The Ever Present Danger: Aaaand it’s back.

December 23, 2013

I’ve been thinking about this blog post for weeks now and I am still not quite sure what to write.

You go through all the treatment.  You do everything they tell you to do.  You change your diet.  You seek healthier relationships and honesty and openness.  You meditate.  You do yoga.  You spend more time enjoying moments for all that they are worth.  And then you go to the follow-up appointments and they say you’re okay.  They all say everything looks great; you’ve been so strong through everything; all of it is almost over.

But there’s this feeling.  This feeling that you cannot shake. It’s waiting for you.  It’s hiding around the corner.

And then your dog starts watching you sleep at night, again. And you feel exhausted all the time even though you’re eating right and exercising and getting enough sleep and loving your work.

Cancer is still there.  It has to be.

But they keep saying everything looks great, it is almost over.  Why do you feel like cancer is still there?

Because my dog isn’t sleeping at night.

That doesn’t mean anything.

But it does.

A few weeks ago, I landed in the ER with extreme abdominal pain.  An ultrasound showed cysts on my liver.

“It’s really nothing to worry about at your age,” said the ER doc.  Liver cysts can be caused by stress, acidic foods.  They could have been growing since birth and were never detected previously.  “I’ll give you a prescription for the pain and we’ll get you out of here.  It should go away in a couple of days.”

“Have you looked at my medical history?  I’m a breast cancer patient.”

“Oh.  Oh, no, I didn’t know that.  We’ll get you in for an MRI just to be safe.”

MRI on my liver and spine.  (I’d been having slight discomfort in my back, but I thought it was left over from moving in September or sleeping in a funny position.)

MRI results show cell growth compatible with Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer in my liver.  It appears to be in my lymph nodes along my spine as well and possibly in my bones.  If it is in my bones, it will be incurable.  And even if it is not in my bones… it is presenting as Stage IV and in my lymph nodes, which is difficult to battle.

This information is completely numbing.

So completely numbing that I haven’t known how to talk about it.  I haven’t known how to blog about it.

My original diagnosis came 2 years ago.  And it was terrifying.  And life altering.  But the prognosis was so good.  This is different.  This is the Ever Present Danger humans try to tuck away into the farthest recesses of their minds.  This could be It.

Thus far, I have lived a good and full life.  I know that.  And I am grateful for all the blessings, the amazing experiences, the fact that I have predominately earned my living as an artist, for the incredible people I have met.  But when the end becomes so visibly possible… my failures and shortcomings glare at me.  They press hard on every wound. The aching becomes so great that it is difficult to breathe.

How do you go about preparing your mind and spirit for accepting the very real possibility of The End?

Don’t get me wrong.  I will fight.  There’s enough Irish blood in these veins for 3 lifetimes.

But I also want to have realistic expectations for the days to come.

I will see my new oncologist on January 2nd and will officially know what the prognosis looks like.  But Dr. P (my oncologist in ABQ), after seeing the MRIs, was upfront about the fact that I should be scared.  Very scared.  If this comes down to “You have this number of years left.”  Or worse… “You have this number of months left.”  I just have so much more to do…

I haven’t helped others enough.  I haven’t seen enough.  I haven’t been good enough or kind enough.

How do you make amends with the people you have hurt or who have hurt you in innumerably debilitating ways?  How do you let the people you love know how huge your love for them actually is?  How do you hug everyone that needs to be hugged?  How do you write all the things you still need to say?  Or worst of all, how do you continue living bravely through the end knowing that you will be the person who breaks your 4-year-old niece’s heart for the first time; knowing that you will be the person who leaves your amazing mother’s heart filled with grief/anger/pain?

I don’t know.  I don’t know how to do any of this.  The fear is crushing.

Thank you to everyone who has prayed, called, texted, sent cards/bubble cannons/juicers/etc., made me laugh, posted hilarious things on my FB wall, donated to the cause, hugged me, loved me, walked Oms for me and much, much more. You are loved and appreciated.  And I promise to do my best to live the rest of my life in a way that honors each of you.

I will post again as soon as I have more info.

In the meantime, please love each other and take care of each other and have incredibly happy holidays.

End cancer: the sequel chapter 1.


13 Responses to “The Ever Present Danger: Aaaand it’s back.”

  1. Maxey Whitehead Says:

    Oh my sweet friend, my heart is broken for you. You are and will continue to be the bravest person I have ever known. I will be praying so hard for you in these coming weeks and always. Please know that you are not alone and that you are so loved. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help, even all the way in Florida. Love love love to you. I hope your holiday brings you joy and peace.

  2. Tricia Matthews Says:

    Gwen: So very sorry to hear this latest news. I think of you so often, and send good thoughts your way. Please know that you are loved – very much. I’m so glad to know you and to have worked with you. I will continue to keep you in my thoughts, dear girl.

  3. Rebecca Quirk Says:

    You are braver than you believe,
    Stronger than you seem,
    Smarter than you think,
    and more Loved than you will ever know. — A.A. Milne

    I wish I had insight. I find myself without words because their heaviness cannot be paired with the lightness and soft footing I wish for you. I rely on the silly ol bear.

    I think of you.

  4. Brady Says:

    Gwen, I am so sorry. I don’t really know what else to say, except I love you and I will continue to pray for healing and recovery. Your strength and beauty in the face of this illness amazes me. God bless you, Gwen.

  5. Marcia Shaver Says:

    Gwen, You are such a blessing to everyone you have met. Never feel like a failure and let everyone continue to love, hold and help you through this time. Words cannot express the sadness I feel, but you are a fighter and will continue. So glad you get to be with your family through the holidays. Will continue to raise you up to God and know he holds all the answers. Much love, Marcia

  6. Rick Whelan Says:

    Gwen … Cathy and I send our love and prayers. We send healing thoughts and our deep admiration for you grace and bravery. – Rick

  7. Megan Says:

    Gwen: I can’t imagine and I am horribly heart broken for you! I admire your strength, courage, and bravery. Sending lots of love and prayers to you!

  8. Jen Kaucher Says:

    A tear rain down one cheek and the others starting following. I love you my friend and continuing to left you up in prayers. I wish I had answers you seek but only The Lord knows those and I pray he hears our prayer! If you need anything at all please let me know! Here a hug sending it your way along with positive thoughts!

  9. Alessia Says:

    my friend, keep fighting… it doesn’t have to be the end! you can do this… don’t let go. and if you go down, it will be with pride, like a roman gladiator, like a hero… we will hold you up to the skies and praise you forever. you are a living inspiration to all of us. I love you dearly and I have never forgotten our “jewel moments”, when wer we were young and life was easy, the life you made even better with your beautiful voice and spirit 🙂 Alessia

  10. Patrick Kennerly Says:

    Dear omnipotent Power of the Universe whom we call God and Savior: please spare your child, Gwen; please grant her a miracle for Christmas. Oh, I know you want her for yourself because she embodies your Spirit of love and joy and creativity and courage. But, merciful God, we need her still; her work here is unfinished. All we ask is time. A small miracle, perhaps, to you. Everything and Gwen to us.

  11. Gail Davis Says:

    I do not know you Gwen but you are in my prayers. From your post I believe you are a very strong and courageous lady. You have so much more strength than you believe. Rely on that strength and God. Whatever the outcome God will not leave you alone. Also use your friends, they need to feel like they’re helping and you need their strength. God Bless!!

  12. Edrie Bays Says:

    I do not know you, but your story moves me to tears. I send prayers, thoughts, visualizations for strength and for healing. You have a powerful voice. Bless you for speaking your truth.

    • Patrick Kennerly Says:

      You may not know Gwen. Ms. Bays, but you speak the truth about her. And there is a connection here. I, who was blessed to work with Gwen in the theatre, knew you when I was a student at Cave Spring High School. Remarkable teacher, Edrie Bays, meet remarkable actor and person, Gwen Edwards.

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