Thursday, December 31, 2015

Every Ending Has A New Beginning

2015 is coming to an end. As I sit here tonight and reflect on the last year I cannot believe how I have changed as a mother, wife, friend and child of the King. My faith has never been stronger. My love has never been deeper. My life . . . well it’s looking like I have longer to be here on Earth so I am making it as wide as it can be.

I have been praying the past couple months on what 2016 is going to bring and what God feels I need to do and where I need to be. Next month, I will have a double modified radical mastectomy. It’s something I have been fighting nearly two years for. Having said that, recovery will be about 6-8 weeks. I feel very strongly led in a different direction for my life this upcoming year so I have decided to focus solely on my family and my faith. I will be shutting down my Chronicles of Cancer Facebook Page. My Instagram account’s name changed to katecrawford4 yet remain public because I do just love photography. I deleted my Twitter account. I still have a personal FB account that I am on sporadically. I am going to keep my Blog up but will no longer be posting. It needs to stay up to help other women going through the same journey. I have stepped down as administrator from mostly all of my cnacer groups. I also will no longer centering such a large portion of my life on fundraising. While I, of all people, know how important and much needed fundraising for Metastatic Breast Cancer is, I can no longer take so much time out of my life for it. I would ask everyone to continue their donations to research by donating directly to the Magee Womens Foundation and to Metavivor. I have resigned as a Board Member from Project Sweet Peas. This was the hardest decision of them all. I have bled, sweat and cried over this organization since its inception in 2009. It is my other baby. It’s was just time though; time to let go. This chapter is over.

 I am going to focus solely on healing with my family and through my faith. I don’t need to be known my many; I need only to be deeply loved by a few. While this may be viewed as an ending to some, it is only a new beginning for me. I thank you all for your love and support these past three years. Please, still continue to keep us lifted in prayer.

Until we meet again . . .

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Wait . . . what?

When I started this crazy cancer journey two years ago, I knew what was facing me. I knew the reality of what a Stage IV Metastatic diagnosis meant. Never to be cured. Which I have learned to accept. But, in Cancerland, there is this something that people strive for, hope for and dream of: NED. NED stands for No Evidence of Disease. A more commonly used word for those non-cancer patients is remission. NED means that there is no cancer detectable on your scans, but that cancer cells still do likely remain in your body. You could be NED or “in remission” for years, but you will never be deemed cured; cancer is a vicious little shit and could always come back. I can honestly tell you that the past two years I have prepared myself to never hear those words spoken to me.

I had my set of quarterly scans last week. My bone scan ended up revealing a fracture in my foot. Between chemo, hormone therapies, and other drugs to rid my body of cancer that past two years it has also weakened my bones and muscles. I am at a high risk for osteoporosis so they told me to get used to stress fractures, especially in my feet. Monday I was given an air cast boot to wear for the next 6 weeks. Yesterday I talked with my team about the results of my CT and bone scans . . .

                                               NO EVIDENCE OF ACTIVE DISEASE

Wow. I really just wrote that. I had to ask a couple times if they were sure if that meant that the scans didn’t reveal any cancer and what exactly did it mean if there wasn’t any they could see. Officially, they won’t give me the NED or “remission” status because they cannot say for sure that there is no cancer in my body. However, there are no tumors that they can see. The lesions I had in my bones are healing. When I asked if it meant I was finally NED doc said “It’s as close to remission as we’ll get”. And you know what? I will friggin’ take that. I’m not cured. I never will be, but, I don’t need it because I have something better . . . TIME. This means I have more time with my family.

So now what? Well, this changes nothing as far as my care is concerned. I will be on my Herceptin treatment for the rest of my life no matter what. I will go every three weeks and get that infusion. Herceptin stops the cancer from producing rapidly and is what has gotten me to where I am today. If I stop, the cancer comes back, simple as that. As far as my bones are concerned, the lesions where they previously saw bone mets are healing. Not having active cancer in them does not mean I can now run a marathon or be pain free. Cancer has greatly damaged my bones. I have been going to PT and exercising to help decrease pain. I will still go for quarterly scans for the rest of my life as well.

I am happy. I am sad. I am shocked. I am numb. I am angry. I am about a gazillion emotions right now. I was off of the Cancer Roller-coaster for a long time, now I am right back on it. I am happy that this has happened to me. I am sad that it hasn’t happened to others. I am numb to this feeling of having more time. I am angry that I have lost so many friends to this disease. For a long while I wished for good to come of this, and I never felt it did. I stopped wishing, and I started praying. I prayed and trusted. I let go and let God. I trusted that whatever He has planned for me will be, and in the end, it will all work together for my good, even if it brings pain and sorrow. If He blesses me with being able to say that I do not have any detectable cancer in my body for the next 5, 10 or 20 years then I will praise and thank Him each one of those day. And if one day, my cancer comes roaring back, then I will ask Him for guidance, strength and courage; and I will still praise and thank Him for each one of those days, no matter how hard they will be. 

I’ve done exactly what I set out to do, and I am going to continue to do it. I am gonna keep working on that bucket list, because, I know, life is short, so I am gonna live the heck out of it.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Battling Breast Cancer

Rostraver woman with cancer, family raise thousands for fighting disease

Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Kate Crawford, 31, of Rostraver and a patient with stage IV breast cancer, rings the Chemo Graduation Bell, which was her idea, for the first time in celebration of the money she has raised through her LemonAID the Cure project, at Magee-Womens Hospital in Oakland, Wednesday, March 25, 2015.

When Kate Crawford was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer in January 2013, doctors gave her a 15 percent chance of surviving for five years.
She and her husband and their three children put together a “mommy bucket list” — things they wanted to accomplish together during Crawford's lifetime, including raising funds for cancer research, said Crawford, 31, a Rostraver resident.
She thought it important that patients of UPMC Cancer Center at Magee-Womens Hospital be able to mark milestones in their battles against the disease. That milestone marker recently came in the form of a bell, nicknamed “the chemo graduation bell,” that Crawford donated to the cancer center.
“When they're done with (chemotherapy), they ring the bell,” she said Wednesday during a gathering to showcase the bell.
With LemonAID the Cure — a lemonade stand — and other fundraisers, Crawford and her family have raised about $30,000 since 2013 to benefit the Magee-Womens Research Institute & Foundation, the UPMC Cancer Center at Magee and other cancer research organizations.
Last month in Atlanta, Kids II Inc., a baby product company, honored Crawford and seven other women as Pink Power Moms who have personal connections to breast cancer and who have helped others. Each woman chose a charity that would receive $9,000 over five years. Crawford chose the Magee foundation, which has received a $5,000 check.
A positive outlook such as Crawford's can make a positive impact in a cancer patient's fight against the disease, said Dr. Adam Brufsky, director of the Comprehensive Breast Cancer Center at Magee and Crawford's oncologist.
“She's living with it. She's not letting it dominate her life,” Brufsky said.
Crawford's cancer has spread to her liver, spine and pelvis, but she describes her condition as stable. She receives hormone therapy every three weeks, she said.
“I feel good. I'm doing well,” she said.
The Magee-Womens Research Institute & Foundation raises money for clinical care that is not covered by insurance, as well as for research, said Arthur Scully III, vice president of development and communications for the institute and foundation.
“It's amazing to us that people who have gone through a disease … how much they want to give back,” he said.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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Greater Rostraver Chamber plans annual recognition dinner

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Jim Ference | Trib Total Media
Kate Crawford gets a hug from her kids Stephen 4, Lily 6, and Grace 6, on Tuesday, October 14, 2014 as they look over pictures of a kick ball tournament that was held on her behalf.

Kate Crawford was having breakfast one morning with Greater Rostraver Chamber board member Mary Esther Antal and Executive Director Gina Lynn, when Lynn told her of a surprise they had for her – Crawford was chosen as the GRC's community service awardee.
“I cried because everybody at GRC is like family to me,” Crawford said. “They are the greatest friends. And for them to get together and choose me for the community service award means more than they will ever know.”
GRC will hold its annual recognition dinner April 23 at the Willow Room in Rostraver. In addition to Crawford, the chamber will recognize Rostraver Shop ‘N Save as the business of the year and Jamie St. Clair Davis of Salon Eye Candy as the young professional of the year.
The event began in 1975 as the Founders Day Dinner, held by the Rostraver Business Association to recognize those who worked to build the chamber and support the surrounding communities.
In 2009, GRC began honoring a business and an organization at the event. The GRC combined the Founders Day Dinner with additional recognition of a business or organization that actively contributes to the surrounding communities.
“Giving special recognition to the men or women who contribute their time, money and talent to build a stronger chamber and support the surrounding communities has become a time-honored tradition,” said Lynn.
Crawford lives in Rostraver with her husband Steve and their three children, Stephen and twins Lily and Grace. She created a bucket list after being diagnosed in 2013 with stage IV breast cancer.
Crawford's cancer is still stable, although she has dealing with a lot of pain in her spin because the disease caused a fracture.
“Mainly, we've been just trying to get my pain under control,” Crawford said. “As long as I stay busy and my mind's occupied, it's the best medicine.”
Crawford has definitely been staying busy.
Last month she traveled to Atlanta, where she was recognized as one of eight women worldwide named a Pink Power Mom by the Kids II Foundation. They were recognized for their efforts in breast cancer outreach and fundraising.
The award carries a $5,000 donation to the breast cancer association of Crawford's choice, the Magee Research Foundation in Pittsburgh.
She will also be donating a cancer bell so that when women complete their chemotherapy sessions they can ring it to celebrate.
The bell was purchased with proceeds from a lemonade stand she operated last year. Crawford raised more than $12,500 to benefit the Magee Women's Cancer Center.
Last weekend, she traveled to Boston for a fundraiser for Project Sweet Peas, the nonprofit she started in 2009. Crawford stepped down from the nonprofit, which provides support to families with infants in intensive care and to those who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss.
Earlier this winter, she hosted a polar plunge in Narragansett, R.I., to raise funds for the cause.
Crawford credited the GRC for supporting her fundraising efforts.
“Kate is one of the most inspirational and amazing women I know,” Lynn said. “Her selection was made easy by her giving spirit to those causes and organizations that touch her life personally. She is a doer.
“When she puts her mind to doing something, nothing stands in her way. Not only does she support her own community, but she supports projects that affect so many other people from so many areas. When you mention Kate's name, people smile in acknowledgement of her kindness and service.”
Rostraver Shop ‘N Save, located in the Willowbrook Plaza in Rostraver, opened for business in March 2000, relocating from the Kmart Plaza.
It is a family owned and operated business begun in 1973 by Bob and Betty Duritza.
Now retired, their children Bob Jr., Jeff, Laura and Scott currently operate the stores.
The Durtizas first opened the Rostraver Shop ‘N Save in partnership with SuperValu, their wholesale supplier. In 2003 they purchased their portion of the business from SuperValu.
The Duritzas currently operate 11 supermarkets in southwestern Pennsylvania and one in Weirton, W.Va.
The selection of business of the year recognizes outstanding community support, involvement, employment and leadership in the community, Lynn said.
“Our recognition of Rostraver Shop ‘N Save and the Duritza family is of a business that truly represents family and community,” Lynn said. “They are leaders in the business community and supporters of our chamber.”
Jamie St. Clair Davis opened Salon Eye Candy, located at 535 Broad Avenue, Belle Vernon, in February 2012 and has more than a decade of experience.
Salon Eye Candy is a full-service salon that offers a wide range of hair styling and related beauty services, such as manicures and pedicures.
The entire staff is actively involved with the Greater Rostraver Chamber's annual Ladies Night Out event, said Lynn.
“Jamie St. Clair Davis is being recognized as our Young Professional for her success as an entrepreneur who started her business, Salon Eye Candy in 2012, and has shown tremendous growth and sustainability in just a few short years, while balancing a young family,” Lynn said.
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Truth about Metastatic Breast Cancer

It’s a simple, grassroots initiative started by my friend, Beth. STOMP OUT BC, taking a day to educate the world about metastatic breast cancer through social media. The only breast cancer that kills. Another dear online friend, Nancy, started featuring statistics and women living with metastatic breast cancer on Monday’s months ago, calling it #MetsMonday. The community has combined both campaigns and created a #MetsMonday to “pink out” the world with trending hastags to make the everyone aware of what MBC is, and what it is like living with a terminal disease. No more ignoring Stage IV, we are waging war on Stage IV.

What is Metastatic Breast Cancer?

Metastatic Breast Cancer is also known as Stage IV Breast Cancer or Advanced Breast Cancer. It is cancer that has spread beyond the breast, through the lymphatic system and to other organs or bones in the body. It is not yet known exactly why or how breast cancer spreads. Once the cancer leaves your breast and spreads other places, patients live an average of 2-5 years. Younger women (diagnosed between 15-29) have a median survival rate of 16% for 5 years, according to a publication from the National Cancer Institute in 2006.

Not much research is done on Metastatic Breast Cancer patients, researchers assume there is about 155,000 women and men living with advanced breast cancer. Of those, less than 5% are initially diagnosed Stage IV. 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer, and of those, 1 in 3 of them will have their breast cancer spread, even after their initial surgery and treatments. 40,000 women will die each year, and that number has remained about the same for the past 20 years.

But, the world is aware of breast cancer so why aren’t more women surviving?

I couldn’t honestly tell you. Just because the world is aware and we have pink events, eat pink foods, and buy pink products doesn’t mean all of that money is going to fund research of advanced breast cancer. Millions upon millions of dollars are spent every year on “awareness”. Fundraisers cost money, travel to events cost money, making pink awareness products cost money . . . all of which makes us look pretty in pink. Unfortunately, looking pretty doesn’t matter much to those with Stage IV Breast Cancer. About 2-7% of funding from some of the leading breast cancer organization is spent on actually finding a cure. The majority of donations are spent on awareness. You cannot find a school, event, drink, storefront or person in October that either isn’t sporting pink or doesn’t know about breast cancer. Even our NFL teams wear pink during games and sell pink towels and shirts, in hopes to bring more awareness to the disease . . . Awareness is not the key to survival, action is.

What about “Early Detection”?

Early detection can me a doubled edged sword. Great to detect early, great to get a jump on treatment; that is if you are over 50. Women under 50 are not eligible for mammograms. 30-40% of women (of any age) that were diagnosed at an early stage (Stage 1, 2 or 3) will develop metastatic breast cancer either months, 2 years, 5 years or even 10 years after their original diagnosis. Early detection does not cure cancer and can be inconsequential to those who will metastasize. The amount of money spent on early detection campaigns will not cure cancer or find out why this disease spreads and does not help the younger population of breast cancer patients.

What does living with advanced breast cancer mean?

Well, if you haven’t read my blog before, I am very open about my journey. If you want a raw, open and honest view at what living with this disease is like, I highly encourage you to read through my posts. In one post, I compare living with advanced breast cancer as walking through a revolving door and in this post I confess my uncensored feelings on my life. Since there is no cure, a majority of women and men living with advanced breast cancer will be in a treatment for the rest of their lives. We deal with the debilitating side effects of cancer, treatments and society. The side effects range from pain to emotional instability, from surgery and exhaustion to death.

I’ve grown close to a lot of women. I call them my friends, my sisters, my breasties. Many I have not met, some I have. I have listened and watched them suffer, I have heard of their woes, saw them cry, held their hands, texted feverishly, and watched die. I have watched many friends die. That’s what it’s like to live with terminal breast cancer.

With the permission of some other courageous women, I am sharing what their views are on living with MBC:

I look "normal" but on the inside I'm sicker than most people can imagine.” – Tricia

Having MBC means, my 5 babies will eventually loose me. I won’t be there to comfort them, at the time they need me most' – Clare

“Having MBC means I never get a break from treatments and side effects” – Nicole

“MBC sucks. I'm 31 but feel like I'm 50 with aches and pains from extensive bone mets. I want/need a cure!” – Chrissy

“Having MBC means I have a whole new appreciation for life. Being faced with death on a daily basis is a fear like no other. Not knowing if you will see your children grow up is more excruciating than any physical pain. One that others cannot possibly know” – Kelly

“Metastatic breast cancer means to me pushing forward when the pain is unbearable. ....getting out of bed when in fact I want to sleep all day. Volunteering at my daughters' schools just because they want me there. ....planning my funeral in my mind while telling no one my dark thoughts.......” – Gina

“There is a 22% chance I'll live 5 years... My daughters will be 20. 5 years is NOT enough!” – Beth

“One word for MBC is HOPE! I hope my scans are ok, I hope I make it to next Christmas, I hope this treatment is working, I hope I can get out of bed tomorrow, I hope my daughter will be ok without me, HOPE” – Rebekah

“For my 40th birthday I got Stage 4 breast cancer. At the time my seven children were 16 and younger. There is nothing more painful than looking into your children's eyes and knowing that you are not going to be there for them.”- Tracy

“Holidays are supposed to be happy, joyful times spent with family and friends. However, I usually feel an overwhelming sadness because I can't help but think it may be my last.” – Blaike

“On the outside, I smile & look great. On the inside, I cry because I'm rotting bone, one lymphnode, one organ at a time.” – Kim

“Finding the strength to fight for my family day in and out knowing that I'm a ticking time bomb. My body will either start shutting down or I will run out of treatment options. Neither of the options suffice when I have a 2 year old that needs his mom.” –Adrienne

“Try to live like everyone else but know I can't. Always wondering if my treatment is working. As a single mom I worry for my boys (12&9) and what will happen if I die sooner than later.”- Maria

“MBC is rearranging your life to accommodate the "new normal" of forever treatments of reoccurring cancer.” – Bethany

“Cancer may define the way I will die, but it will not define the way I live'” – Tracy

“My daughters were 2 & 3 years old when I was diagnosed at 37 years old. Every day is a fight to remain emotionally strong. This picture was taken on Mother's Day- 2 days before I was diagnosed with Stage3c Breast Cancer which metastasized and spread to my bones during my initial treatment.” – Amy B.

“The continual toll it takes on one’s mind, body & spirit & ones family while trying to consume us" I will always have faith, hope & strength to stay positive & not let it consume me” – Shannen

“MBC isn't about winning or getting well soon; only perseverance despite the odds.” – Amy A.

How do we find a cure then and why is this so important?

Let your voice be heard! Join us this Monday to STOMP OUT BC. Don’t let advanced breast cancer be the elephant in the pink room- post about, talk about, share our stories! Help trend our hashtags #MetsMonday , #BCKills , #DontIgnoreStageIV and #WageWarOnStageIV . No matter what you call it, Metatstic Breast Cancer, Stage IV Breast Cancer, Advanced Breast Cancer or Terminal Breast Cancer- those are the only breast cancers that are killing our mothers, sisters, daughters, fathers and brothers. What you need to do is make sure that our society doesn’t buy in to the pink-washing, and that funds are donated to research foundations and institutions dedicated to working on why cancer spreads and how to cure it.

This is important because I want to live, all the women I posted quotes from above- they want to live. I want to live to see my kids grow, I want to grow old with my husband and I want my parents to die long before I do. The thousands of women with little children or grandchildren want to live. We don’t want a life riddled with appointments, pains and heartaches and we sure as hell don’t want our children or loved ones to either.  Finding a cure is important because life is important.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

I'll Love You Forever


It’s seen me at my best moments. It’s seen me at my worst moments. It’s been the toughest, most rewarding, horribly-best role I have ever had. Motherhood is the crazy-hide-in-the-bathroom-wanna-run-away-heart-so-full-of-joy-indescribable kinda love. I’ve just always wanted to be that perfect Mom. It’s what I strived for.

I don’t know what made me value my motherhood by a series of achievements and busyness but I became the Mom that everyone asked “How do you do it?” Looking back, what I really hoped for was someone to sit me down and said “Listen crazy, take it down a notch”. Social media has been a double edged sword in my motherhood journey. It’s been great to connect with other Mom’s, but a constant pressure of how to raise your kids was exhausting. You could read everywhere and see every other Mom, and they told you how to feed your kids, organize your house, schedule your time, decorate, craft, and even spend time with your kids. Did I really need to read about how I should spend time with my kids? No . . . but I did because society made me feel that I wasn’t good enough. I was so obsessed with being the best Mom that I could be that I couldn’t see how much I was actually missing. I didn’t have time for much, including myself or my health.

Go back 3 years. I cleaned every day. I mean I cleaned. Every. Day. I made dinner every day. We barely had money to eat, let alone eat out, but I made 3-4 course dinners. EVERY. DAY. And we ate only on glass plates with silverware that needed to be washed every day. The kids made a craft at least twice a week. I made sure they had “learning time” to work on knowing ABC’s, writing their names, knowing their shapes and colors. I had to bathe them every other day. We lived on a schedule. I was a mix between Captain Hook, a Marine and Martha Stewart. Holiday’s had to be elaborate. I decorated for every season. My house had to look good. My kids had to look good. I had to look good. But no matter how much I did, or how engrossed I was in those routines . . . I never felt like I was living up to my own expectations.

And then my world came crashing down. 2 years ago, a doctor walked in to my hospital room and told me my breast cancer, which we had found out about just two weeks before, had actually spread all over my body. That I likely would never be cured and that they would try to save my life. I didn’t care about being perfect anymore. I didn’t care how clean my house looked, if I made dinner, if we ate off of paper plates, if the kids bathed, if I bathed- being perfect doesn’t matter when you’re very existence is threatened.

Time mattered. Moments mattered. Memories mattered.

All of the sudden, I wasn’t just going through the motions of life. I was living them. Really living them. The wind was like a hug from God himself. The beauty in my twins stopping to smell flowers made me not worry about getting places on time. We slowed down. I appreciated a messy house filled with toys. A book became more than a book. It was an intricate story with real meaning.

I’ll love you forever

I’ll like you for always

As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.

I took Stephen out for lunch, who is healing great by the way, and an elderly woman and her older son sat behind us. It reminded me so much of that book. Here I was, being driven crazy by this little boy and yet being so incredibly in love with him. The son helped his mother with her jacket, helped her sit down and they sat and talked as they ate. When they were done, he helped her up, put her jacket on and helped her out the door. Maybe God opened up my eyes to that because I will never have it. I may never have it, but I appreciated that occasion. In that instant I knew, it didn’t matter how perfect that Mother was, or how clean her house was, or how she spent time with her son- he loved her, unconditionally, just the way she was. 

The words took on a form to prepare my kids for the day I wouldn’t be around. Someday, I will die, we all will die. Hopefully, God will grant me a miracle and let me stay around for another 50 years, but if not I am okay with that. I am learning to trust that whatever may come to be will be. I appreciate more of motherhood than ever before because of this. I always feared I wasn’t perfect enough, but I am perfect. I am perfectly imperfect. And that is okay with God, and it’s okay with my kids . . . and it’s okay with me.