Introduce yourself! Who are you?
Hi! I’m Kristin Bryant. I grew up in Orange County, CA and have found myself raising my own kids here since the key to my sanity is yelling “go outside!” at them all day since you can do that 90% of the year here. I have four little ones (10, 7 and two-year old twins) and I balance that with teaching from home for an online high school full-time and online university part-time.
I got my bachelor’s degree in education at BYU in Provo, Utah and then got my Master’s Degree at Cal State Fullerton. One of my goals in life is to give tests to students, not take them, so I’m hoping my school days are over!
I was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer when I was 32 years old. A double mastectomy, 40 rounds of radiation, 6 rounds of chemo and a whole bunch of healing later, I’m now a 5 year suvivor!
Shortly after my cancer diagnosis, I got my first book deal for my YA sci-fi novel that received national distribution. The sequel to my first book, The Others, is in editing right now. I’ve also been published in smaller magazines and publications.
Someone take me on vacation. Anywhere. Anytime. I’m there.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Don’t worry, don’t hurry, don’t stop.”
I have no idea who said it…but I love it. I found this quote while I was in the midst of writing my first novel, which was getting absolutely nowhere. Seriously, it sucked. Even my super amazing, super supportive husband couldn’t tell me it was good with a straight face. The idea of giving up was hard to ignore.
But when I found this quote, I remembered that this new project, this new talent I was trying to cultivate had no timeline except for the one that I was pushing on it. It was okay to go slow, it was okay to not kill myself with stress and worry. The only thing I couldn’t do was give up on it. Thankfully, I listened! And I found a passion for writing that I didn’t know existed before I tried.
Two years, 14 rejection letters, and one acceptance letter later, I was a published author!
What is your greatest fear?
Once you’ve had it, you fear it. If you haven’t had it, you probably still fear it.
Even if they call your cancer in remission, you sort of sit and wait for that other shoe to drop. “When is it coming back?”
“Are we going to catch it in time?”
“Is this new ache or pain the thing that might actually take me away from my family?”
Cancer is heavy. Even five years out from diagnosis, it scares me like crazy.
What message do you think every woman should hear?
You are stronger than you think. Really, really.
I have women come up to me all the time and ask me how I did it (survive cancer, publish novels, work two jobs with four kids). Women are singularly good at just doing what they have to do.
Each of us has our unique trials that make us uniquely strong. Our mistake is thinking we wouldn’t be just as strong in someone else’s trial.
You would be.
You would do what it takes to survive.
Because you rock.
What do you love most about yourself?
Someone once told me that I’m the kind of person they would cross the Great Plains with. It’s a Mormon compliment and I love that someone would pay that kind of compliment to me.
The early Mormons in the mid-1800’s were pushed out of their territory in the Eastern United states and had to walk with wagons and handcarts across the Great Plains to the Great Salt Lake Basin. That feat took some hard work and a big dose of grit.
I work hard. That grittiness got me through the super painful trial-and-error period of learning how to write, balancing work and kids, and even the insanity of potty training twin two-year-olds. If it needs to get done, I’m getting it done. Work ethic is my jam.
And if any of you ever need to cross the Plains, call me. I got you like that.
What motivates you most?
Forward momentum. I like being in a different spot today than I was last year. It motivates me to try new things and get better at the things I’m new at right now.
Have you ever had an extraordinary experience? Describe it!
Cancer rarely gives anything. In fact, cancer is usually a game of deciding what you are willing to give up to survive. Your health, your hair, even (in my case) body parts. But my cancer gave me something back. Two things. And those two things are currently destroying my house as I write this. In a good way.
When you get diagnosed with cancer, things move really fast. You have to make massive decisions within days, sometimes hours, about life-altering treatment options. Days before my double mastectomy, one of my doctors casually mentioned that I probably wouldn’t be able to have kids after chemo (chemo kills quick-dividing cells, like cancer cells, hair cells and…eggs). He dropped that atomic bomb and then walked out to go see another patient.
My husband and I looked at each other and caught him in the hallway and hauled him back in. We had two boys (5 and 2 years old) but we weren’t done with kids. And I REALLY hated the idea of cancer taking anything more away from me than it already had. The doctor said the only option to save my fertility was to do one round of IVF between the mastectomy and the start of chemo, which was exactly four weeks.
We had no money in savings. My husband was in the middle of trying to buy his chiropractic practice (think coming up with a down-payment for a BIG house). We had fairly good insurance but were still paying thousands of dollars in treatment costs for my treatment. We had absolutely no way to pay the $15,000 it would take to start IVF a week later. Sadly, we decided together that IVF just wasn’t an option.
Later that day, I was in the shower praying hard to feel okay about this decision that I was NOT okay with. The answer to my prayer came so loud and clear, I couldn’t deny it. God’s answer that there were more kids that needed to come to my family and that He doesn’t let something so stupid as money get in the way of His plan. I was promised the money would come if we did the IVF.
Well sir, I jumped out of the shower and ran to my poor husband who had been through the ringer with me and thankfully, he chose to believe the answer to prayer I had gotten. He called the fertility doctor right then and got the ball rolling. A few days later, I came out of my mastectomy surgery and my husband started giving me IVF injections right there, in my hospital bed.
That injection was a sign of my hope. That injection was a sign of my faith.
I had this vision in my head. I pictured chemo and radiation like being on a deserted island with a volcano that was about to erupt and destroy everything on the island. And I had to stay on that island and just try to survive. But if I could do IVF, it would be like me sending these precious starts to my future children out on a life raft into the ocean so they wouldn’t be harmed. And if I survived, I could pull them back in later and they would be mine.
Days before I had to start chemo, I had surgery to take my eggs and then we froze them. And that’s where they stayed for two years. Side note, for their first birthday, they were Elsa and Olaf, because they had actually been frozen.
IVF was still well over $15,000 when it was all done and said. Neither my husband nor I have ANY idea how we got the money. We call it our “loaves and fishes” miracle after the Bible story of Jesus feeding the thousands with just a little bit of bread and a few fish.
As soon as I had survived one year from the end of chemo, my oncologist gave me the okay to finish IVF. We implanted two of the frozen embryos. They both stuck.
Their names are Ben and Kate. My miracles. Cancer gave me plenty of scars and a good dose of PTSD, but it also gave me my twins. And for that, I am forever grateful.
More About Kristin
Kristin Bryant is a teacher, author, and most importantly, a mom. She teaches Psychology for a virtual high school and courses for an online University. She is also a breast cancer survivor.
Kristin lives in Orange County, California with her husband and four children.