Warrior of the Week: Kristin Williamson

Over the past few years, I have met some extraordinary women. Some by chance and some I have reached out to because their story touched me. Kristin is one of these women.

I met Kristin about 8 years ago - before the Brobe, before cancer.

We met through her husband, Wes, who was helping me with tech issues, which, if you know me, is no easy feat. Immediately, I thought Kristin was super smart, had great sense of humor Breast cancer survivor, adored her husband and kids, and was an all-around fierce woman.

Fast forward a few years later, as her family moved to Oregon for Wes's job, and BAM!, a cancer diagnosis for Kristin.

For me, knowing Kristin and Wes, I was absolutely heartbroken for her and their family. However, I knew if anyone could fight it like a champ - like a warrior - it would be Kristin.

"In August 2013, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (HER2+) after finding a lump on a self exam on my 46th birthday. I was actually visiting Texas at the time. I went through 16 rounds of chemo with Herceptin infusion every 3 weeks for a year. After the 16 rounds, I had my double mastectomy, then 29 rounds of radiation and then the series of reconstructive surgeries."

Kristin is currently recovering from her sixth surgery to address complications likely caused by chemotherapy.

Even when she could (and had every right to!) focus on the negative or ugly things cancer was doing to her and her life, Kristin always focused and shared the beautiful things instead: her sweet husband, her gorgeous children whom she loves so much, her insanely gorgeous hikes with special friends. Even when she didn't feel like such a warrior, she always had a warrior's attitude.

But even the mightiest warrior is scared from time-to-time. Recently, Kristin shared with me some thought about her journey:

"A cancer diagnosis is such a shock to the system that you spend so much time in a vacuum trying to sort it all out in the why and how this could happen... while balancing what is required next. Every step for me was spoon fed and sometimes your brain will only allow that one step at a time, because it is just too much to process.

I was ready when the surgery to remove both breasts happened, but you still have no idea what those steps for reconstruction involve. I talked to women who had gone before me and they shared their stories and bared their chests. It helped to do that, but you still just don't know. As with everything else in this process, you just kinda have to walk through it yourself [and] after lots of questions (and tears) and research and more questions (more tears) develop a trust with your doctor. It is all scary when you have not been through it or even been around someone who has... It is just scary.
But with each trusting step, you gain more knowledge and strength to help make the next decision.

I have had great surgeons. My reconstruction is nearly complete (I have one more little procedure left) and I am so happy to be on this side of the battle. I feel stronger in more ways than I could have ever imagined and looking at life's journey with a different set of eyes now. In many ways I have a calmer peace about life and living even though I have to still quiet that ugly little voice that says, 'When will it return?'"

And, in true warrior form, she did so in the hopes that her experience might help someone else going through something similar:

"Through all of this I wanted to find a way to help... Mostly, when I was going through the treatments, I would be humbled over and over again by the other patients I met who had situations that were so much worse. I would talk and laugh and make jokes for those patients, because I could see they were weary... [Many of these women] initially had breast cancer, but were now fighting leukemia. Some of those ladies are gone now. It made me fight harder.

I joined a blog group that was so helpful. There were ladies from all over the country and Canada who all started their chemo in September 2013. We named ourselves KCA (Kickin Cancer's Ass). It was a great place to share and ask questions, bitch, complain or cry with patients who were going through Chemo at the same time. The group eventually moved over to Facebook in a private setting (because the interface was MUCH easier) and we continue to share our highs and lows. Those women taught me so much and it has been a wonderful place. I highly recommend joining a support group for anyone going through this battle."

Thank you, Kristin, for your openness in sharing your journey, struggles and fears. Thank you for reminding us all to focus on the joy in our lives, even when it's hard to do so. Your an inspiration not only as a cancer fighter, but more importantly, as a mother, wife and person.

As I said before, you are fierce, you are strong, and you ARE a warrior!

xoxoxo - Allison

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