Friday, November 12, 2010

Sometimes the Rug Comes Out From Under

Everything that I had worked my whole life for had come together. Young, spirited, excited, carefree – taking on the world. My world. At 26 years old, things had fallen into place. I had a beautiful home, married my high school sweetheart, adopted a crazy loveable dog, and was thriving in my career. I think a lot about what happened. What signs did I miss? What could I have done differently? I try so hard not to think about these questions ... and the worst offender, the "why" because I know there is no answer.

The definition of insanity is banging your head against a wall over and over expecting a different result. No matter how much I bang it I'll never know why this happened to me, what I did to deserve this, and why it happened now, in my prime, with so much going for me. Before I worried about whether the work day was deserving of a "power suit" and looked forward to coming home on Fridays and having a beer and playing corn hole in our front yard to "de-stress" from the week. Now I worry every day about what will happen next and if this disease is going to kill me. I had no idea what stress was before this.

I am so young. It hurts so deeply to think about what a sharp twist of fate I've endured. I literally had the world at my fingertips. Now at 28 years old I'm still grappling with this giant and it is only growing bigger and I am only losing more control.

I am not naiive to the fact that I have been very fortunate in my life, but things didn't come on a silver platter and that is why I am so appreciate it all so much. I built this life and formed amazing relationships with the people who have helped me to get here. To think of this foundation being pulled out from under me and for all of this to end is too much to bear at times. I've written these words before but it scares me more than anything to think that my life was so beautiful and perfect that it wasn't met to last ... that what some people seek their whole lives to find was given to me in my first era and I've used it all up.

For my entire life I have been a hard worker. I took homework seriously from grade school through high school and was always very hard on myself - pushing and pushing to do my best. I studied very hard in college and am incredibly proud of my degree. I rejoiced at the opportunities I had in the three career jobs I've held since school and worked second jobs waitressing tables and carving meat to be able to save and make ends meet. Now it pains me greatly to lose ground, miss opportunities, to say that I am home collecting disability payments. It makes me sicker than the cancer does.

Craig and I endured a long-distance relationship for five years – across states, across the world holding together visit by visit. Finally, we could be together every day. We married and bought this beautiful three-bedroom house with the intention of filling it. Now those extra bedrooms sit vacant with the doors closed so as to not waste the heat. My fertility will no doubt be gone after this next intense procedure if it is not already. My thoughts are often with the three embryos cryopreserved and waiting for when my body can hold them. I worry that my body will never be a safe place for them to grow in.

Don't get me wrong. There are many wonderful things have come out of this experience and my life is by no means a pity fest. It's rich and full.


At that very moment, while keying those above words on Tuesday afternoon, an unexpected car pulled into my driveway and I put down my laptop. It was my mom and sister. If I thought I was having an emotional day earlier, their arrival really opened the water works to free flow. I tried to compose myself but realized it was a lost cause when I caught a glimpse of my smeared, red blotchy face in the mirror. It's very, very rare that my family sees me cry as I don't like to upset them by being upset, but there was no hiding it.

I opened the door and said out loud:

"What are you psychic? I'm having a bad day." and just started bawling crying.

My mom hugged me for a solid while, then my sister, as I shook in each of their arms.

"Oh no ... little Karin," says my sister as she squeezed me until it almost hurt.

"We decided to come over and plant some tulip bulbs so that you can have something beautiful to look at while you heal this spring," said my mom.

After a couple more teary chokes they were outside digging 44 holes in the soil along the back of our house and I was inside making them grilled cheese and tomato soup. We didn't have to dwell and discuss it too much. They knew why I was crying and upset. I was frustrated and scared and tired, tired, tired of everything ... the same things they are feeling.

This is why I survive. This is why I have made it this far in essentially one piece with my wits about me and my perspective still on the sunny side. Without fail, as soon as I'm about to give up, a much-needed voicemail is left, a funny card arrives, a stranger in Times Square gives us free tickets, Craig comes home with a surprise dinner cooked by a coworker, or my family shows up with tulip bulbs. Knowing how much people care about me gives me that strength to fight harder. Sometimes knowing how much I care about myself just isn't enough. Knowing that I have a place in the world, that without me, there would be a void, is quite a motivating reality.

My family is not a serious bunch and we're all a little crude and unique. My mom is not the kind to coddle and coo over me. She'll let me be sad for a bit then usually say something like: "Alright Choppy, let's go. You're fine." There are no long, deep discussions and 'woe is us' complaints. For this I am so grateful. Mooshy, mushy is not my style. I hate for people to fuss over me like I'm an invalid. Soon enough we were eating and chatting then popped in the Christopher Guest movie Waiting for Guffman. My mom snored through it but my sister and I laughed out loud. The whole out-of-control emotional raucous of the morning was all but forgotten except for how greatly tired it left me, but this time it was a good, warm worn-out tired, one that meant that I had gotten it all out. And that takes work.


  1. *Editor's Note: Please know that these blogs are written in the moment and I'm trying to be as honest and as open no matter how difficult so that others going through this know that it's okay to feel that way and that you do come out of it. I am fine now. It's a beautiful day. I went for a walk. I'm going to lunch and a movie with my parents. Sometimes, I just get down, but it's only fleeting moments that that happens and for that I'm grateful. But no matter what, it is a reality of this experience.

  2. Karin - We do get it. And we're extremely grateful that you are as comfortable with your friends as you are with your self. Thank you so much for sharing your feelings with everyone who adores you and thinks of you constantly. Hope you to see you tomorrow if you're up for accompanying Craig to check out the locale for his art! xoxo

  3. hi karin!

    just wanted to let you know that i so admire how generous and inspiring you are to share your feelings so openly here for us to read.

    every night during our show, Gaga tells the audience, "i didn't used to be brave. but tonight, i'm going to be brave for you [my fans]." and every night, i think of you and how brave you are, in that same unselfish way. your words, like gaga's lyrics and onstage monologues, are definitely changing lives...even the stream-of-consciousness entries over which you urge your readers to not get too upset.

    i proudly wear my "karin's cancer warriors" shirt all over the world, in hopes that putting it on will send you positive energy and loving vibes from everywhere possible...but i also put it on to return the favor and be brave for you. i wear it on days when i need to put in extra focus, awareness, and optimism...or, i'll wear it on "average" days to remind me never let a moment pass me by without truly living in it.

    cartoon karin has been to gaga's sound checks, stayed in posh hotels, endured 24-hour tour bus rides, sweated with me through morning workouts, and even sat patiently through trips to foreign laundromats. i hope you can somehow feel it in some way :)

  4. Karin,

    You are not alone when you ask those questions. This post (along with many others) brought me to tears as it hit very close to home (charmed life?). There are so many people rooting for you ... ones you don't even know! Hang in there. Our thoughts and prayers go out to you and Craig.

  5. Oh you sweet, sweet, strong girl--you can write whatever you feel like writing--you have been through so much but those beautiful bulbs are waiting to bloom for you in the spring--haha was your Mom really snoring? I love it and will use it to it's full advantage!!! Grab a beer and enjoy the warm weekend!! We love you!! Bev & Blakexoxo

  6. hey, I'm glad you are able to put into words things that have often bothered me too, thoughts I have had going through my SCT and afterwards. I appreciate your honesty. I'm also happy that your day ended well that day, I also feel fortunate to have people I know I can confide in.
    Good luck with your next Bendamustine, if you haven't had it already, and I'm really really really hoping that someday, after whatever crap you have to endure still, this thing will be over and done with, and your blog will be feature complaints about long-term side effects :D As my onc says, LTSE's are the luxury of the living... Here's to my next pentamidine treatment on wednesday not sucking, and good luck to you with everything!! :)

  7. Karin,
    another inspiring post. it is expected to feel the things you have been feeling and ask the questions you have been asking, what is extraordinary is the strength with which you endure these fears, face these questions, and move forward. You have been and continue to be in my prayers.