May 8th marked one year since my diagnosis of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, I can hardly believe it.
The year has sped by so quickly that it's hard to imagine I had cancer for most of 2018.
In fact, I was showing pictures of my bald head to family recently and the sight of myself without hair caught my breath.
Did that really happen?
You've all been privy to how cancer showed up one afternoon and kept me hostage for months on end. It was real. It was scary. It was heavy.
And yet, the not-so-easy details are a distant memory to me now. Somehow, in a quick blink, it is all over and I couldn't feel better.
All that's left is the love that kept me afloat.
The above quote makes me laugh out loud. I hope that in the wake of my diagnosis, I have given God a daily belly laugh, glad for giving me the gift of my new life.
Because I so love the gift. And I do not take it lightly.
Nor do I take my relationships lightly, and I am in awe of all of you who showed up.
I did not understand how big a tribe I actually had, until you all showed me, through cancer, that my tribe was more steadfast and resilient than I ever knew, and that my place within that tribe is secure.
I have never before experienced such an outpouring of pure love.
So here, in my humble and grateful way, I want to share my warriors with the world. Single-handedly, you have each contributed some piece of yourself to make sure I was not alone.
It all began when I shared my news with my boss, Christina, and with tears in her eyes, she leaned across her desk, pointed her finger at me, and said some of the wisest words I'll ever hear: “Don't do this alone.”
Fortunately, I took her advice and gathered my people.
Then one-by-one, you all began to show up.
A hair-shaving party was quickly organized where Kim sat at the front of the line, eager to be the first to shave her head with me and for me. She volunteered her cafe and supplied snacks and goodies for the party-goers, while Laurie gave her time, free of charge, to shave everyone's heads; Tara and her daughter, Savannah, along with Ty, Travis, Ian, Brad, Missy, Maryann, and Audrey were among the 13 who shaved their heads in solidarity on a day when I didn't feel very brave.
Maryann spear-headed a Team Katie campaign and handed out bracelets to many in town who proudly wore them upon my return from my biopsy surgery. She also spent many of her mornings (after working the night shift) with me at the Chemo Bar, driving me there and to other appointments when I needed an escort. She also spent many Friday evenings cooking dinner for me in my kitchen.
My boss allowed me to miss work as I needed to (9+ weeks!) and welcomed me back each time, fully trusting me that I would catch up on my nursing duties. She also delivered balloons, pie, and presents when I spent my 55th birthday on the couch.
Kathy sent meals and love-wrapped gifts home with me several days a week, for several months, and graciously donated to my GoFundMe; Carmen brought fruits and vegetables to my home when I was needing sustenance the first week of chemo, and prayed over me and with me as I healed. She also donated PTO and money to my fund.
Amanda and James made food to order (potatoes!) anytime I called with a craving and made sure food was delivered to my home each day, and Amanda and Jessica brought said meals to me for lunch almost daily and kept me company while I was on the couch recuperating; James and Tara donated their valuable PTO so that I could receive a decent paycheck; Cat took me to acupuncture and listened to me when my fears at work escalated; Dana made a delicious coconut cream pie that Christina delivered on my birthday; Cricket lovingly shared her own experience so that I knew what to expect with mine; Michelle often shared a wise-crack about how I could dress up my baldness; Lori welcomed me back with a big hug, saying, “It hasn't been the same without you.” And Tony showed us all that difficult news can be met with courage and grace.
During my first week of chemo, Robert lovingly wrapped me in his embrace and allowed me to feel the scariness of my new life; Gem performed Reiki on my body when cancer wracked it with pain; Kim kept a jar on her cafe counter for donations and brought me meals and popsicles with only a moment's notice; Stephanie volunteered to accompany me to my first surgery before I thought to ask anyone; and Tami walked "Relay for Life" last June in my name, the same event that I will be attending this year.
Money began showing up in large sums, generously donated by friends and family (sometimes, strangers) around the globe: My sister, Diane; my brothers Jim and Marty; my mother and father-in-law, Fred and Marcella; my brother-in-law, Steve and his partner, Steve; Omar; Missy; my cousins Katie and Mike, and Claude and Chris; Roy Colquitt; Deana; Tracy; Jan; Sharon; Linda; Kathy; Lynn; Lisa; Terri; Luwane; Dann; Tiffany; Bobbi; Nancy; Julie; Betsy; Jennifer; Marlene; Walt; Monte; Missy; Zelinda; Robert; Marci; Bev and Kathy; Mary Fran and Tom; and Shelley and Nahum.
My sister, Robin, sent cards and packages, week after week, from across the country as she traveled; My BFF, Kelleen, sent a Birthday package filled with healing goodies; Eve brought an "Angel" plant to my home quickly after diagnosis and shared a story of lymphoma that gave me hope for the road ahead; Bettina treated me and my daughter to a bountiful breakfast when we dined at the bakery where she works on one of my good days between chemo treatments; Dawn painted a beautiful tribute to me and accompanied me on my entire first day of chemotherapy; Jan brought me coffee and cookie on my first day of chemo and visited a few more times during subsequent treatments, while leaving a huge check tucked into a heartfelt card.
Ashley gave me a necklace with a life-affirming quote; Adam and Courtney (nephew and niece) wrote heartfelt letters when I was first diagnosed; Ashlee, my niece and single mom of three daughters, donated to my fund; Steve created my GoFundMe account and became the first to donate; Lyn shared her own experience of cancer, while recommending treatment options for a healthier recovery; Lynn knit a hat that included pigtails; Jeanie brought me a hat and an oil-infused water bottle; Tara gifted me an angel statue to add to my collection; Mo gave me a snazzy shirt from her store collection; and Jo, my massage therapist extraordinaire, insisted that I pay less each session for the length of my treatment, then later gifted me an entire session!
To the many others who supported me in spirit, or with food, donations, cards, calls, and gifts, I apologize that I have overlooked you by name. Your kindness and generosity were invaluable.
Bradley, my son and wing-man, took me to chemo sessions, picked up medications, and stayed home from work to be with me; My son and daughter-in-law, Alex and Myca, kept bringing my grand babies to town so I could see them each week; and my daughter, Audrey, kept me company at the chemo bar and while I was on the couch recovering.
To my grown children, Alex, Brad and Audrey, and to my grandchildren, Wyatt and Mavis, you are the reason I endured this past year. And I would do this year all over again if it means I get to stay on this planet with you for as long as I can.
I will love you long after my heart stops beating, and I will forever be with you.
You are all of my reasons for living.