Yes, I have been silent for over a month. It has been a really tough go of it—not gonna lie. My last post in June was filled with all the joy of Micah’s graduation and trying to fit cancer appointments in with all the festivities. I have tried my best to live a full life, but the chemo treatments are really wearing me down. So here it is—the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I have had two more rounds of chemo since back in June when my oncologist reviewed my scan and wanted to continue more chemo. There was good news. My tumors are shrinking. There are no new tumors. The cancer hasn’t spread. And the best of all is that my cancer blood markers were at 1.7 which is the lowest of all time since this journey began in 2013. Back in January when I started my treatments, my markers were up to 57. So this is amazing stuff. BUT. But in the midst of the good news comes more chemo, more blood draws, more appointments. It has become extremely taxing. Greg was in Uganda when I started the next rounds of chemo. Micah was a trooper and took great care of me (Noah is working in Colorado) and my amazing support community kept meals coming and kept praying and checking on me. But the last round of chemo which was on July 8 literally kicked my butt. The side effects of nausea, itching, headaches, and diarrhea just kept going and going. Usually the side effects kick in the third day and last about three days. This time I didn’t feel well for 12 days. I had one day when I only got out of bed to go the bathroom. When I am down and nauseated, I can’t read or watch tv because it is hard to focus because I am so miserable. There were a few days where I forced myself to get at least two things or errands accomplished and then would come home and take a nap. Speaking of naps—I love them—they are when I get my best sleep. It is often hard to sleep at night because I go down rabbit holes of thinking, so my daytime naps are good, strong and sound sleep.
I did have days where I simply pushed through in spite of the nausea and diarrhea. I had my book club, I went to a wedding, I had a lunch with friends, I walked the dogs in the evenings with Greg or my friend Mary to take in the beauty of the crisp air and the gorgeous sunsets. But it has been hard. I have been impatient, unfocused, and frustrated. Unfortunately, my husband, Saint Greg, gets the brunt of it.
I want this post to reflect the hard, but also the hopeful. During this time of rough side effects—my friend Kathy Bevill had set up a dinner for me to finally met Pat Sheffler. I have known Pat’s wife Caren since she was my trainer years ago. Turns out that Kathy went to high school with Pat and through the world of FB, we all connected the dots that we knew each other. Pat was diagnosed with stage three prostate cancer 14 months ago. He has been a beacon of hope for others going through any kind of trial. Like me, he wants to use his cancer for the good of humanity. His amazing family set up a walk with the ZeroProstate foundation last September and were the top fundraising team in the nation! Pat writes on his FB about his Positive Vibes attitude and how cancer has opened him up to embracing life to the fullest and to focusing on what is important—family, friends, community. It turns out that on that day we were to all have dinner together, both Pat and I were having really tough side effects. We were tired and nauseated and weak. We both took naps. But we went to the Bevill’s house for dinner and sat around sharing and talking about hope and recovery and also the really hard side of what each of us is going through. I am blessed to know Kathy who is such a light and is also a gatherer of people. She loves community and friends and shows through action how much she loves others. Caren and Pat are a strong couple who adore their grown children and love and care so much for others.
Pat and I together are going to be a force to be reckoned with. We can empathize with each other. We understand the hard times. But with faith and positivity, we push through and do all we can to live an abundant and purpose filled life. We acknowledge that this treatment is hard, that there are times when we need to rest, there are times we are knocked down and frustrated. But we get up. Even when it is hard. I want all my blog reading friends to know Pat, to be inspired by him and his wife Caren. They are real and raw and share it like it is. Pat and I have some creative visions of how we can work together to really promote cancer awareness—early detection, positive attitudes, and faith, combined with the love and support of community. Right now we are both continuing treatment—his goes through December and mine goes until…don’t know until the doctors do the next scan.
The treatments and side effects are really really hard and I am wearing down. But then I pray and I think of this beautiful life and the beautiful people in it, and I have hope. When I meet with Pat and read his posts, I have hope. When I feel well enough to take a walk, I have hope. When I gather with friends for a movie and dinner, I have hope. When I go to weddings and watch new love, I have hope.
I have an extra week off chemo so I can go to a wedding in Colorado and get to see Noah and his best friends who are all in the wedding (yeah Jake and Darby!) I can’t wait to celebrate it all with friends.
If you are struggling and there are days that you need to lie in bed all day—it is okay. If you are dealing with anxiety or depression or hopelessness—it is okay to feel it. If you are in physical chronic pain, cry out and feel it. If you have struggles with relationships or work or the state of our union or scrolling through your FB feed, then allow yourself to feel the pain. Acknowledge the hurt. Get professional help if you need it. And then, when you are able, get up and go out and do just one thing that gives you hope.
I love the beauty, rawness & honesty of your writing, Kirsten. You are a light & beacon of HOPE to so many! I know when I visited with you recently, you were struggling with these horrible chemo side effects. I’m so sorry you are having to endure such suffering. You are a Beautiful Warrior Princess ... a fighter, full of courage and vision. I am glad the Lord brought Caren & Pat into your life. What a blessing that Pat & you can lean on & encourage one another! I pray God will use your combined testimonies and experiences in a positive and powerful way—to help bring renewed HOPE to the hurting & hopeless. Cancer is an ugly thief —but you are fighting back with grace, grit, tenacity... and with a wonderfully positive mindset & outlook. I love you so much, and want to thank you for taking the time to write this blog. It’s an honor to read it, & to have a small glimpse into the window of your life at this chapter in time.
Here are a few verses I wanted to share w/ you:
Hebrews 6:19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.
Lamentations 3:24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
Psalm 10:17 O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear.
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