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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November 13, 2016: Casting for Recovery – Day 3

Our morning started a little earlier for a little reflection and a rock to hold on to or let go of – the choice was ours. What to let go of? What to hold on to? My mind was racing. I’d let go of the debt I’ll probably never get out from under, and I’ll hold on to the support that was there for me on day one and is still here for me today. 

 

Breakfast came next and a letter to my self.  Next, we met our river guides. My guide was Jack. 

We dressed up in our gear in which I have no photographs of because I chose to take in the moment and enjoy all of it! Jack was everything you want from a fishing guide. He helped me get to a great spot in which I was able to catch a fish. Oh, the excitement when I felt that tug on my line! I reeled that guy in as he twisted and fought to discover he was a wee little sun fish. But Jack made me feel like I’d caught a whopper of a fish! He was too funny. He had to rescue the fly the tiny fish tried to swallow down to his tail. It took a special little tool, but he got it and off that little guy went to probably tell all his friends to avoid me. 

 

I’d get a few bites here and there. The camera guy came by and took some pictures, and just as he was walking away I caught a little bass. Oh, it was so fun! I gave it a sweet little kiss for the picture and sent him back down the river for another person to catch on another day. 

 

As exciting as it was to catch those two fish, there was something quite heavenly about learning to cast. Jack made it look so peacefully beautiful and as he taught me how to make that line dance, I fell in love with fly fishing. It’s as though in that moment when the line starts to sing that the Angels assend from heaven to cover you in peace. It was beautiful! I’ll do it again. 

 

All great things come to an end so did this. We had lunch, received our fly fishing certificates, said goodbye to our guides and went back upstairs for our last words around the circle. There was joy. There were tears. There was love. There was healing. We all left Glen Rose a little different than we came. 

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November 12, 2016: Casting for Recovery – Day 2

Breakfast was served at 8:00am. There’s no time for sleep. We have fishing to learn to do. 

 

The mornings are staring to cool off here in Central Texas, so when we went outside to learn how to assembly our fly fighting rods and reels it was a comfortable but cool 55°. I started out in just a long sleeve shirt, but it didn’t take more than a few minutes for me to rethink that decision. 

 

Before we even took our rods and reels out of their bags, the oncologist that came for the weekend lead us through some breathing and stretching exercises. Then, we were taught how to put our rods and reels together. It’s not that complicated, but I was very thankful for the step-by-step instructions. After our rods were ready, we received a casting demonstration. They made it look simple enough. 

 


Once I figured it out and began to discover a rhythm, I discovered why people fall in love with fly fishing. There is something so peaceful and relaxing about casting that line. And the sound of our line is muscial. I’m already in love and I haven’t even tried to catch a fish yet. 

 

After trying our hand at casting, we returned inside for a knot tying class. Knots aren’t usually my favorite things to do. They usually frustrated me, but I guess today was my lucky day. I could tie some knots!


 

We had lunch and then went back out to learn another way to cast and how to pull our line. I was busy doing all this so I don’t have any pictures. We also received a lesson on how to think like a fish which was extremely interesting and informative to me. 

 

During our break, we went around Glen Rose. They were packing up from a festival as we were walking around. It’s a small little place but has some really neat shops including an old soda shop and the best pie in Texas!


We had dinner and then went upstairs for some door prizes and a chance to just talk with each other. We all walk through different battles, and we all deal with cancer in very different ways, but there’s something about being around other cancer patients that heals you really deal with so many things so many hold inside. We watched that happen this evening. It’s amazing to me how much we, the cancer patient, hold inside and don’t talk about. Many times we don’t even realize we need to talk about these things. It was awesome to see some of the women in our group really begin to heal from something they might not have even realized they needed to heal from.  

 

Our night ended with a campfire and great conversation. Tomorrow, will be the day of the fish and it’s supposed to be a “4 fish day” thanks to the super moon. 

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November 11, 2016: Casting for Recovery Day 1

Casting for Recovery is a retreat for breast cancer survivors. This was my second year to put my name in for the lottery, and I was chosen to attend this weekend in Glen Rose, TX. Besides driving through the thicket of traffic that bogs down DFW during rush hour, it’s already been a very calm and peaceful start to the weekend.  

 

I arrived later than most because I didn’t feel like I could afford to take off from work. I arrived in time for dinner though which I feared I might actually miss. It was a little uncomfortable at first because it seemed everyone already knew people, and I felt a little out of place. That lasted all of maybe ten minutes. The great thing about being around other people who’ve had cancer is no matter your age, profession or background, you automatically have something in common. 

 

After dinner, we did this activity on mindfulness. I have the word “truth”. I’m supposed to be mindful of this word all week, and at the end of the retreat on Sunday we are going to discuss how our words spoke to us over the weekend. We also received 4 tiny flies, but they are for our hats and not so much to fish with. A man, who has since pasted away, made boxes for the survivors who come to this retreat. That makes them a little extra special. 

 

After dinner, we took a fly tying class. This contraption and directions is very intimidating at first glance. 

But one of the staff members showed us how to make one and helped us understand all these new and foreign words too!

 

I’m actually pretty good at tying flies. It’s a very relaxing process for me if I were to be honest. 

Now will these little guys actually catch any fish? I’ll have to get back with you on that. 😏

 

Another lady on the staff made us each our own pouch to hold all our fly making material. She even did the stitching on each of them. So sweet!

 

A fly shop from Wyomimg donated us a fly case and a guy from Oklahoma tied us all a variety of wet flies and dry flies. 

And then in our goodie bags left on our beds were even more flies. 

It’s been the day of the fly! 

  

I’ve gotten to know a few of the women, and I look forward to getting to know all of them before I go back home. 

 

Tomorrow is the day of the knot. I’ll have to let you know how that goes.

 

If you’re a breast cancer survivor, check out Casting for Recovery. They have retreats all over the United States. 

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