Thursday, July 31, 2014

Two years ago, August 2012, I was finally given the status of “Cancer Free”. Two years ago, I was set free from the battle of a lifetime. Two years ago, I could press 'play' on a life that had been on pause for 6 months. No more days in the hospital, no more chemo infusions, no more days upon days of not being able to touch my own children. I could start taking steps toward healing...and boy it was and is a long road to walk down. But I am so glad that I get to walk down it and work on life after cancer.

That is so hard for me to wrap my head around. It has only been two years since I walked off of that battlefield. I still can't believe it all actually happened. Choriocarcinoma is a rarity, and trust me, you never want to have a rarity when it comes to your own health.
It was a very difficult and scary time for my family. During my entire battle, the outcome was uncertain. I knew that either way I would win.... if I lived I would get to be here for my husband and children which was my deepest desire. If I did not live, I would be in the arms of Jesus. Either way I felt a sense of victory. Still, I wanted more than anything to raise my babies and soak up this life. I am thankful in ways that I cannot even describe that I was healed.
That being said, I wanted to mention something.


There is no guidebook on how to be a survivor. There is no step by step process on how to live your life after cancer and swallow your daily fear of it returning, and keep your chin up as you deal with the daily side effects of chemo. Harder still, there is no easy way to talk about cancer... many survive but far too many do not survive their struggle. This illness touches the vast majority of people and as I sit here as a survivor, I feel a deep sense of respect, empathy, love, and sympathy for those whose loved ones died from cancer. As a survivor, it is often hard to know what to say and there definitely is such thing as survivor guilt. I do not attempt to understand why I lived while others die. I appreciate that my human mind cannot possibly understand the depth of that. I know God is present in everyone's circumstance, and I trust Him and pray for peace and comfort for myself and all other touched by this worldly illness.

Praise be to God that I sit in front of this computer screen tearfully reflecting on my battle, and joyfully and humbly thinking of all of the things I have experienced since then. Two years is something to celebrate. I am so thankful for each person who touched my life and the lives of my family members during the past 2+ years. God is so good and trust-worthy. Thanks for reading! Below is a few photos of when I had cancer, when I was finally free, one year later, and now. Sometimes I look back a pictures in awe of it all. Thank you Jesus!

The beginning

 Right after diagnosis. They had to go ahead and but off my hair in the hospital.

One Year Later

 Two Years Later

Friday, May 31, 2013

It has been awhile since I have written...which I would like to say could be considered a good thing. I have been busy living life! Praise the Lord for that. There are times when I am not sure what to write about on here now that I have shared my story, written many many posts of thankfulness, and wrote about my journey of healing. So I am thinking, just write about what I am doing now, which is living!

Still, I will write about my cancer story at times, because I am still walking through the healing that comes in the aftermath of any major trial.  Life is different once you have survived something like that.  Everything looks different, feels different, and you are changed somehow.  When I was sick, people would tell me that one day the whole thing would just be a 'blip' on the map.  I am here to tell you, it will never be simply a 'blip' on the map for me.  Should I be crying everyday about what I missed with my kids and how I suffered? No.  Should I spend every day running through a field of wild flowers with my hands waving in the air?  Um, no.  Maybe a little of both for me... a little grieving mixed in with a lot of joy and praise.  Surviving cancer is a funny that way.  Nothing is cut and dry, and that is okay.  So the healing continues and thank goodness that God is patient with me as I walk through it!

So, I must share that Jennifer Crook is amazing.  She is a photographer and awesome woman!  She took my sister's wedding pictures and did an amazing job.  Then, she felt led to give me an amazing gift.  She graciously offered her time and talent by doing a 'Victory Shoot' for me and my family.  It is a celebration of survival, and I am so touched that she would do it for me.  And  as you see, the pictures are absolutely amazing.  I recommend Jennifer Crook Photography to anyone who needs wedding, family, baby, kids pictures etc. ( She is truly good at what she does.  Below is really only a very few of the pictures she took for my family.  What an amazing gift!  Thank you Jennifer!

I hope ya'll are having a blessed day.  I am off to pack for the beach, why not? We just moved last week.  Seems like a good time.  Like I said, I am living life! Be thankful!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

my story

As we near the one year anniversary of when my battle started, many people are asking me to tell the story again..what really happened? Many people know bits and pieces, but have asked to know more. 

Better still, some have asked to share my story as a testimony to share how God helped me and my family through the hardships we faced in 2012.  I am happy to say that I feel ready to tell my story as a testimony of the amazing love, power, and grace of our Lord.  I consider it an honor to be asked to share my story. Lena Warnock, co-owner of Mattie Mae Designs, awesome mom and friend, and inspiring blogger has asked me to share my story of faith on her blog.  It has posted today, and I also wanted to share my story here.  Below is what I wrote for Lena, courtesy of ..

Love to all!

A story of faith.
I am a 28 year old, married, mother of two beautiful children. My Avery is 3 and little Owen is 1 year old. My husband is an amazing Godly man. I am also a Family Nurse Practitioner. Life is good..let me share my recent story with you.
 February 1, 2012 was an amazing day for me. For starters, I was 36 weeks pregnant. So imagine my surprise when a reassuring whisper in my ear woke me in the wee hours that morning telling me “he is coming today.” A voice I attribute to an angel or the Lord preparing me for what was to come. “He” or Owen William Liles was born later that day. He was a healthy, amazing little boy, and showed no complications from his prematurity. I went home and although sleep deprived, I began recovering normally from delivery.
Katelyn and newborn Owen
 February 29th is my birthday, yes my real birthday. Leap year actually came this year. My family was over at my house loving on Owen and celebrating my birthday. After nursing my son, I doubled over in horrible abdominal pain out of nowhere. Suddenly I hemmorhaged horribly. I called my doctor and she called in some emergency medicine to make the bleeding stop. She instructed me to call her back immediately and come to the hospital if it happened again.
The bleeding stopped immediately. My husband, Robbie, took the night shift with Owen so I could rest. At 5 am that morning, I nursed again and felt intense pain once again. I rushed to the bathroom and experienced a massive hemorrhage. This time was even worse. I lost so much blood that I found myself in and out or responsiveness.
My doctor said to rush to the hospital. I think I was afraid and in denial, because at one point I attempted to walk down the stairs with assistance but became unresponsive, so my husband called 911. Friends, in that moment I experienced an out of body sensation. In the stairwell I was able to look down at myself unresponsive and see my husband and mother panicking over me. It was a matter of seconds, and no, I did not see a light, Jesus, or any loved ones. As a believer, even in that moment I knew that I was not going to die, because my Lord and Saviour would have been waiting for me. He wasn’t calling me, so I kept fighting. I could hear everyone and would sing in my head to try to stay with it, even when I was not able to respond. At the hospital, it was determined that I lost 45 % of my total blood volume, almost died, had emergency surgery to make the bleeding stop, and was given 3 blood transfusions.
Let’s fast-forward a little. About 1 week later I was asked to come to the doctor’s office. My husband came with me. I noticed the nurse was skiddish talking to me. Then, walked in not one, but two teary eyed physicians, both of which are friends who I have seen patient with as a nurse practitioner. They proceeded to tell me that my cells from surgery looked abnormal and were sent to Harvard for further evaluation. There, they diagnosed me with Choriocarcnoma- a cancer that grows in the uterus after giving birth in about 0.02% of pregnancies.
I immediately met my oncologist who told me about the intense chemo that I would face for an extremely rapid and aggressive cancer. From there I was immediately take for CT scans which found multiple tumors in my lungs.
Here’s a timeline of events: I was diagnosed on Thursday, immediately forced to stop breastfeeding, met with the surgeon who would give me a port in my chest on Friday, was hospitalized Saturday for another hemorrhage, had surgery for my port Monday, and when I woke up, I received 3 more blood transfusions, and started my first round of chemo immediately.
Lena & Katelyn (with Owen) in July 2012.
 I faced 18 weeks, or nine rounds of chemo. I experienced chemo every single week, both inpatient for 2 days straight and then outpatient. I also underwent a total hysterectomy, which was extremely heartbreaking for me and my husband. I did not get a break from chemo to have surgery, I received chemo 3 days after surgery. I have been told that my chemo regimen is one of the top 10 strongest that there is. Due to the extreme poisonous nature of my chemo, I was not allowed to touch my children for 48 hours after each infusion. That was by far the most difficult and torturous part. We called the days that we could touch ‘snuggle days’.
Katelyn with Avery & Owen on rare “snuggle” days.
These were days that I could feel my soul healing. In the mean time, my daughter wore hearts that I had kissed with bright red lipstick, and I would be propped up in bed or in a chair to be near my babies. Many of you can understand the breaking of a mother’s heart to not be able to touch your own children.
 I won’t weigh you down with every chemo side effect because as you can imagine, it was horrible. Two of the most frustrating side effects were complete numbness for 6 months in my hands and of course, the unspeakable experience of my hair falling out and having to let my mother and husband buzz my head. Try explaining this to a then 2 year old. We made the best of the circumstances by wearing matching chemo scarves, and even princess wigs to match…mine a real wig and hers..Snow White.
There were so many uncertainties and changes in this experience, but the only constant was my ever-strong, ever-sovereign Lord and Savior.
I am thankful that in the dark nights spent in the hospital when I could barely walk or open my eyes, I could still feel God all around me and I could feel prayers whispered by so many on my behalf. I am thankful that He carried my family through these dark times, and protected my children and husband. When I would get home and lay on the floor so I could talk to Avery, she would tell me how beautiful angels are with their great big wings and pretty hair. She told me her uncle lived in heaven-an uncle whom even I have ever met. Faith like a child. God comforted my two-year-old even in my absence.
 Now I am completely healed, with a less than 1% risk of it ever returning. It is nothing short of a miracle.
Speaking of miracles, let me list a few for you:
 - if I had not gone into spontaneous preterm labor, the cancer could have progressed into my brain and liver before being discovered. Miracle.
- if I had not delivered Owen early, there was a huge chance that he would not have survived due to the cancer…only 20% live. Miracle.
- if I had not hemorrhaged, the cancer would not have been discovered until it was too late. You have to thank God when He reveals Himself ALWAYS, not just when He reveals himself in easy ways. Miracle.
- I could feel angels at my bed during treatment. Miracle.
- there is no evidence whatsoever of cancer scarring in my lungs. Miracle.
The Warnock family wearing their “Kick Cancer Kate” shirts – everyone wore them on the same day and took photos to post online as a sign of support and encouragement for Katelyn.
- Family, friends, and even strangers carried my cross with me through prayers, cards, gifts, and starting the “kick cancer Kate” movement!!! And it helped me “kick it” for good. Miracle.
- I am able to share this with you today. Miracle.
- I am healed. Miracle.
My last round of chemo was a mere 5 months ago. I am currently working through post traumatic stress for obvious reasons. God has given me wonderful family, friends, and counselors to help me with this. And I still fight physical side effects to chemo, but those little smiling faces keep me motivated to not give up.
And my hair? I’m like a chia pet! Grow baby grow!
Lena & Katelyn at a shower in January 2013.
Throughout this experience, I had and continue to have an overwhelming feeling of gratitude to everyone who has touched me and my family during this time. I also have a sense that no words could fully express my thankfulness. I am thankful for my faith, and for my heavenly Father’s presence in every happiness and in every struggle.
There are two ways people usually handle cancer. One is to become very angry and resentful, and the other is to be thankful to the One who carries us through our struggles. I choose to be thankful. God did not give me cancer and it probably broke His heart to see me go through this. Cancer is an evil of this world. God does not promise that this life will be easy but He does promise to be with us every single step of the way and that is certainly true for me. Cancer has afforded me the opportunity to reach out to others struggling with illness, battling alongside a loved one struggling, or challenged by their faith life. I have reached many people that I have never even met. I am thankful that God allowed me to bring comfort and peace to people in so many ways.
 I hope my story helps remind you to seek God at all times, in all circumstances without fear or hesitation. I am honored to share this with you. Be thankful!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Kick Cancer Kate

Oh I did. I kicked it. Picture this, I am in inpatient treatment and am feeling particularly weak.  This particular day I am facing serious doubt as to whether or not I am strong enough to keep fighting. I am laying in my hospital bed feeling so sick, and I decide to try to distract myself from my negative thoughts and doubts.  So I grab my Ipad and get on facebook.  (of course.. seriously it helped pass time!)

Friends, this particular day was the day that all of you decided to change your pictures to the Kick Cancer Kate sign...which I had never seen.  This is the day that you started posting pictures of yourselves wearing the shirts...which I wasn't aware even existed. This was a 'turning point' day for me.  My doubts were smashed, my spirits were lifted, and my heart was encouraged.

This was the day that I saw the army of people standing behind me and once again pulled myself up by bootstraps.  This was the day that people picked up my cross and carried it with me all over the country...and all over the world.  It was beautiful. 

I can't this of a single thing I could say or do to show my thankfulness and love for you all.  I did hear a song lyrics that I would love to share that pretty much sums it up.

"raise a glass to friendship and to knowing
you don't have to go alone
we'll raise our hearts to share each others burdens
on this road
with every burden I have carried
with every joy it's understood
life with you is half as hard
and twice as good"

-Sara Groves

Please forgive me if you posted a photo and it was not included below.  I tried to find all of them, but if one was missed, it is certainly just has special and just as cherished.