It was 1984 and I was nine years old. I was playing in an intense game of kickball in PE. My best friend Donna was on the opposing team. (What could be worse, right?) But then Donna and I ended up head to head, going for the ball, and she kicked me… And like the tough little nine-year-old I wasn’t, I cried and cried. Our friendship quickly recovered on the sidelines, as she comforted me. But my leg, for some strange reason, did not. Later that week in another heated match-up with my sister, I got tackled on my parents’ bed. Again, I cried and cried that my leg hurt. Perhaps for reasonable cause, my sister declared that I was a baby! But strangely, my leg continued hurting and I began limping.
On Valentine’s Day of that year, my mother took me to the doctor. The doctor measured my swollen leg and ordered an X-ray. We went across town for an x-ray and when we returned to the doctor’s office, I was asked to wait in the waiting room so he could speak to my mom alone. My femur resembled swiss cheese, and the doctor broke the sobering news to my mom that I had cancer. We were immediately referred to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and we met with doctors there that same night.
I didn’t understand the gravity of this news. I remember feeling excited to call my best friend Donna and tell her I had to go to the hospital. I had the gift of childlike faith and was sure the doctors would just give me medicine and I would get better. But stuff got a little more real when they told me the medicine was going to cause me to lose my hair.
To ease this blow my mom took me to be fitted for a wig. After just one round of chemo, my hair swiftly began filling the bathtub drain. And I know now, my mom wanted to shave the remaining sickly wisps. But she didn’t. Eventually, I had to admit to being bald and I broke down and wore the itchy, scratchy wig. The wig was chocolaty brown with fluffy, short “hair”. My first outing with it was to church. I assure you I learned absolutely nothing from that mass except that wigs, at least in 1984, were terribly uncomfortable. But apparently, the wig was convincing. After church, I was playing handball with my friend Nadja. She didn’t know I was bald. After playing a while and getting sweaty, I couldn’t take it any longer. I whipped off the wig. She was shocked, to say the least! We giggled and laughed at her surprise and then got back to our game.
My doctor assured my parents that I would become curious and begin asking questions about my treatment. The plan was, they would wait until then to explain that it would be necessary to amputate my leg. Osteogenic sarcoma metastasizes to the lungs, a risk my doctors were aiming to eliminate. The only problem with their plan; however, was I never started asking questions. So finally, one day during a check-up, while I was sitting on my dad’s lap, Dr. Wolf filled me in on the treatment plan. With calm and care, he explained that they needed to amputate my leg to make sure the cancer wouldn’t spread. He then explained that I would be fitted for a prosthesis so I would still be able to walk. My dad and I both cried like babies that day. Then, I finally had a question for Dr. Wolf. “Will I be able to run?” I was not pleased with his response.
My dad let me skip the rest of school that day. We drove up to Bonneville Dam and distracted ourselves from our deep sorrow by watching salmon swim. On our way back home though, I told my dad, “I guess I can be a pirate for Halloween!” We chuckled at the thought of that. Sure enough, the awesome staff at Shriners made me a custom fit peg-leg and I was one very sweet pirate on Halloween.
I questioned him in all seriousness, "Am I worth it?"
Dr. Wolf assured me, “You are worth much, much more.”
I was loved, and well cared for, and alive.
My treatments finally ended with one final in-patient round of Methotrexate. And before being discharged once and for all, the staff surprised me with a NO MO CHEMO party! The nurses brought a chocolate cake with maraschino cherries on top. After puking up every food under the sun, though, I was an extremely picky eater. Those cherries about pushed me over the edge, so I did not partake. My poor nurses!
With Osteogenic sarcoma, after five years of no recurrence, the cancer is considered cured. I had check-ups every six months and also every time I developed a cough to be sure the cancer hadn’t spread to my lungs. It did not. And in the spring of 1989, my parents could finally breathe a sigh of great relief.
Fast forward nearly 18 years to 2002. I was all grown up. Married and teaching English as a Second Language. Because of all of the harsh chemicals used to rid me of cancer, my doctor’s were not sure I would ever be able to have children. But “Thing One”, Lucas Troy Klindt was born a little earlier than expected on June 11th of that year. “Thing Two”, Ethan Daniel Klindt followed along two years later.
After the boys got a bit bigger, their dad gave me a bike for Christmas. I hadn’t ridden since losing my leg. I had been in touch with an amputee that was a competitive mountain biker who had his right leg. He sent me his spare left pedal, so I would be able to click in and be able to pull and push to ride. On New Year’s day, we went to the track at Barlow High School, and at the age of 30, I relearned to ride a bike. Soon after, I found myself riding on the Springwater Trail, with the boys tagging along on their little blue and red bikes by my side… We were very near my old neighborhood where I used to play and ride bikes before losing my leg. The miracle of that moment took my breath away…
Later that year, I competed in my first sprint triathlon. To celebrate 20 years of being cancer-free, I used it as a fundraiser for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. I swam, biked and RAN on my crutches - defying what my doctor had previously declared impossible. After my race, I got to deliver a great big check, to Dr. Wolf, my doctor who was still at Doernbecher caring for kids with cancer.
After many life changes and a complicated foot surgery in 2014, I left my career as a teacher and I began my Reiki practice. My hubby, Dr. Bradley Craig and I, Co-Founded Your Sanctuary For Healing. Later, after a lot more healing and strengthening, I returned to school for massage therapy to add to my ability to care for others. Reiki and massage therapy have been pivotal in my own healing and now to be able to hold space for, and nurture others with Reiki and massage therapy also feels miraculous.
It is a gift to be standing before you today. It is a gift to be here to provide support to others doing the courageous work of healing. The hardships I have endured have taught me to care for myself. And they have also prepared me to care for others. My hope for you today is that you feel loved and well cared for.
“Are you worth it?”
“You are worth much, much more?”
I hope you have a wonderful day!
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