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.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Chemo Camp

It’s not cancer that brings the bottom; it’s my hopes and dreams colliding with reality. And in that edge -- grace. Gentle grace to receive the story.- Kara Tippets

My mom is downstairs getting ready for dinner right now. I am listening to some music and just had a glass of wine. We came home after a full day of errands/appointments to a sparkly clean house. As mentioned before, Cleaning for a Reason, provides cleaning service free of charge for cancer patients while undergoing treatment. Today was the first clean. The house looks beautiful. My little type A, clean heart is so excited.

Tomorrow morning I must be at the hospital by 9:45 am. I will have blood work and diagnostics taken before starting treatment, which should take around 2 and half hours. All together they estimate I will be at the hospital for four hours or so.

My mom is sleeping on my couch this week. A house of four girls becomes a house of four + my mom this week. Unfortunately, she is quite used to the couch, our house and living with us. We love having her here. After all this time,  it often feels like she has always been here. 

My mom and I woke up early so we could get ready for our portraits to be taken. Cheryl Ungar, founder of the organization, Wedding Pink, a survivor and professional photography graced my home this morning to take pictures of me. I am certainly not a model and felt funny posing but she was very mindful of me, my story and was so gracious of her time/ talents to take pictures of before treatment begins. I know someday I will look back and treasure these pictures. What this time meant. Where I was and having my mom here. I look forward to sharing them with all of you when she sends them to me.

Today was chemo camp. I think they call it chemo teach, but I like to think that if I call it camp it sounds a bit more fun. (summer camp anyone?). We sat with a nurse for an hour or so asking questions, learning about the drugs and what not to do. Following, we were given a tour of the center and the room where I will be given treatment. I am not sure what I thought it would look like... but lets just say not like it was. A big room, filled with chairs, iv drips and individuals like myself that have endured cancer. It was quiet. I am certain that if a pin dropped you would hear it.

Faces. People. Others. Lives. Impacted by disease. 

The room was very crowded today. The nurse giving the tour advised me that every day is different. She went on to say that tomorrow I pick the chair that "suits my fancy" and take a seat. Well "Thank you so much" I wanted to say.

While walking through the room she introduced me to one of the chemo nurses. Looking me in the eyes it as though she saw my heart. A small part of me looked in her eyes and knew that she knew. The heartbreak. Perhaps I am assuming but I felt like she broke a bit. The narrative I imagine her replaying in her head.......

"You're so young. How old could you be? I am so sorry. Gosh. Wow my daughter is your age."

I said it was nice to meet her and I would be seeing her tomorrow.

My mom left the hospital agreeing that the room was terrible. That it was really hard to walk in there. Not that it being a beautifully designed or a well decorated place would hide the reality of what that room operates as, but it just seemed so dark and sad. 

I told my mom I hope they don't think we are going to be that quiet because I imagine us talking, maybe playing cards, perhaps inviting someone sitting nearby to play too. The quiet although at times is therapy to process and be still I can't imagine a chemo room being good for that. At Least while we all have to sit still and be pumped with toxins why not spend time in the company of others, reading a good book, telling stories, laughing...... Again I have not spent four hours there before, so perhaps I will think differently but my hope is to bring some joy, some life in that place tomorrow. 

We left the hospital and the rest of our day we ran some errands.  I am slowly converting to all natural products, no toxins, no chemicals, plant based, so I bought Kiehls face products at Nordstrom. My mom and I got coffee, walked around the mall (the weather was terrible), and I bought a new book at the book store. It was fun to spend some Christmas gift cards we had. 

We are getting ready to head to dinner and to be honest my heart feels really good. I am ready. Ready for this next step. Ready to move forward. Most of all, I look forward to leaning more into Gods story and not my own. Learning how he is going to change me. 

I look forward to sharing with all of you how it goes. We are off to have a good steak dinner before I go back to vegan life... and perhaps a glass of good wine. 

Hope this finds you well. Thank you for praying for me. Thinking of me. For those of you who bought shirts, thank you. For those who donated money online, thank you. All of this and so many other things have been tremendous gifts. For those of you who have offered meals and have not yet heard from me. I would be honored to be the recipient of a meal. So thank you, I will message you I promise. The cards, the well wishes, your words, your time, your energy. THANK YOU.

Ok must go look presentable :) Will write soon Love Kristina

Mom and I waiting on the nurse at the Cancer Center.

A special Happy Birthday to Sherry! This is Stephanie's mom and I at her wedding. I love this picture. As well Stephanie booked her flight today to come to Denver at the end of March :) 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Grace Beyond this Moment

I want to write to thank all of you who reached out the past twenty four hours.  Each message I read and appreciate. So thank you. Yesterday morning was a hard morning. One filled with tears, falling on my knees and longing for an understanding.... the anxiousness in my heart of what is to meet me in a weeks time hit me like a freight train yesterday and I wept.

Just as those moments come, those moments indeed pass. And they do pass....

I listen to this song a lot and the lyrics in one line are the reason.....

"Give me grace to see, beyond this moment here. To believe that there is nothing left to fear. That you alone are high above it all. For you my God, are greater still."

These words are the very outcry of my heart so many times when I find myself like I was yesterday. Yearning to trust that there is something beyond all of this.

I do believe that yesterday will happen again. Where I will be met with sorrow and grief that brings to me my knees, and that it is OK. Each time it happens I meet it with a new respect and new embrace. Knowing that I am allowed to grieve. That it is OK to cry. To be sad. That just as I am strong, I must grieve and process all that is taking place...

While I would never wish breast cancer on anyone, so often I find it hard to explain, or merely impossible to capture what it is like to process this on a daily basis. What it is like to look in the mirror and barely recognize who you are. Just today I was on the phone with a woman who was diagnosed almost 25 years ago. Her organization, The Wedding Pink, provides an all expenses paid wedding for a couple impacted by breast cancer. As a professional photographer, she offers portrait photography for survivors.  She has offered to take portraits for me before I start chemotherapy. So that I may remember my hair and just have these for years to come. In just my short discussion with her I found myself connected. As a survivor. We are survivors. I am grateful for that.

Early this morning, I headed out to find my spot on a stationary bike at the gym. I rode while listening to a sermon by Francis Chan. I was looking to fill my head with promises of Gods goodness when the lies in my head often speak louder. I still find church an emotional place to go so a podcast suits me just fine right now.

The rest of my week is busy preparing my last few things before starting chemotherapy. I am meeting the acupuncturist tonight. Through Cleaning for a Reason, Green Cleaners, a local cleaning company is donating their time and energy to clean my house as a gift during my treatment. They are stopping by on Thursday morning. Friday, I meet with my counselor and that evening we have our company holiday party. Saturday, I have long overdue date for a pedicure with a friend and am meeting with a personal trainer to work on exercises to keep me strong during chemotherapy. My mom flies on Sunday night and will be staying for a week. Broncos of course play at 2:40 pm too :)

Whew.... busy week of things but all good things.

I am so grateful for the time my mom is able to spend, here with me. My portraits are being done Monday morning so I look forward to having some with her in them too.

Again, thank you for your kind words, your continued support. This is a long road, so to continue be the recipient of your words, prayers and kindness is so appreciated.

I am off. Have a good week.

Sunset last evening...

When you realize you have Patagonia on, everywhere...

Monday, January 5, 2015

If you knew what it was like

It has been nearly two weeks and I have only been to the doctor twice. My life is starting to look normal again. This past long weekend, I spent New Years in Breckenridge, shared time in the company of friends, watched the snow fall in giant flakes, I joined a fancy new gym, ate tacos, had margaritas and cleaned my house. It seemed no matter what I did. How many errands I ran, I was just trying to find enough things to pass the time between now and next week.

You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.

Yesterday I woke up to learn of the passing of Stuart Scott. I cried. A cry that aches for this horrible disease. For how to robs. For what it requires of you. For what it demands and what it can take away. Just last week I learned that Kara Tippets, writer of the book The Hardest Peace, (my favorite book I have ever read) with stage IV breast cancer is dying. You may read what may be one of her last posts here.

Two years ago today, my dear friend Amy Patwa, of who I have spoken of before, died from her battle with breast cancer. Connected by a summer spent together at Younglife camp in Florida, I had the joy of sharing a bunk bed and serving meals in a dining hall alongside her. When it came to battling cancer, Amy did cancer well. (Not that it was in her nature to do anything less than well). She braved cancer like a badge of honor. Declaring the goodness of who God is, inspite of cancer. Inspite of hopelessness, she hoped, for something beyond a disease but to a father who loves his children dearly and weeps alongside them. She believed that until the very end. 

Amy's sister and I have connected and exchanged stories. The two us connected by her sisters legacy. Like my family, they are also BRCA 2 positive. Her sister and I have shared mastectomy tips and tricks. (She underwent a prophylactic mastectomy). Amys sister has shared her own grief in the passing of her sister and like me admires the life she lived so very much. Listening to her speak about Amy brings tears to my eyes. To have simply known who she was, was such a gift. I love listening to her speak about her and Amys relationship. Amy and her sister are just like Brittany and I. Amy being the younger sibling fighting breast cancer.  And her sister older looking down at her.

A strange connection of cancer. Of knowing what it is like to be sucummbed to a life threatening illness. To have one choice only and that is to fight. Three people, one whom the world has honored in the last twenty four hours, Stuart Scott, another who is grieved by families and the christian community, Kara Tippets and another who was my own personal hero, Amy Patwa.

Just yesterday in the locker room at the gym I was changing my clothes. I have never changed in front of anyone since my surgery. My giant scars felt like a big sign. A giant sign that says I had cancer. Although I am sure not many women looked or thought about it. I found myself covering up. Turning around the other direction...... Yet at the very same time I wanted to say something. I wanted people to know what it is like. To be robbed. To have this taken away from you. To not feel like yourself anymore. To have to make choices about your future, the children you desire when you are not married in your 20s. To no longer have feeling in your chest. To be embarrassed by your own skin. I want others to know my grief. To understand my fears. To know what it feels like to long for normalcy. What it feels like to watch everyone else moving on with their lives. To have trouble trusting in anything anymore. To have a hard time dreaming about a future that is beyond cancer.  I want someone to know, to ache with me... but they can't (you can't) and truthfully I hope you never ever have to know what this feels like.

Today I suspect will be a hard day. I long for those who have passed. For Amy. For her family. And I am just feeling a bit out of it today....

I will be in an all day planning meeting for work and to be honest I am a bit nervous. Planning for anything anymore is hard to do. I often wonder what the point is, when so many things go different ways anyway.

One week from today I will be in chemo clinic. I cry thinking about it. 

Oh heart how I long to feel different. 

May this day find you hopeful. For someone like me who finds that so impossible today.