The Road Less Traveled

IMG_7956I am proud to announce my tube is FINALLY out! It’s been officially 1 month since he pulled at least 12 inches of silicone from my thigh and I feel lighter, quicker, happier, and relieved.

My doctor felt it would be best if I waited a bit longer until starting physical therapy in order for my incision to fully close. After another round of antibiotics, due to a possible infection, and weeks of consistent rest, my incision has fully closed and I have been cleared to begin physical therapy!

It’s been almost 6 months since my 2nd surgery and I just entered what feels like the fourth quarter of the super bowl but in this game, I know who wins. 😉

The above picture was taken July 16th for my sister’s birthday brunch. I was determined to feel “normal” around her friends that day. It’s amazing how normal you can look in a picture when in reality your world is falling apart. After her birthday brunch I cried most of the way home due to the intense pain in my leg. It took me almost a week to recover from a few hours of “normalcy” but I began thinking, what is normal? There are more individuals dealing with silent issues than we like to talk about. We are all fighting an invisible battle.

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When this all began I was clinging to the hope that something greater must be on the other side of this mountain. Between diagnosis, treatments, surgeries, check-ups, and continued monitoring, my journey at times has felt endless. I decided it was time to take my life back! Living only makes sense if you get up every day and choose to step outside of your comfort zone, so being “normal” is not my focus any longer.

I don’t want my old “normal” back. I don’t want to act as if this never happened. I want to wake up every single morning excited to live. I want to remember every tear, every ache and pain, every time I had to say no to something fun because I wasn’t physically able to do it. I want to remember my hearts cry out to God, “Heal me! Give me strength! I need you!”. I want to remember how I took this life, this one and only life, for granted for so long. I want to remember how I’ve laid in a bed for the past 8 months. I want to remember all of it!

Change can only take place when we acknowledge our own weaknesses. Change will only begin when we decide that our old routine doesn’t work. If I want to change my future, I have to begin with my today. Today I can get out of bed, so I will. Today I can dress myself, so I will. Today I can walk, even if it’s only for a short amount of time, I will walk as far and as long as I can because my WILL to LIVE is STRONGER than my COMFORT in being NORMAL.

So, I’m proud to say, I’m not living a normal life any longer. Yes there are days I have to force myself up and those day I pray a little harder. I’ve learned a major lesson during this time, the bible says, “walk by faith”. God doesn’t say to stand still. Yes there are moments where we should ‘be still’ and wait on him but when it comes to our FAITH we need to keep walking, never looking back to question or doubt, that is faith. This is challenging but it is what we are called to do.  

 “For we walk by faith, not by sight” – 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NLT)

I finally drove my car for the first time in 8 months. When I sat in the driver’s seat this sudden fear took over. All these thoughts were running through my mind and I felt overwhelmed. I began to play the “what if” game. In that moment it felt like the “old me” was coming back. Me driving was the first step to being normal and after months and months of wanting this to happen I realized I never wanted to feel this way again.

We are all going through something and whatever that may look like for you, remember that every circumstance has the potential to change you for the better. Fear, in my opinion, is the world’s greatest killer. It will stop you from pursuing your dreams, take away your joy, ruin your future, and demand your life.

Sometimes our fears hold us back from our biggest calling. 

Here is my beginners guide to living a more fulfilling life:

  1. Wake up every morning and reach out to God. He created you, he knows you better than you know yourself, and he is waiting for YOU to ask for help.
  2. Realize that you have an abundance of blessings. For starters, you woke up this morning and are now reading my blog. Which means, you are ALIVE.
  3. Self-reflection. What are your dreams? Do you have any? If not, get some. If you do, what are you doing TODAY that get’s you closer to your dream.
  4. What does your routine look like. I realized that I can have a million dreams/goals but unless I change my daily routine I will never achieve them.
  5. Accountability partners. These are people who love you. Talk to them, share your dreams and fears. Have a real talk on what things you need to change. Saying things out loud have a way of bringing change. Be honest, with yourself and others.
  6. Are you scared? If you aren’t scared, you’re not dreaming big enough. If you are scared, then get ready to fight! Kick fear in the face by doing exactly what you are scared of!  

“You are God, more than able, ever faithful, always good” – Kristene DiMarco 

I’ve now met with a couple physical therapists and this road seems longer with each passing day. I’ve been told that I am now showing signs of Lymphedema. Between radiation and removing lymph nodes, my lymphatic system has been compromised. This means that my leg is retaining fluid and swells with increased movement, certain foods, exercise, and plane travel (coincidently, all of my favorite things to do). It was extremely difficult for me to hear the prognosis. I allowed myself time to process the information, do research, but above all pray; because my faith is bigger than my fear I’m not going to let anything hold me back. I’ve even decided to take my first mini-vacation of the year to celebrate our very best friends birthday in Arizona. I’m going to travel by plane, eat great food, enjoy amazing company, and walk (as long as I can). 

When I’m running my half marathon one day I’ll remember sitting in that car, as fear wrapped itself around me, and hitting that gas pedal into my new and improved abnormal self, until nothing was left but pure uncontrollable joy! 

“The fundamental fact is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can not see. – Hebrews 11:1 (MSG) 

The new and improved ~ Idalia K.

P.S. For anyone who needs a little motivation – listen to the song below.

 

Losing myself in order to be Found

 

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For those of you who have asked about my recovery, I have finally decided to do my best and share my experience.

These last 3.5 months have been physically and emotionally draining. I have had some major emotional meltdowns and moments of pure gratitude. It’s a difficult position to be in when you are physically incapable of doing anything for yourself but it is also incredibly humbling. I have had to learn to count on others, ask for help, admit my weaknesses, and endlessly say thank you.

I was not mentally prepared for the recovery phase of my journey. No one explained how my life was going to stop for 6-9 months while the world kept on living. I’m not proud to admit that I have had to fight feelings of depression and sadness. I’ve cried myself to sleep more times than I can count. It’s already embarrassing enough when you can’t walk properly but when people do nothing but stare it adds another level of frustration and pain. I’m healthy, young, full of life and I can’t help but feel sorry for myself.

My drain tube is still in my body. It’s so painful and even more uncomfortable. My skin around my incision is healing extremely slow which has now caused a small leak. They will not remove the tube until my incision is fully closed because this will risk the chance of my incision opening and getting infected (sorry, if it’s too much information). It took 3 months for my staples to be removed. I have very little mobility in my right hip due to radiation so walking is painful and I can’t sit correctly because of my hip sensitivity. Every time I take a step it feels like my incision is ripping open (its horrible). If and when I try to walk it causes swelling in my foot which is a completely different issue but also very uncomfortable. Physical therapy can not begin until everything is healed and back to normal. At this point the doctors are saying it could be another 6 weeks, but nobody knows for sure. My leg has to be compressed at all times; when we take the compression sock on and off the nerve pain has been so bad I would start hitting my other leg as hard as I could to get my mind off of it. I could only assume that nerve pain is similar to being electrocuted, attacked by a group of jelly fish or being struck by lightning. I can only sleep on my back (imagine that you side-sleepers) which has caused bruising. All in all, this has been miserable.

I’m angry. I’m annoyed. I’m mad. Frustration has set in and saying “I’m disappointed” doesn’t explain anything. I just want to live again! I’m holding on to every ounce of normalcy but it keeps slipping through my fingers. This entire thing just sucks. I hate being in this bed every day. I hate not being able to do anything for myself. I hate missing out on everything. But one of the most frustrating aspects of all is feeling completely guilty for my feelings.  

I am blessed. I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve had so many good moments throughout this process that I can’t believe I’m still finding something to complain about. But that’s just it, I’m human. I have feelings. I have moments of sadness. I’m not always happy. Life can become overwhelming and, to be honest, there are moments where I still cannot believe I’m going through this.

When is it ok to feel sorry for yourself and how do you snap out of it? 

I remember when the doctor took my bandages off one week after surgery. I looked down at my huge scar and couldn’t believe my eyes. Before this I was a healthy 31 year old. I never broke a bone, never went to the hospital and my paperwork was easy to fill out because every box was checked ‘None’. I remember looking down at my leg and the tears began to run down my cheeks. All I kept thinking was how am I ever going to feel normal again. My independence was gone. My confidence vanished. Fear of the unknown, of the pain, my thoughts, and doubts were crippling at times. Panic attacks swept over my body and I could do nothing but lay there searching to breathe until I took control of my mind and spoke truth into my heart.

I’m not writing all this for pity or because I have all the answers on how to deal with the aftermath of cancer. But I do feel it’s necessary that we talk about our suffering so we can begin to heal from it emotionally and know that we are not alone. It’s a slow process, but it’s finally happening. 

“And when my heart and strength have failed me, my God, you won’t, your name is mighty” – You Alone 

At the beginning of every year JD and I pray for a word. It’s something we’ve done for years because, let’s be honest, resolutions never really stick. So, we pray and ask God to show us a word, something we can hold onto for the year. A word that will be our main focus for that specific year so we can continue our spiritual growth. This year JD’s word was Trust and mine was Surrender. Crazy right? I have had to learn how to surrender control in every possible way and JD has had to trust God through it all. Control is an elusion. In reality there are few things we as human beings have actual control over. I may not be able to control sickness but I can choose to rise above it. I can choose to have hope. My saving grace has been my relationship with God.

I’m sure there are those who might think, “Where is your God now?”, and my answer is, he’s been right next to me all along. He holds every single one of my tears in his hands. He gave me the strength when I thought I had none. Jesus has stood by my side when I was angry, in pain and hopeless. He hugged me harder when I hated myself. He loved me deeper when I had no love to give. He pushed me harder when I was too scared to try. It’s easy to think that just because recovery didn’t happen the way I thought it would means Jesus abandoned me, but he didn’t.

Whether I like it or not, I’m stuck here in this bed. I can either hate every moment or embrace this time to self-reflect. If you are facing a hard time, give yourself time to grieve or feel the pain. Allow your mind and heart to understand and accept what you’re going through but DO NOT stay there. Today is a new day and you can be whomever you believe and choose to be. Don’t get angry at yourself if you’re in pain, embrace the process. If you’re sad, be sad, it’s okay. If you need a day to yourself, IT’S OKAY, take your time! But when you’re ready, GET UP and CHOOSE to live. We can either be a product of our circumstances or we can be a product of our choices. Choose to be the best version of yourself daily. Sickness doesn’t define you, brokenness doesn’t define you, your past doesn’t define you. Fight for your God-given right to be happy. Today, in this moment, even if you can’t walk, you are ALIVE!

I had to write this to remind myself I’ve been given an amazing gift. I’m a fighter. I’m a survivor. And I surrender it all.

Romans 12:15

“Be happy with those who are happy,and weep with those who weep.”

 

Hope is a powerful weapon <3

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There were NO CANCER CELLS!

The pathology report is in and they did not find any cancer cells. The tissue, soft tissue and muscle were found to have no evidence of malignant growth or abnormal cells. The four lymph nodes removed were all clear of any malignancy.

I wish I could express what I’m feeling. I’ve cried all day and I feel speechless. I feel like I get to start my life again. I get to start planning and setting goals. It’s like someone has just hit the play button on my life and anything is possible. My dreams can now become my reality!

I believe this is a modern day miracle. I believe in healing. And I believe that walking by faith is the best source of medicine. Hope is a powerful weapon and I give God all the glory!

I am now on the road to recovery with 12 staples in my leg, a drip bag that is super uncomfortable and skin that has not fully healed from radiation BUT I get to do it all knowing there is no cancer! The pain at times seems unbearable and although my physical body can not jump up and down, spiritually I’ve done a million victory dances.

I hope to encourage anyone who is going through anything, big or small, to not loose hope. Continue walking by faith believing that your triumph is just around the corner. I learned so many valuable lessons throughout this journey but the most important was the understanding that it is in our season of waiting where we truly find God. During this time of waiting we learn what it means to fully trust in God and in doing so our faith is renewed and becomes stronger. Over the past week I have been reminded of James 1:2 “Dear brothers and sister, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing”. 

The next step towards recovery is my 3 months check-up. They will do another CT scan of my chest, abdomen and pelvis then an MRI of my leg. Once its cleared I will have the same test in another 6 months. I will continue this process every 6 months for 5 years. So like James 1:2 says…I get to count it ALL joy because my endurance is growing and as I develop the day will come when I will be perfect and complete needing nothing. 🙂

No matter who you are or what you are going through please know that you will always have a prayer partner in me. This life can get hard at times but we do not have to sit by and allow it to consume or destroy us. There is enough hope to fight any problem, worry or stress and I’m here to fight it with you. Jesus said “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world”.  

A good friend sent me the song Take Courage by Kristene DiMarco and I have sang this song on re-peat every time I felt down, if I felt scared I would sing louder. This song kind of became my anthem as I declared truth over my life…”Hold on to your hope as your triumph unfolds, he’s never failing”. Hold on to your hope, don’t let anyone or anything ever take it away.

“You’ll experience a season of BREAKTHROUGH because what you WENT THROUGH didn’t BREAK YOU!” – Christine Caine

~ Idalia K.

 

Prayer is Power

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Well it’s been a week since my surgery and I’m finally feeling a bit more like myself.

Last Friday was an extremely smooth process. My arrival time was 4:45am and I was admitted by 5:15am. Sleep the night before was non-existent. I think I slept for 3 hours total before giving up and reading till my alarm went off. Before any kind of surgery I would assume there are some nerves for most people or at least there was for me. My major concern was being ‘put under’ anesthesia. I don’t know why this was such a worry for me but the idea of being ‘put under’, kind of creeps me out. I kept reminding myself that I had done it before and everything was fine but worry had a way of settling in regardless.

Most people would not believe this to be true but my family can attest to the fact that I tend to be scared of everything. When I was little I would not go out into our backyard without someone beside me (even if that someone was my tiny baby sister). I was 100% afraid of the dark and I was convinced that if my entire body was not covered by my blanket at night something would get me. Walking to the mailbox in broad daylight while my mother watched from the front door was even a little sketchy in my 5 year old opinion.

I learned to pray as a young child because of all these fears. I would repeat to myself almost all the time 2 Timothy 1:7 “God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of POWER, and of LOVE, and of a Sound-Mind”. This gave me the confidence that I needed as a child to live my life with power. If God does not give fear, then where did it come from? And why do I want to hold onto something that did not come from God? So I have done my best to live a life focusing on the power, love, and sound-mind that God has given me. But there are times when it feels overwhelming and for some reason the idea of going under anesthesia felt like a blanket of fear. I stayed up half the night praying. I don’t know about you, but when I pray, I talk to God as if I’m talking to my best friend. So just like a child talking to their father or two friends chatting the night away, I began to ask for comfort, peace and a sign.

While I was laying in the hospital bed waiting for my scheduled surgery time the anesthesiologist came into speak with me. He went over all my history, extensively. His knowledge was incredible but the way he spoke to me made all the difference. He was extremely patient and kind. After going over all my information – and all the negative things that could go wrong – he asked his final question, “Do you have a religious preference?”. I realized this was normal because they had asked me the same question during my previous surgery. I told him I was a christian. Then he asked me something interesting, ” I would also like to know, with your permission, if I could say a blessing over you before surgery”, I was slightly shocked by this question but also curious what he meant by blessing. “Do you say the blessing now or when you take me back?” I asked with curiosity. He kindly explained that he could do it now if I preferred while JD was with me. I looked at JD and smiled then said “I would like the blessing now”. He walked over grabbed my hand, knelt down next to my bed and began to pray. He prayed that Jesus would be with us in the surgery room. That every cancer cell would die and be gone. That I would be completely healed and that God would bless his hands and my surgeons hands during the procedure. He prayed that God would move on my behalf and he thanked God for entrusting my life with him. He thanked God for the privilege of being one of my doctors and that everything would work together for my good. When we all said “Amen” it was like I had lost the ability to speak. The OR nurse quickly stepped into the room and said they were ready for me. I looked at JD and my mom who were standing by the door and I began to get emotional thinking this is it. The anesthesiologist looked into my eyes, grabbed my arm and asked, “You believe don’t you?”.  I looked at him with tears of joy in my eyes and confidently said, “Yes I do”, and he replied “then God has you”.

Remember when I couldn’t sleep and I was praying for a sign? Well, I specifically asked God to show me my angel, an angel I could see so I would know I wasn’t alone. And he did. While He rolled me into surgery I was thinking of all the things God had done for me and as I laughed out of pure joy, I slowly went to sleep.

After surgery my doctor explained that he feels confident that they removed all the cancerous tissue. He said that he was shocked that the tissue surrounding the arteries and veins melted right off without any problems (another answered prayer in my opinion). I now have a drip bag attached to my body for any excess fluid. And now we wait for the pathology report.

Thank you for taking the time out of your life to pray for me. Prayer is the best thing anyone could have done for me in this situation. It says in Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

Prayer is Power.

– Idalia K.

 

It’s Surgery Time!

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I have finally been cleared for surgery. I am excited and nervous but mostly excited! The GOOD news is that my doctor has decided to stay clear of all blood vessels, veins and arteries! At this point he is going to remove everything that was leftover from my last surgery. Once they have extracted all remaining parts of the tumor another pathology report will determine whether or not there are any remaining cancer cells.

There are some concerns regarding my skin (in the area treated with radiation) after surgery but I’m not going to focus on anything negative. Plus, I firmly stand on the promises God has declared over my life: I am healed, I am restored, I am made whole, I am made new. 🙂

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Throughout this process I’ve learned a deeper sense of God’s love. It’s times like these you realize how ‘out of control’ we really are as human beings. There was nothing I could do to prevent this but there is something I can do to overcome this. I am believing for a major miracle and I am asking every person that is reading this to believe with me.

My surgery is tomorrow or should I say today (Friday, April 28th). I can not wait to one day soon shout from the roof tops…I am cancer free!

Thank you all for your love and prayers ❤

– Idalia K.

 

“I have written and redeemed your story” – God

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Radiation…is finished!

I felt a bit overwhelmed on day one, but was quickly humbled and encouraged by every single message, note, text, and phone call. The love and support I felt on that day is what helped get me through the rest of my treatment.

To give you all a quick overview on my personal situation, I was approved to join a study/trial at the UCLA sarcoma center. They have been working on this study for over a year and have seen excellent results. Traditionally, a patient is put on a 5 week radiation plan (every single day for 5 weeks). In this study they reduce the amount of days but give a much stronger dose of radiation proving that liposarcomas can be treated in less time. This study has already worked for many other types of cancer but because Myxoid Liposarcomas are so rare they have not been able to try other methods until now. Liposarcoma’s are found in less than 1% of cancer patients. From my own personal research I have found that there are only 4 types of liposarcoma. Myxoid liposarcomas are only diagnosed in about 200-300 people in the United States every year or they are misdiagnosed. About 30 years ago the only form of treatment was amputation. I have never loved science and research more in my life! 🙂

When this process first started I felt alone. I wanted the world to stop for everyone else like it had for me. But I quickly realized that we are all living to survive. We all face challenging circumstances no matter what it is. My pain isn’t worse than yours. God says “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you cross rivers, you will not drown. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned, nor will the flames hurt you. This is because I, the Lord, am your God.” (Isaiah 43:2-3)

So while I was in radiation, sitting on that hard table, staring at that massive machine, I knew without a shadow of a doubt my God was with me. The radiation tech asked if I wanted to listen to music and I said “yes”, maybe a little too enthusiastically…they played all my favorite worship songs. The tech gave me very specific instructions, “You have to keep your arms still and you can not move you body. But if you want to sing, go ahead, we’ll all be listening.” There is one song in particular by Lauren Daigle that I heard while driving to my very first appointment with my Oncologist. I remember hearing the chorus and thinking that this song was for me. And on my first day of treatment God showed up in that room while they played the exact same song. The machine started spinning and I started singing “Let the waters rise I will stand as the oceans roar, Let the earth shake beneath me let the mountain fall, You are God over the storm and I am yours.” See, we are all going to walk through difficult times, painful times, and even scary times. But the promise is that God is always there, “I WILL be with you, you will NOT drown, you will NOT be burned, you will NOT be hurt.” I was literally singing in the rain and I loved every moment.

Today I am finally starting to feel more and more like myself. My doctor changed my targeted treatment plan due to other possible complications which was a HUGE plus. Because of where my tumor was located, most of the radiation was targeted towards my hip bone which makes it difficult to move my leg, sit down, or walk. There has been some discoloration in the area treated and I feel extremely fatigued for most of the day. Overall I am feeling stronger and that is the most important part!

The next step is another surgery. They have to remove the rest of the tumor which is located near my femoral artery. Please help me pray that the tumor is far enough away from the artery and veins! My surgery is scheduled for the end of April…I’m nervous and excited.

As I was laying on the table during my very last radiation treatment, I was singing and praying. I was so thankful that I was finished. I was thankful that the Doctors had changed my treatment plan. I was thankful that I didn’t feel alone anymore. I was thankful for my mom who has been with me for almost 6 weeks now selflessly taking care of me. I was thankful for my family who have sent me daily messages and songs of encouragement. I was thankful for my friends who have showered me with love. I was thankful for my husband who had kept his strength in the midst of so much sadness. As the machines rolled to its final stop, I took a deep breath in and exhaled. The final song loudly playing over the speakers pierced my heart as I heard, “Oh the love that set me free, you bring hope to those in need, you have written and redeemed my story”. In that exact moment, God spoke to my heart and very silently but boldly told me…”I have written and redeemed your story”. I had tears in my eyes as the tech walked in the room and said “I’m sorry there isn’t confetti falling from the sky, there should be a more exciting and dramatic end to radiation,” I looked at him with the biggest smile on my face and proudly declared, “That was the perfect ending”.

Thank you all for listening and sharing this journey with me. ❤

– Idalia K.