Today my parents celebrate 35 years of Marriage.

As their daughter it has been both and honor and a joy to watch them do life together, do life so well and walk together despite even the most trying of times. The picture below we took the afternoon after meeting with my oncologist for the first time. I had just been diagnosed twenty four hours before this picture. I have never been more proud to be their daughter than I have been this past year.

My parents are not ordinary, they are not like everyone else, they are Bob and Glo, Scherm and Grover, Poops and Grammie, and the best titles of all my Mom and Dad. Ever since I can remember my parents have had this way of dancing through life with one another, each playing a special part in the dance, knowing when to lead, when to interject, when to change things up, when to slow things down, but always dancing together. They do that so very well. My dad was the masculine, leader, father, husband in our house and my mom, the kind, compassionate, caring, giver. While they are two unique individuals, they chose 35 years ago that one was better with the other at their side. They also learned that doing life with someone else while often more difficult in the end brings about a multitude of blessings and memories. Together they moved to four states in just the first few years of marriage, had two children, have since built four homes, traveled the world (literally) and yet still would rather be at home with us (Josh, Brittany, Brady and I) more than anyplace else. In the past year not only did my parents endure the heartache of my cancer diagnosis, we grieved the passing of my grandmother and then they celebrated their first grandchild. While the year with all of its excitement would be reason to fear, cry and simply give up, it has been as I am sure they would say also one of the most precious years to date.

As a child, I always remember hearing my dad whistle as we came up for breath during a swim race. For every stroke he made sure we knew to keep pushing and keep going. My mom was there when we got out of the pool, towel ready, and if she was not, we knew she was in the back keeping score so we would run back to tell her how we did. (always behind the scenes, giving of her time). From school events, to dance competitions, Brittany and I never needed for much of anything. We were loved and cared for. We never doubted that and we still never do.

As I have gotten older I continue to be amazed at the two people they are. But more than that I am so proud to have them as my parents. Proud that they continue to chose one another, chose adventure, choose love and most of all chose life over and over again. I love you both and thank you for this past year. For being at my bedside, for crying when the doctors said my cancer was gone, for celebrating in Houston with me, for making certain I knew you were only just a short plane flight away. You do parenting so well and from your brown eyed, spiky haired, cancer survivor, stubborn, colorado adventurer youngest daughter I am so so grateful.

Love Bean Head.

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Taken right after my first Oncologist doctors appointment.

Bachelorette Party 238

An oldie but a goodie.

Last week. Last Thursday I met with the hospital social worker to discuss what happens now that the cancer is gone. What does living beyond cancer look like?

I will be honest I did not want to meet with her. I didn’t want to cry and I knew I would.

But it turns out meeting with her was exactly what I needed to do….

In my hour and half meeting I shared my fears, my frustrations, my heartbreak and not only did she listen, she let me know that everything I felt was normal. The biggest one, “I wish the cancer would just come back already, so I don’t have to live in fear of that day coming”

Those words I am certain are very hard to read but if I am completely honesty this is how I feel. I know this is my mind preparing for the worst, a defense mechanism. But in a strange way I feel that it is only a matter of time before my cancer will return for a second time. And rather live in fear of that day, I wish the day would just come. Maybe it is that so many around me are not doing well in their cancer journeys, or that I have heard of quite a few women like myself (BRCA 2 positive) that have had their cancer return someplace else. Or maybe its that life doing cancer became comfortable, and I rested in others strength and now I feel so very alone. Again honesty if you wanted to know.

I am nervous for tomorrow. For many reasons but one big reason is a small place on my right side. On one hand I think it is just my implant/scar tissue however on the other I am afraid it is something more. This is my current reality, living always in fear that the cancer will have showed up someplace else. Today, a day like many others I have waves of emotions that nearly knock me off my feat, leaving me paralyzed in fear, overwhelmed with it all. Tomorrow I must meet with my plastic surgeon to talk yet again about the thing I do not want to talk about… my scars and nipple reconstruction. If you are wondering, I have not decided what to do. I have learned that this is because I have not yet accepted the new breasts I have been given.  I feel like so many people feel that by putting a fake nipple on my “fake breast” it will make it seem real, and perhaps even bring feeling back. But I know this not to be true.

So alas I don’t want to talk about it. Yes they might be perfectly round and not move at all when I exercise, and sure, I do not have to wear a bra, but not having feeling leaves me feeling like I am walking around with a foreign body part on my chest.

“And they are strangers — spongy, cold mounds that feel neither pain nor pleasure, that refuse to budge an inch even when I’m running, that don’t quite look — or act — like normal breasts. Instead, they act a lot like the silicone sandbags, except I can’t take these off at the end of the day when my chest starts to ache. Welcome to my post-cancer body.” – The Emotional Aftermath of Cancer

So tomorrow is a big day and I appreciate your thoughts and prayers. I have read this verse over and over again “Come to me all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

I am tired, discouraged and scared for tomorrow, but remain hopeful. Even still I have so very much to be grateful for.

But on a good note I captured the below picture in Frisco over the holiday weekend. It was beautiful.

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“You never feel more alive than when you’re dependent on something other than yourself.”

I have not written for a while… but not because I have not wanted to. Things have gotten busy around here. Life continues to fill up and my summer has been filled with weekends in the mountains, attending Woodchoppers in Wyoming, bike rides, hikes and celebrations. I am noticing my body recovering yet at the same time feel that my need for sleep continues to be great. I must admit I have not been very good at slowing down. Just as I started to feel better, I desired so much to dive back into everything that the summer had to offer, and today I realize I am in desperate need of some balance. This will continue to be my focus over the coming weeks.

This next week I have a busy doctor day on Tuesday. I will be visiting my plastic surgeon to discuss next steps in terms of nipple reconstruction and potential fat grafting. (which I still have not decided on). As well I am going to have my blood drawn and my tumor markers checked with my oncologist.

But, I want you to know that I count it joy that I get to have follow up appointments.

The more immersed into the cancer community I become, the more I am aware of those individuals that never have the opportunity to have remission follow ups. Those individuals that never get to live beyond cancer.

I am living beyond cancer in this very moment.

That being said, it is with a heavy heart that I share the passing of my dear friends sister, Shelby Offrink. I have mentioned her before on my blog. My heart hurts for her children (two little girls), her husband, their families and my friend Luke who lost his sister. She is not much older than myself. I had the honor of getting to know Shelby through her brother Luke. You may read this incredible post honoring Shelby here.

In addition to the news of Shelby, I learned that Jenna Maddux (a friend from Louisville) who was diagnosed shortly after I, with stage four colon cancer learned of yet another tumor this time in her brain. I couldn’t even read a single post of tribute on facebook without my eyes filling with water. You may hear how you can support them here

I suppose I think this is why these days it is so hard to share of how well I am doing, because so many others close to me are not. Because the truth is, I am doing very well. I often have to wonder, why my story chose to have the outcome that it has? The outcome that has resulted in me being cancer free. Why I am well enough to climb mountains, camp last weekend with friends and run close to four miles. I have learned that just as having breast cancer was in no part something I did. Gods hand and healing in my life, is also nothing I did. My story is being written as it has been intended to be written and for today that means that I am well.

I appreciate your continued love, prayers and support. In regards to my hot flashes and night sweats, unfortunately they are still around. I am still in menopause. Maybe soon I will share my thoughts on this matter, but today I am trying to focus on the health that I have been given. After my appointment Tuesday, I will be sure to share on what I find out.

Hope this finds you well and you have a great holiday weekend! Thank you. Love Kristina.

Also I was going through all the pictures from November 5, 2015 (Mastectomy day) and wanted to share a some of them. Thank you for my many “We heart Kristina” tributes.

We heart Kris Collage

 

I have been thinking about this post for some time. What to say? What to share? And my eyes fill up with water. Just as I am typing now.

My dad.

Where does one begin. The above picture, my Dad and I took just a few hours before we headed to the hospital for my mastectomy on November 5, 2014. My very favorite place, Washington Park. I do not remember what we talked about. I honestly do not remember much of anything from the time I was diagnosed to my surgery. It was this strange blur of living with cancer, and waiting for my surgery.

Ever since I was in high school, my dad and I have this thing of going on long walks. When I am home in Kentucky we prefer to walk during the heat of a summer day. More recently we will drive to the park nearby my parents home and we will set off to walk for an hour or more. This has been our tradition for years. So the morning of my surgery it only seemed appropriate for us to go on a walk. The above picture remains one of my most treasured pictures. I remember that morning, the anticipation but more than anything I remember being at peace  about the unknown future that was before me.

Growing up I was always told I looked just like my dad. I remember a time when we were at the grocery store together, I must have been six or seven I am not sure. But a woman made quite a scene announcing that “if any little girl looked just like her daddy it was me.” My big brown eyes next to my dad and I remember feeling so special. Good for me this has not changed a bit.

I do not know what the past year has been like for my dad watching me with breast cancer. But, I do know what it feels like to watch your dad watching you with breast cancer. What it feels like to watch your dad grieve. What it feels like to be loved by, cried for, worried over by someone so much. I am not sure if it was the time we were in the car. Sitting in the parking lot less than twenty four hours from my diagnosis,  weeping. Or when I fell asleep next to him as he researched doctors. But never once did I doubt that I mattered. Never once did I feel abandoned. Not once was he not there. The day I was diagnosed my dad landed in Denver less than twelve hours later. And if you remember reading (if you have not then click here to read the full story), my dad surprised me and flew me to Guatemala to be at my best friends wedding that I was certain I would miss due to my surgery.

So on this very special Fathers Day, I would like to say Thank you. To my dad. For loving me so well. For crying over me. Praying over me. Worrying over me. It is an honor and a privilege to be your daughter. And thanks to you, I knew to be brave and to be strong.

I am your daughter after all 🙂

Love Your Bean Head.

Three months ago I had my last round of chemotherapy. While I am still sleeping a lot. I am starting to feel better each day. I am bike commuting half the week  and I finally feel my body recovering. This is a short post just to highlight the one thing that is not a big deal but is TOTALLY A BIG DEAL, HAIR.

Below are pictures capturing the progress of my hair these days… I am getting excited for my Pixie Cut that is quickly coming in. My hair has really started to grow. If I do not shower in the morning, I have to wet my hair to make sure I do not have bed head. All good things and something I never thought I would have to deal with. Needless to say enjoy the below pictures:

April 15, 2015 – Just three weeks after my last round of chemotherapy.

April 27, 2015 Eye brows shrinking – taken right after my reconstruction surgery.

May 8, 2015 – Pencil Drawn Eyebrows and clear hair. Still Bald but beginning to grow.

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Left photo from June 4, 2015 and the right photo from June 11, 2015

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June 13, 2015 – Hair is standing up. Buzz cut in full swing.

June 18, 2015 – Hair lays down. My eyebrows are coming back. Eyelashes (lets not talk about them, they are falling out).