All the Wiser
The Kris I knew wouldn’t be caught dead wearing pink.
It was the ’80s. The decade of parachute pants, Members Only jackets and leg warmers.
Most of us wore hideously unflattering stirrup pants and belted sweaters –– but not Kristin.
She was one of the uber-cool girls who followed the British music scene instead of Prince and Madonna.
Her wardrobe was much more stylish than mine.
To make matters worse, in addition to being a fabulous dresser, she was also ridiculously smart.
An A student, first-chair flute in band, and one of the few in Mrs. Pavich’s English class who actually read the novel instead of just the CliffsNotes.
She was preppy-punk. Izod sweaters and denim jackets lined with safety pins. Stonewashed jeans. Hip Flock of Seagulls haircut.
But definitely, absolutely no pink.
That is, until she got the news that would change her world AND her color palette.
In 2009, after a routine breast examination, Kristin was told she had breast cancer.
It was serious and aggressive. But, so was Kris.
We found each other on Facebook years after my high school fashion envy of Kristin ended. (OK, maybe I was still a bit jealous.)
She told me she was married to a great guy, had two beautiful kids and had recently finished her book about her journey with breast cancer.
My head spun.
She’s too young! She’s KRIS, for goodness’ sake! Vibrant, forthright and brilliant.
I figured people like Kristin were impervious to illness, disease and certainly cancer.
She invited me to read her book titled All the Wiser: Surviving Breast Cancer Through Knowledge.
There she was on the cover –– strong, beautiful, with the hint of post-chemo hair.
Knowledge and survival. That’s totally Kris. Pragmatic. Thorough. No stone unturned.
But something about her book surprised me.
I expected it to be a veritable handbook of medical information. It is indeed. (She even hired a medical editor for accuracy.)
But I certainly didn’t expect to be weeping by the third paragraph.
Woven through the chapters, I heard Kris’ voice. Lived in her skin as she looked at her naked body and acknowledged the horrible truth. Cried with her as she told her husband over the phone.
If you have never met anyone with breast cancer, read this book.
If you have a friend with breast cancer, read this book.
If you have just been diagnosed, by all means, read this book.
I asked Kristin how she decided to write a book. She told me it was the result of all of the blogs, letters and research she’d done from the moment she was diagnosed to the time she was declared “cancer free.”
I then asked Kristin to tell me the one thing she would share with women who are just starting out on their cancer journey.
Here’s what she said:
“Actually, I have three things.
1. You don’t have to go it alone. (She is a mentor with Reach to Recovery, which pairs cancer patients with post-cancer patients with similar experiences.)
2. You will feel normal again. It may be a new normal, but you’ll feel normal. And with the ‘normal’ comes an awareness of the strength, resilience and courage you didn’t know you had.
3. Things will get better. One of the quotes that I kept repeating to myself was, ‘Persistence prevails when all else fails.’”
All the Wiser is like a conversation with a best friend. A compassionate, “been there, done that, got the pink T-shirt” kind of best friend.
Which, by the way, Kris now proudly wears like a well-deserved badge of honor.
The book’s forward was written by her surgeon:
“Kristin has done a remarkable job of describing the roller coaster of emotions she and her family went through during her breast cancer journey. She illuminates all the challenging facets, from the initial diagnosis, painful surgery, and the uncomfortable post-operative treatments. She describes her thoughts, feelings and knowledge in detail. In this book, Kristin has given future breast cancer patients a road map to follow, so they can say, like Kristin, ‘I had breast cancer.’” –– Daniel E. Stewart, M.D., F.A.C.S.