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

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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

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

1-800-273-8255: The Sun Will Rise Again

As I lay in the dark last night, my mind wondered to everything I’ve gone through in the last couple of years, as it sometimes does. In the beginning of this path, I had no idea what was in front of me and the mental toll it would take. It’s hard to imagine that I ever contemplated taking my own life, especially when I had worked so very hard to remain in existence.

Not long after I was discharged from the hospital in June, I was sitting solo on my balcony watching the sunset. In that moment, it meant something more than usual. In awe of how the one thing we can count on is that the sun rising and setting each day, while the world spins madly on. As the suns rays were coming to a close, I could feel the colors of the evening sky running deep through me. What was left of daylight beamed through my fractured body and scars. Suddenly my head felt like it was above the cotton candy skies, and I forgave myself for ever contemplating taking my own life.

Depression is cancer itself, once it creeps in, it doesn’t feel like the sun will ever rise or fall again. I felt so alone, despite all of the loving support I had surrounding me. The days that I was unable to walk because my neuropathy was electric, or feeling so isolated from the rest of the world that I shut myself out from everything and everyone. During that time I tried as best as I could to write and share what I was enduring, particularly on the mental side of things. I’ve never revisited any of those blog posts, I can’t. Life is easy to be scared of, especially when your world can be as dark as the nights sky.

Thinking back to walking for the first time after each of my surgeries, or how terrible the pain of it all was, seemed like it was never ending. It felt like I’d never heal, but months passed and seasons changed and every time I had a huge roadblock in front of me, I somehow found inner strength to keep moving forward. It would have been so easy to give up by now. But I didn’t.

The way you approach life is a choice. You may be facing something tiring at the moment, or feeling cynical. You may want to give up, wondering what this life is all about. No one has the manuscript, we are all just winging it, hoping for another sunrise tomorrow.

Life, one day it’s here and then it’s gone. My life, your life and anyone out there contemplating suicide is worth living; our lives are worth it. There is no replica, this is it. You don’t have to be swallowed by the sea of sadness and depression. Know in your heart that someone out there cares and loves you. You are never alone.

If I was able to swim my way back to shore to witness that beautiful sunset, so can you. At sunrise you have a new day, an opportunity to entice your soul into living your best life despite your circumstances. Getting up each morning is your greatest gift and continuing to live when you want to die is ultimate bravery.

If you or someone you know suffers from depression, don’t give up on them. I was so fortunate that no one gave up on me. If you have contemplated harming yourself, please, please don’t give up. Take time to watch the sun rise and set, for it’s proof that no matter how dark your world is, we can experience beauty at the beginning and end to every day.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 — available 24/7.

You are loved and worthy of your life.

PS- Please share and pass this message along.  If it can help just one person, we are making a difference!

Love,

Britt x

Constellations of Thought: CT Scan Update

constellationsI called out to the man in the sky last night. Hoping that the constellations would align, burning only the brightest of stars in my sometimes-dark universe.

Earlier this summer the sands of time were not on my side. The currency of my life seemed as though it was changing to dust and I was about to combust. Any form of light was fading rapidly from my awareness, until I received the news today.

At the hum of morning, we headed to the place that I could equate to constantly saving me. With results I could only hope for, the Doctor assured me that my tumors are stabile, while another tumor has shrunk. Suddenly my piece of mind, like stars were able to form into a beautiful constellation, for a piece of mind is worth its weight in gold.

This path that I travel with cancer is consistently and constantly teaching me lessons that I never fathomed would apply to me. I realize now that patience and persistence is key. Of course today wasn’t the upmost ideal being that the cancer isn’t gone completely; however, there is progress and with progress comes an understanding that something is working. It’s important to recognize that stars can only be moved one at a time to form that constellation. But most important of all, you must learn to love the sky you are currently under and never stop looking up.

PS- As always thank you for all of the loving and support!  

Love,

Britt x