The Hardest Year

My cell rang, and I looked for someplace private to take the call. I walked into the garage and closed the door to my office, which happened to be my car. Sitting inside the car, inside the garage, I found my familiar haven. With three kids and a constant stream of places to be, things to do, people to talk with, this place became my refuge, my place to regroup and sometimes even catch a nap. This time, however, I can’t remember even breathing. I fumbled to open the storage compartment to grab a pen and whatever paper I could find. The doctor said in a matter-of-fact tone, “I have your biopsy results. The pathology report shows you have invasive lobular carcinoma.”

I scribbled down the words, trying to sound them out. Something about pathology and those three foreign words. I cleared my throat, scribbled little circles on the corner of the paper to start the ink flowing again, and asked, “Wait. What does this mean?”

“I’m sorry. The biopsy shows you have breast cancer.”

 I had no words.

(excerpt from “Warrior In Pink” Chapter 1: Sunbeams and Southern Accents)

I Never Imagined I’d Need CaringBridge

This began the madness that filled almost an entire calendar year. Three surgeries, six rounds of chemotherapy, thirty-two physical therapy sessions, thirty-three radiation treatments, and countless doctors’ appointments, pills, blood work and scans.

I remember reading CaringBridge entries in the past from my friends who experienced medical challenges and thinking, “What a great idea and a great visual name—Caring Bridge…a bridge of care to the people who need just that. These entries are so helpful to know what is going on without bugging them. Now I know how I can pray, and I can leave messages of encouragement.” I never imagined I would be the one in the same place of needing the prayers, encouragement and care.

Grateful for CaringBridge

Three days before Christmas I received my cancer diagnosis. When word got out, our home phone rang day and night. Concerned family and friends asked the same questions over and over. My friend set up CaringBridge account for me and I began writing updates. CaringBridge became a place for me to process my cancer journey. The outlet helped me feel connected. I remember during the hardest parts, when night seemed to last forever, I would read and reread guest messages through tears of both pain and appreciation.

I’m grateful for CaringBridge and all the people behind the scenes who made it possible for me to stay connected and feel known and loved during the hardest year of my life.

If you have recently been diagnosed with cancer I have a letter written to you here.

How has CaringBridge helped you stay connected? Share in the comments below.

  • Sue Forsen

    Your letter is lovely, I’ve had two sisters die from this disease and a cousin also. Jeanette joined caring bridge and I donated money and that felt great besides reading the comments helped so much in my own journey through this situation. Thank your caring and sharing.

  • beth

    May all that good energy you are putting out there come back you in wonderful ways! Keep being amazing! (hugs)

  • John

    God is with you on this journey just as God is with me on my cancer journey. It makes it a little easier to know this. My prayers are with you and your family.

  • Debbie F.

    I have been married to my husband for 40 years. We were planning our retirement in Florida in Jan. 29, 2011 by signing a contract for a house. We made trips there several times that year where had done very little on the house. In December several days before Christmas we were told that I had triple negative breast cancer. We did not tell our kids as my son in laws mother past away the day we were told. Feb. 20, 2012 I had surgery (lumpectomy of which my surgeon recommended). Between chemo and radiation we went to look at the house with still little completed. I went back to work Feb 2013 and throughout the year with check ups I was told everything was fine. In November I insisted the doctors do a pet scan. The insurance company denied it. It took them until Feb 2014 to allow the scan. I had it done and was told the cancer was back and had been growing since my surgery. Only this time it was on my chest wall and they could not operate and was incurable and that I had less than 2 years. I expected to grow old with my husband and watch my grandkids grow up as they are really little right now and wouldn’t understand. We have not told them. We just found out that my daughter my have breast cancer and will get the results tomorrow. This has been a very difficult journey. I wish everyone the best of luck with their journeys.

  • Maddy Sandy

    I do not know you but I will pray for you and for your family.

  • Stamatia

    May the Lord Guide you and Guard your every step always.

  • karen Sieg

    Hope all is going well for you. Will pray for complete recovery. Enjoy the pretty fall we are having. We live on a dairy farm by Osseo. We are waiting on out 5th grand baby. He could come any time.

    God Bless.

  • KD

    Although I’ve never posted on Caring Bridge, I have read many stories. It helped me approach my cancer with humor and courage. I found my breast lump while visiting family for Christmas last year and didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want to spoil their special time. The day after I flew home I had a diagnostic mammogram and less than a week later a biopsy. I got the news at 1:10 on 1/10/2014 that I had breast cancer and will never forget the shock and fear that was ignited that minute. After a double mastectomy on Feb 5 and 4 months of chemo therapy (my future juice) I am well on the road to recovery. My hair is about 1 1/2″ long and is growing in thicker and curly! It was straight as a board before. I have my last reconstructive surgery in one week and look forward to getting that chapter behind me. There are many silver linings to my cancer, friends I never knew I had; great food cooked by other people and no house work; smaller perky breasts that don’t get in the way; lost 30 much needed pounds; curly hair; adopted a 6 year old dog and went through therapy dog school with him and we now visit assisted living and nursing homes; and best of all, a true appreciation of every beautiful day cancer free. My 16 year old grandson said, “Grandma, God only gives you what you can handle so apparently he thinks you’re a real bad “—-“!

    Vivian, it sounds like you are a strong, beautiful woman with a desire to make your experience a positive one and help other people through their journey. There are plans for us that we don’t understand at the time. I’m so glad you have the love and support you need and can pay it forward!

  • Dave Lowe

    Vivian – I remember when this happened and I thought that I would never be setting up a CaringBridge site. But yet, here we are. Thanks for your friendship and ministry to Jen. And please continue to pray for her.

  • Carole Hausemann

    God be with you and your family Vivian. I can’t even imagine what you are going through. You are an inspiration to all.

    I first heard of carring Bridge when a very good friend of mine was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. We cried and shared stories also handed support for her for her uphill battle with this disease.

    My friend succumbed to her fight last year but if not for carring bridge we would not be able to stay updated as well as give positive feedback to her.
    I hope you continue to fight the fight and WIN

  • Ressy Sutton

    To all of us who are fighting cancer or any other sickness , disease, or tragedy please know that God is in control of our lives. What He has allowed in our lives is definitely a surprise to us, but not to Him! Many times God uses pain and sickness to push us into another level of power and greatness in Him.

    He loves ALL of US and has a specific plan for each of us! If I were to encourage you with two words it would be PUSH and PRAISE!!
    Push pass the negative thoughts that will come to mind and then Praise God that we are still here to fight. We win!!!!!!!!

  • RaNae

    I have a Caring Bridge page for updates on my husband who suffered a massive stroke last year. I also think a very difficult part of the journey is having all your friends want to know how you are, what happened, how they can help, how they can pray for you as well as help attend to your physical needs with meals for family, etc. My daughters saw me struggling with the endless phone calls and telling and re-telling of everything to each new call – one of my daughters set up the site for me to update. While I am still so touched that so many of our friends want to stay up to date it is so much easier on me to let everyone know about strides in his recovery/care at the same time through Caring Bridge. In the very beginning – it was difficult juggling the phone calls and text messages with what I needed to do to care for him. It’s also comforting to read and re-read such heart-felt and supportive comments from our extended family.

    I will add my prayers for your recovery. (My sister is 4 years cancer free Oct 1 – breast cancer also). What a lovely family you have.