Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I just got off of the phone with my doctor and my biopsy results came back malignant. That spot in my liver is cancer.

As I mentioned before, bad things happen to good people. No matter how hard we pray, things don't turn out the way we had hoped.

How do I handle these results? I snuggle into bed with the Big Man and he strokes my hair, he kisses me, and we talk about how I really deserve a puppy. He also tells me the doctors must be wrong- I look too beautiful to be sick.

He is going to take me out to dinner tonight. Somewhere insanely expensive with slow service, cappuccino, and really good dessert. We are going to take a long, long time over dinner. We are going to hold each others' hands like we're afraid we might fall off the side of the earth if we let go. We are going to look into each others' eyes because we don't want to imagine a day when we won't be able to see the face we love so much.

After that dinner, we will be fine. We will be ready to fight. We trust the doctors. The doctors point blank said I have more than just six months or one more year to live.  We are not yet at the stage where we talk time lines and statistics. They believe I still have a very long life ahead of me.

My life is just going to be so terribly difficult. There will be many more tests, and more pain, and many, many, many, many, many more drugs. But tomorrow, we will wake up and the sun will be shining. We will be in love and we will continue with this beautiful thing that we call life.

I may be sick, but I am still alive. Tonight we will cry, but tomorrow, I promise you, I will be smiling.

The Big Man is a saint. I cherish him. He is my angel. We don't deserve this.

So we are off to feel sorry for ourselves. I hope all of you can take tonight and look around at your husbands, wives, children, parents, friends. Hold on a little longer than is usual. Pull someone a bit closer. Thank God for a peaceful evening; not everyone is blessed with one tonight.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Thank You!

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! Thank you from the bottom of my Big Girl Heart!

You all lifted me up on Friday. I was overwhelmed with kind words. I was overwhelmed, and I was humbled. I wanted to take this blog post as an opportunity to reassure you- your kind words and well wishes did not go unused.

As the only girl from a family of six, anyone will tell you that I am never alone. Also, in case you can't tell from the blog, I am slightly gregarious. Finally, I am Irish. I love telling or hearing a good story. There is no moment I love more than those fleeting moments when everyone is gathered around a table laughing together. Those are the moments when I can imagine that heaven really truly exists right here on earth.

So I rarely feel alone, is the point.

Except when I am in a sterile tunnel. In tunnels, be they MRI, CT, PET, whatever other acronym you want to name, it is cold. They have to keep the rooms cold so the machines run smoothly. Also, when they run those tests everyone clears out before the machine moves. That is when you know you're sick. You are left alone in the cold room and everyone else, everyone except the sickie, everyone healthy, gets the hell out of there.

I don't usually feel sorry for myself, trust me I don't, but this procedure marked my seventh major procedure in a year. I'm all set with sterile rooms.

So on Friday, as they wheeled me away from mom and wheeled me back into a sterile room, I could have felt alone. But I didn't feel alone at all. At that moment, I knew all of these people, some people I've never even met, were right there with me.

So, thank you.

The procedure is over, but it was a bit tough. The surgeon was very apologetic. Apparently, liver biopsies are not supposed to hurt, but it hurt like hell in my case. The spot was very near the surface, but was difficult to get to for some reason, so they had to keep striking the surface to reposition the needle. The surface of the liver is, according to the apologetic surgeon, a "pain center". That sounds very benign in doctor terms. In patient terms, I never want to have to do that ever again. I'm all set with that.

That said, the recovery was smooth as silk. The only real side effect was that I couldn't have wine with dinner. Instead, the Big Man and I helped ourselves to some sweets.

So thank you for making a difficult day bearable. Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts. No one wants to suffer alone. No one should ever suffer alone. I am lucky.

Now we wait. The doctors tell me I should have the results on Wednesday. And yet, I am amazingly calm.

I am calm because I am not alone. Thank you for helping me shoulder this enormous burden, sometimes carrying it all alone gets too hard.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


This post is going to be difficult to explain.

The most difficult part of my journey to understand is the gray area. In life, we all strive for black and white. We like people to be either good or bad. We believe in right and wrong. We force people to choose sides. Perhaps one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome when faced with illness and death is the idea that bad things happen to good people. This fact challenges everything we logical human beings believe.

Life is full of gray. Bad people can sometimes act with justice. Good people do things with which we don't agree. We are conflicted. We don't know who to believe. Bad things happen to good people.

My latest scan results are a huge example of relativity.

I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Even after my doctors told me the scans looked good and no new drugs were needed, while my mother and husband and friends were celebrating and popping champagne, I was still "Debbie Downer". We don't know what will happen next. We still need to worry about my heart. Come on, guys, we're in it for the long haul.

Everything with my scans is relative. My scan results are not just one page. They are about four pages long. In each place where they say things are clear, they also discuss all of the centimeter and millimeter sized areas of "concern" or "suspicion" that have not changed but are still being watched.

For the past five years we have watched my liver because, when I was first diagnosed, the doctors saw a 3 centimeter spot that appeared to be cancer there. After 6 months of chemo, the spot in my liver disappeared. Then, six months later, the spot returned, but it was super small (less than 1 cm) and it stayed small. Well this past scan, the doctors saw a new spot in my liver. That makes two spots "of concern" in my liver.

This second spot was also super small. It was not cause for concern. But still....there were two spots "of concern" and the doctors wanted to discuss this. They wanted to "review it." We were told not to worry, and we didn't, but perhaps we should have.

Which brings us to last week. Last week, I got an unexpected phone call from my doctor. This tiny, insignificant spot somehow took my world and flipped everything upside down. The doctors wanted to biopsy my liver.

All of a sudden, in a space where we thought we had black and white, good and bad, clear scans, free time, health in the midst of illness, suddenly a shade of gray peeked in.

The Family suddenly rallied and circled the wagons. Plans were made. Flights were booked.

This liver biopsy is no small feat. The liver is dangerously close to the lungs. Although the biopsy needle is deep, I have to remain awake during the procedure. Tomorrow, at 6am, I will be wheeled into an operating room, but will not be put to sleep. I need to stay awake. I need to hold my breath each time the biopsy needle enters my body to make sure it does not strike the lungs.

This sucks.

I am having a biopsy of my liver tomorrow morning, Friday, April 23rd. I have been under the knife before, but it's always been my breasts, or my lymphnodes, or my ovaries.

The liver is a vital organ.

I am, uncharacteristically, nervous.

I have not even considered the results. My mind can't go there. I am just scared for tomorrow. My doctors say we won't know the results until Wednesday. I hope the results are negative. They have to be. My mind can't dwell on that yet. My mind is too full.

That is where all of you come in:
Please say a prayer. My Big Girl Pants simply aren't big enough right now. I can't wrap my head around this. While I am focusing on the surgery tomorrow, will all of you pray for me? Pray that this new spot is not cancer. Pray that God will give me a break. Pray that my husband and I can enjoy this  summer cancer-free. I am tired. I need a cancer vacation, a cancer-cation.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spring Has Sprung!

Last week, I got out of the car in the pouring rain and saw a glorious sight. The tree I parked underneath, which I initially cursed because it was dripping all over my head as I struggled with groceries, instead suddenly became a sign of hope. There, on that bare tree, were thousands of teeny tiny little pink buds. So easy to miss, yet such a glorious symbol. Every year around this time, the world starts getting a little bit louder. I have been hearing birds each morning outside my window, and I can almost hear the sound of the flower buds bursting through the soil in our back garden.

This morning, those very same birds put a little spring in my step as I got out of bed. I opened the blinds and smiled at the sight of my newly planted window boxes with happy little yellow and purple pansies blooming. I admired my newly flowering tulips as I sipped my coffee in the backyard and, then, as I opened my Outlook calendar, the spring in my step turned into a verifiable leap of happiness. Today is my final inflation!

That's right, people, spring has sprung here in Boston....and so have.... my boobs!

The Girls are growing! Just in time for bikini season, the body that was Bridget is back and better than ever. I no longer just need Big Girl pants, I now also need Big Girl Bras! Now I should hold my joy back a bit, there's still a long way to go in this process, but I did want to provide everyone with a boob update.

Probably one of the hardest things about having a double mastectomy, especially at the ripe old age of 26, is that when you tell people you are having "a double mastectomy and reconstruction" they assume that you wake up with new boobs. Far from it, my friends. I've had to work for these here little ladies. It's been slow and hard and painful.

Even though I had been dealing with scars on my breasts for five years before I ever had my double mastectomy,  and even though for five years I was taking hormone therapy that took my once C cup boobs and shrunk them down to a generous A, even though I had worked in breast cancer and seen mastectomy scars both in person and online, and while I was on some level afraid of all that my boobs had done to threaten my life, nothing can prepare you for that moment when you see your very own mastectomy scars for the first time.

Granted, my surgeon did an amazing job. Honestly, if there were a Heisman Trophy for mastectomy surgery, my doc would be a shoe in, but the sense of loss was unexpectedly overwhelming. It hit me in the gut...hard. I know in my heart I made the right decision, and since I've had the surgery, I've slept better than I have in years. I know I have done everything that I can do to keep this cancer at bay, but there are certain things with a double mastectomy that you can't prepare for. For example, in addition to the scars across your chest, you lose all feeling from your belly button to your collar bone. That is heartbreaking, and it serves as an everyday reminder of all that you have lost.

The grief I felt was particularly difficult over the past six months when I would try to resume my normal life. Behaving like a normal 26 year old is incredibly important to me. I will leave the chemo chair and go to a birthday party. I vividly remember leaving one of the most difficult appointments of my life where a doctor gave me some bad test results, and heading directly to a cocktail party. I could have canceled, but I figured, I don't know how much time I have left. I most certainly will not spend what precious time remains - be it 5 more nights or 5,000 more nights- in bed feeling sorry for myself.

Manicures, pedicures, shopping for the perfect dress or shoe, getting dressed up and being told you look great even though you just left the hospital, those moments have kept me hopeful and alive. Then, after the mastectomy, I didn't fit into any of my shirts. I felt ugly. I felt ugly, and no amount of make up was going to hide that.

Also, contrary to what the name of the procedure "double mastectomy with reconstruction" implies, I didn't wake up with boobs after my mastectomy. Instead, I woke up with expanders in my chest, empty balloons that will one day create boobs. A lot of my friends didn't understand that, at least not until they saw me.

Over the past six months, I have visited my plastic surgeon once a month and he has slowly stretched my skin and inflated those balloons in my chest. We have slowly recreated boobs. The process has been painfully slow, not physically painful, just mentally painful. I liken it to when you are growing out your hair- you just don't think it will ever happen.

My first inflation, I was scared about pain so when I got home from the plastic surgeon and surveyed the damage in the mirror, I wasn't bothered too too much. I was able to quell my disappointment at the fact that my chest was still just as concave as when I started that morning. But the next month, after the second inflation, when I still left the office feeling like a 12 year old boy, I started getting a little antsy.

I say I felt like a 12 year old boy in all seriousness. It was snowing that day, not fun Christmas snow but slushy, rainy, brown snow. I was wearing a gray newsboy kind of hat with a cute brim on the front. Kind of like what old men in Ireland wear. Except, when I arrived home after visiting my plastic surgeon's office that day, I made the mistake of surveying his handiwork in the mirror whilst wearing that very same cute gray hat. Instead of boobs, I saw pectoral muscles.

Instead of taking a deep breath like a sane person and realizing these are a work in progress, I saw my gray hat wearing, flat-chested body and saw myself as, for real, a 12 year old newsboy. Cue the breakdown.

But that was February. That was snow. Today is April. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, my boobs have bloomed. One day, I looked down as my doctor was slowly inserting the saline in my chest and I started to actually see boobs! Which brings us to my post today. It has happened! The Girls are back and better than ever! Today is a glorious day!

I still have to have two more major surgeries to finish my boobs, but today I just wanted to reflect with all of you:

Even though I should know this by now, life is a journey. Whenever you are having a bad day, take a deep breath and realize that tomorrow will be better. Spring will come. The sun will shine. And some day soon, you will have boobs.