On Being Brave

Today, I was called brave. Image that! Me? Brave? Not hardly! Boy, do I have someone fooled!

Bravery is certainly not a description that I’d ever apply to myself. There’s not an ounce of courage in my little finger Get me around a spider, and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Spiders send me into a top-of-the-chair, screaming, dancing, quivering mess. Ask my daughter. She’ll tell you the truth. She’s never forgotten the day a tarantula made an appearance and planted itself firmly between the two of us. She screamed in the bathtub waiting for her mommy to rescue her while I was on top of the toilet seat screaming louder than she was while I tried to figure out how to save my baby from the wicked, evil spider! Brave? Ha! A better description would be that I was more like puddle of half melted, jiggling Jell-O! And, you do not even want to see what happens if a snake is within a 100-mile radius and I discover its slithering presence. I’m sitting here shuddering at the thought!

So, why in the world would anyone call me – the quivering mass of Jell-O – brave you might ask? The comment came up in the context of this afternoon’s breast biopsy. If you’ve never had to have a breast biopsy, then honey, I am SO HAPPY for you! It means that you’ve never been suspected of having breast cancer and you are blissfully ignorant of how this little diagnostic tool works. I hope you never have to experience one first hand.

Breast biopsies hurt – that’s just a fact. Granted, they deaden the area but having injections directly into breast tissue to deliver the magic breast-go-to-sleep juice aren’t exactly a picnic. When the doctor tells you that you’re going to feel a little pinch, they are grossly understating the experience! Hopefully, the doctor gives you enough deadening so you don’t actually feel the biopsy itself. I say hopefully because I’m now a veteran of three such biopsies and two of the three doctors well less than generous with the deadening. Honestly, without the deadening, pulling cores of meat out of your breast tissue hurts like H-E-double-hockey sticks. I’m afraid that I verbalized my distress to the doctor today!

My first breast biopsy was six weeks ago – it was the one that confirmed the news that I had a foreign invader in my body called cancer. Normally, that would be the end of it and there would be no more biopsies required. But, there was this trial that my doctor was participating in – a trial that was targeted to my specific type of rare breast cancer – a trial that had a targeted therapy drug designed to kill the cancer cell in its tracks and I wanted to be in that trial. To apply for the trial, I had to have another breast biopsy. It was a gamble but one that I felt would be well worth it if I got the study drug. Since this wasn’t a blind-study, if accepted into the trial I would know definitely if I was getting the trial drug or not. Having that second biopsy was a gamble that paid off. I was not only selected for the trial BUT was also selected to receive the trial drug. Believe me, I was – and still am – thrilled to be receiving this drug. The only caveat was that if you got the trial drug, you had to agree to another biopsy within 24 hours after you receive the second dose of the drug. I received the second dose yesterday which brought me back to the surgeon’s table today.

I was lucky enough to have the same set of nurses today that were with me during the second biopsy. They remembered me from the second biopsy. It happened the day after they installed my port and I was already hurting when I came in for the procedure. I was in so much pain that I almost passed out during the injections. But, like I said, I was determined – I wanted the trial drug and I was willing to pay the cost to try and get it. For a week afterwards, I looked like Dolly Parton on one side and a pancake on the other. Believe me, that was quite an interesting sight! These sweet nurses knew that my presence in that room today meant wonderful, outstanding, marvelous news – I HAD THE TRIAL DRUG! They were elated for me and hugged my neck and I hugged them right back! Despite what was coming, it was a HAPPY event!

These wonderful nurses – and the doctor – called me brave. I don’t view it as brave. I view it as determined: determined to give my body every single possible weapon I can to fight – and win – this battle against this foreign invader. This trial drug may be able to kill the cancer where it is. I like that.

The type of cancer I have may be genetic. I have a daughter, two granddaughters, a sister, and five nieces who are between the ages of 13 and 20. Maybe, just maybe, this trial drug will mean a different outcome, different choices, different options for them should they ever face this same battle. Maybe, this drug will mean they’ll never have to face this at all. I really like that thought.

One of the nurses, Julieta, has a sister-in-law (a very young woman) battling breast cancer. She was pronounced disease free two weeks ago. A week later, she had a headache which turned out to be brain cancer. She just had surgery. She knows what it’s like to battle this invader. She knows what true bravery is. Her sister-in-law needs a medal for the battle she’s waged.

Am I brave? No. I don’t view what I did today as brave. Julieta’s sister-in-law – now that’s brave. I’m just the girl who runs from spiders and snakes and has to call my husband to kill a bug. I’m not brave. I am, however, determined – determined to fight and win – and part of that strategy meant getting the drug. All in all, a little discomfort for a powerful weapon. It was a good trade.

(c) 2013 Mary Kyle. All rights reserved.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Uncategorized