5things

Now, I’m not going to profess that I know everything there is to know about cancer, or anywhere close to that, but having been a cancer patient I think I have a pretty good idea of what we, or at least I, think people should know about cancer. Especially since I knew little to nothing about the disease or its fighters before I was slapped in the face with a diagnosis myself. Realizing and admitting that you are ignorant is not easy, it’s sort of like swallowing vinegar or 250 mg of prednisone, but once its done you have the opportunity to open your eyes and your mind to reality. You have the ability to learn, understand and analyze the things that really matter in this life, to see what goes on in the world and play a part in making it a better place. More than that, you can inform and help others in doing the same thing.

Of course, I don’t meant to call anyone ignorant, but I know that I was ignorant to many things when I was diagnosed with Leukemia at age 20 and since that diagnosis I have begun to pay more attention to everything going on in the world, starting with cancer. Everything that I knew about cancer was surface level, and honestly, that might be saying too much. Most of my detailed knowledge was from television, which basically means that I knew nothing besides the generic details that I’m sure everyone knows. Cancer of a particular area, spreads or doesn’t spread, different stages, chemo/radiation, works or doesn’t work. This left me totally unprepared for a cancer diagnosis, which is exactly what I got. I believe that if I knew what I know now then, I would have had a smoother transition than I did. And my hope is that by creating this list of things that I wish I knew, I can help others to cope with their diagnosis.

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The Hollywood version of cancer is often an over-dramatization of what the cancer experience is really like. Sometimes the information and images shown on television and in movies is not accurate or out of date. For example, I was diagnosed with Leukemia, a term I remember hearing for the first time when I caught my Dad (I know, right?) watching A Walk To Remembereveryone’s favorite cancer movie about a teenage girl with Leukemia who falls in love. Well, that movie was made in 2002 and I was diagnosed in 2013, so when my mind immediately jumped to that movie after hearing the words “Leukemia,” I was panicking for nothing. Ten years later, cancer treatment is leaps and bounds from where it was back then. Of course, I didn’t know that then, but you do now, which brings me to my second point.

2thingScientifically, medically, you bet, things are getting good! No, there is not a cure for cancer, not yet anyway, but things are improving and will continue to until there is a cure for everyone. However, treatments are improving, people are surviving, things are getting organized and stuff is getting done. I think a lot of people don’t realize the progress scientists and doctors have been making in the past decade. Sometimes, when a problem isn’t right in our faces we don’t pay attention to it until a breakthrough happens, t least, that’s how I thought about things, “There hasn’t been a newscast for the cure of cancer so things must still be pretty bleak over in cancer-land.” This just isn’t the case. Chemotherapy and radiation are still what is used to treat cancer, but treatments are catered to the individual, to each case, to the specific cancer. We learn more and more about the disease, the drugs, the treatments everyday, whether its broadcasted or not!

3thingSo this is really cool. Sometimes I think maybe I’m the only person who didn’t know about this stuff before I was diagnosed but I figure, if I didn’t know there’s bound to be others! Everyone knows that chemo and radiation make you uncomfortable, they make you nauseous and give you pain, along with a myriad of other symptoms. It is only reasonable to assume that there are resources to counteract these symptoms. And there are! My personal favorite is nausea medicine. I have lived in gripping fear of nausea and vomiting for my entire life so my biggest concern with going through chemo was that I would have to deal with it every day for 8 months. Finding out about Zofran (my personal favorite) and several other nausea treatment options literally saved my life. I am proud to say that in eight months of intense chemotherapy I threw up a total of one time, that’s right one. So don’t be afraid of chemo, like I was, because there are plenty of resources to help you deal with the side effects!

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This is something that I cannot stress the importance of enough. If I have cemented one thing into my mind from going through this whole ordeal it is that everyone is unique in our thoughts, paths, personality, and physicality. How does that relate to cancer? When I was sick I found myself comparing my illness and my experience to others around me. I knew that this was unhealthy and tried to avoid hearing about other cancer patients as much as possible. It is extremely difficult to keep your spirits up when you hear about someone with the same cancer as you dying. In these times, I soothed myself by reminding myself of the facts. We are all different. Everyone in the world, everyone with cancer, everyone with leukemia. All of my experiences are my own, my cancer is unique to me, my treatment roadmap, my doses, my schedule, my body is my own and it unlike anyone else’s. Sure we might overlap in some areas, we might have had the same drugs, but we had different side effects. So take comfort in the fact that you’re different, you’re you, and no matter what anyone else says about their friend who had this or their doctor who said that, your on your own individual journey.

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When I was diagnosed I had a hard time dealing with the fact that I didn’t have a choice. I had to drop everything and become a full time cancer patient. I had to spend a good part of the week at the hospital willingly injecting myself with poison so that I might have a chance at living. It took me a while to be able to focus on the fact that there are some things in this life that we just cannot control. My own personal tsunami. But once I accepted this fact, I was able to move forward. Acceptance is the first step to recovery. The first step towards focusing on what really matters and what you actually are capable of influencing. Like if you want to be treated, where you want to be treated, how you are going to handle this crisis, what you are going to do after its over. When I realized that not being able to make one decision, gave me the opportunity to make so many more, like the decision to write this blog right now, it made everything hurt a little less. It enabled me to take back my power from the universe, to stop being the victim and to start being the fighter.

Knowledge is so powerful, and though knowing these things won’t stop the hurt, the sadness, the anger, the fear, I hope that it will lessen the blow for someone out there.

xoxo Kathy

Monday

Tonight, I am tired. Tired because I just kicked my own butt at the gym! It has been a challenge to get myself back in to a workout routine after lying in bed for so long, but I finally feel like I’m getting somewhere. And it feels amazing!

I’ve made a goal for myself this week to post something every day. I hope to be able to address real topics in my posts in the future, but for this week I am focusing on getting in the habit of posting.

I spent the better parts of my day today with Val. We went on our favorite long walk and I came up with some great ideas for TKD content. Being that it was actually nice outside today, I decided to take Val over to the dog park. There’s a really great one in our area that has a pretty big area designated to small and shy dogs, both of which are my dog. On the short walk over to the dog area from the parking lot, I ran into a nice woman who wondered about Val’s breed. She asked me specifically if Val was very good at being alone during the day. This just so happens to be the only thing that Val is absolutely horrible at. I had to explain to her that Val wasn’t a very good example of the breed because I got her to help me through chemo, so we have always been together all day, resulting in separation anxiety (for both of us).

I always love these little conversations that I have with complete strangers, where I’m forced to reveal that I am battling cancer. Everyone reacts differently to hearing it, but the best is when people react like this woman today. It’s like they immediately drop the stranger pretenses and join your army of supporters. They usually ask how things are going and I reassure them that I am doing great, and then they finish off by saying something encouraging like, “stay strong” or “keep up the fight” or something like that. Today, the woman said, “I hope that you have a great present and future.”

This reminds me of another sort of similar story. Sometime amidst all of my intense chemo I felt well enough to go shopping with my Godmother, Beckie. We were in one of Beckie’s favorite stores, chatting with one of the managers who knew Beckie, while she checked out. Somehow we got onto the topic of my cancer. Meanwhile this grumpy looking woman came to stand in line behind us. Beckie’s purchase was taking a while and we were being sort of leisurely since we knew the woman helping us. I figured this would only make the grumpy lady more angry. Finally, a second cashier came to help the grumpy lady. Grumpy finished getting checked out before us, and then she did something that shocked me. She grabbed my arm and said “stay strong” and then she turned and walked away. It was AWESOME. I will never forget that.

It’s so cool that people can relate to me, and to my struggle, like that. I feel so blessed to be able to experience these little moments of connection with people and I hope that they know how much of an impact that there words have.

Hope you all enjoyed these little stories, hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to come up with something a little more organized!

xoxo Kathy

Photoshoot with Kate E. Photography

Hi Everyone,

I recently did a photo shoot with an old family friend and aspiring photographer Kate E. Photography! Check out her work here and be sure to like her Facebook page here! Kate has avidly supported me with encouraging messages throughout my entire cancer experience. She approached me a few months ago about doing a photo shoot but I was too sick until recently to actually do it! I really wanted us to be able to capture what was left of my cancer experience before too much of my hair grew back. We also did some more edgy, fashionable type photos for fun! And a few with Val! Overall it was a lovely day with a great friend and photographer! Special thanks to Daniel Ross Salon for styling my makeup and hair!

Here are a few of my favorite shots :)

*Please keep in mind that I am not a model and suffer from chronic bitch face*

2923BW363234BW133311152038BW Thanks for looking guys! Hope you like them!

xoxo Kathy

 

 

Quick Update Video

Hi Everyone!

It would be awesome if you could all take a few minutes to watch this update video I did today. Just wanted to fill everyone in on what’s been going on. Also I would love to answer ANY questions anyone has about anything.

Hope you are all having a fantastic weekend! Go Hawks!

xoxo Katherine

What 2013 Gave Me

I never would have described myself as a glass-half-full sort of person before this year. Not because I was a negative, glass-half-empty sort of person before but because I have never experienced something so unique or scary or enlightening or profound as I have in 2013. Something happened to me that I had no control over at all. There was nothing I could do to stop it or change it. The only thing I could choose was how I was going to live with it. And LIVE WITH IT is EXACTLY what I did. I crashed head-on into a lemon tree this year, but I’ve figured out how to make some damn good lemonade.

Here is my 2013, the bad, the good and the really, really, really good.

  • I got a tattoo on my leg.

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  • I graduated from FIDM, and made some really bad ass shit.

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  • I went to Disneyland with my sisters.
  • IMG_1955I got diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and had to move back to Washington.

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  • I fell madly in love.

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  • I rocked a bald head.

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  • I got a new car.

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  • I experienced what it’s like to be trapped in your own body and have no control over your movements and actions or the ability to speak or function normally and had this tube shoved down my nose via leukoencephalopathy, fuck you very much methotrexate.

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  • I redecorated my bedroom and got a badass TV.

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  • I spoke at two cancer benefit events

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  • I bonded with my family

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  • I went to some dark places. (but I only threw up once)

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  • I missed my best friends.

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  • I went to my first Seahawks game, sat in the Red Zone at met Russell Wilson!

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  • And I gained a new sense of community. I experienced the kindness and compassion of family, friends, acquaintances and strangers. I learned more than I ever could have expected.

Getting cancer is horrible, but getting through it is amazing. I don’t know if other people can see it the way that I do, but in the end, I gained so much more than I lost this year, and a lot of it wouldn’t have happened without Leukemia. Life happens, whether you want it to or not and sometimes you just have to roll with the punches, and enjoy what you can with the people you love. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me, supported me, prayed for me, thought of me, donated blood, donated money, done anything for me or my family or cancer research. I may not have responded at times, but I have appreciated everything that has been done for me so greatly and I hope that everyone who has tried to support me knows that.

2013, I’m not sad to see you go, but you were good to me. Overall, you were good to me.

xoxo,

Kathy