On Friday, September 21, 2012, I got up early and headed to Research Medical Center for my colonoscopy. My hope was to hear the symptoms I was having were due to stress. Worst case scenario, I had an ulcer. As I woke up in the recovery room, I remember hearing clear as day: "cancer...Kristopher Saim...follow-up."
As I continued to wake up, the doctor came to talk to me. I braced myself, waiting to hear those words - but all he was willing to say was I had a tumor in my colon and they had sent part of it off for biopsy. I had to wait 72 hours for the results. It was a rough weekend.
On Monday, everything changed with a short, five minute phone call. The nurse told me I had cancer. I heard the words and started crying. After, I walked upstairs to tell my husband, AJ. I was truly afraid my life would be over soon. So many things were rushing through my head: life insurance and my kids, not seeing them grow older, missing out on high school graduations. How was I going to be able to tell them and not break their hearts? How would my parent react?
I was only 40 years old. I hadn’t experienced all I want to experience in this life.
Dealing With Diagnosis
The next few months were a blur. Doctor visit after doctor visit, surgery, hospital stays, emergency surgery, chemotherapy. It all runs together. Somewhere in the midst of all the craziness, I found strength. I recaptured my positive attitude. I talked to God for the first time in ages. I leaned on people for support and the support poured in from everywhere. It's amazing how much love and good there is in this world.
In October I had two surgeries. The second left me with an ileostomy. My waste now empties from my body through a stoma and into a bag. The bag has taught me patience I never knew existed.
Eighteen days and 40 pounds later (yes, I lost 40 pounds), I came home feeling tired and sore. But I came home happy - happy to be alive and happy to be loved. There's something to be said for receiving a message from God like cancer: Quit being stupid. Be thankful for who and what you have. Live each day to the fullest. Love with all your heart. Forgive.
Living Life With Cancer
I returned to work on December 3 in a limited capacity. Not mentally limited, mind you. I was ready to take on the world!
At work, my PlattForm family created #TeamKris. More than 70 people flooded social media with images of support. I was overwhelmed and emotional at the number of people who participated.
In spite of everything that has happened, I feel much more complete as a person. I am confident by summer, I will be cancer free. I will survive.
More importantly, my family feels more love, more fulfillment, more emotion and more hope. You see, I might be the one who was diagnosed with cancer, but it ate away at my whole family. They might not physically have had those surgeries and might not have to sit through chemo, but I know they are feeling it. Had I not experienced the love and support from my family and friends, I might have given up.
On Fundraising Advice
Once I determined I was going to raise money for the Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA), I knew EXACTLY how I was going to achieve success. I just had no idea that I would be able to double my goal of $2,500!
Every time someone makes a donation, I call them out on Facebook with a tag and a thank you. Every time I do this, I always include the link with a request for more donations. Social media, Facebook specifically, has been the key to my fundraising success. The other piece, of course, has been the amazing generosity of my supporters. One very good friend donated $500. I was astonished at how moved people have been.
In addition to the raw cash donations through the CCA Dress in Blue Day site, I have also been selling Team Kris wrist bands (think LIVESTRONG) and Team Kris t-shirts; $3.20 of every band sold and $7 from every t-shirt sold goes to the CCA. In my community we have organized several charity events, some benefitting the CCA and others benefitting a local charity called the Jennifer Ireland Foundation. From karaoke to drag shows to silent auctions and bake sales, March is going to be a great month!
My fundraising advice? Don't wait - even if your network isn't deep, ANY money you raise will be put to good use! Secondly, you would be surprised at all of the people willing to help out with fundraising events. Check with restaurants you frequent for gift cards, check with wine clubs for free tastings; there are tons of things people will bid on in a silent auction. Bake sales are a piece of cake, no pun intended. There is no reason to hesitate! Get out there and start sharing your story of how colon cancer has affected you and your family and make a difference!
On His Own Heroes
My parents and my partner are definitely my heroes. I can't even type this without getting emotional. I have never felt so lucky that my Mom and Dad are my Mom and Dad. In my adult life, I have been blessed with finding my true soulmate in AJ. At 32, he isn't scheduled to be screened for quite some time, but he is going to be screened this year. These three individuals have truly been my rocks through this entire ordeal and define hero for me. I would not have made it through this without all of their love and support. They will definitely get screened as a result of my diagnosis and it will make me so happy when those scopes come back clean.
-Kristopher Saim, 40
Stage III colon cancer patient/awareness rock star