cindytripp

Thank You March 25, 2015

Today was such a long, lovely day. I am exhausted, but I’ve laughed more today and in the last week than I thought was possible. Sarah James said it seems like there has been more laughter than tears, which is saying something, because there have been a lot of those, too.

You all have just knocked us out with love this week. Each conversation tonight was so perfect, and gave us extra pieces of her–there are so many.

We are blessed by you. It’s as simple and profound as that.

Until tomorrow,
Emily

 

3-13 “No. You take care of YOU.” March 13, 2015

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Emily and Cynthia in Cold Springs, NY – November 2014

It’s difficult to know what to write–how to write–on bad days. This week hasn’t been all bad, but it has been very, very difficult. The clarity and the humor that filled last weekend seem distant, and what’s left sometimes leaves me feeling hollow. The anger I was struggling with earlier in the week has simmered into a kind of desperate sadness, a grief for something that isn’t completely lost. I find myself thinking a lot about my mom’s last visit to New York in November. We took the train up to Cold Springs one day to go antiquing, and spent most of the day just sitting in a little hole in the wall diner, talking about our lives. That’s mostly what we do when she visits–we eat good food, we rest, and we talk. She’s always been my first call when the slightest thing happens in my life, and I can always count on her to hear me and know what to say. She gets me. I think that’s what’s so difficult about this for me–losing the person that has been my person for so long (even though she’s still here, in so many ways).

The spread of the cancer has caused her an incredible amount of pain in the past few days, which means more pain medication, which amplifies her disorientation. She is very weak–unable to hold herself upright or stand at all, and her appetite has nearly disappeared–except for breakfast food, strangely. She never used to eat in the mornings, but now she’s giving my cooking skills a much needed workout. Upon request I have revived a favorite French Toast recipe, and tomorrow I’ll be attempting crepes! Things like that give me purpose, move me forward through the days.

But what’s missing for me is her conversation. Every once in a while she will just look at me and it feels a second away from normal, and then it’s gone. The last interaction that truly made sense between us came the day we brought her home from the hospital–and she has no memory of it now. She held my hand and asked what was going to happen next and I told her not to worry, that I would take care of it. I said that I would take care of our family, that I was here and I wasn’t going anywhere. She looked at me and firmly said, “No. You take care of YOU.” I cried, and laughed because that is so her, and then promptly put that advice from my head because there was just so much to doAnd now I’ve spent the last 2 weeks with her nearly every second of every day. I am in complete control of every drug that goes into her body, of every meal she occasionally consumes. I keep detailed notes about blood sugar levels, and how that affects the sliding scale of her insulin. My only interactions with people that aren’t her or my family have been stilted, awkward attempts at connection that just sort of fizzle out at the end. I’m an emotional wreck, but I’m a great compartmentalizer! I am completely, totally, not taking care of me at all. Gentle but firm prodding from both my dad and my sister proves that they see the seams coming apart, too.

My mom wrote in a note to me last summer after we spent the week at a quiet Florida beach, that “while we are all essentially alone, our connections to people we love and who love us makes our aloneness not lonely.” It’s time to pull on those connections, to take care of me, so that I can better take care of her. I think one of the first steps is to give thanks to all of you, for continuing to love us through it. My mother has been better about this. She did a Devotion for the Upper School at BA in November all about the difference between saying thanks and giving thanks–and to be honest, I’m not sure exactly where to start, so I’m going to stay right here and do something small: respond to your comments, your emails, your texts. I’ll warn you that I’m bad at this, but I feel that it’s important. Each message from you has been a bit of sturdy ground for us to stand on, and we are so grateful for you. My connection to each of you, even those of you I don’t really know at all, makes my aloneness not so lonely.

Emily

 

 

Deep breath . . . December 4, 2013

On Monday, I learned that my scans last week did not have good results. I’ve ended my participation in the first trial and will begin a new clinical trial on Monday, December 16. This one combines another study drug, one targeting the protein that affects the C125 cancer marker, together with the chemotherapy drug carboplatin, which I received in my first chemotherapy round. This trial has 21-day cycles, with only one infusion of the drugs and lab work on one other day, and with scans again after two cycles. Two treatments three-weeks apart over six weeks—that’s definitely doable.

Although I had an inkling that the scans might not be good, I wasn’t expecting how not-good they would be. The scan report indicated minor to significant to excessive progression in the size of the tumors, new spots in the abdomen, growth in density of the tumor in my neck. Ah, not good. My cancer marker has increased steadily since I stopped the last chemotherapy drug in late May, but now it’s up to 581. When I was diagnosed in February 2012, the marker was 585, and during treatment it dropped to the normal below-30 range. Ah, so not good.

The new study has been on the Sarah Cannon oncology team’s radar for awhile because it “looks promising” for my situation. The trial has just opened up, and the purpose is to see if this study drug combined with a traditional chemotherapy drug can treat patients with recurring ovarian cancer. The cycles are shorter (21 days), the scans are earlier (after 2 cycles), and so the assessment of effectiveness comes sooner (6 weeks after beginning the 1st cycle). All good.

I admit that the news Monday was overwhelming for me. After almost two years since diagnosis and regular and aggressive treatments, realizing that I was a little worse that I was when first diagnosed took my breath away. In fact, I needed to sit by myself for a long while downstairs at the SC center before I could leave. My heart was pounding, and my mind was a blank. I couldn’t call anyone because I didn’t know what to say.

Eventually, this question came to mind: Is God with me, or not? If you have a Brentwood Academy connection, you probably have heard our headmaster Curt Masters tell a story about an experience his father and another missionary had serving in Indonesia in the 1960s. Curt is a fabulous storyteller, and I won’t do justice to the story; however, on Monday I replayed this tale in my mind while I was in the lobby after hearing the news about the scans.

The two missionaries and a group of native men were traveling in the jungle between very hostile villages when suddenly an arrow flew right across their path and embedded itself in a tree. As Curt tells the story, the two missionaries were unsure what to do next; then from the back of their group a young warrior who was a new Christian pushed forward, pulled the arrow from the tree, broke it over his knee, asked, “Is God with us, or not?,” and marched ahead through the jungle. The missionaries looked at each other, said, “Yes,” and followed.

Is God with me or not? Is He with me even now when I am faced with not-very-good news? Is God with me or not? When I am faced with that question, my answer is clear: He is and always will be with me. My hope and my faith are not in scan results or in treatment plans or in clinical trials. My hope and faith are in Him, and I trust that He is preparing the way through this experience, as He has prepared the way through all of the experiences of my life. Why would I think that He would leave me alone in this new experience?

So many verses from Isaiah 40 are a comfort to me right now. Here are some:

“Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these?

He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name.

Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel,

‘My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God’?

Do you not know? Have you not heard?

The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth,

He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:26-31)

My path after diagnosis may take me back to the place where I began physically, but I am not in that place mentally or emotionally or spiritually. I am confident that my oncology doctors and team are pursuing wise courses of treatment, and I continue to be amazed at their professionalism and compassion. I know that God is with me, and the twists and turns of this experience are still in His hands. I will take a deep, deep breath and trust Him; I will not grow weary, and I will not be faint. He is with me.

 

A difficult week February 19, 2012

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I found out on Friday 2/17 that I have advanced lung cancer (stage 4 of 4). I’ve never smoked or lived with smoking, but I’ve learned that 15% of lung cancers are diagnosed in non-smokers like me. Recently I’ve been sick with a cough (the same kind I’ve had all of my life, or so I thought), but it was only this last Tuesday that a painful lump appeared on the side of my neck. On Wednesday and Thursday there were several tests, which resulted in the difficult news on Friday afternoon.

My oncologist said that there’s a 95% chance based on the preliminary pathology that it’s advanced lung cancer. Next Friday 2/24  (earliest appt) I’ll have other tests to determine if the cancer has spread anywhere else, so I guess that means the best-case scenario right now is that it’s just stage 4 lung cancer. The plan is for an aggressive treatment, including clinical trials, but exact details will wait on more pathology and the results of the scans at the end of this next week.

My mind and heart are still numb, and shock is a mild term to describe how my family and I are feeling. Right now I am clinging to my faith that my days are ordained by the One who loves me and holds me close and who will never leave me or forsake me. I don’t know what’s ahead, but I know I am not alone.

What can you do?
1. Pray that my family and I will not be afraid but will rest in God’s mercy and grace.
2. Know how much I love being a part of the Brentwood Academy family and my community of friends.
3. Allow me to continue to work on projects and details as I can. I won’t overdo, but I need to be involved because doing so keeps the fear away. Continue sending me stuff and asking me questions and allowing me to be a part of school life and your life. I’ll let you know when I can’t do something.
4. Believe me when I promise that I will not try to do this alone and that I acknowledge that I need you. Respond to me however you want because you will help me hold tightly to God’s provision in the midst of this true storm.