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. 


  1. So incredibly sorry for this news. You are amazing in your faith and openness. I have never met you, but I want you to know I have thought of often during the silent months of the blog, and dreaded this possible return. You are a blessing to many. I will be praying for all of you and those you love.

  2. You write so much like I think. I love your honesty. And I love your humor. I love that I feel like I can joke with you even in the bad times. I have always said "I can either laugh or cry...I choose laughter". (Some days. Some days I cry :) I love your fight and your positive attitude and have NO doubt that it will carry you further than any doctor, any medicine can. You have a WHOLE team of people praying for you and your doctors. Love you, friend!