I Want to Know What Love is

Let’s get the really big news out-of-the-way:

Big day at Dana Farber today. Preliminary results of pet scan show that the chemo is working, my tumors have all shrunk and there is finally evidence of a broken rib from back in April when I was complaining a lot about chest pain. Very happy family tonight. 💜

I knew lots of people were interested in my test results so I chose to share them right away on my social media rather than make people wait until I could blog.

Part 1:

It was a big day in Cancer House. I started early with Bridget and pretty much slept before, during and after my Pet Scan. Wrapped in warm, fluffy white blankets like a mummy, sedated, lying in recliner for an hour–you’d sleep too! Bridget slept in the waiting room on a couch with a blanket—I guess they thought she had cancer and kept waking her to check on her. Kelsey joined us for lunch followed by Tim. We sat in a sunny park across from Cancer House–not so bad–we were together! Then Dr. Rachel arrived, announced she had good news and told me she hoped we have a wonderful time in Belize, no travel restrictions, stay the course!!!! I love her. I slept some more in the convertible riding to South Boston in the warm sun–I guess my acute reaction to so much stress is to just shut down all systems. Slept that night the best I have in months and felt vindicated that I DID have a broken rib when I did all that complaining in Iceland.


Part 2: Kelsey, my guest blogger, weighs in from her side of the desk:

I have been an emergency room nurse now for 4 years. Working in the ER is like riding a roller coaster every day that just keeps circling, bringing in people of various degrees of illness and acuity without stop. I’ve learned that the only way to survive this much stress is to have a wall up. Not so thick as to be unable to empathize with my patients, but thick enough that I am able to go home at night and let go of the pain and angst I witnessed all day. I run around for 12 hours at a time, maintaining a decent patient load, while admitting, discharging, transferring, and accepting new patients. I see a lot of people every day. They are all there because it feels to them that it is the worst day of their lives, and whatever emergency has brought them to me, pain is always what they describe. Sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up in what you’re doing, that you forget to return to the patient who asked you for a sandwich an hour ago, or to the family awaiting test results that may determine whether their person stays or goes. It can be all too easy for forget these “small” requests. I emphasize “small” now for a reason. Yesterday I spent the day with my mother at Dana Farber, awaiting her PET scan results which would give us critical information about my mother’s life. Would she have to change treatments? Did the tumors grow? Has the cancer spread? The thoughts of every anxious family and patient waiting for answers. The unknown can sometimes be worse than the known. Luckily, in my situation, we received wonderful news that not only were my mother’s tumors not spreading, but that they were actually shrinking and that the chemo she has been on is actually working. Win for the Bigelows! I reference this experience as a reminder to myself of how much those patients that I mentioned must feel “waiting.” I now know what the other side feels like and it’s unbearable. This has helped me to want to focus more on the “small” needs of the patient because answers are sometimes all someone needs to breathe again. I love being a nurse, and I love getting to learn bits and pieces of patients and their family’s lives at a time when I can most help them. I wanted to share this because it’s important to remember that patients are people too, and the “small” efforts of finding out answers, feeding them, and checking in to say hi, can make all the difference to those people on the other side of the wall. Nursing is a beautiful thing.

Part 3:

Now to circle back to something on my mind. I have found that some people step away upon learning I have cancer, in fact, terminal cancer. I am not sure if they are scared of the hard work ahead in our relationship or they are just scared of dying. I have finally figured out this is not my problem. I don’t have the time to spend on making other people comfortable with me–I got enough on my hands. I also have to let go and move on from negativity in my life. I want to know what love is.

Funny how someone drops inexplicably  out of your life and yet another wonders if she is doing enough, if she has been present enough. Yes Carla, you have been present. Love shows up.

A week ago I was astonished, actually speechless (we know how rare that is), at work when I was hood winked into walking to the cafeteria. I walked into a cheering room of over 50 people decked out in pink and covered with pink balloons and signs and of course, food. In my head I thought “who is pregnant?” It took a few beats for me to realize this outpouring of love and support was for ME! Who else would  throw a cancer celebration party but my beloved co-workers and friends. I know that is what love is.

Friday, Bridget called to tell me her annual check up revealed a lump in her breast. (Don’t worry I asked her permission before sharing this). The floor fell out from under me. My first thought? If anything is wrong with this kid I will KILL somebody. My friend Michelle told me she would help bury the body….and she has a shovel. That is what love is.

When Bridget came home I asked to feel the lump. She told me that if I gave her $7 for a salad at Bill’s I could feel it. Kelsey just tackled her to the ground and felt it. That is what love is. Don’t worry she got her salad, mammogram and ultrasound next week.

We had the great pleasure of attending Liz and Jeff’s all white engagement party last weekend. Yup, love was definitely present. She asked Bridget to be her bridesmaid–B. was ecstatic. Liz and Emily continue to amuse me with random daily snap chats. That is what love is.

On a now daily basis people reach out to me with cards, letters, e-mails, tweets and gifts. Old friends of my kids, college mates, former co-workers, you name it. I feel connected, plugged in to the universe and I feel alive. Jack and Sid are coming later for a cook out. Maybe sailing on Sunday with Bill and Carla. Happy Fourth of July!!!!!!!

You don’t have to be perfect, just be present. Love shows up.

My song: Foreigner—I Want to Know What Love Is


Barbara, Kelsey, Bridget and Tim




  1. Great song, wonderful theme, so good to hear your experiences of accepting love in all its variations. So many people in the helping professions are curiously lacking in ability to identify and accept nurturance. Clearly you are not among them. What a champ!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, so many things to respond to. I’m thrilled your rumors are shrinking. The best news possible. I love that people from every venue of your life are surrounding you with love. That’s what love is! I am so impressed with Kelsey’s statements about patients, and how being on the other side has given her insight into how it feels to BE the patient. And I’m worried about Bridget. Hoping with all my fiber that this lump is nothing to worry about, and knowing whatever happens she has the same fabulous group of family and friends to surround her. Love to you all. ❤️💚💛💗❌⭕️❌⭕️👍🏻☺️🍷

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes you do know what love is and you are reaching so many of us. Love that you had a surprise cancer party, Wes in a pink shirt, so fun! You know OA needs you so much too! Great news that you don’t have to change. Love, luck and come on world for benign results for Bridget !!!! A jury of your peers would find you not guilty for reasons no one could possibly understand .

    Liked by 1 person

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