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…

It was this evening one year ago that I went in for the MRI that ultimately discovered that I had Breast Cancer. This MRI was supposed to occur every year. It was to simply be a test to monitor me closely and be proactive. That was all it was going to be. Or so I thought at least.

When I was finished I went to dinner with my mom to celebrate. We had a glass of wine, good food and I sat with my arm wrapped in purple tape from the IV. The picture below evidence.

While I look at the girl and smile at her innocence, I am so grateful I am not that girl anymore. The last year in all of its complexities and heartbreak made me someone new. Someone different and that person in the picture below is no more.

Cancer took a lot, but in turn gave so much more. I will be writing more these days, sharing on my cancerversary. What looking back looks like. Who am I today? Who was I then?

Today I have hope and joy in that I am here. While I am still journeying through survival, through the unknown and many moments of tears…… I am here. I am alive.

 

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My own pain in life has taught me that the first step to healing is not a step away from the pain, but a step toward it… I am convinced that healing is often so difficult because we don’t want to know the pain… It is especially true of the pain that comes from a broken heart. The anguish and agony that result from rejection, separation, neglect, abuse, and emotional manipulation serve only to paralyze us when we can’t face them and keep running away from them – Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved

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These days seem to be getting harder but I can say I am handling them a bit easier. At this time I still remain in menopause. I am now six months out from chemotherapy. Last week I had a blood test and learned that my estrogen level is very high (indicating that my ovaries are coming back). Can I get a amen to that??! My oncologist expects that I will have a menstrual cycle again before Christmas. This is tremendous news. My doctors hope that as my ovaries start waking up, that my body will start to normalize again. Unfortunately as a result of the both the medicine and menopause my weight continues to climb as these symptoms remain. (close to 12 lbs. in eight weeks). Clothes that I wore just four weeks ago are no longer fitting. To say this is easy or I am handling this well would be a lie. Every day I have to take a deep breath, remind myself that my body is still healing and allow myself the grace to see through the end of the day, or get through the dreaded “what should I wear today” saga. Most days I fail at this miserably.

At this time I will remain off of Tamoxifen until things start to balance out, i.e. my emotional health, my ovarian suppression, menopause symptoms etc.

As I read the above quote I kept thinking about how in life we are so quick to run from things. But yet something in me tells me that I have gotten this all wrong. That instead of running,  in order to find healing I must face the pain, confront the hard, be honest with myself, lay things out there that I struggle with…. and work through it. I am working to take apart the parts of who I am that are ugly and shed light on those places. I think that by shedding light on these things I can begin to make changes and move to a place of healing.

What things have you been running from in fear? What could you move towards, or approach head on to bring healing?

As time approaches my anniversary I have experienced nightmares over memories. I noticed just yesterday in talking with a friend “chemopause” is a very real thing. So many things this friend reminded me of that I have no recollection of. While the last year was good and hard there is also a lot I recognize that is a blur. Memories that are merely just faded moments in time. Conversations that got lost in my mind. This again is another hard reality.

Last weekend I was up in Vancouver, BC all by myself. One of the best parts of traveling alone is you get to delight and indulge in whatever YOU want. (If you have never done this before I highly recommend it). This past weekend I spent exploring, walking, biking, running, eating and drinking all that Vancouver, BC had to offer. I rented a place on AirBnB in the West End and thoroughly enjoyed the modern flat with an ocean view porch. It has been a while since I traveled alone, and I forgot how much I enjoy it. A lot of thinking, reflecting, resting and just enjoying the city.

The summer is drawing to a close, the nights are cooler, the mornings darker. I am beginning to pray over the words I will share in a few weeks at the 2015 Karens for the Cure Fundraiser. I am honored to have been chosen as the Keynote Speaker. If you are in Colorado and would like to join I would be honored to have you there. You may register here. Next weekend I will run in the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Race wearing my Survivor Shirt proudly. I must admit it is sort of surreal to be participating in this way.

Thank you for thinking of me. Praying for me and never leaving my side.

Happy Friday to you.