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.

I learned one year ago… that I mattered. That not only did I matter to those near, I mattered to those far, those I encountered briefly and more importantly I mattered to the creator of the universe.

I remember waiting to go back for my surgery, my parents  fighting back tears as their youngest daughter just shy of her twenty seventh birthday was being taken back to have her cancer removed.

I however remember feeling encouraged, calm and ready. But I remember looking in my parents eyes and was unsure if they were going to be ok. I wrote my parents a card to open when I went back for my surgery. I wanted them to be encouraged as I was. In more than a few words I reminded them that they raised me to be strong. That I was their daughter after all and this moment while nothing we planned for was something I was going to be able to do. I wanted them to trust that everything was going to be ok and that I knew that I was loved. I wanted them to know that I was so sure of my future as I ever had been and that even if the surgery did not go as we had hoped, that their were plans laid out for me that were far more than I could have ever imagined.

Those words have remained true to this day. The journey at times seems long. But I feel incredibly honored and humbled that I was chosen to walk the story of cancer, and now wear the badge of survivor. This past weekend a college football player from Southeast Missouri wore my name on the back of his jersey after some of my dearest guy friends from high school raised money for breast cancer in my honor. I cannot say enough how grateful I am. Thank you. Though this player may not know me, I certainly hope he knows how much it meant to me.

This day more than the diagnosis day will forever hold special meaning. The day as I look back had very little to do with being cancer free but had everything to do with for the first time believing that I truly mattered. The waiting room was filled with dear friends to sit and pray with my parents while they waited. College students in California stood holding a sign that said “we heart kris” and I only new one student in the picture. My high school teachers, nearly 25 of them gathered out front of my high school to pose with a sign saying “We heart Kris”. (I graduated almost 10 years ago). Distant friends showed up with food, meals, cards and offered their prayers. Two strangers next me on a plane bought me a drink and toasted to my journey just days before. The Crossfit Bluegrass (Louisville, KY) morning WOD ended by taking a photo holding a sign honoring me. Hundreds showed their love and support by taking to the world of social media to make it clear that I mattered. Girlfriends gathered at my church on Saturday mornings to pray over me. Spending an hour in prayer over my name. My second grade class down in Honduras (at the time in fourth grade) wished me well via video.  Please know I look back almost daily. Thank you.

I say all of this today because I know how hard it is to believe that you matter. Some days harder than others. But please hear it from me. You do. You matter.

Tomorrow morning I am going in for what I call Phase 2 of my reconstruction. My plastic surgeon is going to work on my breasts to work on both their shape and my scars. Your prayers are appreciated.

Below are some pictures from last weekend of my high school friend,s Andrew and Philip with the player wearing my name.
From the very depths of my heart…. thank you for everything you did this time last year and continue to do for me today.

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On Thursday evenings this fall, I have been attending a gathering of 20 somethings (yes that is the name) at the church where I attend. I figured it might be good to connect with others, meet new people but more importantly reconnect with my faith. Church has been for sometime a very hard place for me to walk into.

Anytime this past year I went to church, I immediately became emotional. I found myself often sitting with tears streaming. Trust me nobody wants to be the girl sitting alone crying at church. I have my theory as to why this happens…. but I think deep down the reason is that if I believed all to be true about the Bible and who God is, then I have to embrace the hard part of my story. I have to believe and trust that it is my story, one shaping me and one that even a “good God” allowed to happen. And truthfully that has been hard. So instead of going, I often forgo church for my bed on Sunday mornings or better yet sitting outside on the back porch.

But back to Thursday. During our small group gathering, I cried. For the first time in a long time, I cried about the past year. (I have become so used to speaking about it I almost never cry). We were talking about the verse where we are reminded that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. How God promises to have his hand on us each step of our days and this brought back a memory. The day my mom and I attended chemo camp and got a tour of the infusion room. We sat with the nurse learned all about the next three months and then she gave us a tour. I remember walking into the room and it was filled with patients, hooked up to IV’s. Some reading, some sitting with family, others sleeping. Most of them much older than I. Wrapped in blankets and often resting their heads back. I remember looking at my mom and we both took a deep breath. In two days I would be sitting there. With an IV. With chemo flushing to my veins. My heart hurt and our fear was evident in our eyes. So why you may ask did that verse make me think of that day? Well the truth is, I cry knowing that in that day, when we walked into the infusion room God walked alongside us. That when I was afraid and when he had every power to change the story, he walked next to me. He never left my side and while I wish at times he would have just rewritten this part of my story, or changed the narrative. He didn’t. But he was there. With his hand on me.

Seven months ago, I had my last round of chemotherapy. My body as I have mentioned has been wrecked because of it. And it is hard. Somedays worse than others. I take a nap nearly every day. I sleep close to nine hours at night and my energy level starts to drop in the early afternoon. Many of you would say that that seems pretty normal given what I have been through. But for the go getter that I am. I absolutely stink at giving myself permission to rest. Naps I have always viewed as a sign of weakness. I was NEVER a napper. And guess what… not only do I nap now. My body craves a nap. My body needs a good nap.

Tomorrow I am flying to California for a work conference and then on to Cincinnati to celebrate Brittany Anderson’s Bachelorette Party. After a weekend in Cinci I will be in Louisville for twenty four hours before heading back to Denver. Then next Friday is my surgery. (Whew). I think I need a nap thinking about it all. I am excited but nervous. Afraid I will be tired. Afraid I won’t be able to keep up. But all in all reminding myself of grace. Granting myself grace for the moment and to only do what I can do.

Hope this find you well on your Monday.

Love Kristina

The picture below I took one day in the infusion room while I was receiving hydration. My body would get really cold so I always covered up with a lot of blankets.

Last Sunday, I completed my third half marathon race. While this race was not a personal record (I finished in 2:14 min), it was a special in that just seven months ago I completed my last round of chemotherapy. This was the second part to my “cancerversary” celebration. (The first one being Skydiving with my roommate two weeks ago). My body has changed and shifted so much in the past year so this was challenging in different ways honoring the journey with each step forward. I had the privilege to raise money for the Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Foundation. This foundation seeks to unlock the genetic code behind breast cancer and as a BRCA + woman this research is invaluable. I would like to say a special Thank you to all of you who donated. I was overwhelmed by the support and so excited to have raised over $1500.00 for the foundation.

For the half marathon race, I wore a shirt that I had made honoring each step of my breast cancer journey at each mile. It was encouraging to have others along the course come up alongside me to let them know they were reading my shirt and they were so impressed that I was running. It sure made the course a bit shorter. The icing on the cake was as I approached Mile 9 waiting for me was my Mom, Dad and Sister to cheer me on. My eyes were filled with water  as I ran up to them. It was the best part of the race!

My parents and family came to Denver for the weekend to be present when I shared my story on Thursday of last week, for the 2015 Karens for the Cure Fundraiser. I am working on getting the video of my speech from my aunt so you all can see. If you are interested in hearing I am happy to email you my reading as well.

Needless to say it was an eventful fun weekend with all of my aunts, uncle and family visiting.

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Medical Update: November 6  -I will have my first revision surgery to my breasts. As my implants have settled so has the shape. They are flat around the scars so by undergoing minor fat grating the doctor hopes to restore some of the shape and get me closer to a result that I can feel confident in. I am still struggling to look at them for too long and would much prefer covering up my scars. Prayers are appreciated as this surgery is to be pretty painful.

I recently came out of menopause and hope that as time passes my body will start to normalize itself a bit more. My weight continues to be above normal range and clothes are a constant struggle to fit. Again I have to take deep breaths to remind myself that my body has been through a lot. While the world is pushing diets, or fixes, or “X” number of day challenges, I am trying to trust my body by listening to it well. Feeding it well, resting it well, exercising and drinking a lot of water. Believe it or not your body craves and desires exactly what it needs, just so often we are not so good at listening to it. I know that in order for my hormones to balance the best fuel is rest, good nutrition and exercise.

Speaking of exercise I am looking forward to running shorter distances and begin swimming at the Masters team at my gym. Swimming was a big part of my life in the past so I am hoping to get back into it by joining the master team.

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I would also like to say a special thank you to Lori Knapke, my high school choir teacher who held a fundraiser with her students to raise money for Susan G. Komen of Kentucky. I was privileged to share my story with her class via FaceTime a week ago and encourage them in their fundraising goal. Their efforts raised almost $4,000 dollars. In addition to the fundraiser, they were invited to sing along with Rachel Platten and her song “Fight Song”. I encourage you to listen to their impressive rendition by clicking on the link here:

http://www.wdrb.com/story/30272383/eastern-high-students-to-perform-with-singer-rachel-platten-on-friday#.ViFpucgsNEY.facebook

Below are some pictures of the weekend with my family and my race finish! Thank you again!

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