Thursday, March 29, 2012

Negotiating With The Big Man

Several times along the course of my breast cancer journey, I've had to plead, cry, and negotiate with The Big Man, and this time when I mention The Big Man, I'm talking about God. I'm happy to say that, while there have been times when His answers to my prayers have been difficult to understand, I can say confidently that He has heard and granted my wishes time and time again. I realize that making it seven years with Stage IV Her2+ breast cancer is a miracle in itself. My presence here today is living, breathing proof of God's answered prayers. And yet, even though The Big Man Upstairs continues to answer my prayers, I always want more.

This week, I received tumor marker test results and found that my tumor markers are rising, again.

I was never a patient who hung her hat on tumor markers. I wanted always to look at the bigger picture and didn't want a weekly or monthly reminder of my battle. Instead, for six years, I was happy with making a plan and sticking to it for three months at a time. I was happy that every three months I could steel myself for the unknown. I lived every three months happily and trying to maintain as much normalcy as I could. Then, once every three months, four times a year, I would hold hands with My Big Man, ask Mom to fly into town for support. Together we could look cancer square in the face, get my scan results, and come up with a new gameplan.

This year, though, my world turned upside down in October. My doctor told me the cancer had control of my body, and what was once a cancer contained in my liver had blossomed into spots in my lungs, bones, and throughout my lymph nodes. I started contemplating death, and not death someday, but death soon. I started contemplating leaving my job that gave me so much strength, support, camraderie, a sense of normalcy, a sense of accomplishment, and a sense of purpose. I changed all of my passwords and wrote them down for easy access. I finally sorted through our file folders and organized paperwork, threw out seven year old documents and bills, and cleaned house in case Big Man had to take over the running of the household. I actually wrote down and printed out and put in a folder labeled "Legal Documents" instructions in the case of my death. I imagined my funeral. I read Bible passages. I listened to hymns. I cried, but I also felt a sense of control and peace.

And then my tumor markers started falling. The Taxol and Herceptin combo started working, and week after week I started taking notice of my tumor markers for the first time. By December, my tumor markers fell from 965 to only 75. I started rooting for my tumor markers. I started getting hope and inspiration from those test results. I realize now I also started hanging my hopes on that test result. Now that my tumor markers are rising, I'm not finding hope in my day-to-day accomplishments as much as before. Rather than making my three month leases on life count, I'm getting dejected with every passing blood test. The cancer is suddenly taking over my mind and my mood.

My whole family, also, has started asking, "Did you get results yet? What are your markers doing? What does this mean?" My  family shares my pain when the results are poor. And now, without intending that, we are sad and defeated by the cancer on a weekly and monthly basis rather than every three months. Cancer is controlling more of our lives.

The doctors do not react to every test result. We do not make major treatment decisions based on a handful of bad blood tests because it takes a long time for trends on a cellular and blood level to actually translate into changes at the tumor level. It takes a long time for tumor markers to add up to actual, measurable tumor growth. So we were, in essence, getting very upset and worked up about results that were not going to impact my day-to-day treatment decisions in the slightest. These tumor markers were fabulous tools for encouragement when things were going our way, but now they are simply a hindrance.

This last week, my tumor markers rose to 312. I am upset. I am scared. My mind is wandering to sad, dark places. My Big Man and I cuddled together in silence after the results came back. Until Big Man broke that silence by stroking my bald head, looking down at my face resting on his chest and saying "You can't go anywhere. It's as simple as that. You aren't allowed to leave me. I can't handle that. So there."

And I decided to make the same "So there" statement. I will not allow these tumor marker tests to rule my life. I will not speak of them again on this blog. Instead, I will only get upset and nervous and scared every three months at scan time. Scans are coming up again on April 11th, so I suppose this is an easy promise to make for now. We will see in April and May if I can regain control and perspective. Can I go back to focusing on the bigger picture? I have made three month long goals for myself and my family before. I am going to make these same sort of goals now.

In October, I had a negotiation with God. I asked, and prayed, and begged that he please let me live to see my baby niece born.

My sister-in-law is due on April 6th. God has granted me that wish. God has answered my prayers. I am sure that on April 6th, as I watch a new, perfect life emerge before my eyes and as I become an Aunt for the first time, I'm sure I will have another negotiation with God. I'm sure I will pray that he let me see this beautiful child grow up. I know I will pray that He gives me the chance to share in her life. I want her to know me. I want her to love me. I want to hear her say my name. I want to see My Big Man hold her. I want to see my Big Man fall in love with her. I want to see my Big Man turn to me with a smile and imagine me as the Mommy.

Instead, I should simply sit back and enjoy that one day.  I have to take a deep breath and remember my favorite excerpt from Matthew 6:

          “That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life
           And what you are to eat, nor about your body and what you are to wear.
           Surely life is more than food, and the body more than clothing!
           …Can any of you, however much you worry, add one single cubit to your span of life?
           And why worry about clothing?  
          Think of the flowers growing in the fields;  they never have to work or spin;
           Yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his royal robes  was clothed like one of these.
           Now if that is how God clothes the wild flowers growing in the field…
           Will he not much more look after you, you who have so little faith?

           So do not worry;
           Do not say, “What are we to eat? What are we to drink? What are we to wear?”
           Your heavenly Father knows you need them all.
           Set your hearts on his kingdom first…
           So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself.  
           Each day has enough trouble of its own. “











35 comments:

Patty said...

Your courage and strength are a constant source of inspiration and awe for me. It is amazing how easy it is to forget that we, none of us, is assured of any more than today. It is just, in the face of stupid cancer, the obstacles to hope can be many. I send you patience for what will be and joy for what is. Know that I, and all of the members of Bridget's Big Girl Pants Brigade, are sending you love. You are amazing Bridget, truly amazing.

Winnie said...

God bless you and keep his arms around you and your big man Bridiget. May he keep you warm and loved throughout time with the strength from your Big Girl Brigade.

Debi said...

Love you, Bridget ... praying for you always. You are such a source of bright light and inspiration; I am a better person for having known you. I'm walking in your HONOR this year, NOT your memory, so you HAVE to make it. So, there! much much much love to you.

Liliana Holtzman said...

Sending you hope, hugs and best wishes,dear angel!

Domani said...

Sending you much positive energy, Bridget! And, I'm sending extra prayers to The Big Man for you!

Richard said...

Many prayers for you!

lilo126 said...

Every dollar I raise I hope is the dollar that finds you a cure. Love, hope and pearls. Priscilla

Meghan said...

What an amazing verse. you are so very strong. I pray you live until April 6th 2060!

Cary Murray said...

You are truly inspiring with both your words and your outlook. You have inspired me to join a team to walk in the D.C. 3-day. The way you live your life everyday inspires me to improve the way I live mine. Thank you.
AND Congratulations on your niece!!! She is precious - Katie sent me a picture this morning! God answered this prayer and I know he will continue to watch over you.

Mandi said...

*hugs*

Cathy said...

You continue to be a teacher to me Bridget. My love to you and thanks.

Terry said...

Thinking of you today more than usual. Sending prayers, good vibes and hopeful thoughts to you!!

Erin Murray said...

I know that the words don't exist to make your pain and fears go away, But know that from where I sit, your strength and grace are beautiful and tremendous. I hope that you find a smile in every day...everytime I read your blog, I am filled with love and admiration.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bridget....just checking in. Hope things are good for you.

Anonymous said...

It's been months. Is everything ok?!

Chrissie said...

Just saw you on ABC national news! You look beautiful and healthy and amazing. I'm so happy TDM-1 is working miracles for you. I love your posts and have been worried about you. I have stage 4 breast cancer, too. Love you and your blog.

Anonymous said...

Let's see a picture of you and that cute new baby!

Sharon said...

Had infusion today & kept thinking of you. Sending prayers & Reiki. Love You. xo

Anonymous said...

I check here each and every evening. My love is with you!

equipment finance said...

You are amazing. No one would talk about their sickness if they happen to be in your shoes. They'll be on the verge of self pity. Be strong and courageous. Don't lose hope and don't give up. We won't know, maybe the Big Man will grant you some miracle. Thanks so much for inspiring us. You can survive this.

Anonymous said...

any one telles me please if bridget is fine ?

Anonymous said...

I am not giving up. I check every evening and know that you will post sooner or later. I am willing you abundant health!

Anonymous said...

I check almost every day. Please let us know that you are ok, Bridget. Thinking of you.

Anonymous said...

Love your blog and miss your posts. I hope you are feeling well and having fun doing wonderful and exciting things.

SarahM. said...

HOPE YOU ARE WELL and LOVING YOUR SUMMER!

Anonymous said...

I hope you're doing well! I check your blog every day :)

Karen B. said...

I just wanted to say I hope you are doing well. I check your blog often and have been hoping to see some kind of update to say you are doing well. I hope all is well and that you are just too busy enjoying life to post :). Thinking of you and wishing you good health and lots of strength.

Anonymous said...

Here she is! A picture taken at the end of July! She's rockin' the 3-day like a star!

http://twitter.com/jayfurr/status/228535524544086017/photo/1/large

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the twitter picture, Anonymous! Bridget is an inspiration to us all. Thanks.

Lena said...

Twitter... Bridget, I wish you could find a couple of minutes to update your blog for us who worry and think about you. I've been coming back to see for updates since March 29th, now I think I won't worry anymore. But wishing you only the best, of course!

John Keats said...

Nice post ! thanks for shearing this useful Post ! keep it up.
Cancer patient resources

laura saavedra kobak said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DY6bROjMJm0

Yay!

corallevang said...

Tonight I cannot sleep. So I stumbled on this post from nearly 11 months ago. And it is what I needed.

A month after you wrote it, Bridget, I found myself in the hospital ER, only to find out from a CT scan that I had a "cluster in my mesentery and lesions on my liver." It was one of the worst days of my life. And then I started walking down a road that I never dreamed I'd have to walk--Stage IV cancer.

Oh, I'd had cancer before...stage 0 breast cancer. I opted for a mastectomy and reconstruction, so I kicked its butt before it kicked mine. I was just coming up on five years since I'd been diagnosed. And now this. Stage IV carcinoid/neuroendocrine cancer. The beast lives within.

These last nine months have been surreal, at times. As I've been coming up on the one-year mark (I was told by the original doctor that my prognosis was a year, maybe two. I fired him in June, and see specialists at Univ of WA who talk with me about hope, the next three months or six months, living not dying), I find myself fearful. I put on the face of hope, but I'm scared, and angry, and confused. Oh, and did I mention, SCARED??

And I struggle with this idea of negotiating with The Big Man. I feel like he walked out on me a very long time ago. Decades.

There was no negotiation with him. It's been nearly five and a half decades of being thrown into more fires, more hurt, more pain, more challenge. And quite frankly, I'm tired of it. And tired of hearing the platitude from others who don't know what to say, "He won't give you anything more than you can handle."

I know that this is all part of my process/journey. And here I am, nearly a year later, facing the hurdle of that first anniversary. I know it has me spooked.

Thank you for sharing your words here. You remind me that it's one 3-months at a time...sometimes one day at a time. That's hard for a control freak, like me, but it's sound advice that I have to keep being reminded from time-to-time.

You, dear Bridget, have had a profound impact on my life. Even when I do a "google search" on negotiation, and this one of your blog posts shows up in my list, just a day after I shared the results (on my blog) of the special Pearl project that was to show you just a part of the impact you had on so many.

And I am reminded once again how each of us is so connected, whether we know it...or not.

Thank you for the gift of sharing of yourself and of your negotiation with The Big man. Would you negotiate for me a little while? You seem to be better at it than I am. I'm learning, though.

Much love sent to you.

Lisa Pilewski said...

Sending you love, strength and healing. I am so sorry for your loss.

Tracy A.K.A Chiroii (shy-roy) said...

God Bless you!

www.welovehope.com

Try Vitamin C powder in a high dose, and alka seltzer D at night.

Tracy