Alternative Perspective: Cancer Update

c3e53bd414afd33598432884f003101aAt times I feel I have such a casual approach to cancer and other times I’m in complete hysteria, where it plagues my every thought. Tonight is one of those nights.

When I had my hysterectomy in December I was supposed to be completely gutted, at least from a gynecological perspective.  Yet, due to the surgeon that performed my hysterectomy (not the GI surgeon, whom I loved) unbeknownst to me, until recently, he made the decision not to remove my cervix.  With my history of colorectal cancer, it tends to be attracted as far as metastasis to the gynecological areas; therefore the cervix should have been included when I had the hysterectomy.  In my humble opinion, I believe that it was left in an effort to have another operation down the line, thus requiring another insurance claim, leading to more money for the Doctor.  Simply disgusting, if you ask me.  It’s not fact, but simply an opinion.

With this, I consulted with my current Oncologist at Mayo who respectfully agreed towards the subject matter.  From there I was referred to a Gynecology Oncologist to determine if a surgery would even be applicable being that I am currently undergoing my third round of chemotherapy treatment.  An operation could mean a number of things, causing high risk and putting me in danger of not being able to administer treatment as needed. Expressing my concerns to the Doctor for the fact that my cancer seems to be attracted to those areas of my body, as well as having my worst nightmare in December and never wanting to be in that situation again.

The thing is, prior to December, I knew something was wrong.  I pushed and pushed and kept telling my previous Doctor that something was wrong and that I should have been on treatment only to be told I was practically insane.  No one knows your body better than you and that is a lesson I have come to learn all too well.  Always trust your gut.  But with that, this time around I wasn’t about to be dismissed.  I wanted to be heard and I actually felt that they were listening.

When I met with the Gynecology Oncologist, he confirmed that indeed my cervix was left and to his surprise, given his expertise.  Yet, he confirmed that any kind of surgery would not be wise given that going off of chemotherapy at this point in the game would be “life ending”. I have three tumors at this point that the chemo is trying to zap.

No matter how many times I hear that death could be that close never gets easy.  In fact, it gets more and more difficult.  How many times does a thirty year old have to hear she could be so close to death?

At first it didn’t quite sink in. But either way, I’m stuck.  I’m stuck with a cervix that I’m terrified my cancer will spread to and I’m stuck on chemo because the alternative is most definitely life ending.

What’s strange about it all though is that I’ve never been happier.  Things have never been clearer.  I know who I am, I know who has my back, I know what I want, I know what I have to do to get through each day and most importantly I know how to love and be loved.  Life is not so bad after all.  I’ll live with my cervix, I’ll live with having chemo because the point is that with both of those things, at least I’ll be ALIVE and living. I’ll take both of those things over the alternative any day. Sometimes you just have to put things into perspective and it just takes a little while for things to shape and shift and mold itself into a beautiful sculpture, something that you can handle looking at day after day. Cancer is something I can handle looking at and the journey is becoming less and less ugly and rather more beautiful than ever. It’s all in how you look at it.

Happy Monday. Enjoy your week, friends.

PS- My next scan will be May 4th.  I will update as soon as I have results!

-Britt xx

 

Advertisements

Feature: 10 Important Questions You Should Be Asking Your Physician

61ONssbT0IL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Not too long ago I had the opportunity to score a feature story with Dr. Kevin Haselhorstauthor of Wish to Die Foras well as Emergency Physician. It seems pretty clear that he’s a clever man.  His passion is to help patients understand the questions they should be asking at any relative stage when you visit your physician, particuarlarly leaning towards an emergency situation.  Yet if you read the book you realize that everything he says is  relative to everything you should be asking anyway.  It is always nice to be prepared in the back of your mind and know the right thing to say when you’re in a wrong moment.

When I was initially diagnosed with cancer, we did not have any direction from our Doctors or the hospitals I was treated at.  Without having any guidance on what the next stages were and where we were supposed to go from there,  we often felt that we were out there on a lonely island, constantly wondering what was next or if we were taking the right steps and moving in the right direction. We of course had never been through anything of the sort. As my journey continues, my passion is to spread awareness and if this post reaches even one person and helps them, then that will be a blessing.

Dr. Haselhorst’s passion is preparing and making us aware of the questions we should be seeking, if we or anyone we care about are put in an unfortunate  situatuon.  Please read Dr Hasthorst’s feature below:


 

10 Important Questions Patients Never But Should Always Ask Physicians 

Patients often find it difficult to talk to physicians when they don’t particularly feel well. They tend to lack self-respect in these situations, failing to speak up for themselves. Naturally, this sentiment reflects upon physicians who are seen as not treating patients with dignity. Dignity implies self-confidence and certainty, rarely afforded to patients. Patients are mostly discounted in the decision-making process because they are not asking the right questions at the right time.

Emergency Medicine physician, Kevin Haselhorst, author of the book Wishes To Die For, firmly believes that patients have to be more proactive in their life-and-death decisions by asking pertinent questions and becoming informed. He encourages people to complete advance care directives to alleviate undue suffering at the end of life. But most patients don’t know what to wish for when life takes a turn for the worse since they rarely know what is being asked of them.

“The ultimate choice to live or die is not really just a medical decision,” he says, “… it’s a spiritual calling and one’s healthcare directives need to become one’s spiritual guidance documents to the living.”

Dr. Haselhorst identifies ten important questions he recommends people carry with them when they go to the hospital or when they see their physicians. They are designed to help them ask the right questions, make the right decisions, and achieve the best outcomes. Here they are:

Is this medical test really necessary?

Most of the testing performed in the emergency department are normal. This might have been reassuring to the patient, but often unsatisfying overall. Is the patient’s time and financial resources being respected or wasted? If the physician was almost certain that the tests would be normal or that they would not change the treatment plan, then why is the test required? Asking the doctor this question increases the chances you will receive adequate information.  If given the option, patients might wish to have doctors fine-tune their evaluations rather than shot-gun them. It can save pain in the emergency room and then later at home when the bill arrives.

Can you feel and understand my pain?

The doctor needs to know how bad is your pain, on a scale from 1-10, and where the pain is coming from.  Patients are asked this question routinely, but the number is not as useful and important as the actions and expressions you share. What you feel and what physicians perceive has to be communicated carefully since it is critical information that often determines what the doctor does next. Without adequate discussion, you may end up being prescribed pain medication rather than a being offered alternatives to the real source or cause of the problem.

How am I supposed to cope with the stress?

Patients and physicians rarely consider tension to be the primary cause of headaches, difficulty breathing, chest pressure or abdominal pain. Many ER physicians are reluctant to enter into discussions with anxiety-laden patients and may unconsciously suggesting that these symptoms are all in the head. Asking the doctor this question reduces the risk of these symptoms being ignored and increases the likelihood of you getting help that goes well beyond merely coping with anxiety. While it is true that the end of suffering is ultimately gained through the practice of acceptance – going with the flow of acknowledging and letting go, you should not be required to suffering unnecessary stress.

How can I be sure you are taking me seriously?

Did the physician take the time to ask you a lot of questions? Did you know the answers and give the doctor detailed information? Surprisingly, it is difficult to describe how they feel or remember when your symptoms started.  So write down the details you want to talk about with the doctor before you leave home. Tell the doctor what is going on, where and when it started. Tell the doctor what happened and what you’ve done or taken. The more you reduce the uncertainty that exists the better able the doctor will be to listen to your situation. Go prepared.

What am I to do next? What is the plan of action?

Ask the doctor to go over what you need to know once, twice, even three times. Till you get what you need to know. Don’t be the patients who claims, “The doctor never told me anything”.  As well as you can, ask the doctor for information about what you should do and what you should know. Write it down. Seek first to understand, and then repeat what you need to do out loud to the doctor to make sure you understood. Ask for a verification of the plan of action and steps to be taken.

How old do you think I am?  How old am I acting physically/mentally? 

Very few people wish to look or act their age, but when you get to the ER, it’s time to fess up. Don’t try to act like someone younger or healthier that you really are or feel. Act yourself and be real with the doctor. Adopt an attitude of honesty, sincerity and reason. Be in charge of your health. Pay attention to the health issues you can change from the ones you cannot. Confront the reality of the decisions you have to make. Exercise the best judgement and wisdom you are capable of.

Do you want to see me again?  When should I come back? 

Make sure you get clear orders and that the reason to come back is necessary and appropriate. Not needing to come back to the ER is not a comment on your popularity. But coming back to make sure you don’t need cardiac-bypass surgery is necessary and appropriate. If you’ve been in treatment for a while, cutting ties with primary care physicians or signing out from the emergency department is usually scary. Ask the doctors to tell you when you should contact them and under what circumstances you should call for a return visit.

Am I dying? How long do I have to live?  

These are two tough questions. You may think that you won’t be dying anytime soon, even if you are in treatment with a terminal illness. Healthcare professionals usually shield or discourage patients from thoughts of dying. Yet sometimes, these are the questions that need to be asked and confronted directly. Don’t believe your physician has a psychic ability to answer these questions.  Be prepared and listen carefully to his or her best medical opinions and judgements.

What is the endpoint to my disease or illness? What is the final outcome of this process or treatment?

Ask the doctor if the condition is transient, temporary or permanent. Ask how long it will take to recover. Be real and be prepared. The actual medical condition may catch you off guard. You may have to deal with a lengthy recovery. The chances of survival may not be that promising.  The outcome you hope for may not be possible and eternal life is not an option. Some time, the endpoint begins when you surrender – accept and understand – the medical conditions you face. It is only then that you can maximize the potential to both live the rest of your life happily and die with dignity and at peace.

Can you offer me spiritual guidance please? Can you respect my wishes to die with dignity in my own way? 

Physicians connect with patients on many personal levels, but rarely through in a way that address one’s personal and spiritual needs. As the end of life draws near, you may have needs that the doctor cannot provide or address. While your doctor may appreciate the struggles of you face empathetically, you need to ask the doctor to stop intervening on your behalf and allow nature to take its course.  Your dignity can be recognized if you tell the people around you to appreciate who you are spiritually, first and foremost. It is your right.

Love,

Britt x

Content provided by Direct PR on behalf on Tranquility Publishing and Dr. Hastlhorst
c/o Be Still My Heart Blog

12.02.15: Night Before Surgery Video Update

12.02.15 BKO.mp4 from Britt Ochoa on Vimeo.

Tomorrow is the big day and we’re feeling super optimistic and hopeful.  I’ve been in a considerable amount of pain over the last few days and have been pretty medicated, but each and every message has warmed my heart and touched my soul.  I will never be able to put into words just how much I (we) appreciate all of the ridiculous amounts of kindness, thoughts, prayers and so much more!  Knowing that we are not at this alone builds us up for the road that is in front of us.  Things may get worse before they get better, but I’m pretty relentless and I won’t leave this earth without putting up one hell of a fight.  After all, I am a Scorpio.

Always love,

Britt x

Don’t Quit

They say that we are all fused together by that of pain. Pain brings out the rawest form of human kindness and humanity and out of suffering emerges the strongest of souls. Pain pulls individuals together, something magnetic, something holier than gravity itself. Whether you can align yourself with someone else’s pain due to your own experience, or the experience of a loved one, cancer can be the epitome of pure, human agony.

Sometimes with cancer in particular, you can only get through it five minutes at a time, with each and every breath counted to propel you onto the next five-minute time span. For the last eight months, I have lived my life in five-minute intervals. Talking myself through the course of how to make it to the next five minutes, while chasing the fugitive that is cancer.

When you are initially diagnosed with cancer, you immediately want to reset the hands of time and relive your life in a way that you believe it could have been prevented. A fresh reboot, in hopes for a different outcome. But the truth is, no matter where we hide, cancer would still have a way of finding us. I am a true believer that every cancer patient is not reduced as a human because of their fortune, but rather given the opportunity to grasp the meaning of what it means to live, in the truest of forms. Cancer patients past and current, survivors of our yesterdays and tomorrows and the deceased share an innate bond, a bond that is unbreakable and a guild that is unlike any other on this earth, for we are fused together by pain. The thing is, there are two types of pains, one that hurts you and the other that changes you.

Within the last few days, I have been sick in bed, which always provides me with a considerable amount of time to be in my own head. Undoubtedly over the last several months since my diagnosis, there have been many twists and turns but I realize that even though there have been greater moments of grief than fortune and many things have been taken from me as a result, there is one thing cancer cannot take from me; the bond I share with millions around the world, despite their religion, sexual preference or color of their skin, we are all one in the same, fighters.

That said, I felt compelled to dedicate this post to all of my brave, unwavering cancer peers, we are all survivors and fighters, no matter the outcome. God bless you all and next time you feel alone in the world of cancer and whenever you find yourself doubting how far you have yet to go, just think of how far you’ve already been.

Don’t quit.

Don't Quit

Love, Britt x