Sing Like Dolly: Past Predicts Present & Future 🔮

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At two years of age, Dolly Parton was my idol.  In fact, I should have been the creator of an American Idol genre of entertainment, as my wide eyed vision of fame and the game was futuristic and quite unreal.

When I was younger, maybe eight, I asked my Mum to take me to a general “famous” audition to be a singer or an actress.  Aside from wanting to be just like my gorgeous Mum, I loved Dolly, Pasty, Marilyn, Edie and I can’t leave out, Mary Poppins .  For as far back as I can recall, I genuinely believed that being just like them, a celebrity, would be a hop, skip and a jump (all things I thoroughly enjoyed, on a side note).  But, I figured it would be a one stop, shop type of audition.  A decision, a yes or a no and I was certain that I had what it would take.  I loved and thrived on creativity and being famous seemed like the closest thing to being an artist — something I sought out to be when I grew up.

Being the glue to my confidence, my Mum agreed to take me when I was in fifth grade to audition to be “famous”.  Never once putting down or deflating my fleeting dream, she knew that I wanted to entertain, express myself, and connect somehow artistically.  Turns out, I cannot act or sing and I did not become a star, as we all know.

Coincidently, the first time I ever lied was to my best friend, which happened to be  around the same time I asked my Mum to take me to Hollywood.  I had told my best gal, Crystal that I sounded just like Mariah Carey and gullibly she believed me.  It was only briefly, until one day we were in the parking lot of an Astro Van dealership, circa 1993 as her parents shopped for a new family vehicle.  Boldly she asked me to sing for her. I was stunned.  I hadn’t lied before and I didn’t know how to get out of it.  She saw right through me.

By the time fifth grade rolled around, my Mum kept her promise, enrolled me in acting lessons, reached out to agents, the whole kit and caboodle.  If I would have wanted her to be a stage mom, she would have gladly signed up for the job to support me in all forms of the spectrum. The thing was and still is, I’m only good at being myself.

I had been a ham since the day I was born and my life had been documented via camcorder, by the lovely and lively ladies in my life.  It was the 1980’s and quite the BIG deal to lug around a ridiculously large camera, but they did it regardless in an effort to capture my life.

Soon after my Mum’s persistence in trying to aid my flighty dream, I realized I am absolutely rubbish at being anything other than myself.  I couldn’t pretend.  I was unable to follow anyone else’s script outside of my very own.

All the while, creativity and imagination was never lost upon me.  I was just highly unaware at the time of how to channel it; how to open the pages of my fate in the creative realm.  If I were to take it back to those years, I’d say I always struggled being phoney.

As a young adult, sans/prior to the evil cancer taking residency in my insides, I came to terms with reality and realized I had to work in order to have an apartment and the things I lusted after.  My goals had shifted, my viewpoint was more mature and University and Corporate America seemed like my only option.

Strangely, in the seemingly thick of my career, unbeknownst to me that it would end in a few short  years, my Mum randomly said that she hoped that one day I would get compensated  for being one hundred percent, Britt; for being my true self, and sharing my creative mind with the world.  Of course I agreed and appreciated her love and wildly, amazing support, but I knew for a fact that a talent I was not.  I knew how to write, dress, decorate and apply makeup like a pro; but what did that all really mean in the real world? — nothing.  I still had to earn a paycheck if I wanted to dress well and I knew singing and/or acting was out of the question.  Feeling stuck was an understatement, but I didn’t see any other way of being an “artist” and was certainly not up for the “starving” bit.  I just wasn’t cut out for it and proceeded to work towards my career climbing the ladder, never looking back down until I hit a glass ceiling.

When I became sick and inevitably had to give up my career, I felt that I had lost a piece of who I was.  It was all I had known for the past ten years.  I was well groomed and manicured to continue moving on up.  The nine to five taught me savvy business lessons, yet oppositely managed to cripple my creativity, to no fault of the Company, but otherwise due to the type of industry, numbers were all that mattered.

Once I gave up that part of my life, I began to gain my creative power back and realized that even if you do have a regular 9 to 5, it doesn’t mean you should ever give up on YOURSELF, or what makes YOU happy and ultimately charges your soulful creativity.

Being sick, my mind often wanders off to far away places. Not necessarily Neverland, but rather memories from as early as I can recall.  I think back to the little girl who thought anything was possible, who fearlessly shared her creative self without any doubt or resistance towards caring what others opinions were.

Many may see cancer as a death sentence, but I see it as a destiny.  A journey.  A life that I may not have otherwise had the complete freedom to be who I am to my absolute core.

Nostalgia is a funny thing and history is just as important as the present, as  well as  whatever the future may hold.  Without gagging with cheesedom, the best thing you can do for yourself is to be your own muse, celebrate your own sense of self and celebrity (not literally), but I know you are picking up what I am laying down.  Stay true, be you, as everything unites and comes full circle in the end.

I’m not here to find fame, fortune or anything of the sort.  I’m here to be myself in hopes that I can inspire someone, perhaps expand my social ability to connect with people on deeper levels and tell my story along the way.

As I work on a project, a walk down memory lane has been an interesting one (not sure of the ETA — probably forever).  Finding out what makes me, me, brings great hope to share that with anyone that feels they want to experience the wonderful life I have lived and will continue to live on my journey as a cancer survivor and fighter, amongst other things I am blessed with.

It may not be blogging as often as I’d liked to, although that is my New Year’s resolution, but life. Am I right?  

Follow along on @bestillmyheartblog on Instagram and Be Still My Heart Blog on Facebook for everyday updates on my happenings.

PS-  BUT MY GOAL IS TO BLOG WAY MORE, BECAUSE DUH!

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Love forever and talk soon,

Britt x 

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Ambivalence

Romans

I’m ambivalent.   I didn’t know what that meant, what the true meaning behind such a layered word was. Sure, I had heard it time after time upon watching one of my favorite movies, yet hadn’t resonated as to what the depth of the citation was, that was until a few weeks ago.

You see, I was declared healthy two months ago, after my nearly year battle with Stage IV, “incurable” cancer. Healthy in the world of cancer, not in the real sense of the word. I was as healthy as I would ever be. My tumors still existed, but without activity of the disease, therefore aggressive treatment was no longer necessary. Until of course, an unknown date far off into the future, perhaps when I was old enough for cancer to be a-typical, following a lifetime full of contented moments, through that of an admirable, strong career, a quirky marriage and at least two children, both with names passé, like Pearl and Vernon, all in an artless attempt to delightfully balance our modern romance.   But before the far out actuality of baby Pearl and Vernon, or better yet Agnes and Arthur (see it’s the inconsistency taking action), I would have to find out what the stratums of ambivalence actually was. Was I indeed healthy? Was I a normal human? Was I happy or sad? Extraordinary or just a regular part of the vast organism holding to the ecstatic, hypnotized approach to life? Ambivalence.

If I wasn’t sick, then what was I? Surely, I wasn’t “well”. Waking each morning, deadened by the lack of feeling in all four limbs due to the evils of chemotherapy side effects, I had become just as disoriented as to what to do with myself. Throughout the course of my diagnosis and treatment, I was the animated cancer girl, the one who fought tooth and nail to live, feeling alive in the potential, yet somehow unimaginable glooms of death. I reflected. In fact, I thought a lot while I was undergoing treatment, both about life and death and how separated the two were from one another and visualized myself in both capacities. In one arena, which is life and to be living, I belted together my wishes for the future, alongside the company of loved ones and fancied myself to be this bigger, better, wiser person post cancer. Creating the version of myself that I wanted to be, I told myself that cancer chose me, to allow me to find my voice, be aú fait with the purpose to my befuddling diagnosis in my twenties and reveal to anyone who was adept to listening, what the truthful meaning to life was. Self-assuredly hailing as someone who held that special ticket, despite it’s undesirable accolades for the winnings. That was precisely it; I recognized that most would find being diagnosed with cancer in the prime years of their twenties to be a bear, an insurmountable amount of cargo that was just there to fuck up your life, even feasibly ending your life. But, unlike most, I found a way from day one of my cancerous identification to cope, to march on and be the damndest, most defiant cancer patient that there ever was. I considered the alternate and deemed that plastering my thoughts with inspirational quotes and anti-cancer propaganda would likely echo my wishes to live, therefore be skillful and talented enough to survive, because after all, survival in itself is the true virtuoso.

Then there was the opposing side, the crosswise model of what my ambivalence projected. Death; something, which is often thought of when in the amphitheater of cancer and its expiry ways. In the beginning death terrified me. I wasn’t ready to die, for I had not been able to tender my contented moments, alongside my wicked cool career, prevailing marriage to my sweet and the opportunity to raise our idiosyncratic children, what were there names again– oh, right, Pearl and Vernon; or better yet Scarlette and Everett. Once again changeability was proving to be a deep conflict in my ambivalent psyche. At first it was the things that I needed to do to avoid death, run from it and show who was boss. For fuck sake, it became my all intended apparition. I lived and breathed how to evade death, yet was walking so closely to the other station, in which once the train comes to a screeching halt, so does your life. It wasn’t until recently that I thought of death in a positive light. This being after my declaration of health. Somehow, suddenly, without the possibility of death lurking about, I became less amused at trying to stay alive, or even wanting to for that matter. It’s not quite been put together how my mind can connect the madness and logic, medically or otherwise, as to how an individual who had fought so fiercely to live on, yet is now blessed with an endurable second chance, has wishes to be a part of the departed. Yet, the days, weeks and months following my good fortune became more and more difficult than the voyage through cancer and its treatment. Once again, how could I piece together my menacing thoughts, when the news of my remission should have brought me great contentment, enough to propel me back into the real world, amongst the living, working towards my life altering movement into the truths about cancer, the depths of its shadowy distortion and how I still made it out with enough sanity and grace to possess my adoring marriage and obscurely assorted future baby names.

As time proceeded, I continued to gain greater and greater disposition to the latter. The latter of course being the death scenario. All of the sudden, death didn’t scare me; I had made peace that my chances to live or die were 50/50. Nonetheless, ambivalent. It was as though I was meant to bring ambivalence to the surface, if, for nothing else to describe in full, the live definition of what ambivalence is. Once the 50/50 shades of cup empty or half full were exposed, it became even more clear that if you are only giving yourself a 50 percent chance of living, then you might not be torn either way. Life, death – ah I could stay or go. If you are so much as only “caring” that your survival rate is a shot at 50, what if your carelessness to live lessons below that? Does that make you depressed? Better yet, does it make you want to kill yourself? How can anyone answer that in sincere fashion, after all, depression doesn’t always result in suicide. Very easily I could be a mildly depressed person and not ever feel the pain behind no longer wanting to live. It was a large spectrum, but nevertheless a spectrum that I was unfamiliar with, as I did not have any previous bouts with depression and in return, had nothing to compare it to. For all I knew over the last few months, depression was a common side effect after diagnosis, treatment and everything else in between. I couldn’t have known that this wasn’t the norm, i.e.- allowing yourself to wallow in the news of remission, pining for treatment, fearful of what the future may hold, stressed with getting back in touch with your life previous to cancer and lastly, realize that you cannot cover up depression with a bit of crimson red lipstick, along with new tattoos, hairstyles and even desired trips to the beach. No, these were all things that lead to a temporary feeling of pleasure, but masking the real issue at hand; depression.

As the news of my remission came to be further and further away, my uncharacteristic woes became more and more prevalent. It started with having loss of interest in most things; seeing friends, enjoying outings, returning text messages or phone calls and then forming even greater barriers of not wanting to go out in public, not being able to sleep, forgetting to shower and at last unable to get out of bed, at all. My crying episodes were morning, noon and night and my medicinal marijuana became more than a pain management tool for my neuropathy, but a safety net in which I was beginning to desire for the numbness of a temporary escape into peacefulness where unicorns and mermaids existed. When Steve would ask what was the matter, the only thing I could murmur was that I wish I had died, or that I no longer wanted to be “here” and by “here”, I was referring to planet earth, this life, element, tier or whatever you wish to call it. I was done, I had enough and thoughts of permanent sleeping seemed ideal.

I couldn’t tell you what had happened for me to go from one extreme to the next. On one hand being the poster cancer baby and on the other, a suicidal, not down to hack it, girl who was too brave during treatment and ran out of the short supplied bravery when approaching “remission”. Ah, yes, once more, a theme for you, a theme of ambivalence. Did I long to exist or expire?   This became a fairly common question that I would ask myself and when in the deepest of blues, would share my carelessness towards living and carrying on, but rather my longing to perish in a conquest of feeling total and utter peace. Death was now defined as peace. A peace that up until my remission news, was found right here on this earth and in the body of Britt Ochoa. Now my sense of peace seemed to be in the once believed darkness of death. Beginning to become an every day wish, those around me, particularly my husband, began to feel useless in the attempt to make me happy. For my happiness came in the opposite of living, somewhere I would be eternally at rest, both mind, body and spirit.

Three days ago, in what I now find to be a cry for help, I took an unwise amount of Morphine, followed by equal amounts of Ativan. Fortunately, all that happened was a good scolding from my husband for my lack of sensibility, some tears, a tad bit of shame and of course sleepiness. When my plan didn’t work, I begged Steve to get me out of town; somewhere I could escape my thoughts and be in stillness with my soul. The days leading up to it were nothing short of a shit show. Outside forces definitely played a part after firstly, finding out that my sister in laws peg my cancer to karmic forces and secondly the words of my mother in law disparaging that she is sick and tired of me using cancer as an excuse. An excuse for what, you might ask? Who knows, either way the debauched negativity was piling high, along with the consistent lack of support and compassion, a top of my already mounting sadness and depression. For the majority of the weekend, I spent talking to God or whomever it is that supposedly watches down on us. I apologized up and down for being gifted a second chance at life and not knowing what to do with it. I continued to apologize for taking a place in the line, when there are so many fighters that fought the good fight, but nevertheless didn’t win in the end. I was willing to bargain with him, in my guilt stricken way. If there was someone who wasn’t going to make it, like, for sure, you know, as if living wasn’t in their deck of cards, yet regardless they fought every day with a smile on their face to live. My proposition was that I would trade places in line with that person, a person who would really put a second chance to good use and not waste it, like I had been doing for the last two months. I had in fact, found myself pleading with the man upstairs, swearing that I would do anything to get out of my life and transitionally swap spots with someone more worthy. My conclusion surmised that I had already been afforded a pretty full, interesting life and it got to a point where, aside from experiencing parenthood, I had satisfactorily done everything that I absolutely HAD to do. Sure, everyone has his or her “bucket list”, or my preferably labeled “to-do” list, but sincerely, aside from that I asked myself, would I really be missing out on anything else if I continued on with this life? Naturally, if there was something not worth missing- how could I miss it if I no longer existed in the first place?

Fast-forward to yesterday, I had two appointments. One being my standard monthly port draw so we could discuss the results come Thursday with my Oncologist and the second being a meeting with a social worker, in an effort to relieve me of some of my sadness and dark thoughts. As we arrived to my first appointment, we walked into the Doctors office, which I had become so lovingly connected to over the past year and I signed myself in, ready to get it over with so I could move on to the next appointment and be on my merry way, back to bed, where most recently I found myself most comfortable. I sat next to Steve in the waiting room and before I could count to ten, I was running out of the place and practically having a meltdown for all to see. Once Steve caught up with me, I tried to explain my sporadic thought wave, but failed to fully make him aware as to why I fled to begin with. The only thing I could bring myself to say was, “I can’t do this!”

Frustrated and puzzled, Steve then drove me to my second appointment of the day, which turned out to be the one and only appointment of the day. When we sat down with the social worker, the first question she asked was how long Steve and I had been married for. Before Steve could answer, I burst into uncontrollable tears, eventually coming to a break for a breath. The counselor said that it appears I need psychiatric help due to my recent state of mind and my battle experiencing cancer and all that I have gone through in the past year. She, in good faith, did not feel it would be wise to wait to get into see someone a week from now, expressing that attention needed to be drawn immediately, even going as far as suggesting I check myself into a hospital for mental and behavioral health. Without hesitation and my very own will power, I too, thought that checking myself into the loony bin would be the very best and most relevant, responsible thing to do.

Despondently, yet unavoidably, I decided to check myself into a psychiatric hospital the following day, as in today. Please note that I was in no way doing this to gain pity, to invite praise, nor did I do it to be an inspiration in the least.   Instead, I decided that not caring about my 50/50 chances of living or dying is not the way I want to live. I recognized that there is a life beyond a cancer diagnosis and even a reality after remission. I so desperately seek to get better so I can be the bigger, better, wiser person that I fancied I would be, along with advocating for cancer and all of the woes it can bring about. As I woke up this morning, I was ready to get started. Steve drove me to the hospital, where I was told a room would be ready for me. Signing myself in, I was unsure as to whether or not I was making the right decision and my stomach was in knots. Once again, I hadn’t any previous experience with depression, let alone a mental ward. My only recognition of what it might even be like was from the movies I had watched where they show the petrifying sides to mental institutions.

The in-take process took nearly four hours. You sit in a standard waiting room, much like the ER, only you are amongst other mentally unstable people searching, or being forced to get help. The staff asks you a series of questions, notably related to self-harm or the potential harm to others, followed by a therapist asking you if you are well enough to sit in the waiting room without any suicidal attempts. Once you answer the first series of questions, you are called back to a room, a room that is plain in color and all over decorum. For approximately an hour, the therapist continues to ask you further questions, specifically related to your needs, diving right into the realness of why you are there to begin with. Once you have satisfied all of the questions, you are once again released back into the waiting room, amongst your new friends and neighbors for the next few days.

The entire time I was in the private room retorting to inquiries, something was telling me that this wasn’t the type of help that I was in need of. More than ever I needed to be at home, in the comfort of my own four walls, my husbands care and a mouse click away from my favorite movies brought by way of Netflix. However, I was committed to getting help and more importantly recognized that I wanted help so I could march forward with my young life, with things like goals, a purpose and future wishes. Every fiber of my being was in doubt of this, but again, I wanted to prove to myself that I wanted to live and show myself that a prospect of positivity could come out of this experience, perhaps even one day experiencing motherhood to children with antiquated names. Exiting the interrogation room, I returned to the waiting room to find an uneasy look on my husbands face. I quietly sat next to him, thinking the same thoughts. When he looked at me to express how uncomfortable he was with me staying there, our brain waves united, but I didn’t want to be the first to say it. Precipitously, I was no longer ambivalent. Long gone were the thoughts of unbalanced hesitation as to whether I wanted to live or die. I was now, more than ever, certain that I didn’t want to harm myself or put my life in jeopardy, particularly after fighting such a difficult battle and coming out on the other end.

Just as quickly as I checked myself in, I checked myself out. In no way am I taking the seriousness out of what mental hospitals are there for, but in this slim occurrence I came to understand that being a little under motivated after such an epic battle is par for the course. Sure, not every cancer patient and survivor may experience depression, or even so, not to such a degree, but either way, I was accepting that I was a little fucked up at the moment. And you know what, that’s okay. The important thing is that I see the improvement I need to make in investing back into my life and the wonderful people who are in it. Re-focus my energies on positivity and so it’s not to fester on the negative and those who partake.

Shortly after my escape, I shared with Steve my newfound motivation for living and in no fancy way, getting my shit together, immediately if not sooner. Perhaps it was just the driving force that I needed, or perhaps it would become just another life experience to add to the list. Either way, I found myself in a grateful state of mind. Grateful for my loving, devoted husband and friend, appreciative for the beautiful family and friends in my life, a safe environment to call home and most of all, the will to lucidly broach my life intentions, whether they be in the immediate future or far off forthcomings; I was fucking alive, damnit and for the first time in a long time, in high spirits to have fought for the life I have ahead of me.

At the end of the day, I centered myself with some much-needed yoga at the Cancer Community Center, alongside my fellow cancer warriors. My wounds are not all healed, my head is still a little foggy and I have a lot of soul searching and therapist visits in my future. But, I can now understand that depression is very real, as are thoughts of self-harm and it is never too late to cry out for help. Everyone needs a little mental break now and again, just as long as the ambivalence between wanting to live and die always concludes in the drive to live the beautiful life we were imparted. Now, I dare you, go find your bliss and let go of any uncertainty. Life has a way of finding its way back and I couldn’t be more indebted that I have found mine.

PS- my apologies for saying “fuck” a lot.   Sometimes there is just no other way to eloquently say the “f” word and get your point across. xx

PSS- I am also recovering from a severe popsicle addiction, but I suppose that will be another story, for another day. xxx

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number: 1-800-273-8255

American Cancer Society:  Depression Support/Reading Material

Cancer Support Community

Love, Britt x

Remission ☚ ☚ ☚

Remission

Ochoa, Britt- Cancer Timeline

Ochoa, Britt- 12 Chemo Rounds

If you shake me hard enough, I will appear, yet it feels as though I have been in an unceasing dream, or shall I say nightmare since July 1st, 2013. It has taken me a couple of days to regain surreal consciousness as I was sluggishly coming out of the dark tunnel that has been my existence for the last nine months. In fact, I became used to the dark tunnel, my eyes adjusted to the dimness and although I imagined the light at the end, I grew to accept my new reality as a Stage IV cancer patient. Somehow, I knew by some means I’d eventually see the glistening light but in the mean time I vigorously challenged my mind, body and spirit for the fight of my life.

My new identity and only distinctiveness became that of a Stage IV cancer patient. Prior to being diagnosed, I held a good deal of individual characteristics that made up my identity in my profile as a human being. Twenty-seven years had crafted me into an abundance of roles to which I found myself identifying with; a lover of all mediums of art, a frequent concert goer, a best friend to Crystal, wife of Steve, daughter of Karen and Tom, loyal employee of American Express, a shoe collector, a clothing coinsure, frequent traveler and student of the world. However, as of July 1st, 2013, my identity splintered and all of the things that once made me who I was, became superseded as I hastily shed my foregoing self to become a cancer patient, which immeasurably became my whole universe.

The last month had become soberly temperament in the realm of ways I was deteriorating both physically and mentally. For weeks I was vomiting between fifteen to twenty times per day and in some cases even greater than twenty. I was unable to keep anything down, even water. Much like many other times within the last nine months, I was forced to shelter myself like a recluse, as my symptoms disallowed me to be a part of the rest of the world for fear I would be sick, pass out and assassinate any remaining cool factor that I was clinging onto for my ego’s sake. Nevertheless it became very apparent that my inflated coolness was overstepped by my Exorcist’s style of retching. I passed the indications along to my Oncologist and she had many calculations as to what she believed it could be, even at one point believing that my symptoms were synonymous with the possibility of a brain tumor. Needless to say, I endlessly underwent every assessment and scan known to man in this so called game of “practicing medicine”. Fortunately, but frustratingly everything was coming back negative and to no avail we discouragingly found ourselves at a stand still. I cursed and I cried. I spent several nights in the Emergency Room and still no sign of the culprit or any form of developments in the hunt of what was remotely off beam as they were all returning to us unfounded. Conclusively, after kicking and screaming, my Oncologist decided it would be best to admit me to the hospital, and just like that I once again became an occupant of the Oncology Ward. The plan of action was to monitor me in the ongoing effort to uncover my unusual and erratic symptoms, which was liable for draining my body of any remaining strength by the minute.

As Murphy’s Law would have it, I did not vomit once during the recurring visit to the hospital. Ultimately, the Doctor’s were unable to categorically figure out the vile symptoms I had been having over the last month and determined that the only conceivable cause was myself. Yes, that is correct, the medical professionals reasoned that due to all of the negative testing and scans; the unremitting vomit activity was due to my very own irrational brain, or psychological anxiety, as they prefer to define it. My brain was the dam and the levee ruptured leaving me with an overflow of anxiety and self-made symptoms that could not be contained.

Now with the understanding that the monsters in my head were making me sick, I was about to be discharged from what had become my natural habitat, but not before my lovely Oncologist entered the room. Making herself comfortable at the foot of the hospital bed, as I lay sitting up waiting for her to address any further information pertaining to my current circumstances, she reached for my hand, squeezing it in a fashion as though she was about to share something of great magnitude. I took a deep breath preparing myself for her words and she then began to speak in her soft, gentle tone, “Britt, your last PET scan came back remarkable and while there is still a small tumor, there is no evidence of disease”. Confused, yet delighted, I once again found myself emerging straight into business mode. I had so many questions and my brain was scrambling to connect all of my overwhelming thoughts. Was I cancer free? Did I beat Stage IV cancer? Is this hellish nightmare over? Did I redeem the clean bill of health I had so hoped for? I was quickly shut down on all of the above questions. My Oncologist went on to say that I am in the early stages of remission, the tumor still exists, and if it weren’t for my debilitating neuropathy I’d still be on chemo going forward. She proceeded to keep it real with me and explained that the tumor still resides in my body and that there is a high probability that the cancer could return at anytime, being that my diagnosis was Stage IV. Yet, for now it is dormant and by a small margin, I am well enough to proceed with my young life at the moment without any evidence of disease living inside of me. It wasn’t the exact way I had envisioned myself receiving such news, however to know that the chemotherapy treatments proved to be a success and I was now able to carry on with a quality of life, came to be first class news and the greatest news I had heard in almost a year.

It’s been nearly five days since I have been gifted this news and to be perfectly honest I have not been able to make sense of it all in my head. But, more significantly I am hesitant as to how I should refer to myself– Am I still a cancer patient, or now a cancer survivor, or perhaps neither? Yet, I am more than willing to accept the news and feel vigorous that I survived this war that has been waged upon my body and robbed me of good health for the last 290 days, 41 weeks, 417,600 minutes, 6,960 hours and 9 months + 16 days.

After we had finally arrived home, Steve hugged and inhaled me while whispering, “I finally have my wife back”. Tears streaming from his eyes, I kissed the salt that was streaming down his cheek. Somehow, I felt as though I was the only one who wasn’t bursting at the seams with ultimate ecstasy. Cancer had managed to take possession of my life and suddenly I didn’t know how to go back to my life after the cancer surrendered. Following a steaming hot shower to wash away my bewilderment, I stood in the doorway of our bedroom that met the living room where Steve was gleefully revealing the remarkable news with all of our family and friends. In my disoriented state of mind, Steve detected that the best news we had received since my diagnosis was not sinking in for me and he wanted me to completely take in the concept that I was now a healthy twenty-eight year old woman. Resembling that of a movie, Steve enticed me to chant and scream and repeat at the top of my lungs, “I’M HEALTHY, I’M HEALTHY, I’M HEALHY…I, Britt Ochoa am H-E-A-L-T-H-Y”. It was an unfamiliar declaration, as even so much as decent health had been a stranger for so long. Somehow, I was the only one needing convincing of this news and felt guilt-ridden that I was not reacting in a more gratified and wound up manner. Sure, I knew I should be jumping for joy, showcasing tears of happiness and taking the news in a gifted way, but I was unable to parade my sudden liberation; perhaps out of shock or perhaps because I felt unconvinced.

The first few days of my new “branded identity” as someone in remission did not go as expected. Unable to get myself out of bed, I found myself wanting to be completely alone and still felt as though I was in the never ending dark tunnel that I somehow became comfortable in. The thing is, as I would lay in bed over the last nine months, it became a frequent daydream as to when the day remission would be mentioned and how I would feel in that very instant. I pictured myself to feel well, feel 100% and back to the Britt that once was. But, in turn, I felt the opposite, still reeling from the brutal pains of neuropathy, as well as the poisonous chemo that remains in my body, a “welcome home” to your old self, was not arising. Were all of the nightmares over my health supposed to escape my head by the mere mention of remission? Was I supposed to peel away the mental scars and put them in a mason jar for safekeeping? Pessimistically, my head seemed to be splitting at the seams and I found myself having an identity crisis; who was I, if not Britt, the Stage IV cancer patient?

So, as I sit here now, I can honestly tell you that I am still very jumbled over how I am presumed to emote over such rewarding news. However, alongside the confusion, I am eternally grateful that I was able to go on this journey, for I truly believe that I am a better person for it, whomever that person may now be. I now understand the meaning of “life is too short”, I comprehend that life can change in an instant and that no matter the situation; you must go at it in its full entirety. I am humbled by this experience and realize that people are truly mind-blowing, ranging from close friends and family, to complete and utter strangers. When I didn’t have the strength to pray for myself or inflate myself to keep fighting, so many soldiers in my corner took it upon themselves to keep me in their pleas to God and blessed me with good vibrations. The love and encouragement will forever be in my heart and mean more to me than anyone will ever understand.

As for my next steps, I am going to focus on healing and manifesting the idea that nothing is permanent, much like my identity as a Stage IV cancer patient. I’m not sure who I am now since finding myself post cancer, or how I will come to define myself, but what I am damn sure of is that I am a relentless fighter and if cancer shows its dreadful face again, I will be well equipped to handle it and terminate its existence.

Thank you, to everyone for being an unwavering support system through this turbulent trek. I am going to get busy living and embrace the new Britt, while rekindling some of my former identities. I now revere my life similar to that of a semi colon; a sentence that was supposed to end but didn’t. My sentence in life came close to an end and I was given the opportunity for it to continue. Therefore, I will be upmost grateful for this gift called life and continue on with my life’ s story.

Until next time,

Love- Britt x

Love, Britt x

Stupid Cancer- “Get Busy Living”

The young cancer epidemic can be quite daunting. Just when young adults are getting themselves prepared for their future into adulthood, i.e.- education, career, relationships, they are grossly impaired once the discovery of cancer has been made in their young bodies. Many things can be affected when it comes to cancer in young adults and a large amount of sacrifices have to be made. For me personally, I have had to put my life on hold and with the possibility that it will never get back on the same track again according to my career goals, family plan and overall setup of my young life. Since being diagnosed in July of 2013, I have had to give up my position with a wonderful Fortune 500 Company, a position that was nearly ten years in the making as I had been with the Company since I was nineteen years old. I had somewhat of a cushy position, a work at home position, one that I revered highly and worked hard to get. In addition to having to forgo my career, I have also had to put my education on the back-burner, when I had just one year left until graduation. Seemingly, these are all replaceable things when it comes to the importance of your health and life, however nonetheless important if you have spent nearly a decade trying to get to where you once were.

As I further along in my “cancer career”, I realize that young adult cancer and the awareness needs to be at the forefront of the medical world. We are talking about the generation “now”, who is responsible for birthing the generation of tomorrow. Many times, young adults are diagnosed with cancer at a late, already aggressive stage. This can then lead to problems with infertility as well as lifelong residual symptoms of the toxins dumped into the body in an effort to keep the cancer at bay or gone completely.

I have mentioned before that since my diagnosis, it is difficult for cancer to not consume your world, as you live and breathe it daily and go through the tumultuous motions and emotions that comes with the toll. Naturally, since my world has been turned up side down, I am determined to not only fight for my life, but bring awareness and attention to the risks in young adult cancers. It is my mission to advocate for others and myself that medical awareness, even as a young adult is extremely important and most of all entirely necessary.

Often times those who are effected by young adult cancers have a late stage diagnosis, as well as life threatening stakes as many young adults fail to get proper screenings until symptomatically they are forced to go to the Doctors. This then leads to assertive treatment, which then contains many after effects. Through my many hours of research on young adult cancer, I stumbled across a website specifically for the cause; StupidCancer.org. Stupid Cancer is dedicated to young adult cancer, awareness, resources, tools and a bevy of helpful implements. Moreover, it is wonderful to connect with other young adults suffering from cancer and who are busy living despite their prognosis.

Stupid Cancer holds a convention each year and also offers meet up’s throughout the country; in an effort that the cancer patients can stand up to cancer with one another and no one has to go at it alone. Just watching the below video gave me the boost I need to get up on my feet and declare war against my cancer and my peer’s cancer. We can all learn from one another and help one another through the process; if there is a will, there is a way!

Additionally, there will be a Stupid Cancer Convention called OMG2014, which will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada on 04/25-04/27.  If you would like to register please visit OMG2014 Summit.  “The 7th Annual OMG! Cancer Summit for Young Adults is the premier oncology conference and social networking event for the young adult cancer movement. The largest gathering of its kind, OMG2014 will bring together hundreds of survivors and caregivers to connect, get educated, build community and unite to drive the change we wish to see.”

Love,

Britt x