Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Let Catch Up!

In the past two months I have had several people reach out to me for support, insight or advice regarding cancer and treatment. It occurred to me, as I sent them a link to this blog that I haven’t provided an update in a long time. I’m happy to share that I am now 6 1/2 years cancer free and alive and doing well!

40th Birthday trip to Playa Del Carmen!!!
This past year of life has been one of finally breathing and continuing to focus on health and enjoying each day! My word for 2017 was “abundant” - I wanted to focus on being able to live fully and appreciating the daily motions as a mom and wife. With breast cancer 6+ years behind me, and a perfectly clear breast MRI last year, I have finally found myself not thinking about cancer as much as I used to and not dwelling on the fears that have trapped me in the past. 

I have continued to focus on finding balance in my health - physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. They all really do all go hand in hand and I continue to discover how important it is to care for the many dimensions of who the Lord created me uniquely to be. It can be a lot of work to nurture all sides of yourself... but it is certainly so well worth the effort. 

With the help of a friend (free counseling session), I did have a breakthrough with my mental/emotional journey this year. She helped me realize that there was some suppressed grief from the cancer journey that had been sneaking up on me every once in a while. Grief of losing the option of having more children, grief of not enjoying my daughter when she was such a tiny, sweet baby and even grief for the loss of innocence and the reality of mortality.  She also helped me process my survivors guilt… which is still something that I struggle with.  Nobody ever told me that this side of treatment would be so intense… but I suppose one should expect a lifelong journey after you have had a life altering event that forever changes the way you look at the world and your purpose in it.

If you are reading this blog as a fellow patient/FIGHTER and are searching for hope in your cancer fight, it is my prayer that I can breathe a little bit of peace, hope and encouragement into your sails. My friend, we each have a unique journey, may you bloom and live an abundant life all of the rest of your days! 

God Bless. 

Here's some pics from a "Year of Abundance"... I'm thinking I knocked that goal out of the park!

My mom, who is also a TNBC survivor of 5 years,
hiking the Donnor Pass.
6 1/2 year CLEAN mammogram result!

Celebrating life in Maui, Hawaii
July 2017
15 year anniversary dinner in Maui
Daddy baptized both of our children
Bike ride with my unicorn
Chaperoning 5th grade camp with my young man   
Week with my family at Donnor Lake, Tahoe National Park

Sunday, September 18, 2016

5 Year Update - Beating the Odds

5-year oncology visit
This is the news that I have been waiting for. 

For 5 years… I have hoped and prayed to hear the words “no evidence of disease”. 

On Thursday, I had my 5 year mammogram and met with my oncologist and officially received my 5 year cancer free declaration. 

5 years - wow. I was given a 40% chance of surviving 5 years. It is not hard for me to remember being told those stats and deciding that I HAD to focus on the 40% survival rate and not the 60% chance of cancer coming back and getting me. And now, 5 years later, not only can cancer be put on a shelf in my core memory bank... but I can celebrate that I feel healthier than I really ever have before.

Looking back over the past 5 years is surreal. So much has happened in our families life that all I can do is humbly praise God that he shielded my body from reoccurrence and has strengthened my family in a way I couldn’t have thought possible. 

I wish I had a secret to share with others fighting cancer about how you beat the disease, but I don’t. If I had to sum up what I have learned from this trial it would be: You don’t have nearly as much control over your life as you think you do. 

Cancer doesn’t discriminate… it picks young, old, male, female, non-smokers, smokers, marathon runners, bon-bon lovers, kale eaters, health junkies, junk-food lovers, jerks and even nice people. As ridiculous as this may sound, about a year after I finished treatment I decided I wasn’t going to have cancer again… is that the secret??? Is it all the prayers and love that was poured on my family? Was it the special prayer service that I went to or the blessed water that a friend gave me which I poured on my scar everyday during treatment? I don’t know… but I do believe that the efforts I put forward were only part of the success of survival - and at the end of the day we really don’t have the control over our own lives that we like to think we do. 

As I celebrate this huge milestone in my cancer journey, I am also remembering a very special friend of mine that passed away last September from a battle with cancer. Annette was a 45 year old non-smoker, healthy eater, clean life liver that got lung cancer… and then several other cancers eventually took over her body. I can’t bring myself to say that she “lost her battle” because she was anything but a loser. She was a fighter unlike any other and a believer in hope… but also a realist. The last time I saw her was about 3 weeks before she passed away. Her breathing was so labored and I knew the pain was exhausting for her body… but her spirit and mind were there. I will never forget her telling me about how her 20 year old daughter had moved back home to help her, and a friend had gotten after her for using the little strength she had to make her only child breakfast every morning before work/school. She told me about how she knew her time was short and she wouldn’t be able to help plan a wedding or babysit grand-babies… but she could make pancakes - so no matter what anyone said that was what she was going to do. Because being a MOM was the most important thing she had ever done and she would do it until her last breath.  As I left her home, she started to say good-bye and I interrupted her to say “no, I’ll see you later”. Either during another visit or in the glory of heaven I would see her again… there was no need to use the word good-bye. 

So, while I know this post should be all about a big-fat party celebration with streamers and confetti and champagne… I have to write the honest truth. After-all, I’ve tried to be 100% honest throughout this journey. I don’t know why I am still here and Annette is gone… actually I have a long list of wonderful people that have been stolen from this earth by cancer. But I am still here - and as a vow to these friends/family I will try to live the life I have been given and breathe the breaths I have been blessed with to the fullest. 

The other day Eric told me he too remembers the fear of my diagnosis and not thinking I would make it 5 years. Maybe that’s why I’m still here… just to prove him wrong and to continue to keep our life together spinning in a crazy tornado of fun and love. 

Or… maybe it’s because the Lord knew that if I was gone there wouldn’t be somebody to cut the crust off Leah’s bread or slice up apples the way Nathan likes. Who knows???All I do know is that my cup runneth over and I just might be the luckiest person alive. 

Thank you all for your love and support. 
I hope that this blog has helped you to see the honest side of cancer and shown you how to love and support someone entrenched in this battle. And maybe… given a little insight to how the Lord works in our lives even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. 

Peace, love and rock n’ roll, 

Poipou Beach - Kauai, Hawaii
June 2016
The Joppa Family
We beat this together!

Napali Coast Hike - Kauai, Hawaii
Nathan 9, Leah 6, me... almost 40
I had a "moment" of celebration on
this hike. Often when I think of my
health journey I am humbled and
overcome with amazement of
what my body has gone through
in the past 5 years.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

California Girl Gone Okie

Well, we have been living in Oklahoma for a little over 6 months now. Man how time flies. It has been quite a change from living in the diverse city of Elk Grove… but Kingfisher is proving to be a fantastic little town and I believe all 4 of us are adjusting well. Part of me though doesn’t feel like we just moved to another state. In many, many ways this feels like another country.

There are so many things that are new here. The weather is quite a change. The wholesomeness of the community and the culture is refreshing. And the people are incredibly kind. I miss my family and friends very much. But if the Lord needed to move us somewhere away from loved ones… I feel pretty thankful that this is where we landed.

I thought it would be fun to share some about life here in the middle of the country (literally, smack dab in the middle the country). So… without further adieu:

Top 20 Things I Have Learned After Living in Oklahoma for 6 Months

1.  Snow days. The kids loved snow days. I loved snow days. It was just too cool.

2. The phrase “when it rains it pours” describes our spring perfectly. In the month of May, our town got 22 inches of rain. That’s right… in one month. After years of drought in California it was awesome. I absolutely loved it!

3. Talk about hot! Both of my mother’s parents were from Oklahoma and my mom was even born here. When I told my grandma, who has Alzheimer’s, we were moving here her immediate response was to shake her head no and tell me “No, Kelly. It is so hot there. It is so hot you will die.” I passed this statement on as a dramatic recollection of the dust bowl and her life in the early 1930’s before air condition. But she was right. It is so hot you could die… ugh.

4. You are either an Oklahoma State University fan or a Oklahoma University fan. OSU and OU paraphernalia greet you in every store, gas station and restaurant you enter.  We have been warned that we shouldn’t pick a team as it could split the church. I know that sounds crazy, but being a 49er fan I get it. I mean there is no way in heck that I would EVER go to a church where the pastor was a Raider or Seahawks fan. So we will be OKC Thunder fans and for all other sports stick to our west coast teams. Additionally, all events in town/church/school revolve around local and college sporting events. Priorities.

5. Road kill = Armadillos. Armadillos everywhere. 

6. The flies bite. (Seriously… it’s horrible. I truly hate them.)

7. There is a pretty good chance that wherever you go, at any given time,
people that are packing concealed carry weapons surround you. It’s just the way of life here. ‘Merica.

8. The pace of life if dramatically different.  This is one of my favorite things… and one my least favorite elements of living here. There have been times when I am shocked by how slow people move, work, walk, etc.. It is just slower. This is annoying… and wonderful because the element of stress is removed when things are slower.

9. The food people eat here is horrible. Now don’t get me wrong, it is delicious But surely awful for your mid-section. Being on a diet here is near impossible. For example, our little town has 12 restaurants. Only 2 of them serve salad. And one of them close at 2pm and the other at 4pm. So, if you want to eat vegetable after 4pm you need to convince yourself that a Tater Tot is a veggie… and then you are good. 

10. Most places in this town do not accept credit cards or ATM. They only take cash or checks. Pretty sure I hadn’t written a check since 2007. But… if I want that salad that I need to buy before 2pm, I better have a checkbook.

11. People are just nice. Seriously EVERYBODY waves at you as they pass you driving. People have manners and hold the door open and say things like “excuse me” and “thank you.” It’s cra-cra.

12. This is a somewhat obscure observation and one that I have recently identified in the culture here. While I realize that this point is not 100% for all people, in general it seems like women respect their husbands in a way that is just more… respectful. The women I have been in contact with are practically all strong, intelligent, educated and independent. While men are in harvest they run their home and businesses with confidence and competency. These same women will go out and help locate steer that are lost in the floods and help rebuild fences. Yet in their marriages I see a level of respect that is almost new to me. It seems like there is a cultural element of gender roles that in California barely exists. Now this is a big statement… but I think that because of this, it appears that marriages are happier, men are more dignified and women appear more cared for.

13.  There are 4 ways that are in and out of our town. One road goes North and South. They other road runs East and West. During the floods last month on of the bridges was still under construction and due to flooding you could only leave our town to the South. We live in the middle of nowhere.

14. Words I didn’t know existed:
            - Dat Der = That there
            - Fiddleback = Brown Recluse Spider
            - Getchusome (all one word) = Go get some
            - Definitions of mealtimes:
            Breakfast = Breakfast
Lunch = Dinner
Afternoon snack = Lunch
Dinner = Supper
- Fixin’ = Going to
- Getchusome (all one word) = Go get some
- Bless your heart = This phrase is a slight jab… said in the sweetest way possible.
- Sugar – My kids think it’s hilarious when old ladies call them Sugar.

15. Sonic slushes should be officially a food group here.

16. Everything is a Coke.  For example: I answered that, “I would like a Diet Pepsi.” The waitress responded, “Sure, I will bring you a Coke.” And then she brought me  a Diet Pepsi.

17. It would probably be as difficult to be a Liberal in this town as it was to be a Conservative in California.

18. All Garth Brooks songs make more sense here. (His hometown is about 40 minutes from our little town.)

19. Tornadoes are real. And they are scary.  And tornado weather is cool. While we watched the weather channel and followed the storms, nothing came near our town this year. So I am not really a tornado expert yet.

20. The ice cream here is pitiful. I miss Leatherby’s!

Life is good. God is faithful and huge and amazing. We are grateful for this journey.

Lots of love,


Monday, August 25, 2014

The Journey Of The Mind

Three years. 
Well, I made it. Not totally in the safe zone yet… but three fifths of the way to the 5 year mark of living cancer free is pretty good. Right? (Of course my goal is to live a long full life cancer free, but after 5 years the doctors say my chance of reoccurrence is near 0%.)

Three years ago this week I was told I had cancer. Three years ago life stopped… and started new… and changed.  Three years ago, God gave me new eyes.

This blog is full of my cancer story. It’s full of faith and honesty and pain. And because of the reality of the pain of cancer, I haven’t written for over a year. Many, many, many people have asked me to keep writing… to write anything. But to be honest I needed a break. A break from enduring even the thought of sickness. A break from the trap of thinking I was in the process of dying.  A break from the fears that one starts to soak in when all they can think about is what will happen to their children “when” (not “if”) they die. When you have faced the reality of mortality and fought so passioniatly with God for another chance at life and physical healing… it is difficult to pretend that moving forward with life is easy. 

This year has been tough… and good. Good for my marriage and family. But certainly difficult. Here’s the low down: After cancer, treatment ended, Eric and I reevaluated our life and family plan and last year Eric returned to school to finish his degree. He has just 1… ONE… class left until he has completed a MASTERS degree from Hope International. Not bad for a high school drop out!!!! (I’m so ridiculously proud of him.) Jesus truly changed his life and he never looked back.  Part of that plan was that I would return to working full time and he would resign from his position at BOSS (the Lord clearly led us in this) and look for part time work while he completed school. I (we) realize that in the eyes of the world, this plan looks crazy, but we both believed that God was directing our steps and we LEPT in faith. The day before resigning Eric was approached by a friend to see if we knew anyone that would want a 1 year interim, 10-12 hour a week position at a little church as the youth guy. We said “yes… how about us” and a week later the Lord had secured a 1-year part time job that worked perfectly for our family and his school schedule.  We are just a few weeks away from that year commitment being over and today we stand with arms high and hearts abandoned… waiting in anticipation for the next step for our family. All I know is that every bill has been paid, our kids are happy, our marriage is stronger now than it has ever been and I have complete peace that God will provide the next path of this journey in His perfect timing.

Okay… everything sounds great from that description of our life right???? Well, this year has been a hard journey too. As you can imagine, our “plan” also came with a lot of stress and stretching of ourselves as individuals and as a couple. Physically, mentally and emotionally.  This plan would be intense for anybody, but when you add the “mental journey” and fear of cancer returning to my stress load one can easily imagine the increased anxiety that I found myself living in.  I only share at this depth of personal info with you, because through my counseling and talking with other cancer survivors I have found that my experience is actually very common. And yet the outside world has no real understanding that after the last chemo dip drops and the last radiation beam beams… a new journey has just started.

It’s the journey of the mind.

I cannot tell you why it took two and a half years for me to fully comprehend that I had cancer and was on the road to death. I can’t explain why only last fall did I start to process that I missed 10 months of raising and enjoying my children as babies.  I can’t make sense of why, only earlier this year did I actually comprehend that when I was in the hospital THREE times, my organs were going septic and that only by the grace of God was my life saved and health restored. I don’t understand the human brain… but my counselor says that it is a form of PTSD. I survived the war… now it was time to process what happened on the battlefield.

I’ll spare you the ugly details, but let me just share that anxiety, depression, insomnia, anger and irritability became characteristics that of who I was morphing into while I journeyed through this period of mentally processing cancer. I was constantly thinking about all of the “what if’s” should I find another lump. Additionally, God brought several friends into my life that have been fighting cancer too… and my heart was so breaking for them. Walking with friends when you understand the pain is taxing… heavy, real, worth crying hard junk. While Eric certainly tried to kindly express/describe my “new personality” to me… there were two defining moments when I realized that anxiety and depression were getting the best of me. The first is when a good friend just simply told me that I wasn’t joyful anymore. Hearing that from someone other than my husband somehow was like a slap in the face. (A good slap… like the kind in a comedy movie.) The second was when one of my cousins drove a distance to bring me some clothes for Leah and I completely fell asleep while she was visiting. Rude I know… but honestly, it just happened. You see I had gone nearly 5 months without sleeping more than 4 consecutive hours in a night due to anxiety. I was SOOOOOOOOOOOO tired and had gotten to a place where practically any time I was slightly resting my body I naturally fell asleep. I remember that night thinking “how can any person function well, joyfully and completely when they haven’t slept in months.”  Long story short, I sought out a great psychologist that helped me out and attended a few classes through Kaiser that taught tools for dealing with anxiety and my emotions.  If you’ve never done it, it takes a lot of courage to go see someone for help… but man was it worth it.

Nobody told me about this part of the journey. I have spoken to several friends that are also cancer survivors and realize now that this part of the “cancer experience” can be as intense (yet totally different) as chemo. Choosing to live in the present and not obsess about the past. Choosing to enjoy precious moments with my kids instead of dwelling on how this could possibly be the last time we ever ------------ (fill in the blank). But something that I have come to learn about journeys is that nobody can truly take YOU on a journey but YOUrself. No amount of protection from loved ones can replace the road that must be traveled.  

In one of my 1st blogs on this site I quoted the classic adventure novel Going On A Bear Hunt and the lines “Can't go over it. Can't go under it. Can't go around it. Got to go through it.” I suppose this mental journey is an important part of going through this story that is my life. It’s been a lonely journey. It’s a journey that has greatly stretched my faith. It’s a journey that requires new eyes to see and grow into the person that cancer forced me to become. And it’s a journey where I realize that the input of others was not meant to wound, but to move me in the direction of mental and physical health.

Our little family, Summer 2014.
Capitola, CA
You see… we just have to go through it. Whatever “it” is. You can’t give up and there is no short cut.  Often our paths are not necessarily what we choose. And yet somehow, if we search deep enough… one can find peace in believing that they are exactly where God meant for them to be in this moment in time… and that idea builds hope.

Hope in a future. Hope in a life worth living.

Much love and thanks,


Relay for Life Opening Ceremony Survivor Speech July 2014

Okay, I am in no stretch a professional speaker, but I wanted to share the last speech that I made at the Rancho Murieta Relay for Life kickoff ceremony this past July. Many of you have asked to hear what it is that I share when I speak on behalf of the American Cancer Society. It is such an honor to be invited back on multiple occasions to share my store and encourage others in the fight. (Please excuse my nerves and stuttering throughout this speech.)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Drum roll please...... The results of my moms surgery!

Well.... our family has basically been holding our breath for nearly 3 weeks. My moms surgery was on July 16th and just yesterday she received the results of her lumpectomy and full auxiliary dissection of her lymph nodes. The results were actually back a few weeks ago, but since my moms surgeon (who also performed the diverticulitis surgery) was on vacation she decided to wait until he returned to talk directly with him. Additionally, we had our family reunion this past weekend and she didn't want bad news to ruin the trip. 

Without any further ado, here are the results of my mother's surgery:

Dear Family and Friends, I got a phone call from my surgeon that preformed my lumpectomy and lymph node dissection this morning.

His first words were "Mrs. Randall I have good news. About the best news we can hope for. Of the 20 lymph nodes that were removed there was no cancer found. All of the margins from the lumpectomy came back clear."NO CANCER IN MY BODY!

Chemo Therapy was nasty and hard on my body but it did its job and stopped the growth and spreading of cancer.  I am so very thankful for this news. The last 2 1/2 weeks have been uncomfortable physically and mentally. Now I can move on with treatment. I will continue to heal and exercise for the next two weeks before I meet my Radiation Oncologist on August 19

Today I will give all praise to my precious Lord for this wonderful news. Thank you to all for your prayers, encouraging words and support over the last 5 months. I'll keep you informed as I enter the next phase of treatment.

Much Love, Kris

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Cancer Just Loves My Family: The Story of My Mom's Cancer Fight

Many of you are aware that earlier this year my mom, was unfortunately also diagnosed with Triple Negative breast cancer. Yep... we are both just so darn lucky to have not only had life interrupted by the "Big C", but she too has this same rare, aggressive, nasty form of breast cancer. As I've shared before, Triple Negative Breast Cancer only effects 10% of breast cancer patients... you could say we are "special".

Due to the quick growth of my moms tumor and the presence of cancer in her lymph nodes, the oncologist team decided to take a very aggressive route in her treatment. They decided to treat her with chemo first before her surgery so that they could verify that the chemo was actually killing and shrinking her cancer. This method actually makes a lot of common sense. If after 4 weeks there was no change in the tumor size they would know they needed to change chemotherapy and find the correct treatment. The plan was to complete chemotherapy, have the lumpectomy and full auxiliary disection of her lymph nodes surgery and then go through radiation. Well... due to an infection and complications, her diverticulitis flared up resulting in the eruption of her colon. This ridiculously dangerous complication has made for a painful and long process on her body. By the grace of God she made it through surgery, has healed, and is now ready to proceed with her cancer treatment. 

Last week I asked my mother if I could have permission to share her story with the readers of this blog. So many of you have shared that my story has helped you understand this disease, understand how to care for others and understand how to support friends walking this this cancer journey. Her story is different than mine in a number of ways. We were different ages when diagnosed, in different phases of life, had different forms of treatment and have both had different effects of chemo on our bodies. Additionally, something different about my moms story is the example of the danger associated with chemo and how infection while going through treatment can potentially end up throwing you at deaths door. 

She willingly agreed to share her story. Below you will find copies of the emails that she sent out to her close friends and family throughout this fight. It is her (and my) prayer that her story and perspective may help others see how they can understand, encourage and walk with people in their lives effected by cancer.  Enjoy the read.

My parents - (November 2012)
Celebrating 40 yrs of marriage next month
Could you please join our family in prayer this afternoon as she finally has her surgery to remove the cancer from her body? The doctors plan to be liberal in the margins that they take around her tumor and in taking her lymph nodes should hopefully remove the opportunity for further spreading. We pray that any last traces of cancer would be included in the areas that they remove, and that she would be completely cancer free. The surgery is scheduled for today (July 16th at 2:15pm). 

Much love,

The Story of My Mom's Cancer Fight:
March 7, 2013

I hope all of you are doing well.
Each of you have a special place in my heart so I need to share a bit of news before you hear it elsewhere. 

Bad News: 
I found out I have breast cancer last Thursday. I have a lump/tumor and one lymph node that has tested positive.

Darn! Just when you think things are going good, you hit a bumpy patch. Uncle Gary and I had a wonderful vacation to Oahu mid-February. It really was a dream come true. 

I just got home from the meeting with surgeon. Lots of information was talked about so as of right now this is what will be happening in the next week. 

I had a pelvic ultrasound on Monday and I have a cyst on my left ovary. They can't tell if the cyst is cancer or not. Because of this information I will be having a PET scan to determine if I have cancer anywhere else in my body. I will also be meeting with a gynecologist to see what needs to be done. I'm glad that I will be having a PET scan so, if needed, everything can be dealt with at the same time. 

If all stays as it is now, lump and nodes only, I will be having chemo first. The "TEAM" wants to stop or interrupt all cancer growth in the cluster of lymph nodes. Then I will have surgery to remove the lump and all affected nodes. After surgery my oncologist will determine my next step for treatment. 
Kelly and Gary went to the meeting with me and Kelly asked a lot of questions about having chemo first. I think we will get some answers after the PET scan.

I have a God given calm about all of this. Although, I have my moments of being afraid and fretful I know that God loves me and will get me through this. 
I'll give you an update after I meet with my oncologist. 

I know it will be a long Spring and Summer but come Autumn hopefully all will be back to normal. I feel great right now, strong and healthy. 

Prayer is most appreciated and I would be happy to hear from you. 

Much love, 
Aunt Kris  

March 14, 2013

I had a very busy day yesterday and want to share results and the my treatment plan that is set up for me. 
I have always been pretty factual with information so this is just the facts as of today. 

Good News:
PET Scan results - No cancer found in other areas of my body. 
Ovarian cyst doesn't look like cancer. Both ovaries will be removed when I have surgery in August. 
Lab work - I am in great health, no concerns. 

PET Scan showed Tumor 2.6cm and four lymph nodes have cancer. This puts me in the Stage III category. 
The cancer in invasive and fast growing. 
Estrogen receptor level is very low-5%, progesterone level-negative, HER2 level-negative. 

I will be receiving chemotherapy to treat "Triple Negative" cancer. 
"Neoadjuvant Therapy", before surgery to shrink cancer. 
I will receive chemotherapy every 3 weeks with 6 treatments, 18 weeks total.
Three medicines will be given, "TAC". I will know exactly what each medicine is on Tuesday when I attend a class. 

I start therapy treatment on Thursday, March 21. So, I will be looking forward to the end of July when chemotherapy will be complete. 

I know life is going to be difficult the next several months and every person deals with cancer in their own unique way. I plan to see my family, go on outings, and have a little fun whenever I possible can. Gary and I are strong individuals and will get through this.  

Just days before moms 1st chemotherapy treatment.
To celebrate my cancer battle fight and to mark
an item off my bucket list, we went on an amazing hot air balloon ride. 
Speaking of having fun, Kelly, Esther, a friend and I will be sailing in a Hot Air Balloon this Sunday morning. The trip was cancelled last Fall and rescheduled for St. Patrick's Day. God's Perfect Timing!
Thank you for all of your positive and loving emails. 

Love you all, 

March 20, 2013

Well here it is, the night before chemotherapy  starts. Nervous, dread, determination, faith, not able to sleep, a  whole lot going on in my head and stomach.  

This week I got my hair cut, fingers and toes done, house cleaned, class on CHEMO, picked up a large bag of drugs, bought some hats, got a full body massage this morning, shopping for food and threw a 6th birthday party for Nathan tonight. That's me, I thrive on being BUSY!

The most precious part of the night was being prayed over and anointed with oil by my children while holding Gary's hands. God is Good and He will be with me every step of the way of this crummy journey that I have to go through. 

My appointment is at 10:30am Thursday morning. I don't know what the next several days will be like but I'll write when I feel like I can.

I love you all, 

March 26, 2013

Well I have had my first chemotherapy treatment and survived. I think the words tired, nausea,and aches in the bones describes how I feel physically. Mentally, I feel pretty strong. I know that this "chemo" is just what I have to go through to get rid of the nasty cancer which has invaded my body. Yeah, sometimes I feel "weepy" or "why me" but a lot of women have been in my place over the years.  I think the first women I knew that had breast cancer was my Aunt Opal. 40 years ago the diagnose wasn't so good but Aunt Opal was a strong woman and did what she needed to do to live life to its fullest. I want to be that strong woman that my Aunt Opal always was. We are kindred spirits, I was named after her, and I will draw from her strength.

I have my NEUPOGEN shots for four more days. This liquid gold will build my white blood cells in my bone marrow but it is also the reason I feel aches in my bones and nausea. With the good come a little bad. I am hopeful that next week will be easier and without the neupogen shots I will feel good and strong. I will have my next chemotherapy on April 11 and the cycle will start again. FIVE treatments to go!

May each of you have a wonderful Easter Sunday. I am most thankful for Our Savior Jesus Christ,He has risen, He has risen indeed. 
Love love to you all, 

April 3, 2013

My First Good Day, April Fools Day

I woke up this morning and knew I felt better. I've been waiting for this day, YEAH! The night before my first chemotherapy my prayer with family was that God would let me see a blessing everyday of this journey. THIS IS IT! God is so Good!!!! I am going to enjoy the next ten days of feeling good! Blessings were raining down on me every hour. I think I can get through this cancer thing.  

Now I need to back up. Last Friday, Day 9 of treatment was a BAD DAY! A gift showed up on my doorstep addressed to "Mama Randall". It was a very thoughtful bag of comfort; soft blanket, pretty scarf, scented candle, therapeutic wrap and a 2013 Weekly Planner. I am going to use the planner to keep track of my Daily Blessings  and a sweet note from Mel. 

Laying on the bed feeling BAD I thought, WOW! I remember the day Melissa Ossant came flying into our life like and out of control shooting star hell bent as if she was honed in on a magnet. Her target, our Katie. It would have been the first week of summer vacation 1990. The girls first Thursday night Jr. High Youth Group at church. Melissa also had a pretty, smart, popular, boyfriend-having, 13 year old sister just like Katie. (Sometimes it is just plan hard to have an older sister.)  Katie and Melissa needed each other, they got each other, they had to see each other for two hours on Thursday just to get grounded. They would beg to spend weekends together, we agreed to twice a month, just so these two awkward 12 years old girls could get though the next two awful, crappy weeks of being in 7th and 8th grade. They survived Jr. High and spent every summer in High School hanging out together just being best friends.

Melissa's whirlwind blew away just about as quickly as she had arrived. On March 13, 1997 a knock on our door and Melissa was holding a birthday present for Katie, It was Katie's first year of collage and again life is sometimes hard. Melissa handed over the birthday box to Katie and inside was a soft little ball of black fluff, Melissa thought Katie needed a cat of her own. So "MO" the cat, became a constant reminder over the next 15 years of the day that Melissa Ossant blew into our life. Last November I ran into Melissa at a jewelry party. There she was enjoying all those around her, telling me about her daughter who is soon becoming a teenager, laughing hard and loud and just being Melissa. 

April 2, 2013, A BAD DAY! 
I made a mistake on April Fools Day and didn't drink enough water. I let myself get dehydrated. I just fought the last 15 hours trying to stay out of the ER. You see, I need to drink about two gallons of water a day to flush out all of the drugs. There is a strict standing order from the doctor if my tempter gets up to 100.4 go directly to ER. Your body is in trouble. My temp got up to 100.1

During that terrible long nightmare of a fight I just knew I had to stay out of the ER. Katie and family were leaving for France the next day and she might not get on the plane if I was in the hospital. I couldn't let that happen! I drank three gallons of water and rested all day so I could meet Katie at 4:00 pm on April 2 to give them my love, say good bye and have a great trip. 

Now, back to God showing me a blessing everyday though this journey.God did show me a Blessing that night. I was living a true nightmare, fighting the fever and demons that hang out on bad nights.
God showed me that 23 years ago He, with His own hand, threw Mel into our life like an out of control Shooting Star to save two little girls lives. 23 years is a long time not to recognize a blessing but I didn't know what a blessing looked like back then. Thank you God for the sweet blessings of life and I'll try to pay closer attention to what you bring into my life.  

April 3, 2013 A Very Good Day!
Katie is on Air France right now. God is Good!

April 10, 2013

21 Days

I am on a 21 day cycle for chemotherapy. Here are a few lessons I learned over the last 21 days. 

First, I thought I walked through chemo with Kelly last year. NOT AT ALL! I was a chemo patients helpmate. I had no idea what her body was going through.

Next, This is my story. Every chemo patient has their own cocktail of drugs and there own reaction to those drugs. The results may look similar, but I am sure my friend Laura's story is very different than mine. 

This one explains why I am even writing these updates. I have another special gene that I've shared with my children and grandchildren. That would be the OCD gene, which has shown that it
is alive and well. Actually because of stress my OCD is acting out in ways I've never had to control before.Stress brings out 
BAD BEHAVIORS. It is strange because I spent 22 years helping children keep those behaviors under control in the school setting. I'm going to have to talk to Beth an Kim to find out how 
they kept me under control with out my knowing it. 
Well that OCD has me writing to get the story out of my head so I can move on to the next thing. OH! That is exactly what those two wonderful teachers taught me.

I found out I have a fairly nice shaped head and I look cute in a hat. Yep! my hair started coming out last Friday by the handfuls. Eileen and I had a private date to get rid of all that trash and I took the bucket out myself. I revealed my head to all of the grandkids this week so the next time I see them I'll just be Grandma. 

I found out that 21 days with God you can get a whole lot of talking going on, Both Ways! Long nights just me and God, good mornings God's blessings, feeling prayers surround me, explainable. Knowing I will get through this and enjoy life with new eyes, grateful. Please keep the prayers coming I know they are working and God lets me know. 

The rumor was true some feel better around day 15 or 16 and your body can recover. I took those few great days and had short visits with 6 of my friends who came as soon as I contacted them. Ladies, you have no idea how you lifted my spirits. I went to my Bible study group for about an hour, worked in the yard twice, saw my mom, and ate a hamburger from Jack in the Box. Now my energy
level is very low so I would lay down for two hours and go do something fun for an hours then lay down again to recover. I don't care I had fun! Also, the chemo fog in my brain cleared
Sunday afternoon and I can think again. That has been a real blessing. 

I miss my kids and grandkids like crazy. But, we don't want any set backs and kids are bug infested zones. I went to see all of them yesterday and today, Parker and Norah via Skype in France but I still saw them. This also gives me another reason to look forward to days 15-21. 

So today is Day 21 of my First Cycle. Tomorrow, Thursday April 11, is Day 1 of Cycle Two. Chemotherapy is at 2:00pm

I'll talk to you in a week or two. 
Love, Kris

April 19, 2013

Hello There, I've nearly made it through Cycle Two. Woo Hoo!

When I met with my oncologist, Dr. Hui, the day before cycle two of chemo she was very concerned with my side effects with cycle one. I told her I was going to get through this cycle better. I think I have! I have a handle on my nausea medication, every four hours with a little food no matter what, I am keeping hydrated, rest, rest, rest, but the Big Red Flag, my diverticulitis was tender and acting up. Very dangerous sign for infection. I have been working very hard to keep all of these area under control and am doing pretty well. The side effect that I didn't share with the Doc was how quickly germs can invade my space. My mom came for a visit on the Monday before treatment. Because of her ever advancing Alzheimer's, mom hasn't been told of my cancer. I don't want her worrying, fretting, dreaming and making things worse than they are. What mom does know is that for the last ten years I haven gone over to see her three times a week. Now I see mom once every other week. We miss each other so much! So, on this Good Monday she came over for a short visit. I took moms arm and walked outside to see the garden and then out to Esther's car. Mom leaned over and kissed me good bye, a sweet act of love. I turned around quickly and felt a million germ bugs attacking my upper lip. I ran to the bathroom, washed my face and put anti-bacterial cream on, but I had a full blown fever blister on my lip before bedtime. Lesson learned, "Protect My Space" I've cried and prayed about this one. It is so hard to not show love to my mom and I know that she is lonely and confused. God's grace has helped and I now try to call her every night before dinner or bed just to chat for a few minutes make a connection, have her feel she is needed , show her I love her. Man, life is hard sometimes! 

We met our first "Chemo Friends", Brian and Debra. They were in the chemo class with us the day before my first cycle. There were seven patient in attendance all with a different cancer. That first chemo day they waved when they saw us and I waved back in terror. My second treatment day Brain came down and introduced himself and told us his wife is being treated for ovarian cancer and they are hopeful that they caught it in time. He brought his wife Debra down after her 9 hours stay in the chair, my treatment is about 3 hours long.Right off the bat spirits were lifted, family being discussed, trying to find a common factor for friendship that is not related to cancer. I told Gary they will be our new friends for as long as we are together in that room. I'm sure that "Gary, The Ambassador of Good Will" can help past their time a little more quickly for them with his many stories, jokes and love of life. Who knows what may develop with this foursome but right now we will all have a friends during chemo treatment.

Now, I want to thank the Angles of Mercy that have surrounded us this week with love and warm food from Christ Community Church. A few friends and family members had brought Gary and I a meal during the last several weeks and we were very appreciative. I got a call from "the church lady" and she offer to drop by a couple of meals a week for us. I said YES! we would be most grateful, Gary didn't really like the idea of strangers coming to our house but too bad. A person can only eat so much Progresso chicken noodle soup, oatmeal and sandwiches until you are just plain hungry. I was moved to tears when we sat down to a complete homemade meal. I tasted good, it was nutritious, it was thoughtful and made me feel loved. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for this generous gift. I am looking forward to me getting well so I can add my mane to this hospitality team of Congregational Care. God really does show His love in so many ways. 

My last shot to build my white blood cells is this Saturday night so I am looking forward to The Good Days soon. Maybe we can catch a visit next week. Please continue to pray, I can feel them at work in my life. 
Love you, 

May 2, 2013

Today is the first day of Cycle 3.
Chemotherapy treatment is half way through. I'm getting through this nightmare/journey/life lesson................Three to go!

This last week my "Good Week" my brother and sister-in-law, Larry and Millie, came to visit from Kentucky. The whole week was all about family. Thursday I was able to see Nathan in his kindergarten play "The Little Red Hen" First Narrator. When Nathan saw me in the front row he gave me a thumbs up and I had tears of pride and joy in my eyes. Of course he did a wonderful job! Later that day Gary and I took a picnic lunch, McDonalds, to a park to celebrate Parker's 5th Birthday. Again cherished time with my grandkids. 

The week before, still not feeling great, Katie and family came to see me after their trip to France. No hugs, knuckles to Parker and Norah age 1 1/2 raised her arms for me to pick her up. I didn't pick her up I sent her to Pops. Her little face was confused as she looked at me and walked away. That's when it hit me "Fear of Germs" has taken control of my life. For the last six weeks I have isolated myself because I don't want to get sick. Kids carry germs. I was protecting my space to the extreme. 

So, I made the decision to love my grandbabies the way I do, Hands On. 

On Saturday at a family gathering Jordyn, age six our most reserved grandchild, was staying away from me. Gary went up to her and ask if she had said Hi to grandma yet? "No." Are you sick? "No." Do you have a runny nose or a cough? "No." Then go give grandma a hug she misses you. Jordyn turned around, ran across the grass, threw her arms around my neck, sat on my lap and wouldn't let go. Oh how I have missed those hugs! I'm going to pick up the babies, play Candyland, read a book, and snuggle when I can. I know I have to be smart and careful about germs when needed but No More Fear. 

Then on Tuesday a women from church came by to visit and pray with me. She gave ma a gift of a handmade shawl that was prayer over and blessed by a pastor. The perfect verse was attached. 
Philippians 4:6 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God."

I'm extending my prayer request that on days 15-21 when I feel more like myself and my white blood cell count is up, my grandchildren will be healthy as well and I can love on them as Grandma Randall does, with my arms, hands, ears, and heart. 

I know I'm not going to feel to good the next couple of weeks but I'm looking forward to week three when I can be my self again. 
I know that "God is in control of my life" and He only wants the best for me. 

Much Love, 

May 29, 2013
Dear family,

This is from Kris's kids. A few days ago, our mom started having intense pain in her abdomen area. She thought the pain was related to the chemo treatment which she had last Friday. Well, it wasn't. Apparently the pain is because her diverticulitis has flared up and she has an infection in her intestine, colon and it has now traveled up through her diaphragm. She was prepped for emergency surgery. The doctor waited until we all arrived so we were able to say goodbye. Katie, Casey, Dad that I walked with her to the surgery room door until we couldn't go further. There even was a guy from church youth group who was the nurse.... Passing her along to someone we know and trust is a blessing. She will be in surgery for a about three hours. The doctor is actually In oncology surgeon, so he really understands what he's doing and how to handle the other factors. He was honest and clear, this surgery has a 50% mortality rate. He said that they are basically doing damage control and that we need to pray that the neupogen medicine that they give her will help her white blood cell count to continue to fight the infection. Now we are just waiting here... it should be about three hours until we know something. We will write again tomorrow when we know more and understand what's going on.

Thank you for your love prayers support and good wishes.

Love Gary, Kelly, Katie and Casey

May 31, 2013

Hello Family, 
Okay... the last time we wrote was Wednesday night while mom was in surgery. Much has happened since that time and here's the update:

Half way through the surgery the surgeon came out to talk to us. He said that it was a pretty big mess in there and that he could see her ovaries and asked if we wanted to give him permission to removed them since he was right there. Due to cancer risk and genetic history she had planned to remove them during the lumpectomy, so we said yes. Three more times in that conversation he said "it's a big mess"... but then while walking away gave us the thumbs up sign. We decided as a group that 1. the "mess" he referred too was the literal mess of the spillage from her colon,  2. if he could leave the operating room things must be okay, and 3. thumbs up is a good thing. 

When he returned at about midnight to tell us the were finished we held to every word. He explained that they took the entire colon and some intestine. He made his hands stretch about 2 feet in length. He said that she will likely have a colostomy bag  the rest of her life as he took so much bowel. (We will know this for sure in the future.) He told us that the next 72 hours were crucial as her body needed to create white blood cells to fight off infection. It wasn't really a positive talk... as he walked away I asked "but her heart is beating on it's own? She's alive?" He smiled and replied "Yes, her heart is beating." 

At about 1:30am we each went into her room in ICU to see her and say a little prayer by her side. Casey stayed the night with dad. We all went home and planned to return yesterday morning. When my dad and Casey arrived Mom was awake and trying to talk to her brother Don. Since there was still a tube down her throat she was writing messages on a piece of paper. Since we didn't expect her to wake up and be conscious for at least a day this was a wonderful surprise. 

After dealing with last day of school activities with my son, I got there about noon. When I sent into see mom she wasn't looking too good. Her eyes were yellow and it was obvious that she was in pain. Katie, Dad and Casey met with a social worker and got info on the administrative stuff. Dad and Casey left to go deal with financial paperwork and were surprised with a visit from Casey's kids. Casey said that dad ditched him for the kids and just soaked up the love they smothered him with. After all, the grand kids are what keep my parents going. I stayed at the hospital just in case there were any problems so that dad could leave for a bit. Mom slept for about 4 hours. When we went into her room to see her she looked good and while clearly loopy from her pain meds she had a lot of "interesting" things to say. (Definitelymaterial to joke with her about when she is all better.) We then went to dinner and returned to say good-night. It wasn't a good visit. Mom hurt a lot and was talking in a way that brought us all to tears. She was saying her final good-byes. Remember, she isn't just dealing with pain and trauma from the surgery, she is also still in a place of fighting through chemo as her last treatment was last Friday and the chemo is actively fighting in her body for at least 10 days, which would be until Sunday. Chemo itself is no joke as it brings out depression, pain and nausea... now add the effects of this invasive surgery. Dad, Casey and I left around 10:30pm. 

Absolutely exhausted, you can only imagine the fear I felt this morning when my phone rang to wake me up this morning and I saw my brothers name. Apparently while I was sleeping, God was making miracles happen in her body. At 8:30am the doctors had her get up and walk over to a chair where she sat for 50 minutes. Her vitals all read good and the recovery was moving in a positive direction. Over night her kidneys started working and she had started urinating properly. But most important and the biggest miracle is that last night her white blood cell count was reading .06 and as of this morning it was 2.6. My understanding is that normal is 4.3-10.8 . This is HUGE... despite the chemo currently working to kill the wbc, the wbc are growing stronger. (If your into science or interested in these numbers check out this site: wbc count. ) Oh... and today she wants to live and her spirits have been lifted by the hope of improvement. 

Around 3 Casey called again to share that they have moved her out of the ICU and into a normal hospital room. This is great not only because it shows her improvement, but she is also getting away from the extreme germs, infections and dangerous diseases in the ICU. She also started drinking water, had an apple juice and some jello. Casey said they removed the tube from her nose which was draining junk from her stomach and removed the IV from her neck so now the only thing she is connected to is the meds IV, catheter and other basic monitors. We do not yet know how long the mesh will be in her wound or if/when they plan to fully stitch her up... but for now things are good. 

This pic was taken the day mom left ICU and
was admitted to a regular room. Lookin good - don't you think?
When I opened moms email I see that there are many, many messages to her. I will be on watch at the hospital tomorrow morning and will take my computer to read her your messages and respond accordingly. A few people have asked if they can send flowers. The nurse said that she shouldn't have any flowers, balloons or really anything from the outside delivered that might bring in germs. If you would like to mail a card it can be sent to my folks address: -----------

Thank you so very much for your kindness, prayers and love for our family... yet again. 
In His Grip. 
(and Gary, Katie and Casey)

June 5, 2013

I wanted to thank you all so much for your prayers for my mom and family. Here is an update on her and we would continue to ask for prayer if you will.
As of today, my mom is being healed by our wonderful Lord. First, her white blood cell count went up a few days after the surgery and has stayed up to fight off the infection and to heal her body. The doctor is very pleased with how she is recovering. She is able to get up and down out of bed by herself and walk up and down the hall.Today the physical therapist released her and said she can do it all on her own. She still gets very tired walking but she no longer needs assistance. As of yesterday, she is eating solid foods and drinking without getting sick. She was having lots of fluid in her lungs this last week but that is now gone and she is breathing so much better. She still has a lot of swelling in her legs and a ton of pain from the surgery. She was hooked up to a would vacuum yesterday which gives her pain most of the time but it should help her to heal much faster. Her spirit is good and she was smiling and crying good tears today. It was so wonderful to be with her this afternoon. I am very blessed that God saved my mom from this infection and that I can be here with her so much. I will be assisting her with her wound recovery for a little while once she is out of the hospital. I feel honoured that I can serve my mom this way. She should be able to go home in a few days and hopefully get back to church and normal life in a few weeks.
She still has the cancerous tumors in her body which will be addressed in about 2 months. Her oncologist is thinking she will have surgery to have them removed in 6-8 weeks then my mom will decide if she wants to have any further treatment. 
Thank you again for your prayers. Please keep them coming because she still has a long road of recovery ahead of her.
Written by Katie

June 6, 2013
I wanted to thank you all so much for your prayers for my mom, Kris Criswell Randall and family. Here is an update on her and we would continue to ask for prayer if you will.
As of today, my mom, Kris, is being healed by our wonderful Lord. First, her white blood cell count went up a few days after the surgery and has stayed up to fight off the infection and to heal her body. The doctor is very pleased with how she is recovering. She is able to get up and down out of bed by herself and walk up and down the hall.Today the physical therapist released her and said she can do it all on her own. She still gets very tired walking but she no longer needs assistance. As of yesterday, she is eating solid foods and drinking without getting sick. She was having lots of fluid in her lungs this last week but that is now gone and she is breathing so much better. She still has a lot of swelling in her legs and a ton of pain from the surgery. She was hooked up to a would vacuum yesterday which gives her pain most of the time but it should help her to heal much faster. Her spirit is good and she was smiling and crying good tears today. It was so wonderful to be with her this afternoon. I am very blessed that God saved my mom from this infection and that I can be here with her so much. I will be assisting her with her wound recovery for a little while once she is out of the hospital. I feel honoured that I can serve my mom this way. She should be able to go home in a few days and hopefully get back to church and normal life in a few weeks.
She still has the cancerous tumors in her body which will be addressed in about 2 months. Her oncologist is thinking she will have surgery to have them removed in 6-8 weeks then my mom will decide if she wants to have any further treatment. 
Thank you again for your prayers. Please keep them coming because she still has a long road of recovery ahead of her.

Written by Katie 

June 30. 2013

Hello Family, Friends, and Faithful Prayer Warriors, 

Wow! Did I ever have a June 2013 to remember!

This is the first time I've been on the computer since I went in for my life changing surgery May 29th. I have had a lot to process and comprehend this last month as well as trying to recovery from two major surgeries. 
I guess you can say that with my fourth chemo therapy treatment if it could go wrong it did. I spend 16 days in the hospital. The first week I was totally out of it and just trying to figure out what happened to me. The second week there were complications with my medical vital signs so I needed to be stable and all of the numbers needed to be correct before the DOCTORS would let me come home. It took that extra week in the hospital for me to give over my will and let God do the healing of my body. 

I came home June 14, Friday night and then realized it was just Gary and I. We were going to do this recovery together. I have a wound vacuum attached to my incision and have a Home Health Nurse come three days a week to change my bandage. A total of six weeks for the incision to heal. I also came down with an allergic reaction to one of the many medicines I received in the hospital on Sunday which gave me a full body rash/hives from head to toe. That little rash put me back in ER on June 21.  That  really slowed down my recovery and made me even weaker that I was when I left the hospital. I am getting stronger and faster each and every day. I do a chore and need to rest. Right now I have about an hour of energy and then I need to rest for an hour. Give and take but I am getting stronger.  

Oh Well, just a little glitch in this fight against CANCER.

Yes, I still have breast cancer and I'm scheduled for surgery to remove the tumor and four lump nodes in mid-July. I'll keep you updated when that date gets nearer. 

Not knowing if mom would be able to attend
Leah's 3rd birthday party, we brought the party
to her.  Leah arrived in her Cinderella gown
and of course Nathan had to be sure to appear
in costume too. They sure do love their
Grandma & Pops.
I thank all of you for the on going prayer and many cards of encouragement I have received. This has been a very humbling experience and a life changing way of thinking. I haven't really addressed all of the physical and emotional changes I've been through. One day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time. 

The miracle of life was given to me and I am going to appreciate and cherish each and every day!  

Much love, Kris

July 14, 2013

Hello to all, 

I have been home recovering from my big adventure for one month. My body is still healing and my strength and endurance is getting stronger. I can now do a few household chores, cook small meals, water the garden, go to doctor appointments and visit with family and friends for an hour or so. I haven't gone shopping or socializing yet but hope to get out again and live life to its fullest in early August. Right now I'm just concentrating on fighting cancer. 
Although my body is still healing I will be going in for surgery to remove the tumor in my left breast and four lymph nodes on Tuesday, July 16 at 2:15pm.  The doctors feel strongly that they want to remove the cancer while the effects of chemo therapy are still at its best in my body. The surgeon told me last week that the surgery I just went through on a scale of 1 to 10 was a "10". This upcoming surgery he would rate as a "2". So he feels I can recover from both surgeries at the same time. I feel confident that this surgery will go smoothly but would certainly appreciate prayers that all of the cancer will be removed and that no complications take place. 

This has been a long six weeks, a summer I will never forget. Gary and I are planning to take a small vacation as soon as I can travel comfortably. Maybe for our 40th Wedding Anniversary on August 10, 2013 we can take a nice trip for a few days. I will continue to walk this path that God has chosen for me and look for the beautiful surprises He has planned for me. 

Love, Kris