Monthly Archives: November 2014

Written while in Denver airport: (forgive my errors, this was from my phone). Soon more pictures.

Wednesday evening my parents and I left my appointment. I held my head high, diplomatically discussed my options about treatment until I gazed down at my phone and I was bombarded with posts of my best friends in Guatemala celebrating Stephanie’s upcoming wedding. The tears began to fall. How is it that I sit here learning whether I will undergo chemotherapy? or how Likely it is my Cancer to return? And I am not  there….. I should be there. I hate this. I thought. I don’t want to be here. My head aches and my heart throbbed.

My parents and I sat at a 
Restaurant where I leaned in to the side of my dad at the booth, as I desperately wanted to have someone hold me, draw me close and like a father should, make everything go away.

I laid on his shoulder and cried. We sat in silence. 

I made myself pick something to eat although it was last thing I wanted to do. We got to our hotel and continuing discussing everything we had learned at the doctor. I finally pleaded at my parents. “And now now… Barely able to utter the words It is killing me, that I cannot be at Stephanie’s wedding Saturday” and I began to cry harder as my mom held me. In silence my parents agreed. This sucks. 

That evening I slept surprisingly well, my emotions at a high, my slumber just seemed to come easy. I awoke and I had received messages from my parents. Asking if I was awake? (Sent at 5:39 am). I received a different message saying happy thanksgiving. Not thinking much of it.

I let them know I was making coffee and was going to write on my blog (yesterday’s medical post).
My dad calls me and says I need to check my email, that my mom had sent me something. Again not suspecting much, my parents often share others wells wishes with me by forwarding messages…. I opened the email. To my utter shock I began to read what was a flight confirmation to Guatemala City. Leaving the next day 

Without being able to utter a sound I burst into tears and shouted oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! My dad in tears through the phone said. I did it last night. I couldn’t help but be awake all night knowing how upset you were that you were missing the wedding so I decided to look at flights. Your mom and I have been awake all night and couldn’t wait for you to wake up. We think you are well enough to travel and come back Monday.

As you can imagine I cried and shouted and am still in shock.

Right now I am sitting in the Denver airport waiting to board my flight to Houston. From there I go to Guatemala City. 

Yesterday I arranged for a private driver to take me to Antiqua so I can drop my luggage at her hotel and walk in on the cocktail rehearsal. (I have all the details from my original itinerary).  I can barely type this without crying thinking about seeing my best friends face. Having no idea I am on my.Yesterday my mom helped me try on my bridesmaid dress that I had already dry cleaned) and in a plastic bag. Scared it would not fit because of my surgery, we were fully prepared to go to Macy’s at midnight should need. (Lucky for us today is Black Friday). I told my mom I didn’t care if I wore a sheet. I just wanted to be there. But alas my dress fit perfectly. 

So you can imagine my excitement. This morning my mom was my salon, stylist plucking my 
eyebrows and painting my nails while I made sure I had everything I needed.

Pickup writing in Houston:

I just looked at some more pictures that the girls have taken from today. I can’t even look at them without a grin. Last night I told Stephanie’s mom via text, so she was aware that I am coming. Just in case I am delayed or I had trouble with transportation. Her messages in response made me Cry. Happy tears of course.

I leave here in two hours. I am feeling a bit drowsy and tired so am going to rest my feet for a bit. I have carried on my bag only so that as soon as I land I can head straight for customs and meet my driver to arrive in Guatemala. I just want to scream in excitement ๐Ÿ™‚

A funny tidbit, Stephanie had sent me my bridesmaid present to open tonight (while they open there gifts in Guatemala). Well I decided I would open mine yesterday so I could pack it with me. I am sending her a picture right now of me opening it. Saying thank you and that I love it. Of course she will think the picture is taken right now. Me in my basement ๐Ÿ™‚ hehehe if she only knew.I am on my plane leaving now…. Finally. A slight delay and I thought I would jump through the cockpit and tell them we have to go now because I am surprising my friends. Praying for a quicker flight ๐Ÿ™‚ and speedy customs. As well that my driver is prompt and out waiting for me.

Writing this morning:I just woke up next to Stephanie. and wished her a happy wedding day.  When I landed in Guatemala City I ran through the airport (best I could). I was one of the first through customs. Once I found my driver I got in his car explained the occasion. He said he would drive faster than normal. In true nascar fashion, I arrived in 20 minutes instead of the 45 minutes. The driver unable to pull in front of the hotel said I am sorry miss you must walk. I said it’s ok and darted off. 

Upon walking in the hotel Stephanie’s mom, the Holloways and Christie Lee’s parents were standing there. We screamed and cried. Sheri said Stephanie is in her room so she would take me up there. I stayed back behind her, and waited behind this pole. Sheri said Stephanie come out I have something to show you. As she walked closely, I came around the corner and without words we both just hugged and cried. A few oh my 
gosh but mostly tears. 

From there I walked to the room where my friends from high school are staying. They opened the door and looked at Stephanie and noticed me standing behind her. Then words of oh my gosh and I can’t believe 
you’re here. I cried and said I know …. me too.

I am going to stop there because I need to shower because I have a wedding to get ready for. Prayers for a day of feeling well (even if I watch from the dance floor) and for just being present here….. 

Sometimes you just really do have to show up. 

Love Kristina 


Thanksgiving, a tradition that looks different for my family today….

Yesterday, I received the news that I did not want to hear. As so many of you have been praying, and sending your love… please know that I am still grateful. 
I just may need your support for a bit longer.
My test came back at, number 24. Devised by taking a specific look at the genes in my tumor, the number indicates my chance of recurrence and aggressiveness of the cancer. This number placed me in the intermediate range.
I have been recommended to undergo chemotherapy. Four rounds, of a low dose starting in January, to be finished by March. (assuming I respond well). I will loose my hair and could undergo early menopause. But overall my doctor predicts I will respond well to the treatment and the long term affects on my body would be minimal. 
If I had fallen below the number 20 (low range) studies indicate I would not benefit from chemotherapy at all. Had I fallen in the high range (30+) studies indicate that I would absolutely benefit from chemotherapy.  But I fell in the middle….
Statistically, by taking tamoxifen for the next five years (drug to reduce chance of recurrence) and not undergo chemotherapy,  I have a 15% chance of my cancer returning. By undergoing chemotherapy, in addition to tamoxifen, I can reduce that number to 9%.
At this time I have chosen to move forward with chemotherapy. In tears I told the doctor, I have so much life ahead of me. (I just turned 27).  I don’t want this to return. I want to do everything I can to make sure that it does not. She without telling me I absolutely had to do something, strongly recommended that chemotherapy would be the best choice.
As you can imagine this is a bigger decision than to succumb to a few words, so forgive me for my bluntness. Throughout our appointment, looking at my results and discussing options my heart rested in one place. I asked the doctor if there were holistic things I could be doing, or life changes I could make but nothing was able to guarantee that my cancer would be gone forever. She admired my question, knowing it came from the heart but there was nothing she could say to erase the reality. 
So this thanksgiving I am seeking gratefulness. That I get to chose about my future. That the cancer is gone and medicine is available to make certain it doesn’t comes back. I am grateful that God loves me in this brokenness and that he has fastened my heart so delicately that it is like no other.
Thank you for reading. For praying and helping me be grateful, even though this news was not what I had hoped for. I am heartbroken and disappointed. For moments, I thought this journey might be coming to a soon end, it appears it is still just beginning. 
My parents are here in Colorado and we will spend Thanksgiving together with our long time family friends. 
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. 

Last Saturday,  I was to be on a plane heading to Antigua, Guatemala for the week. My best friend since I can remember is getting married to the love of her life this coming Saturday. Friends since middle school, we have a decade plus of memories. Stephanie and I share a unique bond because while I lived in Honduras we had the joy of being central american neighbors. (she lives in Guatemala permanently and teaches fourth grade). The trip planned months ago was one that I looked forward too. A return to a part of the world that I hold dear and a wedding sure to be beautiful.

One month ago I cancelled that flight.

Sunday evening while resting, my computer alerted me of an incoming Skype video call. I answered and smiled at the screen as three of my dear friends, sitting together in Guatemala City enthusiastically said “Hi!” through the computer screen. As though we were together. For the first few moments it made me feel like I was not so far away. I smiled and fought back the tears.

I told myself don’t cry. It’s not their fault you are not there. They are sad too. This head talk I gave myself only made it worse. Shortly after my mom took over the conversation, while I left the room and lowered my head to tears. I allowed my tears to fall in the bathroom so they could not hear me…. and they could not see. I looked in the mirror as water filled up my big brown eyes and I was just short of screaming…. When your best friend gets married, you show up. You wear the dress in the color she requested and walk down the aisle to stand at her side. That is what you do. But this time I don’t get too. Sure, I have a travel voucher now that I must redeem before August. Which means a fun trip abroad to plan, but when its not the trip you wanted, the joy of planning some place to go in exchange loses its value. The truth of the matter is that I am missing her wedding day.

The hardest part of cancer is it has wreaked so much of who I thought I was. The type A, on time planner was put on the shelf with this diagnosis. When I was diagnosed with cancer I was not given instructions. There is no manual to doing this. There is no warning of when I will break down in tears. There are no guarantees. Doctors can’t give me a checklist to ensure I heal properly. My emotions ebb and flow just as the wind blows and my attempts at normalcy seemed to be knocked down in the tidal wave of the unknown.

Tomorrow I will find out my test result regarding my tumor. I will learn whether I have to undergo chemotherapy. Whether I have to start the egg harvesting process. Whether I will loose my hair.

Today I am afraid. Today I am sad. Today I don’t know how to do this.

And today I have learned why loving Jesus and choosing to follow him is the hardest. Because you have to believe when you don’t want to. And you have to trust. You have to admit that you are not the one writing the story but someone else is.

If you’re praying for me, or lifting me up in your thoughts regarding tommorow, my hope is not for a specific result, but that I have peace in whatever the result is. That I rejoice in Thanksgiving on Thursday regardless of what I find out tomorrow. If you could do that for me. Rather than try and control the outcome, help me choose how I respond to the outcome.

My dad lands this afternoon and as the little girl that has always been told I look just like my dad I cannot wait for him to arrive.

Surely we have reason to give great thanks this holiday…. regardless of the outcome.

Below are some pictures of Stephanie (the one getting married this weekend). One from a very long time ago and two from our time in Antigua together two years ago. The beautiful cobblestone streets will be where she will take her wedding photos this weekend.

Sophomore year of high school I think before the dance. 
Stephanie and I, in Antiqua two years ago this Thanksgiving. 
When we both called Central America Home.

Stephanie and I outside of Antigua after we climbed the Volcano. 
How I wish I were to be there this weekend to do this all over again.

I am getting ready for a “fill up” this afternoon and then to pick up my dad. Will write soon. Thank you again.

The cancer phone call was just as shocking as the cancer free phone call. I barely had time to process that I had cancer before they told me the cancer was gone.

The beautiful gift of cancer is it gives you perspective. Perspective to look back at what has been and a chance to look forward to what will be. What will my life be lived for? How do I want to embrace others? How will I live beyond this?

After my surgery I was asked to be the subject in a memoir. The person asking was a boy, a sophomore in high school who I had the privilege of being the nanny for when when he was ten years old. He brought me to tears by simply asking the question. I replied yes. What an honor I thought. Why me? Just days after he asked, he sent me his first draft. He provided a disclaimer “Enjoy”. I smiled. Enjoy? How could I not? You are choosing to honor me by writing about me….. enjoy is the very least thing I could do.

His words….. his retelling of the time I spent one summer with him and his sister. His retelling of moments I do not remember, only brought on the flood gates….. humbled in my tears he concluded his paper with these words, “Kristina gave me the greatest gift anyone can get: SHE BELIEVED IN ME.”

I do not share this with you to boast, but only to highlight something that walking through cancer has taught me. Sometimes the greatest gift we can give to people is to simply show up and to believe in others.

This is what you have done for me. Your continued words, the meals, the hugs, the messages, the phone calls give me no other reason than to fight. They give me every reason to believe this has got to be something good. That God is moving and working in the lives of everyone always.

Monday, I celebrated my twenty seventh birthday. In the company of fifteen of my closest friends in Colorado, we shared a meal. One of my favorite things to do. Hosted at my best friend from colleges house, my roommate and her boyfriend (self taught gourmet chefs) prepared a delicious Michelin star worthy meal. A roast placed on a bed of polenta, roasted butternut squash, fresh bread and bacon potato soup. The meal was contributed to by a dear friend (former roommate) Katie and appetizers provided by my cousin, his wife and Sidney my current roommate. The meal labored in love was a meal I will forever remember. We stood in a circle, Jameson prayed as tears fell down my cheeks. He offered, Thanksgiving for the people in the room, for the meal set before us and for the cancer free me. Following our prayer a toast was given in my honor. “Kristina you have had the grace of Audrey Hepburn and the strength of Athena. I have watched you come out of this with even more grace and beauty than before.”

From the depth of my heart, I say thank you. For all of you walking in this with me. For giving me the boost to walk into the doctor every week with a smile on my face. To do what I never imagined being able to do. But, for more than anything being vulnerable and honest. For drawing close to my story when it would have been much easier to walk away. For sharing your time, your energy and your truth.

Just last weekend Kylie, my dear friend who I lived with in Honduras flew in from Austin. Without so much as a question she booked a flight. Just to be here with me. With no expectation to see Colorado, but to just sit at my side. Help me get dressed. Comb and blow dry my hair.

Sometimes people just need you to show up. Thank you Kylie for doing that. For knowing what I needed even when I wasn’t sure what I needed myself.

My sister as well joined in for the weekend, so we could delight in her growing baby bump, the future of her family and all that has happened in the past few weeks. It was a really great weekend.

My hope for each of you reading is that you continue to do what you have done for me, for others. May you have the courage to draw close to others when they need it most.

Cancer doesn’t have to happen for you to do that. Being alive demands that we do that.

This morning I am sitting in a hotel in Vail, Colorado looking out at the snow covered mountains. My mom drove me up here for a change of scenery. Some fresh mountain air. I hope to get in some reading and some rest. I continue to focus on healing.

I have an important update. My follow up appointment regarding my tumor has been moved to Wednesday, November 26. The day before Thanksgiving. Regardless of the outcome, regardless of chemo or no chemo. I will continue to choose Thanksgiving for all that has happened.

Have a really wonderful Friday everyone.

Kylie pushing me at the mall.

My sister and me.

Candice and TJ preparing birthday dinner. Thank you Erin for the party hats.

Erin and I at my birthday dinner.

Homemade chocolate cake prepared especially for me by Meghan Beans.

I sent cupcakes to my office on my birthday. A small role I play in the office is coordinating birthday cakes for office celebrations. In lieu of my absence and to express my gratitude for all that they have done while I am away recovering I wanted them to celebrate my birthday for me. This was the picture they took. Thank you Baceline!

Driving up to Vail yesterday.

Mom and I eating lunch at the base of the mountain, before we retreated to our hotel room. 

Yesterday was two weeks out…

I am awake early this morning (in my house) mostly because sleeping is difficult. At this time in my recovery, I am working weekly with the plastic surgeon through expansion. At the time of my surgery once all breast tissue was removed, my plastic surgeon placed two “space holders” (expanders) in my breasts. These space holders will remain for 3-4 months/ potentially longer should chemotherapy be deemed necessary. Every Tuesday I go in, and he via needle inserts more saline into the expander. This process is used to expand my skin and muscle to later prepare for an implant. I had been told this process would be the most painful and turns out it is. 

I have tried to describe what it feels like but have had trouble finding the words. Some days it is as though someone took saran wrap and wrapped you up in it tight and is pulling from behind you. Other days as my doctor says, “it feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest”. Either way it hurts and I don’t like it.

For the most part, this process continues to go well. My doctor continues to compliment me on my progress, how well my skin looks and how well I am healing. I attribute this to the 80/20 vegan diet and drinking tons of water. The alkaline rich vegetables and eliminating all hormone induced dairy/meats insures my body is getting nutrient dense foods to heal.  Many friends have complimented my skin and how good it looks…… my first reaction is to say it is the food I have been eating….. but then i remember I have only showered about three times in two weeks and put on makeup once. (surely that helps the pores a little bit). ๐Ÿ™‚

Overall, things are progressing above schedule. My original four drains have now all been removed. (quicker than the predicted 3-4 weeks they advised). The fluid that my body was riding off will now be absorbed naturally, so drinking lots of water is a must to keep this happening.  Hooray for no more drains, tubes, or feeling like an octopus!!!

The only downside to the expansion process occurs when I am in the doctors office. Last Tuesday, I made sure to close my eyes as he placed the needle on my chest and inserted saline. It is an uncomfortable feeling but nothing I cannot bare. Moments after they were finished with the “fill up” I began to feel light headed. I spoke up to my doctor and they quickly got me on a monitor. My blood pressure had dropped and I was certain I was to faint. I took many deep breaths closed my eyes as my mom held my left hand and my doctor came around and held my right. Fortunately, after staying in the doctors office for an hour or so, some sprite and graham crackers I was feeling much better. 

As for this Tuesday, the story was not much different. I went in at 9 am for my expansion and immediately following I had a follow up appointment at the hospital with my breast surgeon, Dr. Moore. I arrived at the hospital and was brought back to see her. As we discussed my healing and how often I will be seeing her moving forward the room began to spin. I apologized for interrupting and said I am sorry I am afraid I may faint. She quickly had me lay back. 

I am not sure if I need to be eating more before these visits (my breakfasts these days are typically small) or if it is just the pressure from the saline fill, but for whatever reason my body is not handling this process well.

For the days in between appointments I am focusing on healing, resting, watching Scandal and reading. My tumor as previously mentioned has been sent off for the Oncotype DX Test. This test result determines the following:

  • To help doctors figure out a womanโ€™s risk of early-stage, estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer coming back (recurrence), as well as how likely she is to benefit from chemotherapy after breast cancer surgery.
  • To help doctors figure out a womanโ€™s risk of DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) coming back (recurrence) and/or the risk of a new invasive cancer developing in the same breast,
I have a follow up appointment scheduled for December 4. I am hoping this result is something I can find out over the phone but at this time am not sure.
In regarding the fertility preservation I have received all of my fertility medicines in advance. I got a giant package that includes all shots and medicines necessary to begin the egg harvesting process. I am holding on to them at this time. Until I know for certain I will undergo chemotherapy, I keep these refrigerated for hopefully to put in the trash can ๐Ÿ™‚ (meaning I do not need chemo, therefore no fertility medicine).
I apologise for my delayed writing, I do want to share about how I spent my birthday and my weekend with my sister and dear friend from Austin, Kylie who came to visit. I will be doing this hopefully later today. As well as an update on how I am. This post I call a business post, an update on the medical side. As many of you know the medical side does not necessarily correlate with my emotional side.
I am heading to my first physical therapy appointment this morning and from there, my mom and I are are driving to Vail. What better place to recover and look at the mountains than in Vail.  Just for one night but we are looking forward to it.
Thank you again for following. If any of you have specific questions regarding my healing, procedure sand my doctors please feel free to send me an email. I would be more than happy to answer those if I can…
Have a great Thursday everyone.
Here are some photos I have not yet shared…. throw back thursday if you will.
Meagan and I the morning after my surgery.
My marking indicating breast cancer side, the morning before my surgery.

Me the night after I was released from surgery.