Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The End

After over 5 years of journaling, I've decided to call it quits on the blog. Our blog has been a tremendous resource for so many people over the years that I don't want to diminish its value with my trivial updates. For updates on how our family is coping without Kristi, you can visit Ashley's blog (link is on the right) or check out our Facebook pages.

Although life really, really, really, really sucks without Kristi, we are settling into a new "normal". But, there's not a day that passes that we don't mourn her loss. I still struggle a great deal with her loss and I'm still very angry at God, but I learn to cope...it's not easy, but I cope. 

If you've just stumbled upon this blog and are in search of how a family deals with "living with cancer", start from the beginning and read through it.  Hopefully our entries will act as some sort of therapy, inspiration, or at least some encouragement for you.

I've changed the name back to "Kristi & Brian: Living! with cancer" to restore the original intent of the blog.

Here are some statistics from Google Analytics regarding our blog as of today:

Number of blog entries: 737
First entry: May 20, 2007 (I added the dates prior to May 20 from a collection of e-mails)
Last entry: September 11, 2012

Total number of hits: 561,264
Total number of unique visitors: 69,913
Percent of returning visitors: 85.5%
Percent of new visitors: 14.5%
Continents represented: 6
Countries represented: 108
States represented: all 50
Canadian provinces represented: all 10
Number of worldwide cities represented: 3,786
Number of US cities represented: 3,038

That's a whole lot of people from a whole lot of places. Praise God for using our blog to encourage and inspire so many people!

Thank you from the sincerest part of my heart for supporting our family over the years. I can say, without exaggeration, that we had support from around the world! It is/was so amazing how everyone rallied around Kristi, myself and the kids over the years...and still do! It seems somewhat sad to end the blog, but all stories need a happy ending - and with Kristi with Jesus and cancer free, this story also has a happy ending.

God bless you and thank you so much for all the love and prayers over the years!!

The end.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday, June 10, 2012: One Year

One year tonight.  Right about now, actually.  Still remembering her, still missing her.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Friday, June1, 2012: Ashley sings to her mom

that's my girl!  she got a standing O!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day 2012

Today was another "first" we can cross off the list...our first Mother's Day without mom.  Not too many more "firsts" left before the one year mark.  It's hard to believe it's almost been a year already.  Before you know it, summer will be here and we'll be beyond all of the "firsts" and the holidays without mom will be more routine, if there ever can be routine.  Life is anything but routine without mom.  Moms are the glue to any family.  I'm so thankful for my mom and all of the sacrificing she did to raise me.  Being a single parent now I can certainly understand to some extent what it was like for my mom...except I have 3 older brothers, so my mom raised 4 boys.  Not quite sure how my mom and dad raised 4 boys and we all turned out fairly normal.  :)  Anyway, moms are very special, and I'm very grateful for mine, just as I know my kids are for their mom.  We went out to visit with her today at the cemetery...

The kids and I sat by her grave for about a half hour this afternoon.  We didn't say much; mostly just listened to the breeze and the birds.  We shed some quiet tears privately...no sobbing, just some quiet tears.

We love you and miss you mom!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

May 6, 2012: My Birthday

Today, I turned 39.  Again.

Yesterday some great friends had a little birthday party for me at their house. That was very cool.  The kids remembered it was my birthday today too!  Starting with breakfast in my bedroom.  I ruined the "breakfast in bed" when I hopped in the shower as Ashley was bringing it up.  But I came out and there was some delicious toast and orange juice!  Tonight, my side of the family came over and we had dinner and a nice little celebration.  So all that and about 100 "happy birthdays" on Facebook made for a good day!  As much as today hurts, it has been made easier by such great friends and family.  I am very humbled and feel very blessed to be a part of this family and community.

Taking things one anniversary at a time...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012: Our 19th Anniversary

Over the past few weeks the kids and I have made it through spring break, Easter, Easter parties, and Emily's birthday without Kristi.  Today is the toughest, though.  Today is our first anniversary apart; this would have been our 19th wedding anniversary.  I stayed home from work today just to be by myself.  This morning I went out to visit her grave sight with a friend, who happens to be my pastor as well.  We sat on the wet grass and talked for about an hour.  It was good.  I still broke down of course, but I did better than I thought.  I can still see and feel her presence in everything I do.  What I miss the most is just her presence.  I could always depend on her to be here everyday for me, waiting for me to come home from work.  Every single day the first thing we would do is hug...we'd give each other a great big hug.  If the kids were in the room we'd even kiss just to gross them out.  I miss that.  I miss the daily conversations, the "how was your day, honey" conversations.  The absence of any adult conversation (at home) every day, night and weekend is very lonely.  Very isolating.

Looking forward, my birthday is in 2 weeks, Mother's Day is in 3 weeks, then the 1 year anniversary of her passing a month after that, then Father's Day one week after that.  I miss her bad.  It still hurts every day, especially today.  I would say I'm better than I was 6 months ago, but the pain on a scale of 1 to 10 is still an 8.  We heard that expression used a lot during Kristi's different hospital stays..."describe your pain on a scale of 1 to 10".

Anyway, please continue to keep us in your prayers - the next few weeks will be especially difficult for us.  Thank you.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday, March 11, 2012: Insight from a 14 year old

Just a quick note to let you know we're still alive!  Life remains to be very busy so updating the blog frequently is difficult to do.  But, we're all healthy and still kickin'! (as my grandma used to always say).

The kids are all doing well in school and staying very busy.  I'm doing much better emotionally these days.  The nice spring-like weather sure is nice!  Compared to the weather we've had this year, it's hard to believe I took these pictures in March of last year...

God’s Opportunities
We all have many different opportunities. Every ones opportunity is different. However, we do not all notice that all those opportunities come through God. God is the key to opportunity. God gave Daniel an opportunity when he was stuck in a Lion’s den with Lions. Daniel could have chose to panic, and yell at God. However, he didn’t do that, he tamed the lions, and made the lions obey him. (I give credit to my devotions for that example). Anyway, this cancer could have been an opportunity for us. 
That horrible, miserable, unreasonable cancer that got inside my mom was a huge opportunity for me to get closer to God. I am a new person now because of that. Some days I wonder where I would be if my mom wouldn’t have been taken by cancer. I definitely wish that my mom was still here, and that cancer wouldn’t have ever existed in our family. However this cancer was a HUGE opportunity for my faith walk with the Lord to become stronger. I can’t even put in words how much having my mom be gone tears me apart. But this could be an opportunity. An opportunity that could change the rest of our lives. All we have to do is accept it, and accepting this big of an opportunity without a mom to be here is about the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
                   - by Ashley Rogalske

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wednesday, February 15, 2012: Aching Hearts

We all still miss her so much.  Ashley wrote this poem to her on Valentine's Day...

February 14

I loved you because you loved me
now I'm left alone
the cancer had to take you
leaving us to weep and moan
Every night, you told me that you loved me
why can't I hear that just one more time?
I miss you more than anyone will know
I miss your courage to shine.
Why can't I hear you anymore?
Just one last I love you, is all I'm asking for.
The last words you said to me
will always be in my heart
you simply said "I love you"
those words, broke me apart.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday, January 22, 2012: Another Anniversary

January 23, 2012.  Just another day for most people.  January 23 will be Monday, the start of a new work week for the adults and a start of a new school week for the students.  January 23 was also the start of something new for this family as well.

January 23, 2007 was the day Kristi was diagnosed with ovarian cancer; it was the beginning of what would become our 4 and a half journey with many of you.  So tomorrow will be the 5 year anniversary of when this all started.

January 23 is the second worst day of the year for me, second only to June 10, the day she died.

There are times when I think that I'm finally turning the corner.  In fact, I recently told a friend that I thought I had turned the corner.  The problem is, when I see what's around the corner I don't like what I see...so I duck back. But, every day is a new day - and for now I'm just living day for day.

Here's what I posted for January 23, 2007.  My memory of that day has faded a bit, but the pain is still as strong as ever.
                              Tuesday January 23, 2007: Exploratory surgery day

My parents showed up about 10:45AM to watch the kids. We told them “we’ll be home about 5 or 6”. Ha! I remember joking on the way to the hospital 'our lives could be changed forever in a couple hours'!! Wow. We checked into Holland Hospital about 11:30 AM for the 1:30 PM surgery. We hung around for a couple hours just hanging out in the “holding area”. Well, 1:30 rolled around and we were informed that Dr. Fletter was running behind, about 2 hours behind! Kristi still hadn’t eaten since Monday night. She was getting tired and frustrated. We were still not thinking of anything other than “inflamed muscle tissue” or I was even thinking they would come back and say “everything looks normal”. Other than being tired and hungry and wanting to go home (sick of waiting around), we were still pretty “loose” and not thinking anything was “wrong”. About 3:30 I called both sets of parents just to let them know we were running behind. Denny also texted asking what was going on. "Still waiting" I replied. Kristi was finally wheeled back around 3:45PM...final kisses and “good bye”. The nurse told me that when Kristi comes out of surgery, someone will come get me and bring me back to her in the recovery area. Well, about 4:30 the receptionist brought me back, but rather than going through the double doors to go back to the recovery area, she brought me to a consultation room. This was the first time I suspected something might be wrong. “Why am I here?! This isn’t where they said they were going to bring me”. I sat in there for about 5 minutes before Dr. Fletter and Dr. Taylor came in. They both looked very serious. Gulp.

Dr. Fletter started by saying the procedure itself went good…however, “we didn’t like what we saw”. So, when he started out saying the procedure went good, there was a brief moment of relief. But that was quickly replaced with confusion when he said “we didn’t like what we saw”. I was still a little confused at that point, not sure where he was going. He was talking about “spots all over”. That’s when Dr. Taylor chimed in and said “it looks like ovarian cancer”. I think I went into shock. I remember being warm all over and everything seemed in slow motion. It was a weird feeling. The two doctors were talking but I can’t remember what they were saying. I can’t explain it. Then it hit me…Kristi has cancer. I remember just falling apart after a few minutes. Both doctors stopped talking at that point and let me unload for a minute. They just let me cry for a while. When I got my bearings back, they continued to explain what they saw. She had spots on her intestines, ovaries, maybe on her colon, appendix, and all over the abdominal area. He indicated stage 3 or 4 ovarian cancer. I remember asking “what are 'spots'?” Tumors. I asked all the obvious questions…how? why? I was thinking, but afraid to ask…”what is the prognosis?” But I asked. Dr. Taylor went briefly into the statistics…average 30% survival rate past 5 years. This means she has a 30% chance of living longer than 5 years. Ouch. I cried some more. He also went briefly into the typical treatment plan. He talked about the IV port and the IP port (intra-peritoneal). Both doctors had to leave and left me in the room to “freshen up”. They said I could go back whenever I was ready. I sat there in shock for a long time. Dr. Taylor came back after about 15 minutes because he felt bad for leaving me like that. He was changed into jeans, a sweatshirt, and baseball cap. Then we just chatted some more about ovarian cancer. He reassured me that his success rate is closer to 50%.

Before going back, I called Kristi’s parents. Her Dad answered. I was a wreck. I couldn’t talk. I just remember saying “you need to get to the hospital”. I can’t remember much of anything I said. I waited for them to get to the hospital…only about 15 minutes but it seemed like forever. When her parents got there her Mom was already crying so we all hugged and cried some more in the room. Then her Mom tried to pray but we were all too upset. I told her Mom (for some reason) about the “30% cure rate”. Why did I do that?! I think I was still in shock and processing everything. So we all cried some more. Ahhhh. 

Unfortunately, because both doctors had to leave right after surgery, no one told Kristi the news...so she was still unaware. I remember telling her parents “I have to go tell your daughter she has cancer now”. Then more tears, then we left for the recovery room.

So we walked into the recovery room just as she was waking up. She was really drowsy. She looked at me, looked at her Mom, looked back at me, then asked “what’s wrong? Am I OK?” I guess we looked kind of bad – Kristi could tell we were upset. I told her she had cancer and as her eyes welled up we hugged and cried. She quickly recovered and started asking questions. She was very positive from the first seconds. One of her first thoughts was “we need to get an e-mail to Norma” (the church e-mail prayer coordinator). Right from the onset, she thought of prayer. I have to admit, I didn’t. I was in shock. I didn’t bother telling her about the cure rate at this point. We just hung out for a while with her parents processing the information…and answering Kristi’s questions…3,4, and 5 times! She has a slow time coming out of the anesthesia drugs!! I stepped out and called Denny, Janna, Sheryl Boes, and Heidi. I was a wreck for all of them. I started with Denny, balling and sobbing. Then I called Janna; I was a little better for Janna, then Sheryl, and lastly I called Heidi. [I remember Brian telling me later that after I called them that he was too upset to eat his dinner. Sorry Brian. But it’s good to know that we have people that love us that much. We love them too.]

After I called our close friends, I called my Mom (who was at our house watching our kids). I did not tell her any news…I didn’t want her to get upset in front of the kids. It was about 5:45PM at this point. My Mom was asking “well, aren’t they telling you anything?!” I was trying my best not to get mad. I just told her that the surgery was done and that we were running behind. But my Mom was persistent…”well, aren’t they telling you anything?!” Then I think she got the hint because I think she knew I was getting upset and she just said “oh, OK”. We hung up…whew. So I went back to the room. Dr. Taylor came back about 6:30 to talk to us some more. He stayed around for about a half hour and answered our questions. We checked out about 7:30PM. I called home and asked my Mom to make sure the kids were in bed. I think she now realized something was wrong because she didn’t ask any questions and just said “OK”.

Kristi’s parents went home and I believe Kristi’s mom contacted church. I believe Norma sent out an e-mail already Tuesday evening.

When we got home Kristi went right to bed. I went back down to talk to my parents. Of course they were upset by the news, but overall they took it as well as could be expected. I was surprised I didn’t cry. I was just in shock I think. After they left, I called Dave Ozios who called while I was putting Kristi to bed. Of course he was also shocked. He prayed for us on the phone. That was awesome! Denny came over about 10:00 PM and spent some time with me. Of course I cried all over his shoulder. Then cried some more. Then some more. I needed that. We talked for a long time and then he prayed for us. Wow, what a friend! He left about midnight...sorry Denny! I went to bed shortly after midnight and surprisingly I slept.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wednesday, January 11, 2012: Happy New Year!

Just a quick note to let everyone know we made it through the holidays.  At times it was very difficult, but overall the business of the holidays kept us focused on family and friends.  I can say I'm glad to see 2011 go.  Good riddance 2011!!

I'm anxious and excited to see what 2012 brings us.  I'm hopeful it will be a better year...so far so good anyway!

Thanks for praying for us through the holidays...it helped!