Finding the silver lining.

Imagine getting the news that you have cancer.  Now imagine that this is the second time in your life that you have heard this news.  Is it easier to process the second time?  On the one hand, you have experience and you know what to expect.  On the other hand, your past experience may lead you to fear what is to come.

One of my childhood friends (pictured with me on the left), Bryn Colvin, is fighting cancer for the second time in 20 years.  In 1987, at the age of 17,  she was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease: cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system.  When we were in high school together she bravely battled her cancer while the rest of worried about football games and prom dates.   About 6 months ago, I finally apoligized to Bryn for my lack of the support at the time.  I make no excuses- I just should have been a better supporter.  I don’t even remember asking her how she was feeling or if she was scared.

At the time, the treatment protocol for Hodgkins disease was chemotherapy and radiation.  It is the radiation portion of the treatment that has most likely caused cancer to resurface 20 years later in the form of breast cancer.  Bryn caught the breast cancer early.  She is a great advocate of self exams and has gone in for a mammogram every other year since she was told she was a greater risk for breast cancer than most- given her past exposure to radiation.  In July, Bryn felt a lump in her breast and went immediately for a mammogram.  She was lucky to catch her cancer early and doctors have no doubt that she will beat this cancer too; but, that doesn’t lessen the battle she is waging now.

If I were fighting cancer for the first time, I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to keep a positive attitude.  On the second go-round, I might get sucked into some self pity routine.  Bryn is having none of that.  She looks at this diagnosis as a reason to be thankful for all she has been blessed with: two gorgeous children and a husband who is both selfless and supportive.

In August Bryn opted for a double mastectomy.  Her recovery felt long because she was anxious to get back to her busy life with two kids.  However, she amazed many of her friends by taking a new teaching job and was back at school getting her classroom ready three weeks post op.  Now, even while she is receiving chemotherpy every other week for 16 weeks, she is still finding the energy to get to work and teach her class of 5th graders- thank goodness she doesn’t teach preschool!   Surprisingly, Bryn derives some of her positive attitude from having to go to work each day.  Once she is up and getting ready, she puts aside her worries and focuses on enriching her students.

Being a mom has made this round of cancer more difficult for Bryn.  Even with a network of friends to help and a husband who carries the world on his shoulders, kids still need their mom.  Nobody else can substitute for the real thing.  Bryn is the kind of mom who doesn’t want to miss a soccer or football game and enjoys being involved in her kids everyday life.  It is a hard balancing act when you are tired and nauseated from chemotherapy.

The last thing that Bryn and I talked about the other day is how she feels cancer has stripped of all her external beauty.  Her hair has fallen out and her body is scarred from surgery.  What she sees in the mirror is one of the hardest hurdles to overcome in the short run.  She knows that she will regain her outer beauty, but in the meantime, she has to rely on the inner beauty; which, takes a great deal of courage.

Ever since I have known Bryn, she has possessed more kindness, caring and compassion than many people I know: this is the beauty that shines through her soul.  I know that Bryn will beat breast cancer.  And she re-emerge stronger and more beautiful (both inside and out) than ever before.

13 thoughts on “Finding the silver lining.

  1. Thank you for sharing Bryn’s courageous story. For those of us who take our health for granted every day, it is so important to remember how that could change at any moment. May God watch over her and her family and strengthen their bond during these trying times. LV

  2. My thoughts and prayers are with Bryn — who I am certain is one of the most beautiful women around. Yesterday, I receive d “the” phone call from my cousin who is celebrating her 50th birthday next week. She went to the doctor for a chronic stomach ache that she ignored for many months — she has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that has spread to her liver. Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer is one of those cancers that is typically not diagnosed until it is in advance stages. Obviously, my cousin Linda is in for the long haul with this diagnosis and a tough fight, but I know she has the will and fight within her. I haven’t told anyone except my husband about this — and yet I am writing it on a website for anyone to read. How do you bring up in conversation that someone you love has a disease that 90% do not survive beyond one year? What is someone suppose to say? I guess we go on by remembering to cherish every moment we have. When my son was in the hospital with encephalitis I remember thinking about how many people are sick each day but when we are well it is so easy to take it for granted. Thank you Kristin for sharing your and Bryn’s story. And yes, everyday we must be thankful for all we have.

  3. Thanks for your comments. Sheri-Sorry about the news from your cousin. Maybe Bryn can comment about what gave her comfort after her diagnosis.

  4. What an inspiration you both are, as friends, moms, wives, women! Bryn is an amazing person – I remember her kindness at your wedding – we “Kansan’s” felt a bit out of place, and Bryn went the extra mile with her natural wonderful-ness to make us feel right at home! She is a gem, a fighter, and we believe she will beat this and be cancer-free!!! She will see her children grow up and lead wonderful lives – we will be praying for Bryn, her husband, children and dear and precious friends. Love and hugs, Betsy

  5. Bryn sounds like an amazing woman! Several friends have mentioned her to me. I’m going to finally take the time to reach out to Bryn. We seem to have a lot in common right now and can probably lean on each other for support.

    Thanks for mentioning my blog too. Its so much easier to post my updates than to be on the phone constantly or to be asked about “the latest” in front of my kids!

  6. For all of you that know Bryn, you know how she fills a room with sunshine the minute she walks in. Bryn, you are an amazing woman, mother, wife and friend. I am blessed to have you in my life. Your are teaching us all how to live better with your honesty, courage, strength and optimism. There is no doubt in my mind that you will beat this, and will do so with grace. I think about you all of the time. My prayers are with you and your family. Can’t wait for that glass of wine! Love, Shannon

  7. Truly, Bryn is such a wonderful person, mom and friend. I think about her all the time and I am in tears reading this story because it breaks my heart for her to have to go through this. I do know that she will survive with a smile, she already is doing it all so courageously and gracefully! She is an inspiration for us all! God Bless and many hugs, Wendy

  8. Thank you, Kristin for sharing this story. I can’t even begin to imagine what Bryn is going through but I do know that having a support system and prayers can be so uplifting. So Bryn, I wish you well and will keep you and your family in my prayers. I hope you don’t mind if I have the COL staff pray for you as well.

  9. Bryn and I have kids in class together…I didn’t even know she was battling cancer until recent…this is becasue whenever you see her, she is smiling, friendly and so very positive. Bryn – so many of us are praying for you….livestrong!!

  10. kristin,
    this is a beautiful piece you have shared with all of us about bryn. we all know bryn is a bowl of sunshine and it truly amazes me how she is able to wake up every morning, take care of her family and teach a room full of pre-teens! you are an inspiration! bryn, we love you and are thinking about you daily. this to shall pass, keep strong, you are beautiful inside and out.
    kristin, your writing alone is inspirational. love you both xoxo sue-ann

  11. Bryn was like my third daughter when Kristin and she were in junior high and high school. She was always such a caring and sweet person. It was so much fun having her at my home because she liked to bake and do crafts with me…which sometimes my daughters weren’t into. You are a special young lady and I applaud all that you have accomplished. I know you will beat this cancer as you so bravely did in high school.
    God Bless you Bryn…you are in my prayers!
    Barbara

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