Chemotherapy: 100th Round

After the initial shock of my cancer diagnosis, I had no comprehension that I would have to undergo chemotherapy, nor did I understand the first thing about it. Of course I had a baseline grasp as to what it was. I knew that my Granddad went through it for three months; from the day he was diagnosed to the day that he passed away. I knew he was essentially getting poisoned, and that poison did not save his life. I was also aware of Hollywood’s version of chemo and how they manage to fit it into a square box with a pretty ribbon, unassuming of the various types of treatment within the umbrella of chemotherapy drugs. However, despite knowing those few, minute things that happens to be surrounded by lurking shadows of all things negative, I am now able to say that I am well versed as to what the depths of this poison means, today marking my 100th round of chemo.

Over the progression of my disease, I have had more than one type of chemotherapy in an attempt to get rid of the bastards. Some worse than others, but there was absolutely nothing worse than the beginning of my cancer career. To begin with, I was injected with one of the most lethal of the colon cancer chemotherapy varieties, and often times my platelets would be so low that I would have to have a shot, feeling as though every bone in my body was shattering to peices. There was also the neuropathy, which disabled the nerves in my hands and feet, disallowing me to walk or even write for that matter. Lets not forget to mention the initial distress of changes to my appearance, as a vain twenty-seven year old.  This all in addition to all of the other side affects synonymous with chemotherapy.  Yet, worst of it all was the mental toll, twisting my every thought down a spiraling rabbit hole; the fear, the anger, the resentment, and mourning the loss of my life, as I once knew it.

Altogether, I can reliably say that chemo is not for the faint of the heart. As I grieved for my good health firstly, I gradually began to put my best energies into a healthy frame of mind. I began looking at chemotherapy treatments as if it were my job, a new career in which I was going to have to show up and commit to as though my life depended on it…literally. In switching my approach to what I only knew as being undesirable, it kept my mental endurance alive, teaching me things about myself that I had never recognized before. Chemotherapy is the job, and the paycheck is the time I am granted to still be here with my family and friends.

Nevertheless I have my days of gloom, just last month feeling like I failed in 2017, accomplishing next to nothing.  It is also not lost on me that chemotherapy is not necessarily a cure, and I value the bravery and the grace of people who have undergone it, while it sadly no longer continues to keep the cancer manageable.  Then there are milestones like today, and I am reminded that I repeatedly show up for work, with a smile on my face, looking cancer straight in eye and laboring until the work is done.

Nobody knows what life has in store, and life is short, that is for sure.   With that, I am going to continue my stride and appreciate the brilliant minds and methods that is keeping me here today, tomorrow and hopefully the next.

Cheers to you, 100!!!

PS- totally and shamelessly bought myself these roses in celebration.

Love,

Britt x

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What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do: Key to Cancer Support

My life seems to be divided into two very distinguished parts; pre diagnosis and post diagnosis. It’s as though they are entirely separate lives that have been lived by just one person, a split screen, then and now, the past and present. When something like this enters your life, you find your true friends and support system pretty quickly.

The diagnosis of the patient may be an initial shock, not just to the individual affected, but the people they share their lives with as well. The early days are usually high on the spectrum of support and friends bossing up, then it slowly slips away like yesterday’s trend. People move on with their lives after being gobsmacked by the news and ghosts begin to appear as friends, challenging your most coveted relationships.

You slowly stop going to parties because you’re sick in bed, having to cancel on dinner plans or you just plain forget how to talk to people because you’re self conscious that everyone pities you. Thus, friendships start to splinter. Some have their own reasons for dipping out, and contrary to that, you realize and form relationships and bonds with people you would have never expected. And for each friend I lost, I gained others who wanted to stand by my side and that is a beautiful thing.

When you are so far beneath the floor boards, experiencing things you’d never imagined can be a very personal journey. After my last blog, my friend and lovely supporter, Andrea asked a question that I had never been asked before, and thought it to be very thoughtful. She simply asked what are some of the right things to say or do for a friend with cancer. As soon as I read it, it put me in the perspective of those who are a part of this journey with me. I suppose if I wasn’t myself, in my situation, I might not know the right things to say or do, either.

Truthfully, there is not a rule book on how one should react to a friend or someone you love having cancer, nor is there a right way one should show their comradeship. Do’s and do nots, say and say nots can certainly be a thin line.

Personally, I have been very fortunate to have such a strong unit of people surrounding me from all over the globe —friends, family, strangers. I also choose to share my cancer experience with the public, therefore there aren’t many things that are off limits in terms of what to say and/or ask. Firstly, start by assessing your relationship with the cancer patient. Every relationship is different and consider your unique dynamic.

Sometimes it’s much more awkward for the person with cancer because we understand people don’t always know what to say. The best way to avoid any form of awkwardness is to treat the person the same. So much of our identity has been stripped away and we want to cling to normalcy as much as we can. Treating us like you always have is a gift beyond measure.

Uncertainty of the future tends to run through the veins of a person with cancer, with a direct connection to the brain. This resulting in many sleepless nights spent overthinking. That said, no one is able to reassure you that everything will be okay. But, hearing from a friend just to take a moment to tell you they are thinking and rooting for you, is rest assured it will result in a bright smile and swollen heart.

With this vile illness disrupting the body, one of the perspectives that has shifted for me is that I don’t want to travel my cancer journey in vein, I want to bring awareness to young adult cancer. With that, it takes the help and support of others to show that it can happen to anyone, cancer does not discriminate. If you are curious about something, anything just ask and I’ll write about it or share with you. The more you know, the greater the awareness and understanding of this disease, the less my diagnosis will be in spite. If my situation has impacted just one person and helps them in any way, shape or form, then it is all worth it.

Using humor and sharing funny things is also a great coping mechanism for a cancer patient. Laughter after all is the best medicine. It’s also a wonderful stress reliever and making light of things can allow the cancer patient to take a break from the darkness and seriousness of the situation.

Invite us anyway. Even if nine times out of ten we can’t make it, it’s nice to know we are still thought of and connected to people. And if we indeed cannot make it, please know it’s nothing personal and that we would rather be spending time with our friends or family, as opposed to laying in bed.

In most cases, cancer patients won’t tell you when they need help. It’s easy to feel like a burden to the world and being unable to do some of the most simple things can prove to be difficult. Asking the cancer patient, “how can I help?” will be ultimately appreciated. Even if we are too proud to take you up on it.

Many diagnosed patients create blogs, much like myself in and effort to keep family and friends in the loop with what is going on. If you truly want to understand what someone is going through and be there for them, it starts with understanding the situation and typically it’s a more detailed version than if I were to be talking face to face.  With writing I personally go into a zone, a trance of sorts.  Comprehending what your friend is going through can be the most powerful way to connect for a cancer patient and it also helps from constantly repeating yourself over and over again. If you want to be on this carousel with your loved one it’s nice to be able to read all the nooks and crannies of their day to day life, whether it be a blog or sharing updates on social media. It is essentially the patient expressing and opening up to their family, friends and supporters — a version of taking the time to listen.

Lastly, and I think this goes whether you have cancer or not, the best gift you can give someone, especially someone going through cancer is your time. Even if it’s for a quick cup of coffee or tea. It’s easy to become a hermit and hideaway from the world when you don’t feel well. Yet, spending a little quality time is a great way to break away from the house, hospital or Doctors office.

I hope this gives some tips and they are helpful to better understanding what some cancer patients need from their soldiers, marching by their side. Awareness is key, questions are vital, kindness is always welcomed and time is most definitely precious. Thank you to all of those who have stuck by me since day one of this strange new life. The bonds and connections that humans have the capability of is by far the most magical source of strength.

Love,

Britt x

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Fraudulently Inspiring:

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I wish I could tell you where I go when I go quiet. It’s often when I feel my walls crumbling down around me. Lately I have been struggling to find purpose in my life, but I know my weaknesses and I know my voice and writing happens to be just that. I know I shouldn’t abandon the one thing that gives me purposefulness and solace in my lowest of low. When I feel weak it builds the walls around me up , strengthening the world that I live in.

Pain has been something I’ve been dealing with lately, a lot of cracks in my everyday life that darkness seems to have been setting in much more than light. I’ve needed to find my way back to my latest disgrace. Feeling as though I am a fraud in the light of inspiration that so many find me to be. How can one be inspiring when I can’t even feel my feet below me? I feel lost and sleep the hours away under the spell of depression.

My Doctor gave me a month break from chemo as he sees how tired I have become from all of my treatments. After the month is over I will resume back on chemo as well as begin a clinic trial, which is not approved by the FDA. Of course all of this makes me nervous. It’s a constant reminder that my life is in the hands of medicine, in poison. However, I am going to take full advantage of this month and get plenty of rest, per Doctors orders.

I feel stifled by the air in my chest and the anxiety that I am currently enduring. My heart is flooded with emotion, not with haste but an understanding that I am what I am and my life is how it is. All I can hope is that one-day my scars will be healed and all of this pain will be far away. That I can learn to live with what I am, full-fill my dreams and that this fickle flesh will not go to waste.

The reality is that I have no time to spare, I have to put up a fight and rise to the occasion. Find my purpose in what I love most, which is writing. Get back in touch with my one true love. Find consolation in the people that believe in me, so I can still believe in myself. Coming out of the woods by choice and be sure that I can see a new start.

Thank you for bringing me out of the cold. Let’s hope the darkness in my head is tamed  and the sunshine beams through instead.

Love,

Britt x

#3 Cancerversary Q & A:

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Q: What makes you smile these days?

A: Family. I’ve been getting a lot of family time in lately, both on my side and Steve’s side and it brings the biggest smile to my face. It’s so important and it literally makes my heart beam with happiness. Also, Zoila my little sausage dog – when she’s not being naughty and chewing up my adidas shoes!

Q: Did you learn anything in your third year of battling cancer?

A: Of course. It was such a journey this year for me. I learned how to be humble and forgive and be forgiving. It could be very easy for me to be angry and bitter over what my body has had to endure, but I am choosing to accept that this is what was meant to happen to me, accept my journey and move on from it. The hardest part is knowing that I’ll never be able to give Steve a biological child. However he is so forgiving of that and for that I am the luckiest.

Q: What has been your most memorable moment in the last year?

A: This year has been full of many ups and downs. I’d say the most memorable would be bringing Zoila home for the first time. For Steve and I it was the equivalent to bringing home our baby. Something we’ll most likely never have the opportunity of knowing what that feels like, but when we brought her home we were both on cloud nine. On another note, finding out that I had 5-11 months to live and when Steve and I were given the news we went straight to the casino. We try to live life for the moment and not let things get us down. He’s my hero for that.

Q: What have you done to make your life less stressful?

A: I’ve stuck to my zero bullshit tolerance. I often walk on such a fine line of being content and depressed and in order to remain on the positive side of things I’ve learned that I need to protect myself. It’s a challenge.

Q: Are you carrying any excess baggage into your fourth year as a cancer patient?

A: Yes, I’m still trying to find my motivation. I’d say I have lost it some where along the way – I’m not sure where or how but I’m trying to find it again. It’s a tricky thing. For so many years I had so many goals to work towards and then when cancer came along my sole goal was survival, staying alive and everything else ceased to exist. This year I need to find myself again, refocus on what makes me tick and what makes me happy.

Q: Is there anyone that deserves a big “THANK YOU”?

A: Dr. Galliano – my surgeon that removed the basketball tumor from my uterus and performed my hysterectomy. Without that man I wouldn’t be here writing this today. HE’S the reason I am ALIVE and also the reason I switched over to Mayo Clinic. In his words he told Steve, “If she were my wife, she’d be going to Mayo Clinic.” And the rest is history. Because of the switch, my tumor markers are now at 3.8 which is the lowest they have EVER been since I have been diagnosed with Colon Cancer and they have my chemo down to an absolute science, allowing me to have a quality of life. Also, anyone out there, family, friends, supporters who are there cheering me on – I so appreciate you more than you know, so thank you! xx

Q: What are your top three goals for the next year?

A: Continue to stay in a good frame, a positive frame of mind. It’s mind over matter after all. Travel a bit here and there. And get my groove back in terms of motivation proclamation.

Q: What has the biggest lesson been so far with having cancer?

A: From pain, comes beautiful lessons and from beautiful lessons comes peace.

Q: What are your fears?

A: The same as always, letting fear win. Once fear enters the mind, it takes over the body and I can’t afford to let that happen.

Q: What have you struggled with in the last year that you want to change?

A: Again going back to setting goals for myself and sticking with them. Action follows focus.

Q: What can you do today that you were not capable of a year ago?

A: I can do more. A year ago when I was on chemo I would be bedridden. Now I have a quality of life, I can be 30 and go out with my friends and family and live the life that I have with enjoyment!

Q: What word best describes the way you’ve spent the last year of your life?

A: Survival.

Q: In one year from today, how do you think your life will be different?

A: Hopefully my cancer will still be in a manageable place, where I can continue to have a quality of life. Second to that, I hope to get published and see the book lined on shelves for everyone to read. High hopes, always!

Q: What have you learned about yourself in the last three years that you have been a cancer patient?

A: I’m a survivor – that’s for damn sure!

Q: What is one thing right now that you are totally sure of?

A: That life and people are so precious – never take anything or anyone for granted.

Q: What question do you often ask yourself?

A: What is this life?

Q: Time or money?

A: Time. It’s such a strange concept to me.

Q: What is your wish for the next year of your life?

A: Peace, always.

Lets Talk About Sex:

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At thirty I should be in my sexual prime – rejoicing in my Scorpio traits and thinking of sex more often than not. Instead, sex is an after thought as I am too busy sticking my head in the freezer from the hot flashes, taking my daily dose of crazy pills and slapping on a menopausal patch every other week to keep my estrogen levels at bay.

The early stages of my diagnoses no one explained that cancer and sex go hand in hand, against each other that is. Particularly when you throw in a full-blown hysterectomy, chemotherapy, twenty different medications on a daily basis and menopause. First things first, I’d like to take a moment to state that I find my husband extremely attractive and I love everything about him. He deserves a medal for his patience and understanding while I figure out what my body is going through and my sexual stance, or rather my libido’s attitude given all of its defiance to cancer.

It is both frustrating and isolating to have the body of a thirty year old and on the inside something more like an eighty year old. My husband has never wavered on making me feel like a sexy goddess, even with my buzzed haircut, battle scars and weak body. His touch leaves sparks and his kiss lights off fireworks, yet my libido is still not incommunicado.

In speaking with my Gynecologist, she informed me that there is not any FDA approved medications out there for women, particularly who have a history of cancer that could increase sex drive. Nada, nil, nothin’. What’s a girl to do? The intimacy between my husband and I is an important element in our relationship. Granted it is not the only variable that makes us, us, but I for one miss it and I sure as hell know he must. He’s a saint for Christ sake.

My question is, why is there not a bigger conversation out there for young adults, young women whom are going through such a thing? Why isn’t cancer and sex in the same vocabulary? Cancer isn’t a death sentence and therefore your sex life shouldn’t follow suit.

Understandably this is an uncomfortable subject, but it’s the real deal. I am not ready to give up a consistent, pleasurable sex life and have it die off in the name of cancer. There has got to be a resolution to this problem and I am going to find it, so help me God. Lets get the conversation going, lets figure out a way for cancer patients and survivors alike to be able to have a quality of life, including pleasure. Lets talk about sex.

Love,

Britt xx