Stories

I’m Grateful for my CaringBridge Community, and Always Will Be

While Caroline Wright had no control over diagnosis of a brain tumor, and its effects on every facet of her life, she did take the matter of her hair into her own hands, ahead of treatment. (Photos courtesy of Adair Rutledge)

In February 2017, at age 32, I was diagnosed with a glioblastoma. Other than a few strange weeks right before my MRI that found the brain tumor, I had no idea anything was wrong. We had just settled into our newly renovated house, having just moved to Seattle. I had just handed in the manuscript for my third cookbook, a very ambitious project, so I thought that the house renovation, combined with raising an infant (did I mention we moved with a two-week-old?) and my writing a book, gave me headaches.

Tidal Wave of Newness

Caroline after surgery to remove a brain tumor that turned out to be glioblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer.

I had no idea of the extent to which I was suffering, but the MRI was a flashing sign for my attention, like a flare went up that will forever divide my life into a “before” and “after.”

In the rush of appointments in the days that followed—doctors were eager to remove the tumor, despite not thinking it was cancerous at the time, because of its size and location–I was swept in a tidal wave of newness and discovery, drowning. My aunt sent me a link to CaringBridge, saying that it was a helpful way to disseminate information.

CaringBridge as a Lifeboat

That token suggestion, swimming among the sea of overwhelm, was a lifeboat. I clung to it immediately, focusing all my energy on funneling my thoughts and feelings into a single outlet that my family and friends could visit if they wanted to know what was going on inside our house and my body as the story unfolded. The progression of my diagnosis made us all passengers, my whole family, huddled together on a raging sea, comforted only by the boat we each held on to for stability and safety.

After my tumor was removed and discovered to be cancerous, my CaringBridge page shifted dramatically in response to my intent in writing there. It shifted from a space in which I sent out news of this strange experience I expected to survive, a form of curious documentary, to a space that might very well hold some of my last words.

The surgery, my surgeon insisted, was not curative. Glioblastomas have a 100 percent recurrence rate over time, most often within one year of discovery.  I processed that news and felt like the walking dead. My first instinct was to back away from anything that wasn’t here and now, anything that took me away from my kids. I decided to remove myself from social media. Except for my CaringBridge site.

Healing Effects of Writing

The CaringBridge Project, written from Caroline’s first year of Journal posts, is a memoir, while Lasting Love is for kids to know that a parent’s love never, ever wavers.

I was given a year to live; I had two young sons. I had to do something that made me feel less like a patient, that took me to a place where cancer couldn’t touch, that preserved my thoughts for my sons who might not know me. So I wrote.

I imagined questions my sons might have had for me someday, ways they wish they knew what I was thinking, and in writing them down, it healed me, like I was mothering them in advance, like my timeline didn’t matter anymore.

Everyone I knew, and many I didn’t, were reading my most vulnerable thoughts every day and sending me their love, like they were with me in every moment regardless of time, personal history or geography. That healed me, too.

Writing was also a way to answer questions without responding directly to the almost constant flow of emails and texts about my health. Plus, CaringBridge is designed to pour support into the sick person, without expecting reciprocation.

‘All I Wanted was a Hug’

Here’s the thing about a diagnosis like mine: People want to give you space, but all I wanted was a hug. It was on CaringBridge that I found the support that I’d been missing elsewhere online.

It provided me intimacy through writing honestly from my point of view and having it recognized by my community through comments, but I also had the distance and ease of posting online.

I felt as if I was giving my family and friends more, too. This wasn’t just a photo with a caption; it was a long-form essay. By sharing what were basically personal journal entries with everyone I knew, I gave my family and friends a clear image of what I was thinking and feeling in that moment.

2 Books; Countless Connections

I vowed to turn my CaringBridge posts into a self-published memoir for my boys, which I did just after surviving that year of my treatment. It’s called The Caring Bridge Project. Then I wrote another, one to care for them now as little boys, which journeyed to be published with Random House in New York after being loved by bereaving children in Seattle. It’s called Lasting Love, a fitting title. Both books connected my experience to others, bringing my story from the conduit of my computer keys into the homes and hearts of people who, just like me, need hope to survive.

I am here now, nearing a full year after the one my doctors claimed would be my last, with completely cancer-free scans. Living now is as surreal as being told I was dying then, both unexpected and unexplained. But I’m here. And grateful to CaringBridge for being my lifeboat, for giving me a way to create hope for myself, to build strength and community. It helped me navigate across a sea of uncertainty to the distant shores of a miracle.

A Donation to CaringBridge

The Francis Family Foundation will match your donation to CaringBridge, dollar for dollar, up to $30,000. CaringBridge is a nonprofit, dependent on your support to remain online, private, protected and ad-free. Donate Dec. 30 or Dec. 31 to make your gift count twice!

Donate to CaringBridge

About the Author

Caroline Wright is a wife and mom of two sons who studied cuisine at a renowned cooking school in Burgundy, France, and at age 23, became a food editor at Martha Stewart Living. She is author three cookbooks, a memoir based on her CaringBridge Journal, and a children’s book, Lasting Love, about how the bond between parent and child will last beyond death.

Comments (12)

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Cat Shteynberg Jan 23, 2020 8:59am
As a fellow mother with brain cancer (albeit not the beast that is a GBM), I was so heartened to read your post, as "parenting in advance" with an incurable cancer is always on my mind. I'll look forward to reading your books. Sending you and your family love.
Helen Walters Jan 13, 2020 9:59pm
As having gone through breast cancer treatments myself I am beyond impressed with your amazing strength as you go through your own treatment process, which is so formidable. The love and focus for your family has crystallized into wonderful results, you really are amazing!
Mitzi Kodish Jan 07, 2020 4:58pm
For my daughter Anna who battling sarcasm cancer .
Eva Smith Jan 07, 2020 4:46pm
What a great and uplifting story. I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and received a gene score which determined I am at a high rate of reoccurrence. The result left me defeated until I read your story. I would love to know how you are doing. Is there anyway to write you?
Patricia sassone Jan 07, 2020 1:58pm
thankyou Carolina you are an inspiration. Work at a hospice house with many young patients, I will purchase your books hoping I can help them through this journey.
Mary Lou Jan 05, 2020 3:15pm
Hi Renee Wish I could give you a real hug. Will be praying for you ...
Renee Storey Dec 29, 2019 5:42pm
“Journal entry by Renee Storey — Dec 26, 2019 Hi, my name is Renee. I was first diagnosed with stage 3 carcinoma breast cancer in 2005. I went through lengthy chemo and radiation treatments with surgery for a left breast mastectomy. Went eleven years with tumor marker being 13.. until August 2016. Then something’s started to happen and my oncologist realized that the tumor marker started going up, we did some tests and figured out the same breast cancer that I had in 2005 went into my bones... It is considered breast carcinoma mestatic stage 4. In short that is my story. In this lots of ups and downs ... still trying to push through it all .. not knowing when the Lord will say it’s my time...” I have been trying to figure out on how I am feeling with all that I have dealt with... and your story really touched me and I am not sure where or how I need that “ hug “that you were talking about that is really all I want .... I feel just as you stated as like walking dead... I am 52 years old , am divorced , three adult kids (one hardly shares his life with me) and three grandkids 7, 2, and 6 months... Your post was very moving to me ...
Beverly Aurand Dec 11, 2019 12:07am
Thanks for sharing your journey with others online and in published form. Last fall I was undergoing surgery and then chemo and finally radiation for breast cancer. Caring Bridge was a great way to share information with family and friends and to get "hugs" back from all of them. Cancer is not a club anyone wants to join, but it is one that demands support from others to move through it. I will keep you in prayer that you remain in remission and continue to watch your children grow up and share your love with your husband for as long as possible. Blessings to you.
Tom Clayton Dec 10, 2019 12:58pm
Eliminate carbs, sugar, and refined seed oils and you should survive even longer.
Antonia Kao Dec 10, 2019 1:23am
<3 touched and inspired. thank you.
Cheryl Wistrom Dec 09, 2019 6:06am
❤️
Lynne Maloney Dec 09, 2019 2:55am
You must be giving hope and strength to more than you will ever know. My prayers are with you, along with my admiration for your courage and generous spirit. May God bless you and you family. Miracles do happen.