March 3, 2017: A Letter to Myself

While at Casting for Recovery, we are all encouraged to write a letter to ourselves. We were told we would receive them sometime within the year. Today, I received mine. It was weird to stare at an envelope with my own handwriting on it and wonder. To be talking to my mom when I opened it made it a little more special because she could tell I was perplexed. I think we both laughed. It was great to be reminded during this time of year when my job is one deadline after another to slow down and enjoy the small,  yet precious, moments of every day. If there is one huge thing I learned from cancer, it was to stop and enjoy the small stuff because it really is the big stuff.

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February 25, 2017: The Warriors Never Stop Fighting

A warrior is a firerce fighter. I’m thankful for the many warriors that help fight breast cancer. Millions of people have joined this battle. Not just women or those closely touched by the disease but people from all walks of life out to make a difference. Fighting cancer isn’t easy. The emotional, physical, mental and spiritual toll is unbelievable. It takes many to help one cancer patient survive. So this is my thank you to all the warriors that help support those fighting the war against cancer. It’s a battle best fought surrounded by an army!

 

THANK YOU!!!

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February 9, 2017: More Days

The hustle, the bustle

The constant demands of life

Keep our minds spinning 

We never seem to slow down

We struggle to sleep

Find it hard to get up

Sluggish and confused

Weak, tears and blah

Then there’s that 

What is that?

Maybe it’s nothing

Too busy to notice

Too busy to care

But Something’s not right

What is that?

Could that be why?

Worry too much

So call a doctor to see

Wait, Wait, Wait

Test, Test, Test

Wait, Wait, Wait

And then there’s the news

CANCER

Now what?

Talking, options, decisions

Surgery, Surgery, Chemo

Chemo, Surgery, Surgery

Surgery, Surgery, Surgery

And then it ends

But it doesn’t

Bills, Bills, Bills

Pain, Pain, Pain

BUT 

No More Cancer!

More days to love

More days to care

More days to be

Not so busy

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January 13-15, 2017: An Amazing Gift

My husband, Jonathan, tells me Thursday night we are having dinner with his boss on Friday. The thing that bugged me about this was the time. I had to be back home from work and ready by 4:30. It’s hard enough for me to get home by five on a normal day but add the end of the 6 weeks to the equation and let’s just say I was stressed. 

 

On Friday afternoon, nothing seemed to go as planned for me. Everything took twice as long and three times as frustrating than I planned for or seemed normal. Chemo brain at its finest! I rushed around to leave school and get home in enough time to get ready for this dinner by 4:30. Anxiety and stress just don’t mix well with a bad day. Meltdown in the making began to pour out of my pot. Jonathan says my jeans and shirt are just fine. It’s not a fancy dinner after all and we can leave 20 minutes later. Whoa! What?!?! Not normal. Red flag. 

 

On the way to so called dinner at a place I could never get the name of but was new and supposedly awesome but needed no GPS to get there (hmmmm), we have to stop at Academy to get a Cowboys flag for Jon’s boss’ car! Nope! Not buying it! Jonathan parks the car and I announce I’m staying in the car because it’s cold and rainy outside. No one needsme to go in and buy a flag. Jon tries first and then the kids guilt me into getting out of the car. Not happily by the way either! I’m ranting about it not being fair that I have to go inside in the cold as my family smiles and falls behind me letting me go first. 

 

I walk into the store to a crowd of people clapping. Ummm . . . Awakward! Thinking I must have been the five hundredth customer to walk in the door or something silly like that, I bow and try to make my way around the group of people standing in front of all the Cowboys gear in search of that car flag, so we can go eat. 

 

This man stops me and asks if I’m “Kandi Stewart” – okay, so I’m a lot freaked out at this point. I remember looking back at Jonathan to come and save me from the crazy Academy worker who knows my name, but he just smiles with his eyes dancing as if it’s Christmas morning. The man from Academy (his name is Matt by the way) asks me if I’d like 4 tickets and a parking pass to the Dallas Cowboys game on Sunday. I’m pretty sure I said yes before he finished talking but I was blown away excited!!! I hugged that strange man and cried right there in front of everyone. And if that wasn’t enough, Academy threw in a $200 gift card we were able to spend on the spot on Dallas Cowboys gear. Unbelievable! 


 

The crazy part of this story follows shortly after receiving the tickets. Apparently someone in leadership at Academy saw my story on NBC5 that had aired in November after I was chosen as one of the five Star Survivors in an essay contest put on by Komen, Ford and the Cowboys. This person from Houston wanted to gift my family and me this amazing experience. I’m still in shock!


 

We didn’t go to dinner with Jon’s boss either in case you were wondering. That was just part of the setup. I guess the Academy person contacted NBC5 who contacted my school district who put the reporter in touch with my principal who then allowed the reporter to get in touch with my husband. Jon called the person in Houston who then put him in touch with Matt at Academy Grapevine. My kids and husband knew the day before and kept it all a secret. They pulled off an amazing surprise!

 

The game was nearly everything one could wish for out of a competition. The only drawback was the Cowboys didn’t finish the fight. I left thankful for the experience. It will be something I’m forever grateful for and will remember always. Yet, I was crushed in their defeat! I wanted them to win so badly in the same season I did. It seemed perfect, yet it didn’t go down that way. In reflection, I realize their season was a lot like my 2015-16 school year. I was sure I had finished my fight only to find out I had more surgeries and difficulties to go through. Other cancer patients are just like me and Cowboys players are at that same point. A choice has to be made and I know they will choose to FIGHT! It’s all they know. I challenge every reader to do the same. No matter what challenges you are facing – FINISH THIS FIGHT!


Academy Sports and Outdoors thank you again for helping us make more memories with our kids. 

Video of my surprise and the Nov. newscast

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December 17, 2016: Chemo 2 Years Later

To set the record straight, I didn’t want to go through chemo. I had a horrific surgery in the hopes of avoiding chemo. I could have revolted against modern medicine and took a different route. We weighed our options. It wasn’t a just me decision either. I have a family that means more to me than I mean to myself. Statistics weren’t in my favor if I didn’t go through chemo. I was young and healthy, so I would survive and being a survivor sounded a lot better to my family than being a statistic. So I relented. I went through chemo. 

 

Two years ago today was my first day after AC chemo and I lost the battle. I was so sick and found no relief. I didn’t sleep. It was awful. Much more horrible than I probably even wrote about it being because still to this day, I can see the looks on the faces of my husband, my son and my daughters. So fearful. So helpless. So broken-hearted. And this was just the beginning of a 6 month journey. 

 

So what does my world look like two years later? What are the pros and cons of it all? 

 

Let’s take a look at some of the cons of chemo 2 years after the beginning of it all:

  • Fatigue is my #1 worst enemy! Some days I feel like I need to sleep all day just to feel rested. 
  • I’ve aged – A LOT!
  • My nails are still damaged. 
  • My skin does not get along well with make-up even the expensive kinds.
  • My bone pain can be pretty awful some days. 
  • My muscles are very weak.  
  • My hormones are nonexistent and that sucks!
  • I suffer from anxiety. 

 

The pros:

  • I don’t have cancer anymore. 
  • My blood is “normal”. 
  • My adrenal glands appear to be functioning normally. Some think chemo actually gets the credit for this reset. 
  • My body hair has been slow to grow back, so I don’t have to shave as often. 🙂 it’s the little things too. 

 

I believe strongly that my faith in God and my amazing family and friends got me through chemo. While everyone else thinks I’m “normal”, my family knows better. They know I struggle. They know some days I hurt. Some days I’m exhausted. Most days I just can’t keep up with the demands of this crazy thing we call life. They love me anyway. They remind me why I went through all the ugliness. Being alive to watch them all grow and change and add to our family made every awful moment well worth the fight!

 

This is why chemo was worth every treatment!

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December 14, 2016: Cancer From the Eyes of a Teenager

My daughter had to write a letter from her present self to her past self. Within that letter, her present self had to tell her past self what she would have wanted someone else to tell her at that time in her life. She said it was the hardest thing she’s ever had to write. This is her letter to herself:  

 

Dear K’Lee,

 

            Chemo is the devil. It will break down the women you love in ways you didn’t know possible. She’s going to cry a lot over losing her hair, just remember to tell her she’s beautiful every chance you get. Even though it’s ugly. It’s so incredibly ugly to see the hair you use to play with as a child fall in clumps to the floor. Her memory isn’t going to be what it used to be and it wasn’t that good in the first place. She’s going to forget entire conversations, sometimes important conversations. But you can’t let that get under your skin. Your mom is still there, hidden under distant eyes. She’s going to ask you to be a grown up without ever saying a word, even though you just want to be a kid. You’ll just want to curl up and put your head on her chest, but fresh wounds won’t let that happen. Suddenly, you are your own mom, you’re your mom’s caregiver, your little brother’s constant babysitter. Eventually it won’t hurt your heart so much when you hear her vomit, but you’ll never get used to hearing her cry. Just be strong for her. Choke back your tears until you’re done taking care of her. Her heart is hurting as bad as her body and it hurts her even more to see you hurt. She’s gonna spend a lot of the time at the doctor and when she asks you to go chemo with her, prepare yourself. The room is cold and everywhere you look is someone’s mother, someone’s sister, someone’s daughter with a needle shoved so far into their skin or port or what have you. And it’s all just poison. You’re gonna watch your mother volunteer to have poison dumped into her veins. It’s as painful to see as the first time you saw her after her double mastectomy. Everyone is going to tell you “it’s going to be okay” and it’s going to make you so incredibly angry. You’re gonna say “How do they know?” or “When, when will it be okay?” But don’t get so angry. Don’t get angry at ungrateful daughters who don’t appreciate their mothers, they don’t know what they have. Don’t be angry at the world, it didn’t cause it. Don’t be angry at God, He’s the only one who can save her. And finally, don’t push away the people that love you because you’re scared of losing the woman you love most of all. Don’t lock yourself in your bedroom and try to hide from it. Look at it. Be around it. Let it soak into your bones until all you can do is taste it. Just don’t run away. No one said it was going to be easy, and if they do, they don’t know anything. Cancer has a face, K’Lee. You need to know that face is your mother’s. They don’t tell you about that stuff. All the websites and blogs will only tell you medical terms and psychological facts. But they don’t tell you that cancer and chemo takes over your mother’s body like a poltergeist possession. But K’Lee, it will be okay, eventually. Nothing will ever be the same, ever. But it will get better.

 

Love,

K’Lee


Us BEFORE Cancer


Us DURING Cancer


Us AFTER Cancer

 

She’s always been special. Always my miracle child. She’s always made me feel beautiful and will forever hold a large chunk of my heart. Hold your children close. Develope relationships with them. Life is short. Love BIG!

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December 10, 2016: The Dark Days of Winter

It’s been a while since I’ve written. I’ve tried to find this fantasized balance between God-family-work-self, and I hate to admit this but I’ve failed. In my attempt to find balance, I found the dark days of winter. The blah. The scary grey monster that swallows you bit by bit. No one probably notices but me. I struggle to get up each morning and to sleep each night. I go through the motions of life but question whether or not I’m actually living. I escape society as much as possible and dream cautiously. It’s the cycle I secretly live within. The cycle I don’t really understand. The constant battle I still seem to fight to keep the depths of darkness from swallowing me whole. No! I only allow a bit of me and then I fight my way out. 

 

Today, I’ve fallen. The irony of the inky darkness is this calm feeling of nothingness. It’s a mirage though. I know this, yet I allow myself to believe in it long enough to fall. Stupid. I know. Yet here I am. Again! 

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