Standing In My Mother’s Shoes ……
It is almost one year to the day since I last wrote in this diary, heavily pregnant with my first child and so full of hope for the future. Over the years I have often started these entries saying I had no idea how to begin to express the things I had seen or felt, and that is sadly never more poignant than now.
Today, I sit in front of this screen exhausted, with tears running down my cheeks remembering the last few months and the sheer terror I have been through. I have rewritten this paragraph so many times, trying my best to find my flow so that I can do this right, because I want others to read these words, more than anything I have ever written before. I hope that just like the forums and endless blogs I found myself reading during my lowest points, that my story might make a difference to somebody somewhere and encourage them to follow their instincts, even when doctors tell them they are fine.
On September 2nd I took this video of myself triumphantly holding my eight month old son Finch just after I had signed off the last print run of the Second Edition of the Wonderland book. I felt like I had climbed a mountain, producing the book, designing the cover, working around the clock in the Italian factory, whilst driving back and forth every two hours to our tiny apartment so I could maintain breastfeeding. It had been chaos, but the worst was finally behind us as my little family headed home with shopping bags full of pasta and cheap celebratory wine. Our holiday in Lake Garda would start the next morning and for the first time since Finch was born I could imagine resting, feeling the sun on my face, slowing down and having some time to focus on happiness after what had been a difficult transition to motherhood.
That night whilst my husband Matthew read stories to Finch, I stood in the shower laughing to myself at the overflowing paddling pool we’d used as a make-shift baby bath. Plastic toys swirled around my feet as I lathered a handful of soap, rubbing it into my hair and skin, calling out to my boys that “I’d be there in a minute”; when suddenly my fingertips slid across the outline of a small hard lump I had never noticed before. Heavy slow breaths left my mouth as I froze, both hands on my wet breast, my terrified reflection staring back from the mirror with hollow eyes. A strange solemn acceptance prickled through my veins as I knew this could only mean one thing….cancer.
With each step I took towards the bed where my son and husband lay, the ground seemed to fall away, I whispered to Matt in the darkness that something was wrong…..something was really wrong.
That night as our son slept, we lay together on a fold out bed, drained from reading breast cancer forums on dimly lit laptops, eyes sore from stifled tears. I stared at the moon, numb, frightened and unable to process any of it. All I could see was my mother, she was everywhere, flash backs of hospitals, funerals, treatment rooms, the weight of it all took everything I had left. I couldn’t do this, not now….not with a baby…..not after everything we had been through.
The following day we drove to the lake. I drifted between the rooms of our outdated dark hilltop home, lingering in those furthest from anyone so they wouldn’t hear me crying. We’d hired a nanny so I could rest but instead I could barely let Finch go. I stood in the shadows of our bedroom, silently hysterical as I took picture after picture on my phone of him sleeping, tears streaming down my face. He looked so small, so fragile, I completely fell apart……
We left the strange damp house a day early for a new apartment with sunset views and a garden full of butterflies. My spirits lifted a little as I held on to Finch in the sunshine, pointing at the flowers and holding out our wrists in the breeze, willing the butterflies to land on our skin. I kept telling myself if one touched us, if it landed on Finch I wouldn’t have cancer and I’d be safe, it would all be a silly mistake. Each evening as the warm sun flooded our balcony with streams of gold and pink, I sat and watched Finch playing with his toys oblivious to the auras and flares that seemed to surround him. I desperately wished it was a sign, that it was mum telling me everything would be ok. I filmed short clips on my phone, narrating them with the date and Finch’s age, saying over and over how much I loved him, with the morbid thought that If I died he could at least hear my voice when he was older and never forget me. I clung to anything and everything for hope… if I turned the door handle twice, if I skipped the crack in the road, if the butterfly lands on us… if the light touches Finch’s feet before he crawls away …. I’ll be ok, I’ll be ok.
A week later the lake was a distant memory as we sat in the doctors waiting room. I was examined and immediately told there was nothing to worry about. The lump was very small, very mobile and of course I was breastfeeding ‘so this is common’ there was no need for concern. Only 3% of breast cancer cases are lactating women, but due to my mother’s history they agreed to a hospital referral which would take a couple of weeks. Having already waited one agonising week in Italy, any longer seemed unbearable and so within the hour we opted for private care. I was examined by a breast surgeon who once again said there was ‘nothing to worry about’. I had an ultrasound by a third specialist and was told the lump was undoubtedly benign. I lay on the examination bed looking up at the ceiling whispering “thank you” over and over under my breath. I was safe, silly me. Before we left the clinic we discussed future preventative care. Maybe I should have a mammogram next year when I stopped breastfeeding? Or if I was still concerned I could consider a biopsy for peace of mind, but it was so clearly not cancer the NHS probably wouldn’t fund it. Everyone sounded so confident, even Matthew tentatively suggested that maybe I should just rest now and let it go. But a voice inside said no, I had been here before with mum. Her appointments had been a slippery slope from ‘ok’ to more tests and eventually the helplessness that comes with a cancer diagnosis. This wasn’t about me anymore, I had a baby, a family and too many bad memories, so I insisted on a biopsy.
Three days later we arrived at the hospital clinic. I tried not to stare at the other women, wondering if they, like me were about to find out their future or if they were already on that path. I went to the bathroom countless times, willing my anxious reflection to be more positive. I hardly recognised myself, hair combed back, collar bone showing a little more than normal, I hadn’t slept. I put on my glasses and there she was – my mother looking back at me, I forgot to breathe. Everyone always said we looked so alike but now it was frightening me.
A kind nurse led me to a small dark examination room and explained the procedure to extract cells from the lump. I removed my top and lay on the bed. Cold jelly dripped down my side as I closed my eyes and talked to mum in my head. I had a second ultrasound followed by the needle aspiration and once again the doctor cheerily said everything looked completely fine.
I remember leaving the hospital that day, walking down the corridors feeling so grateful I was one of the lucky ones – scolding myself for constantly thinking the worst. Four doctors, two ultrasounds, calm down you are not your mother, YOU ARE OK.
The following week passed so quickly I almost forgot when the results were due. We had been out looking at houses and I’d left my phone switched off in the nappy bag for hours. It was around 5pm when I remembered and switched it on…. Six missed calls. I stood at the back door window, hands pressed against the glass as I braced myself for the voicemail trying not to panic. Outside the world continued drifting along in a hazy Indian Summer, Matt was mowing the grass whilst birds flew overhead and our washing billowed in the breeze. Finch babbled away, tugging at my trouser leg from his walker as I played back the words ‘suspicious cells’ over and over in silent terror. The relief I had felt over the past few days began to drain from my legs, they wanted me to go back the next day, 9am for more tests, it was urgent.
And so it began, the tests, the scans, the decline I had remembered so clearly with mum. The next morning I struggled to put one foot in front of the other as I walked back down the same corridors I had previously left feeling so light and happy. I couldn’t hold it together and sat in the toilets so I didn’t cry in front of Finch. My breastfeeding was making everything very difficult as the tissue of a lactating breast is so dense it makes scans unreliable. I had a third ultrasound, mammogram and this time a core biopsy. I lay on the same bed a very different woman as they guided a larger needle into the lump. Tears ran down my neck as I finally began to understand what my mother had gone through. You think you can empathise with someone who has cancer and try your very best to be there for them, but the truth is nothing can ever compare to the feeling when it is happening to you. I now realise how much she must have hidden from me, just as I was now trying to do for Finch. Matt and I have always said we should try and take photos of the good and bad so we never forget certain times in our lives. This photo was taken by him as I carried Finch up and down the hospital corridor for almost 2 hours between tests, burying my face into his soft hair and breathing in the smell of his sweet skin. Passing nurses stopped and tried to help but I wouldn’t let go, I just clung to him and willed everyone else to leave us alone. I was angry, sad, scared, so scared, I hardly spoke..
After four agonising days of waiting Matt and I sat together at home holding hands as my surgeon confirmed over the phone that I had cancer. They wouldn’t be able to tell me any further information until I had an MRI scan and then my stage could be determined and a treatment plan built. I began to tell a couple of close friends, my father, my mothers sisters, all hope seemed to unravel, it was finally real.
The following days and hours blurred until the morning of the MRI. We left just after the dawn, freezing fog hung in the air as we drove past commuters shuffling to train stations under grey swollen skies. In the car I held on to the seatbelt and tried my best to breathe, but a panic attack took over and we had to stop. This was the first day of true terror for me, an overwhelming helplessness took over as I passed through preliminary care, blood tests, changing cubicles and finally entered the MRI room shivering in a thin cotton gown. The darkened space was larger than I had imagined, soft pink lights glowed around the mouth of the huge machine, it was all oddly beautiful and calming. I lay face down on the bed, arms above my head as my poor bruised chest was placed in position. Everyone was so kind, gentle warm hands on my punctured skin, hushed voices, the nurse covered my body with a thick soft blanket and squeezed my hand when I blurted out I had a baby, “he’s nine months old, his name is Finch”.
The bed began to enter the tunnel as the thundering sound of the machinery began to pulse and whir through my ear plugs. I had made the mistake of choosing an audiobook to listen to while I was inside and was suddenly deafened by the boom of distorted echoing voices, as cold blue dye ran into my veins. A sense of detachment took over and the familiar feeling of falling returned, there was nothing I could do but close my eyes and try to block everything out.
Five hours later I sat outside yet another consultation room with Matthew. This was the moment we had been focused on for weeks, my final diagnosis before surgery. My appointment was running late and I could no longer hide how I felt, in truth by now I was utterly hysterical. Deep in my pocket I clung on to the ID bracelet Finch had worn in hospital when he was born, the photo of his 20 week scan when I was pregnant and a letter my mother had written to me in the last year of her life. My other hand dug into Matt’s palm, I drank cup after cup of water, I looked like absolute hell, we were called in.
Looking back as I write these words, I still find it quite surreal how my threshold for good or bad news readjusted with each new stage of a diagnosis. I had cancer, yet when my surgeon told us the news I was confirmed as stage one I almost cheered. The MRI had been clear, no other tumours were found and my cancer was a normal grade 2. This meant that unless surgery uncovered any further issues I would escape chemotherapy and my survival rate was 99%. I sobbed, rang my father, my friends, clung to Matt and kissed Finch’s birth bracelet. Everything melted away, I felt I could do this … surgery, radiotherapy, 8 years of a hormone drug, I would see my son grow up.
It was agreed that surgery to remove the tumour and my sentinel lymph node would be in two weeks time. I would have to wean Finch and mentally prepare myself for changes to my breast and the high possibility of infection as my milk made healing problematic. I blindly nodded and spent the days relieved, ecstatic and full of hope.
Throughout all of this time, from the very first moments in Italy I had constantly searched for signs, glimmers in our everyday that I tuned into and gave me some kind of guidance. Matt would always roll his eyes at me with my superstitions, but even he crumbled when he saw Finch’s bracelet in my hands. So many things happened, I had moments that couldn’t be explained that I wont list here but I never felt alone. The morning of the surgery the reality that my body might never be the same again finally began to sink in. I had been warned that the blue radioactive dye they inject into the tissue could potentially stain my nipple blue for some time, I could even cry blue tears. I wondered how much healthy flesh they’d have to remove, would I be left disfigured like my mother had been?
Hours later I lay on the operating bed as the anaesthetist administered the general anaesthetic. He asked what I did for a living, so I told him about Wonderland, the photos, the journey since losing mum. I cried nervous tears as the smell of vanilla filled my mask and the room blurred. This was only the second operation I’d ever had, the first was Finch’s emergency caesarean last Christmas Eve and now cancer… two scars I’d carry forever, life and death.
I woke in the recovery room to see Matthew tightly holding my hand between both of his. He looked frightened, was close to me, staring into my eyes saying my name over and over telling me to “wake up, wake up, it’s very important”. I began to reply when I felt another hand on my other shoulder and a nurse turned my head, asking me what was wrong and “who was I talking to?” I looked back and Matthew was gone. The recovery room radio suddenly switched and started to play the song ‘Fields of Gold’, the music my family had chosen for my mother’s funeral. I had been hallucinating but the song was real, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The nurses asked if I wanted it switched off but I refused, It was oddly comforting, like she was there with me.
I returned to the ward and passed in and out of broken sleep for the next few hours. My surgeon visited to say everything went well and they’d taken three lymph nodes to make sure they had all the information they would need. I went home and recovered extremely well, the scar was tiny and hidden just under my arm. I physically looked no different and to my amazement I was even able to to continue nursing Finch as normal, I felt invincible.
Two weeks later I headed back to the hospital for my final results. I felt strong, I even wore make-up on and held my head up high walking through the hospital’s sliding doors. I sat on the examination bed waiting for the surgeon to arrive, my reflection in the mirror flushed with colour, I felt so much better. However, the moment the doctors entered an unease crept through me. My surgeon hesitated a little and started by saying that upon analysis my cancer was found to in fact be a grade 3 – the fastest growing and most aggressive type there is. It was luckily removed with good margins and to my horror had only been 1mm away from attaching to my chest wall. She continued talking about the positives, that the tumour had been tiny, only 8mm but somehow all of this felt like a buffer for the one thing I really needed to know; had cancer been found in my lymph nodes? There it was again, the hesitation.
It was explained that out of the three nodes taken, a microscopic shred of cancer cells known as micrometastasis had been found in one. If I had been sixty years old this was so tiny is was negligible, but due to my young age they had to consider every possible preventative measure, which meant I could now potentially face Chemotherapy. At this point I simply shut down, I had always tried my hardest throughout this whole process to hold myself together, to not get angry when the original predictions had been so wrong. I’d cried buckets between appointments but always put on a brave face for the scans, the injections, the prodding and poking but now it all just fell away. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye and just slumped, staring into space with silent tears streaming down my neck as Matt squeezed my hand and tried to ask the right questions. A support nurse was brought into the room as it was explained I would now face one more test known at the Oncotype DX test. My sample would be sent to the US to be analysed for 21 genes that would build a cancer recurrence rate out of one hundred. If I scored under eighteen I would not have chemotherapy, If I scored between eighteen and thirty chemotherapy would be considered /recommended if at the higher end of the scale. If I scored over thirty I had no choice. The test would take two weeks, suddenly the girl in the mirror looked worse than ever before. My body was now my enemy, it is truly impossible to describe how that feels……
The days that followed were without doubt the worst I had ever been through. I scoured the internet for as much information as I could, desperately trying to piece together everything I knew about my cancer to see if I could get any indication of what my test score might be. Finally three days before I was due to return to hospital, I found a research study that implied if you had a grade three cancer the result was almost always high and chemotherapy would be recommended. After that I was inconsolable, wandering around the house clutching photos of mum, Finch, staring out the windows with wild exhausted eyes, hating myself, my body, everything. Matt drove us to the woods to try and calm me down but instead I dragged my feet, held on to the tree trunks and sobbed with true and genuine fear. I remember how beautiful the sun had been as we pushed Finch’s buggy into a clearing. Tiny leaves were spiralling down in the breeze from the tallest branches, dancing and drifting in the shards of light. It was briefly hypnotising and the dormant artist deep inside of me woke and reached with outstretched fingertips towards them. I thought of the Wonderland shoots and how badly I wanted, needed, to create again, but then the reality of my situation extinguished that hope with one crushing blow. The goal posts had been moved yet again, when would I ever, ever, be able to feel like myself and make new work? I was numb, broken, weightless yet heavy and the sensation of falling was with me at every step. I wanted to give up so badly, to not change another nappy, make another dinner, stop being a mother, a wife, to be left alone and just lay down there on the forest floor and be the old me. I was a wreck and was scaring myself and Matt, I had reached rock bottom and no longer cared who saw it, it was truly one of the worst days of my life.
Finally on November 1st, Matt and I returned to the hospital for my results. We were let into the consultation room before the oncologist arrived and sat silent and fearful holding hands. Both of us had given up, I cried for the millionth time burying my face into his jacket, exhausted and utterly hopeless, I have never, ever been so frightened. The door opened, and three doctors entered. The oncologist pulled up a chair in front of us, sat down with a handful of notes and to my complete disbelief told me I had scored nineteen out of one hundred and he would not be recommending chemotherapy. I can’t even begin to explain how it felt to hear those words. It was two months to the day since I had discovered the lump, two months of waiting to know my future. I never imagined that after everything I’d read I would spared. I was a completely erratic mess of joy and relief whilst still trying to remember my questions about what would happen next. Of course I still had radiotherapy and hormone treatment to face, but the doctor confirmed I was now cancer free.
And so, this is where I now stand. Until today only those closest to me knew. Sometimes I can’t believe the timing of the events in my life. With the First Edition of the Wonderland book I discovered I was pregnant and gave birth within a day of the books being delivered, and then on the night of finishing the Second Edition I discovered I had cancer. The girl who dedicated seven years to a book after her mother’s cancer, ends it with cancer herself, you couldn’t make it up if you tried. But as a dear friend said to me on the phone, when you go through these challenges despite all the terrible things, each time you gain a new level of empathy which you may otherwise have never felt. This resonates so deeply now and I feel lucky I have escaped so much. I constantly think about the women all over the world who will face far worse. Breast cancer is largely a mother’s disease, every forum I read during those late nights of desperation were brave women going through hell whilst trying to hold their families together, care for their children, babies and act normal when they were terrified inside. I feel like I have experienced something so profoundly life changing it is hard to put into words and of course it will now heavily affect my new work going forwards. I feel re-set and it may sound like a cliché, but I want to try harder, love more and be a better person. I’m feeling positive and will start my radiotherapy on the 15th of December for 4 weeks.
This has of course been a very emotional entry to write, and something I wasn’t sure I would make public at first. However, if it wasn’t for the women who had written about their own experiences, especially those who were breastfeeding I may have never insisted on that biopsy. My cancer was grade three, which meant in six months or a year’s time my diagnosis would have been very different. Their words and my mothers experience were why I pushed for more tests, which has in turn now saved my life. I just hope that maybe this diary entry might also one day help someone make the same choice. x
Finally whilst all of this was happening, I lived in the complete paradox of the Second Edition of the book coming to fruition and looking even more beautiful that I could have ever imagined. In my lowest moments, unknown to you all, your photos and messages of absolute joy and excitement over receiving your books kept me going. Seeing people clutching their pre-orders like precious treasure, reading the emails about you pouring over the pages with your families was a medicine like no other. I am so proud of the book, it always seems to save me in my darkest times and to know it is so loved by you all means the world to me.
I wanted to share a few of those pictures here, to remind myself how far this book has travelled and the lives it has touched, so thank you….. yet again.
Dear Kirsty, thank you for sharing. I wish I could put a shield of protection around you… but that never happens, does it. Peace be with you and your family. Peggy
Oh dear goodness, I’ve just wept buckets. Can’t think of what to say apart from all the love in the world to you and yours & may you have the Happiest Christmas possible given your treatment. Kirsty you gave me light in darkness, I now pass that light back to you. xxxx
OMG! I had noticed that you had been quiet of late but just though you were hard at work being creative and being a mum and wife, if only… I am not religious so won’t say prayers for you but send positive healing thoughts to you. You’ve been through a hell of a lot so far but I’m sure with the love and support of those around you, and the will of a determined loving mother that you are, you’ll ensure you get well soon to spend as much time with Finch and Matt then get back to creating more magical amazing art. As ever your words had me in tears, so eloquently moving and involving. P.S. I’m still hopeful that ‘Santa’ will be bringing me your book this Christmas since it never ‘arrived’ last year., take care.
Dear sweet young mother, your story has touched me deeply. I too buried my mother just 4 short years ago. During your time of trials my oldest daughter was having tests run to rule out cervical cancer. She is a single mum with 3 little ones, it’s been a few months of sheer terror. As im sure you can relate to.
As it turns out it isn’t cervix cancer yet there is a small chance it could be uterine cancer. She is having a hysterectomy next week, and we continue ue to pray and hope for the best.
May your days be filled with happiness and the best of moments because there are no guarantees. Little Finch is lucky to have you as a mother as you were lucky to have yours.
Much love and happiest of holidays, Marla
Wow, what a difficult, terrifying time for you. Words are so limited in these situations. I read your blog with tears streaming down my face. I’m so glad the worst is over. On a lighter note – Finch is the best name, ever! Just know that you bring so much joy to anyone who sees your stunning photography.
Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve been following your work, and you are amazing. My Mother survived Colon Cancer at 17 yrs old which is a crazy age for this type of Cancer but lost most of her bowel. I lost my Grandpa to this also. And over the holiday’s I will be going in for my 4th exam, this time being put under. 7 yrs ago they had already had removed polyps. Long story short I’m feeling anxious once again. But I believe early detection and you staying on top of this, even when they said you will be fine.
But on another note, your photo’s for some reason make me cry, I feel so much emotion. I myself is an Artist,I have spent time building props and know the countless hours that go into Set’s. I appreciate all of it. I only went to school to grade 7, that’ is another long story I had to grow up fast. So I have self taught myself everything I know. And I love that about myself 😉
I’m so Happy you’re ok. The world would have gone through such a loss, without you in it 🙂 I’m saving up for your book and will most likely pass out when I can finally order it HAhaha. Much Love you and your Family. I’m so glad your healthy. Best regards Shannon
Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with so many of us who hold you dear to our hearts. Know that you are loved and supported by many. xo
I just cried and cried. I’ve been so moved by your whole story and am so proud to own a first edition of Wonderland. I’ve had one of the most difficult years if my life. Dipping in and out of those gorgeous fairytale scenes has kept me sane.
NOW this, there are no words ❤️
I wish you well and happy. Sending so much love and strength to you. Thank you so much for sharing this part of your story. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it must have been to write. But, it needs to be told, shouted from the rooftops. The difference a few weeks waiting can make is terrifyingly apparent. We all need to read, reread and remember this.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas xxxxxxx
You are an amazing mother, wife, daughter & friend to many!. Thank you for sharing your heart to me, us. I too had a lunp right after my Mother had a double mas. I was lucky. My large mass(golf ball size and very deep) was not cancerious. I walked around numb for weeks till I knew I was cleared.
I am happy for you! Stay positive and keep hugging your husband and baby!
Of all the things that could’ve happened, this has to happen to you.
As I read your diary entry the tears streamed down my face, I think I can speak for all of those you’ve touched that we wished so much better for you. It also made me remember the times I went to the hospital with my mum, the anxiety, the disbelief & shock. And you are absolutely right that even if you accompany someone on this terrible journey you simple cannot fathom what that persoon is going through.
I wish you a speedy recovery, I hope the therapy wil go well and that you will truly be and remain cancer free.
Lots of love,
Thank you for sharing…you are such an inspiring soul.
Kristy, I can not thank you enough for sharing your journey. In my life I have lost so many to cancer including both my momma and sister.
I too am an artist (glass art) and for the past 26 years have opened my studio to children that have cancer to allow them creative therapy though painting. I don’t make money from this but instead raise funds to help kids fight their cancer. I have learned many life lessons from these children. My husband (also an artist) and I have a annual fund raiser where artists come together to donate their work to raise money so that kids without insurance can still be treated for cancer.
I appreciate your emotionally moving account of your experience. Hoping this will speak to many and encourage them to take control of finding the answers and the cure for themselves and not just relying on one doctors opinion. That was a fatal mistake that my mother made.
Mya your life be continued with happiness and good health. Regards, Barbara Domsky, Las Vegas, NV.
Just much love you , Matt and of course little Finch x
To get through is something but with lovely Finch and Matt by your side and mum was always there looking out for you.I am looking for the time your treatment is finished and you can breath again relax .Love you always Auntie Alice .xxxxx
Hugs all around ans a kiss for sweet Finch. I have not experienced your journey but as a nurse have been a shoulder for many who have. Stay strong and GOD Bless you and your family. Prayers for peace of mind in the coming days from here in the USA.
Love, Light and Blessings to you Kirsty. My daughter treasures her Wonderland book – thank you. Wishing you many more years of creating beauty. May your days be filled with special moments and regained health. S x
I amso sorry that you and your family are experiencing this terrible thing please feel supported by all that only know you through your amazing book and tribute to your mum. Please feel uplifted and in our prayers . You are a brave strong woman .. Love Caroline
Thanks for sharing something so personal. I fear the same, as you, I have small kids and can’t think to not be with them,forever! You are so gifted in so many levels that I’m sure this piece of reality will inspire you and let you share with all of us more beautiful things, and even more special.
Just be brave!
Best wishes for the coming weeks and for a long, happy and healthy life with your beautiful family. You deserve the magical happy ever after of the world you created.
Thank you for shareing your story, it is heart breaking. One thought what is hammering in my head while reading your story is you have cleaned your pyshical body but you should clean as well you emotional body and etheric body, and maybe gerenrations back. I dont know if you belive in spiritual worlds, I do. Since born with cleft, i have so many scars on my body and on my soul and im still recovering from it. I cannot imagine what you are going through but what has helped me to solve problems is The Journey method written by Brandon Bays. I would strongly advise you to read the books. She was discovered by enormous tumor in her stomach and she managed to dissolve it. Loads of other people have found help of her work. I dont know if you or some readers feel im rude or not having emphaty to be writing it here. But i just feel i need to share it with you. I absolutely love your photography and work you have done,
I just would like to see many more books from you. I am wishing you the best recovery and love and light. Hugzzzz
Thank you so much for sharing your story! In 8 days, I go in to have a lump inspected….. no matter what the outcome is, I’ll be thinking of your journey and know that I’ll be okay too.
well done for staying strong Kirsty, I’m sure that wasn’t easy. You couldn’t be leaving us yet! You have way too much love to offer as a mother and an artist. Sending my love and prayers.
Wishing your little family good health and love from the USA. You are amazing.
Dear Kirsty, thank you so much for sharing your story with such brave honesty. I have been through breast cancer with my own Mum, so I truly thank you for speaking and sharing, it is so important.
Thank you for sharing all the beauty that you do. Your words and images are profound – and inspire me to speak my own voice too.
Sending you so many good wishes and blessings on this journey.
Love to you all xo
Dearest Kristy, it was Christmas last year I received Wonderland as a gift and it changed my life. I too am a photographer in the US and I work with children primarily. I love literature so reading about your story with your mother and her battle with cancer and your favorite times together reading special books and how you brought them to life all of those things together just changed me. I have a dear friend who lost her son at the age of 5 to cancer. I photographed their family and decided to give money from each shoot for a year to fight childhood cancer through my friends new organization she started in her son’s name. I am heart broken that you have had the scare of your life but I am so thankful that you have shared your story. Cancer is evil. You and your family are the absolute opposite of that. Wish I was there to wrap you all in a huge blanket of love. Thank you for your beautiful work, thank you for your strength, thank you for sharing your story, thank you for most likely saving some women who would not have demanded answers before this. . Huge love.
Oh my dear. My husband sent me this entry and now I am crying too. We have long been fans of your work, and purchased your first edition last winter as we awaited the birth of our first child, our daughter, in February. We love e-books, but felt purchasing your book was kind of an investment in her creative life. We imagined her growing up being able to look through the wonderous images in your book, perhaps sparking her own imagination, or at the very least growing up surrounded by beauty. I wish we could give you a big hug, tell you everything would be ok, but we just hope and pray that you continue be healthy and enjoy every moment with your beautiful little boy. We can’t wait to see what you do next, and keep you in our thoughts.
You are such a brave woman. My husband has cancer in his head. We have been in and out hospitals the last 9 months. It is a very difficult proces. And indeed hard to explain all the emotions you are going through. Also for me as his wife. It must have been hard for Matt as well. Wish you all the best.
Your story came across my news feed on Facebook. Your story reminds me of mine in that I had a hunch! In short, I was 44 with a 13 year old daughter and 8 and 5 year old sons. I was having my yearly examination and a voice in my head said get a mammammogram. Jump ahead those weeks of waiting for results and I had a 5.5 cm tumour against my chest wall. None of the doctors could palpate the tumour and none of them thought I was crazy for listening to “that voice”!! I had bilateral mastectomies, chemo and radiation. My children and husband rallied and held me strong. The parents at our children’s school made complete and hot meals 3 days each week for 6 months. The love and support was simply magical. Of course there were those moments you mention … the times that grief and fear rip your heart into shreds…but looking back now 12 years later, I smile and thank the voice that allowed me to now be a grandma (Grammy) to the sweetest boy. Life is good and my wish for you is to sail through radiation without fear or anguish. Rather take that time and make plans for the future. Blessings for a wonderful holiday season!
I sit here with tears streaming down my face, because your story was both so hard to read, and yet so inspiring. I had to stop many times while reading it, because I was crying so hard. I lost my mom 3 1/2 years ago to Adenocarcinoma cancer. As you well know from your own experience, the journey of her decline and eventual passing has never left me. It haunts me to this day.
But then there is my own journey. I have been sick for over 20 years with a mystery autoimmune disease that no one has really been able to pinpoint, other than throwing out suspicions of Epstein-Barr, Lyme disease and a litany of other little understood conditions. There is a suspicion now of liver cancer – ironically – since I do not drink at all. 20 years of hell. 20 years of having my fertility taken away from me and thus not being able to have children. 20 years of incessant, crippling, physical pain all over my body and emotional turmoil, at the hands of flippant doctors, who have as much compassion as a terrorist. The one thing that saved me during those days was my art and writing. Nowadays though, my heat and mind are so weary, that the joy I once felt from creating has now left me. I could so relate when you said that you wanted to give up – stop being a wife, a mother and so on. God how I have had those same thoughts, and I let myself mourn the once vibrant life that I took for granted. Like you, I long to create again, to turn something ordinary into a thing of beauty, but my body does not want to cooperate. So I take each day as I can, and try to hold onto hope for an answer; a miracle.
Thank you for giving us all the inspiration of Wonderland. I work in many different genres, but it was Wonderland that gave me the desire to add photogaphy to my repitoire. I have now taken up photography and if I ever get well enough again, plan to pursue my dreams of being a professional artist full time. I wish and your family nothing but the happiest of moments, long, healthy lives, an abundance of love and endless joy.
With deepest respect,
Kirstin Mayberry – Kiriosities
Kirsty – I came to you site to show your work to my daughter, also an artist. She was blown away (as was I when i first found your work). Then I read your latest updates and I sit here, crying. My now ex-husband was diagnosed with cancer 9 months after we were married. It was an 18 month battle that his physical self survived but his inner self died. We ended up divorcing because he refused to live, die or even move. Ironically he still lives with me because he’s ‘stuck’ and while I’ve moved on, he gives me the long-going silent game.
My heart aches for you. If you want to find people of your own age that have decided to “get busy living” check out StupidCancer.org. Yes, there really is an organization called Stupid Cancer and they are amazing. Matthew Zachary is the genius behind it and they can offer you support. I have a friend in Alsace who has gone through an experience very similar to yours, if you want names and emails just ask.
You are loved. Please take care and give Finch a kiss from us in the U.S. 🙂
Words cannot express. I truly wish you all the best with the start of your treatment today. I was privileged to receive your first edition last Christmas and it along with your diary before has helped me through some very dark times in the last 18 months and inspired me to push on with my own creative projects. I now face an operation in the new year and given that my last two experiences with hospitals resulted in death I am quite terrified, but to be honest my biggest dread (and bizarrely a feeling of guilt??!!) is putting my parents through it all again.
I wish you a peaceful and magical Christmas and best wishes for 2017.
Kirsty, words cannot express how desperate I was reading your story, for you to have the best outcome possible. Tears of relief roll down my face now as I write this. I truly wish you all the best and hope you have a restful Christmas, and many more to come.
All the best
Your strength leaves me in awe. I just read this entry after seeing your Facebook post and I am barely holding back tears. You are an incredible human, an inspiration of a woman. I will think of you over the next several months, with hope, healing and peace in my heart. As I wish for you to have these forever more. Know that you are so loved and admired and may that give you the courage to continue to shine.
All my love,
Denver, CO, USA
Kirsty, I am so so sorry for all this terrible time full of fear and anguish. I could empathize as I had a cancer scare some years ago, I don´t know how I was able to go through all the tests and so on.
I wish you strenght and calm through this process. I would also recommend you (if not beg you) to research about cannabis oil. I know many, many people who have used it along with the other treatments and it helps protect you from the secondary effects of radiaton, etc. It helps you recover your appetite and to have more energy.
If you have time, here is a group where you can read the success stories with the oil. (no selling allowed, it is not a scam, just real stories from survivors) https://www.facebook.com/groups/416702921703509/
Lots of hugs and healing vibes your way
I discovered your book while I was recovering from
My double mastectomy, waiting for oncotype scores and missing out on making my art. I saw how you managed to create such beauty even with a small child and I felt inspired to get back to my mural painting and photography.
You book sits proudly in the main room of our house- as that cover always makes me smile.
I’m so sorry that you had to go through all of this and wish you the easiest course as you recover.
You work truly hits part of my spirit- though I was at the bottom of my depths of despair I decided I deserved this book for my birthday and I was cheered up to no end. Even my four year old loves the book.
Thank you for all of your inspiring images. Despite the lymphadema I now have , I’m starting to plan my first mural since my surgery.
Sending you strength though I know u already have it- you will get through this. I know it’s especially hard with little ones to worry about- take care of yourself and enjoy the soft sweet embrace u get from your little one/ that will be your biggest source of strength
Dear Kirsty, I just saw your photo on facebook at the radiotherapy. I immediately had the feeling it was about breastcancer. So I read your story and was astonished of the similarities to my situation. I wanted to write you , even though it is hard for me to express myself in English. I would like to send you all the power, energy, positivity and love to get through the treatments. As you said it is important to believe in yourself and in your gut feeling. I wrote a whole piece about it on my facebook when I was diagnosed . You just have to be alert, docters just do not know everything.
If you want to read about why I was astonished about the similarities, here is my story. I had a lump next to my breast, under my arm. The radiologist told me it was lymph, nothing to worry about. I was not convinced, so after 3 months I went to the hospital again. They did a puncture and a biopty, and it was breastcancer. My mother had breastcancer a few years before. After scans they also saw cancercells in my whole breast, there was nothing to see on the mammogram. I had a double mastectomy ( one side preventive, own choice). They removed the sentinal lymph node and two other lymphes, in the sentinel node there was found one microscopic cancercell. In my breast there was only an early stage of cancer , so radiation was not needed. The real tumor under my arm was 0.8 cm and they did a genetic test,I think similar to Oncotype test (they call it Mammaprint here) That test told me I would not need chemotherapy, only hormone theraphy. Today is day 79 of my hormonetreatment and I have almost no side effects of the pills. I know that there are a lot of stories of women that have so much side effects that they stop after a while, but know it does not have to be that way.
Having witnessed my Dad’s journey with cancer this year (he’s now cancer free!), I can only imagine what turmoil you and your family have been through. Sending you all the love & strength I possibly can. You are so brave, and so strong. Keep fighting. keep loving, keep living, keep creating. You are an inspiration.
I literally cried my eyes out with this post. Thank you for sharing. You are so strong! I know you will think..”no I’m not”..but you are!
I’ve been following your work for years now and every time I see one of your images they give me so much inspiration and I get overwhelmed by a sense of beauty and a sense that these images belong to a fantasy world and then I remember that you created every single component of every image and it’s incredible to think that a human being can have so much creativity and execute it to perfection.
I just ordered a copy of the book and I cannot wait to have a bit of your fantasy world in my hands. And with the book in my hands I will also remember your journey. Don’t give up…there are still more journeys in your life. Big hugs to your and your family!
Dear Christy- bless you , dear girl . You’re in my thoughts and how heart breaking to read and I’m so lucky to have discovered your beautiful work/voice /soul . Courage lovely girl.
Everyone woman reading this did so while holding their breath. This could be any of our stories by a chance, on a regular day – it could be me.
. I had a “scare” …they “saw something” on the mammo and I had to get an ultrasound. Like you, I was always so sympathetic to women who had breast cancer but when you face it yourself – different story. Real fear.
Thank you so much for sharing your story…its beyond invaluable. Sending you all the positive light I can. You have been such a huge inspiration to my work as a female photographer in the wonder world …but now you are an inspiration to me as a woman
Much love and continue good health – can’t wait to see you standing next to Finch when he’s graduating! xoxoxo
My heart goes out to you.
Sending you much love, you amazing person.
Be strong! Don’t give up! You can do it! Positive thinking is very important. So sad it happened to you, such a beautiful mind and soul! But I do belived in you, your work and I do belive in you now, you are not alone! We all love you! And thank you for sharing your story! When we all (young womens) live our life in rush, without thinking about ourself, our body, our health and life – stories like yours become remainder and point to hold on and get watch more after yourself and cherish more moments and to spend more time with family.
I cross the finger for you, and I belive you will recover – love is big magic!!! Lots of love to you and your Family.
Hey Kirsty, it’s been a long time since I said hi and I just read about you news. I know we have only ever met in this cyber space all those years ago, but your one of the strongest women I know. Sending you all my positive thoughts and my mother will start to send you Reiki also. Funny I never forget the story about the mouse in your pocket !!! Once you are better bring your good man and bambino to Gower for a relaxing break, you will be most welcome . Get well soon X
Your story really touched me, and reminds me to value life and family so much more. I will try to explain why this story touches me that much, but my English is not perfect.
Three years ago my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and we got to know that if they would not treat it immediately she would not have survived 6 months. It started with her having toothache and headache all the team and for half a year (!) all doctors kept telling her that it was a cold, an inflammation or other things. But she had that feeling, that something major was wrong. And I felt it too, because one day I was home alone and I knew she was at a doctor, and I just knew that it was cancer.
When she came home we all cried for hours. The following weeks were chaotic, and my parents decided to send me and my siblings on a vacation.
Nothing compares to that feeling of watching these once strong hands become weaker, and I remember thinking of her as a fragile bird, so fragile that I was afraid of touching her.
But she survived, and after several operations she was finally declared healthy. I often think back at these times were we filled with constant fear, but we also sticked together as a family.
I sometimes forget about how fast a life can fade away and that we are all but flames that will have to vanquish at some point. But if we let our light shine it will continue to shine in the hearts of those we leave behind.
That is why I want to thank you for sharing your story. Thanks for reminding me of these things.
I hope you’ll get better soon and I send lots of love to you and your family. I will pray for you.
This has been one of the hardest things to read … I shed more tears for you now reading this, than from my own diagnosis 3 weeks ago. You have captured my heart. I send you the high frequency of love … may you feel it, know it, be it …. you are LOVED! I am 41 … 3 tumours in left breast … largest 5.5cm … how did I miss it? 2 tumours in lymph nodes …. please …. please …. keep sharing …. your news, your creativity, your talent, your light! You are incredible!!!! You have created the most phenomenal legacy. I am in awe of your overwhelming ability to expand people’s sense of magic and awe. Thank you. Deep Appreciation and Gratitude to you
Praying for your recovery and happiness with your family … I lost of word… thank you for sharing so much Love from me to you
Thank you so much for sharing your life. I was a caregiver for my first husband, so very young we were and not always dealing with his brain cancer very well. Not even ten years after I lost him, still halfway through paying off the medical debts, I was told to get my affairs in order -there was a ‘single large mass on my uterus’ The enormity of the realization that I felt, followed by the acknowledgment that I was alone, there was no ‘me’ no wife to care for me as he had had… I was misdiagnosed, I had fibroids. One would have thought that meant celebration and joy but instead I went into a deep, clinical depression. That was twenty years ago and I’ve just finished another year of therapy, sometimes I think my poor mind is simply exhausted. The one thing over the last few years that has resonated and soothed me through my depressions and PTSD have been your photographs. I am often seen a curmudgeonly old clump of woman but now I even dress differently -more flow, flowery and fairy-hippy-like your art has done as much as my therapistt in healing my soul -thank you!
You are in my every kind thought and prayer, heal well and be happy! You deserve every good thing in life that can be offered. You have more than ‘paid it forward’ you have been an enormous gift!
Kristy this is absolutely beautiful and thank you SO much for sharing. You are a beautiful, talented and intelligent woman who in literally a few short hours i have come to admire and love after watching your behind the scenes of Wonderland on facebook. I will be ordering my Wonderland book very soon and hopefully one day be able to meet you and have you sign it. I’ve always been a fan of photography and stories that have a deeper meaning and yours truly do. Continue to stay strong and be the wonderful mother, wife, and artist that you are. Thank you and may God bless you and keep you
– Janiece Ashely
unlike many of the other brave and wonderful women who have commented before me, I can not totally relate to what you and they have or are going through as I have not been in or worn any of your shoes. I can however admire and respect all of you and wish you all the best of health in 2017 and onwards.
Kirsty, your photography is outstanding and takes me right back to my childhood dreams,fantasies and wonderment and for that ,I thank you.
Thank you for sharing your work with us all.
I wish you well and all good things in the future
Kristy you are so brave, more brave than I. It takes such courage to move forward after a diagnosis. Last year I had a different type of cancer and some lymph nodes removed and I believe all is well. It’s changing my life in ways that are important, including everything that I consume physically or spiritually. Please continue to take good care of yourself not matter how busy and get all the rest you need. I can’t wait to see what other creations are ahead of you. All blessings to you, Lois
All best wishes to you and your family–it might be an idea to keep telling your body how much you love it and how miraculous it is and that it knows how to heal and support you and what a marvel that is. It might enjoy continuing to feel appreciated even through these hard times and the vast transformations of the last few years. It has done so many wonderful things for you and still continues to do so–may you continue to enjoy and heal and be well.
I just recently saw your wonderland book on FaceBook, a friend had just gotten it and was loving every bit of it! I had never heard of you before, so I looked you and your work up, and how is your work fantastic!!! Then I saw this post…… I am so sorry you and your family had to go through this, reading this made me cry more than a few times. (Hug) I am so very glad it turned out as well as it did, thank goodness you followed your gut feeling.
Wishing you, Matthew, and Finch all the best,
How are you now?
Kirsty, I want to thankyou for creating the Wonderland Book. I first came across it in July last year but it was sold out and so thought I’d wait hopefully for a 2nd print run. It reminded me of the grief I shared with the loss of my father and the big hole that was left in my life when he passed. Then in September I was diagnosed with a brain tumour, had surgery and treatment and felt lucky to be alive. In Februrary 2017 I went for a checkup and was told I had healed exceptionally well but you have Lymphoma and no it is not related to your brain tumor. Devastated beyond words – and so the cycles of biopsies, tests, scans started again. It is impossible to describe how this plays with your mind unless you have been through it. During my radiotherapy treatment I was perhaps at my lowest of low and remembered your beautiful book and wondered if it was back in stock. Its was much to my delight so I ordered in straight away. I remember opening the packaging and turning the cover of Wonderland. Tears streamed down my face – I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Thank you so much for taking the courage and the journey to create Wonderland. It talks to my soul and has given me much comfort, joy, strength during my own personal journey. Blessings.
Dear Stephanie, I hardly know how to reply to your story, it made me cry. I simply cannot imagine the terror of being diagnosed with two different types cancer twice within one year, it’s unimaginable. How are you now, what treatment are you going through? I spend every day worrying the cancer will come back if Im honest. I try my best to block it out, but until I start clocking up some proper distance in years I don’t think the fear will go away. Im about to start my new series that will take all these emotions on…. taking the bad and making it into something beautiful is my only way of dealing with it … so I cannot wait to finally process all the things I have felt. Messages like yours inspire me even more to do this not only for myself, but also for people who have gone through the same… so thank you. Sending you all my love.. hang in there ok?
Hi Kirsty, – pleased to say I am in remission and getting over the effects of treatment, radiotherapy etc. Feeling very grateful and pleased to see the road ahead is bathed in more sunshine and the grey clouds are disappearing. Seeing the incredible beauty of life with new eyes has been one of the blessings of cancer and having the strength to get out in nature for long walks with a smile on my face is reward. I look forward to your next series – I know it will touch my soul even more than Wonderland – sending you much love , strength and light as you embark on your next series and I hope you are able to release the fear and not let it cloud you. Blessings.
Oh Kirsty- your book meant so much to me, but now it means even more. I went through hell last summer, I had a double mastectomy in July 2016, and while I was recovering I came across your workand then the pre-sale of your new book was a gift from the universe. I had reconstruction in October which led to pneumonia and I wasn’t able to celebrate my 45th birthday, but I had ordered your book as a gift to myself, so I did have something special for the occasion.
I love all things green and art nouveau and have to say your cover is the most gorgeous book cover I’ve ever seen. I was marveling how you could create something with such a young baby to care for. I have been frustrated with myself that I haven’t been creating as much of my art since my youngest was born, and then since my surgery I haven’t been able to create at all.
Both my mural work and photography just stopped, as dr appts and complications took up all of my energy.
But seeing your book gave me so much joy through such a dark time. I even went through your images with my 4 year old, picking out our favorites. Now I see you have been through so many more challenges and I empathize with you, I know it was terrifying.
You are so strong and talented and driven, and I’m so very inspired by your journey and your incredible work in honor of your mother. I hope to get back to my work after a difficult year of complications, your story is helping me get out of my rut. I am so very much looking forward to seeing your new project.
Thank u for sharing your strength and creativity and courage with the world.
You have made such beauty after the painful experience of the profound loss of your mother, such a tribute. You are the greatest inspiration to me. Wishing you much health and happiness, joy with your family and your new project.
Kirsty, I hardly am able to find words. I just would like to tell you that your art and journey is a storybook- You are a rare jewel. My mother too, passed on. She was a painter and I idolized her as the soul friend that she was and is. I was fourteen and ever since, the music I write.. she is in every note. When I first saw the video of your wonderland book I watched it over and over again, tears woven with poetry and empathy. I can’t begin to explain how your sharing of this means to me. I have always pondered upon the other side quite deeply; yet this year for me, I discovered the sort of fear you speak of. My health issue that arose was not the same, but something life threatening. I am twenty seven and have never faced anything health related of any dangerous nature. I have a little boy that is eleven years old. It is just he and I. I leaned true terror that I didn’t know I could feel. I am beginning to heal now; still banishing anxiety and learning so many new things about my own mind. What you have written has comforted me beyond anything I could think to say. I am so happy that you are here. All the love to you, wonderful soul.