Stupid Cancer- “Get Busy Living”

The young cancer epidemic can be quite daunting. Just when young adults are getting themselves prepared for their future into adulthood, i.e.- education, career, relationships, they are grossly impaired once the discovery of cancer has been made in their young bodies. Many things can be affected when it comes to cancer in young adults and a large amount of sacrifices have to be made. For me personally, I have had to put my life on hold and with the possibility that it will never get back on the same track again according to my career goals, family plan and overall setup of my young life. Since being diagnosed in July of 2013, I have had to give up my position with a wonderful Fortune 500 Company, a position that was nearly ten years in the making as I had been with the Company since I was nineteen years old. I had somewhat of a cushy position, a work at home position, one that I revered highly and worked hard to get. In addition to having to forgo my career, I have also had to put my education on the back-burner, when I had just one year left until graduation. Seemingly, these are all replaceable things when it comes to the importance of your health and life, however nonetheless important if you have spent nearly a decade trying to get to where you once were.

As I further along in my “cancer career”, I realize that young adult cancer and the awareness needs to be at the forefront of the medical world. We are talking about the generation “now”, who is responsible for birthing the generation of tomorrow. Many times, young adults are diagnosed with cancer at a late, already aggressive stage. This can then lead to problems with infertility as well as lifelong residual symptoms of the toxins dumped into the body in an effort to keep the cancer at bay or gone completely.

I have mentioned before that since my diagnosis, it is difficult for cancer to not consume your world, as you live and breathe it daily and go through the tumultuous motions and emotions that comes with the toll. Naturally, since my world has been turned up side down, I am determined to not only fight for my life, but bring awareness and attention to the risks in young adult cancers. It is my mission to advocate for others and myself that medical awareness, even as a young adult is extremely important and most of all entirely necessary.

Often times those who are effected by young adult cancers have a late stage diagnosis, as well as life threatening stakes as many young adults fail to get proper screenings until symptomatically they are forced to go to the Doctors. This then leads to assertive treatment, which then contains many after effects. Through my many hours of research on young adult cancer, I stumbled across a website specifically for the cause; StupidCancer.org. Stupid Cancer is dedicated to young adult cancer, awareness, resources, tools and a bevy of helpful implements. Moreover, it is wonderful to connect with other young adults suffering from cancer and who are busy living despite their prognosis.

Stupid Cancer holds a convention each year and also offers meet up’s throughout the country; in an effort that the cancer patients can stand up to cancer with one another and no one has to go at it alone. Just watching the below video gave me the boost I need to get up on my feet and declare war against my cancer and my peer’s cancer. We can all learn from one another and help one another through the process; if there is a will, there is a way!

Additionally, there will be a Stupid Cancer Convention called OMG2014, which will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada on 04/25-04/27.  If you would like to register please visit OMG2014 Summit.  “The 7th Annual OMG! Cancer Summit for Young Adults is the premier oncology conference and social networking event for the young adult cancer movement. The largest gathering of its kind, OMG2014 will bring together hundreds of survivors and caregivers to connect, get educated, build community and unite to drive the change we wish to see.”

Love,

Britt x

RIP, Arianna ♥♡♥

#BSMHB #BrittOchoa #BeStillMyHeartBlog I www.bestillmyheartblog.wordpress.com I

To us it was just an ordinary day, the beginning to a beautiful spring weekend.  For Arianna and her precious loved ones, this third weekend in March was unlike any other and was the end of a battle that a beautiful little girl fought.  Although I never had the pleasure of meeting Arianna or her family, I discovered Arianna’s beautiful light when I was scrolling through Instagram and a close friend shared Arianna’s feat against cancer.  Unsure of her age, it is clear that Arianna was far too young to have experienced the evils of cancer.  Their is not a child on the face of the earth that should have to endure cancer; the despicable life threatening disease that takes so many children and adults lives day after day, year after year.

Although I am battling for my life everyday, I would do it again and again if it meant that children were exempt from this heinous war on their bodies.  It’s easy for me to fall victim to feeling sorry for myself time after time.  However, when I see or hear about a child that has to suffer from cancer and lose their life, it puts everything into perspective.  I was met with a huge reality when seeing Arianna’s angelic face.  There is no doubt that she was a hero, whether you know her or not.  One look at her amazing face and you know that she was a ray of beaming sunshine.

Despite your political stance, religion or beliefs, I am certain that the thought of cancer and children brings a tear to your eye.  No, I did not personally have the pleasure of knowing Arianna or her family, but they are in my thoughts, heart and prayers.  May Arianna find peace up above and watch over her family like the angel that she is.  May Arianna’s family find it in their heart to bravely bless other people with Arianna’s story and find peace and happiness to never forget and always love Arianna.

Thanks, Lulu for sharing her inspiring story.

Love,

Britt x

7 Rules

I’ve recently viewed this article floating around on Facebook and I had to share.  Many times, people do not know what to do, how to act or what needs to be done when being in close proximity of a cancer patient, going through chemotherapy.  To no fault of there own, there is a sense of awareness when knowing how to approach a cancer patient and say and act by doing the “appropriate’ things and react in a graceful manner.  This article serves as a fantastic guide when visiting someone with cancer, as well as has some staggering statistics of cancer, survivorship and truly how many people battle this grave disease.  I hope you can all take away something from this article and most of all feel more comfortable on the approach with cancer patients.

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At the stroke of midnight, 01 January, 2014, US Census Bureau statistics tell us that the population of the USA was 317,297,938. The American Cancer Society tells us that in the year 2014, 16 million out of those 317 million people will be diagnosed with cancer.

Half of all men will get cancer during their lifetimes

  • One-third of all women will get cancer
  • Three-quarters of all cancers strike after age 55
  • Fourteen million people are living with cancer; as survivors or current fighters
  • 1500 people die from cancer every day
  • 600,000 lives are lost every year

My brother Michael lost his life his life in 2012 to oral squamous cell carcinoma. Me, I’m one of thefourteen million survivors.

The numbers are clear. At some point in your life, you will want to visit a friend or loved one with cancer. It is scary as Hell. What to say? What to do? How do I help? We want to help, but we don’t know how. What are the rules for a visit with a cancer warrior?

My Seven Rules for Calling on the Cancer Warrior.

1)  Make absolutely, positively, 100% certain you are healthy.

Whether from the chemo, the stress of the illness, or their cancer itself, many cancer patients have compromised immune systems. A little bug or a sniffle that might put you a bit under the weather could have serious repercussions for the health of a cancer patient. Even without your bug raising serious problems, a cancer patient already feels lousy enough. Keep your sniffle-ly nose to yourself. If your kid stayed home sick yesterday because of some norovirus, stay home.

i)  Wear clean clothes. Your favorite sweater, the one a little kid goobered on yesterday in the queue at McDonald’s whilst you weren’t looking, might still harbor some Klebsiella or H. Influenzae.

ii)  Wash in. Wash out. When you enter the house, wash your hands properly with soap and running water for 30 seconds-that’s singing Happy Birthday through twice. Or use hand sanitizer. Wash them again on your way out. It’s a good practice.

2)  Make contact in advance.

My brother and I were as close as brothers can be. Yet, when he was deep in his cancer fight, I never dropped by. One, it’s just rude. Two, you never know what kind of day your friend is having. Michael really liked to make those contacts via text message. To a cancer patient, a ringing phone, when your pain and discomfort have just settled down enough so you can nap, is a huge and unwanted intrusion. Send a text. You might not get an answer. Don’t drop by ‘just to see if everything is all right.’ Most likely, your friend is getting some sleep.

Cancer, and cancer treatment, are exhausting beyond words. How exhausting? Picture yourself as you lie on the couch with your face turned towards the seat cushions. You hear something interesting on the TV. Now, try and imagine that you lack the energy to turn your head towards the TV to see what is on. Yep. That bad. Sometimes worse.

3)  Time limit your visit.

When you text to see if there is a good time to visit, give a limit.

“Michael, is there a good time today or tomorrow for me to stop by for a twenty minute visit?”

When those twenty minutes are up, get up and go. If your friend wants you to stay longer, s/he’ll let you know.

Even when we have cancer, when someone visits our home, we feel as if we are the host. Just to burn the mental energy required to be “the host” is a huge drain on very limited psychological resources.

4)  Contact the caregiver about gifts.

Before you bring anything with you, contact the patient’s caregiver. Radiation and chemotherapy play havoc with the senses. What to you is a lovely scented bouquet of flowers might kick off three hours of retching and vomiting for your friend. In addition, many people become highly sensitive to pollen during treatment. A plant might be nice. But ask.

We like to feed our friends and family when times are tough. Ask if there is anything special you could bring, and anything specific you should avoid. Just because your friend liked your lasagna two months ago, the smell of the tomatoes and basil might send her reaching for the waste bucket.

When Michael was ill, I brought him DVDs. He was a huge baseball and Detroit Tigers fan, so I brought him highlight DVDs from the Tigers amazing 1968 season. We were little kids then, just starting to fall in love with sports and our heroes. I also brought him Rocky and Bullwinkle videos. Mindlessly funny stuff. Norman Cousins, in his great book, Anatomy of an Illness, wrote at length how the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, and the other great comedians of his youth helped him heal during his bouts with ankylosing spondylitis.

“I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep,” he reported. “When the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion picture projector again and not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free interval.”

5)  Avoid forced optimism.

Don’t be a cheerleader.

“You’re going to be fine. I just know it.”

“Bullshit,” says the patient. “I might freakin’ die. That’s why they’re bolting my head to that goddam table and irradiating my skull. That’s why my body is slowly being carved to pieces. That’s why I get bags of ugly yellow chemicals pumped into my body. You don’t know shit about my illness. I’m laying here, feeling like if I blink 2% too hard, my eyeball is going to fall out of my face, and if I swallow without thinking on it first, I’m going to be curled up in a ball in the bathroom for the next two hours heaving my guts out, while I try not to have shit come pouring out my asshole, and you’re sitting there telling me ‘You’re going to be fine. I just know it?’ ”

“What the fuck do you know? Get the fuck out of here. Jesus, you fuckingidiot!”

Don’t play pity poker. Don’t tell a story about your cousin who’s a cancer survivor. Fact is, in the midst of my cancer, I don’t care. I’ve got my own problems right here, thankyouverymuch. When I was struggling with my melanoma, I found inspiration in an older friend who was fighting a much worse case of esophageal cancer. As cancer fighters and survivors, we’re good at finding our own inspiration. Hang out with me, that’s all I ask.

6)  Physical contact. Ask first.

Cancer hurts. Sometimes, the pain cannot be imagined. Sometimes, a hug can be agony. Sometimes, you need a hug, a bit of human warmth and contact to remind you that you’re not alone. So ask before you hug. Pro-tip: Use your friend’s hug as your guide. As I was leaving my brother’s house, I’d always ask Michael if we could hug. When he said yes, I’d let him move towards me, and as firmly as he hugged me, I’d hug back, but just a bit softer. If you opt for a hand-squeeze, be just as gentle. Hard to believe, but some cancers cause such deep-seated bone pain that even a too-firm yet loving squeeze of the hand is agony.

What Should You Do?

7)  Be there now.

Ram Dass titled his seminal 1971 work Be Here Now. When you are with a cancer fighter, be there. Turn off your damn phone. Your twitter feed can wait. If your friend wants to talk; Talk. With. Them. Listen, really listen, to what they’re saying. They’re talking with their eyes, and body language, as well as their words. Pay some fucking attention. They want to watch a little TV with you, then watch some TV. If they want to lie back for a few minutes and take six or eight deep breaths, why don’t you join them? Lower your shoulders from up around your ears, relax a moment, and join them in several deep quiet breaths.

You do realize, don’t you, that you too, are stressed? You do realize that your angst fills the room? It is hard to watch someone suffer, someone in fear, someone in pain. Let your heart fill with compassion, not pity, and join with them in your heart for a few moments. Don’t share your heartache. Let go of your pain and watch them relax along with you.

In the Torah, Jews are commanded to perform acts of lovingkindness. Buddha says “He who attends on the sick attends on me.” In the Christian Bible, Jesus commands his followers to care for the infirm. The atheist cares for the sick because there is no greater service to humanity than to care for the sick.

Be gentle. Be kind. Be compassionate. Be there now.

Reference:  http://dadsroundtable.com/health_lifestyle/2014/03/7-rules-follow-visiting-someone-cancer/

Love,

Britt x

The Butterfly Effect

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The Butterfly Effect, we all know the movie; but do we know the theories behind what it actually means? Aside from Ashton Kutcher, of course.  Recently I had been rationalizing with myself in the “if this, then that” variety and I had piloted myself into an atmosphere in which I could not seem to discharge.  If I had probed my family about our medical history, would I then have pardoned myself the identification of being a Stage IV cancer patient?  If I had regular checkups with my physician, as a responsible adult should, then would the cancer have been exposed in an early, more manageable stage?  The “if this, then that” state of affairs is somewhat complex.  We live in a world of if’s and but’s, however my personal, demanding interrogations reached a point of a rather pleading status.

Abundantly so, my self cross-examination left me in a transported state, night after night; questioning the preemptive paces that I could have taken to avoid the nightmare that is cancer.  The mount that I was tolerating became an unavoidable prudence, which donated the gift of sleepless nights.  As the sleep deprivation intensified, my illness-ridden body began to act out in a way that was something out of the Exorcist.  In the only way explainable, I felt as though my 27-year-old frame was befalling that of possession to something far outside of my realm.  Shaking and contorting in a disturbing manner, I woke my husband out of a snoring slumber and in a petrified shudder asked that he drive me to the hospital immediately.

As my husband drove hurriedly and heavy-eyed, he was able to get us to the hospital safe and sound.  When I approached the Emergency Room, I was quivering in dual correspondence to nervousness as to what had happened and what it could possibly be deemed as.  The front desk asked me in an unproblematic tone, “How can we help you?”.  How was I to answer that?  I thought about being frank and telling them that what seems to have happened was a demonic possession.  But in fear that, that would land me unswervingly in the Psych Ward, I opted to tell them that I have Stage IV cancer and seemed to be shaking in an uncontrollable, erratic manner.

Before I could say, “boo”, I was laying on my back with crews of Doctors and Nurses surrounding the 7.5” hospital bed.  Catechizing me with jarring questions such as, “Who is the President” and “What city/state are we in?” it became entirely unblemished that I had not been possessed in a diabolical way, but rather a serious health situation sort of way.  My body resembling that of a sticker label, I without warning had wires, which were clung to buttons, which were grasping to my body by way of oval shaped stickers.  The tiny ER room became even more undersized, as the Doctors and Nurses continued to pile into the room to detect the cause for my temporary distort.

Drifting in and out of consciousness, I was able to get a glimpse of Steve as he was thrust against the wall, still failing to leave my side, per the usual.  I’ve never witnessed such alarm on a loved one’s face.  Unimaginably, I could not relate to what he must have been witnessing, even though it was happening to me.  It was almost as though I had escaped my body during this suffering time, piloting myself back into the atmosphere, but this time in pure ecstasy.  Now of course, I wonder if that is the spiritual and physical way that your body contracts such distressing deeds.

Deprived of privacy, the nurses thought they were engaging in a secluded conversation; however Steve and I both overheard the verdict as to what they believed to have been occurring.  “Stroke 1”, they conferred.  At this point I had come to and knew that this would not turn out to be a transient ER visit, but rather residing result in being admitted to the hospital, yet again.

Re-entering my home away from home, the series of tests were set to begin come dawn.  Failing to be officially told that my episode was a stroke, I clung to the hope that it was something much more minimal.  In fact, the few things on the table for discussion was the possibility of a stroke, seizure, blood clot(s) and worst of all, cancer spreading to my brain.  After awaking from a $20,000 nap, I felt like a brand new person.  The sedative that the ER had induced into my veins, allowed me to have much needed stagnation, which my body was rebelling against the night prior.

With a few days of tests and hospital food in my belly, it was finally determined that none of the prior mentioned infirmities were conclusive, but rather my condition was that of a psychological anxiety; sleep deprivation.  Relieved and pleased with the outcome, I was dismissed from the hospital under orders of rest.

You would think rest would be a derivative of my current condition and still recovering state due to my surgeries just one short month ago.  But each night prior to this peculiar event, I sequestered answers to the butterfly effect; that if I had inserted small efforts into my life prior to my present situation, would the hypothetical influences have had a difference in the larger outcome?  The chaos theory.  It’s just that, chaotic.  Without a reasonable doubt, I could not, cannot, alternate the outcome of what was supposed to be.  I am a cancer patient and through this I am inescapably meant to come out on the other end with peace and utter insight as to how I want to live my life.

So now, as I lay in bed, unable to sleep because of my so-called “psychological anxieties”, I think of butterflies.  Butterflies represent change and transformation; symbolizing a new life from an old one.  Similarly, this experience is much like the life of a butterfly, it will transform me, to allow me to build a rejuvenated life after this period of metamorphosis.

Love,

Britt x

Fashion Statement…

On Saturday, one of my loveliest friends said that my hospital bands were a fashion statement.  If you know me at all, you would know that I have an addiction to threads and accessories.  That said, he’s right, I am going to own these bracelets!  After all, I am forming quite the collection!  💙

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