Good Samaritans, Bourbon and Kittens

This is a speech I gave recently at our church. Our associate pastor had asked people to contribute stories of good Samaritans in our lives since that was the reading for the week. I edited it down for a time limit for our Church, but this is the unedited version. I mean, why try for brevity when I don’t have to?

Writing this speech was hard. Really hard. Not because I lacked examples; I was overwhelmed with examples. I just wanted to do the speech justice because of all the ways my husband and I have been showered with love and support this year.

I also wanted to feel competent. There has not been a surfeit of that in my life lately. I felt so out of control that I almost didn’t write it. Procrastination through perfectionism – my specialty. But I made myself do it. I wanted to feel like I had given something back to all the people who have helped us. I’ve been dealing with some ongoing vertigo and balance issues, so Marcus went up to the podium with me.

As soon as I started, I just got this wonderful feeling running through my veins. I’m pretty damn good at giving speeches or talks, and that adrenaline rushed over me. As I walked back to my chair, it was actually hard not to give a big fist pump and shout a “Hell yeah!”. I sat down thinking “I totally kicked ass on that speech”. Then I realized that probably wasn’t what Jesus would have done and asked God to forgive me for being so awful. I do kind of feel like He was down with me feeling like I had kicked ass.

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On Good Friday of this year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. 2013 had been pretty awful up to that point, but this seemed like a particularly cruel twist. Rationally, I know there is an end game in sight.  I have a very good prognosis. Things could be much worse.

But it’s hard to be rational when you’re in the middle of the storm. Marcus and I are both relieved that my cancer was caught in a very early stage, but the way we found out about it was personally heartbreaking to us both. I’ve had one complication after another. If I had to pick one adjective right now to describe myself, it would be defeated. I know I’m not, but I sure feel that way.

I’m still too new and rubbed raw into this journey to even attempt to make sense of why this has happened to me, why cancer happens to anyone & how to sift the wheat from the chaff from this whole experience.

The one thing I have learned from having cancer is the incredible power of unexpected kindnesses, big and small, from strangers, acquaintances and loved ones.

It’s a friend who sends you a stuffed manatee to make you laugh – a manatee that has been named Hugh and who comes to every doctor’s appointment with me. He’s had his picture taken with every member of my medical team at UT. After my lumpectomy, I woke up to him lying next to me dressed in a surgical outfit.

It’s a voice teacher who helps put your confidence back together after two awful choir teachers stole the joy of singing from you.

It’s a woman I don’t know very well from the internet who commiserates with me about well-meaning people who say stupid things about cancer and/or your health and who makes and sends you a t-shirt that has a manatee on it and says “Leave me Alone – I Have Cancer”.

It’s a Facebook or twitter message from a friend checking in on you. A friend posting a picture on your timeline of the most ridiculous use of baking twine yet. A kind reply on a status that you’ve posted from someone that you really admire.

It’s the cards from people telling me they’re praying for me. It’s multiple encouraging cards from a woman here who just held me one day when I cried, telling me it was going to be ok.

It’s the nurse and the nurse practioner who have answered every call, helped me through every setback, hugged me each time they see me. It’s a nurse that hugs you and gently wipes the band-aid smegma off your wrist and arm. It’s a doctor that’s done surgery on you who ends a personal phone call because he sees you in a walkway and wants to know how you’re doing. It’s a nurse practitioner who waits around after his workday is done, so he can get a prescription for you to your husband.

It’s the local Young Survivors group leader whose closed door you can knock on just so she can comfort you, love you and get you the help you need. It’s the UT Cancer Center social worker who has a safe place to melt down when you’ve needed it.

It’s the neighbors who have helped your husband scrape the rest of the paint off of your house and the big bunch of them who showed up one Saturday to paint most of your house with primer.

It’s a text message from someone who wants you to know they love you. It’s a call from a friend telling you that you can get through this. It’s a post card of a pigeon shit covered statue from a friend who tells you that no matter how shitty life may feel, at least you’re not a statue covered in pigeon shit.

It’s the neighbors and friends who make stealth deliveries of food, bourbon, duck eggs & crayon pictures.

It’s the 4 women at my yoga studio who insisted you take their classes for free and who are eagerly awaiting the time when they can help you get stronger again.

It’s friends and church members who know you’re struggling financially right now, and have offered to help you by letting your husband know about job opportunities and hiring him to do odd jobs so you both can make ends meet. It’s a pastor and friend who visits you in the hospital.

It’s the man you meet in the cancer center parking lot who volunteers at the Norris Animal Shelter and offers to take the scrawny kitten, who has just run up to you and climbed into your arms purring, to the shelter and make sure she gets a good home.

It’s a group of church members who buy you a birthday pastry cake and sing happy birthday to you , especially because they wanted to bring some joy to an unjoyful 40th birthday.

It’s a husband who holds your hair back when you vomit. It’s a husband who sits there and strokes your hair while you dry-heave for 20 minutes. It’s a husband who has taken the wedding vow of ‘in sickness and in health’ and who has proven that he meant that in every way possible, no matter how disgusting or hard or how strong he’s had to be for you. It’s a husband who tells you every day how beautiful you are.

When Marcus and I went looking for a church, we had two very simple requirements. One – that they loved and accepted people no matter what gender, race or sexual orientation they might be. The second was that we wanted a church that focused on Jesus’ teachings about love and kindness. We wanted a church that walked the talk. Marcus and I felt very honored to become members here. Because we’ve also found a church full of Good Samaritans.

23 Comments on Good Samaritans, Bourbon and Kittens

  1. Lori @ RecipeGirl
    August 26, 2013 at 10:03 pm (11 months ago)

    I haven’t said much to you about all of this, but I want you to know that I’ve been reading all of your updates on FB and have been rooting you on from the sidelines since that whole c-word came to be. I knew when I met you so many years ago at the BlogHer in San Francisco as we Madonna-vogued on the dance floor, that you were one special person. I seem to recall that my husband connected w/ you, and he has superhero ability to find the best people to hang out with. You’ve had such a great attitude through all of this, putting on a seemingly strong face and using humor to get through it. I’m sure that you’ve had some horrible days that we don’t even know about. That manatee must have some special powers indeed. Anyway, just want you to know that I’ve been thinking about you and hoping that you’re getting better… little by little. And I hope to vogue with you again one of these days when you are feeling up to it again. Big hugs to you, and I loved your church speech. You must have had everyone in tears indeed.

    Reply
    • Kristina
      September 3, 2013 at 8:29 am (11 months ago)

      The original BlogHer seems like forever ago, doesn’t it? I had so much fun, made some forever friends and loved meeting you so much. I am a spaz on the dance floor aren’t I? Thank you so much for the kind words about my speech, and I really appreciate the sweet words about my recovery. Thanks Lori.❤

      Reply
  2. Karen Larsen
    August 26, 2013 at 10:21 pm (11 months ago)

    Wonderful! Loving one another is really end game Christianity. I love that you love your church and that it has been loving you back. And, fist pumps high for you for sharing your heart.

    Reply
    • Kristina
      September 3, 2013 at 8:34 am (11 months ago)

      Major fist bumps and love back. I can’t wait until I can give you a hug in person.

      Reply
  3. Paula
    August 26, 2013 at 11:16 pm (11 months ago)

    I wish we had a church like that here; I would think about going back to church.

    That was a great speech, and maybe God knows it was great because He helped you write it and He’s ok with you being pumped about it. You never know.

    One of the things I remember to thank God for every day (because I haven’t given up on God- just organized religion) is for all his blessings of course, but most especially for the ones I don’t know about. All the little things in the background that I have no clue about that are somehow adding up to bless my life in one way or another. Maybe it’s getting detained at work )when I’d really rather be home with my husband) that keeps me from getting in an accident on the way home just because, you know, His timing is perfect.

    I often wish that I could figure out just what His purpose if for me, but trust that someday it will present itself, and I’ll be brave enough to take on what it is He wants me to do.

    And maybe you’re closer to figuring that out just because of the ordeal you’re going through. Maybe he’s got something on the other side of this hill He wants you to do.

    Or maybe He just wants you to be more aware of the blessings you really have. Like your husband, and the wonderful people who have touched your life along this particular journey.

    You just never know.

    But the wonderment of it, when you really think about it, is really amazing in its truest sense.

    And you realize that He’s there.

    Reply
    • Kristina
      September 3, 2013 at 8:41 am (11 months ago)

      Oh Paula – your replies often choke me up. They’re so honest and insightful. I’m not going to lie; my faith wavers a lot. But there is something that helps me keep going on, even when hope or happiness seem like fairy tales. I don’t have any idea why all of this happened to me. I don’t think God planned it. It just happened. And I know I’ll come out of this when all is said and done with a clearer sense of purpose. I’m just grateful I believe in a God that loves me despite how angry & hurt I am by all of this.

      Reply
  4. Terry Shidal
    August 27, 2013 at 2:24 am (11 months ago)

    “Hell yeah!!!!!”

    You are an amazing person who has touched so many with your wit and your sarcasm. We haven’t met but I feel a strong connection to you and you are often in my thoughts and prayers. I mean there has to be a reason that I, a person who does not cook, eats basically meat and potatoes, no veggies, no sauces, no dressing, etc. etc. etc. came upon a cooking blog. This was no accident.

    I am proud that you had the determination to give that speech. I know that I could never have done it. Keep up the humor and get through this awful time in your life. I am so looking forward to hearing you say “I kicked cancer’s ass.”

    Hugs to you and your wonderful supportive husband!

    Reply
    • Kristina
      September 3, 2013 at 8:47 am (11 months ago)

      Terri – I’m so glad you found your way here! Please don’t me scared off when I start posting recipes here and there. :D thank you for all the support & kind words. And yes – my husband has been a rock through all of this. I’m so lucky to have him.

      Reply
  5. Alicia (foodycat)
    August 27, 2013 at 2:31 am (11 months ago)

    Your church sounds like a lovely community!

    Reply
    • Kristina
      September 3, 2013 at 8:48 am (11 months ago)

      Thanks Alicia – it really is, and I’m so grateful.

      Reply
  6. Lisa
    August 27, 2013 at 4:19 am (11 months ago)

    Girl – your posts just rip my heart with emotion. I read and feel uplifted, disappointed, happy, crying my eyes out and mad for you – all at the same time, even in a single blog post. You still put so much of hilarious you in each post that I’m rarely left without a snort of laughter. You’re an incredibly talented writer.

    I’ve read your blog for almost 3 years. Your recipes always work & the stories you connect the recipes to are fantastic. But you’ve opened yourself up in a really beautiful way throughout this horrible process. It’s obvious you’ve touched a lot of others as well.

    I think we may very well get to see you speak to a broader audience soon. If I got cancer, I’d be so thankful for your bull-shit free advice, support & comfort. In short – I’m a fangirl. It’s obvious you have many others.

    Reply
    • Kristina
      September 3, 2013 at 8:51 am (11 months ago)

      Lisa! You’re making me blush! Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m hoping by me not sugar coating things, I encourage other women with early stages of breast cancer to be honest about how they feel. It helps to not have to put a fake smile on your face and pretend everything is OK.

      Reply
    • Kristina
      September 3, 2013 at 8:52 am (11 months ago)

      And I think you’re lovely. ❤

      Reply
  7. Darlynne
    August 27, 2013 at 11:33 am (11 months ago)

    I had to wait to reply until I’d pulled myself together. You, this, your wide open heart–truly, deeply lovely. Your words are filled with grace, Kristina. Those of us who’ve wandered/stumbled/clicked here are better for it, and for you. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Kristina
      September 3, 2013 at 8:55 am (11 months ago)

      Darlynne – it makes me happy to see every comment you make. As I’ve said many times before, I really appreciate your support throughout the years, but especially now. Virtual hugs are great, but I can’t wait to be able to give you a real life one. ❤

      Reply
  8. Kelly Luna
    August 27, 2013 at 11:53 am (11 months ago)

    Your post has me in tears, it’s so heart-felt and beautiful. I think about you now and then, wondering how you’re doing. It sounds like you have an amazing support system and a wonderful church. I most certainly think God was fist pumping and never doubted that you would have a kick-ass speech!

    Reply
    • Kristina
      September 3, 2013 at 8:57 am (11 months ago)

      Kelly – you are too, too sweet. Thank you so much. Yeah, I like to think God was up there going “bring it girl!” :D

      Reply
  9. Russ
    August 28, 2013 at 11:38 am (11 months ago)

    Kristina, this post sums up why it’s an honor for me to know you and Marcus. You are gems.

    Reply
    • Kristina
      September 2, 2013 at 7:16 pm (11 months ago)

      Love you Russ. Drink some bourbon for me please.

      Reply
  10. merry jennifer
    August 28, 2013 at 2:23 pm (11 months ago)

    So beautiful and honest, Kristina. I loved reading every bit.

    Reply
    • Kristina
      September 3, 2013 at 8:59 am (11 months ago)

      So much love to you. I’d be so happy to be your patient and would look forward to the baked goods you’d make for me. Virtual hugs are great, but I can’t wait until I can give you a real life one.

      Reply
  11. Ren
    October 8, 2013 at 8:11 pm (10 months ago)

    I like to think that the sense of humor and attitude don’t have specific body parts so cancer can’t get them. Stupid cancer. I found your blog on a google search for you-know-what. It’s my second cancer and this time I am pissed.
    No platitudes, just live.
    Sorry, I have menopausal tourrette’s because I had to stop taking birth control bills when I was diagnosed a few weeks ago. Now all I do is pee, sweat, and swear. Next week is surgery and I am bookmarking your site to read during recovery.
    Keep writing. please. Your wit is refreshing and smart.

    Reply

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