This Thursday is my 29th Birthday. I was just telling my mom in a conversation over the phone, that I can’t believe it. I can’t believe that I am that old… she agreed. You could tell though somewhere in the middle of our conversation we shared the same thought. Not only can we not believe that I am this old but we can’t believe that I get to be here for one more birthday.
That is one of those things that happens after cancer. You start to realize how much of a privilege it is to grow old. How special it is to celebrate your birthday.

For as long as I can remember I never imagined not growing old. From early childhood people began to ask, “Kristina What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you hope for?”. And let me tell you I had answers. I was going to get married. Have kids. At one point I think I wanted to be an astronaut. I wanted to be a sportscaster. The list goes on and on. And today if you ask me what I wanted to be when I grow up the answer is a little simpler….

I just want to be here. Be present for whatever comes my way. I want to follow my heart even if it gets me in trouble. I want to love others well.

So this year I could not think of a more special way to honor my birthday than by asking others to give back with me. As many of you know several years ago I lived in Honduras. In the little town that we lived was a home of all girls. The home named, The Eternal Family Project. This home exists to provide a forever family to orphaned children. By providing a safe, loving home, spiritual leadership, balanced nutrition, bilingual education and proper healthcare the EFP is breaking the cycle of poverty that hundreds of thousands of children in Honduras are born into.

A few months ago I reached out and asked how I could help. Through a few email exchanges they asked if I would like to sponsor Birthdays for 2017 for all of the girls. You see with 29 girls in the home it is far too costly and difficult to buy them a gift. So she asked if I would like to arrange for one special gift to be purchased unique for each girl and shipped down there. So without hesitation I agreed! Over the past few weeks I have over 30 people have jumped in to help make this happen. This Friday I am having a birthday party to gather, wrap and prepare the gifts. Then next year as each girl celebrates her birthday she will be given her gift.

You may be reading and ask can if there is any way you can help? The answer is yes. If you would like to contribute towards the shipping cost for this I would be so grateful. I have already received $25.00 but as you can imagine I am estimating close to $200.00 to get this to Central America. Any money that is collected beyond the shipping cost will then be donated directly to the orphanage. If you are interested please contact me at kmschermer@gmail.com. I also have venmo and payal!

The other way you can help is to simply do an act of kindness in your community. Maybe it is that person that has been on your heart for sometime? That person on the street corner every day? Your family member you forgot to call? Or that older woman or man that live down the street? Do me a favor and love others well. (I would love to hear what you do also).

Cheers to More Years and Turning 29!

 

I have two pictures that I took the day before my mastectomy. I hardly ever look at them. It is strange to look at them and it makes me cry. They stir up this emotion that I have often tried to avoid. But this morning I took a look (two years ago Friday I took the pictures)

I had never taken topless photos before (now I have taken hundreds, thank you cancer). But I realized rather in panic at the surgeons office that if I did not take a picture that day I would have nothing to look back at. So I did. The photo is pretty funny to see. I am making a goofy face, probably to hide the fact at how odd I felt taking a photo topless and I have purple pen marked all around my chest, indicating where the doctor would cut.

That is what makes me the most sad. A part of my body that became merely place of sorrow, a place I became afraid to look at. The lines indicated that cancer was there. A small x marked on my left breast (cancer side).

The morning of my surgery I won’t ever forget. I was in the shower. I looked down. Cried as the water rushed over me. I remember  looking up letting the water cover my eyes, trying to convince myself to pull it together. I think it was a plea. A plea to the God that I was certain was faithful and good but that this part of the story I just simply did not understand. I pleaded in fear. I was afraid. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but things were going to be ok. I wasn’t sure how or what “OK” would look like but it was. It was going to be “OK”.

I only write these words today to say that it is ok if you are not understanding some part of your story. If your story you wish you could somehow change. If you are pleading that things would be different. Maybe it is that that certain someone is no longer around, if that job you felt called too did not come through, if you find yourself alone in the evenings wondering how to do another day, if you feel defeated. If that child you so depsperatley have longed for has yet to show their face.

I may not know your story but I know what it is like to plea asking why your story is the way that it is.

Give yourself some permission. Some grace. Its ok if you don’t understand.

Some things we just are not meant to understand.

“The depths are what make the heights so beautiful”

-Kara Tippets

This past weekend I had the honor of wearing a survivor shirt and walking in the Denver Race for the Cure with my mom and friends. While my mom and I stood in the survivor tent area waiting to meet our group….. I saw her. She was not very far away from me, a little older than I, but she had a fuzzy bald head (like a peach). She was probably a month or so out of treatment. I wasn’t sure, but when I looked at her my heart sunk. She had a stroller of little ones and a man at her side that I assume was her husband. But I just looked at her. While I stared, she carried a smile on her face, held her baby, and continued on as though everything was normal. I thought to myself how difficult it must be, how heartbreaking it must be for her with kids and a husband.

As I stared at her, I began to realize that this must be how others felt when they looked at me. A bit of sympathy, then heartbreak, then gratitude for the life they have. Because that is how she made me feel. Sadness? Sure. Heartbreak? Absolutely. Immense gratitude? It was overwhelming.

Thank you survivor stranger for helping me feel a small bit of how others felt when I was sick.

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If you are like me you have probably never thought about when you would die. To be honest for a long time, I hadn’t either …. that was until I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember shortly after I learned that I had breast cancer I began to think to myself “This makes sense why I would get sick now. I have traveled the world, I graduated college, lived on my own, lived in Europe, I have experienced the love of a third world country, I have seen some of the worlds most famous sporting events, I have skied some of the most beautiful mountains, I don’t have children to leave behind, it was just me…. It made sense. It was going to be ok. I had a FULL life so it was time. It only made sense that I would die at 27.”

Repeating this to a friend just yesterday I realize how crazy that sounds. But what I realize now is that in saying that to myself, I was justifying my cancer to make it easier to understand. I wanted anything to make sense as to why I was diagnosed when I was. By reflecting on all that my life had been up to that point, made it easier to embrace my cancer and more improtantly prepare for death.

As the story goes my cancer was caught early and I am still here. For whatever reason death was not the end of my cancer story and for that I am grateful. I have also began to embrace the fact that while my cancer took so much, it gave even more. For the woman who was bald that I saw from afar at the race, I am proud to be a survivor sister who was once bald too. I am even more proud to be alive, with a full head of hair today.  My hope in remembering my second cancerversary tomorrow is to be grateful for the season that was having cancer, and especially for the new season without it.

I found this quote and thought it seemed appropriate so I shared it on my Instagram:

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Life is indeed unpredictable like breast cancer, losing your breasts, fertility treatments, years of abusing my body with an unhealthy relationship with food. But it is also full of new leaves, new hope, more tommorows, lots of tears brought on by joy, little nephews, adventures, friendship and gratitude. I can’t believe it will be two years tomorrow since I was diagnosed. #hope #breastcancer#survivor

Thanks for journeying with me the past two years. Here is to many more years of SURVIVORSHIP!

 

As many of you know my interview about online dating and breast cancer took place with Glamour Magazine and was published in the October issue released this month. I really appreciate all of you who have gone out of your way to purchase and read the article.

In preparation for an interview that is scheduled tomorrow, I spent some time reflecting on my entire story. The most logical thing to do first was to look back at pictures. Makes sense right?

But a strange thing occurred to me as I looked at the photos of my cancer journey…

The photos only tell half the story…

  • They don’t capture the night I was up all night sweating and dealing with insomnia.
  • Or the night I realized it was snowing outside and I stood outside until the night sweats disappeared.
  • They don’t show the evening I ran to my room while my roommates hosted a dinner party and I crawled down on the floor and cried over how much it all hurt.
  • They don’t show you when my parents and I parked the car in an empty parking lot because we had no idea what to do after we had just heard the most devastating of news.
  • They don’t show my head laying on my desk in my cubicle at work as I cried myself through the work day hoping nobody would hear.
  • They don’t show when I laughed at my friends as they painted my nails for me while I was drugged on medicine.
  • Or when I showered for the first time after surgery. Closing my eyes under the water as my drains were held up by a necklace around my neck.
  • There are no photos of the shots I got after each round of chemo, or the visits to the cancer center where I was sat reflecting by myself.
  • Or when my company surprised me during our staff meeting with several thousand dollars and I cried (big tears) in gratitude
  • They have never shown the change in my heart either….
  • Photos don’t capture the devastation on my face as I learned that I only retrieved four eggs when I went to harvest my eggs.
  • They don’t show the countless remedies I tried to minimize my scars (Nerium, oil, scar tape etc.)
  • The bottles of wine I drank in hopes I would feel something different.
  • The time I stood at my grandmother’s funeral bald and all donations were given in my name to Komen.
  • Or the time I took a spin class bald as a cancer patient could be determined to prove my own body wrong.
  • Or the times I cried myself to sleep.
  • Or the hundreds of people that walked through my front door on any given day to bring food, take me on a walk, bring me flowers or simply say hello.

I am not saying this becuase I wish I had photos of these moments becauase honestly they would probably be hard to look at…. The only thing I wish for is to tell the whole story. Grief, devastation and heartbreak are very real emotions that should be granted the same permission as those moments that recieve the limelight and the photos. Let’s be honest some of my most tender moments in my life are the ones that have been full of tears.

May all the moments even those not captured in photos be the most precious of memories that mold you more in the person you are to become. I so believe this to be true.

Below are some photos that I never shared….

 

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Many of you read a while back that I took up the game of golf. You might be thinking why in the world would you do that? Trust me I sometimes ask myself that too. But my only answer is

It is something I have always said I wanted to do.

It was an idea… planted in my heart, that was a gift after cancer… What happens if there is no time to do the things I want? What if this is it? So I quickly began to imagine all the things I have always wanted to do. Some may call this a bucket list but I wanted to look at more simply. What things in my every day have I always wanted to do? This is where my brain began to compile things……

The first on my list was to learn to play golf. So guess what I did ? I signed up for golf lessons. I smile each time I step on the tee box… then of course focus. I accomplished something I had always wanted to do. I wanted to play golf with my dad and  over Fourth of July I got to do that. Since I started in May, I have played nearly once a week and continue to see improvement. I bought new golf shoes and remember my very first Par. As many of you golfers may know it is one of the most challenging of games, but somehow it keeps me coming back for more. Here is to a lot more fairways hit straight and perfect puts. Oh and I am now on the committee for the 2017 Indian Tree Golf Club Rally for the Cure. (golf and raising money for breast cancer patients). Count me in!

The next thing on my list was to get in my community more. I was unsure how this would play out but it was to simply be open to more opportunities to pour into the community in which I live. Whether that be by being a good neighbor, serving at the Denver Rescue Mission or opening my eyes to see others in need. I must say this has been the most rewarding of all. I look forward to more ways this becomes a reality in my every day.

“Just keep swimming, just keep swimming”…. Those are the words I repeat in my head each time I get in the pool. I have always wanted to be on a “Masters Team”. Masters team, simply means adult swim team. I have wanted this so much that a few years ago I researched all the teams in Denver, attended practice of one and felt intimidated.  Flash forward to a few weeks ago when a friend from the gym urged me to come to the masters practice. She and her husband promised that I would have a good time and despite my pride feeling crushed because I would be slow… that I needed to start somewhere. So I showed up. I have now officially joined the swim team and learned to swallow that pride. I even have a new friend (she is 63 years old) that I try and keep up with. Trust me she is good. In due time I tell myself in due time.

The last thing I will mention was my desire to get into a women’s bible study. The hardest, scariest of all of the above. It demands me to be vulnerable. It requires commitment and it could mean a lot of truth telling. Well I guess I got what I bargained for and some more. This summer I completed my first full bible study (meaning book cover to cover) ever. Trust me I have been in my fair share of bible studies, but always seemed to find an excuse, not enough time for homework and simply half assed it (whoops talking about bible study). I am a work in progress but aren’t we all.

I share all of these things only to ask you one question….

What have you always wanted to do? 

Learn to cook, get up early, call that friend, see that movie, bake that pie, invite them over, learn that sport…. oh the possibilities but seriously….

What have you always wanted to do?