Every Spring….

Every fall I find myself feeling the same way I did when I started chemo.  That nauseous feeling….just that general uneasiness that came with putting poison in your body.  Without fail….every fall…..I’ll have that feeling for a bit.  The same thing happens in the spring….but for a very different reason.  Every May I would find out I’m pregnant…..and morning sickness would come with it.  I have 3 beautiful daughters….so looking back it wasn’t so bad, but my 3 miracle daughters didn’t come easily….and the journey was also filled with heartbreak.  And it’s crazy….that I can actually show the timeline of my pregnancy journey with pictures from when I would go to relay for life.

I was given the go ahead to try for a family after my 5 year mark.  I wasn’t sure how it would go, there were no guarantees…..but we would try!  I had gone in to menopause during treatment, but seemed to come back to normal when it was done.

The first time I found out I was pregnant…..I can’t even describe the excitement we felt!  Like all our dreams were coming true and cancer hadn’t done anything to me!  We were beyond thrilled and even put together special ways to announce it to our families.  We were making plans, going over names, dreaming of the future.  It was just perfect.  But I should have known…..life had already shown me what happens when you think everything is perfect and nothing can go wrong.

I was extremely happy to tell my oncologist’s office….this was their victory too.  This was a big deal, and they were also so happy!  When I attended the Relay for Life that year…not only did I get to celebrate with all those people from the office, but hear my oncologist speak! He’s a brilliant man and he even made a little comment about me….of course didn’t mention my name….but it meant a lot.  The pic below is the moment I realized he was talking about me.

 

Sadly……that day…..I miscarried.  It was ironic that it happened that day…..and it was beyond devastating.  I figured I’d done something wrong….no matter what the books said…..I was sure I did this.  Why would something like that happen after all we had gone through?  It was so extremely unfair and heartbreaking.  I don’t know what our families did with the items we gave them to announce our good news….but thankfully I’ve never seen them again.  We actually tried again really soon, got pregnant, and miscarried again that same year.  Then I took time off.  It was so hard to prepare my heart for the possibility of losing another baby.

So we waited.  Until the year our first child would have been born.  Like I said….we never had any trouble getting pregnant.  It was keeping the pregnancy.  We found out that my progesterone was not staying high enough during the first trimester.  So they put me on a supplement.  A magic pill that “kept me pregnant”.  That’s how it felt, and let me tell you…..that is the only pill I’ve ever taken regularly and not missed a day.  It was hard to stop when they told me I was safe…..and I took them until they ran out.

So my third pregnancy….I was so scared to go to Relay.  It’s funny how you associate things or circumstances with what you have gone through.  The irrational part of my brain was sure that Relay was causing me to miscarry…..I KNOW THAT IS CRAZY!  But….you know how it is.  So yes….I was terrified and actually went to the bathroom every five seconds (it felt like) to make sure all was well.  This is us that year……along with my amazing oncologist and his also amazing wife…..the medical team that saved me and cheered me on!

 

And in February 2008 we welcomed our miracle baby to the world.  It was a journey that was so difficult, heartbreaking, devastating, and overwhelming.  I know that we are extremely blessed to have the outcome we did….not everyone is as fortunate.  img_2035

Getting to bring her to Relay the year she was born felt like a huge victory! Like laughing in the face of evil cancer……like….here she is.  We did it.  You didn’t steal this from me.  That survivor lap was the happiest one I’d taken since my first.

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We were blessed with 2 more daughters along the way, and even though our last was never part of our Relay life, (as we stopped attending), it was special to be able to bring our girls to the event and celebrate the entire journey and the way life has turned out.  I didn’t know if I would survive cancer.  I didn’t know if we could have kids.  I didn’t know if we would be able to have our own kids.

Everything we have gone through has shown us just how precious life is.  How blessed we are.  Every single day with these dorky crazy mini versions of us is just pure happiness!  We just celebrated Mother’s Day…..and admittedly I had to stop and cry when I typed that.  I’m so extremely blessed to be a mom….my girls are the most amazing and beautiful thing that I’ve ever had a part in creating…..and even though my journey to becoming a mom as so hard…..I can look back and say it was so worth it.

 

Katie 🙂

Another Year!!

Today is my birthday!  Feel free to send me all kinds of birthday greetings 🙂  I’ve always loved birthdays….they are usually terrible for me, but I still love them.

I have even more reason to celebrate every year….even though I love to lie about my age….I’m extremely grateful to be here to celebrate each year that I get.  I know how close I came to not being able to celebrate this age, and how many people don’t get the chance.  I’m so grateful, and thankful, and blessed.  Each and every year is my best birthday gift.

I’ve got a little side by side thing here….a picture of me celebrating my birthday during chemo….and one of me more recently.  Yes….I did pick a really good after picture of me…but we have filters now….so why not use them?

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Even at this time during my treatment, I didn’t realize how bad I was…..and I’m glad I didn’t.  I had a lot of hope and determination to make it to my next birthday….and my next….and my next.  I’m thankful for every day I have….and the chance to celebrate my….ahem……39th birthday.  Ugh.  Just kidding….but if you ask my kids, they will probably tell you I’m 29 😉

Happy Birthday to me!!

Katie 🙂

Not Everyone Can Say The Right Thing….

We have had massive flooding where I live, and I’ve been seeing the struggle all around me. People are sharing their frustrations and experiences….and mostly people are supportive and sympathetic.  Then there are those who just can’t say the right things.  Sometimes their thoughts are not intended to be mean or cruel…..some are, but I’m not talking about them.  There are people…..and I’m one of them….who no matter what they think….the words that come out are not always the best.  I struggle with this a lot…and end up saying nothing to prevent my stumbly self from making someone feel bad.  This is why I was so understanding of those who said the wrong things when I went through chemo….and even to this day.  Not everyone understands what you are going through and want to show their support in any way they can.  It’s not every person’s strong suit.  There are people who should be professional supporters.  The beautiful and perfect things they say could be poetry…and then there is me and all the others like me that just seem to say one long DUUUHHHHH.   Ugh.

There were a lot of people who said some pretty horrible things to me.  I was able to recognize they weren’t trying to hurt me.  Sometimes the things your heart feels and your mind thinks just don’t come out right.  Not everyone is as understanding….I’m not easily offended.  And maybe because I suffer from the same thing…..I get it.  I’ve often asked to write rather than talk….it’s easier and less awkward.  I tend to speak before I think….and that leads to some backtracking and explaining….I always feel sorry for people who have to endure me in conversation.

Not everyone is out to offend.  Just remember that….not everyone truly understands and they try to show their support and love no matter what.  They want you to know they are thinking about you…..they just can’t express it like a poet.   All of this coming from someone who often has to remove her foot from her mouth.

Katie 🙂

You Never Know…..

I thought I had life figured out at 24.  Great job….great life….sure about my future.  Life always has a different plan, though.  I learned that.  But I had no idea exactly how different the plan for my life would be.  Everything is as it should be….but every turn has been a wake up call that you are not in control!

I’ve never been a person to be in the spotlight.  I’ve always been a behind the scenes girl.  Sure….I’ve sung in church and was forced to be in plays, but other than that…..I’ve been happy to sit on the sidelines and cheer for those who can shine.  There was always that secret part of me that thought it would be cool…..but really….it was never me.

Getting diagnosed with cancer put me in a spotlight I didn’t like at the time.  I didn’t want anyone to know I was sick or what I was going through.  I was extremely worried that everyone could tell by looking at me.  But as time went by…..going through treatment and everything….I began to change.  I became more open about what I was going through.  I didn’t have a clear idea of any mission…..but I felt strongly that people needed to know what I was going through.  So they could understand it, be part of it, relate to it.  I didn’t know then, but I know now, that this was the beginning of a crazy new life.  I can’t say that cancer was a blessing….but something you have to find the good out of a horrible situation.

I started to meet other cancer survivors and those fighting it.  I started slowly getting involved.  At first it was Relay for Life.  I walked every year.  I have a ton of survivor pins and shirts.  I looked forward to it.  As I met more people, I became involved in more things.  What stands out most is meeting my friend Denise Bohn.  She was like a magnet.  I was drawn to her from the moment I heard of her.  She is known locally to me, but for anyone else…..Denise was a news anchor for local tv and radio stations.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer after me, and was very public about it.  I was intrigued by this woman who was so bold to share her story with EVERYONE!  She didn’t care that she was a public figure.  She wanted to spread awareness and give hope to others.  I wanted to know her.  It would be years later that I got that chance, and it started a friendship I’m forever grateful for.  She invited me to be part of so many things, and the most important to me was the Pink Tie Ball.  I started as a committee member and photographer, and then she made me speak.  If you knew her…you knew you didn’t say no.  She had a way of making you want to be part of it.  She changed my life.  When I lost her…..I lost a huge part of my heart.  She inspired me so much……but I never expected to be walking in her shoes.  I was blessed to take on the job she left behind.  It was humbling and inspiring.  I met some of the most amazing people and became part of some of the most amazing events.  I would speak at them, host them, help plan them, support them.  I felt like I was all over the place and living a dream life.  And it was a dream life! Truly……there are some things I’ve been able to do that have just been amazing.  And if not for her encouragement, I would never have started being involved.

This past weekend I hosted the 4th annual Pink Tie Ball.  The 2nd without her.  Standing at that podium and addressing all the guests still felt like a dream.  How is this my life?  The reality of this event going on without her hits me hard sometimes.  This was her baby….her dream.  Sometimes I really feel strange standing in her place.  I’ve been told that she was grooming me for this…..getting me prepared for something like this in my life.  Maybe she saw potential in me.  All I know is…..life is so crazy and twisted.  And funny….in weird way.  I’ve been able to introduce people I love to the world to share their stories.  Like she did for me.  I have been able to encourage and support people.  Like she did.  I will never say I’m like her…..but I’ve been able to honor her life with my actions.

Was there a point to this blog?  I’m not sure.  I’m coming out of my Pink Tie Ball coma.  Life is just crazy sometimes….and after our 2nd time doing this event without Denise….it’s still so emotional.  I’m so grateful for the time I had with her, grateful for the person she helped me become, and grateful for having the chance to continue her mission.  Even if that means I have to talk in front of people.  Maybe my point is…don’t be afraid of what happens, or what can happen.  You aren’t in control….there is a destiny for you.  Sometimes it’s not what you ever expected…..but it can be what you needed.

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Katie 🙂

p.s.  I miss you so much Denise.  ❤

I Don’t Always Feel Strong

I’ve started so many blog ideas the past couple of weeks….different ideas, situations, themes.  I wanted to find something perfect and inspirational to write about.  What if I don’t want to be inspirational this time?  Sometimes life is just……blah.

And that is my life this week.  About 5 days ago I came down with shingles.  Not my first time, probably won’t be my last.  I’ve had shingles in varying levels of awful, but this time….it knocked me down.  My entire left arm, left side of my back and chest….all the areas affected by radiation and cancer.  This is not a pain or experience I would wish on anyone.  It’s awful.  I was forced to rest, which sounds amazing, but there is only so much resting your body can take!  Fevers came, my appetite left, and of course I became dehydrated.  Today…..I’m just ok.  I’ll probably need a nap after this, which makes me feel sad and want to laugh at the same time.

This is just one of the many things I have to deal with after cancer.  I hate that.  Didn’t I go through enough?  Sometimes it just gets so frustrating….and I try to be positive, but times like this bring the negativity to the surface.  And anyone can say you deserve to have your bad and negative days, but that helps nothing.  I mentioned to my husband that I feel like something is always going on with me now.  I used to be so strong and healthy, and now it feels like I can’t get through a month without something going wrong.

Some days….I think it’s ok just to be really pissed about what cancer did to you.  You can’t live there……but you get to have that.  And today…..I’m just really pissed.

Katie.

Chemo Brain and Shaved Heads

I promised to talk about my time during chemo, and I’m going to! But…..there is much I don’t remember.  My entire cancer experience was done before social media, so I didn’t document much.  I was given a journal in one of my many “you have cancer so here’s some stuff” bags…..and I really tried to write down what was going on….but I only got one page done and it was my typical ~ Dear Diary….I will be better at writing in you this time!  That didn’t happen…..again.

My treatment time was a blur.  There was so much going on, not just dealing with cancer.  I was still in training for a difficult and high stress job, planning a wedding, and getting chemo/radiation.  No big deal, right?  To say I was exhausted is an understatement. I somehow found an inner strength I didn’t know existed in me and I made it all work.  But that is why my memories of that time are blurry and skewed.  Pictures help…..and some standout moments.   So……I will start recalling some of those moments over my next entries here…..

I do remember the day of my first chemo.  It was 9/25/2003, a Thursday.  I know that because I was married exactly one year from this date.  And Thursday was chosen based on the information my doctor gave me about chemo reactions.  I was able to have a flex schedule at work, where I worked 9 hours a day, 4 days a week, and 4 hours on the 5th day.  So I worked 4 hours on Thursday, and went straight to chemo.  Every 3 weeks I’d get my full treatment of Carboplatin, Taxotere, and Herceptin.  Then every week it would just be the Herceptin.

That first day my mom came with me.  I wasn’t sure I wanted her there, but was grateful later.  They were so crowded that day, it made me sad there were so many people getting treatment.  I was put in a room with another women who was getting her treatment already.  Her name was Ellen.  She was the nicest lady, and her daughter was with her.  Ironic…..since my mom came with me.  Actually, at one point they left to get us some food from McDonald’s 🙂  Ellen became my chemo buddy….and I wish I could remember our exact conversations, or any meaningful interactions.  All I have is the memory of her making me feel less anxious and more comfortable.

The treatment itself wasn’t especially memorable.  I remember the first one starting at watching the poison creep through the line until it went into my port.  I almost expected an instant reaction or feeling…..but there was nothing.  I suppose that was good…and it probably gave me a false sense of relief that I’d have no reactions at all!  Of course that wouldn’t be the case, but I felt great that day.  And I felt great the next day…..and the next….and the next.  It was the Monday after that it all came crashing down on me.  I was at work, eating some instant oatmeal.  It was apple cinnamon.  I didn’t even finish the bowl before everything I ate came rushing back up.  I went home after that.  After that I called in sick every Monday after my full treatment.  Tuesday wasn’t much better, but I could still function and I had no choice but to work.  That was one of the hardest things….going to work on those awful days when I just couldn’t function.  I used all my energy to get myself to work and do my job.

I was referred to a local place by my oncologist to figure out my hair situation.  They told me my hair would likely start falling out within the first 2 weeks of my first chemo treatment.  I hated having to do this….and to this day, seeing pictures of women wearing wigs in ads make me nauseous.  I met Sharie at a place called Studio I and she helped me pick out a wig.  I of course wanted something that would seem like a smooth transition…something that wouldn’t be obvious.  I guess I really thought that no one would notice, even though everyone knew.  Well…..of course once my hair started coming out…it came out fast.  I remember people asking me if it had started coming out yet, and I’d comb my hand through it and hold out a handful of hair.  They would always look horrified….I thought it was funny.  But once it got too bad….and very obvious I wouldn’t last much longer, I made the appointment to pick up my wig and get it fitted.  That day……ugh.  It was a Friday, and I went right after work.  Adam came with me.  And that night….Sharie shaved my head and fit my wig.  Looking back, I wish I’d taken video or pictures, but that wasn’t part of my mindset yet.  Again….before Facebook….even Myspace! 😉  I do know that we decided to shave in some funny looks…a mohawk was part of it.   As always, I have to make it funny or I’d fall apart.  I left there with my new hair…..and the feeling of really being a cancer patient.  People will always say that your hair is the least of your worries when you are fighting for your life…..but until it’s you, you don’t know.  The last thing you want is to have such a public image of your personal medical issue.  And no matter how vain it sounds…..your hair is part of your identity.  It’s a statement of your personality, your creativity, your style.  Having that taken away makes you question who you even are anymore.  Just another cancer patient.  Many people don’t realize you don’t just lose the hair on your head….but eventually every single hair on your body.  You may have some super strong hairs holding on for dear life…so you may end up with a Homer Simpson style, and you don’t dare pull those hairs out….you let them live!!!  And actually….writing about it now makes me cry.  It was traumatic and one of the many parts of cancer I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Over the course of my treatment I became very close to the staff.  Many of them were my age….and it was actually nice to have people who didn’t treat me like a sick person.  Funny….that it was the people at my doctor’s office that didn’t treat me like I was going to break 🙂  It was their support every week that helped me get through…..they were just amazing.  They are still part of my life…..and it’s because of them I’m still here! I truly believe that!

At some point during my treatment I stopped seeing Ellen.  At first I thought maybe she changed days……but as time went on I found that she had lost her battle.  It broke my heart.  She was my first major cancer loss, and I actually felt so guilty that I was still here.  I will always remember how at ease she made me feel…..knowing she was sitting next to me all those weeks fighting for her life.

Below are pictures of my many cancer looks during treatment.  The last picture is one I came across recently that I didn’t know I had.  It’s a very real picture of what cancer is really like.

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There is more……but I’ll save for another time.  I think I’ll take some time to cry now.  Sometimes reliving or remembering is just too much…..but by sharing, I hope that other people will know they aren’t alone.  And I really want people to know there is someone out there that understands those awful days.  Sometimes those days just suck.

Katie

2017

Well, the sun is setting on another year! Cliche?  Yes….but then I get to use my sunset picture!

This past year was full of ups and downs, as all years are.  There were some major losses and disappointments……but I’m deciding to focus on the positives of 2017.  Maybe this is my resolution for 2018, but it really should be an everyday thing.  So I’m leaving all the pain, bitterness, sadness, and loss of this year where it should stay.  In 2017.

This year was filled with some amazing times and opportunities!!!  I can never be more grateful for all the things I’ve been able to do and the amazing people who were part of it!

Just to name a few of the highlights…..I was part of an amazing group of people who pulled off the extremely successful Pink Tie Ball in February! We raised $20K to help those affected by breast cancer in our community!  I made the decision to leave my job at Komen Michigan and take on a new role in my life with Studio I, and am currently training to be a fitter for mastectomy bras and prosthetics!  I’ve seen so many concerts my head is spinning! Some of my favorites were Rusted Root, Phish, all the incredible acts at Bonnaroo, including one of my all time favorites, MARTINA MCBRIDE!!!!   I was able to visit family over spring break and see some great sites!  I witnessed 3 beautiful people get married!  I took a baby step back in to photography, something I’ve missed so much! All of my kiddos are healthy and thriving, and my hubby is doing great in his business!  And most recently…..I put myself in to the world of blogging!

Check out the slide show below of some of my favorite moments!  This also allowed me to indulge in my obsession with collages 😉

Thank you to everyone who made 2017 a memorable year.  I do realize how blessed I am to be here and see another year begin! Happy New Year!!!

Katie 🙂

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