MARYSVILLE — Kristine Moore got a new lease on life thanks to her daily potato chip habit.
Her habit — “I’ve eaten Ruffles potato chips every day of my life for the past 20 years. It’s a staple of my lunch,” she said — led to an early diagnosis of throat cancer.
Say what you will about the nutritional value in chips, Moore owes a debt of gratitude to a sharp fragment of a chip that poked her tonsil Feb. 28.
“I must not have chewed it up enough, because Ruffles have ridges,” Moore said.
The next day, she felt as if she were coming down with something. Her husband, Bob Metcalfe, took a look and said she needed to see a doctor.
“He said, ‘Boy oh boy, your tonsil is inflamed and it looks like it has sores on it,’ ” she said.
She went to a walk-in clinic and was referred to the Everett Clinic, where they tested her for strep (it came back negative). But the doctor didn’t like what she saw and took a biopsy then and there.
The results came back abnormal, so a larger sample was taken, and Moore was scheduled for a CT scan while they waited for the results.
The scan and second biopsy confirmed a diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma of the left tonsil: a tumor the size of a quarter in her throat.
The disease is one of several that can be classified as throat cancers. According to the Mayo Clinic, smoking is considered a significant risk factor for developing the disease, as is excessive alcohol intake, human papilloma virus, a diet lacking in fruits and vegetables and gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Moore was a smoker until she received her diagnosis. Then she quit cold turkey.
“My husband and daughter have been nagging at me,” she said. “And my mother, April 30 she would have been gone a year. She had quit smoking for 25 years and still came down with lung cancer.”
Her older sister also was recently diagnosed with esophageal cancer.
“I’m more worried about her than I am for myself,” Moore said.
Moore’s cancer hadn’t spread, and for that, she is thankful. Catching the disease this early means her prognosis is good.
Aside from the soreness she had the day after her potato chip incident — from which it turned out there was no chip fragment lodged in her throat — she said she’s felt fine.
Metcalfe said his wife hasn’t shown any real emotion yet, and they’re still meeting with doctors and surgeons to plan her treatment.
“The doctor said that without that potato chip it (her cancer) wouldn’t have even shown up for another year,” he said.
Moore admits to feeling apprehensive as she prepares for treatment. On Monday she went to the dentist for a cleaning and prep for her cancer treatment, “because radiation really does a number on your teeth,” she said.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Moore said. “Yesterday I wanted everybody to leave me alone.”
That includes her ebullient husband, who encourages her to tell the potato chip story, and even contacted Frito-Lay, the maker of Ruffles, to see if they were interested.
The company sent her a couple of T-shirts and several coupons for free chips, Moore said.
Next week she goes into the hospital to have a feeding tube put in, as well as a port in her chest for a new drug she’ll take to reduce the chance the radiotherapy causes sores in her mouth and esophagus.
“I’m going to be a guinea pig!” she said.
Then starting April 25, she starts chemotherapy and radiation treatments at Providence Regional Cancer Partnership in Everett.
“The light at the end of the tunnel is that they’re thinking I’m going to be A-OK come August,” she said.
She also wants to be well enough to attend daughter Monica’s graduation from Marysville Pilchuck High School in June. Monica Metcalfe has been accepted into Everett Community College’s nursing program.
“She’s a certified nursing assistant so this will be good practice to her,” Moore said.
She hopes that she won’t have to give up her chip habit, but she also knows the feeding tube is there for a reason, if her treatment makes her too sick to eat.
“I thought I could be tough, I said, ‘I can eat, I can eat,’ ” Moore said.
Her doctors convinced her that might not happen, however.
“Gosh darn it. I opened up a fresh bag today,” she said.