Thursday, February 12, 2015

Update #89: The Turn in the Race

This Thursday.  
So so different from last Thursday. 

Because I've been a slacker in writing this update to you all… By now, many of you have heard that I had an unexpected stay in the hospital last week.  You may also have heard that I am now finished with chemo. And you may have even heard that I have officially become a Hospice patient. 

Wow. That's a lot of change in one week.  
Actually, that was a lot of change in just a few minutes. 

In the span of one conversation - about 5 sentences in all -  I heard from my doctor that the chemo options are not helping me and that I'm done with chemo.
I heard that Hospice is the best choice for me and that I would become their patient. 
And I heard that I really needed t be admitted to the hospital until my pain could get under control. 

In the span of one conversation.
In less than 5 minutes.

And, you know what?
I am so thankful for that.

When  I was first diagnosed at 27, one of the things that Chad and I knew after I had completed all my surgeries and treatments, is that we probably wouldn't have children biologically.  Not that I couldn't physically have children, but that there might be a risk of recurrence of breast cancer if I were to get pregnant.  And, guess what? That was totally fine with me.  Seriously. Totally fine.  You see, I had never longed to be pregnant.  But, because fertility issues didn't run in my family, I just always assumed that I would have children the "regular" way.  I didn't long to be pregnant, but since that was just "how you had kids", I just assumed that's how I would have kids.  So, when Chad and I realized that perhaps that wasn't the way God was going to make us parents, I didn't grieve that at all - I mean, ZERO grief.  Within moments of that realization, I was fine with the concept of adoption and was actually looking forward to it.   

And then, a few months later,  we had submitted all our paperwork to the adoption agency and we began to wait for a baby. Although there was no telling how long that wait would actually be, we were told that it generally could take 3-6 months.  But, because there was a high probability that the adoption would happen without a lot of advance notice, I decided to prematurely stop my job as a management consultant. In fact, I would tell people that I was stopping my job "way early."  So…I had my last day of work on a Friday. Chad and I and John and Laura (along with other leaders) left early the next morning to take 100+ kids to Young Life camp and be camp counselors for the week.  And, the following Friday, we returned home at 6 PM, checked our answering machine, and found that we had a message at 4:30 that same afternoon that the adoption agency had a baby for us.  And, within 48 hours, we became parents to a beautiful 5 lb 6 oz baby girl named Emilie Grace.

Almost two years later, another submission of paperwork to the adoption agency. Another projected 3-6 month wait.  Instead, during a rare-turn-off-the-phones-power-nap by me (only ten days after our paperwork was completed), we received another call from the adoption agency that we were to be parents to a 7 lb boy named Daniel Carter.   Two days later, we drove to Buffalo to pick up our beautiful son.   "Mommy and Daddy are going to Buffalo, Emilie, to get you a brother."  

I guess you could say that I do okay when thrown into situations without notice! 

As you might imagine, since the beginning of the Stage IV part of my cancer journey 4 1/2 years ago, I've had countless thoughts about how this last part of this journey might go.  While I don't think I spent time a lot of time dwelling on it, I would be lying to you if I told you I hadn't had countless moments – even fleeting ones – in which I asked myself and God:   

Would I have to be the one who made these decisions?  
Would Chad and I agree? 
Would I just get too tired out and frustrated with chemo that made me feel yucky?  
Would my doctor have to twist my arm to move to palliative care?
Would I have to convince my doctor to let me stop?
Would I have to face my kids and tell them that I just couldn't do it anymore? 
Would the chemo just make me so stinkin' sick that I would be virtually destroyed by the drugs that were supposed to help me fight this disease?
Would…. Would… Would…

So…on Thursday when I left my house at 9:30 AM as a girl who was going to get yet another chemo treatment…and when I returned on Saturday at 4:30 as a girl who was now a Hospice patient, I was incredibly thankful that that's how fast this last turn on the course of my breast cancer marathon had gone.  

So. Incredibly. Thankful.
It was easy.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that it's easy to be a Hospice patient.  
All that I'm saying is that the decision to become one was easy.

So, now that it's been a week, how am I doing with this?

Not sure I can fully articulate it. It's actually a bit surreal. 
Because I feel as if I'm living in an oxymoron.  
In a situation that shouldn't be true, but is. In a situation that is both simple, yet impossibly complex.  Is bizarre, yet totally normal. Is totally acceptable to me and totally not. 

Here's what's disconcerting…
It's incredibly disconcerting that I now have oxygen systems lining my bedroom wall.
It's incredibly disconcerting to have to send an email like I did today to my children's teachers letting them know that Emilie and Daniel's mom is now in Hospice.
It's incredibly disconcerting to feel parts of my body under my skin that normally you wouldn't feel.
It's incredibly disconcerting to make travel arrangements to Disney for tomorrow and have to make sure that you have enough meds…that you know what hospital you'd call…that you have to arrange to have a scooter available so that you can physically make it through Disney since you certainly don't have enough energy to walk through the parks.

It's incredibly disconcerting experiencing your body starting fail in more and more obvious and prolific ways.
Yeah; that's not easy.

But there's also STILL a joy that exists at the same time. A richness.  A fullness.  A peace. 
It's hard to articulate, but I guess you're just going to have to trust me – and my 4.5 years of trying to live authentically before you about all this – that this joy is true.
It's true and it matters and it seeps into all aspects of this part of my journey.

At the same time this journey is incredibly disconcerting, it is - as plainly as I can state I - also filled with a richness that is deep and real and important. 

That's God.
Only God. 
Because it certainly isn't me. 
And to even remotely pretend it's me is just foolishness. Or insanity. Or a downright lie. 

You can't possibly have a positive enough of an attitude or a strength of personality to experience this depth of joy when your body is failing fast. When your lungs aren't working right. When your vision is messed up. When your liver is expanding at a rapid rate. When your bones are hurting and when you have medications lining your counter to help ease that, or alleviate this, or slow that.  When you look at your kiddos who are still so needing of a mom. 

Oh no; it's not because of me. 
It's all because of God.

Because He is present and He promises to make a difference.  
He promises to infuse His hope into the darkest of situations, in the bleakest of circumstances.

He makes promises and, much to my delight, He continues to deliver on them.  
I haven't tapped Him out. 
Even now.
When we're at this new place. 
When the turn in the race has been quick and sharp and the finish line is almost visible.  

In closing (to this LOOONG update – sorry!), if I could ask for prayer… would you be willing to pray that this trip to Disney for me would be one in which cancer doesn't get to have a loud voice…that my body will cooperate with our plans…that I make it there and back without any incident… that my time with my family would be sweet and special and fun?   I'd totally appreciate it. That would be just an awesome gift. 

Much love to you all,


  1. I am so thankful to have read this today because the Joy and hope of Jesus that is flowing out of you is powerful and full of his light! I am sad to hear of your failing body but rejoicing over your powerful and strong Spirit. God is using you in mighty ways to bring hope to many. We are lifting you all in prayer as you make this special journey. Praying His richest mercies, grace and blessings for you as you spend this time with your family. You are the daughter of the most high king and the rest of us aren't far behind. The marriage super of the lamb is just about ready for the table. I think I can smell it some days, but I can certainly sense it in my spirit. Thank you for being so authentic and real with us. You are a blessing and we are all praying for you

  2. Very powerful. I believe you have lived out the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:

    24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

    You and your family will be in my prayers as you head to Disney, and as you all move ahead from here. Thank you for giving us a glimpse of your journey.

  3. Blinded by your beauty. Thinking that you and Laura will have to help each other hold your heads up under the weight of such heavy crowns. Thinking a lot about the refining and deepening work God is doing in and through you. Work that changes the whole church. We can't witness your journey and not be changed. Thank you for the great gift you have shared with us. Kristie, thank you. My heart is stretched by His magnificent love and I gladly pray it out for you.

  4. Kristie, I have been reading your blog for over a year now. I have had you, Chad, Emilie and Daniel in my prayers. I may have only had a few occasions to get to know you back in Paul's Ryan Homes days but you both made a huge impression on me. You are such a shiny star in this world and I'm thankful I had those times with you. I have had and continue to keep you and your family in my prayers.

    With deep sincerity and great prayers I wish you and the family this beautiful time time together and the cancer plays a bit part in your precious family time.

    Much love,
    Andrea Dahlkamp

  5. (I just wrote a comment but I think it didn't go through? Here goes the slightly shortened version!)
    Hi Kristie, I don't know you but just saw your Disney adventure story shared on FB by a fellow GCC grad (I am class of '07). I wanted to thank you for sharing such an impactful story and for the beautiful response you are living out and surely evoking in others by Jesus' grace and for His sake. I can't imagine that you haven't already made this connection out there in internetworld but I just wanted to be sure... are you familiar with Kara Tippetts? I've just started reading The Hardest Peace and dabble in reading her blog and so far in the quick read-by I've had time for here I am struck by the apparent similarity in your journies and your responses to them. Just want to be sure!
    Peace be with you. In Christ,

  6. Hello Kristie,

    I am also a GCC grad (2013) and saw your story shared by a friend on FB. My mom was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer nearly 4.5 years ago as well. I am so encouraged by the grace that God has extended to you as I pray for grace for my family as we go through this. God is the only comforter. There are two things of late by which God has comforted me, and I wanted to share them with you.

    1. I love my mom so much, but Christ loves her so much more. More than I could ever imagine. If I love her imperfectly and want whatever is best for her, how much more does our Savior want what's truly best for her? He will do what is best for her, because He can actually accomplish it and knows what is best. He can take care of her so much more fully than I ever could. That is so comforting to me. Why should I worry about my mom when she is in the care of our all-powerful Lord who loves her perfectly? You and your family are in His care. We do not need to fear.

    2. Our Lord is good, and what He does in the lives of His people is good.
    John 10:14: "I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,"
    Romans 8:28: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."
    So, by the grace of God, I can actually say that my mom's cancer is good. It is good for her, and it is good for my family, because ALL things work together for the good of God's people. This is not a random event or a chaotic and dismal part of life. It is something that our good Lord carefully planned for both of our families before the beginning of time. And it has been and will be used for good in our lives.

    I am praying for you and your family. May the peace and grace that only God can provide be with you.