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Kristen Garlans

How did you discover you were sick?

The past year has been quite a ride. In June 2012, my boss passed away unexpectedly, leaving my j... Read The Full Story

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April 7, 2013

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Mark Kozlowski Brooklyn, New York

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Sashka Rothchild Brooklyn, New York

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You can be a victim of cancer, or a survivor of cancer. It's a mindset. - Dave Pelzer — Kristen Garlans
5:39 am
January 5, 2014
New Year, New Life

I haven't wanted to come back to this site, as I don't want to be reminded of chemo, which was truly awful by the time I finished. But, it's been on my mind for a while now that I owe all of you an update. So, 2014 begins on a strange note. Many strange notes.

As mentioned previously, I lost my home, though I do have a sort-of permanent place to stay. It's not ideal, but at least I'm not homeless, which could easily have been a real possibility. (Still could be, in fact.) I had radiation over the summer, and my three-month scan just a few weeks ago. The scan looks fairly clean, so I'm considered still in remission. That made for a fantastic Christmas, though knowing I'll be going back every three months for the next five years puts a tiny damper on the joy. My oncologist retired, which was shocking and distressing, but I met my new one just before Christmas, and she seems ok. I don't have the love for her that I did for the man that saved my life, but I feel much more comfortable now that I have met her. My other doctors - so many, in so many different specialties - remain consistently awesome.

On the negative side, I've been besieged by strange health problems. There was an entire month lost to sleep, which seemed to be related to quitting smoking. I'm in constant pain due to the large amount of scar tissue in my leg. I think my memory is just fine, but my friends and family say, though it is better, it is not as good as it was before chemo. And, now, I have some disturbing internal bleeding which will be addressed on Monday. Not sure what's causing it, but it's been rather painful and stressful. Chances are it's nothing serious, but it'll be nice to have answers. But really, I don't have cancer right now, and that's all that matters. None of these other things have been great, but they are a joke compared to how I used to feel.

On the general-life front, I had a job interview the other day, and I'm waiting to hear back. It seemed to go well, despite my horrid short hair. (Being bald was so much better.) It's rather a pity that I have to look for work that will keep me below the poverty level. But unfortunately, I need to stay on Medicaid. Follow-up cancer care is expensive, and unless I found work that paid an insane salary, premiums, deductibles and co-pays would quickly eat up most of my income. So, it is a bit sad to have to intentionally remain impoverished, but I'm happy to have found a line of work I think will be satisfying. I've developed closer relationships with the friends that stuck around when I was sick, and found that I don't really miss the ones who disappeared during treatment. I feel as though this update is coming across as negative, but in all honesty, I couldn't be more thankful. I got my late boss' family out of my life completely, I'm in remission, I have great relationships with friends and family, and I have found a way out of the legal profession. Certainly, I wish none of this had happened. And I won't breathe easy until the two-year anniversary of finishing chemo, at which point the chances of it returning become minuscule. But the good that came from this far outweighs the bad. For that, I am deeply thankful.

Hoping all is well and keeping you in my thoughts today.

Sashka Rothchild Brooklyn, New York

Thinking about you and hoping that things are going ok. Please holler if there is anything I can do to help.

Sashka Rothchild Brooklyn, New York

Kristen, I read about your story via the Susan Campbell article. Best of luck with the fight and with returning to the legal world. Best, Jeff Gentes

 

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The past year has been quite a ride. In June 2012, my boss passed away unexpectedly, leaving my job in limbo. As a lawyer, I was obligated to pick up the pieces of his work while continuing to fulfill my duties. In the middle of that, I was hospitalized with a life-threatening condition, had emergency surgery, and, despite being told to take four weeks off to recover, was forced to return to work less than 24-hours after being released from the hospital. Several weeks after that, my close friend, who had been helping me recuperate from surgery, was killed in a drunk driving accident. Then my aunt died. Then I lost my job, as my boss' widow thought she could get a lot of money by having a friend do all the legal work while giving her all the fees. (Yes, it was a strange move, and I still don't quite understand what happened!)

Despite reeling a bit from everything that transpired over two months, I thought the worst was behind me. Unfortunately, I soon began to feel tired and ill. At first, I chalked it up to stress and tried to keep going. But the tiredness grew, to the point where I was doing nothing but sleeping. Ultimately, I couldn't ignore it any longer, as my leg ballooned up one day and made it nearly impossible to walk. After a whirlwind of appointments, surgeries and tests, my "stress" turned out to be cancer.

I was diagnosed just a few weeks after signing a lease on a new office and starting a law firm to represent low-income individuals with little access to quality legal services. Now, I am unable to work, and am facing the loss of my home and massive debts. I am seeking assistance to get me through treatment, so I have something - a place to live, a life without crushing medical bills, an office in which I can continue to practice law - to come back to once I am recovered. I worked hard to get where I was before diagnosis, but winning the cancer lottery has put all that in jeopardy.

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