Monday, May 21, 2012

WARNING: I come with BAGGAGE.

First and foremost, I want to update everyone on what I have been up to since my last blog. As you all know, I have been faced with an extremely difficult decision regarding my health. Do I walk away from this disease and let the tumor take its course, or do I proceed with the risky surgery that involves only a 40% chance of survial and being cancer free? Hmm... NOT a decision to be taken lightly. And I have yet to make up my mind. As of right now, my amazing Oncologist is simply buying me time. We are going to do a few more rounds of chemo, starting Tuesday, which will allow me to put some more time and thought into this life altering decision. However, if my tumor at any time stops responding to treatment and begins to grow, a decision must be made quickly. I will keep you all up to date when a final decision has been made. And thank you all so much for being so loving and supportive during this crazy and insane time of my life. I am truly blessed to be surrounded by such amazing people.

To bring me to my next point and the reason for this blog...

I am THOROUGHLY annoyed. While attending my brother's graduation weekend, (CONGRATS Nick, so proud of you!!) someone referred to me as having a lot of "baggage." Wow. Baggage? Really? It is not like I have a dangerous and crazy ex, or five children from four different men! I have a dead husband and cancer... not baggage. This is just another reminder that my life is different now; I have a new "normal." Four years ago... I did not have this so-called "baggage." My life was quiet and I was happy. I had never experienced death or extreme grief. I was sheltered and nieve. I thought that no bad could touch me. Fast forward four years... my best friend and Husband was killed, and I am fighting for my life. Funny thing is... I like this Kristen better. I like the jaded, morbid, OCD, figther version of myself that I have become.

The "baggage" that I have in my life has taught me so much, and has allowed me to become someone that I never thought I could be. Losing Dan has taught me to love with all that I have, and to take risks. It has taught me to live my life to the fullest, because we are not promised tomorrow. Losing Dan has taught me to laugh harder, to smile more, to hug my loved ones a bit tighter, and to chase my dreams.

Cancer... another great teacher of mine. Having cancer has taught me to depend on others. I admit, I have trouble doing this at times. I am extremely stubborn when it comes to asking for help, but having this disease has taught me to let others in, even when I do not want to. Having cancer has taught me trust GOD, even when it seems impossible. Having cancer has taught me that five minutes of snuggling with my nephew is SIGNIFICANTLY more important than money, fame or status. It has taught me to fight with all that I have. It has given me strength that I never knew existed, faith that doesn't falter, and courage that allows me face the most difficult of times.

Since this "baggage" has entereted my life, I have become the woman that I have always wanted to become. I am stronger. I am wiser. I am more aware of how fragile life really is. So, the joke in on you. This "baggage" has made me who I am. And I am someone that I am proud of. So, for all you future suitors out there, or people who want to make judgements, judge away! Because I do not care. One day, someone will love me for all of my "baggage." I am blessed beyond measure to live the life that I am living. I have had the love of an amazing man and a true Hero, I have a family that loves me even when I do not deserve it, I have friends that laugh with me until we pee, literally, and I serve a God that forgives me on a daily basis and loves me unconditionally. My "baggage" is my favorite part of me! And to this crazy thing I call my life, BRING IT ON. Because I have proven that I can handle whatever gets thrown at me. I can bury my husband, and still find the strength to smile and laugh. I can sit in a hospital bed for days on end, and still think positively about my future. I can rock a bald head, and still realize that I am a WOMEN that deserves to be loved and desired.

Hmm... after writing this, I feel like I am closer to making a decision. I am a fighter. A close friend recently told me, "If you chose to walk away, you are chosing death." He was right. Walking away is giving up. Having the surgery is fighting, and this is a fight that I am going to WIN!!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My Harrowing Statistics

Death is something that used to terrify me. My biggest fear growing up was losing an immediate family member. As a child, it was a crippling fear. I would lie in bed at night until I heard my parents come home, and feared that they never would. Death is also something that I did not have much experience with. I have never had to bury a grandparent, or cousin, or friend for that matter. That was until I buried my soul mate, my hero, my Husband. After Dan’s passing, death became a reality to me. My biggest fear had come true; I had lost the love of my life. And it became very real, very fast. Within 24 hours of being notified of Dan’s death, I was picking out caskets, burial plots and songs to be played at his funeral. It does not get more real than that.

Since Dan’s passing, I have learned to live again. I have learned to laugh, to smile, to envision a future full of love and life. These things weren’t easy, but they did happen, in time. I have learned that life after losing a loved one is possible. It changes you, completely. I will never be the same person that I was prior to Dan’s death, but I am still here. Heart beating, blood flowing. Death is something I no longer fear. Well, that was until yesterday.
My cancer diagnosis was terrifying at first, but once I learned that it was controllable and not a death sentence, it just became part of my life. Dying from this disease was never discussed. Again, that was until yesterday. Apparently I have a very badly placed tumor. Not only is it sitting on a large vein in my abdomen, but also a large artery. Both of which are going to need to be replaced with veins from my thigh during the surgery. Oh the surgery... Yikes. Surgery is scary for anyone, but I have adjusted to it and have had four now. This surgery is VERY different. This surgery worries me. This surgery could kill me, easily.
40, 40, 20. Those are the percentages of survival that I was given by my surgeon. With a very somber and serious tone, he described to me, in detail, how very dangerous and risky having this surgery would be. There is a 40% chance that he can remove the tumor and replace the vein and artery, and I walk away with a full recovery; CANCER FREE. There is a 40% chance that he opens me up, and can’t even touch the tumor because of its location. At this point, I believe I just let the tumor run its course. The other 20%? Well, I am sure you can imagine. That 20% is driving me insane. Let’s discuss that 20%. Either the veins that they replaced don’t take, and my entire abdominal cavity dies, and I in turn, die. OR, my digestive track shuts down, and I have to be fed intravenously while I sleep at night for the rest of my life. And to top it off, I would have to wear a "waste bag" that would drain the waste from my stomach. Hmm… I do not like those statistics. 60% of my options will ultimately lead to my death; whether it be immediately, or after the tumor attacks my body to the point that it can no longer function. Now I have a very difficult decision to make. Do I risk the surgery? Take my chances with 40, 40, 20? Or do I walk away from all of this and live my life to the best of my ability until I can no longer ignore the tumor? I suddenly have a very bad headache.

The death of a loved one? A very scary thought. Dying yourself? An even scarier thought. This is what I deal with now. My own demise. How can I do this to my family and friends? Family and friends that have stood by my side thru my first bout of cancer, Dan’s death, and this lovely second bout. How can I leave my niece and nephew’s behind? They are two and one, they will not remember me. I think about the big things in life that I will miss; my sister having more babies, my brother eventually getting married and starting a family, my niece and nephews starting school and growing up. But do you know what scares me the most? Not being around for the little things. I can’t imagine not smelling BBQ in the air on a summer evening. I can’t imagine not carving pumpkins on Halloween. I can’t imagine not smelling my Mom’s perfume. I can’t imagine not holding Gracin in my arms. I can’t imagine not laughing with my little brother. These are the things that break my heart. These are the things that keep me smiling.
The alternative does not sound bad; spending eternity in Heaven with my Dan. However, I am not done living. I am not done loving my family and friends. I am not done making an impact in this world. I am just not done. 40, 40, 20. Do I risk it? Is that small 40% chance of surviving and being cancer free something to fight for? Or do I walk away. What would you do? 40, 40, 20. Not the odds I want, but they are what I am dealing with. This is my reality. This is my life.