Monthly Archives: December 2014

This morning, the last day of the year 2014. I slept in. I had intended to go to cross fit at 6 am, but I hit snooze. It was below 0 this morning and my bed was cozy. Some mornings I find myself in pain. I am sleeping on my side again and I assume at night I sometimes put to much pressure on my expanders. So many times I don’t listen to what my body needs. I have not for so many years. I am always pushing it, never stopping and if the past few months have taught me anything, it is to slow down a bit. Slow down so much to live in the present of the preciousness of life. If we are always rushing we will miss it. So this morning I listened to the warmth of the covers, the ice covered windows, the darkness and laid in my bed a bit longer….

Cancer slowed things down.

My constant list making, my life planning, my expectations met me that day in September when I heard the words CANCER through the phone. My life seemed to pause. My heart shattered. I remember sitting in the car with my mom that day crying. We sat in my car that day for hours. unsure what to do, where to drive, what to do. When my mom picked me up we sat in my work parking lot for forty five minutes or more…. I messaged friends who had asked if I received my test results. That seems so silly to me now. I text messaged some of the people dearest to me, to tell them that I had cancer. I am not sure I could have gotten on the phone if I tried. I could not utter the words. My mom and I frozen in time.

I remember when we left my office and we drove to get pedicures. We drank a glass of wine, and sat in shock. Nothing mattered anymore. We had no place to go, no where to be. The reality that awaited me over the next months was a mystery. The path unknown. My dad was booking his flight while my mom and I sat in a nail salon. Over the next forty eight hours I met with three doctors in Colorado and laid at the bed of my parents and cried.

This morning I took a shower and looked down at my chest. I rubbed my scar lines and the places where the drains went in at my side. I looked in the mirror as I carefully curled my hair. Two weeks from now my first round of treatment begins. This body that is strong and has healed beautifully is getting ready for a new challenge and my fears are very real.

This time last year I was getting ready for a ski trip to Steamboat Springs. This trip was the start of a year of traveling, airports, adventure and connecting with people from so many parts of my life. I took three trips to Southern California, Las Vegas, Chicago, Seattle, Texas, Clearwater Florida, two trips to Kentucky and just last month was in Guatemala. My heart is full of memories, laughter, and so many celebrations.

More than the places I saw, the only thing that I look back and see are those of you that drew near to me when I needed it the very most. All of you that have showed up, sent messages, written cards, wiped my tears, made me laugh and gone above and beyond to make sure I knew that I was cared for, that I mattered and that my story mattered.

I have so much to be grateful for. In the coming new year I will become an aunt and a breast cancer survivor. I have a job that I enjoy and so many good people in my life that pour into it. More than that I have hope that this story, my story does indeed matter and my ever changing heart will continue to learn, grow, let go and move towards grace.

As I prepare for the new year, treatment, reconstruction surgery and lots of healing….. I ask you to keep drawing near. Not just to me, but to those that matter in your life.

Move towards others. They need you. I need you.

My only hope for this year is to have courage. Simply courage for today and by Gods grace each day granted beyond that….

I am heading to the mountains today to spend New Years quietly soaking up that I have today…. and looking forward to the next year…

***Thank you to all of you who have been praying for my sister. She is feeling much better today and the baby is doing well. My family spent the last two evenings at the hospital as my sister underwent an emergency appendectomy surgery. Please continue to keep my family in your prayers as it certainly has been an unexpected year and my sister is half way through her pregnancy.

I had every intention of writing on the plane about my time at home but I forgot to charge my computer so I was left with my notebook and a borrowed pen from the flight attendant.

Handwritten and now typed below:

I ordered a water just now from the flight attendant for my packet of EmergenC. I drink one a day, along with a Kombucha to make sure I am getting vitamins, antioxidants and nutrients for healing. Now that my week at home is done, I will be moving back into strict vegan eating. Avoiding all chemically processed, artificial flavored and hormone induced food. It is amazing what you get used too.

I wish I could write and tell you that my ten days in Louisville with family and friends went without tears, and only joy, but that would not be true.

Most of my visit I spent at my parents home. I set aside some time to visit friends but quickly found myself gravitating back to be with my mom and dad. No particular reason why but I suppose it felt safe. That if my emotions caught up to me, that it was OK to breakdown at their house. I could escape to my room there and take a few breaths. My parents, while they have spent a great deal of time with me the past few months have only been around a handful of occasions when I have a complete breakdown. Part of that, is trying to stay strong for them……

I was doing quite well with this, until Christmas day.  It was as though someone told me I had cancer for the very first time.

Opening gifts in our living room I watched as my sister opened maternity clothes, things for “junior” (the new baby’s already nickname) and her husband a new wardrobe. My dad unpacked the usual slew of outdoor gear, while my mom received new cooking items and a special bracelet saying “grandma”.

Two particular gifts I opened from my mom and dad were two new beanie hats. Both fitting perfectly and adorable…. left me silent. I held the hats in my hand and hung my head low. Trying to disguise my anguish I said thank you and that I loved them. My mom knowing me often better than myself looked deep into my eyes and knew my words although true, were apart of a larger narrative.

Once we finished exchanging gifts, I retreated to my bedroom. Looking into the mirror at myself I watched as a pool of tears filled my eyes. My stomach ached and I began to weep. Afraid someone would walk in I made sure to shut my door. Angry for being upset, I tried to tell myself that my parents meant well. That the hats are something I need. Besides I love wearing hats.

I could not muster the courage to put them on my head.

My fear of the future, met me that Christmas morning like a tidal wave. I crawled into bed and cried. Christmas, I thought, a day of joy. A day to look back at the year, all that one has accomplished, and celebrated. It is also a day to look forward to the new year coming ahead. What will the new year bring? What new things will one strive for?

This Christmas day found me looking back overwhelmed for all that has been. Two giant scars across my chest are evidence of the cancer they found. And then I look forward and weep knowing what is ahead. The unknown, the fear, the pain that awaits with chemotherapy.

My mom knowing something was not OK, found me in my bed with my tears. She sat next to me and listened as I explained how I wish I had not been here today. That maybe if I was not here for Christmas then I would not have ruined it. My tears, my sadness ruined the day I told myself. She assured me this was not true and that the greatest gift of all was that we were all home together. She sat with me as she has so many times before, and wiped my tears.

__________________________

I landed back in Colorado this morning. Tomorrow I go back to work, and the doctor. I will be scheduling acupuncture, physical therapy and the cleaning service tomorrow morning. My stitches are being removed Tuesday. My much anticipated stack of bills at home was not here yet, so I suppose they may arrive tomorrow. Wednesday, my medical deductible restarts all over again.

I am taking one foot in front of the other as best I can but the truth is I am still fighting to seek gratitude and joy.

All of you preparing your new years resolutions. Boasting about the change you will make, the pounds you will loose, the body fat percentage you will achieve, take it from a cancer patient…. those pounds you gained over the holidays from meals shared with family and friends, I pray I have many meals and time spent with friends that perhaps cause a few pounds to be gained. Those wrinkles that so many of you are applying creams and paying to have erased, I pray by gods grace I live to see lines, evidence of laughter, of a life lived.  I pray that the meals I have in the coming weeks still taste good when my mouth is covered in toxins from chemo.

 I long for a new year that meets me with more joy, more gratefulness and more of learning about how good God is even when things seem so hard.

Do me a favor and this next year do life well. Live the next year so much so that you immerse yourself in the very things that you delight. The things that bring you joy. Seek forgiveness and never ever stop seeking joy.

My heart feels like it has been broken into a million pieces, but slowly I pick one piece up at a time, even when it is as though they are scattered about the room again. Today I find myself anxious, scared and tired, but smiling about the last week I spent in Kentucky. I do have much to look forward too. I will be an aunt to a little boy this coming May and two dear friends are getting married this summer (Chelsea and Kylie)!

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and if your Christmas found you in tears, may you still find thanks and know that I am very grateful for you. I am certain God loves you very much too.

Happy New Year Everyone
Love, Kristina

*** The hats, I will post sometime, I warmed up to and like them a lot. I love them so and will be worn so much in the coming months.

Here are some pictures from my time at home. Enjoy!

Thirteen Year Tradition of decorating Gingerbread Houses.

Not our best decorations but still fun. 


Stefanie and I ran into Chelsea at breakfast one morning. 

Christmas Eve dinner at Mortons.

Brittany (Junior :)) and Mom

Brittany and I (Thank you Emily and Daniel at Louisville Athletics) at the Basketball game Saturday. Despite the loss we still had a great time.

Sister picture. Erin and Lindsey.


Today is Christmas Eve and right now I am up early while my parents are still sleeping….

Two nights ago my dad and I bundled up in warm clothes and went for a walk. It was pitch dark outside.  When I asked if we should bring a flashlight he said we would not need one. He explained that our eyes would adjust. My dad. Just like that, trusting the skies and the stars. It was chilly but we walked for over an hour. Walking we reflected on the past few months.  How much has changed, what is on the horizon and how grateful we are that I get this time at home before I have to start the next thing. Christmas happens to fall right in the middle of it all…..

Twelve weeks ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In two weeks time, I will start twelve weeks of chemotherapy. Come April, should everything go along smoothly, I will complete my reconstruction surgery. So much is ahead…

As we walked we would stop and stare up to the skies. My dad would point out constellations and I would just gaze in wonder. As I looked up it was as though I was looking back in time. I remember a time when I was little, my dad drove me to a park and we laid on the hood of his car, staring up to the sky. Such a sweet memory.

As much as my perspective has changed because of cancer…. so many days I find myself longing for the way things were.

This year my immediate family will be celebrating Christmas together. My sister and her husband, celebrating a last christmas before they become parents to a little boy….. My mom and dad, celebrating as soon to be grandparents….. and me, a soon to be breast cancer survivor and aunt.

We indeed have so much to be grateful for.

I want to thank all of you who have already seen me while I am visiting home. Those of you that I have not seen in so many years. Your kind words, your prayers and simply the hugs are so appreciated. Those of you sharing my story, asking others for prayers thank you.

In a few weeks time I will experience what it is like to have everyone in on your story, even when you don’t want them to be. Baldness, invites others in and I am afraid. No more hiding.  My desire for when this day comes, is that I can embrace others faces, and stares just as I am embracing the hugs from all of you wanting to wish me well. I hope that my face and my smile demonstrate hope. The hope that I have. That in the end everything is going to be ok….. That my heartbreak now, will soon mend. That I will not be defined by cancer nor will I allow it to steal my joy.

I have been meaning to share this as well. If you see me, or give me a hug, and you start to cry….. know that your tears are welcomed and even appreciated. Being the recipient of others tears is one of the most humbling gifts. To know that I am wept for. That others are hurting with me. What a gift. I am humbled that my story, that my words bring you to tears. What an honor.

Thank you for crying….. you have my permission to cry. I cry all the time and I don’t think anyone should cry alone.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I did not consciously make a plan how how I would go about doing cancer. I don’t remember choosing whether I would be angry or joyful….. but I do remember this. I met a friend over a beer, two weeks after my diagnosis. We talked about it all. What it meant, what would happen. This particular friend posed the question, “What do you hope for in all of this?”
I sat and pondered his question and then began to speak, “To not miss it“. Puzzled he looked at me and I went on further to explain. “I dont want to miss what he is doing in all of this, with my story, with breast cancer. Things like this don’t just happen and I am confident he is going to do something. Teach me things, change me, change others and I dont want to be on the other side and have missed it. So I want to be present in it. Cry, laugh, and embrace the journey of breast cancer….I don’t want to miss it.
Today that wish and that hope have not changed. I am fighting for the present. The present that is today and live in what tomorrow is, when tomorrow comes. 
Merry Christmas to you and your family wherever you are….. to my many friends around the world that I have had the privilege of meeting in my travels I am sending my love and joy to you as well. Tomorrow, I plan to drink central american coffee, share gifts with my family, drink some colorado brew and set my phone away for the day. I don’t want to miss Christmas either.

Love Kristina

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.Matthew 2:10 

***Below are some pictures from the Louisville game last night with my family.

2013 National Championship Trophy, the one my Honduran classroom cheered so well for.

Written from the airplane Saturday morning, heading to Louisville:

I woke up this morning at 7:45 am. I managed to turn off my original alarm and was left with only a half hour before Rachel came to take me to the airport. I am heading home to Kentucky until next Sunday. For the first time I do not have to go to a doctor for ten days straight. I am looking forward to time at home, to rest and visit before I need to be back Colorado to start chemotherapy.
Thursday afternoon,  I went to the plastic surgeon for what was my last saline fill. As expected I slept terribly Thursday evening. The first twenty four hours after an expansion are the worst. My right side continues to be worse than my left. The nurse says it is because I am right handed so I have more muscle on this side, which is the soreness that I feel. Either way it is terrible.
While I was at the plastic surgeon I made mention of a large mole that is on top of my head. In anticipation of losing my hair I would like to wear my bald head as it is. As silly as this may sound, I did not want a large mole to be on top. My doctor said that yes, it is something he could remove for me, but that he needed to make sure we did it far enough in advance of starting chemotherapy. (something I did not think of). As well that he would place stitches in and in one week I would come back and he would take them out. (Again something I did not anticipate). Soon after my plastic surgeon called my oncologist (boss lady as he said) to make sure it was ok to do this removal so close to starting chemo. She approved. I said great! (thinking it would be the first week of January).
The nurse came back in and said the only time they could take me was the next morning at 6:30 am. After a brief hesitation, I said great. Lets do it. 
After a poor night of sleep and a 4:45 am wake up to be at the doctor yesterday morning by 6:30 am, needless to say yesterday was a long day. My company had our holiday potluck/ugly christmas sweater/ white elephant party yesterday that I was coordinator of so after my minor surgery I arrived at work by 8:30 am.
Last night I cleaned my house, packed, did laundry and watched some game of thrones before falling asleep. Fortunately I am able to take other medicine now besides tylenol (during my IVF cycle I could not take any advil, ibuprofen, or pain killers). Last night I took some medicine to relieve the pressure on my chest and to help with the ache in my stomach (ovaries swollen). 
Walking through the airport today I often watch others, wondering where they are going. What brings them to their destination and began to think about mine. I am going home. My sister we learned yesterday is carrying a baby boy. Our family does not have any boys (minus my dad) so the excitement as you can imagine is great. 
Later that evening while talking to my mom from the “gender reveal” party I began to cry. And cry a lot. I asked my mom to go, not wanting to spoil the celebration. The news while great, and the noise of celebration in the background coming through the phone one of great joy. I am not sure what happened. 

Trying to celebrate and find joy when at times the opposite reality of my life right now comes like a tidal wave. The lies found in my thoughts, overwhelm me as I find it so difficult to celebrate.
Envious. Jealous even, as terrible as that sounds. The fear that I may never get that celebration. The despair that my future seems to hold. The fear that a future is not even available for me. That milestones may never get to take place for me.
All just thoughts, but thoughts that brought me to tears.
I should be landing soon and the mom to be, my sister, is picking me. I am going to be home and fight to celebrate even when it seems so difficult to do. 

With stitches in my head, painful expanders in my chest and an aching stomach I am stepping forward, the only way I know how. Trying to be brave, trying to allow myself to grieve but most of all fighting for joy. 

Written this morning from my parents house:

Today I am meeting my English teacher for lunch and spending time with my two best friends. The weekend was spent with family visiting and relaxing at home. It has been really nice to be home.
Not much more of an update at this time. The stitches are doing ok and the soreness is improving each day. Have a wonderful Monday everyone.
Here are some pictures we took from Saturday night….

From my desk at work I sit nearby four other women. I often listen as they discuss their lives, their new homes, their dog that ate something it shouldn’t have, their distant family and the hope of having children someday. This particular day (yesterday) I found myself in silence. The music in my headphones could not be loud enough to silence the conversation, nor quiet the jealousy in my heart. 

The very things I once longed for seem so trivial to me now. My list of hopes, my list of dreams are simply compiled to a list of medical wishes. Wishes that read, I will not leave the doctor dizzy today. That insurance will cover acupuncture for when I start chemotherapy. That chemo doesn’t wreak havoc on my ovaries. That I am kept away from illness while my white blood cell count drops low. That the large scars across the center of my breasts heal beautifully. That the ache in my stomach from mondays procedure, and nausea will seize. That my four eggs will be enough. That I will be enough in all of this. 

My daily routine now that I am back to work consists of many interruptions. I leave for the doctors office and come back to work (sometimes more than once). Some coworkers notice and ask how it went. As of late I am not up for sharing much. It is easier to leave my emotions at the doorstep, sit in my desk, place my earbuds in and dive into my job. 

The news I 
received yesterday is nothing short of disappointing. I met with the fertility doctor to understand more of what happened on Monday and why I was only able to retrieve four eggs…. My doctor, a woman who I have great respect, given the profession shes works in, sat me down and asked what she could answer for me. I began to speak with courage, trying to suppress my tears explaining my obvious disappointment

She looked me in the eyes and said, “I was disappointed for you too.” 

A sigh of relief came over. My feelings are valid, someone felt the same way. Someone who is a professional. To hear her empathize with me was such a gift. Over the next hour we began to discuss what she learned about my ovarian health the past week. With a blood test every day for ten days, a vaginal ultrasound (9 in total) they are able to learn a lot of information about me. 

Before I started on medication I began with a diagnostic exam, to test my baseline ovarian health. One of the tests conducted was for my AMH level. AMH stands for the Anti-Mullerian Hormone. This number is one of the strongest indicators of ovarian health. This hormone is secreted by the cells that are developing follicles (eggs). So the higher the number science has attributed to better ovarian health. This number vastly decreases as women get older, so science has created benchmarks for the average AMH level based on age. 

My AMH level was 1.37. The level at which someone 27 years old is expected to have is 3.7. My ovarian health looked that of someone aged 34-35 years old. 

The next number was my resting number of follicles. I had 13. The doctor shared that while this number was not terrible, she would have liked to see more like 15-20 eggs for someone my age.

These two starting points helped explain why the outcome was as it was. She also explained that the 13 eggs really did not start responding to medicine until the end of the medicine cycle. She would have liked to see them start popping up and growing sooner. Saturday morning (two days before the procedure) I had four tracking to full maturity. The trigger shot Saturday evening, she had hoped would boost the others that were not quite mature yet, but they unfortunately did not reach appropriate size. The four that showed on Saturday, were the ones they were able to retrieve. 

The rest of the appointment we discussed what next steps look like for me. In tears I nearly pleaded with her that the hardest part of this, is that we are discussing something that seems so far away. That I struggle to believe that I get tomorrow and this process invites me to ponder my future potential family. 

As you can imagine I nor had peace or resolution leaving her office. The chemotherapy regime I am placed on, she advised has a 50-80% chance of making me sterile. With such staggering numbers, and so much uncertainty I am left with only one choice.

Trust. 

I am left to trust and believe that what  feels like a bad story is still ultimately a really good one. That I have no reason to be jealous of or envious of my coworkers because a beautiful story is being written for me, that has included all of this. That the future although it may seem distant and like a fog is certain to be something good, even if what is in front of me seems bad. 

Kara Tippets a fellow breast cancer fighter says it best:

“It takes courage, humiliating courage, to step aside from your own sovereignty and imagined control and begin looking for that gift that comes unmerited. Yes, Im talking about grace. Grace by definition is the gift that comes unearned. In a world of unbelievably able bodies, where new diets are fashioned every day to keep my brand of story away, it is hard to realize you may be living in the middle of the best story ever told. That the story of breast cancer could possibly be a good story? A great story even? It would be easier to shake my fist at the test results and scream that this isn’t the right story, but to receive– humbly receive the story no one would ever want and know there is goodness in the midst of its horror…. is not something I could ever do on my own strength. I simply cannot. That receiving comes from the one who received his own suffering for a much greater purpose than my own.”

May you find that even your story with all its intricacies, heartbreaks and disappointments, is too a really great story.

Love Kristina