Monthly Archives: December 2015

A new year is often a time of new beginnings, fresh starts and resolutions…. but what happens when looking back is so overwhelming you are a bit afraid of a new year starting. When the past year was  filled with heartache, celebrations, surgeries and changes that the new year with all of its unknown seems a bit scary.

If you are like me I kind of hate the new year resolution trend. I hate the notion that we mark a new year with endless to dos and expectations that often come up short. I would so much rather look forward with hope. Hoping to simply be around for whatever comes my way.

Maybe that is why my week has been hard… and overwhelming. I am afraid of the new year but more than anything overwhelmed by the last.

 

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(Taken in January of 2015)

This time last year I was preparing for my first round of chemotherapy. By the end of January my hair fell out and the physical characteristics of being a cancer patient began to take place. I went into  menopause and stayed up late in the evenings with hot flashes, insomnia and night sweats. By the middle of March I was already on my fourth round, and spent days in the hospital receiving shots and nights praying over blood counts that I hoped would come up. I finished my last round of chemotherapy on March 19 and flew to Houston, Texas to celebrate with my parents at the Rodeo. Shortly there after my grandmother passed away suddenly and I flew back to Indiana to celebrate her incredible legacy. April was a surgery month when I received my permanent implants and said goodbye to the dreaded expanders. May 10 we welcomed my nephew to the world when my sister and Josh celebrating Brady Warren’s arrival. June was marked with weddings and enjoying the new hair growth on my head. The beginning of July I flew to Mccall, Idaho to celebrate two dear friends wedding. August, I celebrated again my cancer journey by spending a week in Cabo San Lucas with three of my best friends. The summer faded to fall as I struggled to adjust to tamoxifen and the many side effects. I took two work trips to Vancouver and Napa Valley before celebrating my cancerversary by running in the Rock N Roll Denver Half Marathon in October. I was honored to be the keynote speaker at the 2015 Karens for the Cure and walked in my very first Susan G Komen Race for the Cure as a survivor. November I had yet another surgery, a small revision to my breasts, took a brief visit to the ER and slowly began to heal. December brought joy as I looked forward to the holidays and spending time with my family. And that brings me to today….

Today New Years Eve has found me in tears. Just yesterday at work I was speaking with some coworkers as they asked what my plans were for tonight. My eyes filled up with water and said I was not sure. That to be honest I have been taken back by this holiday as it has been a reminder of this year. I explained that I honestly couldn’t believe that I survived it at all.

Survivor. The new label I get for beating cancer as so many say. For “surviving”.

Tomorrow I will give myself another chance at taking Tamoxifen. After speaking with my doctor she indicated that without this medicine I am left with a 25% chance of my cancer returning. With the medicine I can drop that to 15%. I agreed it was worth another chance but I am prepared to abandon it for good should the side effects be too much to bear again.

So while the new year looms ahead I am praying for more good days, more joy, more patience and hopefully by the grace of God for my cancer to never return again.

From the very bottom of my heart I would like to thank you for journeying with me this past year. For showing me God’s incredible grace in the ways you have showed up for me. For the countless meals, gifts, celebrations, accompanying me to the doctor and for your prayers. I could have never done it without you. Even in the midst of it all I think God is incredibly good and that gives me incredible comfort.

Happy New Year

Love Kristina

 

“We want suffering to be like pregnancy—we have a season, and it’s over, and there is a tidy moral to the story.” I’ve come to sense that isn’t what faith is at all. What if there is never an end? What if the story never improves and the tests continue to break our hearts? Is God still good?”
Kara Tippetts, The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard

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(Just taken over the holidays with my nephew)

 

A few days ago I interviewed with the Denver Post about my friend and fellow Breast Cancer survivor, Junko Kazukow. The post is writing a story on her amazing accomplishment of being both an Leadwoman (completing the Leadville Trail 100 mile run, Leadville 10K race, Leadville 100 mile Mtn. Bike race, Silver Rush 50 mile Run and Leadville Marathon) as well as completing the “Grand Slam” of Ultra Running. (Four 100 mile races in one season). To say she is incredible would be an understatement.

I found myself sharing about my friendship with her and what it meant to finish the Leadville 100 with her just months after I myself completed chemotherapy. As I spoke I began to cry. She is just one example of so many people that walked into my life during the past year. The journalist over the phone asked me, what was next for me then? Now that I had beat cancer and just did a half marathon and sky dived to comemorate my anniversary. She said so what was next? I paused, thought for a second and began to explain that I had hoped to bike more or maybe do a triathlon. As I spoke I interrupted myself and then said, “To be honest right now, it is such a gift to wake up and be here, that I could do nothing at all and it is really special to be alive”

After the interview, I hung up the phone and wiped my tears. I pondered what I said and thought more about it. For so long I felt pressure that since I beat cancer that I should  go and do and never stop (live like your dying mentaility). Don’t get me wrong, I still hope and dream for a lot but I have never felt so certain that even in the mundane, in the simple of what is today that that in and of itself is an incredible gift and worthy of a celebration.

As I pack to fly home tomorrow, I could not be more excited to spend time with family and friends, hold my nephew, watch sports with my dad, go on walks, decorate gingerbread houses, watch the Louisville basketball team play and meet my god daughter.

I am happy to announce that I had my follow up with my oncologist yesterday and my tumor marker levels came back normal. I go again in three months but am grateful that I remain cancer free. I also got up skiing last weekend (for the first time since cancer), in inches of powder, and it was like riding a bike. It may have been a while but my legs picked up right where they left off (just a little slower).

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all of you.

Love Kristina

Below are some pictures of the Team Junko dinner we had celebrating her accomplishments and the surprise snow day we had.

Older picture of Junko and I when I was going through chemotherpy.

Junko’s Leadville 100 Run Metal

Just shy of a foot of snow!

Zoolander pose and my crazy hair (trying to catch up to my roommates).

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I remember this time last year. Meeting with the fertility doctor to discuss the short time frame that I had before me to harvest eggs. I decided pretty quickly that I did not want to do it. I remember arguing my position to my dad on the phone. I was sitting in my car as tears fell. I remember that morning frustrated. More than anything I was frustrated that I had to make the choice to begin with.

So my initial reaction was to not deal with it by choosing not to do it. But turns out not doing something is a choice. I eventually came around to decide after some wise words and love from others around me that I should atleast give it a shot. Give myself the chance to have the option later in life to have children. As of today I do not know if I am sterile or not. I know that my menstrual cycle has returned but this does not mean that I still have eggs, or that I would be able to conceive. So in a medical office in Littleton, Colorado are four eggs that the doctors extracted from me. I still reflect back on that time and tears fill my eyes. A choice I never wanted to make I had to and I did.

To be honest that has been what much of the past few months have been like. Looking back unsure how I did all of that. How for ten days I had my blood drawn and a vaginal ultrasound before going into work. Last year this season was hard. It brought about a lot of grief and many many tears and I must say the newness that is this year has brought on is refreshing.

For my family we have had a busy last few months. On November 5, I had a revision done to my breast implants and I have recovered well. I saw my plastic surgeon yesterday and he is very pleased.

I also share this with a heavy heart as I realize that I am nearing the end of my cancer road and for me that kind of scares me. There is comfort in seeing doctors, appointments, and having surgeries. By still seeing a doctor, it feels as though you are doing something and it seems to make living “beyond” cancer less scary. I have an appointment next week with my oncologist regarding my choice to no longer take, Tamoxifen. If you could pray over that appointment I would appreciate it. I do not want to go back on the drug and know that I will be strongly advised too. I have some decisions to make regarding preventative breast cancer care over the next few years and I am a little unsure of what to do.

I also ask that you life up my dear friend and fellow cancer fighter Jenna Maddux in Louisville, who is being operated on at this very moment. Her brain tumor has returned for a third time. She enduring a long journey  seems to be knocked down just when she is being brought up.

Of course then there is me complaining because I am scared to be a survivor. Like a fellow cancer blogger said here : “A headache will never just be a headache, and my worry is forevermore.  Although, I’m sure as the years go by (and hopefully, the years do go by!) these feeling will dull.  It’s a little intense, I know, and that’s why I haven’t been around.”

I promise though… I want to write more. Writing I have learned has more to do with me and less about the audience reading. I am taking each day in stride and trying my best to be present in the midst of all that I feel as I celebrate anniversary dates upon anniversary dates of the past year. It is still strange to me to be labeled a “cancer survivor”. And as for my newly constructed breasts, I am still slow to accept them, but I can confidently say I look in the mirror a little bit more these days (than I have before). I have a decision to make regarding nipple reconstruction/ tattooing but I am going to wait several months for that.

In the mean time I am soaking up the season, trying to rest when I get the chance and looking forward to flying home next Saturday for the holidays.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season.

Love Kristina

 

Post – Egg Harvesting – a lot of tears.