer-free.”Knowing there’s an end and to keep that in sight is the goal now,” she said.

For now, Kutansky gets chemo treatment every two weeks. It makes her feel like she has the flu for about a week. For the second week, her immune system is weakened and she has to lay low to avoid getting sick.There are good days and bad days, and good weeks and bad weeks. Last week, complications arose because of inflammation in her lungs.On Friday, she had an X-ray. On Saturday, she had a CAT scan. On Monday, she had blood work. On Tuesday she had an echocardiogram and a pulmonary function test. On Wednesday, she had a positron emission tomography, or PET, scan in Denver. On the way back up, she got a fever and went to the emergency room. On Thursday, she had a high-resolution CAT scan. On Friday, she had a bronchoscopy, which is a biopsy of lung tissue, in Glenwood Springs.”It’s just getting by, day to day to day,” she said. “It’s just accepting the bad days and knowing the good days will come. And trying not to get too frustrated on bad days.”

It’s hard to plan anything, including her wedding. It was supposed to be in August, but now it’s postponed.”The idea of spending money on a wedding seems so irresponsible now,” she said.Her fiance, Kris Galione, has stood beside her during her treatment.”If I have a bad day, he has a bad day,” Kutansky said. “It’s been very difficult on him as well. He goes through everything I go through.”Medical bills are piling up. Kutansky has insurance, but it doesn’t cover all of her expenses. It only covered about 10 percent of her bills from the fertility clinic, leaving her to pay thousands of dollars.Her fellow employees at East West Resorts, where she has worked for six years, have donated over 1,000 hours of paid time off. Kutansky has not been able to work since her diagnosis in September. Her co-workers also organized a benefit, which will be later this month.”It’s overwhelming the support I received from them,” she said.



Kutansky – who is originally from Valparaiso, Ind., and moved here after attending Indiana University – said she is hoping the benefit will raise enough money to help other people in similar situations.Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.


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