Donations sought for nurse struck by cancer
Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor

July 23, 2006 0 -- The tables have turned for private nurse and care giver Christy Dawn Echols, who was diagnosed nine months ago with cervical cancer. 

Now, she depends on others for her own care.

"It's very hard," said the 35-year-old, single mother of three. "I can't do hardly anything on my own any more."

In October of 2005, Echols went to her local doctor after experiencing trouble with her bladder. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer caused from a virus known as the human papilloma viruses (HPVs), a group of more than 100  sexually transmitted viruses, so numerous numbers are assigned to distinguish them.

Those numbered HPV 6 and HPV 11 cause genital warts and are considered low risk, while those numbered 16,18, 30 and 33 are linked to cervical cancer and are high risk.

The virus can lie dormant and go undetected for many years with no apparent symptoms. In most cases, HPV infections disappear without treatment, as the body's immune system fights the infection itself.

The HPV infection is the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the U.S. According to reports, more than one-third of the estimated 15.3 million new cases over a period of one year were attributed to the HPV infection. In spite of the high ratio of infection, nearly 70 percent of Americans have never heard of it.

According to Echols, she had neglected to have a routine Pap smear for the past two years, which is the only method of assessing evidence of the HPV infection through cell abnormalities.

Echols underwent radiation and chemotherapy treatments immediately. 

In January the cancer seemed to be gone, according to her friend Shawna Payne. But by March, the cancer had returned and spread to three different areas of her body, the bladder, colon and lungs. More recently, it has attacked her kidneys and spine. 

Doctors have given her three to six months to live.

"I'm sad that I'm going to leave my family," said Echols, whose youngest child, 9-year-old Mandy, will be adopted by her cousin. "But I know where I'm going."

Echols' two older children, Cody, 12, and April, who is 17, will remain with their fathers. Echols will also leave behind a new granddaughter, just recently born.

According to her mother, Mary Schlegel of Olney, who has been caring full-time for her daughter for the past three weeks, Echols has always been a fun, outgoing and loving person who knew that she wanted to be a nurse even before she graduated from high school.

"Christy would go out of her way to help others with a smile on her face," Schlegel said. "She's an amazing person. Please pray that she will not give up."

The majority of Echols medical expenses have been provided for through Medicaid. But, due to her condition, she has been unable to work in past weeks. Everyday utility and living expenses have mounted, as well as, the looming expense of a memorial service. A fund has been set up in her name at Alliance Bank. Donations, as well as prayer, would be greatly appreciated, friends and family say. Donations can be mailed to:  Christy Dawn Echols, c/o Alliance Bank, P.O Box 500, Sulphur Springs, Tx 75483. Call 903-348-0763 for more information, or visit the website:

http://home.att.net/~sheryl500/christy-page.htm

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