In 2011, Kristi Loyall—a 26-year-old cancer survivor—started feeling a numbness in her right pinkie toe. When she told her primary care physician, he told her it was no big deal. Then, after a few months, the numbness started to spread throughout her foot. "It started becoming really painful to stand," Kristi told me over a Skype interview. "When I went back to my doctor, he sent me to a neurologist who tested me for neuropathy and said it was negative and kept telling me I had a vitamin deficiency."
She consistently took the B-12 vitamins her doc prescribed. That didn't help. They put her on pain meds and administered injections. Nothing improved. It wasn't until her numbness developed into a lump on the inside of her foot that she found a podiatrist. Her foot doc ordered an MRI scan and found what he thought was a lipoma (a rarely cancerous fatty lump most often situated between the skin and underlying muscle layer). But, after the surgery, she was told that her lump was actually cancerous and that the best treatment would be foot amputation.
"When they told me that, I knew that I'd rather be alive than have my foot so I opted for the amputation. Then I was like, 'can I have my foot back?' I thought it would be a cool conversation piece to have at my house. When someone walks in, I could be like...'Hey, that's my real foot by the way.'"
When Kristi's oncologist realized she was serious, he told her that she'd just have to sign a few forms to get her foot back. It's not unheard of to reclaim an amputated limb. In fact, some patients do it for religious reasons like being buried with their formerly connected body part. After her foot was cleaned and fully articulated (proper arrangement of the bones), her cousin planted the seed of brilliance. She suggested devoting an Instagram account to her now amputated appendage. Kristi jumped right in...foot first.
"I've always diffused situations with humor. It helps with the depression to try to be positive. I use to not be a very positive person and sometimes I have my days where I'm still not. For the most part, my outlook on life is a lot more positive than it was and I do think it's because I've used humor to deal with it. Without humor, I'd probably still be in bed not doing anything."
Sometimes, when Kristi is out and about photographin' her foot (occasionally referred to as Achilles), curious onlookers will ask her what she's doing. And when that does happen, she gives them a full run down to explain her battle with cancer and the surgery. Once, when Kristi's close friend invited her to Vegas for a Backstreet Boys concert, a lady on their flight asked, "Is that your real foot?" Kristi realized that the inquisitive woman made the connection when she saw that Kristi was sportin' her prosthetic while carrying a skeletal foot in her hand. "Yeah actually!" she casually replied.
When you have to start selling your possessions bc getting back on your feet (foot haha) is taking longer than you thought it would. I still owe my roommate money for rent and bills, car payment was due Saturday.. when does it end? I don't even have anything valuable left to sell 😑 to say that I am stressed would be an understatement. Any money I make atm has to go toward gas and catching up on the million things I'm behind on. It's days like these that get me down and make me wish I had considered other things besides amputation. #amputee #skeleton #foot #cancersucks #cancer #onefootwander #wakeupyouneedtomakemoney #wishicouldturnbacktime
Even though Kristi is now pretty Insta famous (rightfully so), her medical bills have become so overwhelming that she's had to sell personal belongings to make ends meet. Earlier this month, she resumed her gig as a boat-driving tour guide in Oklahoma City after taking a medical hiatus. Kristi's friend recently created GoFundMe page to help with the never-ending bills.
"I've had many people reach out to me because they're going through an amputation or know people who have gone through an amputation. I've had people ask for advice...cancer survivors as well. Even if I'm having a hard day, that's what keeps me wanting to do it. I really like to make people laugh and make them feel better so that's my motivation."
Aside from being a boat-driving tour guide and making her Insta followers laugh 😂 , Kristi has plans on training her new puppy, Moose, to become a therapy dog. She wants to bring Moose to a children's hospital in Oklahoma City to "make children fighting cancer feel better...even if it's just for a little bit."
"When this first happened, I was like, 'my life is over and I can't do anything anymore.' Then I realized I can pretty much do everything that I did before. It's not the end. Life goes on."
*~Feelin' generous? Donate to Kristi's GoFundMe page and/or share her story of resilience & healing through humor!*~