Kristi’s Story – The Story Behind The Surthrivor

It seemed like a decade had gone by since my husband and I sat anywhere near each for even a few minutes, let alone lounged in the sun with sand under our feet and turquoise water only a breath away. I glanced down at my phone to see what was happening on Facebook, something that always drives my kind and loving husband crazy. “Donnie, put that phone away, you are supposed to be relaxing! “. He was right!

This past year was a whirlwind, traveling to countries I had never been to, alone, lost most of the time, and even eating hundred year old eggs.. Really. I had been investigating factories in which I would manufacture a product that I believed would create a “movement” toward every human being, leaving a legacy for their families. It was an idea my husband had cultivated throughout his entire career, and I was bringing it a new life with a new style, a new beginning.

Little did I know that when I snuck another look at my phone that I would be shocked to see on FB that my 36 year old friend with one year old twins was fighting for her life. That dreaded diagnosis, breast cancer. What? Kristi? The fashion designer, boutique owner, and healthy eater? The one who did everything right? Cancer? Wow.

Two weeks later I was on a plane flying home. I pondered through so many thoughts on my long flight. What do you say to someone you love that is battling this frightening disease? How do you reassure your friend that there have been so many strides in the treatment of breast cancer and that the diagnosis doesn’t have to be thought of as a death sentence? How does one who does not have the disease even begin to understand the fear and devastation that runs once those two words, breast cancer, are uttered? How do you reassure a mother that her children will not have to grow up without her and how do you ensure that those who face this diagnosis can intentionally affect their futures?

I was about to truly understand how the project I was so earnestly working on was going to become so much more than just a “movement”. This project was going to take over every waking moment of my life, my new associate Julie’s life, my amazing design and manufacturing teams lives, and the lives of anyone who heard Kristi’s story. We were on a mission to preserve Kristi’s legacy in a place that she would be proud of; a place that everyone who knows her would come to understand as the place of her essence; the story of her being and her soul.

I was just about to discover that my own mission in life was to create “The Original Life Chest”, a place that everyone would recognize as Kristi’s past, present and future. Then we would take this to the world.

I got off the plane to face a blizzard. Traveling light was never my forte, so trudging through snow with a 60 pound suitcase then fighting the traffic from the airport put me way behind. The plan was to meet Kristi at my hotel. I hadn’t seen her for a few months and was a little afraid of how to handle that first eye contact moment where words would just get in the way. True friends don’t have to speak, but this was a situation that clearly would be treading on the side of more than just awkward, it was devastating. I was afraid that I would not know what to do, and I was right. When I got to the hotel, Kristi was sitting on a bench next to the check in counter. She had no hair. My eyes welled up. I checked in, turned, grabbed Kristi’s arm, and off we went. We sat on the bed, ordered room service and started to cry. ” Why? Why is this happening? How does God choose or is there a God? What makes one woman vulnerable and another not? How can one focus on anything but fear? How can leaving a legacy give peace?”

Suddenly, we had a plan. Kristi and I decided that we would design a beautiful Life Chest that could speak volumes about her and who she is. Kristi loves Chanel so we covered the exterior of the chest with quilted faux leather. She adores oval vanities, so we made the shape of the chest oval. Kristi wanted two special spaces inside so she could write letters to her twins for until they are 100 years old, sharing her wisdoms so they would know not only who she was but what she wanted them to understand about life, love and giving. She wanted a spot to place her plans for the future, stories about what her goals were and what she dreams of becoming, she wants her daughter to know she’s a strong woman who made a difference. Kristi also wanted a special spot in that chest for her ashes, just in case she loses her battle with cancer. Her ashes could travel through time with the twins in her chest, moving with elegance and style, just like her.

The chest must have bling everywhere, as Kristi calls herself a magpie, drawn to everything sparkly and shiny! There would be room for cards, headscarves and keepsakes given to her by friends, family and even strangers. The bottom of the chest would have to be mirroring, so when opened, her essence would reflect into the world. There would be pretty lingerie like trim around the interior top of the chest representing her femininity and the undergarments that covered the breasts that tried to kill her. The top of the chest would have a large beautiful jewel telling everyone that inside this chest is a story worth preserving, revisiting and sharing for generations to come.

You see, if your stuff is in shoe boxes or drawers all over your house, who will know what is important to you and who it should go to? How will your love ones know that the string with a whole bunch of knots in it represented every day that Kristi had treatments if it’s thrown in a shoebox under the bed or in a closet? Where would the important documents be when you need them and would anyone know exactly where to go to find them. Where would all the photos and videos be stored so there is comfort that they would not be lost.

Then there would be the charitable side of our mission. We would ensure that every chest sold would support the lives of women who needed financial help to battle this disease.

Kristi’s chest is one of ten beautifully designed Original Life Chests that can be found online and in stores. Each and every chest tells a story of someone’s remarkable life. We all have a story to tell and deserve to leave a legacy. Our movement is to save our souls. And where is my husband in all of this? Standing next to me through all of the travel, all of the late night texting to factories and all the missed functions he was so used to having me at.

Thank you to everyone who supports our mission!

– Donna Yost

Kristi Sainchuk with her children from Edmonton, AB Cancer Survivor