Monday, March 30, 2020

I've heard that Change Is Good.

I've heard that Change Is Good so I'm re-purposing my blog and I guess, because it's mine, I can do what I want. Yay!  

Did you have a good weekend? I did!  I refuse to look at work after 5pm on Friday (more like 3pm if I can, or even 11am if we’re being real 😊).  Friday night I joined a Zoom Bingo night with my Oregon friends and families.  Saturday I rested and reluctantly went to the store, messaging my friend and calling my husband to help me feel ok about doing this.  I also spent an exorbitant amount of time washing down everything I bought, was this necessary?  I have no idea but I did it anyway.  And Sunday I spent more online time with a bunch of friends, all day long!  My last chat was with my husband who is staying at my moms in hopes to prevent spreading germs to us that he’s probably getting while at the fire house.

Things have changed.  It’s crazy and it’s happening to everyone.  It’s almost unfathomable to see that this “virus thing” is impacting the way of life for everyone in the world.  I don’t like giving cancer a capital C because I don’t want cancer to think it deserves one.  And I have a hard time calling this “virus thing” by name because that gives it more power. This tactic might seem silly but hey, you do what you have to do!  My mom has only left the house to drive around the block since this started.  I have cooked every day except for Friday night when I picked up Mexican.  Ole!  It’d been over 2 weeks since I had Mexican food prepared by a restaurant. You know, it’s just better when someone else cooks for you.  I find myself, less and less, ready to respond to someone with “I’ll be right over” or “come pick me up!” because we just can’t do that.  I’ve seen Bobby, in person, for about 10 minutes since he left for the fire house on Saturday 3/14 when I gave him the last hug until this thing is over.  When I spoke to him on Saturday he told me he was off work (yes, OFF) for only 24 hours over the past week.  We missed out on my favorite parade, The Irish Channel Parade.  And we’ll be missing out on a bunch of festivals over the next month. 

However, through all of this, I’ve seen positive things happen to me, personally.  I’ve spent more time with my Oregon friends than I have since I moved to New Orleans.  I’ve spent more time with my mom and son since we’re all home, all the time.  I’ve “gone to church” the past 3 Sundays, which I hadn’t done in a while (bad Kristyn!).  I’ve spent more time with local friends because I have more time to spend with them.  I continue to do my gratitude journal and while I have to search a little harder for things, I still find 5 things to be grateful for every single day.  We’ve spent way less money, I don’t know how much but I know a few things –
1.  I’ve had Starbucks twice in 2 ½  weeks instead of my normal  3-4 times per week. 
2.  We only picked up food once in 2 ½ weeks instead of the normal 2-3 times per week. 
3.  I still have a full tank of gas
4.  I haven’t bought lunch at all

I’ve also seen and heard some pretty amazing things from the world.  Scientists and the medical community are working together to find the cause and create the cure.  People from around the world are supporting each other in love and with prayer.   I’ve heard about less pollution and water becoming more clear.  I’m sure there are others that I can’t think of or don’t know about.

This virus thing is an imposition, to say the least, and I hope and pray that it ends soon.  I’m scared but I’m working to control how I respond to that feeling because I can’t control what the virus is doing.  I can only control how I respond.  I’m taking things one day at a time because I don’t know what changes will come about from one day to the next.  There’s an answer, somewhere, and I know it’ll be found. 

What can you do?  Practice Gratitude!  Find 5 things a day that you’re grateful for and write them down.  Move your body!  Drink lots of water.  Connect!  There are a lot of ways – Face time, google hangouts, you can use Zoom for free for up to 40 minutes, the telephone (say what?!) and I’m sure there are a bunch more ways.  Join a challenge group – I just completed a burpee/push up/squat/jumping jack challenge; today I’m starting the Next 90 Day challenge that is FREE to everyone and a squat/plank challenge.  Oh yah!  And I’m listening to music!  What are you doing?

But you know, I'm real so here's this:

Saturday, December 22, 2018

No news is good news!

First things first, I am almost 5 years cancer free!  In addition to the yearly things, like birthdays and Valentine's day, we'll be celebrating my 5 year mark in February!  I recently saw my Radiation Oncologist and she released me from her care and told me that with Triple Negative breast cancer, once you hit the 5 year mark you're actually less likely to have a recurrence than with other types of breast cancer.  However, I am NOT letting my guard down!  I see my Surgeon and Oncologist every 6 months and then I see my OB/GYN once a year, my dermatologist twice a year (because I had a melanoma) and every time I get a strange pain I get it checked so it's not like I'm not seeing doctors regularly! 
Here is your gentle reminder to get your checkups and if you're having a weird pain that won't go away, make an appointment to get it checked out.  Early detection is so very important. Even better, finding out it's not something bad will help you live a better life!  Think about the stress that you are adding by constantly wondering and worrying.  Take someone with you to the doctor if you're scared.  Call me and I'll encourage you.  A lot of us are at the age where doctors recommend screenings - they do this for a reason!  Ok, rant over :)
I'm switching up the purpose of this page a little.  I will continue to provide updates but I also want to share ventures that I'm a part of.  Business ventures, cancer ventures, life ventures, adventures! 
Oh, by the way, when I was released from my Radiation Oncologists care I had this wave of emotion that I didn't expect.  When I called Bobby to tell him, I could barely get the words out.  Tears are something cancer
has given me.  I wasn't much of a crier, I'm still not a full-on crier, but tears come much easier and it's the weirdest thing for me.  Have you developed any new "habits" due to life experiences?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Fast forward roughly 2 years from my first You Night experience

I have now walked as a You Night Alumni in 3 events.  It's really hard to believe what people say sometimes, until you experience it yourself.  Walking the runway as an Alumni is as great, if not better, than walking for the first time.  I pick my own outfit, make my own hair and makeup appointments, I don't really get training but I'm not nervous.  Ok, maybe a little nervous but compared to my first walk it’s more excitement than nerves.  And everyone is still cheering for ME as I walk the runway!  As an Alum it's not about me but I still get to show my friends and family that "I am not only a Survivor.  I am a Thriver" in the words of Elise Charbonnet Angelette, one of my You Night Sisters.

Some of "My Girls" at their first You Night event as Alums
I was asked to be a Big Sister to the then, upcoming New Orleans Class of 2016.  I had no idea what this meant as I'm not figuratively a big sister to anyone and literally do not have any younger siblings but I said Yes.  I say Yes to everything I'm asked to do related to You Night.  Ruth and I met as participants in the New Orleans Class of 2015 and while we were friends, we didn't become close until we got to be the Big Sisters for the NOLA 2016 class.  We attended the practices, photo shoots and fittings. We texted, emailed, facebooked and called our new sisters with words of encouragement and love.  We even convinced a few to stay with the program.  We answered questions, provided support, wrangled the group to focus instead of gab during practices, shared our stories and experiences.  And through this, Ruth and I discovered we were not only filling a spot in the lives of our new sisters (whom I call "My Girls") we were filling a spot in each others lives that we didn't now was empty.  Ruth and I became so close you'd think we'd been friends our entire lives.  I was truely honored to be picked as a Big Sister and am so thankful for the opportunities it's given me.  The sense of pride I felt when “My Girls” walked on stage was incredible.  Thinking about it now, 10 months after their show, I am getting chills and tears ( I get chills EVERY TIME I talk about You Night.  Every Singe Time).  I love these ladies so much.  

Ruth and I are now the Big Sister Coordinators for the You Night Program.  I know we have to pick the next big sisters for the NOLA Class of 2017 and it's going to be hard because everyone would do an awesome job but it's more that I don't want to let this go!  I want to be The Big Sister For Every Class.  I'm telling myself all the reasons why I can't be The Big Sister For Every Class, reasons like eventually You Night will be 20 years old and I'll be like the mom or Grandma than a sister.  Or that we need to include other women and give them the opportunity to be blessed like we've been.  So, Ruth and I have a plan to keep us involved yet share the opportunity with others.  

You Night has taught me to be selfless.  You Night has given me confidence - I want to share this feeling with everyone.  You Night has taught me that going to the North Shore for events isn't all that bad and that if I go, I know I will leave feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, happy, blessed, loved and grateful that I am a part of You Night.  You Night has taught me to cry tears of joy and sadness and to not be ashamed of these tears.  You Night has given me friends that I didn't know I needed (I say this often) who know things and have experienced things no one should have to know or experience but because we have, we have a bond that can't be explained.  It can only be experienced.  

We recently lost one of our beautiful sisters to breast cancer that metastasized.  I posted on our You Night Facebook page that my house was open if anyone wanted to get together to cry/hug/laugh and a few came over.  We were able to be together to support each other while our friend, and You Night Sister, was in the process of losing her life.  We visited her in hospice and were lucky to have already been together, making the visit a little less scary.  We were able to show our love and support to and for her family.  A group of us attended the Celebration of Life for Jamie and as we were leaving I planned another party to celebrate life.  Why do we wait until it's too late to celebrate our lives?  I want to celebrate life every day.   
Celebration of Life for Jamie
Jamie, celebrating life
Supporting each other with smiles in between tears

Ruth and me celebrating Halloween
I hate cancer and what it does to people.  But I wouldn’t give up what it has given me for anything.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

No excuses!

My first blog post was 3 years ago today.  I can’t believe everything that has happened in the past 3 years. And today, a shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.  I am sad for those who lost loved ones, for those who might never feel safe again because of what they experienced, to those who are impacted in any way.  In a world where so many things can happen to us that we have no control over I am taking this opportunity to urge you to make your annual appointments, mammogram appointments and get anything checked that you’ve been wondering about.  Take control of this one thing and make the appointment with your doctor that you know you need to make. 

In the past 2-3 months I’ve had a colonoscopy, dermatology exam, bone scan, seen my breast surgeon, oncologist, radiologist, dentist, OB/GYN, general doctor, orthopedic surgeon, had several PT appointments and probably a few other doctor appointments that I’m not remembering right now.  You don’t have an excuse to not make one appointment.  I’m not allowing you to have an excuse.

Micah’s Pediatrician passed away recently.  He was 46, a father to 6 kids, husband to a wife that loved him dearly, doctor to a ton of kids and someone that mothers (and probably fathers) could go to and get reassurance that they were doing a good job.  I can’t believe how much this impacted me and I only saw him a few times a year in his office.  He found out about 3 months before he died that he had a very rare cancer.  He’d had some symptoms but ignored them, probably because he was super busy.  His wife started a blog and wow, she have an amazing faith in God.  So did Dr Collins.

I took over a project at work for someone who was going on leave.  I wanted to ask why but didn’t dare because I actually have never met her in person so I had no clue what her leave could be for.  I happened to find out she was going on leave for breast cancer.  She’s 39 and a mother of 2.  It’s a perfect coincidence and I’ve been able to share my story and offer support to her.  I might never meet her in person, she lives in Boston!  I don’t even know what she looks like!  But we now have a bond because of cancer.

Life is weird and confusing and scary.  And great! Tonight Bobby was helping Micah with some flash cards for school.  Too cute!  Helena turns 18 in 8 days.  Wow!  She’s a senior and we’re talking about college.  My mom just got back from a long summer away from us.  This is her 4th night home, Micah spent the night at her house on her 2nd night home and will again on her 5th night home.  Court (my brother), Christine, Avery and Courtney are coming to visit for the first time since I’ve lived here.  I received good news at all of my doctor appointments (except maybe the orthopedic dr but that’s not life threatening so I’m counting it as ok).  We are living and enjoying our lives and dealing with the bumps in the road.  

Friday, April 3, 2015

Finale: noun fi·na·le \fə-ˈna-lē, fi-ˈnä-\ - The last part of something (such as a musical performance, play, etc.)

I looked at Kim and said “I can’t believe we are doing this!” and she replied “I know!!!”  We sounded like a bunch of giddy teenagers.

Back in Summer 2014 I agreed to be a part of this cancer survivor runway show.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into but figured I didn’t have anything to lose.  I mentioned the runway show in my blog a few times but still had no idea what all was involved.

Fast forward to March 24, 2015.  (I just got chills while I typed the date)  One of the most amazing nights of my life.  I know I won’t be able to explain the experience in a way that will make it clear how truly lucky I am to have been a part of this but I'll do my best. 

We met in February for our gifting party and to begin our weekly practices in preparation for the runway show.  OMG what a party this was.  I really had no idea what to expect but was in awe at all of the gifts we received from businesses in our community.  The estimated value of our gifts was somewhere around $2500 for EACH OF US.  After receiving our gifts and setting up appointments for our fittings we sat in a circle and each of us told our stories.  When it came to my story I had no idea what to say!  I had been listening so intently to each story, wanting to know more about the lives of each woman I was hearing from that I didn't get the chance to plan what I was going to say.  All I could do was speak from the heart. We all had something in common and at that moment became as close as though we’d known each other for years. 

Our practices consisted of learning to pose on the runway and for photos, learning to walk the runway and how to do turns and spins, learning the choreography for our show and getting our pictures taken individually and as a group (by Chandra who only snapped 2 pics of me and maybe 4 of the group and caught pictures that everyone likes!).  The practices also included a lot of girl talk!  These women really were becoming my close friends.  We all share something that is so unique and can support each other in a way that we didn’t even know we needed. 

On March 24, 2015 our lives were changed forever thank you to a few women who found it in their hearts to create an event to empower cancer survivors.  This was a top notch event!  As we were waiting to walk the runway in our first outfit, our formal dresses, we were nervous.  I looked at Kim and said “I can’t believe we are doing this!” and she replied “I know!!!”  We sounded like a bunch of giddy teenagers.  That was about as ‘out of control’ as I got.’  I walked on stage and the crowd was cheering for me!  WOW!  Everyone in that room was cheering for ME!!!  I don’t know how my friends and family got so lucky but they were smack dab at the end of the runway.  I walked towards them and could see them cheering and smiling.  Oh what a feeling!

All of a sudden I was changing into my second outfit, a contemporary outfit that I love!  And then it was time to walk onto the runway for a 2nd time.  This time Kim and I walked out together.  We rocked that runway and then we were changing into our third outfits and couldn’t believe the show was almost over!  Everything went by way too fast. We wanted to keep walking the runway!  The nerves were gone and we all had the biggest smiles on our faces!

Our third outfits were resort wear.  My outfit was pretty much a muumuu and a bikini top.  But it was better than that and I felt like a million bucks in it.  This was our final walk.  Everyone was still cheering!  Everyone cheered the entire time we walked the runway!  All 19 of us, Cancer Survivors/Mothers/Daughters/Wives/Friends, were on the runway together having the time of our lives!

This event was a monumental day in my life.  I didn’t even realize this until after the event but I couldn’t have planned it better.  Doctors, nurses, friends and family came to celebrate My Finale.  After pretty much being off work for 2 years, I plan to return to work in 1 week.  The Kemp family is about to find out what our new normal is and this finale was one I will never forget!

Susan and Lisa had an idea to empower cancer survivors and they sure have done this!

Our team!  Dawn, Eloise, Lane, Lisa, Celeste, Patrice and Susan.  We love them all!!!
My formal dress.  
Me in my muumuu

My favorite outfit, the contemporary outfit.

Some of my new friends!  Stacie, Kim and Allison
Kim, Diane and me
Me, Stacie and Lynell

Seats for my friends and family at the end of the runway

My 'head shot' but Candra.  

You Night NOLA Class of 2015
Helena, Cate and Me after the show
Another new friend Karen, after the show

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Feb 2015 update

If you ask me how I’m doing, I’ll tell you I’m doing really well.  Cancer-wise I’m good.  Hip, wrist and memory wise I could use some help!

Monday, my Oncologist gave me the thumbs up and said she’d see me in 3 months.  That’s fantastic!  Although I thought it was my 6-month checkup which reiterates to me that my memory is still not HERE. 
Three weeks ago I went in for my 6 month checkup with my OB/GYN, which I thought I needed because I had an abnormal pap awhile ago due to the chemo I was on (or some other drug, I’d have to look through my blog to get the details).  I signed in, waited a few minutes and the receptionist said I didn’t have an appointment.  I personally had the appointment entered in my phone calendar and my paper calendar that I carry around (a good way to double check myself, I thought).  But I wasn’t upset, we just scheduled an appointment for the following week.  When I went back last week, signed in and was called back to get my bp, weight, and a urine sample the nurse asked me why I was there.  Oh geez… here we go again I thought!  She looked through my chart and found that I’d already had 2 normal pap smears so I didn’t need to be there.  We scheduled my annual exam for August.  FYI  When I had an abnormal pap due to the medications I was on I needed to get checked every 6 months until I had two normal paps.

I was supposed to have Physical Therapy today because I had a hip Bursectomy done in January.  I have my 6-week post op visit with my surgeon on Wednesday (I think???) so this appointment was an evaluation before I see my surgeon.  My phone and paper calendars show the appointment was scheduled at 4pm.  Apparently the appointment was actually 2pm and I missed it.  I have so many checks and balances for my appointments, I don’t see how I can keep messing up!  I wonder if I have too many checks and balances…  Anyway, I’d been having pain in my right hip for a few years.  PT didn’t help my hip.  Time didn’t help. I guess the steroid shots helped, or at least that’s what my surgeons notes say.  The surgeon said to me “so the steroid shot helped.” I thought he was asking me so I answered and told him it didn’t.  He looked at me and said he wouldn’t have entered that note if I hadn’t told him that.  I laughed and said, “well then, I guess it did help.”   And then we talked about Chemo Brain. Whatever…  So on January 14th I had a right hip bursectomy.  I think it’s helped but I’m also still sore from the surgery so I guess I can’t say for sure.
I’m at 6 weeks post op from the hip bursectomy and am able to schedule a carpal tunnel release on my right hand.  I’m hoping to have this done in the next week or two.  The same orthopedic surgeon who did the hip surgery will perform the surgery.  When I told Micah’s pediatrician who performed the hip surgery he said, “Ooooh the surgeon to the athletes.”  I like that :) 

Which brings me to my family.  Micah turned 4 on January 25th. We had a party with his friends and he had a blast!  Bobby’s birthday was February 2nd and my mom watched Micah so we could spend the night in the French Quarter.  My moms birthday was January 17th but it kind of got skimmed over because of my surgery on the 15th.  She even had to pick up her own birthday cake but I think I paid J  Helena, my mom and I went shopping last weekend for Helena’s prom dress.  We found one and she looks beautiful in it!  Hard to believe we have a teenager, probably because she is nothing like I was at 17! 

Playing with Alex at Micah's bday party.
Micah is taller than 91% of 4 yr olds.
I know he gets that from me!!

Micah is 4!!!

Nana and Micah at a parade.
Garrett and Micah
Me and Renee
(my friend and Garrett's mom)

Endymion is one of our favorite parades.
This is to looking the left of us.

On the balcony
Looking to the right.

Johnny Giavotella and me. He just got traded to the Angels
which happens to be my favorite team.  Bobby took this picture.
  If I were single I  might've done my hair a little differently :)

Another Endymion party.
A homemade float for the kids!
On the float!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

December 2, 2014

I have an appointment with Dr Jones in about 2 hours.  I’m expecting everything to be fine considering I had a good report from Dr Barnhill last week and met with Dr Sullivan yesterday.  Dr Jones is my breast surgeon who does the ultra sounds and biopsies and did my mastectomy in 2013.  Dr Barnhill is my Oncologist and Dr. Sullivan is my surgeon who does my reconstruction surgeries. 

I have surgery on Thursday, 12/4, with Dr Sullivan.  He’ll be doing my reconstruction/revision surgery and removing my port.  I am currently marked up with blue ink and was sent home with a blue Magic Marker to make sure a few marks don’t fade away before Thursday.  As usual, I am looking forward to this surgery and hospital stay.  Right now I’m scheduled to be in one night but I’ll see if I can push for an extra night since I might never be back.

While waiting for my pre-op appointments I ran into a very frightened, nervous woman.  She was diagnosed about 2 weeks ago and was meeting with Dr Sullivan for the first time.  I tried everything I could to help her feel comfortable knowing that she was in The Best hands at the Best Hospital she could be at.  Luckily, I know she’ll realize this someday. I just wish I could have helped her realize it now,  before  her surgery.
I’m so thankful I’ve been able to remain positive throughout my breast cancer journey and hope I can continue to be positive.  I continue to be thankful for my family and friends who have encouraged me and supported me.  Things happen for a reason and while we might not understand the reasons or the timing, God has a plan and I’m thankful for that.

I’ve heard from a few of you regarding the You Night event in March.  The tickets are still $100 and the organizers ask for money now so they can begin organizing the event.  They are not a big organization with accounts full of money so the ticket sales help get the event going.  I am so excited about this event!  Everyone is meeting this Thursday to watch video from the October event where we kicked off NOLA Fashion Week.  Since I won’t be able to attend (stuck in a hospital bed under lots of pain meds) some of the women plan to visit me in the hospital.  Just the thought of them wanting to come by is good enough for me.  I barely know these women but we all support each other in any way we can!

Please let me know ASAP if you’re interested in getting tickets now for $100.  Tickets will still be available for $125 through the night of the event.  Again, they ask for the models/cancer survivor to sell 10 advance tickets each so the organizers have a budget to work with.  The ticket sales go towards the event and empowering the model/survivors.  The tickets include food, drinks, runway show and party. Let me know if you have any questions. 

Here’s the link to more info about the New Orleans event!new-orleans-2015/c1y3t  The picture of me… well… I did send them others but oh well!  And remember, if you send me a check for $100 you don’t have to pay the extra handling fee.

My moms car belongs in Louisiana!

Taking care of business.

Bobby and me on our anniversary.