Thursday, June 11, 2015

John, this is for you

My friend John asked if I was going to update my blog since it'd been so long. "A year!!" was the subject of his email. So John, this is for you. 

I've really struggled with this post. My mind is a tangle of emotions and thoughts: joy and sadness, reflection and nothingness, hopes and fears. So much has happened in the last year. I have a precious new niece, I've gone back to work full time, Sydney is in pre-school, and I've had four more clear MRIs. Thank you, God! I've also struggled in my job, my relationships, and with my fears about recurrence. 

I watched the funeral of Beau Biden, Joe Biden's son who died of brain cancer, on CNN last week. He was only 46. It was all I could think about. ("What type of tumor did he have? How long did he live after his diagnosis? He has access to the very best medicine out there. If he lost his battle, what chance do I have if mine comes back?") I tried to be cheerful because I was at work, but I was a mess inside.  

Today marks three years since my surgery. We're celebrating at my sister's house because everyone knows I love a good (cancer-free) party. Any excuse to have cake and/or wine, call me! Today is also the day our dear aunt will have a mastectomy to remove her breast cancer. I was typing her a note of encouragement and remembered my "blessings box" with all the notes I'd received from friends, family and total strangers when I was going through my treatments. 

I was overwhelmed again going through the box, not even stopping to read them all because it would take too long, but skimming through and flashing back to the pure hope and joy that each one brought me.  

I especially love this one from my friend Casey: 
"There are times when, without any anger in his heart, but with designs of love toward them, God treats his children, outwardly, as if he were an enemy to them. See the gardener going up to that beautiful tree. He takes out a sharp knife, feels its edge to be sure that it is keen, and then he begins pruning it here, gashing it there, and making it bleed in another place, as if he were going to cut it all to pieces. Yet all this is not because he has any anger against the tree, but, on the contrary, because he greatly values it, and wishes it to bring forth more fruit than it has ever done. Do not think that God's sharpest knife means death to his loved ones; it means more life, and richer, fuller life." 
-- Charles Spurgeon

My next MRI is July 13th. Still having them quarterly. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't anxious. But on the other hand, I recognize that the Lord has gotten me this far, and I might be 100% cancer-free forever. 

Thanks John for pushing me to update my blog. It can feel so self indulgent and narcissistic writing about myself, but it if it inspires one person in a positive way, it's all good. 

Love, 
Kim




Love how the light shines on my delightful child. 



She waited 30 min for this face painting in 90 degree weather with a black cardigan on.
 I'm in trouble when she starts to notice the makeup counters in department stores. 


Birthday beach drinks with my mate


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Two Years Since Surgery

It's been two years since my surgery, but it seems like so much longer. I'm sure that's because something just wakes in you when you have a life-changing experience. We had two with the birth of our sweet Sydney just three months earlier.

The days seem to have more detail, more color, more air in them. That doesn't mean it's all sunshine and rainbows. On the "rainy" days, the clouds have more definition, the greys are darker, and the thunder is louder. I live more intently and intensely now. It's not always easy for those around me who are desiring to get back to a routine; get back to "normal". 

I don't care for the phrase "born again" (no offense) but in many ways it's fitting for who I am today. I don't want to waste time in the weeds. I don't want to work in a job where the days go by and the calendar pages flip. I don't want my remaining life to be measured in percentages, profits or revenues.

I have been looking for my new career path this last year and it's not been easy to find. I know what I don't want to do, but I'm not quite sure what I do want to do. As you can imagine, job boards don't have search functions where you can type in "what are you NOT looking for".

But I know this is all God's plan for me. Just as two years ago today, His plan was to get me through my surgery and recovery so beautifully. This too, He will see me through. It's funny because I thought the "hard" parts were over when I was done with the surgery and treatments. But in many ways, in my able-bodied state, I find it harder to be patient and trusting of God's plan than when I was in a hospital bed. 

I thank God for always providing for us, for surrounding me with a family and group of friends that bless me greatly, and for the work He is doing in me today. 

I'd like to offer The 23rd Psalm to those in need of some Peace and Hope today. Just as I did two years ago and continue to today.

The Lord is my Shepard; I shall not want. In verdant pastures He gives me repose; Before restful waters He leads me; He refreshes my soul. He guides me in right paths for His name's sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side, with your rod and your staff that give me courage. You spread a table for me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come. 

Finally, here are some summer festival pics of my sweet family. God bless you all!

 




 




 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving and Receiving


I finished my last dose of a year-long round of chemo on Oct 24. Hallelujah! I feel so grateful that my experience with chemo pales in comparison to many others'. Thanks to everyone who has been praying for an easy treatment!

THE last dose

I'm getting my energy back and am praying about how to re-enter the job market in the new year. I had an interview with the company I believe to be my dream employer, but I trust the Lord to lead me to what is next. Whatever it is, I don't intend to "grind away" another day at a job that doesn't fulfill me or serve others. Life is too short.

In the meantime, I've been very busy celebrating the end of treatment. In mid October, my mom treated me to a long weekend in Chicago. We had the most amazing time! My brother was there for some business, so we got to meet up for a few meals (and bottles of wine!).


Gorgeous weekend in Chicago


Gorgeous Mom and I at Public Hotel


Me with Mom and Richard, my "medical dream team",
who traveled to all of my surgeon interviews and out-of-state oncology meetings.
At Hugo's 

Go Do Good

Back in Atlanta, Tad and I celebrated with a long, lingering (childless) dinner out -- a rare treat for us. We splurged for appetizers AND dessert. It was a glowy-glittery-magical evening with my sweet love.


Reflecting on a year of blessings, craziness and healing

I thought that was it in terms of celebrating my treatment's end, but no... In early November, my amazing siblings and parents surprised me with a weekend party at Mom & Dad's. Richard and Ksenia flew in from New York. Becky, Thinh and Joel drove down secretly. Banners, balloons, flowers, CAKE! Oh my! They really know how to show a girl some love.

No Mo' Chemo! signs


To love me is to cake me


If you weren't my family, I'd desperately want you as friends.
 
The kids enjoyed feeding the horses almost as much as I did.
 
Opening the cross necklace that I will wear forever
 

Gramma & The Nguyens take Joel and Sydney to the museum
while Tad and I have date night out!

 
 
This should be enough, right? Too much, really. But you see, my sister, Becky, has an endless-giving heart. She really wanted to do one more celebration, gathering my girlfriends for dinner that have supported me throughout my journey.

As much as I was honored that she wanted to do this, and wanted to be with the amazing women, I felt like I wasn't worthy of all the on-going attention and celebrating. It didn't seem "fair" to stay focused on me for so long. My jeans were calling for a time out with the extra indulgences; but my guilt went beyond my pinching waistband.

Then I read something in my morning devotion. From Jesus Calling, Nov 12 reads,

"This is a time of abundance in your life. Your cup runneth over with blessings. After plodding uphill for many weeks, you are now traipsing through lush meadows drenched in warm sunshine. I want you to enjoy to the full this time of ease and refreshment. I delight in providing it for you.

Sometimes My children hesitate to receive My good gifts with open hands. Feelings of false guilt creep in, telling them they don't deserve to be so richly blessed. This is nonsense-thinking, because no one deserves anything from Me. My kingdom is not about earning and deserving; it's about believing and receiving.

When a child of Mine balks at accepting My gifts, I am deeply grieved. When you receive My abundant blessings with a grateful heart, I rejoice. My pleasure in  giving and your pleasure in receiving flow together in joyous harmony."

Wow. Powerful, huh? There was my answer.

So my sister beautifully organized an evening with my superstar girlie-ques. Many of these women were directly responsible for the success of Team Kim, raising over $16,000 for Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure.

Maghan & Mary Field

Courtney & Aimee

My amazing sister and I


with Hyung Mi, Alice and Jamie
 

Honored and blessed to have these amazing women as friends!

I know there will be uncertainties ahead. While my treatments are done and my latest MRI is clear (Thank the Lord!), there's a good reason the docs will have me do quarterly MRIs for the rest of my life. But I don't worry about all of that. I just thank God for today and rejoice in His healing.

I better get back to my Thanksgiving preparations. I'm very excited that Tad's parents, his aunt Kaki, Becky, Thinh and Joel are coming to spend Thanksgiving with us.

God bless you all and Happy Thanksgiving!

Much love,
Kim




Monday, June 10, 2013

Surgery Anniversary Eve


It was this day a year ago that my family gathered in a Baltimore pub for dinner.  We were happy to be in each other’s company but anxious about the next day. I had these crazy white circular stickers all over my face to help guide the surgeons the next morning. It made it very real that this wasn’t a family vacation despite the fun of a new city and being with my favorite people on earth. I wanted to linger longer after dinner, but we had an early "go" time at Johns Hopkins the following day.
Me + crazy white markers
 
I remember going to bed that night and thanking God for all that He had blessed me with. I wasn’t scared about the surgery, but I didn’t see my life past that trip to Baltimore. I didn’t want to know what was waiting for me on the other side of surgery, but I trusted that whatever it was, God would be there. He was. And continues to be.


Tad, Mom, Dad, Richard and Becky, please know that your being there meant everything (with cherries on top) to me. I have such fond memories of Baltimore, Johns Hopkins, and the whole deal. That’s because of you and the special ways you made it such a treat to be the patient. 


Morning of surgery at Hopkins, waiting to be called back.



Just out of surgery. I made it!

Day 2 after surgery. Nothing but love and medical equipment in this room
 
To my extended family and friends who sent flowers, wine and cheese trays, PJs and gift cards – wow – thank you so much!  

 

And to those who prayed for me, God bless you! I will spend the anniversary of my surgery in prayer and thanksgiving to you who sent warm thoughts, prayers and well wishes to help in my healing.
Today, I’m doing very well. Just finished my ninth round of chemo and have three more to go.  Little side effects, thankfully.

Life is good. Hallelujah! 


37/38 Birthdays in Napa, CA


Birthday trip with Ksenia, Richard, Mom and Becky


 


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Greene and Gold

We celebrated my Grandpa Greene's 95th birthday in Austin this month. I wish I'd taken more pictures, but sometimes you can't help but to live in the moment and trust that your memory will "take" the pictures.

Grandpa "Smoke" Greene, 95



My grandfather "Smoke" is a retired colonel in the USAF, WWII POW, father of five, grandfather, and great grandfather. His bride, my grandmother Martha, was informed that he was missing in action while he was fighting in the war. She was a young mother when she got the telegram from the President's office saying her husband was presumed dead. She prayed and prayed and miraculously, my grandfather came home.

My grandmother's strong faith and my grandfather's strong will to survive are such powerful examples for me.

Not only that, but my grandmother (who passed several years ago) had such great style. I really wish I had pictures of her to show you. She was a knock-out. She collected and commissioned jewelry when she would travel overseas for Grandpa's military assignments.

My grandmother Martha Greene is the inspiration behind this line of modern-vintage jewelry that Kiley Durham designed for Team Kim. I'm so grateful to Kiley for this incredible showing of support, using her talents to raise money for Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure. 100% of the proceeds go to ABC2 in the name of Team Kim.




Martha earrings
by Kiley Durham for team kim


May bracelet
by Kiley Durham for team kim



 
Peregrine necklace
by Kiley Durham for team kim



For more information about the collection and to order, go to Kiley's website: http://kileydurham.bigcartel.com/

Quick update on me:
  • 7 of 12 chemo treatments done. Eighth round begins in early May and if scans continue to be clear, will do last round in September.
  • My next MRI is Apr 29. We do them quarterly and so far, so good, Praise the Lord!
  • Changing my anti-seizure meds recently has been an answer to prayers. I'm less anxious, irritable and emotional -- which is super-nice (for Tad too!).
  • I did leave my job at EMA, however, because it requires more focus, concentration, memory, and critical thinking than I can offer right now. I definitely plan to work again, but taking things one day at a time, focusing on my family and wellness. 
  • Hair lost to radiation is growing back curly! Some may wonder why I wear hats or headbands when I have hair. It's covering up the crazy poodle patch of post-radiation growth. My kind of chemo, thankfully, doesn't cause hair loss.

Here's a picture of our little bunny from Easter this year. Be well and God bless!

Sydney, 12 months
 










Saturday, March 23, 2013

A "Keeping Weekend"

Last weekend was one of the best of my life. I can't do justice in describing the levels of warmth, love and joy I experienced. It was a tiny taste of heaven.

Team Kim supporters came from all over to run or rally others in the Publix Georgia Half Marathon. Over $16,000 has been raised for Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure. Sixteen THOUSAND dollars, folks. That's crazy money. And I have all of you to thank.

Jamie and Casey, thank you for coming up with the idea of Team Kim, researching and selecting ABC2, organizing the fundraiser, managing the Team Kim Facebook page, getting t-shirts printed and distributed, answering countless questions, training and injuring yourselves for the half marathon, and just being there/here for me. You are walking, talking saints. I'm exhausted just thinking of words for how incredible you are. 


Jamie and Casey: Always standing beside me


My sweet extended family, thank you for championing Team Kim before it ever formally existed. For getting the word out and bringing in the majority of the donations. For always showing up and for constantly reminding me that I'm absolutely, positively, without a doubt, going to be perfectly fine. An extra-special thanks to Tad for the super-cool Team Kim logo design.

 
 
 





All the marathon team leaders and runners, thank you for stopping what you were doing to pick up the torch for Team Kim. For tin-cupping donations. For traveling to Atlanta and paying for hotels. And the months of training, injuries, blisters, and early mornings you endured to get to race day. Congratulations for what you've accomplished!






For those who showed your support by making a donation, cheering on runners, making signs, buying t-shirts (Dr. Bennett & staff!), taking pictures, or liking the Team Kim Facebook page, thank you!

To my fashion designer friend Kiley Durham-Castricone who has custom designed a line of jewelry for Team Kim, what can I say? Your offer to collaborate on this collection was a dream come true. Please check out her blog and the masterful jewelry. All proceeds go to ABC2 in the name of Team Kim. I have so much to say about the obsession-worthy Kiley and collection, that I will create another post. Soon, I promise! But for those of you who have asked how to view and order, just click on the links above. 

Screen capture of the kiley b for team kim order site


And if all that wasn't enough for one weekend, we celebrated Sydney's first birthday with a family party on Saturday. Nothing fancy, but it was perfect. It was what I call a "keeping day". One that only comes around every so often that you want forever etched into your memory.

My favorite people in the world.
(Yes, I'm wearing the peregrine necklace from the kiley b for team kim collection.)
 

Little "Squid" did so well with all the attention.

Smiles for cake! (Her mother's daughter.)

It's been an amazing year, filled with ups and downs, and every emotion imaginable. I don't know who has grown more: Sydney or me. I pray that she is gifted with a strong faith to withstand anything that comes her way. That is my greatest hope.

Thanks again to everyone who came to show your support for Team Kim and Sydney last weekend.  I pray that you are blessed with what you most hope for.

So much joy!


Thursday, February 21, 2013

"Look alive, sunshine!"


I’m addressing Sydney’s first birthday party invitations tonight. Where does the time go? They say time flies when you’re having fun, but I think it flies regardless so you might as well have fun.

And tomorrow is our 10th wedding anniversary. Again, with the time…? I’m happy to say that we’ve really made the most of our lives together. We waited until 8.5 years of marriage to decide the time was right to shop for baby stuff. Before I was pregnant with Sydney, friends would (boldly) tell us that we’ll wish we had children sooner. That it’s so much fun and the best thing ever.

Sydney IS the best and we are so blessed to be her parents; but you have to be ready for the total life transformation that being a (good) parent involves. And before Sydney, I wasn’t. God knew it would be enough of a growth opportunity for us “later in life” that He granted us those years to just focus on each other.

But wow, is she a joy. Oh my gosh. We had some super-tough times with her colic at first, but once that was gone, she was really born. Now, she lives out loud.  If she had a motto, it would be “Look alive, sunshine!” I’m in complete awe of her.

Tad and I had talks about family and kids before we ever started dating. We both highly valued our families and wanted children. One night when we went for margaritas as friends, Tad drew his family’s Thanksgiving table on a cocktail napkin, identifying who each plate represented and what traditions were held. I fell in love with him that day.  

I married him, in part, because I knew I wanted him to father my children. He has exceeded my expectations. He brings such peace, love and easy fun to our little family. He thoroughly enjoys all the little things about Sydney in the same ways I do. He delights in his girls – me, Sydney, and McGehee.

We will celebrate Sydney’s first birthday with a little family get together. I’m excited not for the festivities so much as the richness of family, love, and goodness that will surround her.

And this weekend, Tad and I plan to recreate our wedding photo at St. Peter’s Church where we were married. But in place of my bouquet, I’ll hold Sydney.



"Look alive, Sunshine!", Feb 2013
 
Our little family, June 2012