Kristal

This site is about my experience with cervical dysplasia, as well as anything else I might feel like discussing!


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Camp, it’s not just for kids!

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This weekend (in fact, my birthday weekend) was spent enjoying the hospitality of Camp Kindle, thanks to a partnership with Survive and Thrive.  You may have even heard about it in the news. As many of you already know from my blog, young adults fall between the cracks in cancer care.  There aren’t a tonne of resources, or support (personal or financial) that’s easily found.  Cancer is often viewed as a disease that affects only the old and very young children, someone in their 20’s or 30’s just cannot be a cancer patient!  This attitude may not seem like much to a normal person, but it’s detrimental when young adult cancers aren’t studied for their specific complications, or there aren’t places for young adults to get away and connect with others like them.

That’s where groups like YACC and Survive and Thrive are critical.  They provide a place for young adults to connect with other young adults affected by cancer.  It doesn’t matter what stage, or what kind of cancer, or even if it’s early days, everyone has a story and wants to connect.  All twenty five of us got to do that this weekend.  Below, is my impression of the weekend.

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The camp started on Friday night.  After setting up our beds, everyone pilled into the “living room” of the Jack Perraton Lodge to talk about what we hoped to create that weekend (as that was the theme, create something).  Soon, only a small group was left, and we sat talking until later that evening.  I love those kinds of conversations, ones that don’t feel forced or contrived, just straight conversation that gets to the heart of a matter.  I found that happened a lot this weekend, we would meet often in that room and just talk about anything bothering us, just “getting” what we were all feeling.  I’ve often said that I feel the one thing cancer does is expose people to a new way of thinking.  The regular bullshit and pettiness of the world is melted away, and what’s left is someone who is honest, but kind, and knows what they want.  Time and time again, that was proven from this amazing group of people.  And they reminded me again that I do belong, and that I can contribute to others healing and wellness, that I am not just someone complaining when I have nothing to complain about.

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There were the usual games, good food (Tim Tam slams), craft time (which is  where the above beautiful card was made for me, along with the picture frame below), and general silliness many of us lack in our daily lives.  It was too cold for most outdoor activities, though people did go out for a few hikes around the beautiful grounds.  It’s still the conversations that draw me back, and remind me how necessary retreats or weekends away from the world are.  I’ve often been told by people that I spend too much time thinking about cancer, and that it can’t be good, but the exact opposite is true, going to a weekend like this I think not only more positively about my pre-cancer, but I actually spend more time being happy surrounded by great people.  We can talk about anything, and no one looks at you weird for talking about “uncomfortable things”.  I really appreciate that the group that runs Camp Kindle reached out to Mike and Bonnie (creators of Survive and Thrive) and allowed everyone such a great, relaxing weekend in a supportive environment.  I hope they keep this partnership in the future.

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I know I wasn’t the only one sad to leave.  Quite honestly, if I could stay there with these people indefinitely, I would have.  Cancer or not, we all just seem to connect, and I think we could make an amazing community, the kind of community the world needs more of (I know, kind of hippy of me, but it’s true!).  I don’t often get to celebrate my birthday with a big group of people, and I was very lucky to this year.  I got hugs, best wishes, and told good things about me, which helped to silence some of those darker voices inside.  I won’t soon forget my 37th birthday, that is for sure!

Again, thanks to everyone involved, Camp Kindle, Cassie, Lisa, Maureen, Mike, and Bonnie!  And remember, if you are needing a stunning venue for an event, Camp Kindle could be available.  It’s how they help fund some of the wonderful programming they provide to young kids, and now (hopefully) young adults.

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Team Underwear Affair: Be a part of something (I hope) will be huge!

Today, is one of those days I struggle, and I won’t say what, or who, may have caused that to happen.  Instead, I am going to focus on something really positive, Team Underwear Affair for the Scotiabank Marathon.  Last year, as many of you may know, I got a team together to participate in the booty hunt.  We had such a good time, and raised a lot of money.  We were hoping to do this again in 2015, but it wasn’t to be, as the event was cancelled.  I decided, after speaking to someone at the Alberta Cancer Foundation, that the next best option was to participate in the 5K walk and run (admittedly, the 15. 6km we walked last year was a bit much for some).  We could still dress up, be loud, and bring attention to cancers no one likes to talk about.  It’s not just about raising a lot of money, but making sure people are comfortable talking about their experience.  I’ve learned that my being outspoken has helped quite a few people!

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Since then, I have been toying with a lot of fundraising ideas, that now seem to be possible as realities.  I’m looking at setting up a floor hockey department fundraiser in the next few months, and tonight I am meeting with some amazing people to talk a bigger fundraising event.  I am so humbled at the offerings of help, some from people I’ve only talked to on Twitter.  I am really keen to learn about fundraising, and how to be a better event planner, so this is a win overall.

As well, there are so many people who have offered to join the team.  I’m not sure what the final total will be, but I’m hoping it’s big enough to catch the media’s attention.  It’s quite sad that the Underwear Affair doesn’t exist anymore, but I do believe it will continue on for some time through the Marathon.  If you are interested to join, or to donate, please follow the link below.

Team Underwear Affair


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Metro News Calgary Article: The Underwear Affair 2015

I was hoping that I would be writing about the 2015 Underwear Affair, but sadly, it has been cancelled for this year.  Instead, we are going to focus our attention on the Calgary Marathon!  We will continue the spirit of the Underwear Affair there, and I will soon be posting about how people can help/participate.

I was able to get Metro to write about the loss, and the future plans.  Hopefully, I can get more news agencies to talk to me, as below the belt cancers need that support to further awareness.  As well, that media support reminds people to get out for their check ups and catch concerns early.

http://metronews.ca/news/calgary/1271578/underwear-affair-is-over-but-spirit-to-live-on-as-part-of-calgary-marathon/

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November Follow up – results finally in

This will be a quick entry for the blog, as I have been working on another blog post.  My tests came back showing “features”, which means something is still there.  I’ve been told that features are a stage before abnormal cells, so it’s very low grade at this time. I’m not sure what’s happening, if my body is fighting it or if it will progress like last time.  All I know is, that I am sadly getting use to the situation.  I will be back for more testing in May 2015, so maybe we will get answers then?  Until that time, I will just do what I normally do and just live my life as best I can.


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Moving Forward During a Retreat

I’ve been avoiding blogging for some time now, and I’m not sure why that is exactly?  I wrote this a few weeks ago and promptly avoided posting.  Tonight, all the inspiring talk on twitter about Stand Up to Cancer made me realize I need to post more often, and be open about things, like last week’s specialist appointment. So before I talk about that, I should really post last months entry…..

I would never have said I was a girl who would like to be on a retreat. I do love to talk about feelings and emotions, and I love the outdoors, but being stuck in the middle of nowhere with a large group of strangers?!?! That’s just not me….though many of my friends would probably say that is something I need to do, be okay with the unknown. I generally prefer smaller group settings, something that is more on the level of a one on one interaction.

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I am recently back from YACC’s retreat yourself BC, and I have to say it was probably the best decision I have ever made to go on that trip. I owe a lot to a friend who convinced me to come in the role of her supporter, so that I could attend the event. It was a very last minute decision. I know the term “gets it” is over used, but let’s be honest, we want people to “get” us, so that we feel normal again. We want to feel accepted, safe, and that people care about our wellbeing. That is what I got this weekend. Acceptance. Friendship. Kindness. I could go on and on, but I won’t bore you with those kind of details (yet), instead, I will go into this idea of acceptance. Whether it’s friendship, dating, family, etc., relationships make our world. These relationships provide comfort, a sounding board for crazy ideas, and they listen to our shit (that is a skill that so few people have as we are all fixers!). Currently, my family life isn’t what you’d call healthy, my dating life is well…..there’s not a lot going on there, so it’s friends that provide the support, companionship, and love that I need. It’s been a difficult year as many know, and I would say for most of it I was lost, alone, and very afraid…that is until I found a cervical cancer support group.  I also found Localife, and made so many good friends there, but I still felt like a bit of a fraud in comparison to the people in these groups as I was dealing with an aggressive pre-cancer, not cancer itself….but they funny thing is that I identified with them so much more! They understand the constant doctor’s appointments, the biopsies, the fear, all the bad things that come with a dealing with any type of cancer. For example, this weekend, I got to talk about how one dates when you are dealing with cancer (when do you tell them? First date? 12th? Never?), how one deals with physical and emotional side effects, and even simply, how does one feel desirable in any way at such a vulnerable time? No one ever told me I was a fraud, or that I didn’t belong, and it made me think that maybe we need to spend more time caring about each other, and not so much time trying to pigeon-hole people into constrictive definitions. That way, we might not feel so alone and less deserving of support when we go through a difficult period in our lives.

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This isn’t to say that my diagnosis is the same as everyone in the community, as it comes with it’s own unique circumstances, but that is true of any cancer diagnosis really. What it means is that I just feel a lot less alone. I feel a little more capable of handling my future, and that maybe I can  move ahead and work on things I want in my life. I really don’t know what that entails right now, and I don’t have to make the decision today. I do know one thing though, it involves wanting to make more connections with people, both friendship and romantic wise. It’s more being open to any opportunity that might present itself, but also just being okay with what I have now.

That, I haven’t laughed so much in a weekend in all my life! It felt so good to laugh at the same time that you were facing your reality.


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It’s not over……

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I was hoping my next post would be all about sisterhood, friendship, and a wonderful Saturday spent running around Calgary raising awareness for below the belt cancers…..well, it’s not,  so here it is…….things aren’t over.  When I had my appointment on May 2nd, and the doctor didn’t see anything, I allowed myself a moment of hope, and that hope grew over the past month.  It’s not that I am saying “don’t hope, it’s pointless”, it’s more that I am a little down that there are still abnormal cells present, and my fight is not over.  Obviously everyone wants to get better, and I know I am very lucky that everything has been caught so early, but right now that’s not helping. Everything is really low grade, and I am told to be positive, since the doctor isn’t concerned.  I’m hoping my body can fight this, and I’m not going to stop my current trend of exercising and feeling better about myself.  So the blog continues!

Oh and I will get to that post this week about the Underwear Affair, as I really had a great time.


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Unexpected Opportunities

Life can be really random sometimes.  Something you didn’t think was a possibility, or expect could ever happen, suddenly is an option in your life.  I was emailed by a communications coordinator with The Underwear Affair on Monday, and to be honest at first I thought the email might be spam.  I was asked if I would be interested in sharing my story with the media (both before and on the day of the event).  It seems she had read my blog from the link I provided on my profile, loved it, and she felt I had a really inspiring energy and positivity towards my situation.  I don’t take compliments well, it’s not that I don’t believe in myself exactly, but I just find it hard to believe that others might find something worthwhile in what I am doing.

Simply put, I will be available for any media requests, whether it is sharing my personal story, sharing the message of preventative measures finding the pre-cancer early, or promoting The Underwear Affair.  I’ve been told I can talk about anything I want and that I can promote my support group, Wellspring, YACC, and really it’s whatever I am comfortable sharing with the media.  This amazing opportunity coming all because I blog, as I would never have put myself forward as a candidate otherwise.   I never started this blog for fame and glory (but really we all have grand dreams),  it was more a release for me than anything, and a way to connect with others going through the same thing. I participate in Monday Blogs to find people, more than for the self promotion, and it’s probably something I need to get over, a fear of self promotion.  Though I will say that I’m so proud when someone follows me, and really the experience has renewed a love of writing that I lost long ago.  So this media opportunity is really just….amazing.

I’m very curious to see what media outlets might be interested in speaking to me, and I have been told to blog about the experience as much as I want, so expect lots of pictures and stories.  It’s cliche, but if I can convince a woman who has never been for a smear to get her first, or show young women it’s not embarrassing or horrible to have one, than it’ll be worth it.  I’d also like to show that people with pre-cancer, and cancer, are normal people, and that we don’t need to be feared.  We want to live, love and be as happy as anyone without this disease, sometimes it’s just that we might have to put those things on hold for awhile to kick cancer’s ass!

The Lady Bits