Lose Yourself in the Music, the Moment: Memories of a Lifetime

img_0703

A few weeks ago I had a slated visit with my Psychologist, a stunning, statuesque woman with the most attractive Russian accent. Every time I see her I am reminded of a Russian friend whom I’ve shared some of my best memories with. Innately I warm to the Doctor right away in a reminiscent fashion, regardless of my long absence in seeing her. She has the ability to put me at ease without granting the notion that I am losing my shit. She was on my level, just like my old friend, and I liked that.

After arriving in her office, ornamented with psychology book after psychology book, as well as notes strewn about her desk in an organized mess, I sat down on the plush couch, across from her high back chair. The diffuser rested on a shelf, and exhaled the most calming hint of lavender. Being that it had been awhile since I had last seen her, there was a lot that I needed to express, things that I was reluctant to share with anyone, including my husband. My heart was racing, and my mouth dry, as I began to divulge it all, skipping over any possibility of small talk.

I told her that my intellectual side was at war with my spiritual side. I told her that when I go out in public I am paralyzed by fear of the worst happening. I told her everything in my private life was pleasing, but I was still plagued with chest wrenching anxiety. And then I told her more importantly that I was starting to disremember anything that came before cancer, and that it scared me out of my wits.

Supposing she was going to prescribe pills on top of pills, it was a risk I was willing to take. My own thoughts were becoming unbearable, a constant, and frenzied sense of trepidation, and silent chaos.

“Write,” she contested. “There are a number of pills I could prescribe, but the best medicine for you is writing, and that’s something that only you can do. Flex that muscle. You are a writer, so write.”

I didn’t have much of a defense. Despite her brilliance, and numbered Doctorate degrees, it was advice that didn’t take a rocket scientist to propose, yet a remedy that I hadn’t been practicing lately.

“I can’t,” I confessed.

Aiding to the anxiety that I have been facing were flashbacks of all of the traumatic events that have taken place over the course of my cancer career. The nastiness that is coupled with being a member of the club with a cancer card, the gruesome surgeries, and the inches I’ve been to death; it was all starting to slither its way in, wrapping around my mind. The problematic issue is that all of the memories that once came before cancer were evaporating. The bones for my book had been laid out perfectly on the table for the past two years, and yet I’ve failed to give it flesh as my memories were being overshadowed. As a writer we depend on our memories to bring a perspective, and narrative from our account to paper; alive, if you will.

“Write out of order, escape yourself by listening to the music you have listened to throughout your life. Music evokes the deep-level parts of our emotions, where our earliest memories are stored. What you have done is compartmentalized the before life, and the after life of living with cancer, putting the before on a shelf to deal with the latter.”

Her words were magic.

“When we can tap into those memories, or a specific memory, the neurotransmitters in your brain will then lead to awakening another memory, and another, and another,” the Doctor articulated.

The words did not fall on deaf ears; I was in tune to everything she was concurring.

“My prescription to you is to write. It does not have to be for your blog, it doesn’t even have to be for your book, it can be just for you if you like. But, I promise you this, if you listen to music, and tap into your memories, not all of your problems will be solved, however it is the best thing you could do for yourself.”

It sounded so easy, and then again not, but I was willing to go there, re-sort the boxes in my brain, and get its contents down on paper.

When I got home I played country from the late 1980’s through my airpods; George Strait, The Judds, Alabama, even Billy Ray Cyrus. Come on, everyone loved Achey Breaky Heart, and Billy Ray is a national treasure. The waves of reminiscence to my early childhood were immense. From each memory I was able to draw another memory, and then another, and another after that, just as the Doctor preached. As the night prolonged, I realized there was an untold, layered story behind every song, from my first kiss, to my first love, leaving home for the first time, adventures in my 20’s, to the time I met my husband, and knew right then, and there he’d be the one I’d marry. The words flowed out of me as I entered a chaotic, yet focused zone in the writing universe. The bones to my story now had bits of flesh, and my memories were as fresh as if I was reliving it once again.

There are many days that I ponder my purpose or wonder if I even have one. My sole goal over the years of my diagnosis has been purely survival, sometimes leaving very little energy for anything else. Since I met with the Doctor, I have added a new goal to my life, which is to write everyday, no matter what. Thus far, it’s been filling in the pieces that are coming back to life in my mind, and although the past should be a place of reference, this has allowed me to reconnect with the person I was before my life changed in the least expected of ways. I realize that all of the memories connect, and if I didn’t have certain people, or have gone through certain experiences it wouldn’t be my life, or my narrative. It could very well take a lifetime to share my tale of this weird life, but God it won’t be boring.

PS- I hope you appreciate my Eminem reference in my chosen title of this confession. #musictherapy #inspiration #punny

Love,

Britt x

Advertisements

Inspire(d).

People near and far have described me as “inspiring”. It is true. An actual FACT, simply because just about everyone I have come in contact with has shared their sentiments. By now I’m sure I’m sounding big headed, but stick with me.

Although a lovely compliment — inspiring, inspirational, inspiration and inspired are all a part of the same vernacular. One with which bears a great meaning and with that comes grave liability. A liability to disappoint or not live up to your own standard of inspiration. Perhaps even those, like me, who can’t fully understand how that definition could be synonymous with myself.

In my case, I’m living with Stage IV colon cancer. I share my struggles and write my truth through this journey. But on a normal day, I wake up and smoke copious amounts of medicinal marijuana and actually define the meaning of “Netflix and Chill”. Then, every other week, on what has now become a normal day, I go to the clinic for chemotherapy. My point being that, I’m doing exactly as you would do in this situation or any life roadblock for that matter.

In order to aspire and to inspire, you have to recognize the inspiration that we all have within our souls. I’m talking about all of the single mothers and the dads who are moms too —- working one, sometimes two jobs to ensure their child has endless opportunities. Pupils who continue their education in spite of all the hard work it takes to get there; not to mention finishing something that you started. The LGBTQ community who takes great pride in who they are, which is exactly how it should be. Or the obvious, just being Ellen DeGeneresqué.

For me it’s all of that and more. Inspiration is my husband for being brave enough to have fought on the front lines, while now going to school, working and truthfully… taking care of my cancer caboose (pun intended). Inspiring is my gorgeous, Nan who has never stopped looking out for me — retiring just to keep me company everyday. Inspired by the family I’ve been blessed with, who nourishes me with their strength and for never, ever letting doubt seep into my veins. A special friend who always remembers to wish me luck on a chemo day. To every stranger that’s expressed true human compassion by thinking outside of their own lives and onto others. All of which is my inspiration and where I draw from.

Everyone’s definition is different, and still it leads back to the fact that the world is waiting for you, now matter how big or small you may think that you are, everyone is capable of inspiring, even if you may never know that you are doing so.

In an especially dark world, it’s important that we share inspiration with one another, to bridge divides and conquer life together, one day at a time.

Now to marry the invitation of being described as ‘inspiring” —- it’s a badge of honor of which I will gladly wear.  Thank you.

Happy hearts and thoughts to all.

Love,

Britt x

The Many Faces of Cancer: Soul Over Ego

1503971905436-1

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

SaveSave

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

Hello, From the Other Side:

 

Screen Shot 2016-12-29 at 3.41.02 AM.jpg

The best thing about life is that everyday is a new opportunity.  As cliché as that may sound, it rings true.  Many of you know that on December 12, 2016, I underwent a rare procedure called HIPEC in an effort to provide myself with a greater opportunity to live.

There were many risks involved in having this operation, but without risk comes little reward.  I had to take that leap of faith in order to provide myself with more time and quality at that.  No doubt I had my reservations and up until the night before I was having serious second thoughts.

I’m signing up to be cut in half.”

 “Can I even endure this again, will my body be able to handle another major operation for the third time in three years?” I asked myself. My mind would not and could not stop operating on all cylinders.

Saturday, December 10 I had just been out with my Mum for a lovely day of brunch and pedicures.  It was special, quality, time before I was going to go into the hospital in just two short days.  After our pleasant day she dropped me off and Steve was at his parents house.  I lay on my bed as I was pretty worn out from the whole day and was going to try to catch a nap, when suddenly something came over me and I began thinking about the last few weeks prior and how I’d spent time with the people I love most; quality one on one time.  Were those my goodbyes?  I immediately began to shiver, my lips turned blue, my breathing became increasingly difficult and my body tense.  I thought I was dying right then and there.

As quickly as I could I called my Nan and word travelled fast.  She along with my Mum and Auntie Bev were on their way, as well as one of my very best friends, Allison.  Steve, too immediately left his parents.  No one truly knew what the situation was but knew in any case I needed immediate attention as my normally ever so strong brick walls had come crashing in on me.

Once they had arrived, I was clearly still very much alive but also in a state of panic and still freezing and stiff. They comforted me and Allison even called her brother with whom is an ER Doctor to get some medical advice on what they should do since I was refusing to go to the hospital.  If it actually was my time, I wanted it to be in my own home, not the cold hospital.  Her kind brother suggested that I meet everyone halfway and allow the paramedics to come and assess the situation and I obliged, particularly because those were Steve’s wishes as well.

Long story short, there were about five paramedics that came and determined I was having a forceful anxiety attack and low and behold my walls did cave in on me.  After awhile I calmed down and I was so grateful to have them by my side.  And I was happy that it happened when it did and not the morning of the surgery. For some reason I believe that, that freak out needed to happen in order for me to actually go through with the surgery, for me to know that everything was going to turn out okay in the end.

It was now time to be the queen I know I can be.  It was Monday and it was show time.  I rolled into that operating room feeling free of anxiety or fear, but instead excited for what was on the other side, post operation, despite the brutal recovery.

The Doctors practiced their magic and before I knew it, I woke up in the intermediate care unit.  I felt fabulous as the drugs from the operation were still in my system, even making a video of the news that had been shared with me that I was “CANCER FREE!” It felt so good to say those words, even if I was in la-la-land.

However, as the course of my stay at the hospital got longer and longer, the Doctors became less and less liberal with that word.  In turn leaving me to wonder what any of it really meant, even having it reiterated today at my follow-up visit with my surgeon now that I’m completely clear headed.  Where do I go from here and am I free of cancer?

The truth is, I’ve won the battle but not the war.  By having this surgery they have removed any and all signs of tumor that currently exists in my body, by cutting me open to remove them, scraping my insides and attacking with chemotherapy.  Therefore at this time I’m free of cancer.  However, I still remain a Stage IV cancer patient as I have had recurrences in the past, ones which have recurred rather quickly I might add, so I am considered a VERY HIGH RISK patient.  My cancer could come back tomorrow, next month or two years from now.  The moral of the story is I will be under surveillance non-stop by my Oncologist and looked after by the pros.  Naturally we all are hoping for the best-case scenario, but he kept it real with me, which I appreciate.

In the meantime, I’ve been home for the last week and a half recovering and it’s going well.  Slowly but surely I’m getting back to my old self.  I cannot express the gratitude I have for all of the love I’ve received leading up to the surgery, during and after.  It truly warms the cockles of my heart.  Now we are just trying to get through the holidays and get back into our routine.  When things get too routine, I just need to keep myself humble and remember that everyday is a new opportunity.

Happy New Year, my loves.

Love,

Britt x