Jan 17, 2015: My Sweetheart, Kristina Holmes

Last week I received my fourth dose of chemotherapy with Doxil.  The treatment was delayed a couple of days as I was fighting off a nasty cold, but I was able to proceed with treatment on Thursday, January 8th.  This cycle of treatment was again quite a difficult experience.  Lots of bone pain, fatigue, and generalized malaise, but not as difficult overall as the last one.   Fortunately, the symptoms are now starting to subside and I am beginning to feel more normal again.  I am scheduled to undergo more MRI scans of the spine, on January 26th and 27th, to assess how things are responding to the last two cycles of Doxil.  It is a nerve-wracking experience to be “on hold,” so to speak, and not know what the scans will show.  If they suggest the Doxil is no longer helping, I will have some tough decisions to make about what to do next, because the next options are not so great.  So, I am doing all I can to focus on staying positive, and trusting that all will be well.

IMG_1576 - Version 2Meanwhile, however, in this blog, I want to share about one of the greatest gifts and blessings of my entire life — my special, precious sweetheart … Kristina Holmes.

Kristina and I met in 2011, just shortly before I was diagnosed with cancer … and she has been with me every step of the way of this journey.  It is hard for me to imagine how I could have made it this far without her love, support, encouragement, and presence in my life.  She has been a true God-send to me.

Here is the short story of how we met, and a little bit about who she is as a person.

Kristina and I met in April 2011, in Boulder, CO, soon after I had begun developing ideas for a second book.  She is a talented literary agent, and we were introduced by a dear, mutual friend, Peggy Wrenn, who felt we might be a good professional match for my new book given our many common interests.  It’s not an understatement to say that the sparks were flying between Kristina and me during our first 2 hour meeting in her office in Boulder.  There was so much to talk about, and we were both excited by possibility of working together on this new book.  We met again about a week later at a local coffee shop to continue the conversation.

About 2 hours into this second conversation, it was absolutely clear to me that Kristina was a very special person, with very special qualities — and she was very beautiful, too.  As the conversation grew deeper and deeper, I slowly but surely came to the clear realization that I was very interested in getting to know her personally; even more so than pursuing a professional relationship.  The more I realized this, the more I found myself squirming around in my seat at the coffee shop, trying to figure out how to diplomatically tell her this.  Finally, I took a deep breath, and jumped in.

“Kristina,” I said, “I want to share something with you that feels risky for me to share, but it also feels important that I say it.  What I want to say is that, after all these hours we’ve spent talking, I realize that I’d really rather date you than hire you as my literary agent.  I know this is risky to say, and I hope you are not disappointed, but it’s honestly how I feel.  I’m just at that stage in my life where I’ve learned how important it is to speak the truth.  I have no idea how you will respond to this, but at least you know where I stand.”

Then, after a long pause, and after taking several really deep breaths, I asked, “So … what do you think?”

The look on Kristina’s face at that moment was a unique combination of shock, surprise, blushing, and trying hard not to look away.

After what seemed like an interminably long time, she finally responded.  She said, “Thank you for being so honest.  I really didn’t see that coming until you spoke it.  I’ve been concentrating so hard on your work, and your new book, that I wasn’t thinking about this other possibility.  But I am very open, and even interested, in getting to know you personally, too.  Unfortunately, though, I just can’t do it right now.”

My heart flip-flopped when I heard this, and I asked her “Why not?”

She replied by letting me know that she was at the tail end of a relationship that was essentially complete, but she needed some time to fully transition from that.  She was also leaving soon to go to the summer Book Expo in New York, and then to spend some time with her mom in Seattle.

“Oh no!,” I exclaimed. “Well, can we at least go out for lunch or dinner before you leave?”

“No,” she said. “I’m really sorry.  And I’m not saying no forever.  I’d really like to get to know you, too, on a personal level.  But I just can’t right now.”

Despite my sincere efforts to persuade her otherwise, she held fast to her boundary.  We agreed we would drop exploring working together professionally, and she left town about two weeks later, as planned.

I was really bummed.

Over the next several months, we had minimal contact until July, when she emailed me from Seattle, checking in to say hi and opening up the doorway to renewed communications.

IMG_1479 - Version 2We spent the next three months talking on the phone regularly, sending a lot of emails, and getting knowing to know each other even more deeply.  We were surely intrigued about each other, and eager to learn more.  Finally, we decided that I would come to Seattle to visit in person for the weekend, and also have a chance to meet her mom, who is a remarkable person herself.  So, on Friday, October 21st, 2011, I flew to Seattle. Kristina met me at the airport.  I rented a car, and we drove to spend some time with her mom.  Then, we left for an adventure at a small, beautiful hotel on Whidbey Island.  It was a deep dive together.  On Monday, I flew home.  The next day, we talked again and decided that Kristina would fly to Boulder that upcoming Friday, and we would spend ten days together.

Kristina arrived that Friday afternoon, and we had a peaceful weekend getting to know each other even more.

Then, the bomb fell.  The very next week I was diagnosed with cancer … while she was in the midst of our ten-day visit.

Just prior to my trip to Seattle I had experienced some pain in my calf.  An ultrasound and MRI showed a small mass in the right tibial nerve.  A top-notch surgeon in Denver said it was almost certainly benign, but needed to be biopsied.  I shared all of this with Kristina when I went to see her in Seattle, and she came with me to Denver for the biopsy during that ten-day stay.  A few days later, she was with me when the surgeon called to tell me that the biopsy specimen was not only not benign, but, in fact, it showed a high-grade malignant sarcoma.

In that moment, both of our lives changed forever.

After completing the call with the surgeon, I explained to Kristina that dealing with this tumor was going to take some real time and energy, and could become very serious.  As an oncologist, I fully understood, and explained, that it would require a complex surgery on my right calf, very likely many weeks of radiation, and a potentially long rehab process.  I also explained that the cancer could certainly spread at some point, and even eventually threaten my life.  I reminded her that we had not known each other that long, and that she had no obligation to stay.

What happened next was one of those rare “moments of truth” that can happen in one’s life, in which a turn of events can go in one of two completely different directions, and the consequences could hardy be more different.

I watched carefully as Kristina took a long breath, and then, without blinking an eye, said she felt inexplicably, but clearly, called to stay with me — at least until the surgery was completed.  And after that, we would see what felt right.

Amazingly, Kristina stayed with me leading up to and after the surgery, which took place the following month, on November 23rd, the day before Thanksgiving.

And we’ve been together ever since.

It is hard to find words that adequately describe the intensity of the roller-coaster ride that we have been on together over the past three-plus years.  All I can say is that — by some inexplicable miracle of Grace — Kristina has been there with me, accompanying me through multiple surgeries; serious infections; dozens of MRIs, CT scans, and PET scans; weeks and weeks of radiation; countless consultations and follow up visits with a large number of doctors and specialists; five separate trips to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York; and multiple rounds of exhausting, debilitating chemotherapy.  We even moved together to Asheville, NC, in July 2013 — when I was in remission and where I had been recruited to be the medical director of the Mission Health System Cancer Center.  And then, when the cancer metastasized further in the Fall of 2013, we moved back to Boulder, CO together, in December 2013.

Through it all, Kristina has been unflinching in her capacity to remain steady and present in the face of the intense pain and sorrow, losses, struggles, and the ongoing uncertainty we’ve been living through — including the ultimate confrontation with the very real possibility that I could die from metastatic cancer.

IMG_2230 - Version 3I have marveled, so many times, at Kristina’s profound inner strength, and her commitment and determination to do all she can do to help me find a way to fight and heal and live — while simultaneously remaining fiercely committed to her own deep, inner psycho-spiritual growth, healing, and awakening.

If you ever wondered if “miracles” and “angels” are real, look no further.  For me, Kristina has been and is both a miracle and an angel in my life.

I’m not suggesting that our personal journey together has not had its share of challenges, beyond those inherent in dealing with cancer, because it most certainly has.  We had virtually no time for the “normal” kind of romance that most couples enjoy before the almost universal challenges of life and relationships surface.  From the very beginning — literally within days of spending our first close, personal time together — we were catapulted head-long into an incredibly difficult and intense cancer journey; one which continues even now, and which continues to consume the pretext of any semblance of “normal” life — the yearning for which is such a sweet, tender, and naturally human longing.

We’ve had to learn how to work through the issues and challenges that most couples experience, in any relationship, while walking through one of the hottest fires either one of us could have ever imagined.   We’ve had to consciously grapple with one of the central paradoxes inherent in relationships — namely, how to honor and care for your partner, and yourself, in a truly honest and authentic way — without betraying yourself or them.  This is hard enough under so-called “normal” circumstances.  It is vastly more complex and challenging when one partner is facing a life-threatening illness like cancer, and virtually everything about the future is uncertain.  This is what we have been living through, from the very beginning.  Over and over again, I have been amazed by Kristina’s capacity to hold space, with as much kindness, compassion, and self-awareness as possible, for the myriad challenges we have faced along the way.

IMG_2282 - Version 3And yet, somehow, by some great mystery, and through some incredible Grace, we’ve been able to forge a way through these fires.  We’ve made it through these three-plus years and are more profoundly connected than ever before by a deep love and caring for each other, and a commitment to each other’s well-being.

Kristina’s incredible strength, devotion, dedication, and capacity to love in the midst of such an inferno is profoundly unique, and inspiring.  I have been deeply blessed by her presence in my life.  And — once again — I don’t know if, or how, I could have made it this far without her love, wisdom, and support.

So, I am very honored and happy to finally have this chance to write and share about my beloved sweetheart Kristina, with those of you who are following this blog.  She is an amazing woman, and a great being.  I am profoundly blessed and grateful to be with her.

25 thoughts on “Jan 17, 2015: My Sweetheart, Kristina Holmes

  1. Amara Geffen

    Dearest Brother,
    I am deeply touched by your honoring of Kristina, who I consider a true sister and love her deeply ever more given my love for you and yours each for each other. I am relieved to hear that you have come through to the other side of this most recent course of doxil. I am holding on to the vision that the scans will show the doxil IS working and you will be able to proceed forward together – you and Kristina together. It is a deep wish for you both….for our family….for all who can benefit from your wisdom….
    Love to you…
    Amara

    Reply
  2. Charley Cropley

    Pretty damn amazing, Jeremy! How this angel has come to you and blessed you throughout your Healing process. I am inspired and feel deep respect for Kristina… and for you.
    As it is said, “You couldn’t make this shit up!” Such a love story. Thanks for sharing. I am more opened to the mysterious workings of the Miraculous.

    PS I would be interested to hear Kristina’s gratitudes for you.

    Reply
  3. Ray Brejcha

    Jeremy,

    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story about how the two of you met. It touched my heart to read this blog post. What a blessing to have Kristina in your life during this most trying of times brother. You two are both in my thoughts, heart and prayers.

    Blessings,

    Ray

    Reply
  4. Mirabai

    I have loved Kristina from the start, but have fallen even more deeply in love with her through your eyes, Kabir. Please kiss that sweet face for me!

    Reply
  5. Judith Ansara

    Beautiful honoring Jeremy. And Kristina, Shana has told me how wonderful you are. I hope we get to meet. Robert’s and my offer to come chant with you both (and others if you wish) still holds. We will be away for the month of Feb.
    Love, Judith

    Reply
  6. Emma

    Jeremy and Kristina,

    I feel so deeply moved by this post, each of you and the journey that you have been on and continue to be on together. What a precious opportunity to learn more about your initial days together and to feel the profundity of your love. As always, Keith and I are sending our prayers, love and support to you both.

    With love,
    Emma

    Reply
  7. Pat Blair Pierce

    Dear Jeremy,
    Prayers will be with you & Kristina as you learn more about your future the end of this month. I thank you for sharing so openly & helping us all to recognize our own mortality through your experiences. I know you will both meet whatever the news may be with courage & gratitude for each other.
    Pat Blair Pierce

    Reply
  8. Ram

    Dear Kabir and Kristina,
    Thank you for sharing this. To go through any difficulty with a loving partner is such a blessing. As with you Kabir, i don’t know how I would have managed without my partner’s love and support. This is a blessed life. No matter what the appearance, this is a blessed life. I hold you in light and love,
    Ram

    Reply
  9. Diana Tripp

    What an exquisite, heart-felt and loving sharing of your relationship with Kristina. I’d say you are both extraordinarily beautiful souls who have come together for an amazing journey — and an offering to the rest of the world. You both impact us all. I am deeply grateful for your mere Existence — as well as the love you teach and share. Thank you for this blessing.

    Endless love and good wishes,
    Diana

    Reply
  10. shana parker

    What a beautiful tribute to your honey. And what a honey :) I know the courage and commitment to love and staying connected it has taken both of you to keep opening to one another in the midst of so many inner and outer challenges. A deep bow to both of you for making your relationship also your spiritual path.
    Loving you both dearly, shana

    Reply
  11. Uma Simon

    A lovely tribute to a woman who is very deserving of your love and respect. We are lucky to have the blessings of amazing persons on our medical journeys. Thanks for sharing this intimate relationship.

    Love and blessings, thanks and prayers to you, Kabir and Kristina,for the courage, commitment and caring you are showing us. Love, Uma

    Reply
  12. Peggy Wrenn

    I can’t express the love between Kristina and Jeremy. Words fail me. As my beloved friend, Jeremy, I can only say what Jeremy wrote, is true. To my beloved friend, Kristina Holmes (whom I met in 2010), I am very certain that this woman is beyond the beyond. We have no idea when we fall in love. Falling, falling, falling into love. Then you land on the ground, hard. Life just gives us stuff. Ditto to Charles Cropley, “you can’t make up this stuff” and Yes, to Kristina! Jeremy’s anima, has met his own inner feminine, and Kristina’s animus has met up with her inner masculine. Big Time. Ditto Chris “The Universe is smiling.” rivers of love, streaming into toward you, Jeremy & Kristina…

    Reply
  13. Tirzah Firestone

    Agreed! Kristina is sensational — I appreciate her after reading your blog
    even more than when I first met her.
    Blessings to both of you!
    Holding you in daily prayers, Yirmiyahu ben Ditta!
    Tirzah

    Reply
  14. Jack VanDervort

    As we all hold hands together on this journey with you, it is good to know the person who is at the head of the line. :-) Jack V.

    Reply
  15. Jeanne Holmes-Buttner

    Even before my sweet daughter’s birth, I began a prayer that has never ended. That prayer is that she be blessed with joy, peace, fulfillment, achievement, satisfaction, tranquility, and good health. It is a long “mother’s list for a daughter’s happiness. But, actually, it isn’t a long list – it is one precious gift, the greatest blessing of all. It is love. Many years ago, when I least expected it, that special, beautiful gift of eternal, “forever” love entered my live. I learned that when we love, really love another person, we give and in giving we receive. We sacrifice, and are blessed with more than we have sacrificed. We are enriched by the relationship and we enrich the person we touch with our love. Such love literally changes and transforms us forever. Thank you, Jeremy for touching Kristina with your love, and thank you Kristina for making your mother so very happy.

    Reply
  16. Kathryn

    Dear Jeremy and Kristina, what a beautiful gift you are to one another, may God continue to bless you both with growing love , with His grace , peace and strength to carry on. I am so sorry that you are enduring such pain, Jeremy and continue to hold you in the light of my “Jeremy candle ” daily. Sending prayers much love and many blessings. Kathryn

    Reply
  17. Nazak

    What a beautiful love story Jeremy. It reminds me of a poem by Rumi:-

    The moon has become a dancer at this festival of light.
    This dance of light,
    This sacred blessing,
    This divine love,
    beckons us to a world beyond, only lovers can see with their eye of fiery passion.
    They are the chosen ones who have surrendered.
    Once they were particles of light now they are the radiant sun.

    Reply
  18. Jill

    Thanks for sharing your story . . . what an amazing relationship you and Kristina share. My thoughts are with you both.

    Reply
  19. Brad

    I am glad that you have such a wonderful partner, Jeremy, and that you have had such a partner through this difficult journey. I pray that the upcoming scans will show that the Doxil is working well. Blessings to you, Jeremy.

    Reply
  20. Becky L. Parrish

    I want to thank you for hiring me to do your yard work. First time you hunted me down was a special time. It made us friends for life. There isn’t anything that I wouldn’t do for you. Many prayers from North Carolina. I will always love you, Kristina and Max. If you ever need me I will do my best to be there for you and Kristina. Love, Shorty

    Reply
  21. Logan Kline

    What an extraordinary story of love and opening this has been for you Jeremy. And I know from our intense conversations repeatedly at Murphy’s, during this courtship and your new life together, the challenges you both were facing and the choices you both needed to make.

    How wonderful it is to hear this tribute to Kristina and to the successes you’ve shared together, which are great indeed. I got to experience the early formation of this true miracle and how angels brought to you this gift named Kristina as you courageously keep saying yes in the face of all challenges. I’m sure your love have been forged from iron into steel. I love you both so much and am here for you in any way I can be.

    And thank you for your incredible experienced and skillful support as I confronted my own challenges with Lisa’s journey with cancer. How fortunate I was to have what I always called you, “my very own oncologist”!!

    Love to you my brother, Logan

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *