LIFE LATELY

It has been a whirlwind the last couple weeks around here.

It all started two weeks ago when I decided to go tour a new place in Northeast, Minneapolis. It’s technically more Saint Anthony East but also in the new’ish NE area that people think of when you say NE. It is a new high-rise building which is something I have always wanted to live in for some reason. So I randomly decided to go tour it and of course, I fell in LOVE. I saw lots of floor plans and was hoping one floor plan would speak to me clearly so I wouldn’t have to make a decision, and literally ONLY ONE did! YES! It’s a studio but has a good spacious layout, huge closet, washer/dryer, and the view of a lifetime. I can see a panoramic view of Minneapolis from my window. It’s amazing. The building has ALL the amenities you could ever need too. I opted for the middle of the building. I felt a tad woozy when I went and toured a unit towards the top. They told me you can definitely feel the wind/swaying/movement up there, even on the 5th floor they have felt it! YIKES. I put in an app right then & there and was approved the following week. I had less than a month to get my current place rented out, sell almost all my belongings to fit in a studio, purchase new smaller items and pack everything. I am a major organizer if you don’t know that about me already. So I, of course, made spreadsheets on spreadsheets to keep track of all of this and plan out how I am going to get it all done. If anyone could do this insane plan, it was me. I thrive in stressful, busy situations. I am a multitasker by nature and I get these visions and can just run with them. I planned to start with a massive purge of my current place, then start selling items/purchasing new smaller ones and finally pack the last 1.5 weeks. I love purging so that was not hard for me – I always feel great when I whittle down my “stuff” and my goal is to live a more minimalistic lifestyle anyway. My sister Jessie usually benefits from these purges the most, especially in the clothes department. I have completed the purge, sold a TON of items (like all I have left is my bed, furniture wise), purchased all my new items and just have packing left which I am starting this weekend. I have been really happy in my GEM in Uptown for 5 years but it is time to move on. I feel like I’ve outgrown the people, neighborhood, and vibe there. I am looking forward to a new adventure in a new neighborhood. I am all about embracing change and those who know me, know that I am not afraid to make some drastic changes! The river is 2 blocks away, so many restaurants & stores right below me, the beautiful Stone Arch bridge is right there, and I am still super close to Downtown. The commute is surprisingly the exact amount of miles to my new job in St. Paul as it was from my Uptown place. I will for sure take some pics once I am moved in and do a post about it all.

I also started my new job and have been in the newness phase of that every day. I have caught on quickly and feel caught up & comfortable with all the new systems by now. This has been a breath of fresh air for me. I absolutely love going to work every day and everything I do comes naturally to me so it doesn’t even feel like work to me. I love the silence of working by myself. I am a true introvert and could seriously survive on an island alone. My new role is really unique because I am the only one of my kind. I don’t necessarily have a team or anyone else to compare things to. But I LOVE that and I THRIVE in roles like that. I am self-sufficient and take initiative on my own. My new role is super flexible too which is so nice. I have not once gotten the Sunday scaries @ the new job, which is awesome. The company itself is unlike anywhere I have ever worked. People truly and genuinely LOVE working there. It’s really awesome to be surrounded by positive people who believe in the same things. I am trusted in my position and I have the freedom to do what I think is best. That’s something that was lacking in my teaching position.

On the flip side of starting the new job, I officially separated from my teaching job too! EEEEKKK. I turned in the paperwork and notified my principal and staff. It was bittersweet, to say the least. I teared up a couple of times because it is really an emotional, bittersweet thing for me. I have deep ties to teaching and how it’s affected my life the last decade. I have not once regretted my decision though and know that I can always work with children in the future.

Finally, I had my big “one year mark” doctor appointment to check in on my cervix. I surprisingly only got anxious a few days before the appointment. I have come leaps and bounds since last year on this. I really have the mentality right now “it is what it is and God has a plan for me”. I had a glimmer of hope that things would check out normal and this nightmare would be over. I didn’t even have a bad gut intuition feeling, which I usually do, so I thought that meant it was going to be good news. Long story short, it was NOT good news. But also not completely horrible news either. It’s not over as I had hoped. I have to move forward with another colposcopy and biopsies in September. If those biopsies come back clean then I would be in the clear until next summer. If those biopsies show any kind of CIN, then I get another LEEP surgery, which would SUCK. We are also hoping that if there is anything visible that it has continued to stay OUTSIDE of my cervix and not creep inward as that would not be good and would need a different treatment approach. They have agreed to give me Valium before this next appointment and also lidocaine which worked so well for my LEEP last year. I was sad for sure the day I got the call on this. I felt really defeated. But ultimately I know I will be okay. It sucks, it really does, but it could be worse. I will survive and each time I go through something like this I am one step closer to getting this nasty stuff out of my body. I have hope that when they do the biopsies they come back clean and show that my body is producing good healthy cancer-free cells. As of now, we have the appointment scheduled for mid-September. My doctor is going on vacay and she felt comfortable waiting for that amount of time. I value her opinion and really do trust her judgment with this all so it was important to me to have her perform everything again.

So between all of those things and trying to have any other type of personal life, I have barely had any downtime but it’s okay. I am REALLY excited about my new job & moving. I know when I get settled in there in a couple of weeks it will all be worth it. All of these changes feel so right in my heart & soul and I really do believe the best is yet to come! Thank you all for your continued support of all my life changes.

CERVICAL CANCER

Many of you who follow me on social media or who are friends with me in person know bits & pieces about what’s been going on in my life the last year. A handful of people know all the details. I have not felt comfortable sharing this at all for almost an entire year. It has been extremely difficult for me to wrap my brain around and I have felt all sorts of feelings. From guilt & shame to anger & confusion. I’ve been downright sad too. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to ever talk about this all, much less blog about it but lately, I have felt compelled to spread knowledge about it all. None of this is my fault and it is what it is at this point.

I think it literally has taken me this long to accept what’s going on. I have an appointment in a couple of weeks that has also been heavy on my mind & heart. I tend to process things for a super long time, internalize things and deeply analyze everything. I think with the one year mark looming over me (next week) and this upcoming appointment, my brain has started to focus on this more again and prepare for the different things that might happen at my next appointment in two weeks. I decided to post something on social media about this last week on my birthday. It was surprisingly therapeutic & freeing. I felt like my secret was out for the world to know. I didn’t feel shame but rather a huge weight lifted off me. Cancer is nothing new to me. Those of you who follow my blog and went to high school with me know what I’m talking about. There have been more kids from Tartan and Oakdale sick with cancer than I’d care to count. It’s sickening.

So here is my story to date:

July 11, 2018 … I went to my regular every three year Pap smear appointment … never have missed a gyno appointment. My last one checked out perfect when I was 27 so not a single thought in my mind was expecting something to be off. The physical exam went well and visually she said everything looked great and I was on my way. Pap results take about a week to get. Usually, they mail the results if they are normal so I knew something was up when I got a call from a nurse a week later. She told me over the phone that my pap was abnormal (which she said happens all the time) and another shocker, I tested positive for HPV. I think my jaw hit the floor. I knew very little about HPV besides that I received the vaccine when I was much younger. To me, it sounded like a super scary std. I was more concerned about this news than the abnormal pap at this point. After doing some heavy reading and research, I realized HPV is extremely popular. The CDC claims that nearly all sexually active men and women get the virus at some point in their lives. Most people won’t ever know they have it because there are not many symptoms, most people clear the infection on their own and it typically never turns into anything more. Even couples in a monogamous relationship can contract this. It doesn’t mean someone cheated either. It can lie dormant in your body for years. There are different strains and this first nurse told me I didn’t have the cancer-causing kind – at least that’s what I remember hearing … I was in a state of shock I think on the phone. So I was trying to tell myself that this would be nothing and my body would clear the infection on its own. I had to schedule a colposcopy for August 14, 2018. I was terrified. Basically, this is an in-depth Pap smear where they use iodine to stain your cervix to see abnormal cells with a colposcope. My plan was to tell them I did NOT want any unnecessary biopsies right now. I read online not everyone needs biopsies at these and I was going to suggest waiting a year and re-Pap smear test to see if I cleared it on my own and healed. I felt confident with this plan as I went into this appointment. I read a lot about doctors over biopsy’ing and I really don’t like a lot of Western medicine practices. I tried explaining this to the nurse when I got there and she told me the doctor I have is pretty aggressive and biopsies 99% of the time. Urgh. I talked to the nurse and doctor and decided I would be “open” to doing a biopsy once she had looked inside and could confirm it was necessary. I thought it can’t be that bad. I can do this.

The speculum is the same and the iodine made me feel a slight burning sensation. I get grossed out of blood and medical stuff really easily. I was trying to remain calm. She was thinking it would be CIN1, which is very low grade and nothing to worry about right now. My Pap results only picked up something slightly abnormal. The doctors started the exam and told me it looks “awful” on the outside of my cervix and she’s certain it’s CIN3 and she’s going to start biopsying … mind you I’m lying in this sterile room with someone examining my most private parts and I’m trying to process what the fuck she just said. I was so caught off guard here. Then she starts taking pieces of my cervix out … 5 biopsies in all and large ones at that. I was so mortified and almost passed out … they went running to get me a cold rag and orange juice which I dropped all over myself because I was shaking so bad. Each time she took a sample I got these absolutely insane waves of cramps that took my breath away. Add on the nauseous feeling and tears and it was a mess. I felt like I couldn’t even hear what she was saying, everything was foggy & muted. She said when we get the results from this we will know what my plan will be. She started talking about how a hysterectomy could be an option … that’s when I just started sobbing … like what in the actual fuck. My mind was not mentally prepared to hear all of this today. I was bleeding from these biopsies and dripping out coffee grind looking things that they used to cauterize it. I went home and could not function. Like for real. I was sobbing non-stop for at least 24 hours. It was BAD. Every type of thought was racing through my mind. I was sore and had cramps too. It was a really rough few days.

Sure enough, she calls me a few days later (longest wait ever) and says it was indeed extreme CIN3 and she wants to take it out immediately because a large portion of my cervix was covered in these cells. CIN3 is also referred to as stage 0 cervical cancer. If left as is and untreated it’s almost guaranteed at this stage the cells WILL invade inside the cervix and spread quickly turning into higher stages of cervical cancer that can kill you. Considering my last pap three years ago showed nothing and visually a month before at my Pap appointment nothing was spotted with the naked eye, she was really concerned that it could be aggressively multiplying.

At first I didn’t like this doctor because she was sort of sarcastic and I just don’t do well with people like that. I need more nurturing and loving people. After the colposcopy where I was sobbing she even told me in a “joking” way that I need to stop crying because I made her late for her next appointment. That rubbed me the wrong way. After having time to think about it though and discuss with my mom and some friends, I realized that I really don’t need to be her best friend or think her humor is funny. I need her to save my life. I need her to make medical decisions that help me get rid of this monster. I also spoke with her in detail on the phone one day and she blew me away with how smart she was. That’s certainly a quality you want your doctor/surgeon to have. She admitted she was aggressive in her approaches but she also boasted that she has the best survival rate out of all the doctors on her team. I trusted her at this point and felt the most comfortable proceeding with her because she knew me and my history by now. I decided to stick with her.

The plan was to have a LEEP procedure on October 3, 2018. LEEP stands for Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure. During a LEEP, a thin wire loop is used to cut out the abnormal tissue. Your cervix is then cauterized to stop any bleeding. It usually heals in 4 to 6 weeks. I had to wait about a month and a half at this point and that was REALLY hard for me. The “what ifs” constantly bombarded my thoughts. I joined some Facebook support groups so I could read about other women’s experiences. This was sometimes helpful and sometimes it made things much worse. There are some really scary things online and you have to take everything with a grain of salt. I ended up having to stop following and getting updates because it was really messing with my mind to read about this constantly. I stayed in the group though to be able to only use the “search” feature to look up certain things. The days passed slowly but surely. It was finally LEEP day.

My doctor prescribed me a Valium to take before this procedure because of how things went last time and how high my anxiety had been about this all. I woke up early and took that and got ready to tackle yet another obstacle. Alex brought me to this appointment and I am really thankful for him. I kept waiting to feel like this over the top calm from the Valium but never did. I will say I think it did work though because overall I felt more at ease. I did not have to be put out for this. They numbed it and honestly that shot hurt quite a bit and then I got that rush feeling. I decided to bring my headphones for this appointment and made a special playlist. I told them I didn’t want to talk or hear about anything until they were done. That would help me not pass out. At the biopsy, appointment she even offered to take my cell phone and take a picture of my bloody cervix for me. UM, NO. JUST NO. There was a machine hooked up with the LEEP wires. When they turned it on it was pretty loud. There happened to be a student nurse there that day. Bless her soul, she ended up holding my hand during the procedure. I turned my music up insanely loud and just sobbed the entire time. It didn’t take that long and the numbing shot really helped the pain. I would say this was MUCH BETTER than the colposcopy & biopsy procedures. She ended up taking 1/4 of my cervix out that day.

The biopsies were larger and thicker than the colposcopy ones. We would be able to see how deep it was and if my margins came back clean. If so, that would mean she got it all out. I had an appointment in another month where I would get these results. So back to the waiting game it was. If you haven’t read my Anxiety post, you should. This is about the point in time where my life went haywire. I really lost my shit and felt so fucked up from this all. I tried anxiety meds and that was horrible. I just didn’t know what to do. What to think. Who I could confide in & talk to. The physical healing was pretty rough too. It took a full 6 weeks before I felt near normal.

Over time I began healing mentally and physically. I was slowly returning to my old self. One day I got to thinking that there really is not a whole lot I can control right now with this, but I can control my diet. So I started researching the Alkaline Diet and reading about how foods can kill cancer. I went kind of balls to the walls with this for a while and then slowly backed off. I would like to go hard on this again actually. I just think we can do a lot with our diet and even our minds to create a stress-free healthy environment in our bodies where cancer can’t survive. I prefer more holistic approaches and this was something I could do on my own.

Anyway, I had my follow up with the doctor and got my results from the LEEP procedure. MY MARGINS WERE CLEAN! She confirmed that she got everything she possibly could, which was a lot. Now it was up to my body to start producing normal healthy cells again. She said this took time. I would need to wait until next July to get checked. This would ensure an accurate reading because of the amount of time. URGH. Just what I love … looming appointments and long periods of time. NOT. She checked how I was healing from the LEEP and she said it was healing the way it was supposed to. Apparently, sometimes it heals towards the outside which creates scars but mine was turning inside which was good. ALSO! It had NOT spread inside of my cervix based on the LEEP results. THANK GOD. This was really good news. I got all GOOD news. I felt REALLY blessed that things were looking up.

I went on living my life this past Spring and really trying not to obsess over this. I feel like I am at a place where I have accepted this all. I am slightly nervous for the appointment on July 23rd but I know it’s out of my hands at this point. I am praying that everything comes back normal. My doctor did tell me though, and I quote, “this is something that will haunt you the rest of your life”. She said that she sees it a lot where at the one year point maybe a woman gets a normal pap but then again in another year it’s abnormal again … it can go back and forth and will most likely be something I am always worried about and watching. Once I know the results then we can make a new game plan. It will probably be like this for a while … watch, wait, test, come up with a new plan, repeat.

Now that this news is out there for the world to see, I will be more public about updating you all on my status. Everyone’s story and journey is different with this disease. This is only my own experience and thoughts. I know there are people struggling far more than what I have dealt with. I also want to add that I’m very thankful for things throughout this journey too. I have a job with excellent health insurance so I never had to worry about that piece. I’m thankful for an amazing doctor and science. I’m also thankful that women’s preventative care is easily accessible. I’m grateful that it was at stage 0 too. Had I skipped that appointment, there’s a very good chance things would not be looking so optimistic for me. It’s good to keep it all in perspective but also cut yourself some slack. There is no right way to deal with this and navigate these waters. I ask that you don’t skip your preventative care appointments … even if you prefer a more holistic approach to things, it’s still important to know what’s going on inside of your body. If you have struggled with anything similar please reach out. I am finding it to be really therapeutic to talk to others who have been in this position. There’s something really taboo about this subject, especially hpv, and there should NOT be. I think it’s really good to start talking about this stuff with one another!

WELCOME!

I am both excited & nervous as I begin this post! This is the beginning of a new journey for me. I’m going to start with a little bit about myself & what the purpose of this blog will be.

So without further ado … I am KAITLYN. I won’t bore you to death with details, I’ll just give you the “need to knows”. I am thirty years young & live in Uptown, Minneapolis. I have lived in this neighborhood for about five years now & absolutely love it. The perfect mix of city life & outdoor space with the lakes right down the block from me. Almost three years ago I rescued my main squeeze MIA. She is a min-pin chihuahua dachshund mix from Kentucky. We have been inseparable since she arrived … two peas in a pod. I am passionate about crunchy living, health & wellness. Taking care of my body has become a huge priority for me over the last few years. I love cooking & trying new recipes with a glass of red on the side. Reading & yoga are also things I try to fit into my life. You’ll notice that I’m an introvert at heart & one hundred percent okay with that.

I am an elementary science specialist in South Minneapolis. I have been in this current role for the last three school years. Prior to that, I taught for seven years in North Minneapolis. I was a classroom teacher in kindergarten, first grade & third grade over those seven years. My time in North Minneapolis has truly shaped who I am as a person & teacher.

As much as I love teaching & my current role, my heart & soul have been longing for more. That’s where this blog & writing comes into play! I have always enjoyed writing as an outlet … my teachers & mom used to tell me I was “such a great writer” (HA). I have blogged before but lost touch with that over the last few years. I journal a lot and find that to be the best way for me to spill out all the thoughts in my brain. I plan to use this blog to not only chronicle my life & adventures but also to showcase some other pieces of writing I will be working on.

Topics of interest to me include: health, wellness, food/recipes, workouts, teaching, product & restaurant reviews, fashion, fur parenting and life in the city as a 30 year old female.

Thank you for coming on this journey with me. Cheers to the future!

Stone Arch Bridge in Mpls