Tuesday, February 17, 2015


This post is to tell you this is the last post I will be making on this website. I have moved over to a new page that you may access at the below link:


I am very excited about how it turned out so please take a peak. Do not worry, all of my posts have moved to the new page and you may go back and read them if you have not done so.

I made the decision a bit ago for a handful of reasons. I started working on a new site with a dear friend and it is finally ready to launch. Please notice a few new things that can be found. Feature links to both my hair shaving party and my participation in the  Pink Portraits project.

IMPORTANT: If you are currently signed up to receive my blog to your email account, you will need to do this again on the new site. The option may be found on the top right side. If you have a question simply contact me. I am happy to help.

Thank you again for reading, following and sharing. Please know how grateful I am. If you have shared my blog with others, be sure to let them know where they can find me now.

See you on my new page,
Love Kristina

Sunday, February 15, 2015

I am strong

I spent the rest of my day Monday and Tuesday trying to feeling better. After adjusting some medicine, and applying a steroid cream for the rash on my head, I was on the mend. By Wednesday morning the rash was fading and my body felt more stable. It took about one full week after chemotherapy before I started to regain my strength....

I would love to say that I am getting the hang of the chemotherapy song and dance, knowing what to expect and anticipate but that would not be true. This treatment round was quite different than the first. The fatigue and tired hit me at different times. I have heard from quite a few others who have undergone chemotherapy, that the unknown, the constant ebb and flow of the side effects are hard, but knowing and accepting that it will be different and that it is ok is half the battle. So this next round, number three, hopefully I can do just that.

Friday evening, I attended a fundraiser my roommate put on. Knowing my counts are low I did not stay too long but wanted to be there to support her. After standing to the side watching as everyone boot scotted to a local Western folk band, someone leaned over and asked if I was Kristina. I said that I was (I did not know him). He went on to explain that he is friends with one of my girlfriends and he had heard about my story. He saw pictures from my hair shave party and that he wanted to wish me well. He said he has heard about me and that he knows I am strong.

My goodness I thought, what an honor..... as my eyes pooled with water.

Is strong crying in front of a stranger? I thought.

Don't cry I coached myself.

Just say thank you and it was nice to meet you, and walk away.

So I did.

I walked away humbled, overtaken by my story, this story and most of all by all of you.

The word strong is not something I often use to describe my cancer journey. Many of you use it, but I do not. I think it is because I have misunderstood the meaning of the word strong.

Maybe strong is not doing it all yourself, but allowing others to do it for you. Maybe strong is allowing this story to not just be mine, but something I share. Something that invites others in.
Maybe strong is being vulnerable enough to believe that God works and heals when we are honest. When we are open. When we allow others to care for us. When we surrender the strength that we do not have.  Maybe that is what he intended life to be all along. That when we are weak, he is strong. He provides. That strong is allowing yourself to feel, to grieve and to be with all the emotions and thoughts that meet you. Allowing them to just be....

That evening, I went home early and crashed in my bed. I was still pondering this notion that I am strong. Still trying to understand why someone would describe me that way. I began building my case for why I am not. All the times I cry. All the times I am anxious and afraid and stopped...

That's just it. So often I try and tell myself what I am not, and don't believe in what I am.


Just yesterday, I spent a large part of my day looking out at Pikes Peak, the sun coming through the clouds and the horizon lined up with mountains far in the distant. It was a beautiful day. A very perfect Colorado day. One filled with day dreaming about traveling, three flavors of wheat thins, jump starting a car, Thai food, Beer, Hugh Grant, bourbon and ice cream.

A friend months ago said to me ..... I believe that you are today more alive and living than any of us ever will be.

I am indeed living. Everything matters to me. Every face I see, every conversation I share. It all matters. A diagnosis of this magnitude, that makes you grapple with life in such a way that it appears to be taken away at any moment has allowed me to live in the very present. To be so fully present that everything matters. I have the tremendous privilege of knowing how very precious life is. Cancer gave me this.

God is using this cancer to teach me how to live more fully. More alive. More intentional. And to know him more. To start trusting him as my shepherd. That he is working and moving all around me, I just need to listen.

I certainly will celebrate when this part of my story is over but for now I will continue to enjoy the very preciousness that is this time. A time when everything is so very real to me... when moments are not wasted. When time and energy is spent in company and doing the very things that make me feel alive.

May this Sunday find you feeling strong, alive and investing the very things that matter to you. That remind you that you are very much alive.

A very special Congratulations to the my cousin Vance and his wife Whitney as they welcomed two precious twins this week in California. I was met with tears at the picture of them and honored to be little Avi's godmother. As we can never say enough, God is so very good.

Love Kristina

Pikes Peak

Monday, February 9, 2015

To the Little One on Her Bike

I have tried to sit down and write a few times but I can't seem to muster the strength to do so. My intended plans to go to work today have me at home. For the past couple hours I have found myself buried under blankets with a heating pad. Praying the shivering and achy will pass.

It is miserable.

My fingers do not have any feeling at this moment, so I have been trying to warm them up. But I am writing not because I want to complain about the side effects (I mean I do want to complain) but I reckon you all are tired of hearing it. Atleast thats how this breast cancer battler felt on Sunday.... tired, discouraged and hurting. 

I just want to share a story.....

Sunday afternoon my mom and I decided to get out of bed (after laying in it for three hours watching Scandal) and take a walk at the park. Denver has had a beautiful few days so it is hard to not want to be outside the entire time.

We joined the other thousand people (it was very crowded) or so that were at Washington Park enjoying the 70 degrees and found our way on the walking path. Feeling very achy we still managed to make it the entire loop. At one point we were walking and a family was coming towards us. Their little girl with long brown hair and big brown eyes  was on a bike with training wheels. As we walked towards them the little one stopped in her tracks. Her big eyes made contact with mine and she just stared. She looked in wonder as though a million questions were being asked in her head. 

Just as we passed, her mom said, "Go on, keep riding". Completely unaware of the staring contest her daughter had just had with me.

As we walked by, the little girl innocently announced, "Mom that girl didn't have any hair on her head!" 

I gently smiled and then lowered my head.


Dear one I thought......

You are right. I do not have hair. 

If you were to ask Why? (as so many children do) I would tell you:

 I am not well. I have been sick. But you wouldn't understand and in so many ways I wish you never ever have to understand what "no hair" means. 

I used to ride my bike with training wheels alongside my parents,  just like you. They picked me up when I fell and they told me to keep going. Just like you.

 Like your big brown eyes, I have big brown eyes too, that so often stare at strangers in wonder. 

But today, I walk alongside my mom. She walks with me and sometimes holds my arm in hers. She wipes my tears and rubs my head because I am not well. Because there is this heartbreaking thing called cancer that causes people to be sick. And then there is medicine that makes you even more sick, before you are well. 

But then again, why should I explain. I hope you never have to know. I hope you never have to understand why someone, "doesn't have hair". 

Dear one, what I do want you to know is that you should keep riding. That life is full of ups and downs but in the midst you may find great joy. That often the greatest joys are found in grace when we least expect it.

And that while I do not have hair, my heart hurts and I physically hurt. I am still living. I am still riding my bike. 

And Dear one, I may not have hair today, but soon my hair will be back again, but even if it never ever came back just know that I matter. That you matter. Know that we are children of a God who loves us dearly. Who delights in our highs and lows. 

A God who knows the number of hairs that adorn our head.

But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows - Luke 12:7 


I do not know what conversation that mother had with her daughter, or if they even had one at all. We kept walking and enjoyed the sun. But if I had the chance I would have loved to give that little girl a hug, cheer her on and tell her that she mattered.

I am struggling quite a bit today, not feeling well at all. My mom has since flown home to Kentucky and I am trying to get strength to make it to work tomorrow. Thank you all for cheering me on. Praying for me. I hope you know how much you matter to me.

Love Kristina

Me, and my big brown eyes.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Round 2 Halfway

I had tears in my eyes as I looked at my mom and said "Round two is done".

Two treatments down and two treatments left.

This temporary relief and celebration would soon be taken over by the next week or so of dealing with the side effects. But in that moment, was reason to smile.

The chemotherapy room was very quiet compared to my first round. It was a nice change. We mostly sat and talked. I read a magazine and rested. I went ahead and soaked my arm in warm water before the nurse attempted to place the IV, so I could avoid the "stick, poke, prying" that happened last time. The nurse got my IV in on the first time.

After about three and half hours, the machine administering the chemo beeped and I was told I could leave. Feeling energized my mom and I joined Rachel to look at furniture for her new house. Moving around and walking felt good. One of my pre-medicines (anti-nausea) can make you hyper and I would say this was true. Hence why our shopping adventure took place.

In good news, I slept through the night Thursday night. Which is a huge accomplishment in that this is something I have struggled with. I am taking Melatonin which is a supplement to help sleep. Thank goodness for good vitamins.

Yesterday, my mom and I spent most of our morning in my bed reading and resting. It was beautiful yesterday so we went to the park. With little to no energy I couldn't even make it around the entire park before we rested on a park bench. My tired and weary body was not having it.

We came back to my house and I took a two and half hour nap.

So this post is pretty accurate in the excitement of the last few days. Not a lot happening.

A lot of resting. A lot of patience being tested.

Last evening after waking from my nap, my mom took a look at me and knew I was not feeling good. After taking my temperature we learned I had a fever. The doctor asked that if my temperature exceeds 100.5 I must call the hospital. So we did.

A little concerned that I have an infection or that the night would lead us to the hospital, my doctor asked me to monitor it and take ibuprofen. If my fever did not break or I continued to hold one I needed to call back.

Thankfully it broke and it did not stick around. I slept the entirety of last night and am back laying next to my mom in my bed. The sun is already shining and hopefully we will be able to make it outside for a bit.

I wish I could write something profound or inspiring but when your body feels like it is failing and it is as though you have been knocked down multiple times it can be very discouraging. Chemo medicine has an unbelievable way of taking you out. I am developing a mild rash on the back of my head and feeling pretty achy.

Although this beautiful Colorado day I would much rather have spent on my road bike, hiking, orrunning I am reminding myself that I am where I am for a reason today. That days of warm weather will be in the near future and resting is ok today.

Jesus Calling this morning could never be more appropriate, "Come to Me for Rest and refreshment. The journey has been too much for you, and you are boneweary. Do not be ashamed of your exhaustion. Instead, see it as an opportunity for Me to take charge of your life. Remember that I can fit everything into a pattern for good, including the things you wish were different."

Waiting for the IV.

Testing out furniture for Rachel's house.

Resting at the park.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Missing the Normal

Maybe one of my least favorite things about Chemo day is that I cannot have coffee until I have started the infusion. This probably sounds funny to you, but coffee is one of those things that brings simple pleasure to me. Drinking it while I get ready in the morning, the warmth of the mug... the smell of it brewing in my house.

When I lived in Honduras coffee was the necessary part of our morning. We did not have a coffee maker and we brewed by pouring hot water over the coffee beans into a large plastic pitcher. The coffee never stayed in the pitcher long enough before the pitcher would melt, we always had our cups ready on hand. How funny this is to me today and how normal is was for us then. 

The coffee in Honduras is something that I have yet to find an equal to in the States. But a month ago a dear friend from the town where we lived sent me two bags of the finest. This morning those beans sit on my shelf, calling my name but alas I will wait.

If you remember last time the nurse had trouble sticking my vein, despite the copious amounts of water I had drank. Unfortunately coffee, with the caffeine does not help that situation, so I will have to wait until I get settled for infusion.

My mom is currently getting ready and I am laying in bed on my heating pad. (my new favorite thing). Just last night I picked up my mom and she got to see me with my nearly bald head for the first time. We will head to breakfast this morning and then to the hospital. Hoping today goes a bit faster than it did last time...

My thoughts and emotions today are quite scattered. Chemo day feels a bit surreal almost. Despite my scars and bald head it is still difficult to wrap my head around all of this. 

We do not have plans for this weekend but are looking forward to the warm weather Denver is planning. Hoping for some time in the sun, and vitamin d. 

If I am honest I am just ready to get today over with. I hate saying that, never wanting to wish time away but that is how I feel. Days like today make me long for the normalcy (what I thought was) that existed before cancer came in. Makes me wish I were planning adventurous trips, that I could go out on a date, go skiing or meet friends for happy hour. Simply doing life as though I did not have this large narrative of cancer in the middle of it. 

Do me a favor and find something that seems utterly normal today, and be grateful for it?

Can you rejoice in the mundane.

Nothing about my day seems normal to me, and not drinking coffee first thing in the morning is just the very start of that "not normal".

I must go get ready, although that looks more like just putting on makeup these days. The "getting ready" part of my day is so minimalist without having to do my hair.

May you find yourself today in the mundane rejoicing and grateful. I long for that so many days as I am often left wishing these days to pass quickly. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Two Strangers

Friday evening, I headed to Breckenridge with some dear friends to get a way for the night. Eat yummy food, play games, and spend time together. That evening we climbed in an SUV to head in town for dinner. The snow covered the slopes and the town was beautiful. It was still lit up with Christmas lights. It looked magical.

Mountain towns seem to hold secrets that only they know. They have such a mystery that I have fallen in love with after living in Colorado for so many years.....

Upon walking in to the restaurant I removed my beanie hat. So much better I thought. My head is very sensitive and is often irritated by the touch of fabric. So not wearing anything often feels best. My nearly bald head just covered in baby hairs was exposed for others to see. The onlookers glanced, a few smiled.... I carried on. Over laughter and conversation we had dinner. For that moment I tried to forget. Be there in the moment.

I can do this I thought. Be present and not think of the reality that is ahead.

As I have often spoken of, that is what I fight for. To be present in what is today. Not to worry about what the coming days bring. But yet my little gentle heart forgets sometimes... and I am reminded. I drift to a far off place that only I know how to get to. A place that reminds me of what this journey has been. Of what lies ahead. If I really get carried away I remind myself of my fears. I let my fears overshadow the present..... A wonderfully powerful thing the mind is.

I am learning to embrace these little mind drifts I have, but am having a hard time letting them be OK.

While amongst friends I drifted to that distant place and someone asked, "Are you OK? What is going on."

I nodded. Then said, "Everything was fine."

I lied.

The truth I just couldn't bare to share. But the fact of the matter is, these people have been with me. They know. They understand. They have showed up, loved on me and don't expect me to "be fine". For that I am so grateful. To be given the space to not have everything together. A safe place to share my emotions and my heart in this journey, have been some of the greatest blessings I have been given. (so many of you have given me that).

Sometimes everything really is just fine, but other times it is not. That is just the way it goes.

A friend (I am calling her that now) someone whom I have mutual connections with from Louisville was was just diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. She has a family. A husband. A new baby. Today she went in for her first round of chemotherapy. We have messaged back and forth a few times, because I simply just wanted her to know I was thinking of her. That I wish I could go with her and hold her hand during chemo. Because although are diagnosis are different. I kind of know. I know what it is like to yearn to see God working in the midst of heartbreak. Or what is like to have fear that is so real it feels like it will suffocate you. Or to be bombarded by individuals who tell you everything will be fine. That God is with you. Because while that someday may come when we both may very well be fine, our present reality is hard. It hurts, and loving God in this, is hard, but oh so worth it. And oh so good.

It is a very strange  to be connected by this cancer "club" that I never wanted to be in. That someone I do not know ,but a sister in Christ, I can ache with her. That we can say things and just know.

Another friend of mine from Colorado, flew home Sunday to be with his sister in Michigan. His sister paralyzed from radiation done to remove cancer found in her spine, has now discovered that the cancer has moved to her brain. She has a family. She has a husband who is also battling cancer. They have two young kids.

My thoughts today are for these two women and their families.

All three of us have very different diagnosis. Three different treatment plans and outcomes....

But my prognosis is good. Really good. I am cancer free now (as far as the doctors know). My chemo is insurance. Insurance for it to not return. For these two women their chemo and radiation is their chance at life. I am not angry, but it does make me wonder why. My heart hurts for them.

I think it is a bit easier to choose joy when you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. When you get answers. When doctors tell you that it will be over soon. That is what I get to hear. That is what my doctors tell me. It will be over soon. I will get life beyond this......

So when my moments come, and I drift away to that place that only I know how to get to, I pray I can find myself back in the midst of the hope that I have. That I will get to live beyond this. If anything not just for me, but for so many that may never get to know life past cancer.

I pray that I can find God's goodness in the hard, in this. And while our three stories are being written with cancer weaved into it.... I can believe that God is still really good.

If you could take some of your time praying for me and pray for Jenna and Shelby I would be so grateful. Both of these women that I have become connected to, are in desperate need of your prayers....

I am working until Wednesday this week and my mom flies in that evening to be with me. Tomorrow I go to acupuncture and I have already boosted my water intake in preparation for chemo dehydration.

Hope this finds you well. My weekend even with my mind drifts, was still really special. I even went on a dark night run at the park on Saturday... it was wonderful. I also got to see my best friend from college Sam and her family. 

Monday came a bit too soon. Will write soon.... 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Almost Bald

Before we started. Ric my dads best friend giving a toast.

I am not even sure where to begin. I just finished cleaning up the hair that is scattered about my bathroom and am getting in bed, but felt I should write something..

Just yesterday morning I left for work, leaving my bath tub covered in my hair. I didn't have time to clean it up or Drano. So I just left. Just as I am typing this there is a small piece of my hair in my keyboard. That is how it has been, since Sunday. My once short buzz is thinning out and there is little left.…. I would expect to be fully bald come Monday morning. 

I don't want to tell you that it is OK, because that would be a lie. It is just different. A different that meets my eyes as a stranger. That tries to find the words that say I am strong. That I am beautiful. That this is temporary. That my hair will come back. Or as so many like to say, "It is just hair". Unfortunately that is something you would only say because you are not the one with it falling out all over your house, at your desk at work, covering your pillowcase each morning and clogging your drain. Its not just hair. 

The "just hair" that you tell yourself that doesn't matter… is not just hair. As Katie said in her blog post, it is my reminder. Of this something that is outside of my control. That I had cancer, that I am battling cancer. Just this evening I went to have my makeup done at the mall. A woman looked me in the eyes, looked away, then back again and then looked away. I met her eyes with love and grace. Wanting her to know that although my head makes me appear sick, I am still me. I am just another woman who is living and trying my best to soak the goodness of out of this world. Even if that means I look different.

I am back to work full time and have been working hard this week to get some to do's finished up in anticipation of a short work week, due to my 2nd round of chemotherapy treatment. My mom flies in on Wednesday and my treatment is Thursday. I hope to maybe try some new things with my acupuncturist on Tuesday before to help reduce the fatigue and muscle ache, as well as boost my immune system. My base level counts of 5300 for white blood, dropped to 1340 hence my infection. Anything to help get my system jump started sooner would be appreciated.

Overall I am physically feeling very good this week. Today, while working on a project in the office I kept finding hair in annoying places. Important documents, in my tea… I decided I had had enough. I walked to the bathroom and began to rub my hair, making more fall. As I rubbed I began to cry. Bald. I thought.

Bald is different from the pixie cut buzz. Bald is bald. I walked into my bosses office to check in on something and she asked what was going on. I said amongst tears "My hair is falling out!" (as though she did not know or that my already buzzed hair was not enough proof) I began to cry and nod my head and she looked in my eyes. She knew. It is a lot. This is a lot. It is difficult to process. I wiped my tears and took my heartbreak back to my desk… 

I am heading to the mountains tomorrow evening with some friends and look forward to seeing the snow capped mountains. It is supposed to start snowing tomorrow so I cannot wait to sit and watch the flakes fall. 

So many of you have commented and shared the pictures of my head shave party and I want to say thank you. I have looked at them so many times..... they are my very favorite pictures. As you can see my family watched from afar on the computer. A lot of laughter, and tears were shared. To see her full tribute please visit here. If you have not done so, you should!

I hope to write some this weekend, it has been an emotional week to say the least as I meet this new reality. Thank you for your sweet words about my little head. It is pretty cold up there.

Looking forward to sharing more about the little ways God has been meeting me in the midst of this... as well as share more pictures that are my favorite from Sunday.

Looking into the mirror for the very first time.

Wednesday at work.

Today at work, thinning out.

After having my makeup done.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Pre-Shave Pictures

I realized I had not shared the pictures that were taken of my mom and I before I started chemotherapy. These are my favorite ones that Cheryl Ungar took. As you can imagine after Sunday nights shaving party these pictures are even more dear to me....more so because they were captured with my mom. 

Yesterday was my Mom's Birthday and she should be given so much credit for everything the past five months. She demonstrates love, grace and has one of the biggest hearts one could ever hope to be loved by. I am so grateful for her and so glad she has been able to be at my side.

Hope everyone is having a great Tuesday. I will update soon on how my hair is doing. My already buzz is falling out :( other than the mess it is making I am embracing it each day...

Love Kristina

Sunday, January 25, 2015

He is really good

It started. Saturday afternoon I got out of the shower and it started to fall. Gently. But it started. I ran my fingers through the back of my scalp and in the palm of my hand was my hair. I ran my fingers through again. More hair in my hands. My eyes began to fill with water and the reality started to weigh in, my hair was falling. The tears fell from my cheeks....

That evening I went to dinner with some of the dearest women to me. I got ready. Straightened my hair as more of it fell on the floor and thought to myself..... this is it. I am not getting ready like this again. I am shaving tomorrow night.

I had originally thought Wednesday would be good night for the shave. Even thought Wednesday might be a premature date but based on what I had read/ doctors had advised it seemed reasonable. But Sunday? Sunday was never in the plan..... but Sunday it was.

So I messaged my people. The people I wanted there. My hair dresser. Whom I hold dear and who had the supplies, the expertise and the heart. My coworker/ photographer/ friend. To capture the moment. My friends. College girlfriends. My old roommates, my current roommates. The Colorado girls that adopted me as their best friend. My cousin and his wife. My dad's childhood best friend, his wife who are practically family. Can you show up tomorrow night? Just be there next to me?

And they could. Everyone could. A celebration. A sunday shave party it would be. And so much more than that, it was.....

I write to you with my newly shaved head from my bed. Overwhelmed. But more than anything full of joy.

Tonight as music played, champagne and bourbon was poured, conversation was had and my hair was shaved away I cried, laughed, and even smiled for what was something really special.

We made sure my family in Kentucky was setup on my laptop across from me (facetime) so they could watch the whole thing.

Ric (my dads very best friend) toasted to me. I shared some words about what it means to have cancer and know joy. What it means to know people that are worth far more than you ever knew before you had cancer....And what it meant to be humbled by their presence tonight...

While Cameron cut my hair I looked out on to a group of people that saw me. That loved me. No matter what length my hair was. I decided to have her cut a mohawk first. (When else do you get too???). Without hesitation my roommate went to her room and retrieved a Slayer shirt she had. I mean doesn't everyone have one handy? I put the shirt on and she perfected the spike I giggled at the alter ego I got to have. It was a wonderful beautiful moment. And to be honest it looked funky in a cool kind of way.

Moments later I sat back down after some pictures were captured and she buzzed away the last bit. Deep breaths I thought. I continued to cry. At times weep. But all in all it was a moment that I would never trade. To look across the room to others. Who had been apart of my life in so many different avenues. To have been the recipient of their love during this time. To look me in the eye and remind me I am beautiful. Let me know that I am known. That I matter. What greater gift than that?

I kept repeating to myself while I heard the sound of the clippers across my head. HE is really good. HE is really good. God is so very good.

Tonight was beyond special. What I needed and what I received were those looking me in the eyes reminding me that I was loved.  I am loved.

Love was evident tonight as we said goodbye to my hair. It was a really wonderful celebration..... Katie took the professional photographs and I will share each one with all of you. I promise.

Thank you for celebrating with me.

He really is really good.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Living in the Waiting

The sweet patience of waiting....

So many times that is what this season feels like. Waiting for the pain to subside, for the fatigue to disappear, waiting for the doctor, waking up in the middle of the night waiting to fall asleep again or waiting for my next round of chemotherapy. I have decided that rather than thinking of it as waiting, I want to think of it as living. I am living still in the waiting.

The past forty eight hours have been eventful to say the least. After a difficult afternoon on Tuesday it was obvious to me that my body was fighting off something and something was wrong. I called the oncologist and they asked that I come the next morning. My dear friend Erin met me and we got our usual coffee first. We picked up some vegan muffins and drove in the snow to the hospital. I learned that I have a bacterial infection, one that is not uncommon due to my low immune system. With my immune system compromised I was not able to fight it off. I am now on two different antibiotics and hopefully over the next few days I will start to feel better.

Last night I slept nearly eight straight hours and even made it back to the gym this morning to walk on the treadmill. I am going up and down constantly, as my body is adjusting to the "chemo cocktail" I was given last week. I am learning to grant myself grace when I am exhausted and do not feel good. Easier said than done....

Some new developments have taken place due to the chemotherapy..... my face has broken out, I have a rash on my hands and my hair has already begun to thin. I have noticed that I may be dealing with a bit of chemo brain.  I am unable to remember things, often forgetting and sometimes just unsure of what to do. Overall I am drained. Not only do I not feel good, but my appearance is reflective of this. As trivial as that may seem that has become difficult.

I have been spending a lot of time reading, reflecting on this journey which is before me.....

John Piper wrote these words that have now been something I have re-read over and over again.....

Therefore, therefore, do not lose heart. But take these truths and day by day focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach his word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for.

The truth that I am cared for. Even in this. That my body in what feels so broken is being made new. That although he did not promise for healing he did promise that he would be present in the midst of all of it. So while I am trying to live while I wait, I am looking to this.

I am already in bed and it is 7:30 pm. I saw my oncologist today and we reviewed my blood counts. My counts are very low and she has advised me to be careful so I do not get sick. She explained this is why I am feeling tired and fatigued.

Which I had already thought.

So off to bed it is. I am back to work in the midst of all of this but am very happy tomorrow is Friday. A not planned weekend is in order. Hoping as my counts rise I will begin to feel like myself again.

Hope this finds you well and learning what it means to "Live" even if that means in the midst of waiting for something...

Erin driving me to the Cancer Center early Wednesday morning, with our matching hats.

Flowers from a colleague who gets me flowers at each milestone.

The view today. It was beautiful and so clear.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Chemo Silence

"I would love to say I screamed, cried, wept in sorrow. No chemo brings silence. A deafening silence to just get through each moment. Painful, grievous silence where there had once been constant, loving chatter."- Kara Tippets

Truer words have never been spoken. Chemo has indeed brought the silence. Sometimes the occasional moaning, but mostly quiet. For the past few days I fight the courage to get out of bed, get dressed, try and make it to the gym. Once I am moving things go pretty well. I forget the aches, my mind drifts to a different place and the discomfort subsides it seems.

But when I find myself later that evening back at home, I crash. I crawl to my bed turn on my heating pad, (took place in the outlet where my side lamp once was) and lay down. I am counting my blessings that I am not getting sick. Food is difficult to swallow, and not much sounds good but I am not throwing up. For that I am grateful.

My biggest struggle is the cold chills, sore throat, the achiness and fatigue. Being chilled to the bone, something I never knew before, is an awful feeling.

I am awake this morning because I am having trouble sleeping. I have passed the post treatment 2-3 day window of greatest risk of nausea but am now heading towards my nadir point. The nadir point (Day 7-10), being when my white blood cell count will be the lowest and the fatigue potentially the greatest.

This road of treatments at this moment seems like a long one. So like Kara says above, I try and just get through each moment. Saturday, I took a long walk in the sun with a friend. Shared more about this journey. About life. About the aches, the pains and more about the wonder that is, our God that writes these stories for us. It was a really good afternoon. (Thank you for driving from the Springs and caring about me).

As expected after a dinner with family friends Saturday evening my aches and my cold chills met me that night like a raging storm. Patience and grace are being learned over and over again.

Just last night, I asked a friend if I could see the text messages from the day I told him I had breast cancer. I sat and reread the messages. Reading my words I could sense the fear I had. Words like "I don't have very good news. My test came back and my left breast is malignant for breast cancer". I cried.

One of his responses, "I am going to need you to be ok".

I reread the conversation and was overcome with emotions. I may be brave (sometimes) but goodness this hurts. This is hard. It has been hard. It is difficult to imagine who I was then. I was so unaware of what the next few months would bring. Scared. Afraid.

I love that he wrote, "I am going to need you to be ok". Nothing more special than knowing you matter.

Today I am going back to work and if I am honest I am scared. I do want to go back, I just wish I felt better. So I am going to try and give myself some grace today. To do what I can and come home to rest after.

Thank you for continuing to think of me. For those of you who are pursuing my heart, making sure I know I am thought of, prayed for. Thank you. My mom is gone and I am trying to determine the ways I need help. Some of you waiting to hear from me, I have not forgotten I just don't know what I need or how to ask for it. Food is still really sensitive but soon those of you who have offered to bring meals may soon.

My chemotherapy dates are as follows, February 5, 2015, February 26, 2015, and March 19, 2015.

I am incredibly humbled by all of you. Thank you for loving me well. Hope you have a good Monday everyone.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Chemo Round 1- He is building a palace

I have not forgotten about all of you, or this place.... I have just been taking some time. To rest. To read and to lay down on my moms lap. These past few days have met with a different reality of my cancer journey..... both humbling and beautiful.

I have so much to catch you up on, but will start with Chemo Day 1, Tuesday.

Tuesday morning, I woke up early to take a shower and get ready. Knowing that this would probably be my only chemotherapy with my hair, I decided to curl it and get ready. Figured my spirits would be lifted if I took the time to get ready.  I put on my crazy patterned yoga pants, my comfy scarf, my smart wool socks and essential oils. My mom and I packed two big bags, filled with all sorts of things I thought I might want.... magazines, my book, gum, ginger chews (for nausea), dark chocolate, all of my essential oils, lotion, my Bernese mountain dog stuffed animal (since I am allergic my mom bought me a stuffed one), four blankets (gifted by you) and my head phones.

My mom and I went to breakfast at my favorite place by my house. Our spirits were good, we even picked out a cookie to have for later. With some anticipation we drove to the hospital. I was feeling ready. The day had come to check round one off and I was ready.

Upon arrival we waited quite some time to see my oncologist. After meeting with her, discussing last minute questions, what not to do, what to do, we were instructed to go into the infusion room and pick my seat. The room, much like the day before, was very crowded. I located a chair next to an older man sitting with who I assume was his daughter and wife. The chair I chose had enough room for chairs to sit around it, knowing that I would be having visitors.

I felt others eyes watching as I took a seat. Most onlookers assumed it would be my mom taking the seat, but it was me. My best friend and old roommate Chelsea met me and my mom and they sat at my side. 

A little background on how this works..... Once every three weeks, I will be going in for infusion. Both chemotherapy's will be administered at separate times to make sure I do not have a reaction to them. The first medicine I am given is the pre-medicines (anti-nausea, antibiotics). This takes about a half hour. The nurse then flushes my IV with saline and then administers the first chemotherapy. Taxotere was the first one that took about an hour and half. The other chemotherapy, Cytoxan, came next and took about an hour. I am not getting a temporary port placed, so I will be getting an IV to my hand every time for the chemo to be administered.

Once I was in my seat we waited as the nurse came by and introduced herself. She explained that she would be placing the IV in, so I turned my head the other way. I know full well what it feels like to have an IV in and I never look. Unfortunately, the water I had been drinking for the past twenty four hours did not help the nurse finding my vein. Once she inserted the needle, she moved it around looking for my vein and I looked at my mom and Chelsea knowing it was not going well. Why was she digging and poking? It hurt I thought. Chelsea rubbed my back and talked to me to keep me distracted. My eyes began to fill with water. I tired to stay calm knowing the nurse was trying her best but was quietly getting frustrated. She removed the needle and said she would try the other side. She said she would be getting a bucket of water to soak my arm to warm up my veins so that they would show up. I took a deep breath and began to cry. This was not the part I was dreading. This was the part I had done a hundred times over by now. For goodness sakes I gave myself shots for ten days on my own. This was not supposed to be the hard part. This was supposed to be easy.

After soaking my arm for twenty minutes or so, a different nurse came and was able to get the IV in on the first try. It was around 11:00 am and we were ready to start. All in all, administering the chemo took around four hours. I watched as others came and went, got their treatment and left. I watched as an older woman across from me went to and from the bathroom for what seemed like a hundred times. I assume she was getting sick. Thank goodness I handled this first round relatively well. Below a picture of me soaking my arm:

The first chemotherapy stung while it went it. I was given a heating pad and able to relieve some of the sting. The nurse adjusted the speed at which it dripped and the faster it went the more it stung. Although, I did not want to sit there all day I was fine with it taking a bit of time to avoid the sting. I am only allowed two visitors at a time so as Rachel and my colleague Katie came, my visitors rotated chairs. It made the time pass to have others sit with me. Before I knew it Rachel was next to me, we were talking and my IV machine started beeping. I was all done.

Upon leaving I started to feel strange. My mom commented that my face was very flushed and she could tell I did not feel good. I was not nauseous but rather feeling flu like symptoms. 

That is where I find myself today. Yesterday I started to hit the bottom. The fatigue, as I had been told is like a deep bone chill ache that is unlike a tired fatigue from a long day at work. I could not agree more. I had trouble getting comfortable yesterday and suffered from the chills. Afraid that I might have had a fever my mom went to get a thermometer. Thank goodness I do not have a fever. We did manage to get the strength to walk outside yesterday. We sat on a park bench so the sun could hit my face. I closed my eyes and rested in my moms lap. I will treasure that bench, that moment so very much.

I have been encouraged to exercise to reduce the fatigue and help move the chemotherapy in my body. Despite my desire to stay in bed, every day we have done something. Wednesday, we went to my gym where I climbed on the stairmaster, yesterday we walked the park and today I walked on the treadmill at the gym. After mild exercise I find myself back home crawling in my bed. Where I am right now. I have opted to not take any of the anti-nausea medication prescriptions pro-actively. I have chosen to take them as needed and at this point I have not taken any. (fingers crossed this stays that way).

Yesterday I commented that it is the first time in this journey that I truly feel sick. My body aches, my bones chill and my muscles are sore. Not a soreness that meets you after weight lifting or a day working in the yard but a deep rooted achiness, like you have the flu. I have not yet been nauseous but food is becoming difficult. Things do not taste the same and my mouth has a filmy, strange taste in it. 

Yesterday was a hard day, I laid in bed for six hours, read a book with my mom and laid on her lap. I have been told that my hair will start thinning around day 7 and begin to fall after that. My scalp is already sore.

My spirit today is quiet. I am looking around to see what God is doing in this and finding it difficult to see. How is he working in this? How is he resting my heart to draw him near? My predictions about what the next coming months will look like, is clouding my presence right now. I am trying to sit with the right now, praying I can do that.

I read an excerpt from C.S Lewis Mere Christianity and loved it so....

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” 
― C.S. LewisMere Christianity

As I am resting, trying not to fight the aches and pains, I pray I may lean to the promise that he is indeed building a palace. Taking up roots in me for good. For more. More than what my heart ever knew was possible before cancer. This palace he is building would never exist if it were not for cancer. If it were not for this story.

Hope this finds you well. I am truly humbled by all of your sweet messages regarding my goofy picture yesterday :) My mom and I are so glad to have them. I will share them soon.

Below are some pictures from this week.

Picking out our special treat before we headed to the hospital.

Our bags of things.... suitcases really.

Trying to smile before heading back to meet with my oncologist.

The view from my chair. The folks in front of me were sitting with the older gentleman to my left. A room full of IV drips.

I was one of the last few in the room towards the end of the day. I got really chilly so used all my blankets to wrap up.

You can see the Bernese Mountain Dog in my bag :)

Before Chemo selfie picture...

When I was finished with Rachel. You can tell my eyes have changed and I look tired.

Mom and I sitting on the bench yesterday in the sun. Thank goodness for warm January days.

Yesterday eating blueberries and reading the book, Love Does.