Reality Bites

Something has been weighing very heavily on my heart since Monday and I just got the okay to blog about it. What good is a blog about my life if I can't talk about something this important?

On Friday, March 14 one of my best friends was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is only 26 years old and does not have a family history of cancer. Cancer---one of the scariest words in the human dictionary---is supposed to be something that affects those much older than us. Not that advanced age makes this diagnosis any easier, but it just seems incredibly unfair. Why Keri? Why now?

So many questions and so little time. Where do I even begin?

Keri has been diagnosed with invasive carcinoma of her right breast. The doctors will conduct genetic testing to discover the source of this disease, and if it is genetic she has a high risk of ovarian cancer as well. Her sister would need to be tested and any future children would also run a risk of these genes.

There is no other option but for a total mastectomy. As if that isn't enough of a blow, Keri will undergo a double mastectomy on April 2 to eliminate the chance of recurrence in the healthy breast. Keri, someone who has always been known for her perfectly perky boobies and characteristic curly hair, will have to say goodbye to a part of her body. I cannot even begin to imagine what this loss will feel like for her, or for anyone else in her position.
They don't know if she will need chemotherapy or radiation. They don't know if the cancer has spread to her lymph nodes. But if chemo is required, Keri will need infertility treatments to freeze her eggs for future children. And she'd obviously say goodbye to her "Keri curls."

She will opt for bilateral reconstruction which takes an entire year to achieve, and will certainly be a surreal healing experience in itself. Keri will be forced to take large amounts of time off from her job as a PT as she recovers from multiple surgeries, which means a lot of downtime to think and analyze---something we both love to do:) And although thankfully, most of these medical treatments will be covered by her insurance, she will still experience some financial strain as well. Cancer definitely affects every single aspect of your life, huh?

All of these facts combined are enough to shut down your brain. It's difficult for me to wrap my mind around all of this because it's happened so incredibly fast and now her life will be forever changed. Heck, everyone close to Keri will be changed. It's hard not to get philosophical when life's fragility hits you square in the face. Wake up call, indeed.

She found this lump on her own and had the courage to make the doctor's appointment for inspection. As a fellow hypochondriac I'm sure that was a difficult decision because how many times have we convinced ourselves that "It's nothing, I'm sure it's all in my head and will go away soon"? Kudos to Keri for being mature enough to face this cancer---I'm not sure I would be as strong.

I'm not writing this to depress you or to scare you [although it definitely depresses and scares the hell out of me!]. I'm posting about this because I know Keri would appreciate words of wisdom, bits of encouragement, and just to have moral support in this frightening time of her life. Keri is loved by all but every little bit helps, right? Even virtual support from total strangers.

I'm sure many of you have been affected by cancer in some way or another. Well, I know for a fact some of you have seen a loved one go through this same type of thing. What has helped you survive your darkest moments?

Because right now I'm thinking a good old fashioned hug would do the trick but with 700 miles separating us, I'm dealing with limited resources. I see a trip to Kansas in my future:)


  1. I have no words of wisdom, but my thoughts are absolutely with you and your family Kari. Stay Strong.

  2. Julia,

    I am sorry you, Keri, and the rest of her friends and family have to go through this.

    I really don't have any words of wisdom I have lost numerous family members and friends to cancer within the last couple of years and it just seems to be one of the hardest illnesses to deal with because it is so lethal. The only thing that has helped me get through it was them telling me they still loved their life through all of it and even though it isn't the way they thought life would turn out, they still felt they could live their lives to the fullest.

    I will certainly be thinking about Keri and company and sending good vibes her way. Please keep us updated.

  3. I can't even begin to image everything that is going through both of your heads, so many things you are trying to reason with. My prayers will be with you.

  4. While I obviously don't know Keri, and cannot imagine what she or you as one of her best friends is going through, I am keenly aware especially right now of how fragile life is, and how much I take for granted, especially the health of the people (and pets!) I love.

    This will not be an easy road to walk, but from how you've described Keri, she is strong, and it's that along with having such supportive friends like you (and the best of wishes from random strangers!) that will make it bearable.

    You, Keri and all of her friends and family have my continued thoughts and prayers. Please keep us updated.

  5. I obviously don't know Keri, but she will constantly be in my thoughts and prayers. And while I feel semi-weird about posting this in the comments section of a blog, I can completely relate with your hypochondriac comments. It took 6 months for me to finally see a doctor about the lump in my breast, because I kept telling myself it would just go away on its own. Fortunately it turned out to be benign, but it was still one of the scariest times in my life.
    Thanks to Keri too, for letting you share this story with us. The more people on her side, the better.

  6. What awful news. I am so sorry to hear this, and will keep Keri, and everyone affected by this, in my thoughts and prayers. I have known people with cancer, but no one so young. It is a truly scary thought. This is my best wisdom: I suffered from a brain aneurysm 13 years ago. I was given a 5% survival rate of the brain surgery I had to undergo. Waiting for the day to come, when I would undergo that surgery, and not knowing if I would ever wake from it, changed my life. The most comforting thing I found was reading from, and speaking with, people who had gone through what I had, and lived to talk about it. My best advice is to find those resources to comfort your mind. I know there are several books, written by cancer survivors, that are incredibly inspirational. I hope their words can give your friend even a small amount of comfort and hope.
    I will definitely be thinking of her at this difficult time.

  7. I will definitely keep her in my prayers. Unfortunately I don't have any words of wisdom either. I just hope all of our prayers together will be helpful.

  8. Wow Julia, wow, that is deep.

    I cannot even imagine what this must be like for Keri... how scary. Just keep doing what your doing by being an amazingly supportive and compassionate friend and be there for her (even if its by phone or web) as much as possible. I will definitely not forget this and am sending positive thoughts and prayers for a fast recovery.

    Thank you (and thanks to Keri) for sharing this story.

  9. My thoughts are with her and I wish her the best! My Aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago. She went through probably everything Keri is going to go through and she said the most important thing was to stay positive. It's hard, chemo really sucks. Losing your hair and your breasts suck, but she said you gotta stay positive. She was lucky and went into remition (sp?) after only 1 year and has been clean since. I hope Keri is as lucky.

    I also wanted to say, a huge kudos to her for going to the doctor and for discovering the lump! It really sends the message that those self-examinations are important.

  10. i am so sorry that your friend has to go through this.

    from how you have described Keri she seems very strong- and you are as well! i believe that she has many friends and family who will see her through this- it was so sweet of you julia to write this for her- your support means the world to her!

    my thoughts will be with keri and her family- i believe in things working out- and i believe that keri will be strong enough to pull through this- especially with all of you!

  11. Like the others,I don't have any words of wisdom. Thanks for sharing Kari's story and reminding everyone how important BSE's are.

    I have a website that might be of interest to Kari. It's one of my excoworkers who was also diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. It tells of her story through journaling by both her and her sister. Let me know if you are interested.

  12. Wow... just wow. 26 years old? That is so scary. I know I don't know her, or you, but I can't help but cry.

    As terrible as it is, I really feel that cancer is not the same deadly disease it used to be. There have been so many advances in the treatment of breast cancer! I really feel hopeful that she will beat it. I can't even BEGIN to imagine how difficult it would be to lose your hair and BOTH breasts at age 26, but she is making the best decision for her health. She is young and vital and that will be a HUGE step in fighting this. She will be in my prayers.

    I had a friend who went through a small round of chemo when she was only 15. She lost all her beautiful hair, but we both agreed that it somehow was even CUTER when it grew back!

    Much love and strength to her, you, and your friends and families.

  13. Wow - I obviously don't know Keri, but I am in shock. She's is so young! From what you describe, Keri seems like a very strong woman - that alone will be a great assest to her. Put her strength togther with the love, support, and strength of her family and friends (and random bloggers) and you get a pretty powerful equation.

    I have lost several loved one to cancer - it is simply a horrible disease. I am holding out hope that Keri caught hers soon enough that it hasn't spread.

    Julia - thank you for sharing this story, and Keri, thank you for allowing her to do so. It has really served as a reminder of just how precious life is.

    Keri - you, your family and friends, wil continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.

    Please keep us updated!

  14. As a caregiver to my mother a cancer survivor of 6 years. I can tell you more than anything she needs the people around her to remain positive. Alot of a cancer patient's success or failure with treatments comes from their attitude towards the disease. It is survivable with the love and support of dear friends and family.

    I am on the Relay for Life committee for Oklahoma which is an all night campout event beginning at dusk and continuing until dawn it is a fundraising event for the American Cancer Society, as well as a wonderful opportunity to support our survivors of the disease and those going through it. I encourage you to visit there is a wealth of information there. Best of luck with everything Julia stay strong and be a rock for Keri she will be in my prayers.

  15. Oh, Julia! I am so sorry for you and your friend Keri!

    I wish I had some wonderful words of wisdom to share, but I am at a loss. The best I can do is to stay strong and positive. It sounds like she is going to face this head on and staying positive will definitely help her get through this.

    You and your friend and family are in my thoughts.

  16. Try to think positively and you will be able to get through this... that's the best advice anyone's ever given me, so I pass it on to you, Keri.

  17. Keri - thank you for allowing Julia to share your story. May God bless you with strength and courage during what I can only imagine, will be one of the most difficult times of your life.

    You will be in my thoughts and prayers.

  18. J-

    Thanks for the blog, thoughts, and love(I feel so special!)

    To everyone else-

    Thank you so much for your prayers, wisdom, and kind words. They mean a lot. The next months, year(s) will be a true test, but I will get through this.


  19. I too am at a loss for words. My thoughts are with you both

  20. I am so profoundly sorry to hear about this. I don't know Keri but will absolutely keep her (and you) in my thoughts. I share the hypochondria curse, so major kudos to Keri for following through on something she thought was wrong. I worry that I probably would have pushed it to the back of my mind and convinced myself nothing was wrong. This might be asking too much, but how did she know the lump was actually something to worry about? I always wonder that when I hear stories like this. I am sending positive thoughts your way, thinking about both of you.

  21. keri - you are obviously such a strong and brave woman. i am so proud of you for doing regular self-exams, having the courage to make the appointment with your physician, and aggressively treating your illness. it's so courageous of you to allow julia to blog about this and hopefully it will encourage other women to be as responsible and conscientious as you were. you will be in my thoughts!

  22. When in her twenties, a friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy. Since that time, she has had two children. She's now in her early forties. While I'm sure no two women have the same experiences when dealing with cancer, I do know that there are success stories out that which may give some fresh and positive thoughts. On a personal level, my life has been changed through the power of prayer. I will praying for you, Keri, and you will be in my thoughts. Beth Grabowski (Julia's aunt)

  23. Julia and Keri,
    First of all, I am so sorry to hear about this. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 34 (which was very young at that time). After her surgery and recovery she became very involved with different cancer organizations. She and I would say that the most important thing to do at this time is to get support (whether it is in a group on through the phone...or internet). Julia, I am going to email you with some personal contact information.
    Keri, you will get through this and it sounds like you have a lot of strength and supportive people around you. We will be praying and thinking of you!

  24. I am so very sorry to hear this. It just breaks my heart to think of how unfair life can be. A beautiful, vibrant 26-year-old woman should not get breast cancer.

    Of course, no one should, but it's all the worse when it's someone like Keri who has so much life in front of her.

    I will keep you all in my thoughts, and I will pray that Keri will be able to stay strong throughout the ordeal.

  25. I am so very sorry to hear that your friend is going through this! Though, she is really lucky to have such an awesome friend as you to stand by her in these rough times!! You're a great friend!

    I will keep Keri, her family and you in my thoughts and prayers, and hope that April 2nd goes well for her!!!!

  26. Julia and Keri,
    First, Julia thank you for reaching out and letting everyone know what is going on! Second, Keri I wish I could give you a big hug right at this very second. I lived with my Grandmother while she was going through her diagnosis(breast cancer) chemo, radiation and surgery on her breasts. Im sure that I can get some info. from her to get to you or Julia. I really am CRUSHED to hear this news, and in fact it has made me face my own inner demons to go get checked out because breast cancer is really prevalent in my family. Keep your head up and know that a LOT of people absolutely adore you :)I can hear my Grandma now...You hair will grow back, you can get a boob job(she did), and your spirit will still be in tact to fight off the rest!

  27. Julia & Keri,

    My thoughts and prayers are with you. Keri, it sounds like you are blessed to have a great support system. My mother had breast and colon cancer, and she beat both. Keri, you will beat this too.

  28. Oh my gosh, I am so sorry that Keri has to go through this. Two of my clients were recently diagnosed with breast cancer and they are both doing VERY well in their treatments. One of them had a double masechtomy and said that she was so frightened and it turned out to be much better than she thought. Hopefully they found it early and will be able to get it all quickly without it spreading else where. I hope that is the case. Regardless, please tell her to stay as positive as possible and always imagine herself to be fully healed. I have heard that the power of positive thinking is amazing. That is what I would do. Again, so sorry!! Sorry so late to respond. i have not been good about keeping up with blogs lately.


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