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

Advertisements

Summer of Senior Year: Cancer and Chemo

Someone once quoted the infamous sanity quote, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.” The words melted to my soul like butter. July will mark my fourth year as a forever changed mind, body and soul.

Four years — does this mean I am a mature cancer patient? Someone on the brink of their senior year…in cancer? I’m not sure. It’s difficult at times for me to keep my blog updated simply because when you have nothing to say, add, update about, life as a cancer patient can be pretty boring. I mean, there is the possibility of keeping a consistently updated log of my Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon and overall storage of my Apple TV. But, that would just further prove that I am a hermit that rarely leaves the house.

As of late, I am a little quieter. I like staying in, not in a depressive way, but in a sanctuary sort of way. I’ve become more introverted in my older days. But, needless to say, without continuing to ramble— it’s good to be back.

And the truth is, I’m sick. I’ve been doing the same things for the past four years. Four years of chemo, four years of life altering surgeries, four years of telling my story, sharing my life and trying to figure it all out, while entering my thirties. I don’t regret any of the things I have chosen to do in terms of treatment for the past four years, nor do I regret any of the surgeries I have opted to have as a risk to save my life. Longevity, qualities of life are all things I’ve strived for in the past few years, an A+ student in the school of cancer. A peer group I never expected to be a part of, and then I was and I couldn’t imagine my life otherwise. Certain surgeries were more difficult to have, one being the hysterectomy I had thirty days after my thirtieth birthday. I laugh at myself now, because that was only the beginning.

How can it get much worse than having finality to your reproductive capabilities at the start of my third decade? My rock bottom was yet to come and would make my hysterectomy trauma seem like it was two foot small.

December, as many of you who keep up with me know that I took a huge chance with a surgery called HIPEC. Sorry, I can’t remember what it stands for, nor could I be bothered to “Google IT”. So, that said HIPEC was done in December of 2016 and I have spent the last four to five months recovering. I’ve been dealing with an array of issues. You could pretty much say I was sliced down the center, again and scar tissue from other surgeries had settled in, making my recovery even more painful. There was a collection of other issues peppered in, as my lower abdominal muscles were in a constant state of spasm, working against each other, thus creating a war on the inside. This lead to a number of bladder issues, as in, I constantly feel like I have a UTI when I in fact do not. Basically, I’m your average shit-show.

However, as time would have it I began to heal. From the inside out and I was feeling pretty f*cking groovy. Lighter, leaner, more energized, free. It was a feeling that was so nostalgic but also so unfamiliar. FOUR YEARS! I forgot what it was like to feel slightly healthy and normal.   It nearly felt too good to be true. And it was. The sensation didn’t last long. The OCD cleaning and tidying habits that I had suddenly formed began to fade, as my loss of control was again getting the best of me.   Something was up, and surprise, I was due for my first post surgery pet scan. It had been nearly five months at this point. New evidence of disease was a high possibility, but I was feeling so good. So well. So me.

It wasn’t until the night before the results, when I bent over to pick up one of Zoila’s toys from the floor. I had a twinge of pain in my lower left abdominal area; think of where ovaries would be, if I still had them. It was all too familiar and a feeling that I had felt in the past when there had been tumors residing in that very spot. The very next day, I followed up with my Oncologist who confirmed that the PET Scan did indicate evidence of disease in my lower left abdominal area. Bingo! As per usual, my gut was telling me the truth, physically and intuitively. He said I would immediately need to begin chemo in an effort to diminish it. When he walked in the door his face said it all. He believed, like so many of us that this HIPEC surgery was going to potentially provide me with an opportunity to stay off of chemo for some time, even perhaps making my cancer disappear altogether. We were all hopeful, but unfortunately it was back and apparently unbeknownst to me at this point, it was back with a vengeance. Rock bottom was right around the corner.

The beginning of summer beckons for graduations, pool parties, friends and family gathering and obviously a new outfit for each of the occasions. I was feeling summer in my bones, but it wasn’t about to feel me.   The first party of the summer season and I spent 99% of it with my head over the porcelain throne. Thankfully the hosts and their guests were gracious and kind, but certainly not the way I wanted or had expected to be starting out the summer. The summertime just before I was hoping to graduate from cancer. Move on and up— get some freedom, go college bound with this thing.

Unexpectedly, but expectedly all at the very same time, everything was the same as it had been.   Nothing was going to change in the maturity I was feeling with my cancer path. I knew nothing that was ahead and needed to buckle up because as intuition would have it, my current stock was about to plummet.

After being unable to keep anything, including water down, it was decided that entering Mayo Hospital would be the best next step. At this point I knew there was cancer activity on my left side. Chemo was set to begin that Monday and it was now Sunday in the Emergency Department. Immediately, the Doctor’s admitted me into the hospital, yet it remained unclear as to what exactly what was wrong. They didn’t take long to figure it out. My colon had collapsed onto itself, not allowing for proper ventilation to go through. My body was getting to a point where it didn’t know what to do with food. It would reject everything because the colon was collapsed and nothing could pass. Bile was exiting in the opposite direction and it was becoming septic and toxic.

Once they cracked that part of the case, they followed up to tell me that my cancer has metastasized to the lower part of my liver, a first for that spot, and then also on my lower back lymph nodes.   This was a shock to hear. Hadn’t I only just found out that it was back in the first place and now these additional places? Pure devastation ensued. The Doctors then had to implant a gastro tube in my stomach, where I would be able to “ventilate” the broth I would be drinking until the end of time. Not to mention the TPN (Total Parenteral Nutrition) — pretty much intravenous feeding that provides patients with all the fluid and the essential nutrients they need when they are unable to feed themselves by mouth.

Boom! Rock bottom. There, I felt it.

Eating can be one of my favorite past times. How long was this dreadful nightmare going to continue? FOOOOOODDDDD.

It’s been two weeks since I have had a solid meal. I feel the most inhuman I have felt thus far in my cancer sitch. They are expecting it to be at least another few weeks, two months, maximum. It all comes down to how I respond to treatment, as chemo begins next week. It reeks of freshman year of cancer all over again.

Essentially, I had a good month where I was feeling like my old self. Now my reality is that chemo is going to be in my life yet again. But, needless to say, even with this shit-show that I call my life, I know I am going to be okay. Nothing’s going to change my world. I’m going to continue to get out of bed every morning, slap on a smile and enjoy the blazing summer sunshine. I may not be able to meet up at a restaurant hot spot with friends for a while, or wear my cutest bikini to the next summer bash, but I am going to be the BEAST that I am and knock cancer out this round as well.

Imma’ graduate this next year. So long, cancer. You’ll see.

Britt xx

SaveSave

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

Caboodle Spring Cleaning: Cure Diva

54ec6ff6731ffb6e3353b696b4e65565Beauty and cancer are two things that don’t tango very well together, particularly when chemotherapy is in the mix.  When you are being poisoned week after week, it’s no wonder that your skin gets dry, your cuticles scream for mercy and perhaps the chemicals in your makeup might not mix well with the toxins being pumped into your body.

Cancer or no cancer, it’s always nice to be in the know as to what is in your beauty products and I have teamed up with Cure Diva to discuss Spring cleaning as to what is in that kit and caboodle, as well as their expert advice on what goes into the products of our typical everyday products.

It’s all relative and can be applied to just about anyone that looks after themselves in the beauty depot.


  1. Read the Label:
    • Use only hypoallergenic products, or those that don’t have harsh ingredients such as acids, emulsifiers, preservatives, fragrances, mineral oils, silicones, dyes or aminesYou want happier, more comfortable skin, so scan your products for these ingredients and restock your supplies with organic, chemical-free and sensitive items. CureDiva.com has an entire line of facial natural and organic skin care.
  2. Moisturize:
    • To prevent dryness and cracked, uncomfortable skin, be sure to moisturize immediately after washing and toweling dry. This means:
      • For your body, apply moisturizer after the bath or shower
      • For your face, apply moisturizer in the morning and at night
      • For your hands, moisturize after washing many times during the day
      • For your lips, use a hydrating lip balm throughout the day
  3. Blemishes:
    • Yes, some chemo treatments can cause acne on the face and scalp. Even if you suffered from acne before, take another look at your old acne ointments. They usually contain salicylic acid, retinol, benzoyl peroxide and other harsh ingredients that further dry and irritate skin. Try more natural solutions like Acne Clarifying Serum by Nurture my Body and a mild, natural soap.
  4. SPF:
    • Although SPF is used in the summer outdoors, it should become a priority when in treatment. Chemo skin is super sensitive, especially to sun exposure which can cause lasting damage even in the winter. Wear sunscreen whenever you go out, and protect your skin with UV-protective clothing (hats, gloves, long sleeves). With skincare and beauty products, choosing an SPF version is best.
    • While it can be overwhelming to find products that are safe on skin and look and smell great, asking your doctor or a friend who has been through treatment is the best way to receive a referral. Websites like CureDiva.com provide a great amount of information for those going through treatment to get the answers they need.
  5. Fingernail Care:
    • Some chemo drugs can cause finger and toenail damage. They become dry, cracked and may start lifting up. Apply cuticle balm and lots of hand cream. Checking out the label is relevant here. Switch to water-based nail color like CureDiva’s water-based nail polish by Acquarella which is my favorite when I’m dressing up!

 

Stay beautiful!

Love,

Britt x


Information: 5W Public Relations & CureDiva.com

 

Hollywood Script: Cancer & Love

7f32913099a368bb81cea3f163d5ac29

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