Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

I am feeling humble today. People have told me how brave I am and how strong I am as I go through this fight for my life. But that is just it. I am fighting for my life. I can't imagine the bravery and strength required by someone else who is also fighting for my life and in the process might lose theirs. Remarkable. I don't think I could ever do it. So, thank you. Thank you to all of those precious souls who risk their lives, sometimes lose their lives so that we can live ours. Somehow gratitude doesn't seem enough.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Finally

Today is "cancer free friday" which I started a long time ago. A day to not talk about cancer. Today it has different meaning though. Today I feel cancer free. I know I still need surgery but it has been 3 weeks and 2 days since my last chemo treatment and I finally feel like my old self again. Part of me wants to rush into this surgery and get it over with but I am enjoying feeling good right now. I haven't felt this way for some time. I wake up with a spring in my step and I can do whatever I want (mostly) during the day. Enjoy this straight away Kristin, you have one more hurdle.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bend your knees

Many times throughout the day I remind myself to "bend my knees". This is the only way I know how to balance. Little things trigger resistance and rigidity - getting dressed, working out, going to the grocery store, my kids saying "I miss your hair". If I let the frustration in - I know I could fall. So I bend my knees and try to balance on this new life. I try and look straight ahead and not look down.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Life is Unpredictable

We just never know what is going to happen in this life. Just this week a good friend was diagnosed with a form of Leukemia. In my little brain my logic told me that there would be no chance of that happening now with me going through cancer. One at a time please. Obviously, this world doesn't work on my schedule.

My sweet sister's 5 year old dog was hit by a car and killed a few days ago. If you are not a dog or pet person you might not understand but this dog was her best friend. I grieve for her incredible loss.

When we wake up in the morning we don't know what the day will have in store for us. It could be a shocking cancer diagnosis or the completely unexpected loss of a pet. I am not trying to be a downer. It has just been another reminder this week that we need to cherish all that we DO have. Every minute of this precious life.

My friend is going to be just fine - turns out she just needs to take a pill every day for the rest of her life and most likely the cancer will stay in remission. I know her view of life will change a bit - but I imagine it will be for the better.

My sister will make it through this difficult time. It will be hard but in the end she will remember her beautiful dog and all of those wonderful memories will stay with her.

Love deeper, laugh harder and sing louder. We only have one shot at this.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sixth Sense

Last September, right after I started teaching Zumba, I started to notice a "feeling". It is hard to describe but it was like a peace came over me. Everything was going so well and I sort of knew that it was a "gift" and that something was going to change. It was not like waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was not panicked or worried - something just told me to enjoy the now.

I had the same feeling during the few days between my biopsy and the results. A calm. I think I knew before the results were in that something was going to happen.

Often I think I have had that voice in my head telling me something and I have either chosen to ignore it or was too busy to hear it. This past year the voice has been louder. There has been no question that it was there. You could call it a sixth sense or you could call it God's grace. Too many times I have tried to use my other senses to make decisions - trying to maneuver the maze of life touching, listening, seeing just what is right in front of me. If I had only used that grace to see the big picture the way through the maze would have been clear.

Once again I have that calm. I have anticipation about the surgery but not anxiety or dread. I have replaced the word "good" with "easy" and the word "bad" with "hard". I know the road ahead will be rough - full of pot holes and rocks - but I can see the beautiful black asphalt on the other side and my VW is fueled and ready to go into sports mode once I am there.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Example

WARNING: Very sappy, gooey, make you want to be sick post - feel free to skip it.

I wish I could film John in all of his fine moments throughout this journey. I would broadcast it to every other spouse going through this in the hope that their relationships would become richer and deeper. I understood, when this first happened, John's behavior. He was worried about me, worried about losing me, and worried about what would happen to our family. In the beginning he said all of the right things, hugged me when he just knew I needed a hug, gave me space at just the right time.

Now, 5 months into it, he is still doing the same thing. I wonder if I would have lasted as long if the tables were turned. I am grumpy sometimes and when nobody else can see my insecurities I take them out on John. I get frustrated with my bald head and my bulging belly and yet he continues to see only beauty. He loves me. I mean the deep kind of love you are always searching for. I know this now for certain. I always knew he loved me but I sometimes wondered how deep that love went. Would he love me still when my skin was saggy and my hair was grey? Yes, because he can love me when steroids make me crazy and I have NO hair. I know what this deep love is because I feel it for him. That love that is so strong sometimes it is hard to look at that person - it is so overwhelming. Like when you watch your child sleep.

When you have something this good you want to shout it from the rooftops - and so I am. Sorry to drip this sap and goo all over you - I couldn't help it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

History


You may have figured out that I am not a big history buff (yawn) - I am more of a here and now kind of person. That being said, last night we went to Julia's open house at school and the kids had a "wax museum". They all picked someone important from history to research and do a speech on. Last night they all dressed up in character and if you went up to them they came to life and did their speech. It was quite fun to see who everyone picked. They had Rosa Parks, George Washington, Milton Hershey etc. Julia picked Madam Curie. She really got into it and loved pretending to be a scientist. It reminded me that without many of these important historical people we would not be where we are today. I think we need to remember these amazing people and learn from them. Teach our children how to overcome adversity - to thrive and conquer their dreams. Way to go third grade class!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Kill em with kindness

I believe 90% of the time niceness wins over aggressiveness. I had a new hiccup this week. Apparently my surgery had been approved by insurance but the surgeon had not. I was told yesterday that my insurance company wanted me to go to a plastic surgeon who was in their network that suddenly knew how to perform the very complicated surgery I will be having. He has been practicing in the area for 5 years and this was the first anyone heard of him performing this particular surgery. He also must be around 70 years old because he has had his medical degree for 50 years. Perhaps he is a fine surgeon but he has never worked with Dr. Wonderful and they would be working together. I was not comfortable changing surgeons at this point. So, saving you a lot of the details I ended up calling the person assigned to my case from the insurance company. This was the first time I have needed to do this and here is how the conversation started.

Me - (in my most peppy and nice voice) - "Hi John! This is Kristin and Angela from Dr. So and so's office asked me to give you a call regarding what you spoke to her about yesterday"

John - (In a very monotone voice) "Member ID#"

Me - " Oh I'm sorry, I should have known that you must have a lot on your plate hold on while I get that for you"

John - silence


I continued to speak nicely to him - explaining how much I appreciated his time working on my case. You get the picture. In the end it all worked out - I was approved to have the surgery by the surgeon I wanted. I think most of the time people just want other people to be nice to them - even if they are having a bad day - even if they are having trouble being nice themselves.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Box

Last night I went to a party to celebrate a friend who has been cancer free for 5 years - which in cancer terms means "cured". Woo Hoo!!! I was ecstatic for her and wanted to show my support but honestly it was very hard for me to go. I knew I would be seeing many people I haven't seen in awhile - people I wanted to see but wasn't quite ready to see yet. It involved trying to find something to wear - always an issue. I have to work from the top down these days - starting with a hat and working from there. I chose a pair of jeans I could still squeeze my newly pudgy body into and heals (which always make you feel pretty) and slapped some makeup on my broken out face. Vanity seeping through. Insecurity seeping through. Nothin' like making an entrance when you are 5'10" and bald. Of course all of my insecurity and worry was in my head. I walked into nothing but loving arms. I looked into eyes I hadn't seen in several month and even though the words were "great to see you!" and "how have you been?" the understanding and friendship behind all of those eyes was so deep. There is a new richness to these relationships and I cherish all of them.

I have been worried lately that I will fall back into my "old" self. I don't want to go back to the way things were - I want to hold onto this new appreciation for life and everything in it. I want the superficial to stay at bay and already I feel it tugging at my heels. Jeans, hats, pudgy. They all mean nothing. I still find myself wanting to stay in "the box" of comfort and security - the one where I can't get hurt - the one that surrounds my home. The only way I think I can hold onto my new found riches is to step out of that box - every day. Take risks. Trust in the goodness of people. Trust myself.

Sometimes in those moments when we are feeling most alone - if we take our hands away from our eyes we can see how not alone we really are.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Promises

I think often times we like to make promises to ourselves - "I will wake up early tomorrow" - "I will go to the gym tomorrow" - "I will eat less tomorrow" - " I will call that old friend tomorrow". I almost think these are the worst kind of promises to break - the ones to ourselves. It ends up turning into self sabotage. I am a pro at these promises and when I break them I just feel bad about myself.

I came to a crossroads this week. I had told myself that I was going to take these 4 weeks in between chemo and surgery to really get in shape - step up my game. I wanted to be in the best shape possible so that I could heal better. The problem was that over the last 4 months I finally learned how to slow down. I have now come to enjoy the quiet days. On top of that the task of getting back into shape seemed so incredibly daunting (none of you feel that way do you?). So, I felt that moment. The one where I could choose to actually do what I told myself I would do or come up with an excuse and put it off another day. I chose to honor the promise I made to myself. More than feeling good about pushing my body - I felt elated about keeping myself in check. It gave me a high that lasted all day. Today I woke up and did it again - and it felt good again.

I think we tend to make these promises with a grain of salt when we really should be thinking hard about our goals and understand all that they entail. I think we should start small - goals we know we can achieve. Once we feel the satisfaction of applying ourselves there is nothing that can stop us. The goals become bigger - the outcome better. This is living - not waiting around for life.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Praise God!!!!!

Insurance FINALLY approved my reconstruction and because we have already met our out of pocket max we will owe nothing! You have no idea how this has kept me up some nights wondering what we would do if in the last few days before surgery we found out we would owe thousands of dollars. "God will provide" rings in my head on a daily basis - long before cancer came into my life - so I really should not have been worried at all. He would have taken care of it somehow. I am just so thankful He did it this way. I will be sleeping like a baby. Time to celebrate!!!!!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pet Peeve

I am not one to normally complain but I have one major pet peeve...... rudeness. I don't understand it nor do I have patience for it. It can take many forms which I will not go into but lately I seem to be even more aware of it around me. Today as I was pulling out of the parking lot at my docs office (social call - I seem to like it there) I observed someone driving a car WAY too fast through the parking lot and honking at anyone even thinking of backing up to exit. I had yet to even start my car so she wasn't honking at me but it certainly alarmed me as it did the many other people walking in the area. I felt sorry for the poor, elderly man who was carefully trying to back out of his spot - surely he was given quite a scare.

I decided to let my heart calm down a bit and checked my messages on my phone (again before even starting my car) when I notice someone getting out of the car next to me. His entire head was bandaged up and he needed someone to keep him upright to cross the street. They took a long time. I can only imagine what would have happened if the timing had just been a little different.

What could possibly be so important that you would need to race through a parking lot of a doctors office. Nothing, I imagine. I ended up hearing car horns 3 other times today. Impatient people counting the seconds that are going by not caring about what anyone else is going through.

This week (as with all the weeks right after chemo) I was moving a bit slower. Quite a bit slower. It would take me much longer to walk across the street. Normally my legs just move fast but I have come to understand how many, many people just can't move very fast. We never know what someone else is dealing with - so - to presume that your needs are more important than someone else is just plain rude.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Doubt

I think this should be a 4 letter word. Really, why do we need it. It just gets in there and messes everything up. For most of us I think it is very hard to live without. It takes effort. That is where faith comes in. I think it is easy to live without doubt if you have faith. Without faith, I think you are left to your own devices and unless you think you are the best thing since sliced bread you are going to doubt - your choices, your achievements, your abilities.

I am so grateful to have faith. Without God I would be a disaster. I would be doubting everything - questioning everything. If I thought I had to fight this cancer on my own I would always wonder if I was strong enough to do it. Instead, I KNOW it is in God's hands - I also KNOW that He will take incredible care of me. I have no doubt that there are a whole bunch of poor dead cancer cells in my body that will soon be on some pathologist table wishing they hadn't messed with me and my posse.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

This is what I woke up to today. Julia not only wrote the words but came up with the tune - grab your tissue.

I am beyond blessed. video

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A word about Chemotherapy

When I heard the words "you have cancer" I was scared. When I heard the words "you need chemotherapy" I was REALLY scared. For some reason chemo scared me even more than the cancer. I guess in my mind I had assumed that because I had been so pro-active and had mammograms from the time I was 30 that there would be no way I would ever need chemo. They would just cut the darn thing out and be done with it. Things are not always as they seem.

I had already seen my mom go through chemo for breast cancer and just the idea of it is so crazy - poison racing through your body. How could anyone want to do such a thing. Things have changed so much. It is still poison killing cancer cells (go poison) and it definitely sucks dealing with the side effects but they are not nearly what they were. The fact is - this chemo most likely is allowing me to see my children get married, see my grandchildren born, and grow relatively old with my husband. I would go through hell and back to be able to do that. I am not done with this world - too many things I need to give back.

I know many people choose not to go through chemo - some of them are fine - and some are not. I needed better odds than that. Now that I am in the thick of my last round I can honestly say I would do it all over again if it meant one more day of being alive.

I think someday soon chemo will be a thing of the past -like VCRs and 8-track tapes. Even if we don't find a cure right away - the way we treat cancer is changing - getting better. Every day that we are closer to finding a cure is a good day.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lifetime friends

There are some friends that float into your life at just the right time and then they float away. It is nothing bad and those friends will always be in your heart it is just that their time with you was meant for something that was shorter. Then there are lifetime friends. Friends you know you will always be very close to. Sally is one of those friends. We may live apart now but she is never far away. We met in High School and we were inseparable - writing notes to each other in class and spending every weekend trying to find something fun to do. She was my maid of honor in my wedding and we went through life chapters at pretty much the same time - marriage, children, buying a home. Most of this time we were not living close to each other. Sometimes we would go a month and not talk - life just getting in the way - but when we did connect it was like we never stopped talking.

Sally has called me every single day since I was diagnosed. She flew out here from Colorado just to sit by my side during chemo. I felt bad that her trip to California was not one filled with wine tasting and beach lounging but I don't think either one of us could have been happier. We were together. I am sad that she left today - but I am so grateful to have had this time with my very, very special friend. To look at her face and know she is real - now I can see her on the other end of the phone line when she calls tomorrow.

Thank you Sally for being one of my rocks - knowing just the right things to say and always staying positive. You are my biggest cheerleader and you don't know how much I appreciate the "you can do it!" cheers. Thank you for leaving your family for a few days to come spend time with me. I don't know that I will ever be able to repay you or your family - you gave me just exactly what I needed. I love you.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Last Chemo!!!




It is hard for me to actually believe that I just received my last chemo treatment. It hasn't really hit me yet - I don't think it will until next week when I feel better. We had a party today and my nurses sang to me the "last chemo" song. They are all so amazing - everyone in that office is just a breath of fresh air. I have only wonderful things to report about my entire experience with this oncology office - I am almost sad to be leaving.... almost. I love my doctor - he has had a very big hand in saving my life and I will never be able to repay him. I did not get a picture of him today but I will so you can see how great he is.

These pics are of my amazing nurses, my good friend Sally who has been here from Colorado just to take me to my last chemo - what a sport, and Stephen who stopped by with a couple dozen roses.


I am so completely blessed.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Spring

It finally feels like spring here. The garden is growing nicely, There is still a bit of a nip in the cool breeze but the sun feels glorious. A beautiful time of renewal.

I am feeling renewed as well. The last few days I have felt wonderful - and it is so wonderful to feel wonderful. I am sure you know that feeling - when all of a sudden you feel great and you want to take on the world. I am right there. I feel so strong going into this last chemo and I am confident that it will go smoothly. I am so excited that this is the last one. I am going to use my 5 1/2 weeks in between chemo and surgery to get myself as strong as possible. Feed my body fresh veggies and good food, take long walks to build up my strength. Be as strong as I can be so my body will heal faster after surgery. I have so many things to look forward to - sprouting hairs on my head, the moment the doctor tells me I am cancer free, teaching my first class back. I am looking forward to finding out what my new normal will be - I know it will be so much better than my old normal. I am looking forward to finally finding out what my full potential is - it is all so exciting.

I hope you can all hop on my train and get excited about finding your full potential - living each day to its fullest - and making life about living.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Feelin good!


I felt so good today that this is what we did. All four of us were working in the front yard from 8a.m. until 5:30p.m. We put the rocks in, planted 16 new plants and put the guerrilla hair down. A beautiful California day and the only bummer is that I am sunburned. Se la vi! I am happy!