Friday, November 5, 2010

Scan Results & their aftermath

Somehow, we are already into November. It is freezing cold and raining here in Boston. My friends are already decorating for Christmas. I have the Thanksgiving grocery list ready to go. The saddest thing and the most surprising thing about life is how quickly it passes us by!

With November comes scan time. It's been three months since my last set of CT scans in August. Last week I spent my usual day at the hospital getting poked, prodded and scanned. Except this time, I came well prepared. After my first post about the horrors of drinking fruit-punch-flavored-contrast, a few of my faithful readers sent along some goodies to help me through my difficult time!

Molly sent along a "diamond" studded pink flask, which I not only brought with me to the CT scan, but I also keep in the zippered pocket of my purse at all times, because a girl never knows when she might need a "diamond" studded pink flask! (Thank you, thank you, thank you, Molly!)

In the words of Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, "How gorgeous is that?"

I took a picture of myself holding said flask, but the picture didn't quite do justice to the diamonds and the beautiful star detail on the front, so enjoy this close up picture instead!

So I came armed to this CT scan with a smile and my flask and with complete confidence that my cancer would continue shrinking.

Drum roll please......

The cancer is still shrinking! I'm still winning!

I think we all know we have the pink flask to thank for this success!

In fact, the TDM1 has worked so incredibly well that the larger of the tumors in my liver has shrunk 22% since we started this stuff 9 months ago! -22% in 9 months,  that to me is the definition of a silver bullet!

So the Big Man, Momma, and I went out for a delicious Italian meal to celebrate. It was so wonderful to see Momma and the Big Man so relieved. I don't think we truly understand the heavy weight that these scans carry. We have been doing the scan thing every three months for six years, so we really have it down to a science and I think we deal quite well given the high level of anxiety these moments of truth bring.

That said, the aftermath is pure giddiness. Big Man and I were literally running around in circles in our little 900 square foot condo with joy. We danced together in the living room. We giggled while doing the dishes. Every interaction after this good news took on a party atmosphere. We were fine before. We were doing fine dealing with the unknown, but we had no idea just how much happier and in love we could be without this giant cancer burden. Life beating cancer is so much better than life spent on the losing side. We know both sides all too well.

But now, two days later, I am also thinking long and hard about this new reality. I am thinking about just how young we are. I am thinking about the very real possibility that I could "beat this" cancer. This silver bullet is a miracle. I tolerate the TDM1 really well: getting out of bed gets pretty tough after the infusions, my back aches like I have a constant flu, but beyond those very bearable side effects, I am living fully and I am kicking cancer butt while doing it.

So the question becomes, what is my long term reality going to look like, for reals?

For years my situation has been so touch and go, I have only been looking just one baby step ahead. I've only allowed myself to look a few months into the future. With this TDM1, I'm slowly, with baby steps, allowing myself to make bigger plans. I'm noticing that, subconsciously, I am booking flights months in advance, I am dreaming of career plans, puppy plans, baby plans, house with a yard plans, life plans. Like any 27 year old, the world might become my oyster.

Yet, I am very realistic about my expectations. Beating cancer in my world is very different from beating cancer in any other patient's world. With Stage 4, no doctor will take me off treatment. No doctor will stop scanning me. The appointments, the drugs, the side effects, those will remain the same. How is that going to color my life?

Can we get a four bedroom house with a yard and a garage, all of which requires serious upkeep? I can handle our two bedroom condo. I could maybe handle an additional bedroom, but with the fatigue I have.... Could I handle multiple floors? Living rooms AND family rooms? A real live dining room that is separate from everything else? An eat in kitchen? What if I need further surgeries and I'm laid up for weeks on end? Mamma has been so incredibly helpful for six years, but she too will get tired of flying, and staying, and cleaning when I am too tired. She is thrown into the role of a mother who has a child needing long term care! She needs a break too. Big Man helps, but he works too. How can I be constantly fatigued and still justify this big house in my dreams that someone else needs to manage?

And the children who will fill that house with love. Don't even get me started with those beautiful red-headed children. Can I bring a baby to chemo? When I walk into the hospital, everyone knows my name: the valet team, the security guards, the lady who stamps my parking ticket, the front desk staff. Hundreds of people who care for thousands of people every week, they know me out of every other patient because I've been coming week after week, year after year. Every other cancer patient finishes treatment in a normal time frame. What if I live 20 years doing this? Will my child's first word be "doctor" ??

But I'm ahead of myself here. Let's talk about even getting pregnant in the midst of this! (I've covered my options and that's a post for another day, but I still must raise the point) Can you imagine? And if my fertility options don't work, would adoption be a possibility? Would anyone in her right mind give a baby to a woman with metastatic breast cancer?

So, I guess at a moment when I should most feel happy, I am also nervous. Being healthy makes me nervous. Wow, that's huge!

I know this is silly of me to worry about. I have dealt with such larger problems than, god forbid, living a long life,  but I am a type A woman. Planning is what we do best!  Planning for a life with a chronic illness, a life facing a terminal illness, it is a scary world I live in.

Christmas 1989: From a young age, I wanted to be a "Big Girl"
For years I have been the 'young person with cancer.' The 'woman' who is still actually just a child. A child trying to be really brave and wear her big girl pants and put on this persona.  The 'woman' who still relies on mom. The patient who indulges herself after chemo with a mani/pedi and some serious shopping.  What happens when I grow up...with metastatic breast cancer?

Young women diagnosed with breast cancer worry about "fertility after breast cancer" and "careers after breast cancer" what about "fertility during breast cancer?" Forever and ever and ever with breast cancer? 

I've made it this far. Most doctors never thought I'd make it five years. I'm going on six and things are moving in the right direction. Take that statistics!

But...I've made it this far and I still want to live the dream. How do we make that happen?

Heavy stuff for a Friday night, any advice is welcome!


Unknown said...

VICTORY! Yippee! I am so happy that you all have cause to celebrate. And I am so glad that you DO celebrate. You live more in the moment than most anyone, because you have had to do so. Let that "talent" serve you well now and help propel you forward into the most wonderful dream life you can imagine. There is a great book I am reading right now by Mike Dooley, called Infinite Possibilities. I am loving it and I think it might serve you well right now. It is about shaping your future with your thoughts. His mantra is, "Thoughts become things...choose the good ones." You may already know of him. His website is Check it out, and dare to dream BIG! Congratulations Bridget.

Erin said...

Thank you so much for your posts Bridget! I identify so much with your posts. Going into my third year metastatic at 33..and as i write this morning in limbo waiting for a parp clinical trial approval. Our lives hang in such delicate balance. really beat cancer is to keep making plans! Big ones! So happy for your success. We are in this fight together!

Patty Mellon said...

Bridget - First..... WAHOO!!!! Your blog should be required reading for everyone. Bridget - thank you for your honesty and the reminder of how precious life is. The reality of what you face each day is unbelievable. You are my hero in every sense of the word. Keep it up, my friend!!! Keep dancing around your condo and keep the dreams big - I have no doubt you will accomplish all that you put your mind to!!

melanie goes pink said...

It warms my heart to hear your wonderful news!!! Before you worry about worrying about the future, enjoy this moment a little longer! :) I pray that your victories continue in the months to come, and that you allow yourself to dream big. I can't think of another woman who deserves it more.

Casey said...

Bridget - I've been following your blog for several months now...ever since my Mom started on TDM1. I am so glad to hear you're responding so well to the drug - my Mom is too! She was diagnosed with Stage IV in December 2005, so we're coming up on the 5 year mark, and I have to admit - I know the statistics so we can't wait to celebrate!! When she started the TDM1, she had a tumor in her axillary lymph nodes and now - they can't find it on the scans!! The other areas in her body are stable, but for us (as you know), this is a win!

Congrats again! You deserve this!

Liliana Holtzman said...

Dear Bridget,
I am so happy that your scans are clear. I am so happy that you are happy.
I also understand your worries and fears. But the fact is, you now have the luxury of planning and looking into the future. And as stressful as that is, it is also glorious.
And that thing about being terminal, all of us are terminal, every single mortal being. You are just more aware of it.
So, be kind to yourself. Let yourself dream. And see what happens.
Best of luck, angel girl,

Julie said...

Bridget -- I "met" you during Crew Day at the Boston 3-Day and have been following your blog since.

I am back to work this morning catching up on my reading after being at the DFW 3-Day since Thursday.

Your scan results put the involvement of thousands of people into perspective for me. Because of the dollars funneled to research through SGK, treatments like TDM1 have been found so that you and others (like Casey's mom) can make plans for the future.

Sending love from Texas.


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