As you may have heard I am training to run a marathon with Team in Training. The plan is to run the Nike Women’s marathon in October. And I could not be more excited! This is a wonderful group of people, and it is for the best cause. If you have not been touched by cancer consider yourself lucky. I have 5 family members in my lifetime battle cancer. One, my mom has battled cancer 5 times and won. Check out her story…
“You feel like a candle in a hurricane, just like a picture with a broken frame…alone and helpless, like you’ve lost your fight…”
On April 26th 2006 my Mom found out that she had uterine cancer. A very rapidly growing type. I remember the day I got the call from my Dad. My Mom was not in a position to speak at that point. I just sat there dumbfounded…at school- studying for finals. I remember I had one of my hardest finals that night. But I couldn’t get those words out of my head. “Hey Krys…Mom has Cancer…” the rest of the words are a blur. I can only remember the rest of the afternoon was spent googling cancer, treatment…and looking for answers to the millions of questions racing through my mind. After I finished my final, I remember writing after the essay “Sorry if I bombed this- I just found out today that my mom has cancer”.
Earlier that week, my Mom called- she felt like something was wrong. And told me she had made an appointment at her clinic. I know my Mom, and that was the last thing she wanted to do. But I am so glad that she did.
Just a few days later my Mom went to Rochester, MN to the Mayo clinic…to have a total Hysterectomy. Suffice it to say, that was a tough couple of weeks. After the surgery, she had a few very painful complications that made her recovery much longer. Her doctors felt at that time that Chemo was not necessary. Which at the time was a relief. Thinking back now- we should have pushed for it.
Later that fall, after she was healed, and back to work she had that little suspicion that something was not right. And so back to the doctor, and another diagnosis. This time she almost lost her Kidney, as she had a tumor wrapped around the renal artery near her kidney. After this surgery, Chemo was very necessary. By the end of 2006, My Mom had beaten cancer twice. Her fight meant so much to me; I had never seen a person fight so hard in my life. So I surprised her with a tattoo (see photo below). A cancer awareness ribbon, with her mantra “Never Give Up Hope”…and her name- in her handwriting. I could not take my eyes off it as it was being bonded to my body forever. She was so moved by this, that she got a matching one on her calf!
“…Cause when push comes to shove, you taste what you’re made of, you might bend, till you break Cause it’s all you can take. On your knees you look up Decide you’ve had enough…”
2007 was a mostly healthy year, that fall that sneaking feeling crept up again. The most interesting this about this is my Mom’s cat Shadow. He loves to be on my Mom’s lap, and snuggle. But every time she got sick, Shadow was relentlessly at her abdomen kneading and kneading for all he was worth. It begs the question about animals being able to detect cancer doesn’t it? So the cancer this time was so intertwined in the nerves and muscles of her right leg, that even before they could remove it she was given 5 weeks of radiation. She then went to Rochester, MN to live for 5 weeks in the Hope Lodge. I cannot ever say enough how amazing that place is. We met people from all over the world at the Lodge. She was there for Thanksgiving that year. I went down and was able to spend, what turned out to be one of the most emotional weekends of my life with my parents, and about a hundred strangers.
To be perfectly honest, the first time I saw my Mom during her Radiation treatment was that weekend. I knew she was not doing well, and that she had lost a lot of weight. But I was not prepared for what I saw. She was a shadow of her former self. Gone were her sparkling eyes, and infectious laugh that I love so much. I held it together that weekend for her, even though we had a heart wrenching conversation over breakfast one morning, about her not being there for my wedding, and grandkids. Still, I was able to wait until I pulled out of the parking lot before I let the flood gates open. I sobbed the entire way home. I have never been so afraid in my life. After those 5 weeks of treatment she was able to return home in time for the holidays. I know her goodbye was hard, since she had made so many close friends. People whose lives were so closely linked to hers through this journey. We still think of, and talk about them often.
In the weeks that followed that I know my Mom struggled to stay positive. She had developed a mantra to help her through the rough times. “Never give up hope” and a theme song to boot. “Stand” by Rascal Flatts.
“You get mad, you get strong. Wipe your hands shake it off. Then you stand, then you stand…”
Her fight was not over yet…not by a long shot. The hardest part was to come. I was at work when my mom called. She had met with her oncologist for her pre-op appointment, during which they had done a CAT scan. The good news was the tumor near her leg was pretty much dead…and the bad news was the CAT scan showed a few small pea sized tumors in her lung. Her surgery had been canceled. Her doctors plainly told her that this was to be her life. Fighting it, and having it come back…over and over again. During those hard weeks, she spent her time planning. Planning her funeral. Morbid yes- but she saw it as necessary. My Dad refused to listen, he kept telling her she wasn’t done yet. That she wasn’t going anywhere. Those weeks are where it hit me- I could lose my Mom. I could not have her around…and that was more than I could take. I was not ready to lose her. I had, and still have so much to learn from her.
So she was transferred to a new oncologist. I won’t pretend to know how to do a doctor’s job- but during one appointment, the new doctor asked my Mom why she wanted to put herself through more treatment after just telling us that the small tumors in her lung were most likely the same type she originally had in her uterus. The rapidly growing and very rare tumors could be one and the same. The doctors said let’s watch it, let’s wait and see… basically telling her to go home and die. Well Doctor- we are not the wait and see kinda people. “Set it up” my Mom said. Within just a few sessions- those tiny pesky tumors were GONE.
“Life’s like a novel With the end ripped out, The edge of a canyon With only one way down, Take what you’re given before its gone. Start holding on, keep holding on…”
In December of 2010 I joined Team in Training to walk the Minneapolis Half Marathon. I had never done anything like that before. I had not walked any amount of miles in years. But I knew it was time to do something bigger. I went from couch to half marathon in under 5 months. It felt amazing on race day to know how far I’d come.
My Mom was there as I crossed the finish line last year at the Minneapolis Half Marathon, I cried the last mile…I was so excited, proud and overcome with the emotions of what I had just accomplished. Little did I know that she was gearing up for another battle. In July of 2011 she received another diagnosis. She had an orange sized tumor in her lung. One lobectomy and a few removed ribs later she is cancer free, again. 1 year this summer…
If you’ve kept count that’s 5 times. 5 diagnoses and 5 triumphant victories over cancer. I know this battle is not over, I know she has days that are harder than some. She still fights to stay positive. Even though her journey ended happily- her life has changed dramatically. But I have to say I think it has changed for the better. She will tell you that she didn’t think that she was that strong. That she didn’t know she could fight this hard at the start. But I knew all along that this would not be the end of her. This would not beat her. My Momma is WAY too stubborn to let this best her.
So if you ever wonder where all my spitfire and attitude comes from… I get it from my best friend, from my hero… from my MOM!
Even as I read these words I tear up. We have come along way in the last 6 years and I think it’s amazing to know that she is still going strong and sassy as ever. If this story moves you in any way, please consider donating to my fundraising. Every, single dollar makes a difference in the lives of those fighting cancer. each and every dollar that you donate goes to patient aid, research and community education. 76% of the funds raised goes to these amazing programs. The remaining amount goes to fundraising, and administrative costs. That is one of the best fund distributions out there for most charities.
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