A Story of Hope: Cristie Felix

By The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center


In the heart of every challenge lies a story of hope, resilience, and the indomitable human spirit. Today, we share the inspiring journey of Cristie Felix, whose life took an unexpected turn, leading her to face one of the most daunting battles a person can encounter: brain cancer. Cristie's story is not just about the struggle with a life-threatening illness but also about finding hope, making profound life decisions, and the remarkable support system that rallied around her.

Cristie, a vice president of innovation at a software company in San Diego, experienced a life-altering moment that began like any other day. During a meeting, she felt unusually tired and lethargic, which quickly escalated to confusion, nausea, and eventually led to a grand mal seizure. This terrifying episode ended with her waking up in the hospital, where she was informed of a mass in her brain - a 5cm tumor in the left side frontal lobe. This diagnosis was the start of Cristie's journey into the unknown, marked by fear, determination, and ultimately, hope.

Thanks to diligent research by her brother, Cristie found a doctor on the west coast who performed the necessary craniotomy. The night before her surgery was restless, filled with anxiety and without sleep. As she was being walked back to the operating room, a staff member shared his own experience with her, saying, "I know you're nervous, but I'll tell you something. I had the same surgery—had a tumor on the left side, and 8 years later, I'm still here." This moment of shared vulnerability and strength gave Cristie the courage to face her treatment with hope.

Following the surgery, Cristie's goal was singular: to recover quickly and return to her family, focusing on the significant milestones ahead. Throughout this intense and frightening journey, her husband, Dave, was her unwavering pillar of support. From the moment she awoke in the hospital in California to her ongoing recovery, Dave has been by her side, offering endless support when memories fade or words fail, and continuously demonstrating his love in countless ways.

Cristie's search for the best care led her to the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke, where a phone call from Dr. Henry Friedman assured her, "You get home safely, and we'll take it from there." This promise marked the beginning of a new chapter filled with support, advanced treatment, and a community that embraced her with open arms. #TeamCristie became a symbol of the collective strength and encouragement from her family, friends, and neighbors, who awaited her return with open hearts.

Under the care of Katy Peters, MD, her neuro-oncologist, Cristie underwent daily chemo and radiation for six weeks, followed by a brief respite before continuing her treatment. One of the most cathartic moments for her was shooting the radiation mask with a shotgun on her family farm in Pennsylvania, symbolizing her fight and relief from the ordeal. Now, years into her journey as a survivor, Cristie still visits Duke for maintenance MRI's, a testament to her resilience and the enduring care she receives.

Cristie's battle with brain cancer reshaped her life's priorities, bringing her family closer and allowing her to view life through a lens of gratitude and appreciation. She credits Duke, not just for the medical care, but for the hope and support extended by everyone at the center.

“From day one at Duke, it was clear I wasn't going it alone. The first person I met, Dr. Kirkpatrick, was about to become my partner-in-crime in the biggest battle of my life. I was upfront with him: 'I’m going all-in with the healthy stuff, working out, you name it. But I need you to come up with a killer radiation plan that's gonna keep me here for the long haul.' Without skipping a beat, he gave me this look, shook my hand, and said, 'You’ve got a deal.' That wasn’t just any handshake. It was everything—my fears, my hopes, all wrapped into one grip that said, 'We've got you.' Duke’s got this way of making ‘hope’ sound like the most solid word in the world. Every time I walk into that Brain Tumor Center, I get this feeling, like a deep-down 'everything’s gonna be okay' kind of okay.”

Cristie’s commitment to combating brain cancer transcends her personal battle; she has been the driving force behind the Angels team, "Cristie’s Crusaders," since 2018. As a dedicated team captain, Cristie has spearheaded efforts that have raised over $60,000 for brain tumor research. Her role as a committee member is pivotal, not only in fundraising but also in orchestrating the annual event that unites so many in hope and solidarity.

Cristie Felix's journey is a beacon of hope for many facing similar battles, illustrating that even in the darkest times, there are moments of profound joy, support, and the possibility of a brighter tomorrow. Her story underscores the essence of the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke - a place where hope thrives, and lives are changed.