Thursday, July 2, 2020

Grief over the loss of Motherhood

I wrote this two years ago and thought I'd never share this publicly. And I've shared a lot of personal emotions publicly. But this...this is just too raw. It makes sense when people mourn the loss of a child, but what about mourning the loss of the children I never get to have? I'd rather have a child and lose it! But would I really? Probably not. It just seems like the better option in my position.

It really really really really sucks knowing that I will never be a mother. That Mother's Day will come and go every year, and every year I will still just be....a dog mom? That I will raise and love children that will never be mine, that will never call me mom. It hurts that I won't get to be there for my daughter's first date, or her first high school dance. That I won't get to sit by her side in the temple when she gets married.

I want to be a mom more than anything in the world. I want to be there for my child's first steps, their first words. I want to teach them to read and to be like me. I want to dress them and decide when they get their ears pierced. I want to decide what extracurricular activities to make them try. I want to take them to school and pick them up from school. I want to be annoyed that I have to be a mom 24/7 and that I can never go to the bathroom alone. I want to wish I had a night off for a date night. I want to hold a baby that I know I get to keep and love and raise. I want to be called MOM.

Why don't I ever get to be a mom? Why was I put here on this earth and told that motherhood is next to Godliness and then have that taken away from me? I don't understand and I know that I will never get those questions answered in this lifetime. I have never had the "Why me?" question run through my head. Not when I was diagnosed with cancer, not when I went through a divorce at 22. But now, for whatever reason, I have thought the fearful and faithless question of "why me?". I know I shouldn't. I know that it means that my fear is greater than my faith. But why. Why do meth addicts get to have children. Why do mentally ill people that try to commit suicide while pregnant get to have beautiful healthy babies and keep them to raise? Why do people that don't want kids get to have them? And why not me? Did I do something wrong? Am I being punished? Could I have done something different years ago so that I could be a mother? I didn't know. I didn't know that I'd even want to be one this badly. I didn't know that I would get to taste the joy of Motherhood, but not actually get it. I didn't know how much it would hurt.

Being a stepmom isn't anything like being a mom. "Mom" may be in the title, but a stepmom is hardly anything like a real mom. I don't actually get much say in how they are raised when they aren't with me, in what they are involved in, in what schools they go to. Will it be different in the future as I've been in their lives longer?? Maybe. But what if its not? What kind of expectations should I have? Will they love me? Will they see all the sacrifices I made for them and the time I spent being LIKE a mom, but not being mom? Will they understand how much it hurt every time I got told when and where I had to drop them off back to their MOM? When I was told I don't count as a parent? Will I ever get over these feelings??

It hurts to hear my parents say they kind of get to be grandparents, but not really. It hurts to see that they feel like my dog is more their grandchild than my husband's children. It hurts because I feel the same way.

I'm terrified to be in a family ward at church. Where everyone is a mother and a family and can talk about their kids and raising kids and their frustrations. Because I don't fit in there. I can't relate. I'm not a young married couple going to have kids someday. But I'm not a mom. I'm a ..... semi part-time step parent. It's a role I've never learned about. It's a role that I don't know where it fits in. Where is my place in this parent filled world??

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Survivor Guilt


Wow, I haven't written in what....almost 2 years?! Whoops! Life got crazy and then I guess I kind of tried to move on from this chapter of my life. I think I've subconsciously tried to break away from cancer, compartmentalize it maybe. But I've been learning that I'll never really "move on" from the cancer chapter. I'm kind of stuck with it forever. Between my bi-annual check-ups and all the friends I have that are constantly in and out of treatment, cancer is in my life to stay.

Luckily, MY bill of health is clean as a whistle. However, I have SO many friends now that are not as lucky as me. This has been a huge struggle for me this whole year. It's something that the cancer community calls "survivor guilt". It seems so unfair that I am healthy, strong, happy, running hundreds of miles and climbing all the mountains while my friends continue on through treatment, get told they have only months to live, struggle through two years of weekly treatment.... My friend's adorable 7 year old daughter was just diagnosed with cancer on Monday...these things all SUCK so much. SO MUCH SUCK. It just isn't fair you know?

I've been reading Brene Brown's Rising Strong. She is an incredible researcher in the field of vulnerability, shame, and being your most authentic self. One of the lines from her book particularly stood out to me the other day, "We run from grief because loss scares us, yet our hearts reach toward grief because the broken parts want to mend." We can't run from grief. Eventually it catches up and manifests itself in depression, anxiety, PTSD, stress, feelings of unworthiness, etc. This is the "rumbling" I've been working through for months. After visiting my sweet 7 year old friend in the hospital today, I sat down in my car and just wept. I cursed cancer and cried and cried. I've been learning to accept grief- and to allow myself to feel it. Because I have so many cancer friends, I lose a lot of friends every year. Those losses build up until I break down and finally let the sadness happen.

"You can't selectively numb emotion--when you numb pain, you numb happiness and joy." And so we learn eventually to accept pain. To use it, to relish in it, to come out stronger on the other side. "Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others." As I've been rumbling through my dark places this year, accepting emotional pain and sadness, I feel that I've become a much more compassionate person. And no, nothing that we experience in life is really fair. It's not fair that I'm healthy and so many other sweet people aren't.

I saw a video on the interweb today that told a really wonderful parable.
On the first day of class a professor held up a twenty dollar bill. He asked who in the class wanted it. All 200 students raised their hand of course. He then folded the bill in half twice. "Who wants this still?" he asked. Again, all 200 students raised their hands. He took the bill and crumpled it up. "Who wants it?" 200 hands in the air. He threw the bill on the ground, stomped on it, rubbed dirt on it, and picked it up. "Who still wants this?" Of course all 200 students still raised their hands. Because no matter what happened to that twenty dollar bill, it was still worth $20. We are the same. No matter what we are dragged through, no matter what happens to us, we will always hold our value. (Motivational speaker Jay Shetty)
I loved the way that concept was demonstrated. The whole survivor's guilt and stuff I've been feeling throughout this year has worn down on my feelings of worthiness. We all get down in the dumps about ourselves for one reason or another, and this story is a beautiful reminder to me.

Why am I sharing all this?? I'm not 100% sure. I think that writing things down is the best way for me to understand and recognize what I'm feeling. It is a coping process. I am in love with vulnerability. I feel much more real and alive when I am open. I think it's a good reminder to me that everyone has deep internal struggles that they are dealing with every single day. We have to be willing to feel our own darkness so we can be compassionate and kind to others. How would we treat others if we assumed that everyone we interact with is doing the best they can?

One more quote from Brene Brown to end with today :)
When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don't go away; instead, they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending--to rise strong, recognize our story and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how this story ends. 

Love with your whole heart, even though there is no guarantee.

 I guess I will always be Kalina the cancer survivor, but I can still be Kalina the ultra-runner, Kalina the crazy girl that wears dresses on mountains, Kalina the chocolate eater, Kalina. Me.

PS I HAVE AN EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT!!!! I graduated from the Diagnostic Medical Sonography program on August 4th and was just offered and accepted a full-time position with the University of Utah Hospital!!!!! EEK!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

I Am Lovely

I've debated sharing this for a really long time....but I think it's time.

I love the lyrics in this song-- I feel lovely just the way that I am

In a way, this post is a love letter to myself. A lot of people might think I have the best self-esteem in the world. I mean, I have everything going for me so of course I think I'm great, right? Not always so. I've battled body image issues since high school. At times it has been worse than others. Particularly my last two years of college. I was married and a highly competitive college athlete (which alone spells disaster for body image problems). I got really sick for a while and dropped a ton of weight. Then it went to my head. I loved it. And then since I was working out so much and so hard, the weight stayed off even when I got better and started eating gluten free. Also, I think subconsciously I knew I wasn't as happily married as I thought I was. Obviously I didn't see it at the time. But as time wore on, the view I had of myself became more and more warped. I was freaking out when I started to gain weight my senior year of college (Spring 2012). Then I was diagnosed with cancer. They removed 3 huge tumors and I was in the hospital for 9 days not eating anything because I was so sick. I dropped all that weight again. It was great. Then I found out about my husband's infidelity. Now I am NOT blaming him for my eating disorder or my body image problems. To his credit he tried to do all he could to make me like my body. However, hating myself and my body became the way I dealt with the problems and stress in my life. I was happy in every other way. I was dealing with cancer and treatment and making the most of life. I was working through marital problems best I could. But my body became the thing I took out my stress and anger on. It got to the point that I couldn't think about anything else except how fat my legs were and how skinny every other girl's legs looked. I let it consume me. I tried everything I could to be anorexic (now I say try because 1. I love food 2. I love to run 3. You can't run well on no food and 4. I have very little willpower). I tried everything I could to be bulimic. [Un]Fortunately, I guess I have been blessed with a gag reflex of steel because not a thing in the world could make me throw up (except being in the hospital for 9 days).

I hated myself. Literally. It was terrible. Finally, I broke away from the unhappy situation I was in. I moved home. I was surrounded by people who loved me. I didn't have to deal with anything. I had a broken heart and time on my hands. My family embraced me. I did things with them. I did things with my girlfriends. And most importantly I went to cancer camp. I had friends who loved me more than I've ever had a friend love me. They loved me because of my smile, my happy attitude, my love for life and adventure. And suddenly my body wasn't me. I was me. My character was me. It didn't matter what I looked like or where I came from.
It's still taken time, I still would love to have skinnier legs (and no, no matter what you tell me, your words cannot change my perception of myself). See that's the problem with having a body image disorder, it doesn't matter what people think or say to you. Every person in the world could have told me I was the prettiest, skinniest girl they knew and it wouldn't have changed my view of myself. It's hard because when I felt that way, I wanted everyone to look at me and think "wow, she's so skinny" and yet I wouldn't believe it if someone told me. Or if I did hear it, I would force myself to fulfill that expectation and it would just perpetuate a vicious cycle. I had someone tell me "wow, you've really gained a lot of weight haven't you?" It just about killed me. I knew they meant that I didn't look sick from chemo anymore. But my brain heard those words as "you are a huge fat whale. FAT FAT FAT".

In our world today, hearing about one's body is inevitable. It's nice to hear someone say you have a nice body or nice legs or you are pretty or whatever. Everyone likes those compliments. No one likes "you've put on some weight, you're looking good" no matter how kind the intent is behind it. Well I bet some people do like that actually. I don't. At all.

I don't know exactly what has happened that has helped me love myself. I think a lot of has to do with getting out of a destructive and loveless relationship.(Like I said before, it wasn't his fault. My own problems were just exacerbated by the problems in my life). A lot of it is that I'm not competing as a college athlete in a situation where my body is everything; where you constantly compare yourself to every girl that is faster and come to the conclusion that if you were just a few pounds skinner you'd be able to shave an extra 10 seconds off your mile. A lot of it is that I have learned to be independent again. I'm not relying on someone else to make me happy. You can never rely on someone else to provide for your happiness. Especially in a marriage relationship. You HAVE to be happy all by yourself before you can be happy with someone else. A spouse should add to your happiness. Not create it.

For whatever reason, for the first time in my life, what other people think of me doesn't affect how happy I am. This is why we have trials. This is why you hear cliche phrases like "trials are blessings in disguise", "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" and "God gives us trials in order for us to become more like Him". Everyone has to learn to stand on their own feet no matter how many times the storm knocks you down. That's why every person's storm is different. We each have to go through the storm that will teach us the lessons we personally need to learn and that we couldn't learn any other way.

What inspired me to finally admit and talk about my struggle? I looked in my swimsuit drawer today and saw my old bikinis (yep, sorry I am very immodest. Judge away). When I had surgery I thought I would never wear them again. When I had my second surgery I KNEW I would never wear them again. My stomach was hideous. It was lumpy and misshapen with a weirdo belly button and a huge nasty scar. But today I looked at those skimpy pieces of clothing in my drawer and I pulled them out. I tried them on. I looked in the mirror. And I didn't hate what I saw. I didn't see a nasty hideous stomach. I still saw just me. Just little old me who is the same no matter what I'm wearing. (Of course time has smoothed out my weird lumps and bumps and my belly button has gotten a little more normal so that helps :) haha). Just to try and give you an idea of the extent of how much I hated my scar and my stomach, I have to admit that I chewed out my surgeon for making me so ugly. Like literally. I told him, "you did a terrible job on my scar. Why couldn't you have made me less bumpy with a prettier belly button. I need plastic surgery to fix it". He replied "well that wasn't very nice" and immediately I felt like the meanest most horrible person in the world. Because I had been planning that retort for months. And I thought for sure I'd be getting plastic surgery. Can you believe how vain I am?

I never ever thought in a million years I would let people look at my stomach. Remember this first picture from my first surgery? It was a battle scar I was proud of. Now, more than a year later I am ready to show off my second battle scar. Because this scar is proof that I survived something crazy. This picture is proof to myself that I am okay.


So, Self: You are awesome. Your life is great. Your Father in Heaven LOVES you. He's given you so many trials because He knows that you can be great and He wants to help you get there.
I know this is the exact same quote as the cat/lion one, but this picture is so dang adorable!

A few people I've gained inspiration from:
This article:
Lindsey Stirling: this interview in particular. Also watch her "I'm a Mormon" video on the sidebar of the article
Andrea Bolles: she gave a short talk in relief society one night about overcoming an eating disorder and now she's started this cool blog, Creating a Life I Love
And a few others I won't mention because I think I might embarrass people.

Oh holy crap, I just realized.....Today, January 7 is exactly ONE YEAR since my LAST CHEMOTHERAPY treatment!!!! Oh my gosh that is the craziest thing ever!!! HAPPY CHEMOVERSARY TO ME!!!!!!!

Note: I've been very hesitant about sharing this very personal struggle of mine, in part because I don't want people to comment things like "Oh Kalina you are so beautiful and skinny, I wish I could be you" or whatever silly something someone might say. I don't want my family to make comments to me about my body. Any of my family. But I know I'm not the only one who has struggled with body image. I think every girl to some degree deals with it every day. I think admitting this so publicly is a huge step in overcoming it. At times when I am really struggling I want to be able to look back and be able to read this and remind myself that it is possible to not be consumed by the desire to be thin.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Can It Be the "End"?

Today is supposedly my LAST AVASTIN TREATMENT!!!!! I say supposedly because after a year of doing it, for some reason it doesn't feel like it's really going to be the end. I don't think it will really feel over until after my PET scan in January. But this is such a great Christmas present!!! Even though Avastin doesn't have the extreme side effects as a full chemo drug, after a year+ of it, the small side effects start to wear on you. I will miss coming to the infusion center because I like meeting and talking to other cancer patients. I love bringing treats to share and I love making people smile during one of the most miserable times in their lives. I hope I make the time to come back to visit as a volunteer.
I got another certificate of completion and a penguin blanket. It's official and real!!
Pictures of: My first day of chemo, my most pathetic looking self, my last day of chemo, and my last day of treatment!

I am actually really going to miss my port! I won't get it out until after my scan, but little Gouda has come to be a part of me. I don't even remember I have him most of the time. But its a great conversation killer :) If I ever want to make someone feel awkward, all I have to do it make them ask "what is that?" "Oh, its just my port. I had cancer" .....silence.....awkward stammering.....mention of how they know someone who went through cancer......silence.....change of subject. Hahaha. Am I evil that I think this recurring conversation is great? Probably.

I was thinking about life the other day. I have a passion for it. A passion for life I mean. I love living. I LOVE adventures. I love the unknown. I love change. Have I always been this way? Did I have the same passion for life before cancer and divorce? As I pondered these questions, I concluded that, yes, I have always had a passion for life. However, I have not always been as expressive or true to myself as I am now. Going through the fire and brimstone the past two years have brought me has strengthened my sense of self and lowered how much I care what other people think of me. I am not afraid to be myself anymore because I don't care if people think I'm weird or not cool. Because I am weird sometimes! Weird and crazy and funny and reserved and adventurous and silly.
Case in point. I found a wand. An icicle to some. A wand to me. 
Go, live your dream! Beeeeeee yourself! Let it go, don't hold back anymore.

Just a few tidbits of Disney advice :) (Tangled, Aladdin, Frozen) If you haven't seen Frozen yet, SEE IT NOW. It was soooooo good. I liked it almost as much, maybe even equal to Tangled. And you all know how much I love Tangled. The music was amazing. The princesses were beautiful and spunky. And the "prince charming" was actually a man you'd want your daughter to marry. I loved the message of the song "Let it Go". All her life Elsa has been holding herself back, forcing herself not to feel--hiding her emotions. I feel like I've done a lot of that in my life. I think most people have. But holding back and suppressing herself like she has done her whole life only leads to trouble. It's only when she finally lets go that things work out and she is finally happy. So let go! Be yourself. 

Another way to say it is YOLO! This is the motto of the new generation--You Only Live Once. While it is silly and trendy, it's true. You do only live once. So enjoy it! I have a severe case of wanderlust: strong longing or impulse toward wandering and/or travel. I finally am at a point in my life that I can do the things I want. I loved being an athlete at UVU, but it was quite a commitment. Now I am committed to nothing and to nobody. It's great. I love being in charge of myself. I am still planning on traveling to Thailand for at least a month or two or maybe three or four. Or if my friend commits to it, we will backpack southeast Asia together for 5 weeks. Either way, it is going to be quite the adventure!

To end, here is a good article that kind of describes what it's like to be a "cancer person". Maybe it will give people a little insight into what it's like.

You never know what you are capable of until you try