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

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Chemo Tomoz: LIKE EW 😭

LAB RAT

This week I have the pleasure of chemo.  I suppose I shouldn’t complain.  I am lucky enough to have a husband who works for an incredible company, which allows for us to go to Mayo Clinic.  When I went in for my lab work today my Nan overheard a couple that had to travel all the way from Nevada every other week for his wife’s chemo treatments.  I’m blessed to live in a location where a Mayo Clinic campus exists.  Everything is based on perspective and although I am realllllllllllllllly dreading the next week, I am trying to look on the bright side.  If I am a space cadet the next few days, I’m not sorry.  xx

Love,

Britt x

In Bed W. Britt: #BSMHB

This is what happens when you’ve lost sense of space and time, but enjoy yourself nonetheless.

Cheers,

Britt x

Dior: Made Her Fall to the Floor

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Imagine a personality ten times larger than life.  We met at my best friend Crystal’s 20th Birthday and her friend from college came to the shindig we were throwing at Crystal’s parents house.  Our meeting is another hilarious story for yet a completely differet post.  Pardon me, once again I veered off track.  I met the one and only Innesa, a Russian born, Jewish and Brunette version of Marilyn Monroe.   A force to be reckoned with and sharp as a tack.  Needless to say we were attracted to one another as friends immediately.  It was though we had known one another for lifetimes, eons, centuries.  

Wild is an understatement to describe her, but not negatively or with an irresponsible connotation.  I mean ballsy, bold, badass.  Our stars aligned during a very pivotal time for the both of us — right around the time we turned 21.  My 21st was beyond mental and I don’t recall it clearly enough to regurgitate it (get it).  I make myself laugh. Opps, sorry. Focus. Yet, for Innesa’s Birthday I remember ever detail.

I should probably back up and tell you where all this is coming from.  We have a fancy built in closet and the rack on the wooden wardrobe fell down completely.  It looked like a tornado snuck into our closet. After being that way for over a week, I couldn’t look at it like that for a moment longer and I was united.  To my despair, as I was reunited with my precious Nan today, as she returned from her holiday to Aruba and once again organized my closet.

Whist handing her things as she’s standing on a mid-level ladder, I came across a Dior bag that was dusty and placed at the very back of my wardrobe and fell amongst the collapse of the rest of the wardrobe.  When I say bag, I don’t mean purse, I mean, shopping bag.  A Dior one.

 A  month or so ago I re-organized most of my everyday shoes and a friend of mine suggested that I blog about all of my different shoes I have as I posted as comment on how many memories each pair of shoe brings back and all of the places around the world they have been.  If only shoes can talk.  Then I figured they can’t, but I can write about it and she was right. There is a deep love affair with all of my shoes because they all tell a story.

 As I was handing off the Dior bag which contains a pair of white Dior sandal heels, still in the box and probably worn twice.  The box was dusty and I saw a hotel tag on the strap of the bag with a guy’s name on it.  I’ll respect his anonymity — so let’s call him BJ Einns and I was instantly transported back to Las Vegas circa 2007.

At the time I was working for American Express and was in sales and making more money than I knew what to do with.  My bills were being paid, I was a spender and didn’t have any remorse when swiping that debit card.  Zavy on the other hand was the complete opposite, she liked a good negotiation and that is putting it delicately.

It was our second to last day and we weren’t leaving until that night and decided to go for brunch at the delicious but disgustingly expensive buffet at The Wynn and then we were going to browse around the shops inside ritzy hotel and casino on the famous strip.  Following our gluttony and mimosa session at the buffet we wobbled to the shops like Chanel, Louie, McQueen — all my faves.  Then we stumbled into Dior and at the time I just j’adored Dior.  I’ll be classy and won’t drop the price, but let’s just say that Zavy nearly fainted and needed to sit down immediately…

TO BE CONTINUED…

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

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c/o Be Still My Heart Blog