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

Advertisements

#BSMHB Update: Cheeky, Cheeky ♡

#HospitalLife – In Pictures:

I am beyond thrilled to share that I have arrived HOME!  Late last night they determined that I was fit enough to return home and all of my efforts of putting up the fight of my life, certainly seems to have now paid off.  There is quite a descriptive post in the works, to walk through my latest health journey in words and how I feel that I have once again been afforded a chance at life. This has been an entirely transformative experience and one that I never imagined in my wildest dreams.  Somehow, my strength and resilience is at an all time high and because of that I have been peacefully healing —- mind, body and soul.

Here are a few pictures of the

#HospitalLife

12.03.2015-12.07.2015


My hemoglobin levels were considerably low, in which case I needed a blood transfusion.  It never really dawned on me how wonderful it is that people donate blood, something I have always been too ill to do even prior to my diagnosis as I have always been anemic.  I ended up using two units of blood which ran for about six hours.  Shortly after I felt like a completely different person; less fatigued, less cold and returned color to my face.  Thank you to those who donate!

Red Cross Blood Bank Centers

Processed with VSCOcam with 4 preset


The day of my surgery I snapped an #instax polaroid of my baby, Zoi.  It seemed obvious to me that if I had her adorable little mug looking at me with those eyes of hers, it would push me to do everything in order to make it back home to her.  Aside from all of the tremendous amounts of love I received from people near and far, my amazing friends, family and of course my husband — Zoila was the one little (but actually very HUGE) incentive to show up, kick ass and get back on the road of life and viola! here I am!

Processed with VSCOcam with k3 preset


Anyone who follows along on my Instagram knows that my baby Godson holds the actual key to my heart.  He stole it from day one.  When his beautiful mom — my lovely friend, Michele visited at the hospital the day after my surgery, she brought along a one of a kind flamingo and it instantly brought ridiculous amount of smiles — and not just from me, but all of the staff, fellow patients and anyone who saw my trusty IV monitor as I wheeled it by my side throughout my stay.

Processed with VSCOcam with c2 preset


I’ll admit, my biggest complaint about surgery is that you are forbidden the basic human need of drinking water (or anything for that matter), prior to the procedure.  In my case, I was told that I couldn’t have anything from midnight until later in the night after recovery.  Quickly, my mouth became a desert and my need for water seemed like life or death.  Of course that is an exaggeration, but it is certainly how I felt.  As soon as I got the green light, which was about twelve hours later, I ordered “sips and chips” and I felt like I stumbled upon an oasis.  Dreamy does not even begin to describe the feeling of when the ice water cooled my lips for the first time.  Sometimes it really only takes the small things to make you feel a sense of nirvana.

Processed with VSCOcam with b3 preset


Before I had even been transported to my room, my two best girls had flowers ready and waiting.  Prior to my surgery, I couldn’t find the strength to speak to them.  Distancing myself for selfish emotional reasons seemed to be the only way I could cope.  I felt that if I spoke with them, I might expose that I thought I was going to die and that we’d never have an ABC reunion again.  Without fail, they stood by my side no matter what and made sure that I knew they were there with me, showering me with their love and non-stop support.   I love you both.

Processed with VSCOcam with se2 preset


I felt so much power behind this operation.  Power from prayer and positivity and all of the amazing thoughts that were put out in the universe in honor of getting through this operation with a successful outcome.  I feel cheesy every time I say it, but there is no way I would have been able to do it without all of you.  Every single person that took it upon themselves to take the time out of their day to wish me well and include me in their conversations with whomever they have faith in.  It would be fair to say that I feel endlessly blessed.  Seeing this gleaming photo at St. Joe’s Hospital and Medical Center seemed like a fitting vision for the morning after the operation.  What a beautiful sight to see (I can even see my neighborhood if I look really close).  

HospitalLife7


On the same glorious walk as pictured above, I was marching along the halls with the most important women in my universe.  They guide me through every struggle and challenge and proudly walk by my side, even in the darkest of hallways.  There are not many words that can do this picture justice, other than, thank you and LOVE.

Processed with VSCOcam with q1 preset


Further exploring the hospital, my home away from home, I walked past my favorite piece of art adorned on the walls in the lobby of the Oncology ward.  This particular wall decor always seems to catch my eye.  I appreciate creativity and try to search for it wherever I may be.  I can especially appreciate when it’s in unexpected spaces and places.  Well done, St. Joe’s.

Processed with VSCOcam with c3 preset


Just two short years ago, Steve and I spent the night at the hospital on Christmas.  It was by far one of the more depressing of holidays.  I feel very fortunate that I will be able to spend this Christmas with my family instead of inside the hospital walls.  However, they do their best to make you feel in the holiday spirit.  To those who will be spending your holiday in the hospital, my Christmas wish is that you are surrounded by love and joy.  It will get better.

Processed with VSCOcam with q3 preset


One of my favorite little cheerleaders, Kambrell joined me at the hospital a few days after the procedure.  Seeing things through her eyes and the way she expresses her love for life, makes me feel equally alive.  She is one of the most special little girls I know and I’m so grateful to be a part of her world.

Processed with VSCOcam with a2 preset


Just a few of the many gorgeous flowers I received. THANK YOU! I was able to enjoy them everyday and smile thinking of each person and the memories we have shared.  I chose to donate the flowers to the Oncology ward of the hospital once I was released.  They were all so beautiful and I wanted other cancer patients to be able to enjoy them as much as I did.  Please know that your kindness has such an impact and made many others smile, as well as me.

Processed with VSCOcam with c3 preset


Last but most certainly not least, my Steve sent this to me the second night, once he returned home to our dogs, Keg and Zoila.  He always knows how to make me laugh, as he was wearing my #ASU hoodie and my satchel to carry Zoila, all in an effort to take Keg on a walk. He takes care of all of us so very well and I am the luckiest person to have such a brave, selfless and loving man.  Thank you seems so insufficient.  What else can I say? You’re top notch, my love.

HospitalLife

More to come soon.

Love,

Britt x

11.30.2015: Pre-Op Video Update

11.30.15 BKO. from Britt Ochoa on Vimeo.

It is safe to say I am fairly numb after today’s visit with one of the surgeons performing my operation on December 3rd, 2015.  My energy levels are pretty low and this is the easiest way for me to communicate with everyone at the moment.  If you’ve messaged, text, called, etc. I’m sorry for not responding — I’ve been a little emotional, as I am sure you can imagine.  But please know your love and kindness has not gone unnoticed.  All thoughts, prayers and good energy is beyond appreciated and I’ll update my blog as soon as possible after surgery on Thursday.

Love forever,

B x

#2 “Cancerversary” Q & A:

#2 Cancerversary

Upon my #2 year “cancerversary” I reflected upon the journey with some Q&A:

Q: What makes you smile these days?

A: Air conditioning first and foremost, but otherwise it’s just the simple things; a funny text, a song on the radio that triggers a lovely memory and of course the fact that I am lucky enough to get the summer free from chemo. A break from treatment has left a permanent smile on my face.

Q: Did you learn anything in your second year of battling cancer?

A: YES! Not all things are fair, but that is the nature of life. I’ve realized that I am here on a spiritual journey and if I’m open, l will see the beautiful lessons all around. But most of all, I’ve learned to accept my defeats and try to grow from them instead of letting them control me in a negative way.

Q: What has been your most memorable moment in the last year?

A: Ah! There are too many, this last year has been so good to me. I’d say my most precious moment was when I was in Liverpool with my Nan and a street violinist played, “You are my Sunshine” and my Nan sang it word for word to me. It was an emotional, raw moment that I’ll never forget.

Q: What have you done to make your life less stressful?

A: I’ve stuck to my zero bullshit tolerance. I often walk on such a fine line of being content and depressed and in order to remain on the positive side of things I’ve learned that I need to protect myself. It’s a challenge.

Q: Are you carrying any excess baggage into your third year as a cancer patient?

A: No. I’d say I am in a pretty great place; my tumor markers are at an all time low, my body is getting stronger each day and I am focusing on my mental health constantly. I’m also creatively in a good place, with a lot of different projects in the works.

Q: Is there anyone that deserves a big “THANK YOU”?

A: Anyone that has given me love, encouragement and support over the last two years. I always feel the love.  Steve and my Nan are saints and I can never thank them both enough, especially.

Q: What are your top three goals for the next year?

A: Obviously first and foremost is to try and stay as healthy as possible, with the thought that my terminal illness is not a death sentence and try to live as normally as I can. I’d also like to put a lot of energy into my creative power, publish the book that I am co-authoring and manifest a steadfast voice for cancer patients and survivors.

Q: What has the biggest lesson been so far with having cancer?

A: Sometimes painful things can teach us the most beautiful lessons. I’ve seen people’s true colors, as well as my own and I’ve realized that peace really does have to come from within.

Q: What are your fears?

A: Letting fear win. Once fear enters the mind, it takes over the body and I can’t afford to let that happen.

Q: What have you struggled with in the last year that you want to change?

A: Communication was my biggest struggle this year. I have a tendency to be such a loner and keeping up with people and connecting sometimes takes a lot of energy for me. But, I realize the significance of my relationships and I’d like to be able to reciprocate my time and energy more often and freely. It is so important.

Q: What can you do today that you were not capable of a year ago?

A: TRAVEL! A year ago I was on travel lockdown and too sick to pack up and go. This year I’ve managed to travel and it’s been bliss! My two biggest trips were Hawaii with Steve and the UK with my Nan. My world opened up again this year and changed me forever.

Q: What word best describes the way you’ve spent the last year of your life?

A: Transparent.

Q: In one year from today, how do you think your life will be different?

A: Hopefully my cancer will still be in a manageable place, where I can continue to have a quality of life. Second to that, I hope to get published and see the book lined on shelves for everyone to read. High hopes, always!

Q: Are there any issues from the cancer that you continually avoid to talk about?

A: Yes, the dynamic that takes place with family members when cancer is in the mix. Those you think would be there aren’t always able to show up for you and it is difficult to accept. So far the thing I hate most about cancer is what it can do to a family.

Q: What is something that no one, not even cancer can take away from you?

A: Writing. At times cancer can take away my will to live, but writing let’s me bleed and reminds me that I am alive.

Q: When you look into the past, before your diagnosis, what do you miss the most?

A: Pre-cancer me is such a stranger now. I miss feeling young, wild and free. Cancer can feel like a trap at times and my body feels ancient.

Q: What is the #1 change you need to make in your life for the next 12 months?

A: Let go of what I can’t change. I think that’s a quote, but accepting change is what I need to change.

Q: What have you learned about yourself in the last two years that you have been a cancer patient?

A: I’m pretty fu*kin strong!  Also, the importance of mental health — it can be so tricky!

Q: What is one thing right now that you are totally sure of?

A: That you can never really be sure of anything.

Q: What question do you often ask yourself?

A: Where is my mind? I sing it to myself though, like the Pixies.

Q: Time or money?

A: Time, it’s priceless.

Q: What is your wish for the next year of your life?

A: Happiness.

IMG_0196