Monday, April 24, 2023

It's BACK, SHE's back..

Three years ago, I was losing my mind in anticipation [of the beginning of my previvor journey] and finding myself knee deep in houseplants and garden soil. The prior October, I'd received the 'green light' to go ahead with my preventive double mastectomies , DIEP flap reconstruction, and double salpingectomy. So from October - June, I was busy 'nesting,' testing, and preparing to let go of my breasties. Physically, mentally, emotionally, environmentally, financially... you get the idea. 

Eight months of doing absolutely everything I could to prepare for the worst and the best of what was to come, knowing the only thing I knew was uncertainty. 

I was working with the understanding that for the first time in my life, I'd be completely dependent upon someone else. If you know me, you can imagine how difficult this was for me. If you don't know me, here's a visual - 5'1 (180lb at the time!), redhead leo, 29 (almost 30) years old, raising my 10 year old alone, and always hustling and schooling to get it done. Sleep? No rest for the wicked, here. I absolutely did not know how to ask for help. Or sit still. Or sit back and watch others do my very basic routines for me. I had no concept of letting go of any sort of independence what-so-ever. It was not in my makeup. I didn't watch TV prior to having surgeries, either, although I'm happy to report I have since become an expert documentarian☺. 

It was at this time in my life that I realized I had a lot of healing to do. I'd done for others in every way noone had done for me. I had never been alone and didn't know how to be alone. I had never recognized or acknowledged all the traumas - big or small - that impacted my every day life. You have them too! I decided to lean into the process and accept the support of those I had around me. It was 2020 and I was very cautious to remain well enough to pass my COVID test 3 times in 5 months so this didn't leave much room for human interaction anyway. 

3 surgeries and 30 hours of anesthesia was rough but I came out better and stronger. By the time I had my surgeries, I'd lost 30 pounds of straight beer weight (puke) just by removing the kegerator from my basement. I began strength training, although not early enough, to build as much core and lower body strength as I could. And to prevent/avoid swelly belly, I gave up gluten but it took plenty of experimenting to get to that point. I used my full 12 weeks of FMLA and when I realized the stress of having to go back and forth to the office while trying to heal, do home schooling, and maintain my home life was just not worth it, I made a career shift. 

Being at home more with much less stress provided the opportunity for my gardening hobby to grow and my cooking hobby to sizzle. Noticing a difference in the way I felt, I thought it was only up from here.

At 6'7, this man had just about all of it. While fighting deep, dark demons himself, he was the truest form of a gentleman to myself and my daughter. Unfortunately, it was April 14 when Josh got sick and later passed away on May 18, 2021. I visit him often and he plays our favorite songs in return. Josh was special and gave me gifts I'll never be able to describe with words but I'll always be sure to honor his life by holding myself true to everything he taught me. He taught me a lot about what it's like to be loved and the importance of loving yourself. 

The next year, I'd spend trying to accept and process his loss with those gifts while figuring out how to make the best of my thirties. 2021-2022 was kind of a blur.

And then on this day one year ago, I embarked on a journey symbolically represented by this fantastic wine crafted by Danenberger Family Vineyard called Scars are Sexy. In the last year, I have learned so much about myself. Again, more gifts to be thankful for. I have learned that even though people may pretend to accept your scars, whether they are scars seen with the eyes or not, their actions and therefore their intentions may not match. The difference is, I now realize that's not my business. 

And that was the beginning of my self-awareness and healing journey. Upon reflecting, I was ashamed of myself for letting so many red flags in others cause me distress over the years. For brushing them off as something I could 'fix' or tolerate. Turn a blind eye to. For finding a way to blame myself for others' behaviors. Always forgetting that those same individuals wouldn't think of doing the same for me if I needed it. A 1000 watt light bulb went off in my head recently that 1) They don't have to like me or my decisions and my energy won't be spent on convincing anyone 2) If they don't like me or my decisions, that sounds like a 'them' problem 3) I cannot control or change the thoughts, words, feelings or actions of anyone but myself 4) IF THEY WANT ME IN THEIR LIFE I WON'T HAVE TO QUESION IT. This is true for ALL situations - at work, with family, or amongst friends. If it doesn't feel right, it isn't. Even if it once did. People change - we are supposed to. Some of us grow closer and some of us grow further. This is true for the "oh you got a free tummy tuck out of the deal?" or the spouse who doesn't agree that your scars are sexy or for the workplace who questions why you need a day off work. I could go on and on but the last one I'll mention is 5) Stress kills. Just look at my hair - after 3 years and having lost about half my hair, I'm now in a position of not knowing what to do with this mess again. Just in the last month, my hair has become so much fuller, different colors, and a texture completely foreign to whaaat? It's BACK, baby.

I have been consciously and intentionally removing stress and toxicity from my life and I'm excited to see my hard work pay off. I look forward to embracing my growing mindset. And I'm grateful to enjoy the simple beauties of life with those I love.

As I continue on my self- love journey, I have incorporated many tools to help me along the way. I look forward to exercising with my daughter in our room makeover.

And documenting affirmations in my new I Love Me journal by Mental Healness  , who I strongly recommend giving a follow if you suspect or have ever had exposure to narcissistic abuse in any area of your life or if you are interested in learning more about how to identify the signs in those around us to prevent it. Toxic people tend to have a type and it's not the kind you want to be (in the workplace, as a friend, or as a lover).

Getting out for 3 walks a day with this bum. This was her response to me coming upstairs to say, "Hey Eliza, I have to go mow the .....[lawn]." 😑

Learning a new hobbies! Roadtrip to explore and photog haunted bridges? Absofrigginlutely, hop in. We've now made it thru the seven gates of hell. 

I was able to check out Recycled Records before their story ends.  

And finally, as I prepare to celebrate 3 years on this journey, I'm sharing many of my reminders with you below <3 - kk


Sunday, July 10, 2022

2-year previvorsery

Me, starting to look like a functioning almost-32-year-old again....

Greetings! This is my celebratory 2-year post preventive double mastectomy with DIEP reconstruction and bilateral salpingectomy dance (video doesn't want to upload so here is a screenshot with a link)! 

On July 2, 2020, I underwent preventive double mastectomies and on July 21, 2020, I was under for 17.5 hours for DIEP flap reconstruction. On December 9, 2020, we spared my ovaries at the last second and decided on a double salpingectomy and finished reconstruction.

All the time, sadly, I'm learning of and meeting new people who are on the same journey. During my preparation for surgeries, starting the blog was one way to help keep myself organized with notes in one place and offer support to others along the way. Since, it has served as a timeline because my memory was almost worthless for ... well... it's starting to get a little better ... maybe =)

But, my hair is coming back finally! After surgeries, I was losing so much hair that I eventually cut it short. I just started strength training 2 weeks ago and am feeling great! I love seeing progress and watching this body bounce back after being split nearly in half. And I've been eating well for the most part. I still drink entirely too much beer and am working on that but overall feel great. I follow a mostly gluten free diet which keeps swelly belly at bay (worth it!). 

Living beyond this experience has been a blessing, of course. It's also been challenging in ways I never imagined possible. I always look for the silver linings and there are plenty - I've taken this opportunity to get a hold on my health and at an early age. I'm reevaluating all my cosmetic and personal products from shampoo & conditioner to makeup to feminine products. It's really eye-opening when you pay attention to the ingredient lists on our products. And since I've already been through enough, I've decided I'm worth more than I initially thought. I am striving to be more intentional in my relationships, in my work, and in my spending habits. 

Be sure to check out my helpful links, recovery posts, and pictures

- kk

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Ovarian cancer doesn't have to be a silent killer...

Did you know..

Ovarian cancer affects 1 in 78 women and about 1 in 108 women die of ovarian cancer. It doesn't have to be that way, though! If you've followed my journey, you know I'm a previvor and I chose to take preventive measures to reduce my risk of developing cancer. I had my tubes removed and per my providers' recommendations, we felt that step would significantly reduce my risk of developing ovarian cancer early (until I later remove my ovaries) because ovarian cancer often starts in the tubes. 

The Hope Light Foundation has started the Talking Ovarian Cancer Project to bring awareness to ovarian cancer and the best ways to prevent it and detect it early. 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Living beyond...

It's March 24, 2022. 2 years ago, I had just received my first surgery date (it would later change but the feelings never did). I ended up with a preventive skin and nippple-sparing double mastectomy on July 2 (6 hours), DIEP Reconstruction (17.5 hours!) on July 21, and a double salpingectomy and phase 2 reconstruction (6 hours) on December 9. 

While I can't believe it's been almost 2 years, I've come so far since then! I remember it being an extremely dark place - after all, I was losing so much of my womanhood. Not only that, I (like, all on my own..) had to choose WHEN to do it, decide which method was best for HOW to have it done, and GOD FORBID, WHO was I going to trust with this work?! 

After trying to navigate the complexities of our healthcare system as a healthcare worker for 13 years, as an educated and privileged young white woman, and as a population health scientist, I decided I needed to officially join the fight against cancer. So many women (and others) try to navigate this very complex system and are failed - it costs them their lives or years off their life when they are failed. The disparities are stark.   This morning, I received an email from Living Beyond Breast Cancer and it got me thinking what living beyond this experience has been like. I hope I never know what it's like to live beyond breast cancer because I hope all that I've been through is enough to prevent it (and ovarian cancer and colon cancer and all the other cancers my BRCA1 mutation puts me at risk for). But so many women still do not have that opportunity and that's why I'm in the fight against cancer. 

 Living beyond, for me, has been energizing. I have a completely new frame of mind and one that I'm grateful for. Those that stuck with me through it all are the people I plan to keep in my circle. All the pain I endured for being cut 18 inches wide open without narcotics taught me I'm a superhero without a cape and I didn't even know it. And being completely isolated for 9 months in an attempt to guarantee a negative COVID shot for 3 surgeries in 6 months taught me to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life (stop and smell the flowers, eh). My hair is coming back! Different colors, but whatever. And our family has grown by 4 pitty paws!
Some things are less rosy - image, emotions, sex, intimacy, and trauma (breast cancer or preventive surgery?)....

Check out this new video series for those of us living beyond.... "Living Beyond Breast Cancer is excited to share our new sexual health video series, featuring young women impacted by early stage and metastatic breast cancer. Below is additional information about these new resources. 

 The emotional and physical effects of a breast cancer diagnosis and its treatments can impact your sex life. Surgery, chemotherapy, and hormonal therapy can leave you with a changed body image, lower libido, vaginal dryness, and more. And feeling sad, anxious, or stressed can make it hard to want or enjoy the intimate activities you loved before cancer. Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s sex, intimacy, and breast cancer videos offer candid insights from women like you about dating, body image, libido, intimate relationships, communication with health care providers, remedies, and more."

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Happy 2022!

 Happy New Year! Same story, different year, LOL. Since I last wrote, we've been kicking butt in the fight against cancer. The Cancer Control team I serve on achieved goal at 110% on all outcomes which is due to tremendous leadership, the most amazing people ever on staff, and our incredible partners which fund our work. Consider visiting if you haven't recently! 

I am super proud of my work and if you'd like to see what we're doing in the fight against cancer on the ground, check out my latest partnership report here

We are also kicking Winter, 2022 off with the opportunity to spread joy by purchasing books for our local kiddos impacted by cancer. Will you consider purchasing Usborne books or donating to the fund so we can have the largest impact possible?! 

Usborne Books & More is matching all donations & sales by 50%! You can shop for yourself and rewards will go to the American Cancer Society at You can donate to the Book Drive via Venmo or Paypal! Venmo: @chellesbookshop Paypal:
Our goal is to raise $3,000 in either sales/donations! That will be $4,500 worth of books donated! Please help spread the word! 
We are taking donations until January 24th. 

I started my new ink! On December 7, I had my sunflower done. The second piece of this one will cover my old tat that was sliced in half during DIEP on my hip. Looking forward to having closure to all of this <3

Sending love!

Sunday, November 28, 2021


 Have you considered who you'll be supporting this #GivingTuesday?

I'll help you! Please consider supporting the American Cancer Society this #GivingTuesday

I'll be happy to give you a few reasons why this is the best value for your dollar!

Statistically speaking, 1 in 3 of us will get cancer so if it's not you that gets the awful diagnosis, likely you'll be caring for someone that does. Why not fund the work that's being done to eliminate cancer right here in our community? In Illinois alone, there are 20 active research grants totaling 13,476,200!

Besides research, we are increasing cancer screening rates, increasing HPV vaccine uptake (HPV causes ~36,000 cancers each year in the US), forming the Illinois Lung Cancer Roundtable, and forming a local transportation consortium in central, IL. 

Additionally, the American Cancer Society recently awarded $30,000 in transportation funding to local health systems in central, IL to address transportation barriers associated with missed treatment. 

Donate here:

Monday, October 11, 2021

Scars, Mars...It's My Warrior Wear!


"So, I guess I'll just strip right here..." as I stood in front of a mirror I asked the photographer to bring, in my typical 'I'm a girly girl but not..' fashion. I don't have a portable mirror, hadn't had the time to try on and figure out my outfits, and curled my hair for it to be flattened the moment I walked outside. But we were rollin' with it. I think Zach awkwardly replied with a mumble and walked the other direction. 

We lose a lot through this journey. I lost a ton of hair, I lost my breasts, I lost my short-term memory, the ability to sleep in the sleeping position I'd slept in for decades, I lost my tubes, a giant portion of my womanhood, and so much more. Modesty? Yea, you can bet my fluffy ass any modesty leftover from childbirth is dead and gone. 

I've written about it before, but we gain a lot through this journey too. I've gained a support group and friends and relationships that mean so much more than any of those I lost by going this route. I was a feminist before but holy hell, if this didn't give me a new profound respect for the WOMAN species as a whole, there's nothing else that could. There aren't even enough or strong enough words to describe how much these warriors face, come out on top, and still smash at life while walking the path. Regardless of the outcome, these woman are a force to be reckoned with. And therefore, I realize now that I am one of them! I am finding an entirely new version of self-love and am 100% unapologetic about how that may impact others. I love it. It's beautiful. You should try it too! PS, you don't even need a reason to - just do it!

So why did I want to do these photos? From a tangible perspective, I have that hideous, half-gone tattoo that I have a vision for. But I wanted photos of my scarring beforehand. From a non-tangible perspective, I hope they are a constant reminder for decades to come to myself and all those that read this that our scars, our wrinkles, our dimples, our gaps, our sags, our discolored, our whatevers are all of our imperfections that create our beauty.

"I am strong, I am beautiful, I am intelligent, I am kind. And I won't let anyone tell me differently." My daughter and I have said this together nightly since the day she was born and I share this as my gift to you!


PHOTO CREDIT! Let's talk about how HOT these photos are! Zach Adams with 1221 Photography really knocked this boudoir session out of the park. While modesty is nil, posing in string things for a stranger is not something I was super comfortable with doing either. Zach handled my vulnerability beautifully! He captured all I wanted to capture. And he couldn't have been more respectful. 

I can hardly wait to get my new ink and have session 2 done. 

Comment below to show some love! Which are your favorites?!

It's BACK, SHE's back..

Three years ago, I was losing my mind in anticipation [of the beginning of my previvor journey] and finding myself knee deep in houseplants ...