Showing up without permission

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. 

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