Monthly Archives: April 2015

I am home.

That was the text I received. My mom who flew in town one week ago is now back in Louisville. After caring for me, cleaning my house, fixing me meals, mulching our yard, planting flowers and holding my hand. I am left for the remainder of this week by myself, to rest and to allow my heart to slowly heal.

My words have not been much as the hurting has been far too great to express. Not a physical hurt. But the kind of hurt that is not mended by medicine, or food, or sleep.

The kind of hurt that simply heals with time.

My wounds are far greater than I knew. Much bigger than I led on to believe and they cut much deeper than I could have ever imagined them to do so. Just this morning while taking a brief walk, my tears streamed my face for all that the past seven months have been. I am simply overwhelmed. I am very tired and my ache is too great.

So I wish today only to share with you a letter I received in the mail from one of my second moms in Kentucky. She wrote me the letter as a response to my post regarding the little girl on her bike. You may read this post here.

Below is her letter:

____________________________________

Dear Kris,

I have been wanting to write you a letter for a long time. If its one thing I have learned, its to be patient and wait for the right time, then you’ll know what to say. 

I would like to address the girl on the bike. I knew that girl very well and I would like to add a few things:

#1 The girl on the bike had training wheels, why? I’ll never know. You would lean so far to the left, then to the right. Your mom and I would watch you and gasp, and just knew you were going to fall as you sped down the driveway.

What did I know back THEN…….

Those training wheels never balanced you. YOU Kristina, balanced yourself.

#2 The girl on the bike was someone who liked to travel. You forgot to tell your readers about your trailer. How you took a rope and tied your trailer AKA: Radio Flyer to your bike. The things you kept in your trailer were unbelievable. Baby buggy, blanket, books, plastic dishes, and of course, might as well bring along a friend.

What did I know back THEN…….

You always tried to prepare yourself for whatever lies ahead.

#3 The girl on the bike flew at great speed. She was destined to go somewhere. It may have been a small dead in street, but to you, it lead somewhere. It held purpose.

What did I know back THEN……

You have purpose,  You have destinations. You have determination.

Isnt it funny what all I know about the girl on the bike. All from a childhood not so long ago.

So when you see others riding their bikes through their childhood, remember yours, and know how happy I was to get a glimpse of where life would lead you with such great attributes.

____________________________________

*** I am the one on the right

Friday morning shortly after I wrote, my mom and I got in the car to head to the hospital. (5:30 am) We were some of the very first people to check in. It was a bit strange having been to this hospital just six months ago for my mastectomy. The routine is the same.  The pre-op routine is the same, they ask my height, get my weight, check my vitals, and place the iv. However this time my plastic surgeon came in, so he could mark me. I stood up without my robe on, while he took his blue pen and drew around my breasts.

He had already made the decision to go through my already existing scars across my chest in an effort to minimize their size. It was no surprize that he would be drawing there. Many of you may ask, is that not strange to have him drawing across my chest. To be honest it is not strange at all when you do not have feeling there. The only reason I knew that he was drawing on my chest was because I was cognitively processing it, not because I felt it.

As soon as I was all set, the nurse brought my mom and Ric (my dads best friend and Colorado Dad) back to see me and we waited. We soon learned that Dr. Williams wanted to make sure my white cell counts were still up (even though they spiked high the day before) before moving forward. We all knew that the only reason my counts were high (18) were as a result of the shot, not because my bone marrow was keeping up on its own. Unfortunately after my CBC was taken my number dropped back down to 12. (18 the day before) so we had to get approval from my oncologist to go ahead with surgery.

So the waiting began. Ric, my mom and I attempted to talk about anything else but what it would be mean if I had to postpone. Time slowly crept by. About a half hour later (8:00 am) we were given approval to move forward and they rolled me back to the ER room.

I am not sure I will ever forget being rolled back. The wave goodbye. (maybe hollywood dramatizes these scenes a bit too much for us sometimes). But for me it was a moment of final sigh.This could really be it.

I was ready, not really nervous but most of all just ready.

My surgery was a few hours long. I woke up in the recovery room and felt as though someone was sitting on my chest. I took my time resting here until they moved me to a final room where visitors could come back. The main goal in this room was that I had to go to the bathroom, keep some fluid down and they would let me go home. I was discharged around 1:00 pm.

As soon as I got home I fell back asleep while my mom went to the grocery store to gather food and things for me to have. I was pretty out of it the rest of the day and do not remember much.

My pain has been kept at a minimum which has been such a blessing. I am able to sleep through the entire night as well thank goodness. (maybe it is all the medicine). I am sleeping upright in my bed (unable to be on my sides). In regards to my healing it is hard to tell. I am wearing what may be one of my least favorite body suit (bras). Below is a picture of one similar. It clips across the front like a corset, has velcro over the shoulders and is to hold everything in tight. Keyword TIGHT. It is not very comfortable at all.

Bra copy

*** Every night I take this silly thing off to give my shoulders a rest, while my mom rubs my back. As well underneath my armpits (where I do not have feeling) I have found it digging into my skin ( I had no idea since I could not feel it).

I am taking this entire week off from work to rest and heal. I am not able to drive so long as I am on medicine.

I wish I could say this is the end but unfortunately once you join the Club (Cancer Club) it never really ends. Just yesterday, I had to go back into the hospital to receive another shot. I will be receiving these to keep my counts up, as my body heals and my scars heal. I am heading back to the hospital around 11:30 am this morning. To have my counts again checked. My mom is here with me and leaving Wednesday.

I am laying low as best I can. I am a terrible patient laying low but I know the more I move around the less likely my scars will heal. So bed rest is a must.

I have started my daily cocktail of drugs to aid in the healing: Bone Complex (aid my bone marrow exhausted from chemo), Vitamin B12, Biotin(Hair growth), Nail/Hair Gummies (Self explanatory), Valium (pressure on my chest), and antibiotic (Infection). Rogaine (Hair growth on my head). I have also made a few roller bottles with essential oils, immunity blend, a morphine bomb and a lavender/onguard mist to help with sleep. Soon I am going to start a set of multi vitamins from Doterra (essential oil company) to help repair the cells and will let you know how this goes.

As for my heart… it is difficult to articulate. Difficult to explain. The cloud I have been living under is still all around me. Seven months in some ways is one giant blur. I spent last evening reading through every card I have received over the past seven months and barely shed a tear.

Numb.

For now I am sure this will remain the same for a while and when the numbness wears off I will learn to give myself an enormous amount of grace, because i am certain it may be very difficult time. I am in robot mode again. Healing mode.

Below are some pictures of the last few days. I am sorry I do not have much more to report. Other than I am healing. But maybe more than anything, I am afraid. My doctor sent my scar off for pathology to make sure cancer was still not hanging around and very soon I have to go back to have my tumor markers checked. The never ending journey in some ways just began….

So I admit it. I am afraid.

I must go get ready, or rather have a wash cloth shower. Have a great Monday.

___________________________________________

Early morning walk Thursday morning, the day before my surgery…

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A picture of my fingers nails and the havoc that chemotherapy had on them. 

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Pre Surgery Room

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Picture Left: Macaroons sent to me from someone special, that I have already eaten all four of them.

Picture Right: Thousands of cards, literally that I have received since October when I was diagnosed.

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Mom and I are breakfast yesterday. The eyebrows and eyelashes I had been warned would fall out after chemotherapy. Well folks there you go…. they are nearly gone.

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Yes one of those cinnamon rolls is what we shared as our breakfast appetizer. If only Brittany Warren were here to share too.

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Early morning here at almost 5:00 am. I am checking in to the hospital at 5:30 am and surgery begins at 7:30 am. I am so very grateful that this day is here and what should be my final surgery/ big step in my breast cancer journey is almost complete.

I hope this finds you well, enjoying your Friday and please know that I cannot begin to express the love and support over the last seven months.

Love Kristina

I remembered this morning why walking into the cancer center alone is so very lonely. This morning I went to have my counts checked to get cleared before my scheduled surgery Friday. The usual…. the dreaded scale, the vitals, my temperature all checked. Shortly after I have to lay out my right arm, so the nurse can take my blood. All the same routine.

As soon as she took vials of blood the nurse let me know that my oncologist wanted me to wait to see if my number came up before letting me leave. While talking to my nurse navigator in the hallway and filling her in on how things were going, my doctor approached with my “stat sheet”. She went on to explain that my numbers were SLLLLLOWWWLYYY coming up.

Surprised….(it had been almost two weeks) I asked her what that meant and asked her if I was OK for surgery Friday?

She paused. She didn’t say anything…. for what seemed like a very long time. She then spoke up, clearly deep in thought and said I forgot you were going in this Friday. (In her defense this is my surgery with my plastic surgeon and not directly under the care of my oncologist).

Trying not to cry, as she was obviously unsure if this was OK, I just patiently waited for her to answer me….

She then said, “I need you to come in tomorrow, we will do labs again and probably give you a shot again to see if we can get your numbers up.”

Sigh…..

Of course, I do I thought. Not so good news and back in the hospital. Hard to imagine me every expecting good news anymore I thought.

So that is that. My mom flies in tomorrow whether surgery is happening or not. (I still think I should be OK for surgery).

And as for me…. cancer really stinks sometimes. And so does a schedule/ day timer/ planner/ calender that is filled with doctors appointments. So very tired of them.

Here is to hoping surgery is still a go and dreaming of warm summer days that include climbing mountains, adventures on my road bike…. and celebrating Kylie and Shep’s wedding in Austin and weddings under the stars by the lake this summer in Idaho.  I am ready to run away 🙂

But the best part of all, my nephew is welcoming his face to the world in just two WEEKS!

Praying for patience, hope and more patience today

“That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had his hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel,
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it –
books, bricks, grief –
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled –
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?”
Mary Oliver

 

Ever since Kara’s funeral I find myself reading Mary Oliver’s poems. I must admit I never really read poetry before. I remember so well in grade school, poetry being confusing. Being hard to read. But Mary Oliver seems to write the very words I have trouble to say.

I love this poem. Because so much of what she is saying is how I feel.

Grief. Not the absence of it. Not the giving of it away. Not ignoring it. But rather moving into the grief. Allowing it to take presence in you. Allowing it to be alive and well in you. Maybe even so giving grief a bit of power to bring you to newness. To teach you something.

Ultimately allowing grief to bring you to joy.

What grief have you ignored? What would opening up yourself to your grief give you?

I pride myself often for my independence and thus I lend myself to being particularly stubborn.

Cancer does not allow me to carefully carry my grief in such a way that it is hidden. My grief pours over into every aspect of my life, making things messy, making this complicated and thus making me vulnerable.

My grief spilled into the church pew while sitting next to a couple with newborn twins. Holding them in their hands and singing songs into their ears as the acoustic guitar played Amazing Grace. As though God had a sense of humor and I was not in on the joke. I found my seat in the pew first. And in a large church with many open seats, this family chose the seats at the end of my row. My eyes could not look away. My eyes could not hide tears. Grieving. Fearing. All right there at the end of my row. My tears fell to my lap as my fears began their narrative in my head and I began to ask the dreaded questions. Do I get to one day have that? Will I hold my own in my hands? Will I know the intimacy that is found in another when I do not have feeling in a large part of my chest? Will someone love me with my scars?

Forgive my candidness but this is simply how I feel and far often these things are not spoken of.

But as Mary Oliver so eloquently says, it not the weight you carry but how you carry. So allowing my fears and grief to be recognized. Naming my fears. Allowing myself to grieve.

The days when I can’t seem to turn on the tv without a commercial that bring me to tears. Or when someone asked me if I dated. I politely laughed. Dating? I don’t have hair, I said. It is like showing up at work in sweat pants I explained, you wouldn’t do that. Besides have a lot of other things that are taking priority, there are two problems with “dating” right now. One is that maybe someone I would date knows me, knows the story but that is often the topic of conversation, cancer. So the alternative would then be to date someone that does not know, but the problem then is, they do not know. Again the grief, the fear. Will I date again? Will someone find my fuzzy bald head beautiful still? How would they even begin to handle or understand? There are many days I seem to be caught in the “what I do not have anymore” rather than what I received in return.

It is often spoken of in the cancer world, that cancer cannot take from me. I could not agree more. Cancer does not take but it gives.

While I continue to grieve the loss and the heartache of the past seven months I am moving to a place of honoring the gifts. The way my heart is softer. The way my heart moves to celebrate the littles. The simplicity that meets me even right now this Sunday morning. I find myself drinking a green smoothie and a cup of coffee, still in my pajamas in my bed. I just spent a few minutes evaluating my finger nail that seems to be hanging on by merely a thread (sorry if that is gross). My body still ravaged by chemo side effects and some effects that are just now revealing themselves. (eyebrows are still shrinking and thinning).

 

The beauty in the carrying of the grief and the hard is that one is then able to appreciate the gifts.

While I am confident my fears and my grief will continue to move to a place of joy, it will take time. That is perhaps why my fears no longer get to hold the power that they once had. In those moments I recognize them. I see them. I even go so far as to name them. But I then, move forward. Honoring who I am. Honoring the heart that cares and desires so much for things. Honoring that just like my story of cancer was unpredictable and unexpected so is my future. I realize that more gifts, more grief and more fear will come but with that comes more joy. More life. More living and I am sure very soon, dating too.

But for today there is the great pleasure of being grateful for grief. That I would even care so much that I would cry… what I blessing that is.

Have a wonderful Sunday morning everyone.