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Catherine’s Cancer Treatment Update

Friends have made the difference between life and death.

Hi, there, friends of AfA!

It has been 14 months since my diagnosis of stage 3 breast cancer and it’s been a freaky, frightening, enlightening journey.

For those of you who want the short and sweet (and it is sweet):

Many of the initial test findings were incorrect (stage 2, HER2-negative, misplaced markers and an erroneous treatment plan), and over the course of several months, I was given numerous bad news bulletins from my incredible oncologist at CU Health: Turns out I was not stage 2 but stage 3, possibly stage 4 (turned out to be stage 3… phew!); I did, in fact, need four months of chemotherapy, plus surgery, plus six weeks of daily radiation; on top of that I tested as HER2-positive, not negative, which meant another year of infusions (currently in my 5th month!) and a lifetime supply of anti-cancer meds.

BOTTOM LINE: I am alive and cancer free!!

With the help of some awesome people (see the annual holiday letter for several of those names, but there were many, many more), I have continued to work throughout it all and managed to weather the resultant storms. It certainly has been quite a bit of work—fighting for my life and fighting to ensure the agency fulfills its mission takes some effort. Although AfA didn’t do as well as we could have financially, it also could have been a helluva lot worse if it weren’t for the people surrounding me with love and capably holding the agency.

Funders have been forgiving and helpful; donors have been loyal; the new staff members believe in our mission and walk the talk of kindness and compassion; facilitators faithfully serve the youth; board members and other volunteers have played a significant role in our success; the young people keep coming through the doors; and the stats remain impressive. Not only that, but we were just notified that we have won the 2018 Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts! Pretty cool accomplishment after a pretty rough year.

For those of you who wish to know a few of our other accomplishments in 2018, please read our annual holiday letter, which gives a quick rundown of what we’ve been doing. In February when all the data is in, we’ll publish our annual report with more detailed information.

Thank you so much for your support of our agency, which helps me continue to fight for myself. I couldn’t do it without all the love I’ve received.

If you’d like to give a year-end gift, please do through ColoradoGives or Paypal Giving Fund ❤️

Here’s something I wrote for my friends recently when the struggle was seemingly ongoing:

A little more than a year ago I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. I’ve been wondering for the past several weeks what I wanted to say about that. Something to mark the anniversary of the day I realized I may not live the future I had imagined for myself—or may not have a future at all. I can’t settle on anything in particular other than to be grateful for all the love and support I’ve received in the past year and oddly to be grateful for those who couldn’t provide anything. Because I’ve learned a lot about relationships during this time. As someone who believes that relationships are the entire reason we’re on the planet, this has been quite the spiritual education.

So here’s what I am grateful for:

All the people who jumped in and did what they could to help me stay afloat while I was reeling from the news. 

All the people who came alongside me while I suffered through one painful treatment after another. 

All the people who sacrificed their time and their money to keep me alive (quite literally…staying alive is expensive). 

All the people who popped in and out with a word or a meal or a present or poem or gift of service. 

All those who left. And who were unkind. Because now I know. 

All those who did the REALLY difficult work of being with me when my mind was in despair. Because hanging out with someone who is angry or depressed or discouraged is usually harder than hanging out with someone who is physically ill. And I have been both at the same time. 

All those who helped keep Art from Ashes going when I wasn’t able to give as much as was needed.

All those who forgive me. 

And those who are still here. Who haven’t given up. Who continue to show up. Who realize my journey isn’t over and have not grown tired of being with me. You have taught me the most about how to be like Jesus in the world. Because I usually forget to do that myself, and it’s so much easier to see when you are the one in need.

By summer of 2019 I should be done with my treatment and my oncologist says I will have my energy back. I will always have pain and some difficult effects from the fight for my life, but he says he is pretty sure I’ll be cured at the end of all this. While nothing is certain, I can’t express enough how blessed I am for the role my friends—and the occasional stranger—have played in this life and death drama I found myself starring in. 

I will continue to fight. And I will continue to laugh. And I absolutely will continue to be a pain in the ass and do many things badly and do a few things right.