I’m Still Here

Today is the eve of my 22nd birthday. I have always been a fan of birthdays, I mean why not? You basically get to walk around and flaunt how special you are because you were born. You get presents and hugs and smiles and everyone loves you for one whole day. But this year, I feel differently. I don’t feel excited, I don’t feel like bouncing around and shouting and the top of my lungs that “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!” Instead I feel accomplished, I feel proud, I made it one more year, I am still here. I am not excited because I’m turning one year older I am excited because I am able to turn one year older. And I feel like that’s wrong, like I need to keep it a secret. No one wants to celebrate that I’m still alive, like me. I’ll tell you why they don’t: It makes people uncomfortable to talk about reality, it makes people uncomfortable to talk about dying.

Listen, I get it. It’s not like I love to think about dying but it’s something that I think about a lot because I have to. I’m a planner. I like to be in control. I prefer always to be realistic about my circumstances but hope for the best outcome. So when faced with cancer, I had to look at all of my options and plan for the best and the worst scenario. I’d say that’s life and death here. Planning for life is very easy. You think of all the things you want to do if you survive and then you start trying to do all of them as soon as possible. It probably won’t go how you planned, keep smiling.

How do you plan for death? Well, it’s very simple. You start thinking things like this, “If I died right now, would I be okay with that?” The word “okay” here means a few different things like am I happy, do I feel good, am I satisfied with my last day, did I do things I wanted to today, am I in a good mood. If the answer to any of these questions is no, than you better turn your day around right quick. This is also surprisingly easy to do. You simply adjust your attitude. A novel concept that my mother has repeated to me thousands of times throughout my life, sometimes with a lovely threat attached at the end. A concept that I never figured out was so easily under my control until I spent everyday wondering if it would by my last.

You see, your attitude, your emotions, your perspective, they are entirely under your control. So if you don’t feel happy or something annoying happened like you got a flat tire, and now you’re going to be late, and you’re dog chewed up all of your new underwear, and then she threw up on the carpet, and everything is just going wrong today and it has put you in a horrible mood, you can just decide to be happy about it. I mean really, what is the best way to get back at your annoying sibling for doing something just to piss you off? Ignore them, ignore what they did, what they’re doing. You say, “Hey universe, I know you’re trying your best to get me down today but good frikkin luck cause I’m just HAPPY!” You can actually sing that last part.

And that is how you conquer the fear of death and embrace one of the many secrets of life. Even now, while I seem to be well on my way over this mountain, I still check in with myself. I may no longer fear dying but I do fear the unknown. I’m afraid of what will happen tomorrow. But I know that all I can do is be happy, keep my attitude in check, and keep smiling.

In regards to my birthday: It is a celebration of my survival for one more year. I don’t think I will ever think of it in any other terms again. Of course, it’s a happy day, but there can also be tears. I will cry, for myself and all of my suffering. I’ll also cry for all of the beautiful angels who didn’t make it to another year. And I will wonder, why me? Why am I so lucky? I will be so grateful that I am still here, I will embrace the beauty of the world all around me and the wonderful people that I get to share it with. And I will love myself for being so strong. I will not tell everyone I see, or wear a tiara, or a sash. I will silently smile, and let the overpowering feeling of accomplishment wash over me as I repeat to myself in my mind “I’m still here.”

xoxo Katherine


Photo on 11-14-14 at 9.50 PM #2Photo on 11-14-14 at 9.51 PM #2

 

My week on Dream Street

Hello to my wonderful friends,

Did you miss me? Did you even notice that I was gone? It didn’t feel like I was. It felt like I was in a dream. Please watch this video to see why!

Did you watch it? I hope so!

I promise, the follow up for my Leukoenceph. story will be up this week before I begin my long drive back to LA!

Here’s a few pics of the trip and a video of me zip lining for you to enjoy:

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First group photo!

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Beautiful view!

10527298_10203329063002008_1527107807410751017_nThree of the “Scooter Girls”

photo 2-2The rock that I painted to leave at Canyon Ranch

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Group photo after funk class!

photo 3Beautiful fountain!

photo 4Putting our crutches to good use after my scooter died!

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The scooter girls minus our scooters!

photo 3-2One of the javelina’s we found!

10464269_10105222538328204_7496280548348212800_nOur last group photo!

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Path to the labyrinth/beautiful view!

And here is me on the zip line!

xoxo Kathy

I am Ballsy

Hello beautiful people!

Sorry for the break in posts, I followed up my Irish Excursion with a brief trip to LA to see my favorite people. While I was there, I finally caught up on some work, taking advantage of opportunities and stumbling across some new ones!

I was approached by Thomas Cantley, founder of I Am Ballsy, group which strives to make men more aware of their bodies, especially as it pertains to male reproductive cancers. How does that apply to someone like me? Well, as it turns out, Thomas uses the I Am Ballsy Facebook page and Instagram to feature awesome people who have overcome crazy obstacles in life. Everyday, the page pays tribute to a different ballsy bad ass by sharing an image along with a story written by them, describing why they are ballsy. A few days ago, I was the featured person on that page and of course, I would love to share my image and story here! I urge everyone to check out the I am Ballsy website and like the Facebook page. You can also vote for Thomas to be “The Ultimate Men’s Health Guy,” here.

Without further ado, here is my “I am Ballsy” Story!

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I’ll be honest, I had to use Urban Dictionary to look up exactly what being “ballsy” means. Not because I’d never heard the term before, but because I never thought of it as a word to describe me. Not until I was approached about writing this statement. Knowing that someone thought of me as ballsy, ballsy enough to write about how ballsy I am, got me thinking about what really made me seem ballsy.

Am I ballsy because I got diagnosed with Leukemia at age 20? Is it because I traded my life in Los Angeles, living with my best friends and not having a care in the world, for the pokes, prods and pitfalls of chemotherapy in dreary Seattle? Does having more blood transfusions and hospitalizations than I can count make me ballsy? What about waking up in the morning and realizing that you can’t control you’re body aka Leukoencephalopathy via methotrexate (deathotrexate)? Or is it because I walk around with chronic pain in both of my hips from Avascular Necrosis? Am I ballsy because I will have robot hips before I’m 25?

All of these facets of my life passed through my mind while I was brainstorming what to write about how I am ballsy. But none of them really fit, none of them inspired me or made me feel.. ballsy! But why not? It took me a while to come up with a good answer for this. Those things don’t make me ballsy, they don’t make me gutsy or intense or brave or amazing, because I didn’t have a choice in any of them. They just happened to me, like they could have happened to anyone. What I did have influence over, was my response to all of these things just happening to me. And that, my friends, is what makes me ballsy. My ability to stay positive, stay motivated, stay me, through all the bull shit that, just happened. And more than that, having the ambition to spread that positivity and inspiration to as many others as I do!

Any of you feeling ballsy? Tell me about it, leave a comment below!

xoxo Kathy