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.


  1. U are a stronger woman than I ever could be. U have my mind racing. Personally...I would go for the surgery. I believe u r strong enough to recover fully. But if for some reason the surgery doesn't work, u said it best, u will b w ur Dan. I'm here if u need me. Love n hugs

  2. Bless you. Your story really touched my heart. I lost my fiancé several years ago and understand what you mean about the fear that comes with that reality. But to face what you're facing...well, I just believe that you are a survivor and have definitely earned your Earth Angel wings. I will be praying for you...whatever your decision, whatever the outcome...know that you have made a difference by sharing your story.

  3. (((Kristen))) I can't imagine facing a decison like this. However I know that God will give you the wisdom to make the right choice and then the strength to deal with what comes after. Prayers for you each day.


  4. Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

    Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
    I Corinthians 1:2-4

    For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

    For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

    For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,

    Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

    For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

    And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

    For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

    Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

    For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

    Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    Romans 8!
    I realize this a lengthy list of verses but each one is so worth reading and committing to memory through times like these. I'm always comforted knowing God's attitude toward me is grace and peace and love. Seeing my heart breaking circumstances through his word has made me appreciate his sacrifice for me so much more. For the joy set before him, Christ endured the cross. I'm praying these verses come to mind as you go through this is scary time, for the hope and joy set before you.

  5. Kristen.. You don't know me... I am 57 years old, and grew up in the 60's going to Phantom Ranch. Of course, I knew the Johnsen family and was even in a cabin that Jim was counselor in. Bert Johnsen and Marilyn was my favorite camp director and camp cook and both of them always made me feel special and at home while at camp.

    I have watched from afar how much grief and agaony you have endured along with your extended family. To say that my heart goes out to you sounds trite and usual. To say that I am in awe of the courage and strength of character that you exemplify and that your extended family has shown is much closer to the full truth.

    I dont know how I might react in such a pain-filled situation, but I would pray that if ever faced with anything remotely close to what you have endured, I would be at least half as courageous and giving as you have shown yourself to be.

    Just know that sincere care and prayerful encouragement is offered by myself.

    Don Mitroff

  6. Kristen,
    If you are not done living, then you must continue to fight. To fight with every being in you. This tumor will not win. Statistics are not always right. If you are not ready, then you will win. Make yourself strong. I'm a widow myself. I lost my husband almost 3 years ago in Afghanistan. I was 18, and it was too, my first death. I held my head up high and I still honor his memory to this day. I'm sure your Dan would not want you to give up. He would want the best for you, for you to TRY every possible thing there is. Do the surgery. Everything in life is a risk. And although, your surgery is scarier than what most people will go through in their entire lives, it's still a risk that you have to decide whether you want to to take or not. I would. It's either take the leap of faith and get better, or you're still at the same outcome that you will be seeing your sweet Dan sooner than you expected.

    All my love and support.

    Sonja Islip

  7. I don't know you but I am sending hugs and prayers your way.


  8. Kristin, you met me in Madison...I am Lacy's aunt - Sue's sister - but I know you met a lot of people so I am not sure you remember me. Anyway as I read your blog and know what you have gone through I hear God's voice telling me to remind you that HE has you here for a reason. HE spared you through your first bout of cancer. HE held you while you buried Dan. HE has been there for you during this second bout of cancer...and although I don't know what HIS plans are for you, I know that HE will guide you to make the decision HE has planned so that HE may work through you. I know you feel alone...but you are not alone. Angels all across the United States are praying for you and thinking about you. God will show you the path HE wants you to take. May the Peace of God our Father comfort you in your desperate time of need.

  9. Kristen,

    I am a friend of Karonlyn's and have been praying for you. The options medicine offers are not the only options out there. There are plenty of things you can do to vastly increase your chances of survival. Check out the book "The China Study" by T. Colin Campbell. Kristen, call me 708-479-4591. There are healthy choices you can make that can vastly improve your prognosis. A caring friend, Carol

  10. Kristen, You don't know me, but we share the experience of widowhood. I just want you to know that I admire your drive to live. It is easier to give up isn't it? It is easier to decide that the end would be a blessing. But to fight? For the life you have, for the difference you can make, for the chance to be there for the people who love you...that takes courage. Know that my prayer are with you, and that 40 is all you need.

  11. You don't know me. Taryn sent me. Widowhood is hard. This is harder. I fervently hope you are in the first 40%. X Amanda

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  13. Dearest Kristen: Though we do not know each other personally, we are "sisters" in the journey that is widowhood. We lift you up in prayers of healing to your body and ask that G-d grant you peace in your heart and calm to your soul. Despite what you have been through and what you are now facing, you show such courage and grace. G-d be with you.

  14. Kristen;
    I am a widow too and you should know that there are an abundance of hearts and minds sending you prayers and love as you go through this. I have no advice to give accept to say that the answer that is best for you will come to you. Peace and Love to you.

  15. Kristen, My thoughts and prayers are with you. You've certainly had your fair share of challenges and this one just seems so huge. I believe that you will make the right decision - though it seems so daunting now. Your courage is nothing short of amazing. There are so many "voices" raised in prayer for you right now - it's a chorus.

  16. Whatever your decision, you are loved and you are not alone.

  17. What a beautiful testimony you have and are going to have. You will be covered in prayers.

  18. Hi sweetie, i am a fellow widow who like you lost my beloved at a young age.

    I admire your courage and strength to share this intimate part of your life with your readers. Thank you so much for sharing and writing what you did because it shows your strength and your determination and your desire to live.

    I think you have already made the decision, even though you may not realize it yet. You thought of your family, friends, your niece and nephew and the desire for them to know you in person, the smell of BBQ and the tradition of carving pumpkins! You listed some of the reasons why you want to live, and why you choose to fight.

    I know those are some of the reasons why your hero fell in love with you and those are reasons why so many that know you, love you. :)

    I do not have the answers for what you should or should not do. That decision is yours, no matter what others think. Whatever you decide i know you have chosen life, and have chosen to live and love with all your might with the life you have left!

    So many people support you sweetheart! Whatever you decide.

    Hugs and lifting you up in prayer.

    Greggies Widow/ Brandi