Sharon Brigman

First post: Dec 26, 2017 Latest post: Apr 10, 2018

Welcome to Sharon’s CaringBridge website. We’re using this website to keep family and friends updated in one place. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement. Here is Sharon’s story.

In May of this year, Sharon became ill with what appeared to be a very bad cold. Her close friend,  Angie felt it was much worse and told her it was pneumonia, based on her symptoms. Sharon wouldn’t find out until July that Angie was indeed correct, it was pneumonia. The sneeze that changed everything happened in May and with this sneeze, Sharon fractured two vertebrae. These fractures went undiagnosed until July 13th.  In the middle of the night on the 13th, Sharon went to the hospital and was told she had two fractures and pneumonia. On the 14th, thankfully, Dr. Holland, a neurosurgeon, was available to repair her fractures. Dr. Holland went the extra mile because he suspected something worse and opted to perform a biopsy during the surgery.

Sharon’s hospital stay would go on to last 10 days as she recovered from her pneumonia and surgery. On the 7th day, Dr. Turner, an oncologist from Levine Cancer Center came to treat Sharon and inform her that a Plasma Cell Dyscrasia appeared on her biopsy, which is a condition that is associated with Multiple Myeloma. The doctor scheduled Sharon for a bone marrow biopsy with her results arriving on August 4th. Sharon was discovered to be a non-secretor during the testing process, meaning the disease lies undetectable in her blood, with Doctors only being able to monitor the disease via bone marrow biopsies and PET scans.  

On August 4th, Sharon was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma and a treatment plan was prescribed. Multiple myeloma is a cancer that forms in a plasma cell. Plasma cells fight infections by making antibodies that recognize and attack germs. Multiple myeloma causes cancer cells to accumulate in the bone marrow, where they crowd out healthy blood cells. Sharon's initial treatment plan was to get her into a clinical trial but she didn't qualify because she's a non-secretor. Four cycles of chemotherapy began on August 29th and ended in mid-November. While her side effects were manageable during these cycles, Sharon still suffered intense fatigue, fluid retention, and neuropathy in her feet. But as we all know Sharon, she is tough as nails and handled the cycles of chemotherapy like a champ.

In September, Sharon sneezed again and fractured another vertebrae at the T-10 level and had to have this repaired via Kyphoplasty.  After the surgery, Sharon began wearing a brace to help support her back and prevent any further fractures.

Mid-November Sharon had another PET scan and bone morrow biopsy and they both showed that there were no new lesions. The bone marrow biopsy showed that the chemotherapy was successful in stopping any further cancer growth and she received an A+ grade from her oncologist to move forward with the bone marrow transplant.

Sharon’s medical care was then turned over to Dr. Voorhees, a blood disease specialist. Dr. Voorhees will be handling her bone marrow transplant. In a grueling, exhausting day for Sharon as well as Darrell, they spent the entire day at the hospital so Sharon could be tested and they could be educated in regards to the process of the bone marrow transplant, learning what they should be expecting throughout the process.  That day in the hospital included them taking 16 vials of blood from Sharon, several x-rays, EKG, echocardiogram, pulmonary fitness test along with several other extensive tests. Thankfully, Sharon passed each test with flying colors and was given the go ahead to move forward with the bone marrow transplant.

To begin this process and prepare Sharon for the transplant, she had to have a Trifusion catheter which is a long-term catheter used for drawing blood and giving intravenous fluids, implanted in her chest. They needed to collect stem cells from Sharon and to do this, she had to begin receiving  two shots per day for five days that would assist her body in producing more stem cells. The process forces the production of stem cells so that they will “overflow” from her bone marrow into her blood stream so they may be collected. On the fourth day they checked to see if she had produced enough and she had not. They needed 10 million and she didn’t have enough. She had to have a booster shot at the hospital and two more in the evening and went back the next day to the hospital. Because Sharon is a rockstar, they were able to harvest 13 million stem cells! These are now frozen and are awaiting to be transplanted back into Sharon’s bone marrow.

On December 26th Sharon will go into the hospital and will undergo extreme chemotherapy that will be very difficult on her and will make her very sick. On the 28th, they will perform the bone marrow transplant and Sharon is expected to stay in the hospital for approximately 2 to 3 weeks. During her hospital stay, Darrell and I will stay in close communication and I will update this site with any additional news on Sharon’s road to recovery.

Since Sharon has been diagnosed, Darrell has risen above and beyond to care for his wife and has become very domestic.  He’s overcome his fear of the dishwasher and has mastered doing the laundry. Sharon reports he can even make a “mean” scrambled egg and he does great take-out! Sharon cannot express deeply enough her profound love and appreciation for her amazing husband who is her rock and anchor, taking care of all of her needs everyday.  Her abundance of love for her children and grandchildren as well as the support they give her in turn gives her strength as she is on her journey to recovery and she feels so blessed they are by her side.

In speaking with Sharon since her diagnosis, she has repeatedly expressed to me how in awe, overwhelmed, and grateful she is at the number of friends that care for her and are praying for her. She prays every day giving thanks for all the tremendous support that she’s receiving from everyone. She absolutely loves and treasures all the cards, letters, gifts, and text messages that she continues to receive and she feels humbled and blessed. She’s honored that she’s able to call these friends, her family.

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