My name is Geri Brien, I recently got married to the love of my life, Bill Brien on November 19, 2016. This was a man that came into a family of 4 where me and my children gained one person and he gained four of us. I met Bill in 2010 while we were going to college at UND and throughout our 4 years of schooling we only had the one class. After this class was over, we remained in touch and stayed in the relationship.
At the beginning of our relationship we had a rough couple of years, lots of trials and bumpy paths. Bill and I graduated UND in May 2011, with Bill graduating with a B.A. in History with minors in geography and philosophy, and I graduated with a B.A. in Communications.
After graduation, we moved in with my parents who live in Bismarck, ND. Our relationship did not get any better after moving in with my parents, being there wasn't healthy for our relationship. Too many people in a small house and there was no privacy for anyone. We argued a lot, but one way to help from fighting was for me and Bill to find jobs. Which only covered up the many issues we had. Bill and I could not find jobs right away and after a couple of months we found jobs through a temp agency. I got a job at Tubular Transport and Logistics and he got a woodworking job.
Skipping ahead through 2012, it hasn't been easy with Bill and I's relationship it ended up getting worse. We broke up several times, sometimes for months, finally there was one point in my life I had just decided I can't do this anymore. I know he felt the same way. I had the kids that were important to me. I didn't want to fight (argue), my two older girls were getting into trouble a lot. I knew this wasn't a life to live. I knew I couldn't do this on my own, but I knew I didn't need to find a new boyfriend. I was searching for God in my life, but I didn't know how. After a while of being on my own, Bill and I had a long talk about our relationship, kids, God, etc. The main topic was about God, and how Bill was Catholic and how the way Catholics live. He asked me if I wanted to go and talk with a priest with him. As soon as we started talking with a priest I realized this is it. This is where I want to be, Father Schneider at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, was the first priest we met with. He asked me if I wanted to join the group called RCIA (Right of Christian Initiation for Adults).
Father Schneider and Bill weren't forcing me to become Catholic, but was asking me to give it a try and see if this is the step I wanted to take with my children and the relationship I wanted with Bill. The rules started, and I wasn't quite sure if this is what I wanted to do as I started taking the classes. Bottom line, this is where I wanted to be. I wasn't forced, I enjoyed all the people there, I enjoyed the person God changed me into, and it is God our Lord who created us. This is where I knew I wanted to be, with the Catholic Church. I felt loved.
In September of 2013, around Labor Day weekend, I remember clearly like it was yesterday. I got a call from the doctor and she said are you sitting down? I said yes, she then said you have cancer and it is Stage III, aggressive breast cancer you will be referred to a doctor right away. After that news the rest of the phone call I wouldn't be able to tell you what she said, I went into complete shock and don't remember what she said. Bill was on his way home from out of town at his construction job. We were so scared, we thought we better go to my family's house and let them know the news. So, this is when all the appointments and doctor calls started and at the end of October I had to have surgery getting a mastectomy done and once I healed I had to start an aggressive chemo that took us into the next year of January 2014.
Image was taken at the oncology department where Geri meets with her oncologist and all the other wonderful people that work there. This is one of there walls after the department was remodeled. All these words are true only if there are true people to make them reality. "Kind words from kind people that make one-of-a-kind friends."
That chemo was very tough it made all my hair fall out, I wasn't able to eat very much, and just got very sick. After the next round of chemo, we found out I was allergic to it, so it put me in the hospital quite a bit, and then my oncologist wanted to stop, let me take a break and just watch me month to month by office visits. Once chemo effects your lungs it's not good for the body which was the reason I had to stop. From January 2014 to September 2014 I was not getting any chemo. My hair started to grow back. Everything seemed to be okay.
Come September 2014 I started to feel different again. The symptom started in my right hand. My pinky and ring finger on my right hand became unusable. I thought it was something to do with a nerve so I started going to a chiropractor for a couple months. Then I realized all the things he would try did not work. So I made an appointment with my oncologist immediately he set me up with a PET Scan and an MRI and found what looked like cancer but they had to do a biopsy first and found it was cancer within a couple days.
I started chemo again and by next year, April of 2015 I had my first seizure. It was very scary I thought I was having a stroke, my daughter was with me and had to see this happening. I was hospitalized again and we found out my breast cancer had metastasized into my brain.
We immediately started radiation, it was scary that I was by myself in the radiation machine and they had to make a mold of my face to make sure they got the right spot where the tumor was located on my brain. Then I had to lay as still as possible with the mask on my face and all I can see is this laser moving around while it was making noises, while I was spinning around on this table strapped in and the thoughts running through my head. I just laid still and prayed, thinking of my family waiting for me out in the waiting room. I only had one treatment of radiation that lasted 15 minutes, so I had gotten to ring the bell because it was the first and the last treatment I had to do at the time.
After a while, I was able to rest for a bit, taking a break from chemo. My right arm and hand wasn't healing, so we took a PET scan again which isn't my favorite scan. You have to walk with a nurse to a trailer that is outside and go inside and answer all these questions, then they instruct what you will have to be doing. They had to prick your finger to see your glucose levels, if it's to high you are unable to do the scan. So this also means, you are unable to have any foods or drinks other than water after midnight until your appointment time.
After they prick your finger sometimes there is someone in the same room with you, we are separated by a curtain. After the nurses find the vein they give you a shot and fill you with radiation. After this, they turn the light off in the room and you have to rest in the chair with a blanket if you like, you have to wait for a half hour sitting in the dark. Once the time is up, they take you to the restroom and make you urinate to get the radiation out, then you go back to the trailer and have to go into the scanner that kind of reminds me of getting an MRI scan. I am to lay still while the scan takes lots of pictures searching for any bright red spots which could be a sign of cancer. They won't report anything to you, but they will give anything that will show a sign of cancer to your doctor so they can read to you the results and make the decision of what the plan will be if there is cancer. Which in my case, the cancer had come back in the same place where I had gotten the first cancer.
Come 2016, was the year that was probably the hardest for me. But it was also the year that I was truly blessed as well. Our family of five became of family of one. Me and Bill were married on November 19, 2016. Msgr. Tom Richter joined me and my husband in the bond of marriage. I can't thank God enough for Msgr. Richter. I am able to call him and he always has a way of bringing me closer to the Lord.
This year 2016 I had so many seizures and the seizures would happen at any time. But when I would get them, the symptoms would be I would stare off into space for 10 minutes, I would get scared because I didn't know what I was doing, I was unable to cook, because I couldn't trust myself to either turn off the stove or let alone hurt myself. Another symptom would be my right hand would curl up and it would start convulsing, and that was the most painful. I eventually learned that one of my meds would help with that. Another symptom would be I would do silly things such as wanting to grab the milk from a cupboard or I would forget what I was saying or all of a sudden when I would start talking my words didn't make any sense at all. I would be in the middle of a conversation and then I would just forget what I was saying, so I would embarrassingly apologize and say I'm sorry I forgot what I was saying. There was no possible way I could remember what the conversation we were having. Also everything seemed like I was in a dream, my brain was in such a fog.
In May 2017 we went to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN to find out about the tumor on my brain. Everyone was so nice and kind at the Mayo Clinic. After MRI's and doctor visits they found that the swelling around the tumor was causing my right arm to get worse and causing me to have more seizures. The MRI's showed so much swelling. We came up with a plan to help get the down swelling around the tumor.
Now presently October 2017, I'm still fighting my fight with stage IV breast cancer but I'm not alone. I have my wonderful caregiver whom is my husband with me. We have our children, I gained many new family members, many new friends who I call and consider my family. One is my same job at TTL who has been supporting me throughout my long journey. I made so many new friends that have cancer and we help each other by sharing stories. I would like to thank all the friends and family who have brought us food and taken me out of the house to have coffee. I would like to thank all the doctors, nurses, and staff. I would like to thank the oncology department that has been behind me 100%. I love you all so much. But most of all I couldn't do all this without GOD! God Bless Everyone not only suffering through cancer, but suffering from whatever you may be going through. I believe my suffering isn't worse or harder than what anyone could be going through right now.