This past weekend I had the honor of standing alongside 14 other women to celebrate, cry and laugh about our breast cancer stories. The 15 of us were selected to be the 2016 Ford Models of Courage Denver.

“This year, Ford Warriors in Pink is showing its dedication to everyone touched by breast cancer by creating an army of warriors in select cities across the country. They’re called Models of Courage (MOCs). And they are patients, survivors, thrivers and co-survivors ready to help us empower those currently in the fight.  Not only will our MOCs help raise awareness and funds for the cause, they’ll also help bring good days to those in the breast cancer community. Since bad days are all too common for patients, survivors and caregivers alike, it’s more important than ever to create better ones. And the more MOCs we bring together, the more good days we can give.

We spent the weekend at the Ritz Carlton, connecting, laughing, drinking wine and sharing about how we as a collective group of survivors can give more good days to others battling breast cancer. As you could have guessed I was the youngest in the group by 14 years. I will be honest I was not sure how the weekend would go, would I feel out of place? Would I feel like my story was so different compared to theirs?

Lucky for me I was wrong.

After a weekend spending time with each of them, I learned that breast cancer is the great equalizer. All of sudden sitting amongst women who could be my mother or grandmother we shared one common theme. We fought the same fight. We all had breast cancer and in turn we became different women.

I am not sure why I was so surprised by this but we cry over so many of the same things. We break out into sweats. We start undressing as the next hot flash occurs. We struggle with talking about it or sometimes talking too much about it. We discuss our scars, our nipple-less breasts, how we lost our hair, how we shaved it when we did and what we are most afraid of in the future. I was so honored to laugh, cry and share with them. But most of all grateful for how they accepted me as a friend. As a fellow survivor.

I look forward to sharing more of what our year will look like as we seek to educate, encourage and support the fight against Breast Cancer through Ford Motor Company’s Warriors in Pink. I did ask for a Pink Mustang 🙂 sadly that is not one of the perks.

My encouragement to you is never let age keep you from connecting with others around you. Accept age as a number and seek to connect with those younger and older. You never know what you could give to someone else? You never may know how much you have in common? Step out and be comfortable with the uncomfortable. These women, while yes for many of them I could be their daughter……  are now a new circle of friends and I am grateful.

For more information on Ford Warriors in Pink and how you can get involved click here: www.warriorsinpink.ford.com

See some of my favorite pictures from the weekend below!

 

One year ago today I took my last dose of chemo. I bid farewell to cancer and started to move forward….

Or so I thought I did….

I never imagined after that day would be months of tears, days of sadness, hopelessness and fear. I never imagined that I would wish my cancer to come back. I could have never dreamt to be so afraid of the future, but I was. Cancer had become my reality. My appointments became my safety net. And when someone told me to go and live I felt paralyzed. I longed for cancer to return so that I could feel safe again. The world being cancer free overwhelmed me.

I didn’t know how to process it, discuss it or grieve it…

Over the last year, with a lot of patience, a lot of prayer, a lot of friends, a lot of family, counseling and some medicine I am so proud to be where I am today. I am proud to say it feels so good to be Living.

To be doing life.

May today meet you where you are at. May you have the patience to accept the story you never wanted and start living in the middle of it. Celebrate those near, honor those who have passed and be so proud of yourself. They say that life is a gift. What an honor it is to be given more days.

Thank you for celebrating with me. Happy One Year of being CANCER FREE.

 

“Therefore the Lord waits [expectantly] and longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; Blessed (happy, fortunate) are all those who long for Him [since He will never fail them].” – Isaiah 30:18

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I have almost completed two months of taking Tamoxifen (again) and am still feeling very well. I cannot tell you what a blessing that is to say. Besides the occasional sweating and hot flashes I am tolerating the medicine much better this time around. My hope is to remain on Tamoxifen for the next five years to lower my risk of reaccurance from 25% to 15%. Thank you for praying and thinking of me. I am very grateful and while many have asked that I write more often I must say I am grateful I have little to share these days.

I have been busy living and reflecting on my cancer journey no longer holds the place that it did before.

My hope for you is that whatever circumstance you find yourself in today, may you one day be able to look back and smile knowing you made it through. Because I smile a lot more today than I did this time last year.

Today I am tired from staying up too late, eating lots of yummy food, sore from my Monday workout and have a slight headache from the headband I am wearing. Yep you read that right a headband. I have enough hair to pull it back. (perhaps if I tried maybe a small ponytail). All of these things were things I could have never celebrated last year.

Next Month, March 19, 2016 I will celebrate 1 year of being Cancer Free and my last day of chemo! I am very much looking forward to that.

And to now leave you with something funny, I realized that I never shared my wig pictures from the day my mom and I went shopping for one, and thought it might make you smile! Enjoy!

wig

 

I was asked  to write a letter to someone recently diagnosed with breast cancer… I immediately said I would be honored to do so. Days passed since I accepted the request and the more I thought about it, I couldn’t seem to come up with the words. What would I say? Why should I say something at all? The more I thought about it, the harder it seemed to write. So I didn’t.

Now today, January 12, 2016 I have decided to write that letter;

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Dear Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer Patient, 

I don’t think I should be writing to you,  because if I am honest I never imagined I would have cancer.  I am certain you never thought you would either. I know that this letter addressed to you does not seem like you should be the one reading it. The words patient and survivor are words spoken about others, not to you. I wish I could tell you that you get used to being called that. Or  that one day you will feel like you belong in the cancer club but if I am honest you never do. Its the club you are in that you never wanted to be apart of. The club you show up too but somehow you wonder why they let you in. You look around at the other members and think wow they are so much more qualified than I. You say things in your mind about how hard it must be for them, never realizing that you yourself are one of them. So that is where I start.

You have cancer and believe it or not it is the most beautiful heartbreaking journeys you will ever encounter.

For whatever reason your story is being written without your input, it is being written just as it should because the truth of our stories is they are never up to us. I believe that there is a God that loves you and I both and in the depths of our heartbreak, our stories are still really incredible. Breast Cancer included. 

So while you are living this nightmare I would encourage you to trust it. Try not to fight it. I can assure you even in your deepest hurts you are being made into something new. You get the tremendous privilege of living on the edge of life and while it remains scary it is one of the most beautiful ways to live. 

Try not to miss the moments when others show up on your step and offer to help. Allow others to move closer to you. I can promise you that while it may seem suffocating it is the only way you will be able to make it through. It is really special to do life on the wings of others. I urge you to do so. Take flight on the wings of those around you. Close your eyes and allow others to carry you through. Life is really beautiful that way.

When it comes to taking care of yourself give yourself the gift of respect by being present with your feelings. You will feel angry, sad, cry, laugh and cry some more. Allow the tears to fall, the laughter to fill a room and the silence to be the gift of a moment. 

I could tell you tips on surviving chemotherapy, a masectomy, how to use scar tape, tell you what it is like to loose your nipples, or to feel like you lost your femininity but none it matters if the cancer journey passes and you missed it. I have no other recommendations to offer than urge you to allow your story to be the beautiful story that it is. Believe that even heartbreak and sorrow can show you life in the most tender of ways. I believe God loves you so very much and I can assure you, that you will never ever be alone in this journey. 

Thinking and praying for you as your journey begins, 

Love Kristina (A 28 year old breast cancer survivor)

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  “Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or death.” (Philippians 1: 19-20)

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)