Three years ago my whole world changed. The news that I had breast cancer left me with what felt like hundreds of broken pieces of my life scattered about the floor. It was as though cancer didn’t care what my life was and it brought it all to rubble. Slowly over the last three years I have picked up piece by piece and thrown others away. It has and will continue to be a journey. But a beautiful one it has been.

One of my favorite quotes is from C.S. Lewis, “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

I love this quote because I have always been so confident of what my life would look like. I knew what would transpire and what I would accomplish. But the beauty of this thing called life is that there is so much that we cannot control. Three years ago my planning and the control I had was quickly handed over to a cancer diagnosis. As the pieces fell apart what I didn’t realize meant something even more beautiful when it would all came back together.

The pieces have begun to fall into place and healing has been restored to my heart. It is amazing how in the same breath I have the desire to live like there is no tomorrow and yet moments later I remain so grateful for the simple. It is true, you can have all the things and hundreds of stamps in your passport but without the joy of others you have nothing. I have so very much. Cancer weaved a beautiful tapestry into my every day and has made me a better person as a result. My hope for you is that you may find the broken pieces of your life and find healing in seeing how they can be put back together. Think of me tomorrow and count your blessings. Know that I am ever so grateful to be here.

Thanks for cheering me on all this time!

Photo below from last weekend with Christie Lee visiting… Fall has arrived 🙂

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to have a conversation with yourself when you were younger? Like the current you sat down with a younger you, to tell you some things. What would you tell her/him? What would you say to calm her/his fears about the future? I turn 30 in 3 months and this has me thinking about my 20 year old self and all that the last 10 years has taught, given and taken away. So if I were to sit down with that girl I would tell her this:

_____________________________________

Dear 20 year old me,

You are receiving this letter while you are living in Amsterdam and traveling all over Europe. You love traveling and by the time you turn 30 you will have seen and done more than you could have ever imagined. But because I don’t want to overwhelm at first with all that your life will look like over the next ten years I will start with the easier things to swallow:

Congratulations because in two years you will graduate college with honors. You not only will graduate but you will be accepted to graduate school. You will chose Louisville but after one semester you will decide that grad school is not for you.  A lot of people will tell you that they think it is because of a boy you adored back in Colorado (which was a part of  it) and you will feel like you let a lot of people down but truth be told it became one of the best decisions. Turns out that a career in sports management would have left you with long nights and weekends working and God simply had so much more in store for you in your life. But don’t worry, you still LOVE sports. Actually almost more now because instead of working you get to watch sports with friends and family.

Three years from now you will have the honor of standing at your sisters side as her Maid of Honor. You gain a brother n law and your family is overjoyed to dance the night away with what still remains one of the best parties.

Remember where I mentioned that you loved to travel? Well you brave one will take a huge risk and leap of faith by quitting your job at 24, putting all of your things in storage and you move to Central America for a year. You will spend that year traveling and you even go to yoga school. Most of that time you will be loving on 22 second graders and will contemplate how you will ever live in the States again.

In your mid 20s you decide running is something you enjoy (crazy I know) and you run three half marathons. Some with friends and some faster than others but you like the challenge and somehow convince yourself it is kind of fun.

That boy you adored in your early 20s turns out to become a good friend in your late 20s. You both mature  and your shared love for biking has you both still chatting away on the trails in Denver.

Some friends from college move away and you grow apart but there are three that still remain close to you. All three of those girls will get married and they all meet amazing men and one particular becomes not only a dear friend to you but to your family.

As for those three high school/middle school friends that you make gingerbread houses with each year and that you live a million miles away from ….. You will be happy to know that distance, marriages and a baby don’t break the bond. Those best friends will always be your safe place to land regardless of what you are going through.

All of this probably sounds pretty amazing and if I am honest it is. The next ten years will be full of wonderful memories but now I must talk to you about the not easy parts of your story that you will face. Remember yesterday when you were in your apartment and you ripped apart a dress with your hands because it was too tight. Well consider that a foreshadow to the next several years of your life. You begin to believe that the face looking back at you in the mirror is not enough. You begin to purge your food and you will spend many evenings calculating what you ate, how much you worked out and you even go so far as to rarely take a photo smiling because of how you look. When you are 25 you finally reach your bottom and ask for help. You will spend three very difficult years in treatment but my goodness Kristina you will make incredible progress. You begin to be honest with yourself and others and find the freedom that you never thought was possible. You begin to glow from the inside out and learn that you are enough.

Just as your health begins to improve the most heartbreaking of news comes… it is even hard for me to tell you because I am not sure you will not believe. You will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer just before your turn 27. You will loose both of your breasts, your nipples and you will loose your hair. You will become very sick and you will reach a place of internal heartbreak like you have never experienced. You will be braver than you ever imagined possible and you will experience love to a depth that cannot be imitated. Your honesty and bravery invites you to share your story and that gives you hope. You become determined to show others that even though your story is not what you had thought, it doesn’t mean it is not a good story.

The best part though is when you turn 30 you will be cancer free. You will have hair down to your shoulders, you will have completed your first triathlon and you will ride your bike on the California coast with your dad and friend for 200 miles. You will embrace life so much that you will often forget to take care of yourself and slow down. You will find a career in the private equity sector (trust me you have to learn a lot) that you love. You won’t be married in your 20s but you will be putting yourself out there in hopes of meeting the right one.You will date on and off and sometimes think it will never happen but you always remind yourself of who you are and that your story is not finished yet. Besides by the time your 30 there will be a little two and half year old blonde haired boy that has stolen your heart. Yes you read that right you become an aunt. Trust me it is about the very best thing.

So while your 20s will be full of both joy and heartbreak I can assure you that you turn into someone you should be very proud of. You begin to understand what you like, what you want and how to love others well. It really is something and you should be very proud of the woman you become.

So enjoy your 20s Kristina because just like that you turn 30

Love Kristina (Almost thirty years old)

 

20 – Barcelona taken while living in Europe – 21 – Spring Break Junior Year of College on a Cruise – 22 – College Graduation – 23 – My sisters wedding – 24 – Rome with Christie Lee, Mark and Sallie – 25 – Honduras (no makeup) – 26 – Kentucky Summer after I came home from Central America – 27 – After I finished Chemo – 28 – Thanksgiving hair growing back – 29 – This summer in Denver

In 13 weeks I will embark on something I have never done before. 200 miles in 3 days. (100 miles the first day, and then 50 each day following). I thought I would provide some context as to WHY I am riding? WHY I have asked others to ride? and WHY our team has set a goal of raising $7500.00?

Did you know?

  • Each year approximatley 12,000 cases of breast cancer occur in women under the age of 40
  • Compared to older women, young women generally face more aggressive cancers and lower survival rates
  • Most younger women have dense breast tissue that prevents routine mammograms from being useful
  • Most younger women find their breast cancer themselves. Because screening doesn’t occur until the age of 40, when you discover the breast cancer it is often at a much later stage
  • The possibility of early menopause, fertility issues, anxiety and depression are much higher in younger women

You probably know of several, if not hundreds of organizations that benefit breast cancer…but the Young Survivor Coalition is unique. The YSC was founded in 1998 by three young women who were diagnosed before the age of 35. The lack of resources, research and studies for this demographic led these women to start this organization of which I benefited from greatly when I was diagnosed.

As most of you know I was diagnosed just before I turned 27 years old. As a young survivor so many of the things listed above were apart of my breast cancer story:

  • Diagnosed at age 26
  • My tumor markers showed aggressive cancer that suggested chemotherapy to ensure that all of the cancer was removed.
  • I only discovered my cancer after testing positive for the BRCA 2 gene
  • Chemotherapy sent me to temporary menopause which which then resulted in anxiety and depression that is now being treated by medicine
  • The possibility of being sterile after chemotherpy led me to egg harvesting prior to starting chemotherpy

But these are just the facts… which only really tell half of the story. On November 17 this year I turn 30 years old. Turning 30 is a milestone that after having breast cancer I was unsure I would get to reach. I often tell others all time that I am humbled that the Lord would see to it that I had breast cancer and that I get to live beyond it. I am honored to live to tell my story, to encourage others all while advocating for the health and wellness of others. But more than encouraging healthy living and living large I have found this to be my opportunity to love others even in their hard. To meet strangers and friends in the midst of their own challenges. I consider each persons life something worthy of being celebrated and known. So while this 200 mile ride I am doing to prove to myself that I am strong, I also ride in remembrance and in honor of so many women that are no longer living to ride. I ride for them. I ride for their families who are left to live without them and for those of us who are given the chance to have more days.

Below are the list of women who I am riding for…. If you have someone you would like me to wear on my jersey please message me. It would be my honor. Thank you in advance for all of your support. Our team is only $400.00 away from reaching our goal of $7500. Please consider donating here. (This is my dear friend Alli Nolds page which in turn pools to our team fundraiser).

  • Regina
  • Aunt Maggie
  • Gloria Wendelin
  • Cleo Roberts
  • Sue Molina
  • Jean Seiden
  • Lori Smith
  • Amy DiBias Patwa
  • Jill Brzezinski-Conley
  • Lindsay Williams Donaldson
  • Lisa Lambright
  • Jennifer Rousch
  • Amy Preyer
  • Heather Brown
  • Ana Mostaccero
  • Camilla Formica
  • Kristina Sampson
  • Lori Gallegos
  • Lori Chovan-Redunski
  • Diane Akins
  • Michelle McGarry
  • Myra Torres
  • Julie Borgerding
  • Sheila Parker
  • Shannon Urbana
  • Amy Kress
  • Lindsay Fryer
  • Meagan Doe
  • Ann Williams
  • Vicki Woehnker

 

 

 

“Somewhere, some time ago, someone told you that you had to do it all — and you had to do it all by yourself. Instead of saying no, paring down, and embracing quality of life over quantity of commitments, you allowed your life to spin out of control, And it’s left you without half a second to take a deep breath.” – Grace Not Perfection, Emily Ley

 

I was looking through pictures this morning and remember that day on the left (two years ago). I was so proud of my new fuzzy head and quite frankly loved it. You can see my lack of eyebrows and eyelashes despite my desperate attempts to coat on pounds of mascara. (thank you lash boost for my new brows and lashes). That girl was cancer free and feeling like she was beginning to be herself again. The picture on the right I took this morning. I attempted to recreate the same face despite feeling really off this morning.  Reality has hit me over the head when I woke up feeling utterly exhausted.

I thought now would be a good time to share that I go to my doctor on Monday at the Cancer Center. I think I am the most nervous I have ever been likely due to the fact that I have not been in 6 months which for me is the longest I have been between checkups. I am also a little nervous because two friends in my breast cancer circles this past month have had a reoccurrence diagnosing them with Stage IV Breast Cancer. It is a bittersweet reminder that we are truly not promised anything in this life and that each day really is a gift.

Speaking of days being gifts I have nearly worn myself to the ground these past few weeks… I have been filling my calendar and forgetting to invest in myself.  I have a hard time saying no and often times don’t want to miss out. Does anyone else feel that way? Last week I spent an entire week with my family in Telluride and realized even there I felt this need to always go. So this evening I am going to take some time to take a look at the next few weeks and carve out sometime for me and for the Lord.

I am officially 15 weeks away from my 200 Mile Bike Ride, Tour De Pink in California. Which means at the 12 week mark I will begin my intense training schedule. While this will demand a lot of time, I am excited about the structure that will be early mornings, hopefully early nights to bed and lots of fueling my body to succeed. I am truly overwhelmed by all of the support I have received!

I have raised $3,115! Thank you so much for all of your support.

I  intend to keep everyone updated with my training and how I am doing. In the meantime I would appreciate your prayers as I head to the doctor Monday and should have my tumor marker results on Tuesday. Have a great Thursday!

 

  • PS: Seriously Lash Boost (Rodan and Fields) changed my lashes… they are longer, fuller and thicker. Message me if I can get you some! It is the best!

 


Days seem to pass more quickly as I get older, I am not sure if anyone else feels that way but I constantly feel the urge to slow down. There seems to be too many things for such little time and the next thing you know it is already June.

In the past six months I watched as three women in my close circle pass due to cancer. (Jenna, Jenna, Kim). It is a strange and guilty feeling. The constant wondering as to why I am still here and why they are not. Why not me? The service for one of these women is next Monday and I want to attend but my mom asked me if I thought that was a good idea. For me the funeral, the celebration is a reminder of what I have been given and what was taken from her. As a cancer survivor I cling to anything that can help me understand as to why me… I suppose to it is my way to give thanks for the more days that I have.

I visit my doctor next month and if I am honest I have started to prepare myself for not good news. It is like something the mind does without you telling it, prepare for the worst in case that becomes true then it won’t hurt that bad. Seems like the logical thing to do? Protect yourself, don’t take a risk then you never get hurt. How many times have I done that?

In the last couple of weeks I have had a lot of hard conversations with myself. About what I am doing with this life I have been given?  Is my life reflecting the very person I want to be, the person I want to be proud of. For those of you that know me well this probably does not come as a surprise, I am very hard on myself. I seem to have created these expectations that sometimes take the very best of me. Can anyone else relate?

Two years ago I attended a celebration of life for Kara Tippets, a breast cancer survivor that died at age 36 leaving three children and a husband. Her words I read over and over as a constant encouragement. The below quote….resonates so much.

So today I am asking myself to open my hands wide to the dreams I once had and embrace the different dreams that are now in place. Asking myself to move towards the love that is so evident all around me and the grace that so abounds.

I plan on giving a full update on my training schedule and my upcoming bike race this October soon! For the most part I feel very well, I still have insomnia a bit while sleeping and hot flashes but I try and take it one day at a time.

  • Heather Brown

    Thank you for sharing what’s on your mind and heart. I am so excited to hear about your upcoming biking adventure!ReplyCancel