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

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Back from the Atmosphere: 🌏 

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Real talk, I’ve been a tad on the emosh lately — for so many reasons.  The teeniest, tiniest things have the power to set me off in an array of passions and personalities that I didn’t know exist.  Lets face it, it’s been a long time since I’ve lived, instead of existing to survive.  Naturally overwhelmed by my affections, I’ve realized I’ve been covering up my scars with paint and I’m finally ready to wash away its taint. The very same taint that tortured me for the past three, almost four years.  Yet, in its wonder I have continuously been learning that my most painful trials can be rewarded with the most salient growth.

I have failed to balance my writing, or, rather share my writing because I felt stuck on a road with no end. No end to the endless days of pain, but keeping hope in my mind that life could once again be kind.  It seemed like a dream, a place far away from my reality, as I was encased in flesh and bones, yet desperate for life in my veins.

Month after month following my HIPEC surgery were spent under the covers. Forgetting all of the faces and all the different places I have been. It made no sense in my mind that I should feel lucky to be alive, while dealing with such agony.  In my dreams my tears were chilled to the bone, I couldn’t remember what it was to feel alive.

The brilliant medical team at Mayo would remind me that patience is a virtue and that my body has been sliced, diced and poisoned to the nth degree.  It seemed as though  I was walking alone, and no one was following. It wasn’t just pain from the recovery — my body was telling me something wasn’t right.  Just like every other instance, my body was insistent on a pain so severe that it made me call for the man in the sky.

Friends would ask, “How are you?”

Great, fine. Just not healing as fast as I’d hope,” I’d reply practically lying through my teeth because I didn’t have any answers.  The fib would then be followed by an exclaiming, happy heart face emoji.  This all in an effort to indicate that I wasn’t hiding inside a cage, but was instead a warrior. The way so many seem to view me.

Meanwhile I hated leaving the house, much less get out of my infamous monogrammed, “B.K.O.”, black robe. I only wanted to be home, where I belonged, where I could put sorrow on the record player and smoke until I found a heavenly place to fall from grace.

.It was now March and by this point I had a decent amount of post op appointments with “da team.”

“Doc, I literally feel World War III erupting in my insides.”

I wasn’t saying that loosely, or to be insensitive given the current political climate, but quite frankly I felt that after months of bitching and getting nowhere, it was an obligatory analogy.  Even if my example was a bit crass, it turns out that I got my point across and at last the Doc’s realized I wasn’t complaining because it was good for my health. Okay, bad pun.  Yet, they actually began to understand and realize the severity of my pangs. I was no longer drowning under their belief that my body was behaving “normally,“

I digress — off to the Urologist. Let me tell you, I’ve never met a man more in love with his job. Urine banter and all that it entails to “void,” is his pride and joy and I had a feeling that just maybe, just maybe, he’d magic up the culprit to my evils.

Sure enough, he did. I was having issues doing one of the most basic human bodily functions, i.e. wee, wee-wee, number one, pee, piss, U-R-I-N-A-T-E — g*ddamnit.

“I mean, WTF is wrong with me now?”, I would scream to myself.

Nevertheless and lucky for me, after months of complaining, it only took two appointments with, Dr.Piddle for him to solve the current mystery this body of mine riddled.

A Magician, perhaps — or just a man so passionate about liquid body waste that he becomes golden, baby. Of course it took several uncomfortable and down right miserable tests that forced me into a state of meditation that my mere existence relied upon.

Once the worse was over, the mystery was revealed. My abdomen/pelvic region had been so invaded over the course of the past few years that my muscles, including my bladder, is in a constant spasm state. Suddenly the hell I had been enduring made perfect sense — I was practically having constant f*cking contractions.

The real rabbit out of the hat was that there is no magic cure — except six months of physical therapy. Annoyed by the lack of instant gratification, I made the offering and obliged under his respective Doctor order.

Right after my first session of “PT”, as the cool kids call it, I decided that my body deserved physical therapy. It was time to let go of all the marks that have settled in my skin. Knead out the all of the suffering, trauma to my guts and the scar tissue both mentally and physically.

Since then I have returned to yoga, wake up during daylight, clean the house without paying for it later and come together with my mains for cocktails and a good old fashion gossip sesh’. Best of all, I have released the pause button on feeling secure enough in my health to make future life plans with my loving and endlessly supportive husband.

When you look at me, you wouldn’t know that I am lucky to be alive. You’d think I was the picture of perfect health. The long and short of it is that each day brings its own sets of challenges and I am privy to the fact that healing is a life long endeavor.  Even so, maybe this time it worked.

Updates to follow…

Love,
Britt x

Je Ne Sais Quoi: What Is Style?

Style is simply having a sense of who you are.  I’ve had style since the womb. Quite literally.  I realize not everyone gets so lucky, but it’s a state of mind, an art form. It’s about being comfortable in your own skin, a logo to your personality and a trademark to your soul.

When I was little I would prance around the house singing to Dolly Parton in my Mum and Nan’s highest of heels.  The world was my stage and the hair spray bottle was my microphone. Needless to say, I’m still working on my voice.  But to my surprise when I was  accepted to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles and told by the Director that I had one of the best portfolios that they had viewed in years, it was one of the best days of my life.  I knew that it was a part of who I was.  The thing is, style, oh yes, style is something that I do for myself. I dress to please myself and myself alone.  Without which I would feel simply dull.  I’m not saying it’s the clothes that make the person, but you may as well have a little fun with it.

To have that certain je ne sais quoi, you must emphasize a life of passion.  This can come in many forms.  For me it shines through in ways of leisurely pastimes, charm and cultivation of life’s simple pleasures.  One might think you need extra zeros on your paycheck to manifest this type of lifestyle however it comes from within, it comes from happiness and from happiness comes the best style.

As Donna Karen once said, “It’s when the woman, her individuality and spirit comes through, she uses clothes to express who she is and how she feels.”

Investing in pieces that are both couture as well as thrifty is a high all on its own.  A sensational form of art and a vision that even Picasso would fail to uphold to the likes of the fashion canvas.  However, the beauty of style can be anything to anyone and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as the magic and experience within the rules of fashion is that they are made to be broken.  Obey your gut, do what you like best and know that trends are momentary, be faithful to your own taste because what YOU truly like will never go out of style.

Love,

Britt x

Hollywood Script: Cancer & Love

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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

#BSMHB Meets #ShopMyCloset !!! xx

I’ve decided I have too many possessions.  I am going to start #BSMHB meets #ShopMyCloset.  Prices will be varied depending on the items, value of item(s), brands, condition, etc.  I will share the content on bestillmyheartblog.com as well as @bestillmyheartblog on Instagram and the BSMHB FB Page.  I will be setting up a separate email account to manage the transactions for questions, concerns or anything else regarding the items for up sale.

Additionally, whilst sharing the item that is for sale, I will also share how I would style the item.  You may not fancy it that way, but it’s always fun to see how others werrrk it.

Fashionably yours,

Britt x

*ALL sales will be final and must ALL transaction(s) must be paid via PayPal.  Shipping and handling not included in pricing of item listed.