Friday, August 5, 2011

A Huge Blow

I have to ask for your forgiveness, kind readers. I admit, I have been hiding and I have been procrastinating. Both of these qualities are unusual for me. I am usually very forthright, open, and a take the bull by the horns kinda gal, but, please allow me to explain my silence.

A couple of months ago, I celebrated stable scan results and looked forward to a quiet summer. I promised all of you blog readers that I was going to celebrate my summer of stability by focusing on others and ending the Bridget Show.

The reason I have been hiding is because the Bridget Show has come to the forefront again- way sooner than expected.

I desperately want to be normal, quiet, and not the center of attention or the focus of pity, so I didn't want to share my news with you blog readers until I absolutely had to share it. I wanted to put off this post for as long as necessary. I wanted to put off the questions of "How are you doing" and "what can we do to help?" etc, etc for as long as possible. At the same time, I also couldn't in good conscience lie to all of you. I couldn't write about other people's stories, or cover topics like cancer and fertility or cancer and careers, and pretend my world was quiet and perfect, when in fact my whole world was falling apart. So I chose the middle ground. I didn't lie, but I didn't come clean. I chose silence.

Please accept my apology. Today, I'm coming clean.

The cancer has grown. The Tykerb/Xeloda regimen has failed.

It all started with my stable scan results. At the same time that the doctors look at my CT scan, they also take blood work and keep an eye on my "tumor markers." Tumor markers are like trails of trash that my cancer leaves behind in my bloodstream as it grows and travels. When my tumor markers decline, it is a sign that my therapy is working. When they increase, it is a signal that my treatment is failing. That said, tumor markers are unreliable, so we don't jump to 'all hands on deck' after just one bad blood test. Instead, like playing the stock market, we follow the tumor markers' trends and we make decisions based on trends after looking at weeks and weeks of data points.

So, the same day that my CT scan results showed stability, my blood work showed increased tumor markers. Because we focus on tumor marker trends, my doctors played down the blood work and focused instead on the stability seen on the scan. However, after we saw a second large jump in my tumor markers the next visit, the doctors started preparing me for bad news. After a third jump, the doctors said, let's be safe and scan you early.

After the second appointment, when concerns were first raised, I felt a knot in the pit of my stomach. My doctors had never before focused much on tumor markers. My subconscious was telling me that this was not good. I wanted to hide. I wanted so desperately for my life to be normal and wonderful and perfect. I wanted so badly to enjoy the blissful summer I had planned.

I couldn't bring myself to blog. Sharing the news made it real- I was admitting to something I couldn't yet admit to myself. Like I said before, I took the easy approach and I disappeared- from blogs, from Twitter, from Facebook, from email returning, even from some phone calls. I apologize, friends.

Instead of blogging or emailing with all of you, I threw myself into home and work. I cooked for Big Man like he was a family of 4. I made mango salsas and elaborate skewers of meat and fancy veggies. Like Izzy on Grey's Anatomy, I baked- cookies, and brownies, and cakes- oh my! I walked the dog 4 times a day for long walks through new neighborhoods. I stared at her perfect, cute little face. I stayed up late and stared at the Big Man while he was sleeping (creepy! but also romantic) and I imagined what our kids would look like. I didn't want to fall asleep each night. I stayed awake later and later. I didn't want to go to bed because I didn't want the party to end. Every day that passed was one day closer to the bad news that the butterflies in my stomach knew was coming.

I also threw myself into work. For those who don't know, I am a coach as well as a 5 time walker for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. A few months ago, I moved into a new position at the 3-Day- I no longer worked nationally with every event, I now am the chief cook and bottle washer here in Boston. That really is my title "Boston's chief cook and bottle washer!" I threw myself into the new job working weekends and nights, and loving it! The Boston 3-Day for the Cure was July 22-24th, otherwise known as the hottest weekend in 100 years or something. I relished the busy-ness and the heat and the challenge. I wasn't winning in my own cancer battle, but I sure as hell could work my tail off and save someone else. I also relished the fact that, at work, I knew what was expected of me. I could handle work. I could control work. There were SOPs and checklists and deadlines. There is no SOP for metastatic breast cancer. I couldn't control my tumor markers.

I loved hiding.

Me as 3-Day coach with my blogger buddy Dusty Showers-
Big Man, be afraid, be very afraid!
So this brings us to a couple weeks ago. On Sunday July 24th, I celebrated with the 1,800 walkers and 350 crew as they crossed the finish line of the 2011 Boston 3-Day. I hugged my survivor friends. I cried with them. I laughed with them. I took pleasure in hearing other people's stories instead of sharing mine. I looked fabulous. I felt fabulous. I was a success. Life was good.

The next day, on July 25th, life got tough. At 7am, I lay alone in the tunnel of a CT scanner, praying because my life depended on it.

This unexpected, early scan showed that in just 2 months my cancer had grown in both my liver and my lymphnodes. In my abdominal lymphnodes, the cancer used to be about 1mm. The cancer was now more than 2cm. In my liver, my tumor previously was 1cm. My liver tumor was now 2.6cm. In just two months, my tumor markers went from 40 to 120.

Allow me to explain those that these tumors, my cancer, is all still very small and very manageable. This is not a "get your affairs in order" situation. I don't want everyone to freak out or misread me. I still plan on celebrating my 30th birthday in two years and throwing the most fabulous Birthday Bash the world has ever seen, but there is also no doubt the cancer is growing. We need to take action and stop it.

There are two things that make me angry about this situation. First of all, the trials and tribulations of Tykerb and Xeloda were all for naught. That regimen never really worked for me. I was on them for only 4 months. I suffered with hives, painful and peeling feet and hands, and acne on my face that made young children run and hide. All of that was for nothing. That said, the Tykerb and Xeloda probably did slow down my cancer's growth. The cancer grew, but it took 4 months for us to notice anything. I guess I'll take that, but I'm not happy about it.

Secondly, I feel like we are getting down to the wire. I just keep taking hit, after hit, after hit, and its getting to me mentally. These past 2 years it seems as though nothing has worked! I've had some victories, but I have had more losses than victories. My "arsenal" of drugs has now dwindled to 4. There are 4 more standard therapies available to me if this cancer keeps growing. That does not make me happy. I need 84 years worth of drugs if I am to grow old with Big Man as I have planned. When I counted the remaining number of drugs with my doctor, I gulped and clutched Mommy's hand desperately. In the past I have felt scared, disappointed and worried, but I've never felt desperation before.

I am starting a new chemo called Gemzar. I am going to take it in combination with my BFF, the drug Herceptin. The big bummer is that Gemzar is given through IV over several hours...every week. No more fantastic trips to Paris or Milan for me. I might have to miss a few friends' weddings. Every single week I have to show up like a good little girl and get my drugs. Cancer will be an even more frequent intruder in m life. I will spend even more time at the hospital instead of out living like every other 28 year old. Unfair!

Gemzar causes flulike symptoms. After my first treatment a few days ago, I ran a fever, and had chills and muscle aches. It's pretty daunting to imagine suffering through a flu every single week for the foreseeable future.

My doctor says in most patients the flulike symptoms diminish over time. I won't run a fever or have chills, I'll just be achy. Let's hope that diminishing happens sooner rather than later. After all, I have a full plate. I have to take over the world and cure cancer, remember?

The realities of entering this next, scarier phase in my fight against breast cancer are particularly daunting. All of the most exciting and talked about supposed "cures," all of the hottest and latest drugs, well, I've taken them. They haven't worked. Now I am on to "standard therapy." I am hoping and praying that Gemzar gives me stability, but after 3 failed regimens in one year, I just don't know if I can say that I am kicking cancer's ass. Cancer seems to be kicking mine these days. On the internet I found a synopsis of the results of clinical trials of this Gemzar and Herceptin regimen, the median time to progression for patients (meaning the median amount of time that these drugs gave patients' the stability that I so desperately want) was 5 months. The median survival time for patients receiving this regimen....10 months. I want more than 10 months! I am not ready to die in this calendar year. I have to assume those statistics will not be mine, but they still are staring me in the face. They still haunt me every night as I try to fall asleep.

My doctor is my biggest fan. It makes me choke up just thinking about her. She's wonderful. She tells me she has seen some patients who were on this drug for several years. She's confident of my future and she scoffs when I mention that I am doubting my hope of a 30th birthday. She says the results of this regimen vary greatly by individual. She also reassured me because I'm in great shape and I'm so very young.

My favorite poster from this year's Boston 3-Day
This is going to become my mantra!
With her confidence in my back pocket, I am entering this new chapter with my Big Girl Pants on tight. She's right, I can handle this. She wouldn't give it to me if she didn't think it would help. So, even though I am scared and worried and disappointed, I have to put on my Big Girl Pants and focus on hope. I suppose that is what faith really is, believing in something when it seems impossible. True faith isn't believing in something when the chances of it happening are good. True faith is continuing to believe even if that seems crazy, especially when it seems crazy. I'm choosing to believe. I am going to continue to believe in my future. I will continue to believe that Big Man and I could one day have babies. I will continue to believe that we will grow old together. I will continue to believe in it, and I can't wait for that to happen!

Today though, I ask you for some favors. I ask you for prayers, but not pity, and I ask you for research dollars, passion, and activism, but not gifts or cards. We need to cure this and I can't do it alone. We need to cure this SOON.

Even though I hoped and prayed and hid from reality for the past two months, I now must admit: the Bridget Show continues. I just hope that this past year of my blogging has opened your eyes to the roller coaster that is Life With Breast Cancer. I hope that my blog has made you understand why the world needs more pink. I hope you realize that, contrary to popular opinion, this battle for a cure is far from over.

Every 69 seconds someone in the world dies from breast cancer.

That needs to end....now. I don't want to add my life to that statistic, but I can't help but wonder, when will my 69 seconds come around?

36 comments:

Nancy Lumb said...

Bridget: your 69 seconds are many, MANY years away. I just finished walking in Cleveland, will be heading to Michigan next weekend and walking in DC later in September. I will continue to raise money for a cure, better treatments and new drugs. Together we WILL find a cure so that you and the Big Man have those 84 years together. MUCH LOVE! Nancy (Lumb)

Patty Mellon said...

Bridget - You have my prayers first and foremost. You have my passion to raise funds to find a cure. You have my love and respect. Now, you have to do 1 thing for me and everyone around you..... kick cancer's a$$! Keep you mind and thoughts focused. I love you!

Mona keegan said...

Bridget- You are, and will continue to be a mentor and inspiration to others for many, many years to come. I just know it will turn around.
Hang in there sweetie and I'm thinking happy thoughts, happy thoughts, happy thoughts.
Hugs and 3-Day LOVE,
Mona

Joni Rodgers said...

Huge love, peace and energy beaming your way, kiddo.

xoxoxo

Unknown said...

Prayers for you, Bridget. Keep the faith. We will too, Carrie Cook

Patty said...

I know you don't want pity, neither did I, but can I throw a little righteous anger out into the universe for you? I wish you could get the normalcy you crave, and so deserve. That said, you will beat this! You continue to be an inspiration to me and countless others. I walk for you in 2 weeks...every step a pledge to keep walking until we find the cure that all of us hope for. I send you love and healing energy, dear Bridget. Patty (of the slipper pumps)

Anne Moss said...

Thoughts, prayers, and positive vibes are with you. You DID look great in Boston, and you did a fabulous job taking care of us walkers. In return, we will be happy to do what you need from us -- keep kicking cancer's butt!

Anonymous said...

Bridget, the prayers and good vibes of the Men With Heart family are and always be with you. We are looking forward to see you again next year and again for many years to come at the 3Day.

Angelo

Stephie Says..... said...

Prayers AND FIGHTIN LIKE A GIRL WITH BIG GIRL PANTS ON! You make me a better person to have met you, you realize that! And I am sure I don't just speak for myself, otheres also feel that way to. You are beautiful in every single way! Love to you and thanks for all you do to put an END to cancer! xoxoxo Love Sunshine Stephie/orange girl xoxoxo

David Paolantonio said...

You are in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

Positive thoughts and prayers! It was an honor to meet you in Boston and I look forward to seeing you next year. Please know that you are an inspriation to us all, and together we will keep fighting the good fight.

Debbie said...

Bridget, you are my inspiration. Thank you for continuing to tell your story. Your voice, your experiences are so important. You help us all keep our eyes on the prize. We're inching closer.

Robyn Clark said...

Bridget, I can't even find the words to tell you how amazed I am by your strength. I remember seeing you at the Boston 3-Day and thought you looked absolutely fabulous! :-) You have just kicked me into gear for next year's Boston 3-Day - what an inspiration you are. Stay strong and keep us posted.

Bridget said...

You dear, dear girl (don't take that as a slight)... I pull for you every day... I'm angry and I want so much for you and the Big Man. I was honored to meet you and walk with you both last year and will walk and walk and walk for you and beside you. Don't shield us from the Bridget Show... We cannot completely be with you like Big Man and Mommy, but we are with you nonetheless... Namaste...

Bridget said...
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Anonymous said...

I will fight for you!! I am so inspired by you - we'll find an end to this. Hugs when you get to DC :)

Shannon said...

I can only imagine what you are going through. The age you were diagnosed was the age I was when my mom's 16-month Stage IV battle ended. I have walked three 3-Days. I will keep you in my prayers, Bridget. Thank you for sharing your story of courage and strength!

Linda said...
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Anonymous said...

Keep fighting Bridge.

Christopher said...

God Bless Bridget...you are why I keep walking.

Carol Boehner said...

Bridget, I pray that your 69 seconds is 69 years from now. I am one of the Pink Angels and had the honor of taking my picture with you on day 3 in Boston. I have followed your blog and am so inspired by your strength and commitment to a cure. We met a couple on Day 3 as we walked to lunch and they approached us. The husband wanted to thank us for walking. They were in town for their wedding anniversary. His wife is a 5 year survivor of Stage 4 breast cancer currently on a drug that he goes to Virginia for once a month. He wanted to thank us because the drug was funded thru a grant from Komen from the 2000 walks. We will continue to walk so you and all of the wives out there can share many anniversaries with your husbands. My prayers are with you. Stay Strong!! Love, Carol

melanie goes pink said...

You are and will be in my prayers. You are an inspiration and I will work my darndest to do my part in helping to find that cure!!!!

melanie goes pink said...
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Erin Lears Richardson said...

Bridget, We are thinking about you. Much love...Erin & John

Anonymous said...

Bridget-Kepp fighting like a girl!!!!! I am so proud of you and you are a true inspiration to all breast cancer patients.....I am a three time survivor because of people like you.....stand tall and kick cancers butt you can do it....and hank you for all you do for others......I am praying and cheering you on.....let's make a deal and meet ten years from now.

Love, Arlene Stewart

Anonymous said...

Bridget, you are a true inspiration for me to keep walking and raising funds to find the cure that is coming!!

Anonymous said...

My prayers are with you. I just registered to walk in th 2011 Komen Maryland Race for the Cure. This one's for you!

Winnie said...

Bridget your are an inspiration to me in my daily life. I missed you in Boston but was happy to hear you were there. I have a little something for you and would love to send it just to make you smile my e-mail in winal@comcast.net please e-mail me with your 3 Day address. Love and prayers every day. Together we will find a cure for you Bridget. Thanks for being you a special person.

S. Davis said...

Prayed for you today!

Mandi said...

Bridget, keep up that confidence! Good vibes and love coming your way.

Karen B. said...

Bridget - I have not posted before, but I have been a follower of your blog and just love it! I was so bummed to read your latest post. I just wanted to let you know you are in my prayers. Keep up the fight! You are truly inspirational!!

Liliana Holtzman said...

I send you love, hugs and good wishes, sweet angel.

Elicia said...

Bridget, from that first day I met you at the informational meeting in Milford, MA I knew you were someone special, someone who could and would make a difference in this world. You have all of my love (Mike, Ashley and Abby's too)and prayers I can muster up. It was wonderful to get to see you at opening ceremonies in Framingham and to give you the "in person" hug you deserved. It's okay to be silent for yourself for a bit, but remember your voice will be hear the louder you speak.....so speak LOUD AND CLEAR! WE WILL FIND A CURE!!!! I will do my part in just a few months in Tampa and then again next year in Boston. You do your part and concentrate on you and big man. Together you can do this!
Much love coming your way for the next 84 years! Elicia

Andrea said...

Please update us, Bridget, as you get the time and as you feel able. Prayers continue to fly your way... on the wings of angels.

Winnie said...

Bridget I was so happy to hear about the new research I hope your first in line for the trial. I just find you such a wonderful woman. Your 69 seconds are really far away

Winnie Sawyer

Winnie said...

Bridget I was just so happy to hear about the new research and I hope you are the first one there to do the trial. My thoughts are always with you. Amazing is a word I use when I talk about you. You give me strength every day. Your 69 seconds is now 69 years away. God bless

Winnie Sawyer