An incredible, magical, love-fueled thing happened this week. It started out as me telling a story about my expensive out-of-network surgery I had coming up and my best friend, Meredith, exclaiming that she was going to start a fundraiser for us. She set up an online fundraising page complete with my photo and our story and put it out into the world. Within an hour we reached our original goal of $1,200. Within 48 hours we met our new goal of $5,000 and at 72 hours we reached our final goal of $10,000. I have never seen something with such beautiful intentions spread so quickly. Instead of just paying for surgery we can now pay for all of our upcoming and past medical expenses and then some. It was entirely overwhelming to watch everyone who contributed and shared and told their friends. To be honest, it’s left me somewhat speechless. So when my husband, Andrew, told me that he had put some words down on paper about the experience I was thrilled to give him the space on this blog to let him share his perspective. After all Andrew is the one person who has been with me every step of the way. We are truly a team in all of this. My journey has been his journey so this space is his as well.
Without further ado, here’s Andrew:
“I’ve been thinking a lot about writing a blog. I haven’t really figured out exactly what I wanted to write, but I guess I’ve been motivated by Katie’s writing. She’s an amazing writer, and is incredibly honest, and I guess I’ve recognized that her writing is an outlet through which she can channel some of her difficult and dark emotions in a way that’s helped her work with them and through them. Though I’ve somehow been in school for five years to call myself a “counselor,” it’s still surprisingly difficult for me to really put my feelings out there. It still feels to me like being “strong” and “manly” is being quiet, to myself, and dealing with the hardness and sadness of this whole experience on my own. The part of me that listened during all of those counselor-ing classes knows that experiencing your negative feelings, acknowledging your fear, and sharing your anger with the people who love you is a healthy and adaptive way of functioning. That’s a tough part for me to tap in to, though, especially during a time when so many of those feelings are coming up, so frequently.
So I’ve been doing my best. I’ve been battling that mean, tough, manly part, that just wants me to watch movies and TV and work too much and drink and do all the things that I know will distract me from how shitty this is. And I’ve been trying to cultivate the part of me that wants to do yoga, spend time with friends, meditate, talk to my family, cry when I’m sad and feel overwhelmed, even though I really don’t want to, most of the time. And then I’ve also been throwing in a third perspective, which I’ve really tried to remember each and every time my therapist has reminded me, that says that I’m doing my best, and I’m taking care of myself in the ways that I’m needing to, and that as long as I don’t run away or stop getting out of bed, whatever I need to do for myself right now is probably okay.
I’ve also been trying to make meaning like it’s my job. Perhaps that actually is the counselor in me, which knows that it’s often through making meaning that we can successfully work our way through difficult times. I’ve been trying to say “here, I learned this,” so that no matter what happens, and no matter the pain that we’ve been working through, that I can at least take that with me. I’ve tried to convince myself that I’ve learned patience, or how to just focus on what’s happening right now, or not to sweat the small stuff, or how to be a good caregiver and be less selfish. Some of it’s probably true, to some degree, and I probably have changed in some way to someone who’s more caring and softer. Seems like you have to or else you don’t survive things like this.
And then I get all nihilistic and say “THERE IS NO MEANING,” and need someone to scoop me out of that. At one point, in a mini session of group therapy, I was feeling pretty out there, and compared our attempts to fix things and make meaning and control our world to building castles out of sand (not nearly that eloquently, I’ll acknowledge). The group kind of pointed out that humans make meaning because it makes them feel better, and it’s something to do – and that’s okay. One dear friend told me that what means something, what matters, is love.
It seemed like a sweet sentiment, and it actually made me teary at the time, but I’ve been at a near-teary place for much of this experience and I still had a hard time fully connecting with what she said. I don’t, anymore. Over the three days this week our friends and family have donated over $10,000 to us, to help cover the cost of Katie’s upcoming double mastectomy, which is only partially covered by our insurance. The portion we do owe is not nearly $10,000, but likely closer to our original goal of $1,200. The money that we have raised will cover the surgery, and the various costs of the radiation, and all of our costs from all of chemo, and then some. I originally felt uncomfortable receiving money from all of these people who I cared about, and even some folks I didn’t personally know, but I spoke with Katie and with my dad and they pointed out what was clear. This was a tangible way for people to connect with us, to do something for us, and to show their love for us.
Still, I don’t quite understand what to do, or feel, or say when I think about it, about what people have done for us. I can see that there’s some massive feeling there, some massive thing, but I can’t quite grasp it, my brain wants to write it off, to avoid it with TV or distraction, just like the hard feelings that have been the hallmark of our “journey.” When I can pin it down, though, I think this is what my friend was meaning. That what really matters and means anything is the way that people can connect with each other. This is the most intense example of love that I can imagine. And I’m not pretending that money is everything, because of course it’s not. But the money in this matter just shows the level of kindness and generosity that you’ve all shown to us, and brings about such a sense of absurd connection, empathy, joy and love. This really is what the point is, it really is about connection, and kindness, and love between people. You’ve all taught me about generosity in a way I couldn’t ever understand without seeing it so directly, and it will change me. So I say to everyone, as deeply as I can possibly say it, thank you. “
I also want to say, from the depths of my heart and soul, thank you, to each and every one of you who shared or donated. If you want to check out where all the magic happened and soak in some of the love and excitement for yourself you can see our fundraiser here. Tomorrow is my last chemo and while I am not looking forward to the week or more of illness ahead of me I am looking forward to coming out the other side, to getting through the rest of this journey ahead of me and to finding ways to spread the love and gratitude that has filled me up to the brim with all of you and with the wide world out there.
All our love,
Katie and Andrew
P.S. I must confess I chose that photo at the top because my hair looks really amazing in it and I CANNOT WAIT for my hair to grow back! Go hair, go!