Hi I’m Katherine! I have been on a journey for many years now navigating the waters of living a healthy lifestyle. Why is it so important to me? Well let me explain…
In 1997 I was a happy kid in fifth grade. It was an exciting time. I was excited about going to middle school the next year, joining the older kids, and starting a new school. At home, my brother had just gotten engaged, and the whole family was soo happy. My brother and I are fifteen years apart in age but we are very close. That’s why when he started dropping weight after his engagement I thought nothing of it. My brother would tell me if something was wrong. Besides, he had just gotten engaged and was working alot to pay for the wedding.
A few months went by and his weight just plummeted. In four months he had lost between 40 and 50 pounds. Now everyone noticed….and began to worry. My dad went through his room one night and found all these empty Excedrin Back Pain jars. When my brother came home that night my parents confronted him and he admitted he was experiencing severe back pain for the last few months. First, he started with a chiropractor. While adjusting his neck the chiropractor noticed two nodules above his collar bone. Next, it was the oncologist. A biopsy was taken the doctor called back a few days later. However, the answer he gave us left the family worse off then before. It was cancer, but which one he didn’t know. Didn’t know?? He said he think’s it could be Hodgkin’s Lymphoma but it might also be Leukemia. Enough was enough! We reached out to a family friend who helped us get an appointment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. After an eight hour wait my brother was seen by a doctor, then MRI’s, and CT scans followed. The result? Stage IV Testicular cancer. It was everywhere. It traveled from his groin to his brain. The next year my brother fought bravely through chemo and five grueling surgeries. His lungs collapsed twice during surgery and tumors were removed from his groin, stomach, back, chest, and neck. The recovery was hard. His mind and body where soo exhausted from fighting, but through the grace of God he made it through. Now it was time for healing….so we thought…
A few months went by and slowly my brother was getting better. I on the other hand, wasn’t feeling so good. I was now in the second half of sixth grade. I began experiencing symptoms of Mono. A few kids had had it the year before and I sure as heck wasn’t making out with boys so I told my mom and we went to the doctor. During the visit the doctor noticed a lump on my throat. My first thought was panic. Could it be? I told myself “it can’t be a tumor, it can’t be a tumor, IT CAN’T BE!!” Well I guess the doctor had ESP or something because he said “I don’t think it’s a tumor just a swollen lymph node”. He said it could also be a cyst that might have always been there and we are just starting to notice it now. Even though I was relieved the doctor said it was not a tumor, it sounded like he wasn’t quite sure what it was. He gave me a referral to see an ear nose and throat doctor for further testing and that was it. I remember driving home from that visit and turning to my mom and saying “I love you”. I think we both knew that we were scared. If it wasn’t cancer and it wasn’t mononucleosis than what could it be?
A few weeks went by now and the ENT doctor was also unsure of what was going on with me. We were frustrated and after going through all we went through with my brother we decided enough! We needed answers and that’s when we found ourselves back at Sloan Kettering.
The oncologist at the hospital took one look at the now golf ball sized lump on my throat and said “we need to schedule surgery to have it removed”. He took a needle biopsy first, but stated that he would like to have it removed so further testing could be done. At this point I was having more frequent night sweats and could not keep my eyes open for the life of me. I needed to know what was wrong!
The needle biopsy results came back negative, however, once the tumor was removed this was no longer the case. Encased in the very core of the tumor was cancer cells. The doctor said he had a hard time bringing himself to tell my parents but when the surgery was over I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
I was numb. I wasn’t scared, depressed, just numb. I think I was still processing what we had just been through with my brother that I couldn’t take in what was happening to ME.
Over the next six months I had four rounds of the most God awful chemotherapy. I lost my hair, had to be home schooled, and missed my friends. It was quite lonely, especially for that age, when puberty first starts. All my friends were worried about hair, makeup, their new boobs, and here I was wondering if I was well enough to just get out of the house for a few hours.
Eventually the treatments ended. I got stronger over the course of a year and by that summer my hair had started growing back. My family and I felt like we had just been put through the ultimate war.
It took a lot of healing both emotionally and physically for not just my brother and I but my whole family.
Today I’m proud to say my brother and I are 15+ years cancer free.
I really began looking into the holistic health world when I started college. After years of stress, anger, depression I didn’t feel well. I was drinking, smoking, had dabbled in the drug seen, and exercise? Does gym class count?. It wasn’t until I enrolled in nursing school that I felt I had found my calling. I WANTED to do well, be a better person inside and out. I remember taking nutrition one semester and EVERYTHING really changed. I learned what the foods I was eating were doing to my body. I changed everything about my diet. I shopped at Whole Foods, bought grass fed meat and dairy, organic fruits and vegetables, and everything whole grain. I had more energy, brighter skin, clearer thoughts. This was what I needed the whole time but didn’t have the tools. I started reading books on cancer, the immune system, different types of diets, vitamins and minerals. I also started taking Yoga which eventually led to a gym membership. I was a brand new person.
Nothing lasts forever though……
Two years ago I started my dream job. I did whatever it took to make a good impression. Within 6 months I received a promotion and two raises. I was waking up at 4am to get to the gym, work by 8am, then school in the evenings. After a bout a year and a half I started having pain. It wasn’t just the regular aches and pains you get from everyday life, I was going to the bathroom and crying on my lunch break. I would take breaks at my desk, stretch, go for a walk, but over time the pain got worse. I was also exhausted. Mornings were the worst….but I kept pushing through. After six months of this I stopped working. I went to a handful of doctors who couldn’t tell me what was wrong but had NOOOO problem feeding me pain meds. It wasn’t until I had a seizure in October 2014 that they discovered what the real problem was. I had a narrowing of the disks in my neck which was sitting on a nerve, this explained my numb left arm, a torn disk in my lower back causing my sciatic pain, and fibromyalgia. After a few months of feeling sorry for myself (when I had the energy) I went back to what I knew, nutrition. I researched a whole slew of foods and diets. I once again changed my lifestyle and slowly started feeling better, however, it was a looonngg process. This past summer I decided to go off my opiate pain medication, which was loads of fun (said no one ever), and face this head on. Everyday gets better than the next. Don’t get me wrong, not everyday is sunshine and roses. I still have trouble sleeping, pain every morning, migraines, and the occasional flare ups that knock me on my ass. But I’m living proof: you are not your diagnoses, you are YOU! you just have to find a way to live the best you can with the cards you were dealt.
So folks that’s my story….. You could say I’ve been through the ringer. I also lost my father and grandmother within a short period of time eight years ago that set me back a little, but I’ll save that for my blog.
I hope my story helps others who have struggled. There is a silver lining. Just believe in yourself, treat yourself with respect, and most important of all… PUT YOU FIRST! Life just has this way of working itself out when you work on yourself!
God Bless. XoXo