A BROAD, ABROAD WITH A BLOG, ✈

Hello, my shining moonbeams. It’s been a minute. Within that minute I have entered what I feel to be a new phase in my life, a freeing phase that is catapulted by happiness. For nearly a month, I spent time across the pond and rediscovered my life and the things I want out of it.

To start off, wow. Can I just say – I LOVE ENGLAND! I’ve always known that and I had been there times before, but this time felt different. As most of you know, if you follow my story, I have been on travel lock down since my cancer diagnosis in the summer of 2013. By nature I am a jetsetter. I enjoy being in unknown places, without being attached to my “real” life and the troubles within. When I travel, there is a certain romance to it, a freedom that allows you to be whomever you want and for me, that is living without a terminal illness. I’m able to go back to being me; an adventurer with thirst in my blood for worldly experiences. When I was diagnosed, I felt that one of the biggest losses to having cancer was the fact that I could no longer be as free as I wished to be. My citizen of the world passport would no longer apply and I’d be stuck doing treatment after treatment without an escape. My escape had become writing. If I were no longer going to be able to leave and experience life, then I’d write about it, which I have.

This year, 2015, I vowed to myself that it would be different than the last two, that I would yet again spread my wings and live a little. In the beginning of the year I approached my Doctor and pleaded for some independence from my chemotherapy week after week, to which she obliged and advised that 2015 could be my year of travel with chemo squeezed in between. It was the best news I had heard in quite some time and immediately booked a trip to Hawaii with Steve-O and planned the trip for Nan and I go travel to the UK together to attend my beautiful cousin’s wedding and share laughs and love with the family over there that we don’t get to see often enough.

The trip was so important to me and I wanted to ensure that I soaked everything in. My Nan in her very own way was my wish-granting factory, as she made the trip happen. Being that we were returning to her home town, I was fortunate enough to visit her previous homes, where she grew up, the house she was born in, the hospital she had my Mum and Auntie Bev in, where my Granddad went to college, where the two of them were married and so much more. Being able to experience England through her eyes was more than my hearts desire and something I will never be able to thank her enough for.

There were endless amounts of stories, laughs, fish and chips, tea and best of all time with family on both my Nan’s side and my Granddad’s side.   My roots are in full force over there and it was lovely to get to know that side of myself so much more. The posh wedding of my cousin, which we attended, has built memories that will last a life time, as well as traveling to Chester, Liverpool and all over the Wirral with my cousin’s and their other halves, of course also visiting London with the best company and seeing each and every friend and family member. Howls were had, love was expressed and England will forever hold the key to my heart. Quite literally, as Nan and I locked our love on Albert Dock in Liverpool and threw the key into the River Mersey. Our loved ones can continue to visit us in Liverpool, even though we may not physically be there, our spirit will always remain.

Since I’ve been back I have been reliving each moment in my head and finding it difficult to write about. My time spent there was so special, that it is difficult to express. I feel rejuvenated and feel I have a new sense of direction for my life.   Suddenly gears have started moving upon my return and from that, fresh goals have emerged. I’m super excited about the future and what it holds and as things get closer, I’ll share more deets.

In the meantime, check out some photos from my trip and watch out for some upcoming projects and collabos. Big Kiss x.

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Love, Britt x

Goodbye Amex, Thanks for the Memories ♡

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

It is a bittersweet day for me today, as I have resigned from American Express.  At the ripe age of nineteen, I began working for Amex and essentially grew up in the confines of a fortune 500 Company and Corporate America.  Conversely, it felt as though I was working at a family business, as Amex quickly became my home and my peers became my work family.

Through the years I have held many positions, had fantastic leaders and peers alike and learned things that could not be taught inside of classroom walls.  This year, I would be coming up on my ten year anniversary with the Company.  TEN YEARS; which means I have spent all of my twenties with American Express.  The funny thing is, even though I was always the youngest within each specified position, I was treated with nothing but respect and age gaps proved to be irrelevant.  Some of the most amazing relationships have come out of working with American Express, as well as mentorships and terrific networking across the board.

It was an extremely hard-hitting decision to make, but I realized that I have to focus on my health and myself in 2014.  Presumably, if I were to ever find myself looking for another corporate job (if writing doesn’t pan out), I know in my heart that Amex will always be there.

It’s certainly a grim pill to swallow.  If you had asked me nine months ago if I would enjoy a permanent vacation, I would have said yes without question.  However, it would be based on my own volition, not the result of my health status quo.

American Express will always have a place in my heart and it is a chapter of my life that will jump off the pages for years to come.  As I close this chapter, another one awaits and I can’t wait to see how it all falls into place.

Love,

Britt x

▲ Tricks & Treats ▼

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Halloween, the time of year for jack o’lanterns, tricks and treats and the portrayal of frightening creatures.  It is said that jack o’laterns on All Hallows Eve is set to represent a soul that has been denied entry into both heaven and hell.  Last night at a Halloween bash, I questioned my current standing as to whether or not I was trapped between heaven and hell.  For some this confession may come as a shock, based on simple religious beliefs or the triumphant ring of ra-ra that surrounds cancer and cancer patients.  But, for me, last night was far from celebration of remembering the dead, whilst parading around in face paint and costume, for me it was a trap between “I want to be normal” and “How has this become my reality?”

For the most part I have taken cancer with a sense of stride and procurement.  I have viewed it, in its entirety as a gift of clarity and realization of what is important in life, how to live, love and see things for what they are.  The past week has been particularly difficult for me, with up’s and down’s measured in goliath forms.  One day being on the upside and the next day questioning survival and my new(ish) reality all together.

When Saturday evening rolled around, despite my marathon of a week, I wanted to attend the spectacular Halloween party with all of my friends, enjoy dressing up as something, someone else for a night and partake in the creativity behind costume’s galore.  During the day I was feeling unusually weak, but given the few days that proceeded before it, I didn’t give it too much thought and figured I would be fine to go on about the party and enjoy the evening of guising.  It was unclear at the time, but I was ultimately tricking myself into thinking I was able treat myself to a night out and the events that took place atop the roof of a Downtown Phoenix hotel would prevail me.

As we arrived to the social, we were met by all of our closest friends; ready to celebrate another Halloween and conjoin in having a night to remember.  Attempting to be as “normal” as possible, I ordered a drink and mingled about.  The tricking to my treating was paying off, I was having fun and nearly forgot how ill I had been feeling just an hour prior.  Suddenly, less than an hour into the party, I found myself being unusually distant from the crowd and in desperate need of my bed.  Finding my way to Steve across the rooftop, I alarmingly let him know I wasn’t feeling well and that we needed to make an exit immediately, even without time to say goodbye to our friends.  In typical Steve form, he swooped me up and before I knew it, he hit the elevator button, arranging our quick exit to head home.

All I remember after that is coming to on the ground, right outside of the elevator.  There was an intimate circle around me; all faces that appeared familiar, despite their Halloween disguises.  I could hear my name being said repeatedly by Steve and my head being tilted to the side as I began to get sick all over myself.  In and out of consciousness, I recall pondering if I was situated between heaven and hell.  What kind of reality was I living in, that I collapse, blackout, convulse and spew in the company of the public? My treat of a night out turned to be anything but, and my continual tricking into thinking I can be perfectly normal began to become perfectly obvious.

After what seemed like a lifetime, I awoke from my folding and was propped up in the elevator and we hurriedly exited the building.  Thankfully those who surrounded me during my plunge were all wonderful friends, whom by all regards know and care what I am going through and I was rest assured that no judgment was passed.  However, once again I passed it on myself.  Questioning the reason and the why’s behind my life and frustrated with the obstacles that stand before me.   I was wavering from the ideal that cancer was a gift of clarity and more like a destination between heaven and hell.

When I awoke today, my face was clear of any disguise and the reality of my life set in once again.  The reality being that life is not fair sometimes, but things happen and without question we have to trust that there is a plan in motion, one that regardless of how difficult it is to march forward, we must not give up on.   This week has been a hell of a week and next week just might be a slice of heaven.  If I give up, I will never know what the future has in store for me.  It’s time I stop tricking myself into thinking that I am fully okay.  I need to respect my body, trust what it’s telling me and treat it a bit better; even if that means missing out on jack o’lanterns and the parading of costumes.

Happy Halloween…🎃

Love,

Britt x

For, Steve, With Love…♡

Iphone Steve and Britt

Bingo

XI.XII.XIIn one of my initial posts, I discussed the subject of love and marriage, in sickness and in health.  My concern during that phase in my diagnosis, before even receiving treatment or realizing that this would be a life long illness, was around whether or not “in sickness and in health” could be upheld.  I was not necessarily speaking about Steve directly, but young couples in general who find themselves in a sudden whirlwind in the cancer/illness world.   Something less expected when echoing the intimate words, “in sickness and in health”.

Fortunately, despite being just shy of our two-year marriage and five year relationship, Steve and I feel like we have been partners for a lifetime.  Generally speaking, we have gone through things that most couples, happily for them, don’t have to experience in their complete martial career.

When I first began my chemo treatments two weeks ago, it was very difficult to perceive what the effects of the chemo were versus my mental state overall.  Chemo was something that had been a long, drawn out wait after my diagnosis, as I had to heal from my colectomy and ovarian surgery.  Thereafter, Steve and I chose to go through fertility to secure our future family, which regrettably did not end up functioning.  Low and behold, there were many steps to take to finally reach the time when my treatment would begin and while I was awaiting its arrival, it felt like a lurking ghoul.

Once the time irrevocably came, Steve was by my side during my clinic treatment, as well as the days to follow at home with my fusion pack, or proton pack, as he prefers to call it.  I especially recall having a moment of complete absurdity and lunacy is a lesser of the mental state that I briefly found myself in.

After taking a lobster boil, my version of a bath, I recall getting out and wrapping my towel around me, but finding any way to bellow at Steve.  Every little thing that he did, I chose to nit pick and badger as though he was this lad that suddenly became my punching bag for no reason.  Shortly thereafter my momentary lapse in sanity, I sat in our huge wing backed chair; still wrapped up in the grey hotel like, fluffy towel and I started to cry.  Steve, frustrated with my whips in emotion, sternly, yet supportively told me that I needed to get myself under control.  My response was that you should never call a crazy person, crazy.  Which then made me chuckle at what I had just said in return, as it made me sound even more nutty.

Steve took a walk to get some fresh air, along with our English Bulldog, Keg.  He needed to take a moment to give me some alone time, collect my thoughts and I’m sure just get away from my mental state of mind in general.  When he came back upstairs after his ephemeral walk, I cried at the site of him.  When I looked at him I was beyond blue and told him the real reason behind my madness.

The thing is, I didn’t sign up for my cancer, but at the end of the day it’s my body, my life and my burden.  I often feel guilty for those closest to me, because my burden has also become theirs.  With Steve, I was inadvertently trying to push him away, perhaps to save him in a sense from a lifetime of cancer chatter, potential surgeries, chemotherapy and overall sickness.  He just turned 29 and he’s had to take on the world, become my advocate, support system, caregiver, all the while still waking up at 4:30a to go to work and support us.

I explained to him that I was afraid of him leaving me, as a lot of marriages fail for much less of a reason.  Attempting to “save” him from my illness, I wanted to give him an out now, before it progressed even further and ultimately be the one to say what I was feeling out loud, just in case that was how he felt deep down.  He immediately put my mind to rest and said he would never leave me, I’m too easy to love and too big of a pain in the ass to leave.  The funny thing is, that was his way of telling me, we will go the distance, to infinity and beyond.

Just the other day when I was given the prognosis that I would forever have cancer, incurably and preventatively have to remain on some form of chemo for the rest of my life, Steve was by my side for the news.  Even though it came as a shock to the two of us at first, the day turned out to be one of the loveliest days of my life.  We enjoyed the rest of the day to the hilt, even expressing to one another how we’ve never been happier with our lives since my diagnosis.  It’s not that we are masochists and want to be going through all of the hardship with my health and all the baggage it that tends to follow, but meaning we’ve never been closer or more in love.

Things have been put into perspective for us and I would say even more so within the last two weeks.  Something just clicked.  We appreciate each other, the relationships we have with family and friends, our dog, the roof over our head and the simple joys of spending time together, no matter the place.

So, in my temporary moment of insanity brought great clarity.  Steve isn’t going anywhere, nor was he planning on it.  In my own, sick and twisted way it was me loving him enough to let him go if this was too much for him.  Caregivers carry a great deal of encumbrance, especially spousal caregiving.  They are there to support you and be strong for you, but it’s important that the caregiver also has support.  It will take an army to make me better, but truly only the love of Steve and my family and friends to make me happy.

And Steve, I love you…thank you for being you.

***If you or someone you know is needing Caregiver support, please see the below organizations for assistance:  (Please note that none of the below mentioned Organizations are affiliated with BeStillMyHeartBlog.)

Love,

Britt x

☑ Day of Firsts and Full Disclosure

At the expense of my pristine reputation (insert slight sarcasm here), I am going to bring you full disclosure into the happenings of my Friday; the innocent and the not so innocent.

To start, I will begin by sharing that Friday, September 6th, 2013 was a curious day for me, perhaps even a day of firsts.  It all started off by feeling liberated, independent and worthy of exploring the world that I live in and the things available to me.  While the rest of the normal working force was busy saying “T.G.I.F.” and punching in those few last hours before they could call it a day, I was wandering the sizzling streets of Downtown Phoenix.  I live smack dab in the middle of the city and never find myself taking advantage of the close proximity of stimulating things within my area.  Sure, I go to the bars and the trendy restaurants, but I never take a moment to appreciate the subtle splendors that my atmosphere has to offer.

With my headphones booming my favorite tunes, I walked to the heartbeat of the city, pulsing with eagerness as the populaces were counting down the clock.  Swept away by the wondrous mural paintings, I absorbed their beauty as though I was in the middle of a museum or art gallery.  Shortly after admiring the work of downtown art, I hopped on the train and headed to the library.  I wanted to immerse myself into the world of books and devour the smell that libraries are well known for, but sadly taken advantage of.

After exiting the active train, I walked through the park to enter the six story, all glass downtown library.  The park with plush with folks relishing in the day and the potential unknown adventures that the weekend ahead had to devote.  Soon, I reached the large glass doors of the library entry and immediately was struck with the waft of books, words and knowledge.  My book consumption could officially commence.

Being that I am currently going through cancer, my concentration on the subject is insuperable.  It has become increasingly significant for me to make myself fully aware of the disease, as well as do some research and development for my pending book.  Therefore, I b-lined it for the “cancer” and “memoir” section and gripped every book that pertained to cancer, young cancer patients and books written as a result.  I sat there for hours, spellbound by the words binding the cream colored paper together.  I was at peace and ultimately in my happy place.  The afternoon passed fleetingly and my husband picked me up in his white chariot (also known as his Jeep).  My stretch exploring downtown and the library had concluded, but the noteworthy day had merely just begun.

In a celebratory manner for Friday and the weekend, Steve and I decided to go on an impromptu feast date.  I say feast because at that point we were both famished and quite literally put the Major League Eating and International Federation of Competitive Eating to shame (yes, that is a real organization).  During this said ravenous dinner, to the shock of anyone who knows me, I ate chicken.  It seems like a mundane, irrelevant, too much, who cares information detail within this post, I know.  But, really, this was the starting off point to my night of firsts.  It was the first time in fifteen years that I had eaten chicken, so in my tiny, little life, this was a HUGE deal.

Once the chicken consumption scandal settled, I felt like a new woman, a risk taker and ready to try additional things beyond my comfort zone.  With an offer on the table from my Doctor that was becoming increasingly tempting, I decided that I wanted to try an herbal refreshment.  I had never been curious about trying it before my cancer diagnosis, partly because I am a type-A personality, control freak and the thought of doing anything mind altering which may impair my obsessive control disorder has always sounded less than appealing, until now that is.  You see, my life offers zero control now.  I have had to relinquish any and all control within the last two months and let me tell you, it has been an astonishing challenge.

Due to my medical condition, my experimental sustenance on never before territory was the simplest of things to obtain.  Anxious, nervy and even slightly ashamed, I was not letting myself talk my way out of this.  I wanted to do it, to try it and respectfully escape my life, even if just for an evening.  Besides, cancer patients are encouraged to do it and if there were ever a time in my life to try “it”, then it would have to be now, while it was legal and conventional for my diseased state.

One Direction’s video came on the television and immediately after partaking in my hopeful great escape; I began to be belted by an attack of giggles.  For me, I am quite a giggly person and often have giggle attacks, influence free.  However, this time around it was a different type of laugh, it was uncontrollable and at first I was really adoring it.  It made me feel good, free and forgetful of the current events taking place in my life.

Rapidly, things took a turn.  I was no longer innocently chuckling at cheesy One Direction videos; I was now somber and felt, as though my face had been pierced with Novocain shots.  I couldn’t feel my cheeks and of course the control I had so desired at this point in my life, left me feeling even more out of control, as I couldn’t discern my facial movements.  The present situation continued to worsen as I then began to hallucinate.  I was unable to confirm if I was having real conversations or if I was imagining them, seeing objects that were not really there and crying uncontrollably as my body began to violently shake.  In a pitiful voice, I yelled for Steve and begged him to tell me why people do this.  Without an answer to uphold, Steve said he didn’t know and tried to comfort me, as he knew that my brilliant idea for temporary reality avoidance was not so brilliant after all.

Closing my eyes, I speedily rubbed my feet together in my surefire way to ease my mind, my body and my racing altered thoughts.  That’s when Steve knew that I was not okay, as he knows that rubbing my feet together is synonymous for me being uncomfortable and in some form of discomfort altogether.  He continued to rub my legs and feet and assure me that it would all be over soon, even contemplated putting me in the shower to recover more swiftly.

It felt as though time had stopped and quite frankly, I remember telling myself that I was going to die from this experience.  That it would be my luck to have Stage IV cancer, go through a major surgery and make it out alive, yet I expend in a little trial with what was offered to me because of my cancer and I DIE! 

Clearly, my dramatics overload did not happen and death didn’t bestow itself upon me.  But, it was not the experience that I had expected and quite honestly hoped for.  I was looking for a means to an escape, a destination of peace and pleasure, but instead was punctured with paranoia, anxiousness, shaking and thoughts of dying.  It is safe to say that my naïve tryout will not be taking place again, however I am still fond of the fact that I took a risk and tried something that I would have never otherwise tried.

Friday was a day of firsts for me.  A day of exploring, genuine curiosity, inquisitive thinking and self-discovery.  I discovered that I love subtle beauties, the humble backdrops to my city.  I discovered that chicken isn’t so bad and the only reason I haven’t eaten it in fifteen years is all psychological. Then lastly, I discovered that when you are aiming for an escape and an alternate reality, sometimes you get stuck with something worse than you already have.  To shape who we are as humans, we must push the boundaries of who we are, or who we thought we were.  It’s essential to try new things in life, you may unearth that you really love it or you can live without it, but you’ll never know unless you try…

Love,

Britt x