Hope Scarves has been in my peripheral vision for a while, thanks to occasional posts I would see about it on social media. I knew the gist of their mission and have several friends who are active in the organization, but that was the extent of my knowledge and connection. Then, everything changed. On October 20, 2015, I heard the words that too many of us have heard, “I’m sorry; you have breast cancer.” In the uncertain weeks that followed, I received a package containing a beautiful scarf from my friend and supporter of Hope Scarves, Katie Windham, and the connection was formed.
What did the experience of receiving a scarf and story mean to you?
When I was initially diagnosed, I was told that I would most likely need to undergo chemotherapy as part of my treatment regime, so, Katie’s gift of the scarf served both a practical and inspirational purpose. I looked at that scarf as a stylish and functional accessory and as a symbol of hope. Then, it took on an unexpected meaning.
After my surgery and undergoing more tests, it was determined that there would be no benefit in including chemotherapy in my treatment regime, and I had mixed feelings about that news. On one hand, I was relieved, and on the other hand, I worried that radiation therapy and Tamoxifen would not be enough to combat the cancer. In the end, I trusted my oncologist and followed her recommendations, and my hair remained intact.
Since I did not lose my hair, I did not need the scarf in the way it was intended for me originally. It became a sort of security blanket, though, by providing me with hope for myself and others and reminding me that no matter what the challenge is, there are people, some of them strangers, who are there to step in to support you and to fight for you when you feel like you cannot fight for yourself.
What are the things that provide hope and strength to you throughout your battle?
My greatest sources of strength and hope have been my family, friends, and faith. They all worked together in tandem to provide me with the emotional and spiritual wherewithal to get through all of the challenges that go along with the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Telling my two daughters that I have breast cancer was one of the most heart wrenching moments of my life, and when they broke down in tears and my oldest daughter said, “Mom, I know a lot of girls at school who don’t have a mom. I don’t want you to die”, I knew that I could and would do anything it took to survive. I am rarely at a loss for words, but there is no way to ever thank everyone for their kind words, prayers, humor, generosity, and assistance along the way. They kept me going every step of the way, and they showed me true love and unconditional support. I may question my faith, at times, but my faith is what got me through some of my darkest and loneliest moments.
Where are you currently on your cancer journey? Tell us how you are living life over cancer.
Earlier this month, my oncology radiologist “fired” me! She transferred my care to the Survivors Program, and I find myself working without the safety net of daily radiation appointments and regular visits with my oncology radiologist and oncologist. While I am grateful and glad to have transitioned to the Survivors Program, it has been bittersweet. I continue to feel a bit of survivor’s guilt for having an easier path and more of a promising prognosis than others, especially two of my friends whose respective fights rages on today. It’s tough to be rejoice when others are still battling, so, I am finding my way through this emotional minefield.
Each day, I try to live life with intention, even more so since cancer entered my realm. I am more focused on living in the present moment and taking the necessary steps to reach my personal and professional goals, and I just want to find ways, both big and small, to make the world better and brighter.
What do you wish other people knew about Hope Scarves?
I wish people knew that Hope Scarves is about empowering women who find themselves facing cancer, and they do so in a way that does not sensationalize or glamorize this disease and the people affected by it. They “keep it real”, and their mission comes from a genuine place. They are my kind of people indeed.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about sending a Hope Scarf to a friend facing cancer?
If you are thinking of sending a friend a Hope Scarf, one thing to consider is how the recipient would feel upon receiving it, related to where they are in their cancer journey. If someone has not come to terms with the possibility or reality of losing their hair, the scarf may not be well received, despite the good intentions. For others, the Hope Scarf may be just what the doctor ordered, as it is comes from a place of strength, hope, and love, three things everyone needs.
What is one of your dreams or goals for the future?
One of my dreams is to find a way to expand my blog (www.kristijojedlicki.com) to enable me to encourage, educate, and/or educate others on a larger scale and to find a way to make a living doing so. Writing is my calling, and I am taking steps to answer that call.
What is your favorite inspirational quote or words to live by?
One of my favorite inspirational quotes is from Joan of Arc, who is credited with saying, “I am not afraid. I was born to do this.” I never thought I would have breast cancer, but I always have felt that I was born for a greater purpose in this life. This quote motivated me in my personal mission to have cancer, but to never let it have me. I succeeded.
If your friends or family had to describe you in two words, what would those be?
Two words that my friends and family would use to describe me definitely would be big-hearted and funny. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and a smile on my face, and I am quick with both a kind word and a joke. I always have maintained that I may not be the smartest or prettiest person in the room, but I will do my best to be the most compassionate and quick-witted.
Please share something you learned facing cancer.
The greatest lesson I learned facing cancer as both a survivor and having loved ones with cancer is that life is precious. This is not a groundbreaking revelation, but this disease has a way of shaking you to your core and opening your eyes to the people and things that you previously took for granted. There is a time for everything, but time is not guaranteed for anyone. I continue to prioritize who and what I give the precious gift of time to and take stock of how I spend my time. I want to make the most of my time here in this world.
Here are some interesting links for you! Enjoy your stay :)