Celebrate Even the Small

Wednesday? Already I ask myself. The weeks these days seem to be passing by quickly. Perhaps it was because last week I spent two days at home in bed but nonetheless I am finding it hard to believe that next week I will have my third round of chemotherapy.

Yesterday, I had two very special appointments, the first with my breast surgeon. A three month post surgery check up. She did a full exam, and said everything looked good. She told me that I was healing great and that she did not feel anything unusual. Not only is she the one who initially confirmed that my lymph nodes were clear after my surgery but she is the one that will walk with me for the next five years as count down until I am in the clear. My next follow up with her will take place in three months. I will then go to six month follow ups and then yearly. I will not have any scans, or mammograms (since I have no breast tissue) but she will do a thorough exam to see if she notices anything.

Rachel came with me as she has for so many appointments and sat with me. From the breast surgeon we went to an appointment with the plastic surgeon. A place that I once dreaded but today one place I look forward to visit. The nurses, of whom I have developed a relationship with have played their own role in my support system and it is always a joy to see them. My plastic surgeon is someone who I have an entirely different level of respect for. I am not a patient, a business transaction or a body but a person. A living and breathing person who he treats with care. Yesterday was an important meeting because I was able to plan for my reconstruction surgery. Based on my counts recovering from my last chemo treatment I should be having my reconstruction surgery end of April (this surgery is the removal of expanders to place implants). In addition to talking about the next phase, I had him take a look at one of the expanders that seems to have softened. He said that next week he would fill it again and see if it retains the saline. If there is a small leak taking place it is nothing to worry about, in that my body is just absorbing the saline. Overall he said that I have healed very well and that he is very pleased. I too am very pleased with how everything has progressed.

As for the rest of me, these days I am still exhausted. I am sleeping through the night but there seems to be never enough of it. I am hoping that over the next few days as my counts continue to bounce back, I will be re energized. My crackled hands, and often bloody nose are all lovely reminders of this medicine that destroys not just the cancer cells.

Last evening I shared coffee with an old coworker and talked about this journey of mine. There has been great comfort sharing this and just last night connecting with her was wonderful. She was once a cubicle distant neighbor from my first job out of college and today we find ourselves connecting over our lives stories.

Kara Tippets of whom I have spoken of, who is under hospice care and fading, posed the following questions on her blog today….

“What grace do you enjoy today that gives you the strength to get through, perhaps even thrive in the midst of your hard? How are you learning to press into Jesus when the hard edges of life come creeping in to your reality? How do you cling to and remember truth when the answers you desire don’t come? How can you know you are not forgotten when the story isn’t simple or easy? That’s all of us isn’t it?

I read these and wonder the same thing. What makes me cling. What allows me to keep going. Is it the gentle whisper of others nudging and cheering me on? Is the cards that fill my mailbox every day? Is it the timeline that is shortening?

To be honest I am not sure.

I know Sunday I cried watching as my sister opened gifts for the baby she is carrying. I smile looking at pictures of Avi and Austin that are at home from the hospital in California, with my cousin and his wife. Just last night I looked back at some pictures of my classroom in Honduras. I could feel the joy again that filled that room when we sang, danced or when we installed the basketball goal for March Madness and used paper basketballs to practice dunking like Lebron James. I was met with tears as my boss showed me pictures of baby furniture that has now filled a room that for so long sat empty, hoping and praying for a miracle.

It is these gifts.  These small joys, and big celebrations that invite me to keep going. To celebrate even the tiniest and faintest of things. Life is indeed learning to dance in the rain but also honoring the change that takes place in grief. My heart continues to be softened, to be filled and stripped away of things that I once thought mattered that do not anymore.

In the past few days I have finalized travel plans to be back in Kentucky to meet my nephew Brady for the first time. As well as my flight is booked to be at the Houston Rodeo after my last round of chemotherapy. I cannot believe I am almost over half way there.

May this find you enjoying the snow back in Kentucky (or wherever you are) or finding the quiet stillness a welcomed stranger. I am seeking patience in the waiting. Waiting and hoping for so much, but yearning to trust the larger narrative in it all.

Love Kristina

**** I am currently reading C.S Lewis A Grief Observed and have so enjoyed it….

“The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just that time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.”
C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

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