Monthly Archives: January 2015

I realized I had not shared the pictures that were taken of my mom and I before I started chemotherapy. These are my favorite ones that Cheryl Ungar took. As you can imagine after Sunday nights shaving party these pictures are even more dear to me….more so because they were captured with my mom. 
Yesterday was my Mom’s Birthday and she should be given so much credit for everything the past five months. She demonstrates love, grace and has one of the biggest hearts one could ever hope to be loved by. I am so grateful for her and so glad she has been able to be at my side.
Hope everyone is having a great Tuesday. I will update soon on how my hair is doing. My already buzz is falling out πŸ™ other than the mess it is making I am embracing it each day…
Love Kristina

It started. Saturday afternoon I got out of the shower and it started to fall. Gently. But it started. I ran my fingers through the back of my scalp and in the palm of my hand was my hair. I ran my fingers through again. More hair in my hands. My eyes began to fill with water and the reality started to weigh in, my hair was falling. The tears fell from my cheeks….

That evening I went to dinner with some of the dearest women to me. I got ready. Straightened my hair as more of it fell on the floor and thought to myself….. this is it. I am not getting ready like this again. I am shaving tomorrow night.

I had originally thought Wednesday would be good night for the shave. Even thought Wednesday might be a premature date but based on what I had read/ doctors had advised it seemed reasonable. But Sunday? Sunday was never in the plan….. but Sunday it was.

So I messaged my people. The people I wanted there. My hair dresser. Whom I hold dear and who had the supplies, the expertise and the heart. My coworker/ photographer/ friend. To capture the moment. My friends. College girlfriends. My old roommates, my current roommates. The Colorado girls that adopted me as their best friend. My cousin and his wife. My dad’s childhood best friend, his wife who are practically family. Can you show up tomorrow night? Just be there next to me?

And they could. Everyone could. A celebration. A sunday shave party it would be. And so much more than that, it was…..

I write to you with my newly shaved head from my bed. Overwhelmed. But more than anything full of joy.

Tonight as music played, champagne and bourbon was poured, conversation was had and my hair was shaved away I cried, laughed, and even smiled for what was something really special.

We made sure my family in Kentucky was setup on my laptop across from me (facetime) so they could watch the whole thing.

Ric (my dads very best friend) toasted to me. I shared some words about what it means to have cancer and know joy. What it means to know people that are worth far more than you ever knew before you had cancer….And what it meant to be humbled by their presence tonight…

While Cameron cut my hair I looked out on to a group of people that saw me. That loved me. No matter what length my hair was. I decided to have her cut a mohawk first. (When else do you get too???). Without hesitation my roommate went to her room and retrieved a Slayer shirt she had. I mean doesn’t everyone have one handy? I put the shirt on and she perfected the spike I giggled at the alter ego I got to have. It was a wonderful beautiful moment. And to be honest it looked funky in a cool kind of way.

Moments later I sat back down after some pictures were captured and she buzzed away the last bit. Deep breaths I thought. I continued to cry. At times weep. But all in all it was a moment that I would never trade. To look across the room to others. Who had been apart of my life in so many different avenues. To have been the recipient of their love during this time. To look me in the eye and remind me I am beautiful. Let me know that I am known. That I matter. What greater gift than that?

I kept repeating to myself while I heard the sound of the clippers across my head. HE is really good. HE is really good. God is so very good.

Tonight was beyond special. What I needed and what I received were those looking me in the eyes reminding me that I was loved.  I am loved.

Love was evident tonight as we said goodbye to my hair. It was a really wonderful celebration….. Katie took the professional photographs and I will share each one with all of you. I promise.

Thank you for celebrating with me.

He really is really good.

The sweet patience of waiting….

So many times that is what this season feels like. Waiting for the pain to subside, for the fatigue to disappear, waiting for the doctor, waking up in the middle of the night waiting to fall asleep again or waiting for my next round of chemotherapy. I have decided that rather than thinking of it as waiting, I want to think of it as living. I am living still in the waiting.

The past forty eight hours have been eventful to say the least. After a difficult afternoon on Tuesday it was obvious to me that my body was fighting off something and something was wrong. I called the oncologist and they asked that I come the next morning. My dear friend Erin met me and we got our usual coffee first. We picked up some vegan muffins and drove in the snow to the hospital. I learned that I have a bacterial infection, one that is not uncommon due to my low immune system. With my immune system compromised I was not able to fight it off. I am now on two different antibiotics and hopefully over the next few days I will start to feel better.

Last night I slept nearly eight straight hours and even made it back to the gym this morning to walk on the treadmill. I am going up and down constantly, as my body is adjusting to the “chemo cocktail” I was given last week. I am learning to grant myself grace when I am exhausted and do not feel good. Easier said than done….

Some new developments have taken place due to the chemotherapy….. my face has broken out, I have a rash on my hands and my hair has already begun to thin. I have noticed that I may be dealing with a bit of chemo brain.  I am unable to remember things, often forgetting and sometimes just unsure of what to do. Overall I am drained. Not only do I not feel good, but my appearance is reflective of this. As trivial as that may seem that has become difficult.

I have been spending a lot of time reading, reflecting on this journey which is before me…..

John Piper wrote these words that have now been something I have re-read over and over again…..

Therefore, therefore, do not lose heart. But take these truths and day by day focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach his word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for.

The truth that I am cared for. Even in this. That my body in what feels so broken is being made new. That although he did not promise for healing he did promise that he would be present in the midst of all of it. So while I am trying to live while I wait, I am looking to this.

I am already in bed and it is 7:30 pm. I saw my oncologist today and we reviewed my blood counts. My counts are very low and she has advised me to be careful so I do not get sick. She explained this is why I am feeling tired and fatigued.

Which I had already thought.

So off to bed it is. I am back to work in the midst of all of this but am very happy tomorrow is Friday. A not planned weekend is in order. Hoping as my counts rise I will begin to feel like myself again.
Hope this finds you well and learning what it means to “Live” even if that means in the midst of waiting for something…

Erin driving me to the Cancer Center early Wednesday morning, with our matching hats.
Flowers from a colleague who gets me flowers at each milestone.

The view today. It was beautiful and so clear.

“I would love to say I screamed, cried, wept in sorrow. No chemo brings silence. A deafening silence to just get through each moment. Painful, grievous silence where there had once been constant, loving chatter.”- Kara Tippets

Truer words have never been spoken. Chemo has indeed brought the silence. Sometimes the occasional moaning, but mostly quiet. For the past few days I fight the courage to get out of bed, get dressed, try and make it to the gym. Once I am moving things go pretty well. I forget the aches, my mind drifts to a different place and the discomfort subsides it seems.

But when I find myself later that evening back at home, I crash. I crawl to my bed turn on my heating pad, (took place in the outlet where my side lamp once was) and lay down. I am counting my blessings that I am not getting sick. Food is difficult to swallow, and not much sounds good but I am not throwing up. For that I am grateful.

My biggest struggle is the cold chills, sore throat, the achiness and fatigue. Being chilled to the bone, something I never knew before, is an awful feeling.

I am awake this morning because I am having trouble sleeping. I have passed the post treatment 2-3 day window of greatest risk of nausea but am now heading towards my nadir point. The nadir point (Day 7-10), being when my white blood cell count will be the lowest and the fatigue potentially the greatest.

This road of treatments at this moment seems like a long one. So like Kara says above, I try and just get through each moment. Saturday, I took a long walk in the sun with a friend. Shared more about this journey. About life. About the aches, the pains and more about the wonder that is, our God that writes these stories for us. It was a really good afternoon. (Thank you for driving from the Springs and caring about me).

As expected after a dinner with family friends Saturday evening my aches and my cold chills met me that night like a raging storm. Patience and grace are being learned over and over again.

Just last night, I asked a friend if I could see the text messages from the day I told him I had breast cancer. I sat and reread the messages. Reading my words I could sense the fear I had. Words like “I don’t have very good news. My test came back and my left breast is malignant for breast cancer”. I cried.

One of his responses, “I am going to need you to be ok”.

I reread the conversation and was overcome with emotions. I may be brave (sometimes) but goodness this hurts. This is hard. It has been hard. It is difficult to imagine who I was then. I was so unaware of what the next few months would bring. Scared. Afraid.

I love that he wrote, “I am going to need you to be ok”. Nothing more special than knowing you matter.

Today I am going back to work and if I am honest I am scared. I do want to go back, I just wish I felt better. So I am going to try and give myself some grace today. To do what I can and come home to rest after.

Thank you for continuing to think of me. For those of you who are pursuing my heart, making sure I know I am thought of, prayed for. Thank you. My mom is gone and I am trying to determine the ways I need help. Some of you waiting to hear from me, I have not forgotten I just don’t know what I need or how to ask for it. Food is still really sensitive but soon those of you who have offered to bring meals may soon.

My chemotherapy dates are as follows, February 5, 2015, February 26, 2015, and March 19, 2015.

I am incredibly humbled by all of you. Thank you for loving me well. Hope you have a good Monday everyone.

I have not forgotten about all of you, or this place…. I have just been taking some time. To rest. To read and to lay down on my moms lap. These past few days have met with a different reality of my cancer journey….. both humbling and beautiful.

I have so much to catch you up on, but will start with Chemo Day 1, Tuesday.

Tuesday morning, I woke up early to take a shower and get ready. Knowing that this would probably be my only chemotherapy with my hair, I decided to curl it and get ready. Figured my spirits would be lifted if I took the time to get ready.  I put on my crazy patterned yoga pants, my comfy scarf, my smart wool socks and essential oils. My mom and I packed two big bags, filled with all sorts of things I thought I might want…. magazines, my book, gum, ginger chews (for nausea), dark chocolate, all of my essential oils, lotion, my Bernese mountain dog stuffed animal (since I am allergic my mom bought me a stuffed one), four blankets (gifted by you) and my head phones.
My mom and I went to breakfast at my favorite place by my house. Our spirits were good, we even picked out a cookie to have for later. With some anticipation we drove to the hospital. I was feeling ready. The day had come to check round one off and I was ready.

Upon arrival we waited quite some time to see my oncologist. After meeting with her, discussing last minute questions, what not to do, what to do, we were instructed to go into the infusion room and pick my seat. The room, much like the day before, was very crowded. I located a chair next to an older man sitting with who I assume was his daughter and wife. The chair I chose had enough room for chairs to sit around it, knowing that I would be having visitors.

I felt others eyes watching as I took a seat. Most onlookers assumed it would be my mom taking the seat, but it was me. My best friend and old roommate Chelsea met me and my mom and they sat at my side. 
A little background on how this works….. Once every three weeks, I will be going in for infusion. Both chemotherapy’s will be administered at separate times to make sure I do not have a reaction to them. The first medicine I am given is the pre-medicines (anti-nausea, antibiotics). This takes about a half hour. The nurse then flushes my IV with saline and then administers the first chemotherapy. Taxotere was the first one that took about an hour and half. The other chemotherapy, Cytoxan, came next and took about an hour. I am not getting a temporary port placed, so I will be getting an IV to my hand every time for the chemo to be administered.
Once I was in my seat we waited as the nurse came by and introduced herself. She explained that she would be placing the IV in, so I turned my head the other way. I know full well what it feels like to have an IV in and I never look. Unfortunately, the water I had been drinking for the past twenty four hours did not help the nurse finding my vein. Once she inserted the needle, she moved it around looking for my vein and I looked at my mom and Chelsea knowing it was not going well. Why was she digging and poking? It hurt I thought. Chelsea rubbed my back and talked to me to keep me distracted. My eyes began to fill with water. I tired to stay calm knowing the nurse was trying her best but was quietly getting frustrated. She removed the needle and said she would try the other side. She said she would be getting a bucket of water to soak my arm to warm up my veins so that they would show up. I took a deep breath and began to cry. This was not the part I was dreading. This was the part I had done a hundred times over by now. For goodness sakes I gave myself shots for ten days on my own. This was not supposed to be the hard part. This was supposed to be easy.
After soaking my arm for twenty minutes or so, a different nurse came and was able to get the IV in on the first try. It was around 11:00 am and we were ready to start. All in all, administering the chemo took around four hours. I watched as others came and went, got their treatment and left. I watched as an older woman across from me went to and from the bathroom for what seemed like a hundred times. I assume she was getting sick. Thank goodness I handled this first round relatively well. Below a picture of me soaking my arm:

The first chemotherapy stung while it went it. I was given a heating pad and able to relieve some of the sting. The nurse adjusted the speed at which it dripped and the faster it went the more it stung. Although, I did not want to sit there all day I was fine with it taking a bit of time to avoid the sting. I am only allowed two visitors at a time so as Rachel and my colleague Katie came, my visitors rotated chairs. It made the time pass to have others sit with me. Before I knew it Rachel was next to me, we were talking and my IV machine started beeping. I was all done.

Upon leaving I started to feel strange. My mom commented that my face was very flushed and she could tell I did not feel good. I was not nauseous but rather feeling flu like symptoms. 

That is where I find myself today. Yesterday I started to hit the bottom. The fatigue, as I had been told is like a deep bone chill ache that is unlike a tired fatigue from a long day at work. I could not agree more. I had trouble getting comfortable yesterday and suffered from the chills. Afraid that I might have had a fever my mom went to get a thermometer. Thank goodness I do not have a fever. We did manage to get the strength to walk outside yesterday. We sat on a park bench so the sun could hit my face. I closed my eyes and rested in my moms lap. I will treasure that bench, that moment so very much.

I have been encouraged to exercise to reduce the fatigue and help move the chemotherapy in my body. Despite my desire to stay in bed, every day we have done something. Wednesday, we went to my gym where I climbed on the stairmaster, yesterday we walked the park and today I walked on the treadmill at the gym. After mild exercise I find myself back home crawling in my bed. Where I am right now. I have opted to not take any of the anti-nausea medication prescriptions pro-actively. I have chosen to take them as needed and at this point I have not taken any. (fingers crossed this stays that way).

Yesterday I commented that it is the first time in this journey that I truly feel sick. My body aches, my bones chill and my muscles are sore. Not a soreness that meets you after weight lifting or a day working in the yard but a deep rooted achiness, like you have the flu. I have not yet been nauseous but food is becoming difficult. Things do not taste the same and my mouth has a filmy, strange taste in it. 

Yesterday was a hard day, I laid in bed for six hours, read a book with my mom and laid on her lap. I have been told that my hair will start thinning around day 7 and begin to fall after that. My scalp is already sore.

My spirit today is quiet. I am looking around to see what God is doing in this and finding it difficult to see. How is he working in this? How is he resting my heart to draw him near? My predictions about what the next coming months will look like, is clouding my presence right now. I am trying to sit with the right now, praying I can do that.

I read an excerpt from C.S Lewis Mere Christianity and loved it so….

β€œImagine 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.” 
― C.S. LewisMere Christianity

As I am resting, trying not to fight the aches and pains, I pray I may lean to the promise that he is indeed building a palace. Taking up roots in me for good. For more. More than what my heart ever knew was possible before cancer. This palace he is building would never exist if it were not for cancer. If it were not for this story.

Hope this finds you well. I am truly humbled by all of your sweet messages regarding my goofy picture yesterday πŸ™‚ My mom and I are so glad to have them. I will share them soon.

Below are some pictures from this week.

Picking out our special treat before we headed to the hospital.
Our bags of things…. suitcases really.
Trying to smile before heading back to meet with my oncologist.
The view from my chair. The folks in front of me were sitting with the older gentleman to my left. A room full of IV drips.
I was one of the last few in the room towards the end of the day. I got really chilly so used all my blankets to wrap up.
You can see the Bernese Mountain Dog in my bag πŸ™‚
Before Chemo selfie picture…
When I was finished with Rachel. You can tell my eyes have changed and I look tired.
Mom and I sitting on the bench yesterday in the sun. Thank goodness for warm January days.
Yesterday eating blueberries and reading the book, Love Does.