Cindy Briggs

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Too Busy for Cancer

A year ago I was very, very busy.  Art Workshops, travel plans to London, Brazil, Italy, wedding plans for my son, serving on three boards, art shows and more.  I’ve always been a busy person, and with our son (23) and daughter (21) away at college I had added even more to my plate.  So much that I was feeling a bit overwhelmed.  In  January I said a little prayer – please help me to realign my life, I’ve taken busy a little too far.

Being busy isn’t a bad thing, but it doesn’t leave any time for not being busy.  For inspiration and imagination to thrive we need to have some space in our life, in our mind, on our schedule.  I can say this, but in reality it’s a constant challenge for me to balance it all.  So last January, other than feeling a bit overwhelmed, I felt great.  Ready to take on the “list” like I always do.  One thing on my list was conquering my “High Cholesterol” through diet, exercise, and I had a visit scheduled in February with my new Doctor.
Well it’s a miracle I visited her in February (instead of the next Fall when I was scheduled for another physical), because after some thorough “getting to know you” questions and answers she decided to investigate further.

At first we thought it was isolated and with a hysterectomy we could get it all and I could recover and go on all my planned adventures.  I had catscans, ultrasounds, various blood tests and went to Eugene, Oregon for my surgery.  My surgeon, Dr. Garrett after getting to know me said “You are too busy for Cancer.” and was hopeful the surgery would go well.  It’s pretty scary going in for surgery, I was reassured however by the quality of my doctors and the hospital.  I went in having received a blessing, with faith that I would be okay.  When I woke up in my room my husband of 28 years was there with me.  He wanted to tell me the prognosis but I wasn’t ready to hear it.  I wanted to hear it all from the doctor.  Looking back I realize how hard it was for him to live with that information alone, talking to my family but not able to say anything until I talked to the doctor.

Hours later – Dr. Garret came in and told me that the surgery was a success, they found that I not only had uterine cancer, but also ovarian cancer and that I still had spots they were concerned about and I would probably have to go through Chemotherapy.  CHEMOTHERAPY.

Of course I asked if my hair would fall out.  Yes.  How long would I have to go through Chemotherapy?  6 sessions – 1 every 3 weeks.  Could I still go to my son’s wedding?  Yes.  How about Brazil?  Yes.  How about Italy?  No.  Well, It looked good for the wedding and Brazil.  I can’t have it all. I was lucky.  It was a miracle it was discovered early and that I would only have to go through 6 sessions of chemo.  We went home the next day.

I tried starting a blog then, but it was all too raw.  Too much to absorb.  I had 3 weeks before my first chemo treatment.  3 weeks to heal up and get strong.  Many sleepless nights, trips to the emergency room, to visit the doctors, dinners delivered, visitors.  A great surprise from my son and his roommate, Dean on a Friday night.  Then to my surprise my daughter came home for the weekend for her birthday – my son and husband had flied her home.  I felt loved, supported, strong, hopeful.

My first  Chemo treatment was on April 11.  My “Godmother” Paula had brought me an ipod and headphones to listen to her selection of music, and support pillows for my neck and arm.  I don’t do well with IV’s and of course it took awhile to find just the right spot.  When you go in for chemo you get a variety of medications.  First Decadron – it is an anti inflammatory steroid.  2nd Benedryl – to avoid allergic reaction, this often would make me drowsy. 3rd Pepsid, another antihistamine that protects the lining in your veins.  4th Zofran – to prevent Nausea. 5th Taxol (The first time I had this it made me really sick, they gave me a break to let me adjust, then slowed down the drip) This goes after the cancer and takes 4 hours.  6th is Carboplantin – 1 last hour.  I would go through this process 6 times. Kelsey flies to London on April 24 and stays until June – following her blog and skyping with her really makes me happy.

1st Chemo, April 11, 2012 – I notice that I am one of the youngest in the room, even though I am 52.  It’s a long scary day and my husband and Mom help me through.  Inbetween treatment:  I am looking for wigs, knowing that my hair will fall out soon.  I am super emotional and need to talk to a councilor, I get rashes on on body, I’m so achey…they give me steroids for this but I let it pass.  I am spending a lot of time cancelling my trip to Italy and London to get refunds through our trip insurance, it’s so sad.

2nd Chemo, April 30, 2012 – I am eating okay, keeping up my strength.  My mind is scrambled and I can’t read very well.  I don’t sleep so I stay up most of the night and sleep randomly. The next day, I visit the dermatologist to see how my skin is doing, check my head so that when my hair falls out I don’t have some wierd cancer on it.  My hair starts falling out by the handful in the shower, in bed, all over and after 3 tearful gutwrenching days of this I go into Laura’s Do’s and have her shave my head.  My mom goes with me, it’s a hard thing to do but I have a variety of wigs to wear and that works fine.  I sleep with a cap (still do) and a scarf.  My long hair gone, it’s cold without it.  I am also starting to get neuropathy in my hands and feet.

3rd Chemo, May 21, 2012 – Dr. Calameni tells me I am doing great and on track.  She is very matter of fact.  I am enjoying massage treatments (I laugh and cry at these) and Reiki treatments – a hands/energy massage over blankets….always fall asleep at this.  And Acupuncture – to help me with the neuropathy.  My feet really hurt – but my hands are okay so far.

4th Chemo, June 4, 2012 – On track and spending a lot of energy preparing for the Bryan and Casey’s wedding.  Kelsey comes home from London, it is so wonderful to have her home. My treatments are going fine.  I’ve lost my eyebrows and eyelashes and learning to cope.  My cousin Carol comes for a visit – she’s so amazing.  Really tired, I can’t eat anything that isn’t cooked, my numbers are not good.

5th Chemo, July 2, 2012 –   Doing better which is good, I have to stay healthy for the wedding and to go to Brazil.  Bry and Casey get married on July 19 and I manage to do most everything, except stand in the receiving line because I am so tired.  .  Its a perfect day.

6th Chemo, July 23, 2012 – We come right home from the wedding and I get to go in for my last chemo.  My numbers are good, I’m given the pass to go to Brazil after my numbers check.  Yay.  We have a reception at our house for Bryan and Casey on August 4, whew, getting ready for that was hard because I had to rely on everyone else to decorate, clean, etc.  I was tired but fine.  I am lucky to have such great friends.  The blessings outweigh the challenges.