Saturday, November 24, 2012

Catching Up

Telling My Class...
I guess this is what happens when you don't blog for awhile. I have a bunch of random things to catch you up on. First of all, I told my students on Tuesday that I have cancer. I really think it was a great experience for all of us. I sat them down on the carpet and started a PowerPoint presentation I made. I talked about everything: my history with knee pain, my funny looking x-rays, what treatment would look like, and finally that I can no longer be their teacher. It was a good thing I had a PowerPoint because when I got to the slide about me not being able to be their teacher anymore, the tears came and I couldn't speak. As they read the slide, I saw most of my class start to cry. We passed tissues around and I told them how much I love them and want the best for them. I gave them time to ask questions and make comments and it was one of those discussions that none of us will probably ever forget. We also had some good laughs about how my hair will probably come back a little bit different, and I let them believe that maybe it will come back green. Those kids are so precious.

A few days ago my aunt called and asked what Michael and I were going to do for Thanksgiving. We told her we were going to Michael's house and she told me she had been hoping I would tell her we were going away together for the break. When she said that I realized how good of an idea that would be. This would be our last chance to go away together with me still feeling good for a long time. I went online that night and decided to book a hotel for one night in Park City. Best. Decision. Ever. We had so much fun! The hotel was cheap, had an awesome hot tub, and a hot breakfast buffet in the morning. After enjoying the luxuries the hotel offered, we took off to the outlets. The main attraction: J Crew. I have always loved J Crew, but never bought anything there because it is too stinkin' expensive. However, the outlet (which is already way cheap) was having a 50% off the whole store sale. Woo hoo!!! Let's just say Michael finished up his Christmas shopping for me. We then went back to Provo, I tried on all my new clothes again (What can I say? I'm a girl.), went to Costco to pick up some pies, and then went up to Draper to spend Thanksgiving with the Christensens. What a blast! There were 36 people there and it was just fun.

Oh, and Michael's mom cuts hair. I figure since I'm going to lose all my hair anyway, I might as well cut it now so it's less messy when I start losing it. So I got my hair cut. No big deal, just 14 inches.

*Note: I am not posing with a phone on purpose. I was talking to my mom and she wanted a picture.

Medicine Fiasco
I was told that chemotherapy would give me a 50% chance of infertility. So before I start chemo, I am going through fertility treatment and Michael and I are freezing embryos to use after treatment is over. It is crucial that I start chemo as soon as possible because osteosarcoma can easily spread into the bloodstream and other parts of the body, and I can't start chemo until the fertility treatment is over, so we have been in a mad rush trying to get all of this taken care of. 

The fertility people hurried to get this medicine shipped to me by Friday; I was told it would for sure be there and I had to take it that night because of where I was at in my cycle. So when I got a message from UPS saying they had an incorrect address for us and were unable to deliver the package (They didn't have the wrong address. They must have just gone to the wrong house.) I had a freak-out moment. I called UPS and told them the situation. The lady told me there was nothing she could do and she could get it to me by Monday. Um, what? That would not work. So I talked to her supervisor who called the store where the package was being held. He said the store was closed and there was nothing he, or I, or anyone could do and they could maybe get the medicine to me by Saturday. No. No. No. NO. So Michael and I got in the car and drove over to the UPS place ourselves (me in hysterics the whole way there). We got to the store and there were people unloading their trucks, but the Pick-Up place was closed. Luckily, we found Carl. A saint. He assured us everything would be okay. He took the time, looked for our package, had us sign for it, and we were saved. If I hadn't been able to take the medicine that night, I likely would have had to decide whether to put off chemotherapy for another month until I was at that point in my cycle again, or to settle for a 50% chance of infertility. Thanks to Carl, I did not have to make that decision. 

Here are some pics of Michael and I preparing to inject me with the medicine we were so anxious to get. Yeah. Injecting myself. Am I the only one majorly freaked out by this?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Huge miracle to report on. Moving to Provo School District form Nebo School District this year has been so challenging. Both of my practicums and my internship were in Nebo School District, so that was where all my experience had been. Provo School District is great, but they do so many things differently from Nebo and it has taken way more adjusting than I ever anticipated. I felt strongly, however, that this school I moved to was where I was supposed to be. Since finding out I have cancer, I have been wondering WHY it was the right thing for me to go through all this hassle of adjusting if I was just going to leave after the first quarter. THIS is why:

I found out that Provo School District offers some of the best benefits for teachers in the nation. Although I will no longer be teaching in Provo District, I will continue to receive 60% of my salary as long as the disability persists. I will also be able to keep 100% of my benefits. I looked at Nebo's benefits just out of curiosity, and I could be interpreting this incorrectly, but it looks like they give you up to 12 weeks UNPAID leave along with benefits. But it's only 12 weeks.... and it's totally unpaid. My heart feels ready to burst. I love it when God tells you to do something and you can see the blessings that result. Some of you skeptics might call it luck. I call it the result of Heavenly Father's love for me, and him showing me that even though I'm about to go through something really hard, he will never leave me without that love and support.

Oncologist Visit

I feel emotionally drained.  Michael and I went to meet with an oncologist in Murray today and pretty much all of my biggest fears were confirmed. I was told that I definitely have cancer, I definitely will lose all of my hair, I will have to go through 6 36-day cycles of chemotherapy, I have a 50% chance of infertility, and the set of drugs they will be giving me that make up my chemotherapy are so physically taxing that I will need to go on long-term disability and not return to teaching for the rest of the year. It's just hard. I had some really beautiful plans for me and Michael's lives, none of which involved me having cancer.

It still seems so unreal that this is happening. This shouldn't be happening. This is the kind of thing you see happen to other people, you feel really bad for them, and then you get down on your knees and thank Heavenly Father for your own health.

Here's a confession that I can't believe I'm making on a public blog. I have been really interested in cancer since I was really little. I went through phases where I would check my body for bruises, and anytime I saw a bruise I thought I had leukemia. I read probably at least 10 books by Lurlene McDaniel (author whose "characters have grappled with cancer, diabetes, organ failure, and the deaths of loved ones through disease or suicide," says wikipedia.) when I was in elementary school. Morbid, I know. That's why it almost seems ironic that I do have cancer now. 

Anyway, tomorrow I will have to tell my principal exactly what is happening and let him know that in a few weeks I will leave and not come back. Probably the day after tomorrow, I will have to sit down with my students and tell them that I'm sick and can't be their teacher anymore. They are old enough that I will probably make a powerpoint and teach them about what cancer means, and what (more or less) will happen to me. Wish me luck! And for those of you who do believe in God, I could really use all the prayers I can get. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Biopsy and Bone Scan

Yesterday was my first day feeling like a real sick person. I went up to LDS Hospital in Salt Lake for a biopsy of the growth on my leg. Not gonna lie, it was actually kind of awesome. They were super nice, gave me cool fuzzy socks, gave me heated blankets, and I got to hang out/sleep in a hospital bed that moves up and down (my first time!). A biopsy sounds like a crazy intense operation, but really they just stuck a hollow needle into my leg and sucked out three different samples of the growth. All the doctors are calling it a tumor, but "growth" sounds slightly less scary, right? Anyway, I know this will make me sound like a drug addict, but I enjoyed the experience because they injected this stuff into me to make me feel super relaxed. The past few days I had been feeling constant anxiety, and it just felt nice to feel relaxed and chilled out and fall asleep without feeling tense and afraid. I'm like, can I take some of this to go? Ha ha. I'm really not a drug addict guys, promise. After I woke up they brought me food that Michael and I shared (I hadn't eaten anything all day and had probably only eaten 500 calories the day before). Shortly after, my parents showed up! It was so nice to see them. PLUS they took us out to Olive Garden afterward. That is probably my favorite restaurant ever.

Today wasn't as big of a deal. I had a bone scan where they injected me with this thing that attaches itself to all my bones. Two hours later, they scanned my body and because of the stuff they injected into me, any place where the bones were working harder was bright white on the scan. It was kind of neat to see. Just below my knee, there was a huge, glowing white spot, but I didn't see any other spots on the scan. (Since I'm such an expert on interpreting images). What kills me is they were like, "Okay, our radiologist should have a summary of what he sees on the scan in 15 minutes and then we can send it to your doctor. " And I'm like, "Can I just wait 15 minutes and you can tell me what he found?" Apparently he can't; it has to go through my doctor. So lame! I just want to KNOW! If the cancer is really isolated just below my knee with no signs of mets anywhere else in my body, the prognosis is SO much better. Still no guarantees, but much better.

The one thing that was really hard about today, is my bone scan was at a cancer center, meaning all the patients there have or have had some kind of cancer. When I was in the waiting area they kept pushing young kids with cancer in wheel chairs by me. I didn't expect to have the feelings I had when I saw them. I felt scared and kind of freaked out. They were so pale and sickly looking. I smiled and waved at one boy stopped next to me and I felt so bad for him. He didn't smile, he just looked at me with empty, scared, tired eyes. I don't want that to happen to me! Before that experience I had really just thought of chemo as making me lose my hair and making me feel a little tired. I think it's going to end up being a lot more than that though.

When I left, I still couldn't stop thinking about those kids. I really hope that if this does turn out to be osteosarcoma like we suspect, and if I do have to go through chemotherapy like we suspect, that I can interact with kids who have cancer. I want to play with them and be an example to them and make them happy. Ideas like that make me more excited for the positive things that can result from a cancer diagnosis and less scared for myself.

Okay, I'm going to fall asleep any second now. I'm exhausted. Good night blog!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Sorry guys... I don't have tips for keeping a clean house, cute sewing patterns, delicious recipes I've created, crafts, awesome photo-taking skills, or fashion sense to impart unto my readers. The only reason I decided to create a blog, is to keep our friends and family in the loop as far as what is going on with us. I want our friends and family to feel close to us and feel like they are keeping up with us without feeling awkward about asking us what is going on, or asking around and hearing rumors from other people about what is going on. This is the best way I know how to make people aware of what is happening without having to call everyone individually.

K, Crystal, what in the heck are you talking about. Here's what I'm talking about:

For the last 8 months I have had knee pain varying in intensity. It usually comes once every 2 weeks to once every month and lasts for around 5 days. In March, I went to see a doctor and I was diagnosed with Bursitis. I lived off of Ibuprofen and eventually the pain went away.... and came back.... and went away.... and came back... and so on. So I went to see the doctor again in June and he gave me some kind of steroid to help the Bursitis go away. And it went away.... and came back.... and went away.... and came back... and so on. I had pretty much accepted that I would have chronic pain in my knee for the rest of my life. And then one day it came back (again) and a little lightbulb went off.

I don't HAVE to live with chronic pain! This is not normal, I am 22, and should be able to run, jump, and frolic if I want to. I am going to GO to that doctor, and figure out what is wrong with me. I don't want more pain medications, I want a solution to take away the pain and keep it away. 

So I WENT to that doctor, I DEMANDED answers, got an x-ray... and then my whole life seemed to crumble and fall apart right before my eyes. In the x-ray they found some abnormal looking density in the bone right below my knee (top of the shin, or "proximal tibia" for you medical know-it-alls). I will spare you all the details, but after going to 5 appointments in 3 days to talk to doctors, get tested, and go over results, there is a 98% chance that growth on my leg is malignant (cancerous) and is most likely something called osteosarcoma. 

I have no idea what is happening right now. I have had to get substitutes at school so I can go to appointments, I cancelled all my parent-teacher conferences for tomorrow since I'm getting a biopsy, I will most likely start chemotherapy within the next few weeks and maaaaybe keep teaching this year?? The implications for me, my sweet husband, and our future children (IF we can ever have children after treatment) are overwhelming and totally uncertain right now. Maybe my fertility will not be affected whatsoever, chemotherapy will be a breeze, my hair will just get a little thinner (which would be awesome, by the way. I have too much hair.), and I'll have ample energy to teach my class of 34 5th graders. I just don't know! Maybe that 2% chance will pull through for me and it will turn out the growth on my leg is benign. 

I don't know what's going to happen, and I am completely powerless to control any of it, but one thought has stuck with me ever since that first x-ray looked a little funny. There are two ways I can approach this: I can be sad, overwhelmed, continue to question why this is happening to me, and feel bad for myself, or I can use this as an opportunity to exercise true faith in God, be optimistic, serve others in whatever capacity I am able to, and be an example to those around me. I know which option is the better one. It's just all so new, uncertain, and overwhelming. Even though I've only known for two days, I can already feel myself wanting to slip into despair and self-pity. 

My savior from despair this morning? This video. 

Don't fixate on the negative, count your blessings every day, and remember that you can do more than you give yourself credit for.