Monthly Archives: May 2015

Where do I go from here? That is the looming thought I have regarding this space. (truth is I still am not sure what this space will become)

At this particular moment I have come down with a terrible cold and cough. Two back to back weekends of traveling have finally caught up with me. I am exhausted. I think assuming that my body is back to where it used to be would be an unfair assessment. And the other part of that is that I am often pushing myself too much… and not taking the time to rest.

I am still really tired. I get a lot of hot flashes, night sweats  and know for certain my immune system is still lacking much. I need to be patient….

Next up on my cancer journey is a meeting with my plastic surgeon next week to assess my healing. Hopefully this appointment will get me cleared for more activity. Friday, I will be five weeks out from my last surgery. I am still taped across my scars and for the first time today changed that tape out. My meeting with my doctor should be another good opportunity to assess my options regarding nipple reconstruction. If I want to move forward with this or opt to not have them. There are a lot of options, things to consider and I am going to take my time assessing each one.

As for other news, life is starting to fill up, with busyness. I just shared with someone that I kind of missed the slow down that cancer forced. It was a different kind of slow but the pressure to always be out and about was not there. Now that I am starting to feel like me again I am having trouble finding the balance of wanting to get out and go do, all the while taking time to be still, rest and reflect.

This past weekend I was in Austin, Texas celebrating the wedding of Kylie, my old roommate from the time when I lived in Honduras. The weekend was a reunion of four of us who spent our year abroad teaching at a bilingual school in Central America. We laughed, danced, shared stories and cried. It was hard to believe it had been two years since I had seen Faye and Matt. If you remember Kylie flew out to Colorado to be with me just two weeks after my mastectomy last fall. There is this unspoken friendship, love and admiration I have for these friends. For their hearts. For their dreams. For them to go on and keep living lives that make them feel alive. Kylie and Shepards wedding was a beautiful, yet simple celebration that I was honored to attend.

While spending the weekend in Austin I began to think about the various communities of people I have in my life. My journey with cancer presented an opportunity for others to move closer to me. In a more intimate, special way. Some people I was unaware even knew who I was. These folks showed up in the form of flowers, blankets, gift cards, cards, and button up shirts. Saturday mornings spent where friends gathered to pray over me and my cancer journey. Colleagues of my parents, sending cards, writing letters, sending gifts, care packages, and inviting me to the Houston Rodeo. Dinners showing up at my house, others showing up to sit while I received treatment. Friends who picked up my mom at the airport. Rachel and Jameson who opened up their home to my family. Friends who took me to get my nails done, left flowers on the front step and delivered ice cream. My hairdresser who drank champagne with me while we cut my hair. Strangers who wanted to wish me well by buying me a glass of Pappy van winkle in a bar in Breckenridge. Gifts in the form of smiles. Of head nods. Strangers who wanted me to know I was beautiful still even without my hair. Friends who drove to Denver to simply walk with me, let me cry and let me pour out my heart. Others who simply wanted me to know that I was thought of, cared for and known. I have been overwhelmed by the out pour. So much at times I felt guilty unable to accommodate all the offers coming my way. Unable to keep up with the cards, the gifts, dinner invitations etc.

Please hear me that I have known love and how much I matter by the way each and every one of you have showed up and continue to show up.

There is nothing more that we desire as people than to be known and to know that we are loved in spite of that. I want to say Thank you for letting me be vulnerable, and for receiving my words and loving me in spite of it all. If you are someone who I have taken a long time to respond to or I did not take you up on your offer for food, visits etc. know that it is not because I did not want too, it is simply me trying to balance resting, appointments and work. Thank you for reminding me of Gods goodness. In that he is always providing even when we least expect him too. Thank you for providing.

Who else can you reach out to today to let them know that they matter to you?

I am looking forward to a weekend spent climbing mountains, bike riding and relaxing (assuming of course my cold is gone for good).

May you continue to pursue others in your lives that matter to you. Let them know they matter. Although I would not wish that it took cancer, if it was cancer that brought you all in to my story, to let me know I matter I could not help but be grateful for that.

What a beautifully humble experience.

Love Kristina

Here are a few of my favorites from the weekend.

I woke up this morning after another night of hot flashes and night sweats. Despite being told that these would be gone a few short weeks after chemotherapy completed, I am now ten weeks from my last treatment and they are as present as they were before. (worse in fact). You may ask what this may mean and let me explain….

The hot flashes and night sweats mean that I am still in what some say is “chemopause”. A sort of medically induced menopause that is caused by chemotherapy. As a pre-menopausal woman at only 27 years old, I was told that my ovaries should recover. Meaning they should wake back up and I should resume a normal menstrual cycle. However it appears that has yet to happen.

“It’s a difficult question to know whether someone’s menopause is temporary or permanent. For most women who get chemotherapy when they are less than 40 years old, they tend to get their periods back. There is data, however, that suggests women who get chemotherapy tend to go into an earlier menopause than they normally would. One of the ways that we can tell if someone is getting return of ovarian function is to do a blood test where we check someone’s estradiol level.” (Information found here)

I am starting to take a look at options on how to manage rather than remove the side affects since they do not appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. I am monitoring what I eat, the amount of caffeine I have, spicy foods etc. to see what may make them occur more frequently. I must admit that at times they do not bother but when I am in a public setting undressing in what is obviously a air conditioned place I am embarrassed and would rather bow my head and cry.

I was aware of the risk to my fertility prior to chemotherapy but I would be lying if all of the warnings seemed so far away. I was given two types of chemotherapy and “cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) has the strongest chance of causing infertility.” (Information found here).

You may ask the question, so if I go into permanent menopause than can I not conceive children in the future?

No.

Let me explain. It is true that if I am in permanent menopause all of my eggs are gone. I no longer have ovarian function. But you may remember that prior to starting chemotherapy I chose to go through the egg fertilization process. I have four eggs frozen. So I “can have frozen eggs or embryos implanted and carry a pregnancy.” You can read about that on my blog here.

I hope that this information does not come across as insensitive it is just this is very much the reality I live in. The things I have to deal with every day. But at some point I have simply stepped away and cannot worry over something I have no control over. Now I just simply embrace what is true and let the unknowns of the future be out in the future. I will meet back with the fertility doctor in six months to have a blood test drawn to see if I am in fact in permanent menopause or not.

As for me, my day to day these days is starting to fill with more work, still a lot of sleeping, resting and lots of undressing… 🙂 . I laugh every time someone gives me the tip for how to manage hot flashes by saying, “dress in layers”. I just want to say well yes of course, but how can I make THEM STOP.

Today has been a good day…. and it has barely started. I am starting to wonder over what this place will become in my journey to recover and heal. Also I will share an exciting event I am going to be apart of this Fall to raise money for Breast Cancer.

Thank you everyone for continuing to pray for me, think of me and be an incredible encouragement.

Love Kristina

**Also I am in love with my nephew and I already miss him very much in Kentucky.

“I know where you came from and the courage it took to step away from that history. I want you to know that I believe you are a very good man. Love your son Paul.”

What I did, was not anything I was trying to do. But I told my dad the truth of his being. His being. That he, beneath all the history, the bad choices, the devastation, behind that, deeper than that in all of that, he is a very good creation. Not depravity.

And not only that, its a new creation.

And not only that, if you think that you can make the way of your being, match the truth of your being and you believe the truth of your being is depravity than you are stuck. All you will be able to do is produce a righteousness that is performance based to cover up the fact that you really think of yourself as not good, that you are worthless, that you have never been worthy of being loved. That god only loves wretches.

Its not true. You were created in Christ.

The truth of my being and your being….. You are by nature a patient person, you are gentle, you are by nature kind, and you are by nature pure of heart.

If you want to participate in the transformation of your heart than you must start believing in the truth of your being.

_______________________________________

I listened to a message given by William Young, author of The Shack. Kind of by accident but turns out I kept listening and an hour later he concluded his message with the above. I found myself with tears in my eyes. If I am honest I am not really sure why. I have heard this countless times. That I was created in Christ. But this second part… this notion of believing it. It was as though I have heard this but I did not believe it myself.

When I was a senior in high school I was honored and chosen at the graduation speaker. I remember sitting with my beloved English teacher over lunch reviewing my speech. I remember thinking that I was the very last person who should be giving a graduation speech. I remember thinking I didn’t want to tell them to reach for their dreams, I mean I did want them to reach for them, but I did not want to give the cliche graduation speech. I just remember wanting them to know that they mattered. That they may not know me well, and I may not know them well but what I do know is that they mattered because they were here. Because they were someone. I would have loved to tell them that I thought it was God who loved them dearly, but I was at a public high school and I knew this would not be appropriate. Instead I thought I could share without using his name. I find sometimes that religion is difficult, churches are often even more complicated.  But the incredible beauty of the truth in our being is that we are not defined by man. Or by the churches many failed attempts at telling us we are loved. Or by our societies attempts at showing value.

We are valuable because we are his. And nothing we do, or do not do can change that.

I have been thinking about my graduation speech and what William Young wrote to his father. I realize now that the graduation speech I wrote was not for my classmates but was for myself. I was really telling myself  that I mattered and I needed to believe it.

The tears I shed while listening to his talk just last week, made me realize that I am not sure I have ever believed that to be true about myself…. or at least in the past few years I have forgotten.

In my journey to heal let me be the very first to say it has been a journey. In moments I am at peace with what has been, in seconds I am in tears unable to simply cope with the past several months. Anger is not the first thing on my tongue but heartbreak. I spend hours sometimes looking ahead out before me. About what life is to look like after this. Wondering over how my body will heal. I feel betrayed in many ways. Cancer does wonders to your mind. I still find it difficult to look at myself in the mirror.

And Cancer I realize has now uncovered this part of me that never actually believed that I mattered. That saw herself as less than. That in many ways felt broken. But the beauty of this journey is I have learned more intimately how well I am loved. Forgiveness I believe he has asked of me now. He is asking me to believe that I matter and know that you are loved by me. I am moving to this place and will continue to give myself the time, wisdom and love to do so. Because I believe he can do that.

Below are some of my favorite pictures from this weekend. More on meeting my nephew and the time shared with my family.

I remember it well, when my mom picked me up at work just after I received the phone call that I had breast cancer. I walked to my car, my mom in the drivers seat. My head hung. My tears frozen to my cheeks. My feet moving forward but yet my entire chest felt like it weighed a million pounds. I opened the door and looked my mom in the eyes. Her eyes frozen with fear. With the unknown. I kept my head hung and I began to weep.

The most paralyzing of fear I am certain brings one to tears. If you have ever watched in movies, tragedies, in times of war…. it is when the tears fall that you know things are at the worst. The paralyzing reality that we can do nothing about what is about to meet us. It is the unknown that brings us to cry.

My mom and I in our grief began to talk and share (much of which I do not remember) But I will never forget the one thing she said in the midst of tears…

“It should be me. It should be me.”

The display of a mother’s ultimate affection and love, in five words.

It should have been me.

That is what moms do. They want to take on the pain. They would if they could. And in that moment I knew not only would my mom take my cancer if she could but she felt as though she should. I know she felt as though the diagnosis should have come for her, not her daughter, not her twenty six year old daughter.

To fully understand it, my mom and I both share the BRCA 2 mutation that places us at high risk for breast cancer. Statistically we were told we are more likely to have breast cancer than not in our lifetime (60-80% chance). But for my mom she has never been diagnosed.

It was me, who just a month after learning of carrying the genetic mutation, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I write this today, on Mother’s Day to let my mom know that while I know you feel like “it should have been you”. I want you to know that it shouldn’t. It was me that was diagnosed with breast cancer and the role of mother alongside a sick child is a far greater role, harder role, more incredible role that you could have played, than being the one who was sick. 

Did you read that correctly?

You being the one who researched the best plastic surgeons in town, who called for a second opinion on my results, who helped me change my clothes when I was in recovery, who woke me up every three hours to make sure I had pain medicine, who helped me to the restroom, who flew out to Denver to be with me for each round of chemotherapy, who wiped my tears, who took me to buy a wig, who cleaned my house, who made meals, who drove me to work and who always reminded me that I was not alone.

That is the role you were made for. That is the role you play so well. And that is why I am on the other side of this cancer free.

So it should have never been you. It was supposed to be me. And you were always to be the mother at my side. Loving me so very well.

Happy mothers day mom. May you never say again that it should have been you. May you believe that you are and exactly how you should be. A mother who graciously watched her daughter battle breast cancer and loved me in the midst.

 

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Kristina-15

“My roommates are over here getting engaged and I am just over here getting cancer.”

I said that to coworkers this morning, laughing but it is the truth.

My dear roommate and her wonderful ginger bearded boyfriend got engaged on the beach in Morocco this past week. Truly I am so very excited for them. They are two people that upon dating it was obvious they were each others person. I was fortunate to have them cook up my birthday dinner after my mastectomy. Anyone in attendance to that meal would tell you of what a five star meal it was. These two love others well and together will probably rock climb all over the world, serve incredible meals for others, share countless micro brews and bourbons all while sharing who Jesus is. I am truly overjoyed for them both.

Last night over our kitchen table she and I talked about the proposal and their wedding plans in the coming months…. I filled her in on how I am feeling, what is next for me and what the doctors said. The juxtaposition of our lives was very apparent to me. I was reminded that while the world is moving on, friends are dating, planning weddings, traveling, I am living in a very different day to day.

I simply just want to get to the next day and that is an accomplishment.

It is so easy for my mind to tell me of all the things I am not doing because of cancer. Or to allow my mind to start making a list of all the things I am not participating in, because of cancer?

But what a lie that it is to buy into that….

So I can and will delight in my roommates engagement, as will she encourage me in my recovery. She gets it. We both get it. The different places we are. The circumstances in our lives at this time that allow us to celebrate as well as to grieve.

There is great freedom in her friendship. In allowing me to share, in getting to listen to her plans, her excitement….. and in receiving her prayers as I continue to recover.  The other thing I realized is that I am recovering and that takes some time. A lot more time than I had thought. But in that time it is a lot of fun to celebrate others joys.

Cancer tends to be so “me” focused that it is so nice sometimes to just hear about what is happening in others lives.

I am suffering from a cold which is crummy. Overall my appointments went well yesterday. I am healing well, some minor pain but overall lots of sleeping (more like attempts to sleep), horrible hot flashes, lots of movies and night sweats. My finger nails are going bye bye…. as in they are dead. I am just waiting for them to fall off now.

I am pleased to report though that I am no longer fighting the down time, I am embracing it.

If you need any reviews on cheesy Netflix chick flick movies… I am your girl. I have watched about 7 in the past week. 🙂

Happy Wednesday everyone
Love Kristina

*** Picture taken at the Cancer Center yesterday, covering up my cold to keep from others getting sick.

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