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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For the past year I have looked forward to this day. The day I learned I had Breast Cancer. Some could argue it could be the worst day of your entire life but for me it was anything but. The moment I learned I had breast cancer was the day that living became something I realized I took for granted. All of  a sudden those things that used to matter never mattered anymore. I simply wanted to be surrounded by those that mattered most to me, I wanted to be still and simply be alive.

One year ago tomorrow, I was standing on the street corner outside of an office building when my phone rang and the doctor shared with me that the place on my left side was breast cancer.

The world froze. I fell to the ground. My eyes became a pool of water as tears fell to the ground around my feet. Time in that moment was still.

I was never going to be the same again.

In the past twelve months, I underwent three surgeries (a double mastectomy, egg harvesting retrieval and implant exchange). Endured four rounds of chemotherapy. Numerous IV’s of fluids. Hundreds of doctors appointments. Countless shots and what has seemed like hundreds of blood draws. I have waited for results, prayed over white blood cell numbers, watched my hair fall before my eyes and spent countless nights awake.

All for one purpose to live…

Today, I celebrate with thanksgiving for what was a year of hardship, heartbreak, suffering, joy, celebration and peace. While my journey to recovery has now left me struggling to find hope. Wondering over why living seems so difficult. I honor the journey and the gentle ways it opened me up to places in my heart that I did not know were there. I have come to terms with some ugly parts of living. That living is hard. Life is hard with or without cancer and that journeying through the hard is what makes life so very sweet.

I believe God has never left my side. I believe he adores me. (he adores you too). I believe he awaits the day when I begin to bestow the same love and care to myself that I do to others. While I would love to say each day is a new day, one I find gratitude in, I more often than not find the days daunting. I find the grind of the to do exhausting. I find my cancer story suffocating. I find living well beyond cancer overwhelming…

I love what Kara Tippets said,

 Suffering is not the absence of goodness, it is not the absence of beauty, but perhaps it can be the place where true beauty can be known.

Beauty has been known and is being made known each day since. While at times it may be small, I hold tremendous hope in my tomorrows. In the journey that is yet to be revealed before me. What joy it has been to walk the road of breast cancer so young. What a privilege it is to be a survivor.
I would like to Thank you for following, reading, praying, crying, and celebrating alongside me and my family. To my parents for raising me to be strong, to believe in tomorrow and to not give up. You have shown your true colors over the past year and what beautiful colors they are. To my Sister and her Husband Josh, for being far but never making me feel you were more than a phone call away. You have braved parenthood so well and I am so grateful for little Brady. Thank heavens for little boys. To all of you, I am without words to let you know how grateful I am. What an honor is is to have a safe place to share…. you make the living worthwhile and I am so grateful for that.
Happy Cancerversary to Me!
Here is the past year in pictures…