About Me...

My photo
In a nut shell : I'm a wife, a full time working mom, a teacher, a Star Wars geek, comic book nerd, Disney enthusiast, hockey Mom, a decade long breast cancer survivor, and oh let's not forget such a happy, sassy, southern mess!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

For Kim

Have you ever truly sat down and thought about death? Have you ever simply looked her in the eyes and realized she was not something to fear?  What about the life you lead right here, right now?  When I personally think about life and death together, I realize they go hand in hand just as fear and excitement, joy and loss, the truth is each one is the barer of the other, and they each live within us every day.

Maybe there are those days when we manage to toss it in the corner, or hide it away in a drawer, but the truth is death never really escapes us. We go through our lives day to day, living with no fear of what the next turn may bring but then one day we wake up and we know that something is wrong. We can feel it deep within our bones, within our souls and we tremble with the loss our spirit has awakened with. Without notice a letter unexpectedly arrives, the phones rings in the middle of the night and we just know...something is not right, something is wrong, something terrible has happened.

The grief and the loss of a loved one can be unbearable as we struggle to move forward.  Yet the lives of those we have lost can truly inspire us to be brave, to see the hope in this very hour and to fight another day. In my own battle with this beast, this crazy thing we call breast cancer, I have had to stare death in the eyes, to welcome death, to accept the loss of those I have come to love. Yes I have watched many fellow sisters along this journey continue to struggle, to live life circling around death, trying to outsmart death, even going into hand to hand combat with death herself.

Grief, sadness and loss has come to my door many times but each and every time she has brought news of the death of a loved one death has also brought me courage. How you may be asking yourself about now, well the courage of these precious few is a gift they leave each one of us.  Watching each one accept and walk gracefully beside death as they journeyed to the grave together has instilled both hope and courage inside my heart. They each knew the fight could not go on indefinitely, yet while they were able each one lived loudly. They knew life is precious and fleeting and chose to live in each moment.  So this is my wish, my one desire in this journey I am on: to live bravely as the ones who have come before me have.

 ~Christina  Olachia

*Kim was not just a friend; she was a sister in arms. She was a voice for those fighting this beast we call Breast Cancer. Kim both inspired and encouraged me to raise my voice and ultimately lead to Christina’s Breast Friends becoming the organization it is on it's way to becoming today.  Today as we begin the process of becoming a nonprofit and launching  Christina's Breast Friends website I lovingly dedicate our work to Kim.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

When You Find the Beast At Your Door

I never thought I would have to sit my children down and tell them, “Mommy has cancer”. It was just not something which ever crossed my mind. I was not at risk; I did not have a target on my breast to ever give having breast cancer a thought. But we all know the story, you have all heard how the cancer came, invaded my body, took my breast and left me with what I refer to affectionately as my “uniboob”.

The simple truth is cancer came to play and she lost. Cancer came to my door and she not only knocked on my door but she violently kicked it in. Cancer brought the big guns with her; she thought she could take me and my family into the depths of her agony. Cancer had plans to maim me, to disfigure me and to drag me to Hell. The reality is in many ways she did succeed BUT she did not take my voice away from me. This beast basked in the glory of knowing she took a piece of me here and there but cancer did not take the whole of me.

Fighting breast cancer is not an easy battle, the journey is long, sometimes uncharted and many times dark and lonely, overwhelming and completely deafening. At the end of the day this fight with the beast is not pretty, in fact it is ugly and cruel, menacing, and destructive. Many days are just draining and painful and by the time the night sky appears you have spent so much energy and emotion resisting the beast you find there is not much left to begin the next day with.

You may feel invisible; I know I have been there a time or two myself, as if no one can see you, the real you fighting to get out. You may feel your footprints are too heavy or even to light upon the path you are walking. Maybe you even feel as if you have fallen, as if you deserve this, as if you are buried in a dark place which you cannot get out of by yourself. Maybe you feel your voice is weak, unable to rise above the screams of fear surrounding you but hear me my friend; this is just a temporary place. There is a place we call home, where faith and hope reside, a place where a strong voice is waiting inside of you ready to shout to the world, to become a voice of hope!

Maybe you are asking where does this strength come from? Where does this strong voice rise up from? Well it comes in the middle of the night; it comes when you are at your weakest point. Strength steps in, fills in the cracks of your soul when you least expect it, and allows hope to sweep over your spirit in the eleventh hour of the journey.

Do not give up! No matter the odds, my friend, even if your words for now seem to fall on deaf ears, you are not alone in this struggle. Allow your heart to be filled with hope, with faith and with courage! Many may question your HOPE, your mission, BUT this battle is your fight. Do not allow yourself to be taken down by cancer’s mirage, for that is all it is! You are strong, you are a warrior, and you have the ability to overcome this beast even if she strikes you down.

The truth my friend is this: We have no control of the beast, of her mission and no, we cannot keep her from striking at will, BUT we can force her out of our hearts and minds. We can band together and fight, raise our voices, and be the ones to call our sisters in arms scattered along the road to arms! We do not have to let her control how and what we are in the face of cancer’s bite!

Take heart my friend, because if ever you should wake to find the beast at your door and you must sit your children down and say to them, “Mommy, has cancer”, you will not be alone. You will never be alone: all you must do is hold to the hope inside your heart. Take courage in knowing there is a band of survivors, ready to rise to your call, to hear your voice and to charge the beast sword drawn together!

~ Christina

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Voyage To Aslan's Country

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk through a wardrobe and come out into a snow filled world? Or have a painting pull you into an ocean on the other side of the frame? What if we could transform from the ordinary to the extraordinary? The words of the new Carrie Underwood song from The Narnia Movie, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, begin with these words: “There is a place out there for us, where your heart is free and hope comes back to life”.

As a little girl my mother read the entire Narnia series to me. I loved every minute of these powerful, books, and the storytelling of C.S. Lewis. I was captivated, and I imagined myself on many adventures in this strange, yet very fascinating world.So last weekend after seeing, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, a very moving, emotional and adventure filled movie I did what I never do in public: I broke down in tears for my whole family to witness. I could not even talk for a while. I honestly could not help myself. As I struggled to explain myself Johnny sat there holding my hand, not rushing me, but sitting beside me, strong and loving with real understanding in his eyes. My sons, Joshua and Micah, did not get up to leave, instead they sat there pulling me in to their circle of love and support. I was a child again reading, listening to my mother’s voice, following along, without the knowledge that cancer would one day come to claim her stake in my life.

Life is in many ways is like stepping into Narnia either through the wardrobe or swimming up to the surface. Think about the struggles, the fight to overcome our past, to reach for the future while preserving our present… all contribute to who we are and who we eventually become through each and every experience life brings our way.

In order to grow, spiritually and emotionally, to become the men and women we are destined to be, we must partake in the struggles and the battles life brings our ways. If we do not answer the call, step through the wardrobe or swim up to the surface then we can not experience the beauty of Aslan’s Land. If we never ventured to the shores of the unknown we would never know our true destiny. How would we see the unseen if not for courage? I was gripped by the line I saw drawn, the parallel to life’s real adventures and the one before me on the screen last weekend. I watched as none were exempted from the evil trying to consume them. Both of the Pevensie children as well as prince Caspian and the whole crew were told they were all about to be tested. These voyagers were tried time and time again, and yes they did give into temptation, and yet even after doing so they each found forgiveness, comfort and healing in their journey toward Alsan’s country.

Living with and through cancer has taught me many things: little did I realize how much I learned from these childhood books until I found myself gripped by the events pouring out on the screen before me. As Lucy and Edward are brought aboard the Dawn Treader, so is their cousin Eustace. Believe me when I say Eustace did not come along willingly! He appeared to most on board as useless and unable to take care of himself or overcome any of the obstacle before him. But the truth is all he needed was a real bit of struggle and some encouragement. Poor kid, even though Eustace is an unwilling member of this voyage he is drug along on each and every adventure. He struggles with finding his place, trying to escape and fighting his way through the evil coming toward each and every one of them until he gives into his own temptation.

Eustace is unable to escape his destiny once he has given into the beast within himself. Yet Reeepicheep finds love in his heart, compassion, offering his friendship and faith in Eustace despite the dragon he has become. As Eustace faces his worst fears he is both encouraged and challenged by his new friend telling him”Extraordinary things happen to extraordinary people”. (Joshua later told me as we left the theater he thought of me when he heard this part of the movie.) As this film comes to a close Eustace becomes a great hero. He faces his fears, and actually is the one to save the Voyage from being consumed by the evil tearing at each of them. Yes he is wounded in battle, and he struggles with all his might to heal himself, but he is unable no matter how hard he tries. Aslan waits for him to reach out for help, knowing it must be Eustace's choice to ask for help. When Eustace finally reaches out and accepts Aslan’s healing powers he is set free and is able to fulfill his destiny.

The evil before them was indeed all consuming, the island they were sailing for was determined to take them down below to the depths of their fears and destroy each one on board the Dawn Treader. One of the best lines in the movie explains this evil is the “source of our troubles, it seeks to corrupt all goodness, to steal the light from this world”. Cancer is in many ways like this evil, coming to put claim on our lives. Stealing our hope and faith, trying to consume us, and take us for her own just as the White Witch tries to claim Edward as her own. But just as Reepicheep says to Eustace, “Now is the time to be strong” I say to you, be strong in your hope and in your faith my friends!

We may be battle worn, tired and scared, we may be weak but think of Prince Caspian as he tells his crew just as they are nearing the home of this evil before them, “Now is the time to be strong, never give in” I say the same to you my friends. Be true to the hope inside you. Hold tight to the faith you have been given. Life’s struggles are many and they can appear as a consuming fire, a force stronger than yourself, but we do have the victory if you only believe!

After the battle is over, as this struggles comes to an end our brave voyagers set sail in a small vessel to a sacred place. Here they will stand before the entry to Aslan’s county. Reepicheep explains in one of my favorite lines of the film, “We have nothing if not for belief!” when Lucy asks him if he believes there is really such a place. Once upon the shores they stand facing a new gateway, a wall of water, with their destinies waiting just beyond. Yes this is a new beginning of a new adventure for each of them if they will accept Aslan’s plan for their lives. Reepicheep lays down his sword, the first to say goodbye to the struggles of Narnia and accepts passage into the land of his Lord. Next Prince Caspian takes courage in knowing his place is there in Narnia, continuing in Aslan’s service, while Lucy, Edward and Eustace are offered passage back home, away from the struggles of Narnia.

Yes Aslan told these brave few once that they had returned for a reason, and yet after they fought, after they had won the battle; it was not their time to cross into His country. They were to return to their home, where they would know Him by another name, until He came for them, to bring them into His country, His land, into Heaven. Both the Pevensie children are saddened as they realize they will not be returning to Narnia for their time here has come to an end, but Aslan does turn to Eustace and tells him He may yet have need of him. Yes cancer can take everything from you but just as Carrie Underwood sings in her song “faith and love will keep us strong “and again “Broken hands are whole again”. This is our hope is it not? I see Narnia as a symbolic place, a place where our voyage through life takes us into Aslan’s country, to a place of peace and refuge. A kingdom where we find ourselves, our courage, our hope, faith and a place we find we can be brave in the face of death.

I left this movie, filled with peace, with my faith strong and with an unyielding hope inside my heart. I left knowing my family is a part of this voyage with me. They have found hope and strength in the journey and though we have been tested, and yes we have failed at times, we will walk the shores of Aslan’s country together one day. No matter the course we must chart or the storms we must sail through, we shall fight together, take this voyage to the ends of the world knowing this: an extraordinary destiny greater than we could have imagined is waiting for us just beyond the surface.

~ Christina