EL RENO, OK --An Oklahoma woman says to beat cancer, she had to remember to put one foot in front of the other.
Kristi Loyall is taking it all in stride after she had to have her right foot amputated last April, and she's found a truly unique way of getting her message of cancer prevention across.
Loyall takes her real-life foot everywhere she goes, posing it for a colorful array of photos she posts to Instagram. And it all began with a question.
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"I asked, 'Can I have my foot back?'" Loyall said. "He thought I was kidding, but then he's like, 'I think that you can, but not too many people ask for body parts back.'"
A step back: How she lost her foot
It all began with a diagnosis of epitheliod sarcoma in April 2015, after Loyall began experiencing numbness in her right pinky toe.
While doctors couldn't find anything wrong, she began to worry as the pain set in.
Soon, Loyall found a lump on her right foot, but doctors told her they thought it was a lipoma, a non-cancerous fatty tumor.
Right before her first surgery, surgeons said "there was a 1 in 100,000 chance the lipoma was cancerous, but he wanted to send it to pathology just in case."
Days later, Loyall learned the news: "It was cancer."
While the cancer had not spread, some of the cancer was missed in the first surgery.
Loyall said her oncologist recommended amputation was the best option to keep the aggressive epitheliod sarcoma from coming back.
With radiation being less effective on this type of cancer, there was only one thing Loyall could do: she opted for amputation, because it seemed to offer the best chance of survival.
Now Loyall is monitoring her health with the help of doctors at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, coming to the Bayou City for PET scans to monitor for the cancer's return.
Toeing the line and tickling funny bones
Loyall said the cancer experience has taught her to appreciate each day.
"At first, I thought my life was over," Loyall said, "but after I got my foot back, I've been more positive. I was pessimistic, but this changed my attitude about life."
Her strong sense of humor and good friends, she said, is only a part of her recovery.
"One of my main coping mechanisms is to make a joke of everything," Loyall said. "I made the Instagram, and I like to take pictures of the foot."
Spurred by a suggestion from her friend's cousin, the cancer fighter said her Instagram has brought a lot of positive attention and good vibes her way.
"Most people have been super nice and supportive," she said. "Not too many people are weirded out."
In fact, when out in public, Loyall said most people assume the foot is plastic.
"Someone said, 'I like your foot,' as I was taking a picture once," she said. "My roommate was holding it once as we went to get food, and the guy at the drive-thru though it was cool."
Almost a year removed from the amputation, she's now looking to get back to work after being unemployed during her cancer fight.
She's also got a new worry: trying to keep the foot away from her German Shephard, Nova.
"I usually keep the foot in my car so my dog doesn't get it," Loyall said, with a laugh. "I usually just keep it in the trunk, in a shoe box."
Loyall has started a GoFundMe account to help raise funds for a prosthetic foot, and for help paying off the bills from her surgeries and medical care.
An important footnote
Loyall said, as we ended our interview, that early prevention is always important when it comes to any cancer.
"If you have any lumps or abnormalities, I'd tell people to get it checked out," she said. "I might not have lost my foot had I moved a little faster."