Hollywood Script: Cancer & Love

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Typically I scoff at Hollywood’s portrayal of cancer.  Particularly chemotherapy.  Only because I have personal experience. I don’t know.  Maybe it’s me.  Maybe not.  But, in any case I feel that it doesn’t do it any justice.  And of course it wouldn’t and it shouldn’t.  They’re acting, after all and  I wouldn’t want them and by “them,” I mean the actors, to feel even a fraction of what a cancer patient has to go through.  However, I will say, this chemo round, chemo 3.3 we’ll call it, has been pretty on par with the Hollywood script of what cancer looks like.  

Keep in mind, my head is now buzzed.  So from a physicality standpoint, I look a little more like a cancer patient these days, whatever that is supposed to mean.  I guess once again I am referring to what Hollywood depicts.  Picture a standard, five star type of white robe on a once meaty body that is slowly getting less and less thick by the day.  Each Doctor’s visit, the scale becoming less and less, something most women dream for under normal circumstances.  Pale, weak and hanging over the cold porcelain toilet.  Imagine your worst hangover times a squillion, headache and all.  Textbook chemotherapy, textbook Hollywood script.

Last weekend, my best friend, Crystal was in town.  My sister from another mister.  Seriously.  We grew up together.  My brother’s and sister didn’t come into the picture until I was eleven, so Crystal and I grew up like sister’s.  We met on Halloween.  One of my favorite holidays, next to New Years, where I met my other best friend Allison.  I meet all the greats on holidays.  Even meeting Steve the day before the 4th of July — so I count that.  I digress.  Crystal was in town and what I love about our friendship group is that we’re all inclusive.  We all gathered together and celebrated being alive, young, happy and the wonderful things that each of us have going on in our lives and the friendship we share.  There was a big group of us.  And a rare occasion these days,  as I have become such a homebody since treatment has picked back up.

When we got home from the Irish pub that we regularly attend when we actually do make it out of the house, Steve and I sat outside on the chaise lounge on the terrace of our condo.  It was far past closing time, so it must have been three in the morning.  I nestled my head into his chest and we both put our feet up on the table that was before us.

With so many serious conversations under our belt, we looked up at the stars and Steve whispered, “You’re not allowed to leave me.”  

I of course knew what he meant.  He didn’t mean leave him, as in pack up my belongings and move out and onward.  He meant leave him as in from earth — leave him alone in this big world.  I tenderly squeezed his hand knowing it was a promise I couldn’t make.  Tears began streaming down my face as my heart began to ache for him and selfishly, myself.

We sat in silence both knowing what the outcome would eventually be.  Without words it was as though we both realized our love and resiliency was bigger than any Hollywood movie script could ever depict with regards to both love and cancer.  We kissed under the stars like it was our first kiss almost seven lucky years ago.  Sometimes life doesn’t make sense, but I can’t think of anyone I’d rather figure it out with than my man-bun, Ben Sherman wearing, House of Cards obsessed, hubby. xx

Love,

Britt x

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Feature: 10 Important Questions You Should Be Asking Your Physician

61ONssbT0IL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Not too long ago I had the opportunity to score a feature story with Dr. Kevin Haselhorstauthor of Wish to Die Foras well as Emergency Physician. It seems pretty clear that he’s a clever man.  His passion is to help patients understand the questions they should be asking at any relative stage when you visit your physician, particuarlarly leaning towards an emergency situation.  Yet if you read the book you realize that everything he says is  relative to everything you should be asking anyway.  It is always nice to be prepared in the back of your mind and know the right thing to say when you’re in a wrong moment.

When I was initially diagnosed with cancer, we did not have any direction from our Doctors or the hospitals I was treated at.  Without having any guidance on what the next stages were and where we were supposed to go from there,  we often felt that we were out there on a lonely island, constantly wondering what was next or if we were taking the right steps and moving in the right direction. We of course had never been through anything of the sort. As my journey continues, my passion is to spread awareness and if this post reaches even one person and helps them, then that will be a blessing.

Dr. Haselhorst’s passion is preparing and making us aware of the questions we should be seeking, if we or anyone we care about are put in an unfortunate  situatuon.  Please read Dr Hasthorst’s feature below:


 

10 Important Questions Patients Never But Should Always Ask Physicians 

Patients often find it difficult to talk to physicians when they don’t particularly feel well. They tend to lack self-respect in these situations, failing to speak up for themselves. Naturally, this sentiment reflects upon physicians who are seen as not treating patients with dignity. Dignity implies self-confidence and certainty, rarely afforded to patients. Patients are mostly discounted in the decision-making process because they are not asking the right questions at the right time.

Emergency Medicine physician, Kevin Haselhorst, author of the book Wishes To Die For, firmly believes that patients have to be more proactive in their life-and-death decisions by asking pertinent questions and becoming informed. He encourages people to complete advance care directives to alleviate undue suffering at the end of life. But most patients don’t know what to wish for when life takes a turn for the worse since they rarely know what is being asked of them.

“The ultimate choice to live or die is not really just a medical decision,” he says, “… it’s a spiritual calling and one’s healthcare directives need to become one’s spiritual guidance documents to the living.”

Dr. Haselhorst identifies ten important questions he recommends people carry with them when they go to the hospital or when they see their physicians. They are designed to help them ask the right questions, make the right decisions, and achieve the best outcomes. Here they are:

Is this medical test really necessary?

Most of the testing performed in the emergency department are normal. This might have been reassuring to the patient, but often unsatisfying overall. Is the patient’s time and financial resources being respected or wasted? If the physician was almost certain that the tests would be normal or that they would not change the treatment plan, then why is the test required? Asking the doctor this question increases the chances you will receive adequate information.  If given the option, patients might wish to have doctors fine-tune their evaluations rather than shot-gun them. It can save pain in the emergency room and then later at home when the bill arrives.

Can you feel and understand my pain?

The doctor needs to know how bad is your pain, on a scale from 1-10, and where the pain is coming from.  Patients are asked this question routinely, but the number is not as useful and important as the actions and expressions you share. What you feel and what physicians perceive has to be communicated carefully since it is critical information that often determines what the doctor does next. Without adequate discussion, you may end up being prescribed pain medication rather than a being offered alternatives to the real source or cause of the problem.

How am I supposed to cope with the stress?

Patients and physicians rarely consider tension to be the primary cause of headaches, difficulty breathing, chest pressure or abdominal pain. Many ER physicians are reluctant to enter into discussions with anxiety-laden patients and may unconsciously suggesting that these symptoms are all in the head. Asking the doctor this question reduces the risk of these symptoms being ignored and increases the likelihood of you getting help that goes well beyond merely coping with anxiety. While it is true that the end of suffering is ultimately gained through the practice of acceptance – going with the flow of acknowledging and letting go, you should not be required to suffering unnecessary stress.

How can I be sure you are taking me seriously?

Did the physician take the time to ask you a lot of questions? Did you know the answers and give the doctor detailed information? Surprisingly, it is difficult to describe how they feel or remember when your symptoms started.  So write down the details you want to talk about with the doctor before you leave home. Tell the doctor what is going on, where and when it started. Tell the doctor what happened and what you’ve done or taken. The more you reduce the uncertainty that exists the better able the doctor will be to listen to your situation. Go prepared.

What am I to do next? What is the plan of action?

Ask the doctor to go over what you need to know once, twice, even three times. Till you get what you need to know. Don’t be the patients who claims, “The doctor never told me anything”.  As well as you can, ask the doctor for information about what you should do and what you should know. Write it down. Seek first to understand, and then repeat what you need to do out loud to the doctor to make sure you understood. Ask for a verification of the plan of action and steps to be taken.

How old do you think I am?  How old am I acting physically/mentally? 

Very few people wish to look or act their age, but when you get to the ER, it’s time to fess up. Don’t try to act like someone younger or healthier that you really are or feel. Act yourself and be real with the doctor. Adopt an attitude of honesty, sincerity and reason. Be in charge of your health. Pay attention to the health issues you can change from the ones you cannot. Confront the reality of the decisions you have to make. Exercise the best judgement and wisdom you are capable of.

Do you want to see me again?  When should I come back? 

Make sure you get clear orders and that the reason to come back is necessary and appropriate. Not needing to come back to the ER is not a comment on your popularity. But coming back to make sure you don’t need cardiac-bypass surgery is necessary and appropriate. If you’ve been in treatment for a while, cutting ties with primary care physicians or signing out from the emergency department is usually scary. Ask the doctors to tell you when you should contact them and under what circumstances you should call for a return visit.

Am I dying? How long do I have to live?  

These are two tough questions. You may think that you won’t be dying anytime soon, even if you are in treatment with a terminal illness. Healthcare professionals usually shield or discourage patients from thoughts of dying. Yet sometimes, these are the questions that need to be asked and confronted directly. Don’t believe your physician has a psychic ability to answer these questions.  Be prepared and listen carefully to his or her best medical opinions and judgements.

What is the endpoint to my disease or illness? What is the final outcome of this process or treatment?

Ask the doctor if the condition is transient, temporary or permanent. Ask how long it will take to recover. Be real and be prepared. The actual medical condition may catch you off guard. You may have to deal with a lengthy recovery. The chances of survival may not be that promising.  The outcome you hope for may not be possible and eternal life is not an option. Some time, the endpoint begins when you surrender – accept and understand – the medical conditions you face. It is only then that you can maximize the potential to both live the rest of your life happily and die with dignity and at peace.

Can you offer me spiritual guidance please? Can you respect my wishes to die with dignity in my own way? 

Physicians connect with patients on many personal levels, but rarely through in a way that address one’s personal and spiritual needs. As the end of life draws near, you may have needs that the doctor cannot provide or address. While your doctor may appreciate the struggles of you face empathetically, you need to ask the doctor to stop intervening on your behalf and allow nature to take its course.  Your dignity can be recognized if you tell the people around you to appreciate who you are spiritually, first and foremost. It is your right.

Love,

Britt x

Content provided by Direct PR on behalf on Tranquility Publishing and Dr. Hastlhorst
c/o Be Still My Heart Blog

Sunday: Sitting Naked Smoking a Joint B/C I Can

Moments ago I sat on our outdoor chaise, smoking a joint out of an Audrey Hepburn like fashion cigarette holder, only mine was good old fashioned Mary Jane, not a ciggy.  The backdrop being pure zen as the Japanese Friendship Garden takes my breath away, although I see it day after day.

Hance park, behind the garden just so happens to be hosting Mountain McDowell Music Festival over the weekend, where the likes of Beck and Animal Collective were a part of the line up.  Being blessed with our location in Downtown Phoenix, we were able to hear the show as if we were present.  It was clear as day, all three days!  Whilst enjoying my smokey treat, the band, The Senators were up, soothing me and the rest of the actual MMMF goers with their song, Music From Another Room and I thought how fitting. 

Here I sit, in another room, per usual because of my resistance to join the rest of the public in fear of my condition.  Just yesterday Steve, myself, my family and a ton of friends went to the horse track, as they held the annual wiener races and we of course now have our little, Zoila — sausage dog.  That morning as we were gearing up to go, I felt extremely fatigued, dizzy, clammy, so on and so forth.  Mind you, within the last few weeks I have had chemo (poison) pumped into my body, switched a total of four large doses of vital medications and was placed on hormone replacements due to going through menopause at the ripe age of thirty.  Intense doesn’t even begin to skim the surface.  Long story short, I put on a brave face, per good form and off to the races we went.

Typically for me, it’s a mixed bag of nuts going out in public, meaning anything outside of Doctor’s visits and affiliate/branding jobs.  Perhaps it’s because I’m a bit nuts myself, but  often times I suffer from anxiety because I shelter myself in so many ways.  I get weirded out and nervous thinking and believing that people are weirded out and nervous by my cancer.  The reality is, that I am able to comprehend that the world does not orbit around me and that it is all in my head.  But, hey, these are the things that go through my head and I’m being honest here.  This is my circle of truth.  Then by that point, once we arrive and I see all of the beautiful faces of my family and friends all of the woes and worries of the world seemingly disappear.  That along with the spirit of my reality and my set of circumstances, as I am able to giggle and escape in which case I would take over a doobie any second.  That is the highest of all highs.  A high that any Doctor or Dispensary cannot provide.

Although we had to leave the races early and take a little visit to the Mayo Hospital, I was cleared and sent home with good news that I was just dehydrated and out of whack due to my recent changes in medication.  But, even if it was for a sliver of a second, I was able to be normal and engage with friends and loved ones, crack open a beer, enjoy the sunshine, smile at strangers, wait in the ridiculously long ladies restroom line.  You know, normal stuff.  It’s the small things, truly.

On our way home from the hospital Steve and I were starved being that we hadn’t eaten, had been in the sun and then to follow had been at the hospital.  We decided to go on a classy date to Chino Bandido, a delicacy for Phoenicians, a Mexican and Chinese combined taker-outeree.  It’s the least classiest place I can think of, but by far the most delicious.  We chowed down, crashed on the bed as soon as we walked through the door and other than watching American Restoration and answering boring emails today, you’re pretty much up to date.

Yet, there is a point to all of this rambling.  As I lay on my terrace on my chaise lounge, listening to The Senators at MMMF, I realized it’s okay that I cannot do it all anymore.  These are the cards I have been dealt.  Instead, I decided to strip down to my birthday suit. You heard me, correctly.  I got completely stark NAKED, smoked the hell out of my joint and escaped to the most beautiful and cerebral place that exists only in my mind.

I live on such an extreme spectrum in life and I’m not quite sure if I will ever figure that spectrum out, or rather if it will figure me out. And perhaps that’s for the best.  Things come to me in other ways; I am so in tune with myself in a rainbow of other ways and at the same time I am a complicated woman, a Scorpio woman at that.  But damn, it felt so emancipating and comforting all at once, to stand in front of the sunshine in my bare, raw state — showing my scars and my body without any shame or guilt for who I was in that very moment.

I can only wish that everyone experiences such nirvana.

Have a beautiful sabbath day if that is your thing, beautiful ones. Otherwise, peace and love, always.

Love forev,

Britt x

Saturday: Self Reflection ✌

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For as long as I can recall I have been a very expressive person. Unable to shield how I feel and hide my true feelings was both a blessing and a curse, that seemingly got me into many sticky situations as I was growing up.

As I have aged and grown the wiser, learned and evolved, I have realized that peace is a much happier and healthier place to be. Although a huge process, a large part of cultivating that peace has been looking inward, tapping into my roots, my core and writing my ebbs and flows through means of words and language.  Tying sentences and stringing them together to develop a sense of how I was feeling in that very moment, leaving me with a feeling, not just a memory, but an actual sensation of that moment in time was something that I found to be very helpful in my process of my personal journey to healing.

One of my greatest grievances with having cancer has been staying sharp with my Britt wit, but falling short in the memory department.  Although I have not been the most consistent with blogging, I have pages upon pages of writings from the past three years that have preceded me through some of my highest highs and lowest lows.

In a recent study performed by Duke University, they found that writing, particularly personal narratives after traumatic events helps to reshape your life, make sense of it, and ultimately lead to improved behavioral changes as well as additive benefits to your health.

Engaging and investing in your own story, understanding your fears, dreams and the world around you, while being able to express it in any medium is the most liberating form of art and happiness any one could ask for.  This being a personal testament of my very own through my experiences of my disease and writing, amongst other opportunities.

My point is, at the end of the day you chose your own narrative, you can chose to edit, delete and add pieces to your story at any point but the most important thing is to constantly self reflect.  It is both a humbling process and essential to becoming your higher and better self.

Peace and love my friends and happy weekend!

Do what you love and stay true.

Love,

Britt x

Buzzin’: A Nod to Sinéad O’Connor

Life is short, talk is cheap — so I did it.  I buzzed the hell out of my hair (or Steve did,rather). We were able to capture it on film, as well as audio and I’ll be sharing them both separately.

It was a tough call as to whether or not I should take the risk of buzzing my hair.  I’m extremely vain at times and wasn’t sure if I’d feel feminine enough.  But, this morning after pulling out a glob of hair out, I knew it was a CHOICE that I wanted to make.  A choice that I decided upon because I didn’t want to have to deal with globs and globs every day.  I want control.

 

Love,

Britt x