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

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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

Nothings Gonna Change My World: Book Update

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While I have been talking about penning my story for some time, I finally feel that I am in a place to share how I have been connecting the dots to my narrative and how the experiences in my life has been in a constant state of motion, all in an effort to tell me something about myself. Speaking to how the veil was lifted and how I have leaned into the storm, although I’ve known there’s been much to fear. Share my roots that are deep and true and an understanding as to why I speak with an accent or two. How the power of credence has been absorbed due to the distresses and how suffering only comes when you yearn for things to be different. In its place, focusing on illuminating a little bit of my soul; with an introduction beyond my normal sentences about cancer. Like, what came before my diagnosis, and the valleys and mountains it has taken to get me here, a place to share my “Once Upon a Time.”

It is in the outline/transcribing process at the moment, but nevertheless in progress. Please stay tuned for more updates as I continue my novella.

-Nothings Gonna Change My World-

-Britt xx

 

Hello, From the Other Side:

 

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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

Life Lessons: 30 Things

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Typically before a big surgery my mind begins to overthink, racing with thoughts of what I have learned over the last three and a half years since being a cancer patient.  The thing about cancer is that it changes people.  It sculpts us into someone who understands more deeply, hurts more often, appreciates more quickly, cries more easily, hopes more desperately, loves more openly and lives more passionately.  I wanted to take a moment to jot down the top 30 things off the top of my head that cancer has taught me and share them, pass them along.  Some being more obvious than others, some being more simple as well.  It never hurts to be reminded from time to time that sometimes it can be the small stuff that can make us the upmost happiest.

Enjoy!

  1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
  2. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
  3. Don’t take yourself too seriously. No one else does.
  4. You don’t have to win every agreement. Agree to disagree.
  5. It’s okay to show your emotions. It’s okay to feel.
  6. Don’t compare yourself to others; you have no idea what their journey is all about.
  7. Don’t bother with pity parties.
  8. Burn the candles, use the nice stemware and wear the fancy dress. Every moment is a special occasion.
  9. Go with the flow.
  10. Be eccentric, who cares if people think you’re out of your mind.
  11. The most important sex organ is the brain.
  12. You cannot hold anyone else accountable for your happiness; it’s up to you.
  13. Forgive.
  14. What other people think of you is none of your business.
  15. Time heals.
  16. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your family and friends will.
  17. Believe in miracles.
  18. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.
  19. Listen to your body.
  20. Envy is a waste of time.
  21. Deep breaths calm the mind.
  22. Yield.
  23. Make your intentions pure.
  24. Turn wounds into wisdom.
  25. Peace will always be there for you in your darkest moments.
  26. How you feel is always more important than how you look.
  27. The big questions are worth asking.
  28. Love will always win.
  29. Always make self-care a priority.
  30. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.

Love,

Britt x