December 23, 2015
Hey friends and family of Kirsten! It’s Left-Lung Lopes here, Kirsten’s left lung. I took it upon myself to write the Christmas letter this year for her, since I did cause a bit of havoc in her life, and felt it was the least I could I do. When she was chatting with a dear friend about needing to write this letter, they joked that is should read. “2015. I am still alive.” And leave it at that, as it pretty much sums up her year. But I couldn’t let her send that out to you all! Now, I know that she normally likes to write her letter chronologically, but being that I really gave her a life changing experience, I figured I would start with me, and then fill you in on the rest.
Shortly after Kirsten got home from a low-key and educational girls weekend in Vegas at the end of July, she sought medical attention. She developed a slight cough in Vegas that she couldn’t shake, which quickly led to extreme fatigue. I won’t go into a lot of detail here as you can read all about it on her blog at www.ammerle.ca. (You will need to request access now though, as she has made it private for the time being, but read all about it. It’s a good read.) Coles Notes are she spent most of August in the hospital, recovering from a lung biopsy surgery to assist with a diagnosis. And she was discharged with a diagnosis of ANCA Vasculitis, which is an autoimmune disease where her body is attacking her blood vessels. And in August, it was concentrated in her lungs. High dose steroid medication significantly helped with reducing the inflammation in her lungs. She began her recovery at home, complete with a walker and her dad as her chauffer. She was literally bedridden for weeks, so she needed to regain strength to not only walk again, but give her lungs time to heal as well. She returned to work on part-time hours at the end of September, until she was laid off at the end of November. She continues to see her lung specialist, rheumatologist and now a kidney specialist. Although the lungs are almost completely back to normal function, her kidneys are now not working at top notch condition. So she continues with multiple doc appointments, going for blood work , trying to figure out the next course of treatment and focusing on the positive.
That really is the best sum of the last half of 2015 for Kirsten. She really was quite lazy, just trying not to die. Arrine handled her mom’s sudden illness so well. She really is the most awesome kid around. Nick was amazing support while Kirsten was in the hospital and brought Arrine for visits every few days. And the timing worked out for Kirsten to take Arrine to her very first day of kindergarten once she was discharged. Arrine also continued with her dance classes, this year taking tap, jazz and ballet, as well as gymnastics. Here are some questions I asked her for this letter.
- What is your favourite thing to play? Anything with Henna (babysitter) and with her friends.
- What is your favourite game? I don’t have one (although she loves solitaire and doing puzzles).
- What is your favourite food? Spaghetti (which Kirsten never makes for her, nor does she ask for it).
- What do you want to be when you are older for a career? A figure skater teacher and rock star, so I can sing on stage!
- What do you like to wear the most? Dresses, fancy dresses.
- Can you give your friends and family some advice? I have no idea what you are talking about.
- What is your favourite book? The Ariel one, because I am starting it.
- Would you like to include anything else? No (puts an empty litter box on her head).
Ok, shall we return to the start of 2015? Let’s. At the end of January, Kirsten, Arrine and Grandpa Charlie headed to Carlsbad, Cali, to stay at Grandpa’s timeshare. They had a fabulous week going to the San Diego Zoo and Animal Park, Legoland and the ocean. Arrine still asks about when they can return to Legoland, so it was a success. Arrine also had her recital with DanceFusion at the end of May, and it was such a joy to see her on stage, dancing her little heart out. She is quite the performer – still wondering where she gets that from.
Kirsten is still dancing with Capital City Burlesque, and had shows in April, June, missed the one in August, and then a Hallowe’en and Christmas show. She feels that she has found the creative outlet she longed for with this troupe. She has now been performing solos that she has choreographed, as well as group numbers, and also assisting with cleaning and prepping the group numbers. And for the Christmas show, she was involved with a significant more amount of the prep work needed for the show, like media, organizing rehearsals and backstage show requirements. It was a role she really connected with.
In early June, Kirsten travelled to Maui with her dear friend Haley. The girls pretty much sweated the entire time, but did not complain. Days were spent driving around the island in a convertible, beach and ocean days, pool days and Let’s Stay In Bed In The AC And Watch TV days. She wants to go back. With Haley. Again.
Oh, and in October, Kirsten’s amaze-balls friend Kenzie came to visit her for the weekend. Just a quick visit to celebrate that Kirsten hadn’t died. From Kuwait. No big deal. She just hopped on a plane from Kuwait. For the weekend. From Kuwait. The girls decided to relive their uni days, complete with a Schematics jam session, lazy afternoons watching X-Files and inappropriate humour. One evening all the ladies came over for a potluck, and you had to bring the food or drink you would crave if stuck in the hospital. The spread included McDonalds, Indian, ice cream, baked potatoes and salad rolls. It was such a special evening for Kirsten to be surrounded by her greatest support system.
A quick update on Nick – he’s good. He got in some great traveling this year too; Phoenix and Texas for golf. He is still working for NOV and curling in the winter as well. He still gets a 10/10 in the dad department (not that there was any doubt). And Charlie traveled too. A cruise in January, BC for golfing in the summer, and spent two weeks at his timeshare in Indio, California in December, as he has been doing for years now. Charlie was amazing support for Kirsten throughout her illness and recovery. Visiting in the hospital, running multiple errands for her and just physically being there for her. She is forever grateful for his love and presence in her life.
What a year 2015 has been for Kirsten. She described herself to her fabulous friend Trisha, “I feel that I am physically the worst I have ever been, but emotionally I am the best I have ever been.” She is working at viewing these challenges, truly as blessings. Opportunity for changes that she has been thinking about for years, but never had done anything about them. Both in her day-to-day life, and her career. She also remembers some very wise words her mother shared with her best friend Marlene before she passed, “If you can’t laugh, what else can you do?” And that is the attitude she has maintained throughout these challenging times.
So….I hope that next year I won’t have to write this letter again because I behaved. Nor will her kidneys write the letter because they caused her serious grief and owed her one. Let’s hope that Kirsten will be writing her letter next year. And that she has won the lottery.
Sending you all love and light, and the best wishes for 2016.
Love Left-Lung Lopes
Kirsten, Arrine & Minos (the cat)