Why “It Can’t Be as Bad as Last Time” Does Not Make a Good Mantra

Photo taken by Herbert Ortner

I knew this wasn’t a good mantra going into my second round of chemo. Totally, totally knew that this was the wrong thing to think. But I couldn’t help it. “It can’t be as bad as last time,” just rolled around and around in my head like the puffing of the Little Engine That Could. I had the flu the first time around, there was NO WAY I was getting the flu again so chemo had to go better the second time.

Then I woke up Saturday morning around 2 am. Just dealing with some normal chemo side effects, no big deal. Couldn’t fall back asleep, but not from stress or anything. I just felt awake. So I rested and thought and planned a whole entire blog where I would just write about books again like in the olden days because I wouldn’t have any medical stuff to report. There are books I want to recommend! Friends producing books right and left that I want to share with you all.

The pain didn’t start coming on until about 5 am. What started as a run-of-the-mill ouch turned into a rather nasty curl-up-in-a-ball-and-whimper ouch. It was in the area of my lower lungs where I haven’t had pain since this started.

We went off to the ER where I got some lovely pain relievers and started in on the tests. While we (Barrett, my dad, Diana and I) were waiting for the x-rays and blood tests etc. to come back and for them to decide if I was getting a CT scan, they gave me the “no eating, just in case” directive. We sat and talked about food and started planning the fabulous lunch and dinner we were going to cook as soon as they let me out.

When I can get on top of the nausea meds, I’m all about the tasty vittles.

Went to CT scan. Came back and talked some more about the delicious meals we were going to cook at home. (I mostly direct on the sidelines lately, but it’s still very satisfying being part of meal prep, have I mentioned how much I like good food?). We might even get to eat out on the porch and soak up the last of the afternoon sunshine.

Finally, the ER doc came in. CT results didn’t show anything, but they blamed this on my organs being too smashed together. “If you were fatter, your organs would have room to spread out and we could see them better on the scan,” the doc says, “since we can’t find anything, we must assume the worst and you need to stay here overnight. Oh, and by the way you can’t eat anything.” !!!!!!

So 1) I’m in trouble for being too thin = v. annoying 2) he’s assuming that there’s something wrong with my digestion because I flinched when he poked me (just had abdominal surgery 8 weeks ago PLUS I’m on a chemo drug that makes me sensitive to cold, how could I not flinch when he poked me with his ice hands?) 3) I didn’t even go in because of abdominal pain, I came in for lower lung pain! 4) he was not bothered in the least by that little fact and decided that I shouldn’t eat just in case I had some kind of digestive obstruction that they couldn’t see on the CT scan.

I have to admit that once the doctor left us alone, my positive attitude may have taken a brief holiday. There may even have been cursing.

The oncologist on call stopped by. A lovely, lovely woman. She very reasonably took back the order banning me from eating and asked nicely if I would stay overnight just in case the pain in my lungs came back or anything else weird happened. She wasn’t at all worried about the imaginary digestion issue.

I couldn’t say “no” to that. It was sensible and most likely The Right Thing To Do.

hospital room number

Then they brought me to the most gorgeous hospital room I’ve ever been in. One whole wall was windows overlooking the river with Mt. Hood smack dab in the center. The building is only two and a half months old and somehow I got snuck into one of their special VIP rooms. Apparently, there weren’t enough VIP’s around to fill the rooms over the weekend. Since I wasn’t paying the extra $150 for VIP treatment I did not get the satin sheets that normally come with it.

OHSU Posh Room

But the kitchen doesn’t get any kind of message distinguising whether or not it’s a real VIP in the room. When they get an order from a VIP numbered room, they make up a fancy tray lined with purple fabric, cloth napkins IN ACTUAL NAPKIN HOLDERS, doilies, a silver dome cover for the entrees, plus they make your food look all fancy by fanning out the vegetables etc.


The view though. Wow. I think that it may have cured me.

Mt. Hood from OHSU

Another awesome bonus was the “Write” bracelet Jone dropped off — Laura, the designer, wanted me to have one like the bracelet up for auction on the Bridget Zinn auction site and it is absolutely gorgeous. It was nice to have the visual reminder around my wrist that I do have a life outside the hospital walls.


Sunday I felt fine and they sent me home. No explanation for the pain except that people have weird reactions to chemo. It wasn’t any of the serious things they worry about, so they just gave me some directions on meds and how to handle the pain should it come back.

The view was nice, but it was SO good to come home.

Definitely need a new mantra before the next chemo session.

Thanks for all of the kind thoughts on facebook and twitter. It really helps knowing I have all of you out there rooting for me.

Best to all,


Join the Conversation


  1. Bridget, I read about you on another blog. Best of luck. I will say a prayer for you.

  2. You are such a beautiful writer and continue taking us through this journey. I admire your positive outlook, you will need it. Will pass on this to my writers today and trust me…will all be thinking of you. Hope you got the monkey, made dozens on my way to MT. Love ya, cathy

  3. Oh Bridget! I wish I were there to sneak food in to you or something… anything! I hope things go better today. I don’t think you landed in the VIP room by accident; you are totally a VIP! xoxo

  4. Hi Bridget—It’s so good to hear from you and see you once again. We on the WISCBWI listserve are all thinking of you. And thanks for the reference — I’ll be teaching a Middle School U class on writing this summer because of it.

  5. Bridget,
    there are so many people sending you good, healing energy, and wonderful, healthy living life to the fullest thoughts.
    I’m just one of a big crowd of your supporters.
    Hang in there – you’ll get to the other side of this, and boy, will you have even more wonderful STORIES to WRITE!

  6. Carrie Jones linked to your blog, and I just wanted to drop in to offer my prayers and best wishes for your smooth recovery. My mom had stage 3 colon cancer – we are both cheering you on. (gentle hug)

  7. Wow! That really sucked. ER docs, while probably the salt of the earth, sometimes just don’t get it. I hate when that happens. You could borrow a mantra from Ms. Hoover on the Simpsons for the next round: Calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean. Not sure it worked for her, though. Will consider this matter further. Love that bracelet!! And you, kiddo! Have a lovely chocolate cupcake as consolation.

  8. Hi Bridget,
    I’m sending you lilac-scented Wisconsin wishes!
    Glad you sent these pictures. The view is gorgeous and the bracelet is beautiful. I hope you get to write soon. Can’t wait to read more stuff from you!

  9. My dad thinks your mantra for the next time should be:
    Third times a pharm.
    I don’t know what it means, but it’s kind of funny.

  10. When I worked for Legacy years ago, we once got a press release touting a new kind of “four therapy.” We kept trying to figure out what it was. It was medical lingo we had never heard before.

    IV therapy. Four therapy.

    Hang in there…


  11. Hey Bridget,

    I’ll pray for you. Please be strong and positive. I hope you’ll be all healthy again and write a lot of amazing books.

    *BIG HUGS*

    Btw, it’s such a nice bracelet : )

  12. Hey Bridget,

    Just wanted to let you know that you’re in my thoughts, and that I’m glad that you’re home. I hope you and your lovely husband (husband!) can feel all the good wishes and prayers flooding in from around the world.

  13. Oh Bridget . . . I’m so sorry you’re going through this. . .

    Beautiful picture of Portland and that is a beautiful bracelet.

    Keep us posted.

    You’re in my thoughts and prayers.

  14. My heart aches for you Bridget.
    The mantra my little brother used, during his identical battle to yours; SHIT HAPPENS This simple, existential observation, simply expresses that life is full of imperfections. Feel free to use it, as this blunt observation seems to fit that damned disease.
    Positive thoughts coming your way!!!!!!!

  15. Hi Bridget, I was linked to your blog via Kristin Cashore. Wishing you all the best, our family has been where you are, and know how tough it can be. God bless and sending lots of positive vibes your way.

  16. No satin sheets? The nerve! šŸ˜‰

    I hope your mantra proves correct from here on out, and as lame as it sounds, I’m sending healing vibes your way.

    Many congratulations on your agent! I know how exciting and validating that is. Kudos to you!

  17. Hello, Bridget. I can’t believe I have been missing sharing your journey and reading this wonderful writing. I have been– should I admit it– blogphobic enough to just keep putting off tuning in. Thank goodness Dori put up a post about the auction on the list serve and linked me here. I’m so impressed with all the stuff you’ve been going through, yet how you keep writing. Now I’ll go check the Facebook. (Even more subject of phobia!) You are dragging me into the world of real writers! Julie

  18. I stumbled upon your blog and am wanting to read more and more about you.

    I hope you get stronger and better and get through this!

    Take care from a fellow artist Bridget,


  19. Dear Bridget and Barrett

    We are back in WI (Lake Nebagamon) And, are thinking of you guys…Bridget, we want to send you strength and love. We are so sorry you have been feeling ill some of the time. Best wishes to you two….wish we were closer, so we could come to visit you. Hi to your dad and Diana, Mel and Gloria. You are in good hands with so many friends and family near. Our love, Al and Shelb

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