Monday, September 13, 2010

Fresh Fall Start

Here in Boston, the weather has gotten suddenly chilly and the days are getting noticeably shorter. For the Big Man, a high school English teacher, summer is officially over. It is a start to a whole new year. In our household, Labor Day weekend seems like a much more noteworthy holiday than even the hoopla of New Year's Eve.

In my metastatic breast cancer world though, I follow a different calendar. I start a new "year" every three months. Believe it or not, my past three month "year" has already come to a close! It's been only four blog posts, one fast summer, and two glorious holiday weekends since my last set of scans. In June, I celebrated my first real out and out victory in my fight against cancer. For years the words "no change" or "stable" were actually good terms. I hadn't realized what limbo I was living. For five long years, the cancer never actually shrunk. It either grew or it stayed the same. The status quo was a victory. I was simply keeping the beast at bay, I had never before sent it running for the hills.

Then my little silver bullet came along. In June, for the first time, with the help of this TDM1-GDC clinical trial I started winning!

But last week, I was facing a new question, a new challenge. If you remember, when I first started the clinical trial I was taking both TDM1 and oral chemo pills called GDC. That combination almost killed me. My platelet count fell to dangerous levels. I was breaking out with "spontaneous bruising", which might sound tame in medical terms, but was in reality the scariest thing I've ever been through. I also couldn't get out of bed because every step, every breath, every movement hurt from the inside out. So I threw in the towel and I was devastated. But when I got the good June scan results, my devastation turned to hope.

Last week, as I went in for scans and results, I was again filled with dread. I faced a new question: without the GDC pills, would the cancer shrink? Would TDM1 alone be enough to keep this cancer running for dear life (I think that phrase takes on a new, opposite meaning in this case, don't you??!)

Well, my friends, the verdict is in:

 I am kicking cancer's ass!

In the past three months, the TDM1 has shrunk the original tumor in my liver visibly. I quote from the Radiology Report:

"There is an ill-defined mass in segment 6 of the liver which is slightly decreased compared to prior examination and measures 1.4 X 1.1 cm. "

But here's the best part...drumroll please....the scan doesn't even mention the second, smaller, newer liver "lesion" that showed up in April and started this whole clinical trial drama!

That vile, nasty, evil thing that sent me to the hospital for a biopsy that hurt like hell, it just disappeared so quickly and so quietly. That liver lesion arrived with so much pain and hoopla, and then it disappeared without even a peep! Take THAT cancer!

The TDM1 is working. I love my little silver bullet.

Me heading off to pre-school,
I guess at that age you didn't need a backpack?
I don't know what I love more,
my pig tales or my blue big girl shorts! 
This September is truly a fresh start for me as well as for my husband. This morning, I drove past an elementary school on my way to Starbucks. I saw and heard dozens of adorable children with shiny new backpacks, new haircuts, vivid white polo shirts, and smiles of pure joy race to visit with classmates.

As I drove past, I felt a kinship with those elementary schoolers, not because I was reliving my own childhood, but more because I share in their joy. This week, every phone conversation I have, every time I see a friend, every morning when I see the Big Man, I am filled with unbridled joy and the excited flip flop in my tummy that comes with new beginnings.

Today is a shiny, new backpack kind of day! Who knows what sort of terrible challenges lie ahead for the rest of this year, but today as I embark on a new chapter, I am fresh, well rested, healthy and new. My liver is shiny and clean and the world is my oyster.

I hope that all of you can take a bit of my energy today and face this new week with some ounce of unbridled joy and optimism. To see that sort of unconditional trust, hope, and love in an adult is an unusual gift. I think if we faced each morning like a child the world would be a better place, and our day to day lives would feel just a little less painful.

I want to say one last final thought about my second liver spot. That evil creature kept my entire family and all of you, my blog friends, awake at night with fear, but we must also remember, it also united us all in prayer and in hope, and, now, our prayers have been answered. That's the beauty of life, the same thing that hurts us more deeply than we can imagine, also opens us up to more joy than could have been enjoyed before. A rollercoaster is only as thrilling as its scariest hills and loops.

Thank you all for helping me and encouraging me along this journey. I cherish all of your comments and support more than you can ever know. I deeply believe I wouldn't have made it to this moment without you.


Unknown said...

ahhh.... you inspire me yet again! Thanks for spreading the joy - so happy to hear it.

Shaina said...

Goosebumps... you are one AMAZING lady!

Kristi Thomsen said...

That is fantastic news! I am soooo happy for you!

Audrey Comly Kennedy said...

You are amazing, Bridget! Congratulations. Keep on fighting and please, continue to write. You are an inspiration. I was so deeply moved by your post today, so fitting with the start of the new school year. As I take my kids to preschool tomorrow, I will think of you ... and SMILE!
With deep admiration,
Audrey Comly Kennedy

Kim LeFlore said...

What great news! Your blogs moves me to tears every time...some times happy tears, sometimes sad tears. Today was definitely a HAPPY tears day!! Keep up the fight!!
Kim LeFlore(member of The T-cups):)

Kristen said...

What wonderful, wonderful news!!! What a joyous day!

Liliana Holtzman said...

You happiness and energy are infectious! I am so happy for you.
Best of luck in the world.

I love your picture. My daughter Nena (twenty two years old now!) has one very similar to yours. Pig tails, pink ribbons and light brown hair.
Hugs from Liliana