Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How Are You Doing?

Think about the phrase "How are you doing?" Everyday, in every city across the globe, hundreds of people are asking that very question. Mothers ask sons over phone calls, girlfriends ask over a glass of wine, long lost friends connect over coffee, doctors ask patients as they give a pat down.

Sometimes, like during high school reunions, people don't really care about the answer. Instead of listening to the answer, the questioner simply prepares for when the same question comes back her way. But every once in a while this simple question is posed in such a way that makes the heart sing.

I notice a lot when people ask me how I am "doing" because I never quite know how to respond. When I answer the, "How are you doing" with the expected, "Fine, thank you and how are you?" I am almost always lying.

Five years ago, on June 3, 2005, I was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer.  I was 21 years old. It was two weeks after my college graduation. I had no family history of the disease.

Five years ago, some people started to dread asking me 'the question'. Five years ago, some people I have never met and may never meet started asking how I was doing. And five years ago, for the first time ever, I noticed how wonderful and liberating it can be when someone asks, "how are you doing?" and really, truly wants to know.

As my new blog title implies, life with Stage IV breast cancer requires a pair of Big Girl Pants. If you're going to enter my world, you better put on a pair of your prettiest party pants and buckle them up tight, because my answer to "How are you doing?" is always long winded!

My long winded answers are what prompted this blog. For years, I've been filling people in on my latest adventures in cancer over coffee or dinner, at cocktail parties or in mass emails. I bring people up to speed in 500 words or less. Over five years struggling with recurrences, I am slowly realizing that my life will never be normal enough to sum up over dinner. Instead, life with Stage IV cancer means that every day major news is happening. Every month a new hurdle pops up. Every week a new drug is tried. Every evening we pray.

Sharing my story over dinner, over coffee, at weddings, is unfair for my friends and family and it is a disservice to the huge hurdles that I overcome every single day. I plan to use this blog to share those day to day struggles.

I plan to update this blog everyday, or at least once a week, with reflections on where I've been, updates on where I'm headed, and general thoughts about life and about facing down death.

In an ideal world, people will actually read this and share it as well. I am also giving birth to this blog because I want to raise awareness about living life with breast cancer. Not beating it, not surviving it, not closing that door, but truly, happily, sadly, thoroughly and completely living with it.

I joke sometimes about being scary. I really am not joking.

My story scares people, especially fellow cancer patients. I am the worst case scenario.

I was diagnosed way late. By the time someone sent me for a mammogram five years ago, the cancer had traveled from my breast to my liver. One doctor gave me a 16% chance of celebrating my 30th birthday. Over the past five years, I have had three recurrences and 5 surgeries. I have been on nine different types of drugs. My cancer just won't quit. The doctors can sometimes be quite grim about my "prognosis"

But I am living well. I am living fully. I am happy. I am one of the happiest people I know. I just got married in August (best wedding ever!!) and some days I call my husband in the middle of the day to just thank him for the amazing life that we have made together. I created a song that I sing (way off tune!) while cooking dinner about how much I love my little life. I think these facts can help people, even though my situation might scare you.

It is this happiness that keeps me motivated when life isn't very happy. This day to day happiness makes me a fighter.

So let's kick off this journey by sharing one of my most favorite-est pictures ever. This is me with Stage IV cancer.


Do I look sick to you?

Does it look like I might feel sorry for myself?

Now I'm off to a doctor's appointment and will update everyone shortly! I hope there will be someone reading.

27 comments:

Carrie Vieceli said...

You are nothing short of INCREDIBLE! I love your spirit, your candor and your blog! And...I feel truly honored to be the one standing next to you, holding your hand in your "most favorite-est picture ever" (even though I'm clipped out of it here.) :) You are such an inspiration! Rock on in your Big Girl Pants! I'm a fan of this blog and more importantly, I'm a BIG fan of YOU! xoxo

Molly is Fast said...

Love this SO much Bridget! I celebrate you and your life. xom

Erin said...

I am thrilled you are writing a blog...I will check back in daily! I'm thinking about you!

Nicholasbunny said...

Awesomeness. Subscribed to your feed to catch all the updates. :)

Amy Foster said...

I'm reading! and just love your new blog!

Leslie Gambrell said...

Bridget you are a constant source of inspiration. My wish for you is that you have a LONG and HEALTHY life and lots of little Spences. Love you! Leslie

Anonymous said...

I don't think you'll need to worry about readers...you amaze and inspire me every single day. Thanks for sharing a bit of you with the world!

Anonymous said...

Bridget, you sound like an inspiration and you are truly amazing. No words can describe how much your blog will motivate and help people who are also fighting this horrible disease. Keep fighting and good luck.

Phoebe said...

You did indeed have the best wedding ever. You are a constant inspiration, and I feel lucky to call you family and have you in my life.

Bora said...

Hi B - I am so glad you've started a blog! love you and miss you!

r said...

I LOVE the Big Girl Pants! I love the page, and I can't decide which is my favorite picture! You are my inspiration! xox Bee

Ms. Richmond said...

I absolutely love that you are writing this blog! Sitting across from Alex everyday I've heard all about Masterpiece Classic on Sunday nights (he really liked the Jane Austen ones!)...I'm glad to hear about this part of your life as well! :-)

Lou Fisher said...

Bridgit,

Thanks for your story and now that I know about your blog I will check your site often. My best friend from my college days and a fellow tai chi pratitioner was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 1997. I don't know the specifics but I remember that after she had a lumpectomy she did remind me that it was OK to hug her again that she wasn't going to break. She went on chemo and bought wigs but refused to wear them when her hair fell out. She said they were too hot and scratchy. I thought she was beautiful bald and she was. Several months later she was told she was in complete remission. She went sking with her daughter to cellebrate and during that trip she fell and broke the head of her femur. During her healing and rehab time for her leg they found the cancer had spread. It was in her brain, her liver, and her lungs. Her pain was unbearable but she held on for another 2 months until the summer of 1998. She was 47. I will always remember her and I will always miss her.

Gina Guerreso said...

Bridget, I started my day by reading your blog and I feel so inspired. I hope you realize how incredible you are, and I feel blessed to know you. Thank you!

Mary Ellizabeth said...

So..how are you doing? (kidding...) I'm so glad you decided to do this. You definitely have a "following" and a host of friends from all over who can lift you up in prayer and serve as encouragers. This blog is a great means for us! So, thank you :) love you Bridget. xxME

Suzy Schwartz said...

Bridget, I think this is fantastic!

TheOrganicOrganizer said...

We don't know each other, Bridget, but i found your blog off a link on my friend Merry's facebook page. I will continue to read your story as it unfolds...

Diane said...

We love you Bridget! We'll be reading your blog and hoping to see you & your hubby again really soon.
All of our love,
Diane & Shelley

alison said...

LOVE IT! LOVE YOU! I might put on my big girl pants to read your story, but I'm coming with the giddy, excitement of having rainbows & Care Bears on the front :)

Suzanne said...

Fantastic blog Bridget! I am proud to know you!

Suzanne said...

Fantastic blog Bridget! I am proud to know you!

Erin said...

I will be reading - you can count on it!

Joan said...

You are nothing short of amazing. Period. I love that you are in my life and I love that you touched my son so deeply that he chose to walk for YOU this year. You make us all better people! LOVE YOU TO THE MOON AND BACK!!!!!

Maley said...

I know you're incredible to talk to Bridge, but I never knew that you were also a really great writer. I'm so glad to know you and to know about your blog.
I am inspired by your attitude- you really are helping people, like a little scientific detective! I look forward to following your blog. :)

Nancy Lumb said...

This blog is a great idea. What an amazing woman you are!!! Can't wait to stop by each day and be truly inspired. It may have been our cancers that introduced us but it is your strength, humor and passion what makes me want to be your friend.

Shop Without Money Sisters said...

Bridget,
I am so glad I found your blog. I am celebrating 5 years as a survivor and was diagnosed at 32. There is another mom at my son's school who is 32 now and was diagnosed last year at stage IV (I was stage 2 at diagnosis). Her cancer has spread and her prognosis is not good. I'm going to get together with her this week to see what I can do to help out with her family/housework/etc. and ask her some questions about her status right now. I'm wondering if I can get in touch with you by email or you with me so I can ask you some questions. I don't know a whole lot about metastatic because I was fortunate not to have to go there...I would love to get some info from someone going through it and someone who is so positive as you. Thank you for sharing on your blog!
Heather
my personal email is sigmasal@aol.com

AJ said...

Briget, thanks for listening to my rant. How lucky I was to get you on the phone. I'll walk the walk in Dallas for you and you will be on the flag in Texas 2011! My love and prayers will go go with you to beat cancer in all its forms. I know you have and will continue to fight a good fight. love from a new friend in TX, Ann