Monday, July 29, 2013

Silly Tailless Pom - Still My Inspiration

As mentioned in a long ago blog, we have a little dog by the name of Harry. A rather odd little tailless Pomeranian whose senior years have given him a quirky and just plain weird bent. We, in fact, now have 3 dogs. Cleo, my brilliant but now much older Border Collie (14 years old and, sadly, showing it), and the newest addition, inherited from my father, Toby, the Shih Tzu - always cuddly and willing to remind us what a young dog should act like. He and Cleo bonded immediately - two like minds. It took Harry a bit longer to warm up to this happy and lovable little guy. They are thankfully, now buddies...the "two littles".

But back to Harry. Over a year ago, we knew Harry was dying. He had become incontinent and had been coughing and sounding downright frightening at times. Then the seizures began. I, thankfully, never witnessed one, but all the men in my house have seen one and were each traumatized and scared silly in seeing it. They knew he was dying before their eyes. He has congestive heart failure - his heart is not working well enough to keep things circulating like they should, and his lungs are filling with fluid. So, Sean, being Harry's "official" owner and I, not wanting him to suffer, knew it was most likely time to have him euthanized. To reiterate...this was last summer.

Can you see where this is going?

Early in the summer of 2012, Sean actually went out back and dug a grave for Harry. We then, tearfully, brought him to our vet and good friend, Dr. Mark Davis. We were told that whatever we decided would be the right thing, but it was our decision. As we sat there with tears in our eyes, Dr. Davis offered some strong cough meds and said to go home and see how things went. 

Well, it's been long over a year now. Harry has rallied, had plenty of moments of lethargy and bad coughing, lots of wheezing...even a few more seizures. But...there have also been plenty of moments of hilarity and charging the fence to fend off the enemy Yorkie next door, and stealing Toby's toys, and begging in the kitchen (which he has gotten much worse at - poor dying dog - give him what he wants. He is now rotten.) And chasing tennis balls, and pulling the fuzz off of tennis balls, and pulling the squeaker out of anything that squeaks (his goal in life). He is a trooper on long car trips to visit the family in Oklahoma and now Texas - riding in the van relaxes him beyond compare.

The grave is still out back and I'm pretty sure we've all seen him jump over it a few times. We're afraid to fill it back in.

So, I've been considering getting us all out there to dig a big ol' hole for me. I want to jump over it and laugh at it for a good long time.  Best thing about Harry is he does not know he is sick. (Ignorance is often so very blissful.) And somehow, his incontinence actually went away. I want what he's having - attitude-wise. As goofy and unimpressive as he can be, he is still my inspiration. 

Me and Harry - laughing at death and enjoying each day - whatever it may bring!

Harry hasn't a clue he should not be here right now.
And shame on us for thinking any other way.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Proof of Life

Still in the shocked and tear-filled stage. Not constant, but comes on occasion, sometimes when I feel the most joy-filled and happy. It's crazy. I liked this thought, from my sweet friend, the appropriately named, Joy:

So, yes I am ALIVE! Tolerating occasional tears and knowing they are only fleeting. And learning to let go of the mascara and pretty much all makeup. So, don't let me scare you when you see me! I may be puffy-eyed and all-natural. It's quite freeing.

I'll get used to this. Keep praying for peace, calm, laughter, healing, a miracle.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Update I Hoped to Never Make

Well, as happens to way too many survivors of Triple Negative Breast Cancer, bad news has come my way. The happy, free days of thinking I may have beaten back this hideous disease are over. 

I have spent the past few days updating loved ones, friends, and fellow teachers, people I love dearly. And I am tired of writing...of updating...of the sadness and grief that goes along with thinking about it too much. So I am using that as an excuse (and I am sure you'll excuse me) and am going to copy and paste one of those updates here.

I promise not to keep recycling my news, and I will try very hard to keep up with this blog and update current info. I promise it will not be all sad. That's just not me. If I can't find some humor in the worst situation, then I know I've got a problem. Time to go home and get under the covers. I have no intention of doing least not now.

Anyway, if there happens to be anyone out there following this seemingly abandoned blog, here is the latest via my admittedly too long facebook post last night. And if you are one of my facebook friends and have read this already, then you might as well quit now and go hug that loved one.

Well, I guess it’s time. I’ve let most of my teaching cohorts know, so now the rest of my facebook friends…

The Brigman household has received some nightmarish news this week. My worst fear has come true. After CT scans and MRIs, we have learned that my cancer has returned with a vengeance. I have multiple lesions in my brain, lungs, and liver, plus a couple of mystery spots on the pancreas – probably malignant, but not confirmed. I am officially stage 4, terminal and incurable. Thus is the fate of many triple negative breast cancer survivors, a much under served and under researched cancer.

Needless to say, we are all devastated by this news. 

But I worship a God who knows the numbers of hairs on my head and every cell in my body. I am praying that he allow those bad cells to die off during my upcoming treatment. He can do that, I know. Please join me in this prayer. 

I began “whole brain radiation” today, which will continue for 12 more days, aside from weekends. This will likely lead to the loss of my hair, possibly permanently. Following that I begin chemo. My oncologist and his team are working on trying to find the absolute best chemo regimen to battle this cancer. He is checking to see if I qualify for a couple of clinical trials that are out there, plus they have taken blood today and tissue samples from the original tumor of almost 3 years ago and sent to a couple of major labs to try and pinpoint some targeted therapy angles which may help determine the best chemo combination. Please pray they can find the absolute best combination to kill this cancer.

What do I need right now? Prayer. I am feeling fine, perhaps more tears than I care for. Floodgates open at the oddest times. But that is okay. God gave us the ability to grieve and cry for a reason. I am having dizzy moments, but the steroids (dexamethason) that they put me on have helped some – reduced brain swelling. I will be weaned off of those as brain radiation continues, which should decrease the swelling in brain, while killing off those evil cells. I also have a mild but chronic cough. All summer I’ve been blaming it on allergies and post nasal drip. That’s usually the culprit, but not this time. I cannot be far from my green Bubba jug of ice water. It goes with me everywhere. 

So far the hardest part of this whole thing is the thought of what my future holds. Not death – I do not fear that, for I know who my redeemer is and where I will be going. What I fear most is all of the things I will miss: spending time with David, time with my precious family, graduations, weddings, daughter-in-laws, grandchildren, wonderful friends, school, this beautiful world we live in. The second hardest thing is telling loved ones, especially on the phone…whew! The tears tend to flow there. I do better writing online.

Another difficulty is that I am going to take a leave of absence from teaching this year (which will very likely continue). It’s so hard to imagine someone else taking over my two beautiful classrooms, with the best, most supportive faculties, best principals, and best students ever. I will want to have things done my way, but will have to let that go. Yes, leave it to me to have control issues right up to the bitter end. I am grieving this greatly. If anyone knows a high energy, cutting edge, creative, and nurturing art teacher that is looking for a job, private message me. Two schools, 800 students, 30 classes, grades 1-5, never a dull moment. But lots of laughter, lots of excitement, lots of enthusiasm!

And on a personal note of advice - If you see me, please don’t be afraid to say hi. I read of terminal cancer patients who suddenly realize some of their “friends” tend to hide or avoid them. Death and dying are scary…no one wants to think about their own mortality, and I think that’s what people in my circumstance suddenly represent. If you see me, don’t hide. I will be happy to answer any questions you have, and if it brings on tears, so be it. That is natural and healthy, therapeutic and temporary. They will most likely come and go and I’ll be better in the long run. I promise not to make a scene. And who knows, I may be just fine! I’m really not a basket case – most of the time.  If you have questions, ask them. And the only health stories I want to hear are those of hope and of stage 4 people like me with cancer everywhere who survived for many years. Otherwise, just everyday chitchat is fine and dandy. But please don’t avoid me, like I am sure I’ve been guilty of in the past, selfish and fearful person that I am. Do not let me scare you. I am not contagious.

Anyway, as you can tell, I can be long winded. It may be time to resurrect the blog again. I’ll let ya’ll know when that happens.

So, go hug your loved ones and TELL THEM YOU LOVE THEM. Be thankful for each and every new day. These things are truly a gift from God. None of us is promised tomorrow. This time last week I was preparing for a garage sale, tired but feeling fine. The previous evening we had enjoyed a nice bike ride around Lake Fayetteville. I had NO CLUE what was going on inside my body. None at all. And I still cannot really tell it, other than the cough and dizziness. We may even go for a bike ride tomorrow.

God bless you, and if you are so disposed, please ask Him who created me, the Great Physician, to make me whole again. I am not giving up, far from it. I do believe in miracles.

Much love and health and happiness to you all.