Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My new reality

Yesterday, April 22, began the next step on my cancer journey--as I started my chemotherapy sessions.  For those of you on Facebook--I shared pictures throughout my day--a bit of overkill, but I wanted people to see the reality of the journey.  My friend Jon ("My funniest friend"-- he wants me to remind all of you) says that I "must stop making cancer look so good!" Well, cancer certainly isn't good, but I will keep reporting in joyful spirits while I can....and when I don't feel great or uplifted, I will report on that too.  I want this journey to be real and truthful, so that others can learn and grow from my experience.

The Cancer Center at UCSD has its own culture.  You sit in a room (chairs) surrounded by other patients going through the same battle--all with different types of cancer, treatments, and stories.  They are of all races, genders, ages, religious backgrounds, and lifestyles.  You are welcomed by the most amazing staff of nurses, doctors, and assistants who have this compassion that is unseen in the rest of the world.  Every one of the staff treats you like you are so special and such a fighter.  I remember when my friend John Wright went through his cancer battle-- he would write emails from his chemo room--and he would share stories of the people he met and ask for prayers for them.  He always looked out for others even when he was going through the same ordeal.  He always ended his emails with this" Praying and cheering for y'all".  My friend John is in heaven now, and at peace, but he left behind a beautiful and precious family, students, and youth teens who loved and adored him.  We have his legacy, but not his physical presence.  John is one of my inspirations--he was one of the first close friends who I watched go through cancer.  I had many conversations with God about John, and when he died, I cried and cried and wrote pages in my journal. But to this day, John inspires me....and his parents, his wife, his kids. Because of John's emails and how he shared his journey, he was one of the reasons I began this blog.  To keep people posted of the ups and downs of the journey and to inspire and to leave a legacy for all.

My new reality is chemotherapy sessions, and wearing a port pump for 48 hours after each session.  I will go to chemo sessions every OTHER Monday for at least two months and after each session I get to sport my new fashion accessory (the port pump).  It is a drip line attached to my port which goes to a pump that I carry in a bag. Now for you fashionistas like me, I have options to wear it as a fanny pack (only when I exercise because I certainly don't like drawing attention to my BEHIND--not my most favorite body part, and it is the reason I am in this cancer mess in the first place!), I can wear it  over the shoulder, or as a sling slouch pack.  Of course I am experimenting with all of that, and trying to adjust to getting dressed, sleeping, showering, and doing everything with this line attached to my body.  The good news is that I only have to wear it for two days (M-W) after each chemo session and then it gets removed until the next session.

I also get to experience the side effects of chemo--which the only ones that have manifested so far are the tingling and numbness in my fingers and toes.  There are others, which I am sure I will experience, but so far the nausea is at bay (with the proper meds) and I still have energy, though I am carefully listening to my body. Thanks to all my "survivor" friends who give my sound wisdom and practical advice.

Even though this is my new reality, we all have "realities" that we face each day.  I am not the only cancer patient, and I am not the only one experiencing a traumatic life change.  Just this week I found out that a childhood friend who was just a few years older than me, died of a heart attack.  I also found out that another dear friend was diagnosed with cancer. She shared her news with me and as we looked in each other's eyes and prayed together, we realized the "good in the storm" is that we can journey together, and our kids will have each other to go through the trial as well. And many of you are facing your own new realities--many of my youth group teens are experiencing the new reality of college and leaving home in a few short months.  I have friends dealing with relational/ marriage issues, finance and job issues, health issues, children with diseases or special needs.....we are all facing new realities every day.  But it is how we attack and respond to this realities that will get us through.  We can look inward and have a pity party, or we can look outward and have compassion for others, or we can look upward and give it all to the Lord, for He has it all in His hands anyway (whether we want to argue with him or not).

Whatever reality you are facing today--look it in the face and embrace it...then give it to God, let it go, and buckle up for the ride. And in the words of my warrior friend John Wright--

"Praying and cheering for y'all"


Sue said...

Wow! You are so right! We have choices when it comes to our thinking.
Kirstin, what amazes me about you is you knew right where to turn with the news on your short term future. You will beat this!!

Debbie Pederson-Nuñez said...

Thank you for sharing your journey with us, my dear friend. I love the candor with which you write. It is inspirational so see your thought process as you go through this season. I am certain that many who read this will find hope and encouragement in the face of their trials...and we all have them. I love what you said..."But it is how we attack and respond to this realities that will get us through. We can look inward and have a pity party, or we can look outward and have compassion for others, or we can look upward and give it all to the Lord, for He has it all in His hands anyway (whether we want to argue with him or not). Whatever reality you are facing today--look it in the face and embrace it...then give it to God," Soooo very true!!!

Love you! xoxo

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your attitude and inspiration Kirsten. You truly are an amazing and inspirational writer and as I read your words I can see God working through you to support and encourage others. You said it true that we all have battles that we face, some publicly and so often privately. You are doing good to remind us of that and of the very true reality that we are all in this together, living our lives, making our choices, deciding how to present ourselves to the world, and most importantly, how to honor the Lord with our actions. At that, my friend, you are excelling at. Thank you for your very important gift to us all. Hoping to see you and Aslan on the hiking trails soon.
With affection,
Cyndi S.

Sarah Robinson said...

Hi Kirsten (I still think of you as Ms. Johnson). I've been following your blog, each time telling myself I need to pipe up and say hi.

You have been one of the most influential people in my life, hands down. When I was in 8th grade (1992), you gave me a little card that said, "If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it". I kept that card with me through all these years. I posted it on my dorm wall through college. Kept in my box of keepsakes after that. I recently found it again when moved back to CA and now use it as my bookmark to read every night.

You are still so inspiring to me. I am now a successful veterinarian. However, today I was disappointed to learn that I was turned down for a position at a hospital where I feel I would be happier. You remind me to "look at in the face and embrace it...then give it to God". Maybe I'm meant to learn something from my current hospital, maybe it is an opportunity to make some much needed changes, or maybe I'm just meant to do the best I can for my own patients and learn to let the rest go.

I am forever thankful for how you've contributed to my life. I have very fond memories of game nights with Greg, your wedding, and of you being there at a time in my life when I really needed a strong figure. Thanks for being so candid during your journey and thanks for being you!

Much love,
Sarah Robinson, DVM
(Kroc Middle School)

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