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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The Many Faces of Cancer: Soul Over Ego

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Cancer and I have an interesting relationship, constantly playing tug of war over this body and the life I was blessed with. The perpetual balancing on egg shells as evil has made a home out of my insides, leaves me to feel as though my own flesh and bones no longer belong to me. On a day to day basis I find myself living under caution tape due to the illness that comes with chemotherapy, as well as side effects of medications. This naturally leaves me drained of everything I have to give.

There are many faces and personalities that come along with cancer. By looking at the curated aesthetic of my Insta’, 90% of the photographs would seem to showcase to the world that I am a “normal, healthy” looking woman, with a fairly active life to boot. Although that is true, I try to keep myself up and face the darkness, I’ve found that I have gotten away from showing how quickly I can become utterly debilitated. It’s truly amazing how one minute I am a bright, lively person and then in an instant I don’t recognize myself, nor this life.

You’d think after four years of living and fighting cancer, reality would have settled in. After all this time it would start to make sense, it wouldn’t still shock me or feel like a nightmare. But the truth is, it never makes sense. And sometimes when something doesn’t make sense, I feel everything so deeply. Conversely it can also be difficult to feel almost anything at all, until it dawns on me all over again that I could have never imagined one day waking up sick and never getting better.

Since my fourth bout of chemotherapy started up again in June, I am now six treatments in. The second week of September I have a CT and PET scan to determine if chemotherapy is working on my numerous tumors throughout my abdominal region and liver. This time around I am a bit more nervous than usual, being that it’s my first scan since the evidence of disease reappeared rapidly following my HIPEC operation. Demons take control of my mind pre-scan thinking of all of the possibilities, particularly because I’ve been having a rough go at it. In spite of all that, I wear strength and darkness equally well and it will be nice to know where I stand against the enemy.

On occasion it’s rather difficult not to have a pity party of one, especially when you are witnessing from the sidelines the progression of other people’s lives — i.e. babies being born, career accomplishments and general life goals. Whereas for the last few years, my main goal has been survival, which becomes a full time job. Comparison as they say, is the thief of joy, but the trouble is I am living in the thought of tomorrow. I’m not living now, I’m waiting.

Keeping pretty quiet this summer, I’ve spent most of my days with my head in the toilet or lounging around the house, thus leaving the path that I travel feeling isolated and unfair. Then I try to remind myself that whoever our maker may be, perhaps using both my good and bad experiences is meant to develop my character. A refined character.

Sometimes it takes an overwhelming breakdown in an effort for an unbelievable breakthrough. My body is broken down and I’m still waiting for that break through. Nonetheless I will press on, knowing that I have wonderful family and friends that steady me, as they are my gravity. It remains comforting to me that some of the most extraordinary people are those who have faced defeat, struggle, pain and suffering. Trusting life will only give me what I can handle, I’ll continue to believe this experience is most helpful to my evolution and remind myself that it’s always soul over ego.

PS- Always be kind to people, you never know what they are going through — even if they are dolled up, lookin’ healthy! One of the many lessons I’ve learned from this cancer journey.

Love,

Britt x

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Chemo Butterflies: Finding Your Well-Being

 As I closed my eyes last night, I had the butterflies. You know, the rush of what’s to come with the new day ahead. Like going to Disneyland or the thrill of waking up on Christmas morning, anticipation met with flutters. Naturally I knew that the following day I would have to wake up and begin chemo yet again, but I was greeted with those same feelings. A bizarre excitement but nonetheless, I am that girl that shows up and never gives up. The girl that believes anything is possible and willing to work damn hard for it.

There I was the following morning at 7:45a. The sun splashed into every dark thought I had on the way to the clinic. I was in an accepting mind frame that made me realize that I must be grateful for the means at my disposal, to work out my destiny. It was also so clearly apparent on the drive to Mayo Clinic, that I have been given a mind and will power for this very purpose. Chemo is not my enemy; chemo is in fact my saving grace, my hero, my best friend.

Certain experiences have an affect on you, as does all experiences in life.   When the experiences are forged by the wisdom of pain, it can be a total awakening, opening your eyes, and naturally restructuring you. When you have that, I truly believe that the universe aligns you with what you need in that moment, raising your vibration to see things clearly and allowing you to see what is beneficial to your well-being. For me, that is chemotherapy.

It might not be a dream job, but it’s what is going to hold those vile tumors at bay and for that, sign me up. Of course, ego kicks in and some of the side affects are not so glamorous, one being an “acne like rash.” Seemingly they have creams and things to manage it, however it makes me giggle. The one nice thing that I have had since having cancer is my appearance. Not in vain way, but in the sense that I can slap on a cute outfit, some lippie and look healthy and alive, even with my buzz cut. However, this just sounds painful and I have to avoid the sun like a bat. Yet, somehow at the end of the day, none of that rubbish matters. I’d rather have a face full of acne or rashes and be around, than the alternative.

Immediately when the chemotherapy hit my veins it was an instant peace of mind. The venom that is going to get those bastard tumors and cells was now running free inside of me. Hell was about to be raised and to my surprise my Oncologist also added an immunotherapy drug which fights for your white blood cells/immunity to stay tip top, while also targeting the specific areas wherein the tumors reside. On the other hand, the chemotherapy will be attacking all of the cells and with the two combined; the battle in my guts will be under brutal attack. It was a long day, but I tolerated it like a champ, other than a bit of fatigue.

Healing is not linear; I will of course have my bad days as I go through this yet again. I was born to do hard things and I will never forget how far I have come, all of the things I have gotten through, all the times I’ve pushed on even when it seemed impossible. All the times that getting out of bed seemed like lassoing the moon and when I wanted to give up, but got through yet another day and another. And at the end of my day today, it truly was my version of Disneyland or Christmas morning, for it’s giving me the best gift, which is my life.

PS- I felt all of the love and vibes today — thank you to all! xx

Britt xx

Love Is All You Need: Life Expectancy

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We’ve all played the game, “If you were given six months to live, what would you do? Would you live your life any differently than you do today? Everyone seems to think that they would. They picture themselves buying that plane ticket to their most desired destination, soak up every minute with family and friends and literally, to quote Tim McGraw, “Live Like You Were Dying.” And perhaps it’s just an entirely personal experience and other people may do things otherwise. But, the truth is, you don’t know what you would actually do when you are essentially living within that actuality — there are circumstances, particularly within health issues that may prevent you from checking off some of those “bucket list” items.

Speaking from experience in that department, I have been given life expectancy timelines since the beginning of my cancer career. I’ve defied all of the odds so far and quite frankly passed some huge milestones given my condition and situation. Lucky doesn’t even begin to describe my fortune. Yet, that doesn’t change how it feels when you are given a number, a numerical suspense for the rest of your life. It punches you in the gut, leaving you winded, EVERY.DAMN.TIME.

I learned today that I truly shouldn’t ask any questions if I am not prepared for the answer. Being that I start chemo on Wednesday, I had a touch base appointment with my Oncologist to discuss my last hospital stay, my gastro tube, the TPN (refer to previous blogs for info), as well as chemo. For days I had been thinking of asking him how much time he expects that I have, it has plagued my thoughts and my dreams and the answer was something that I thought would bring me a bit of peace.

To my disappointment, when I asked for the 100th time in the last four years, what my life expectancy looked like at this stage and point, I was met with a number I wasn’t prepared to greet. My generous and brilliant Doctor obliged and told me very pointedly that if I do not respond to chemotherapy this go around, then my future looks pretty grim.

Six to twelve months were the words out of his mouth.

After the initial shock to my heart wore off, I leaned over to my lovely mother in-law and said, “That means I could be gone by Christmas.” In an instant everything seemed so bleak. While my hopes quickly vanished, my fears began to take charge over my mind.

What will Steve do? He will be a widower at such a devastatingly young age! Will Zoila be okay without me? What about my family, watching my siblings grow and my friends who have become family?

 Swiftly my mind raced with too many questions that I didn’t have the answers for. These are all very real things and it made me realize that none of the things I feared were materialistic. This coming from a girl that practically sold her soul for a YSL purse a few weeks ago (pix on insta). Rather, all of the things that I distress over are all because of love. It comes down to the people you love and care about in this world, and in my case my baby Zoila. When my day finally arrives, I won’t be concerned over the latest iPhone or YSL bag, but instead whether or not I showed the people I cherish the vast amount of love I feel for them and to be loved just the same. Treating others as you’d like to be treated, treasuring the time you have on earth and realizing that we, everything is all connected.

Time is strictly earth bound and we are only given so much of it. Some more than others, but I believe that no matter the time frame I am given, I will fight this until the bitter end. Thus far I have refused to go down without a fight and I don’t plan on it this time around either.

Chemo is definitely kicking off next Wednesday and I can tell you that I don’t plan on going anywhere in the next year. To answer your question, I don’t have a list of things that I must do before I pass. In the end it’s only love that counts. Love is all you need.

 PS: I have been fiercely working away at my book, so stay tuned.

Love,

Britt xx

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