Dig In

A Day in the Year of Healing
I have been coughing all night. Before I slept, I texted Ashley to see what drugs I could mix with NyQuil. It turns out, not many. My ribs hurt and my body cracked and creaked. I'd slept all weekend, like my body was shoring up energy for the storm that is coming, the storm that sends out signals in between waves of coughs. Cough, tremble, inhale.
I slept for a good ten hours Sunday night, despite waking up at 4pm. I woke up and the dog was wild, licking my face, begging to go out and for food. I tried to ignore her and my bladder; here, I was unsuccessful. I fed her the banana I've been meaning to eat. Still, we were up early. Dogs are exhausting, and I don't even do all the stuff. 
My mom came back with Sadie in tow. I hadn't seen her in 12 days and she was happy to see me, though she grew happier with me as the day wore on. For lunch, I fed her broccoli and pasta and artichokes and spinach. She ate so much broccoli that I started humming a tune. Broccoli monster, Broccoli MONSTER!! I sang it at her and she started laughing. So hard I was worried she choke. Broccoli monster! I tried to take a video but she shakes her head at my camera now. She's 16 months old and she's starting to really interact. She listens to directions and brings me what I ask. She loves to play basketball, feed her baby doll Max, and climb up the stairs. Every age, I think it's the best. I'd like to capture her here for a little while, but she's already toddling off, leaving me behind in Gymboree class, in search of big kids and whatever toys they've got.

In between all the moments, I could not help but think of my friend Lauren. Her dad died yesterday. Her family has suffered two deaths in 14 months. A family of four, whittled down to two. You never want to believe that life is that precious, that fragile. We say it all the time: YOLO, hold on to this moment, live here now, but I know I often refuse to accept the fact that my family won't be whole forever. And it devastates me to see it happen to a family I love and care for. The whole thing reeks of unfairness, except isn't it just what life is? We live and then we die. But to lose a daughter and spouse in 14 months is still, still unfathomable. 
Sadie was wiped after Gymboree and Target and went down easy. Boom, lights out. I came up to the apartment to sleep but found I could not. There is so much I am failing at. I'm not taking it one day at a time. I'm not eating the fucking bone soup! I'm walking but not as long as I should. I'm getting up but only some days, the rest are spent asleep.
I'm trying to look at the big picture. It looks beautiful. Full of adventure and extra pages in a passport. It looks so full. I'm not tired, I'm not sick. Everything is a little bit easier. But I'm not entirely on my way there, no matter what I say. I keep thinking: I'll do better later, later. But later is stupid. Later is not now. Later will come and I will be here, the same. 
And I don't want that. I know life is this precious, this fleeting, this fragile. It's fast. It's toddling away from me.
What I guess I am saying is this:
It's time to dig in.


It's More Than A Feeling

Go with your gut. Trust your gut. Follow your gut. You'll know what to do.
I am in a time of transition, a time of openness and willingness. This is something I know and feel honestly, for the first time ever. And because I have ignored the suggestions for so long--from family, from friends, from readers of this here blog--I am consciously listening to what people say. And you all say a lot: 

Cut gluten. Cut carbs. Cut meat. Become a nudist! Meditate daily, go to yoga, try Pilates, walk, sing in the shower, eat flowers, don't eat flowers, jump on your bed, go meet the Pope...

MAN, the things I am now willing to try! If you'd told me a year ago that I'd have thrown out all my sugary crap food and abandoned bagels for...not bagels...I'd have laughed in your face. I'd have told you that it's not fair: I've given up so much, why do I have to give up more. I'd whine: Why can't I be like everyone else, just a little? Why can't I be irresponsible for a little bit longer?

But let's get real: I was irresponsible for long enough. I was frustrating for long enough. I had my shitty food and I had misery. I had my alcohol and I was a terrible version of myself.

So now I am open. Wide open to healers and acupuncture. To burning moxa on my skin. To cupping. To whatever Gwyneth Paltrow is selling. Pass me the fucking pipe, man, because I'm smoking it.

There are so many conflicting options, though. I reckon it'd be difficult to be a vegan and consume a paleo diet at the same time.

I brought this up with my therapist, after I broke down listening to another opinion.

Go with your gut, she told me. But I never really had a gut. It was fed with medication because I was sick at 10 months old. It got amped up on drugs and steroids and so my gut, or whatever knew what felt good and didn't, is, in some ways, lost to me. It has no diary to tell me what drugs worked or what didn't. It's exhausted and overdone.

I do know that the last time I felt good for an extended period of time, I lived in Los Angeles, right next to a mountain, with a trail I hiked every day for 32 days straight before I flew back East. I know the last time I felt clean, I was in a forest in Hawaii, hiking toward a cold waterfall. I was swimming in the ocean.

As much as I want to flee again to places where this is a daily possibility, I cannot. I've had three hospitalizations in three months. I have to build health here, because I have to accept that this is home. It doesn't have to be forever, but this apartment in the carriage house on my parents' property will always be home base. I need my family to help me and I need my niece to ground me.

Because there is still so much acceptance to work toward. There is still a gut to unclutter.

I know that I can continue to do nothing. I can lie here. I can say I’m recovering, but it’s not recovery if I’m just anticipating the next disaster to strike.

And so that is why I have started. That is why I'm in search of my gut, and cautiously toying with the idea of better. 

And I'm actually doing some of this crazy shit. 

Because It’s mid-January of this newest year and I’m sure now that if I don’t act, I will waste my life in this bed.

And that would be terrible, you know. Terrible to waste this life, any longer.


I'm already working with a team I am beginning to trust, but throw me your suggestions. Nothing can hurt. Tell me where you feel good. Tell me about apple cider vinegar. Show me your gut. Let's share our insides. Let's get better, together.

Thank you.



January 17th: The Healer

Today my mom and I walked around the city we both used to live in. And she met Chris, an Eastern medicine scholar who I've met with once before.

Chris is insanely smart but his ideas are radical, even though they come from thousands year-old medicine. And yet it makes more sense than anything I've ever heard. And I have heard it all. Drug names and surgeries and treatments since the time I could talk and listen. I know more about the immune system than premed students. But for all these years, I was hesitant to explore this other type of medicine.

I was afraid, afraid for another treatment to fail, afraid to lose myself in another attempt to get better. But I trust Chris. He's highly trained and young but so goddamn smart. He is humane, even when sticking needles in me and burning moxa on my belly button.

let him burn me and it didn’t hurt. I wasn't tense and I didn't scream. It was warm and relaxing and I felt a release, a sudden absence of something I cannot yet name.

I promised to dedicate the next six months to give my complete focus on getting better. To find the right mix between diet, natural healing and Western medicine. Because the drugs my doctors give me now are band-aids, and we've got to heal the root. No more chemo. No more drugs that only make me dependent on other, scarier drugs. 

My regular doctors are fine to tell me that my lifespan is shortened, that this and that will kill me and I am not okay with that. Maybe I was before, but I'm not anymore. Of course, I could get hit by a truck tomorrow, but it won't be a truck full of immunosuppressants and steroids, no, no.

I’m searching for healing. That is what this is about. I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid yet but my eyes and ears and are wide open. Even if this means eating bone soup, the recipe for which seems to be taken out of Hansel and Gretel.

I am practicing patience and I am hoping to find peace. And in that peace, joy.


A Letter to Friends and Family

Dear Family and Friends,

Happy New Year! Please hold still for a few minutes, while I bore you with why and how you should help a cause near and dear to my heart.

Ever since I became involved with First Descents--wait, what? What's First Descents? Hold onnnnn...

Read this first: 

FIRST DESCENTS (FD) offers young adult cancer fighters and survivors a free outdoor adventure experience designed to empower them to climb, paddle, bike and surf beyond their diagnosis, defy their cancer, reclaim their lives and connect with others doing the same. During our programs, adult survivors and fighters are empowered through conquering legitimate outdoor challenges to push their limits and face their fears, and by doing so, they are able to regain the confidence and self-efficacy lost to cancer.

How I Became Involved

I first was told that I must go on an FD trip in the summer of 2011. By January 2012, I'd applied and been accepted to an amazing getaway: five night surf trip in the Outer Banks, where we woke up to a healthy breakfast and morning yoga on the beach. We surfed in an Nor'Easter and rocked out in the car to Call Me Maybe. (You can't judge us; we had cancer.) It was clear from the start that we were an amazingly close group; at the First Descents Gala in Beaver Creek in March of '13, we accepted an award for the best fundraising effort. We sent an entire group of 18 to 39 year olds to camp last sumer.

After you've completed your first challenge, you're invited to a second trip, FD2. You must take on a fundraising effort. There wasn't a limit to what you could raise, but thanks to my friend Hairband forcing me to run a half marathon in Denver with her, we raised over $2500.

Last summer, I was ready for a an even more extreme adventure. I chose to do my FD2 challenge last July white-water kayaking the North Fork river in Montana's National Glacier Park. I can't pretend I didn't want to quit half a dozen times; it was cold, I was sick, and oh, I had a broken arm and collarbone. But at night, as we ate dinner and chatted around the campfire about...BEARS, a conversation from which I may or may not have recovered from, I once again felt at home with these strangers. Strangers who were now my family. My cancer blood, if you will.

After you've participated in FD1 and FD2, you graduate into FDX, a trip that months of training and former trips with FD have prepared you for. You must also raise money for FDX and I believe that this cause is truly worthy. Not only are we giving back to FD, who has given us so much, we are helping to build homes and playgrounds for the destitute families who make up Southern Vietnam.

I fly into Saigon and then we get on a bike for FOUR days and cyle around the country. A COUNTRY THAT DOES NOT LOOK TINY ACCORDING TO GOOGLE MAPS. After we dismount our bikes, the second half of our work begins. We won't just be biking, we'll be building stuff, too! With my own tiny baby hands! Tiny baby hands that can barely hold a drink, let alone a MALLET. 

I think I can do it, and I want to give back. But I need a tiny bit of help. And here's where you guys come in. Because you're so lovely and beautiful and did you get a haircut? No? It's naturally that curly? Gorgeous. 

So Why Support FD Out Of All The Other Organizations You Work With? Dammit, Bergin!

Fundraising makes First Descents possible. Not just for me (baby buys her own plane ticket) but for other young adult cancer fighters.

I fundraise for First Descents because unlike any other lupus, cancer or diabetes organizations or support groups, it has absolutely been the best fit for me. It has changed my body and soul. It has saved me. It's given me hope and ownership of my body. It's helped me, with my discombulated head, accept the body that I have always hated and resented.

(Look, I even drew a self-portrait. Double-chin unfortunately included.)

By giving to FD, we are changing the life of a young person affected by cancer. A young adult, who likely doesn't know any other people with cancer his age.

A lot of the reason that FD targets young adults is because young adult cancer patients are quite often overlooked. They are largely without insurance, so by the time they finally go to the doctor for that weird ache, cancer has blossomed. 

And there are few places they can turn to. Sure, there is an abundance of support for women with breast cancer, children with cancer, and the elderly. But there is a shocking lack of support for 18 to 39 year olds, a population with depressing statistics: there's been little increase in survivorship rates. And it's even worse for young men, who suddenly have to face fertility and libido problems at 23 years old.

My cancer peeps are dying young and they are dying quickly. I've lost friends to this wretched disease, and the fact that I will lose more absolutely shreds me. 

While FD will not cure this disease, it will change the fighter for the better. I can say this with absolute certainty that it has worked for me. And I have seen it in fellow campers who have become family to me.

I've set my goal to raise $1500 this year, which will completely cover one cancer camper and their flights to whichever destination they choose.

The Challenge Besides The Actual Crazy Ass Challenge:

In preparation for a bike trip around a freakin' country, I will bike indoors, perhaps staring a picture of Brangelina with theirs arms outstreched, waiting for me in Vietnam where we will adopt our son, Wolfgang Jolie-Pitt-Berg (the -in is a bit much, no?). 

I've challenged myself to start doing 30 minutes on the bike a day, as soon as I get out of the hospital. (Yes, I'm writing this from a hospital bed.)

This is a new year, a year for hope, and going to Vietnam is a huge leap of faith for me. It is scary, it is far, and I'm not even sure if they sell Froot Loops there. Also, I'm terrified of large insects and land mines, so there's that.

But I am excited to feel charged up about something, after years of depression and pain. This anticipation and joy has propelled me to vow to overcome the challenges 2014 has already given to me.
Where I Say Thank You and Mean It

Thank you for your support. If you donate, please email me your address and I will send you something special for your support. The something special will likely be a #selfie, so you know, you may want to opt-out of that. But donations will come with hugs. I'm allergic to deodorant so, again, at your own risk. Oh! You can lock me in a cage and wave from there.

The link to donate is HERE: http://tfd.firstdescents.org/site/TR?px=1004761&fr_id=1060&pg=personal

Thank you. Thank you so much. For this, sure. But for everything else...there's no amount of smelly hugs that could thank you enough.

All of my love,
Kelly Bergin


Hospitalized Again: What Being Back Means for My Year of Healing

In this oh holy year of healing, I expected setbacks on my attempt to achieve healing. I recognize that it will take baby steps, and not gigantic leaps into suddenly transforming myself into a new, healthy person. This became apparent to me when I was hospitalized just 9 days into Kelly's Year Of Healing (trademark to come.)

Why am I back here for the 3rd time in 3 months? Well, much of this has to do with weaning off steroids, which I did at the start of the year. I was immediately rewarded with a sore throat and mouth sores worse than the ones I encountered at Christmas. 

I have also been feeling very confused and dizzy, not always sure of what movement I was making or what words I was typing. (So if this makese no sense, contact me or a mental health professional.) This was attributed to my low blood sugar. I consider myself self-aware, for better or for worse. So to wake up screaming for my mom and being surely it was 6am in July and I was in a hotel somewhere was odd because really, it was 11pm, I'd just woken from an ill-timed nap, and I was in the apartment I've lived in for a year.

It's absolutely terrifying, this run of diabetes I've had. I'm afraid to go to sleep sometimes because my sugar crashes are so bad that threats of a seizure or worse, a coma, are very real. My numbers also spike so high that my kidneys are in danger of real and permanet damage.

I went to see my lupus doctor yesterday and my limbs and body were so achy that I lay facedown on the table, waiting for him to come in. My face and ears burned. And surprisingly, I had a temperature. I rarely have a fever over 99, so to spike from 99 to 101 to 102 was reason enough for my doctors to want me hospitalized. It's best if I'm back on the steroids (argh) and get antibiotics for an infection, all by IV.

And so I am back here again, in the hospital beds that feel so familiar to me, tethered to a machine pumping me full of incredibly strong and scary drugs, wondering what's next.

I want to get better on my own, without the help of drugs. I want to get better by utilizing nature's cures. I want to travel and seek out the value of Eastern Medicine.

I am expecting too much of myself and I'm losing sight of the goal, which is to feel better.

It's NOT to suddenly become normal like my friends, to suddenly slip into the life I've wanted since I was a terribly sick 12 year old.

I'm hopeful I'll get better, but I cannot change how illness has shaped me, no matter how much kale I eat.

I'll likely be here for another night or two. I'm hoping to read and think and rest, and give my body the replenishment it apparently needs. Next week I'll see my Eastern Medicine Healer Chris in NYC, and along with my Western medicine docs, we will build a plan for a better 2014.

As always, thank you for the love and support.


Oh! An essay I wrote about culture in 2013 was published last night on Thought Catalog. I do hope you'll read it here: My Year of Cultural Abstinence. If that doesn't work, just click here: http://thoughtcatalog.com/kelly-bergin/2014/01/my-year-of-cultural-abstinence/


My Resolution Is More Badass Than Your Resolution: A Truth

Happy New Year to all! I don't want you to get excited but this is definitely the most important thing I've ever posted on here so, you know, read it. Thank you. I love you. Thank you for your support over these continued years.

My Resolution Is More Badass Than Your Resolution: A Truth

For the first time in my life, I am going to truly, fully and wholly dedicate this year, 2014, to achieving better health. 

This is a plan, a hope and a dream. I intend to completely overhaul every single aspect of who I am, physically and emotionally, in order to achieve health and peace.

I am not ashamed to admit that this absolutely fucking terrifying.

2013 was a terrible year for my physical and emotional health. I know that I am not being overly dramatic when I say that if I continue to let things go the way they've gone, I will not live past 30.

Because I've been ill since I was a baby, disease is a part of my identity. I can't imagine who I would be without it sickness hovering over my life. I am who I am both because and in spite of it.

There is a large part of me that doubts that I can ever truly get better. This doubt has stewed for years. This doubt has been confirmed by many doctors, including the government's own physicians, who deemed me sick enough to receive Social Security disability at 27 years old.

I am tired of hopelesslness.

I have never been ready before. And I am ready now. I just know it. I feel it. This urgency. This desire to live. A desire that was not there before.

Undertaking this journey means making incredible and scary life changes, from dietary to spiritual to the physical. 

For starters, it involves slowly changing my diet from picking at chicken tenders and Froot Loops to eating a diet full of leafy vegetables and wholesome foods. Anyone who knows me is likely laughing right now and it's true I am eating an old Kit-Kat while I write this.

But just as I can assure you that there will be days when I cheat, I can make the promise that I will no longer buy candy. I will no longer eat a donut just because it's there. Sugar is evil and I am one hundred percent addicted to it. But my diabetes is beginning to affect my body in serious and damaging ways, and so I must part with sugar, EVEN THOUGH IT'S DELICIOUS. (I willl miss you, cotton candy. See you at the fair, which will be a cheat day.)

Although so many of you have prayed for me (and I thank you!), I have doubted prayer and positivity for years. But now I will attempt to embrace them. I am not going to run toward any one belief with open arms, but my eyes and ears will be open as I consider the things I've dismissed many times.

And although I'm bummed my diet will have me crying over cookie commercials, I'm excited, because this journey will bring me around the world as I seek out ancient medicine and wellness techniques. 

The first week of March will be spent at a healing and yoga retreat at an ashram in the Caribbean. I would've laughed this idea off a year ago, but I am ready now. It doesn't hurt that it's in the Bahamas. I'll be sleeping in a hut on the beach and eating vegetarian meals three times a day while doing yoga and practicing ayurvedic medicine.

In May, I am going to Vietnam with my cancer friends at First Descents. Here I'lll challenege myself phsyically, by LITERALLY BIKING AROUND THE COUNTRY. On a bike without a motor. Our destination will find us building houses for poor familiies. This is a fundraising trip and you can help (please help!) me raise money here: Dotcom Goes To Vietnam

I plan on trying local medicine and learning about cures in Asia; hopefully I will make it to Cambodia while I'm there. I'm not sure what the second half of 2014 holds, but I'm excited for these opportunities. I am less excited about all the kale.

Of course, I am afraid that I will fail, and that I will still be sick, and that it will be my fault. But I must remember that if I don't try, if I don't seek out what I need to seek out, I will die young. Now I could die young having tried all the cures in the world. I don't think that I'm going to write CURED at the top of this page a year from now. I know people who have tried everything to stay alive and failed. But I haven't ever tried for longer than a month. So this is why it is time. Time to try.

I can guarantee mistakes and the occasional donut along the way. I can guarantee I will doubt myself and others.

But I don't have the luxury of youth like my peers do. I have to find a way to get better, I have to commit, and it has to start now.

I owe to my family. I owe to my niece. I owe it to my friends. But most of all, I owe it to myself.

Thank you all for your support. You can bet your ass I'll be writing about it along the way.

Here's to 2014 and the possibility of wonder and joy. 

(Please help me achieve this goal. Thank you. Link is here.)


(Bitch, you about to be changed.)