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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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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Hello, From the Other Side:

 

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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

Hello, Strangers!

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Hello, strangers!  Or am I the stranger? I feel as though I have been so disconnected as of late; from life, writing, inspiration and people.  I’d love to say exactly why, but I’m not sure that I am fully aware as to the reason myself.  Hmm, let me try to recount the days and see if I can uncover my whereabouts, both mentally and physically.

Last time I checked in, I was explaining some of the greater symptoms that I had been having from my 10th chemo round, through my 12th, as well as the subject of my neuropathy and the side effects the prescribed medication had on my body.  As mentioned in that post, I was taking Cymbalta as a means to help with the neuropathy and it did help, however the properties that came along with the drug were brutal and the Urologist determined that the medication was causing the neck of my bladder to be choked off, therefore I was left unable to urinate.

Shortly after the discovery of the Cymbalta’s outcome with the Urologist, my Oncologist called to schedule an impromptu appointment to discuss the next steps.  Seeing the Doctor upon her immediate request, she advised me to stop taking the medication immediately and then prescribed me with a drug called Lyrica, which falls a little bit closer to the results that we were looking to obtain with managing the neuropathy.  You see, neuropathy is one of the most common side effects of chemotherapy, but if not treated in a precise manner, then you may run the risk of the neuropathy being long term or potentially permanent.  That said, I gave the new medication a shot and yearned for the best.

A week or so into taking Lyrica, I felt optimistic.  Slowly, but surely the pins, needles and numbness to my hands and feet were beginning to subside and I was gaining more and more feeling, which meant walking became easier, as did grasping anything with my hands/fingers.  For a few days I was able to enjoy some comfort and wasn’t doomed to days in bed because of an inability to walk.

Just as I began to feel slightly human again, I was met once over with the encounters of brutal side effects and they were back in full swing; inability to urinate, walk, use my hands and an overall unwell detect.  As you would expect, I became annoyed with the ongoing symptoms that the neuropathy medication was contributing to my already ailing body.  I then rose to taking needful narcotics such as morphine and oxycodone, which were prescribed for  “as needed” pain relief.  Although it wasn’t the remedial purpose for the drugs, they allowed for a short-term relief of pain, but then again there are remote side effects to those drugs as well, brining forward a catch-22 on the scale of “pain” or “la-la land”.

Nevertheless, I saw the Doctor again for an urgent appointment to further discuss how we would tackle the treatment of neuropathy, while continuing to confront the main invader, which would be my cancer.   As I sat there in her office, I felt as though I was speaking to someone who I had known for years and someone with whom knows WAY too much about me, right down to my urination schedule and sleeping patterns.  However, she is also someone who genuinely cares and takes it upon herself to see that my cancer is cured and that I remain comfortable every step of the way until the euphoric day when I can say that I am CANCER FREE.

After endless amounts of brain storming, my Oncologist finally came to the decision to allow me to have a break from my chemotherapy treatment.  While this was wonderful news, it’s not under the most positive of reasoning.  She feels that my numbers are at a stage where she is comfortable giving me a few weeks to a few months relief from chemo, in an effort that my neuropathy will dissipate due to my young age, in addition to gaining back some much needed energy before starting chemo up again in the near future.

I am certainly grateful for the break, as I believe it is much needed on all accounts; both a mental and physical vacation.  Yet, it hasn’t been much of an escape thus far to meet the expectations of what I had anticipated this “chemo holiday” to be.  This has come with lying in bed most of my days, as the neuropathy has worsened, which has since led to muscle loss in my legs and has made me very weak overall.  Plus, the incessant TV commercials about laundry detergent are making me feel extremely guilty for my failure at holding up domestic duties and all of the exercise equipment infomercials result in me watching rock hard abs, all while I am withering away in my pajamas, in my bed.  That aside, it hasn’t been the visionary “The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music” type of retreat, but seemingly I figured I would take what I could get.

Fast-forward a week or so, to my self-medicating, stir-crazy essential self, with little to no movement each day, to which I was then met with Thursday of last week and things got a little more interesting, even perhaps fun…at least for me.  Suddenly, the hills were actually alive with the sound of music and I was Julie Andrews, singing somewhere lost in a sea of flowers, whilst wearing German styled clothing.  Clearly, this was not happening, but it might as well have, for in my mind it was the real deal.  Yes, folks, Thursday I spent a fair share of my day hallucinating both visually and auditory.  My Nan, being semi alarmed about my tall tales and fanciful demeanor, immediately called to speak with my Oncologist and the Dr. referred my Nan to call 911.  Coherent enough to feel that calling 911 sounded ridiculous when I literally live 2 streets up from the Hospital, I requested that my Nan simply drive me there instead.

Rapidly being treated by the Emergency Department, they ran all sorts of scans, tests, etc. per the usual trips that I have become all too accustomed to.  I continued to drift in and out of my fairytale land only to overhear the ER nurse explain that I have bronchitis and a slight fever, which was the cause for my hallucinations.  It only took them six hours and twenty tests for them to come to that conclusion, but nonetheless, we were free to go home, where I would find myself instantaneously slipping into a slumber.

The following day I was left with no recollection of what the prior day looked like, including my journey to the hospital.  The weekend continued on with my now usual routine of waking up, having a cup of tea and residing to the bedroom for the remainder of the day, accompanied by Keg and some heavy duty pills for my record breaking ailments.  Soon the weekend surpassed without little action on my part and Monday, too, was in ordinary, insignificant form.  Yet, today, here we are and like every other day my aches, pains and numbness to the feet and hands are at an all time high, alongside increased blurred vision and absent-mindedness about many occurrences over the last two weeks or so.

With the ever-so-wise husband at work, he called me, as if he knew something was wrong today.  I tearfully told him how difficult it has been to sit here and write this blog post with my brief absence from the blog and to catch my readers up to speed.  The reason being, I could vaguely remember anything at all, from the fine details right up to the obvious happenings.  I also informed him that my vision was particularly blurry and that the evils of neuropathy had spread to the top of my thigh.

This now brings me to the last twenty minutes of my life.  I called the Doctor, in which she said she was very concerned over my slight amnesia and blurred vision.  In the world of a Doctor, those can be symptoms that can be synonymous to the brain.  Therefore, I have a MRI brain scan scheduled for first thing tomorrow morning.

In the end, maybe it was meant to be that I was absent from my blog for a week or two, as it forced me to recount my time; obliviousness and not for lack of concentration or attempt.  So, thank you my friends for listening/reading as I break everything down to memory.  Wish me luck tomorrow on my scan and fingers crossed that I remember writing this despairing post!

Love,

Britt x