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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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.

Follow me on Instagram for daily updates: bestillmyheartblog

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Love, Britt x

Summertime Playlist

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Music has really been my saving grace, well, since forever. I put together some of my favorite tunes that I’ll be jamming to all summahhh long!

Hope you dig!

PS- New blog post tomorrow about my one year Cancerversary on 07/01!

Love, Britt x

 

☀ Welcoming Summer ☀

 

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Summer solstice is upon us and I have finally begun to see the sunshine, as my gloomy and opaque clouds have parted. It has been nearly a week since my mental breakdown and I have been trying to look at each day with a new/different perspective from the last. The change in my demeanor has certainly not been effortless, but rather a solid attempt to find my bliss and discover my life, post remission.

For as far back as I can remember, I have always held goals, both from a personal intent, as well as academically and professionally. While I was moving forward with my treatment, my most important goal of all was surviving and beating the cancer that resided inside of me. I had become out of touch with any other goals outside of remaining alive and once I no longer had to fight everyday to remain, my “usual” goals no longer suited my life. In fact, the goals that I was so used to having became disconnected all together as I found myself with new realities; i.e.- health wise, professionally, personally and otherwise.

After reflecting on my ongoing depression since emerging from cancer, I realized that a key element that was missing in my life and even perhaps evidence of why I was depressed in the first place was due to not having goals and aspirations. Many of my previous goals before cancer died; along with the person that I was the day I was told of my disease. However, within the last week, since my mental calamity, I have been pushing myself, even if my efforts are starting out small, I figured that you have to start somewhere. Each day I have filled up my time with exercise and getting my blood moving with some tai chi and yoga, along with meditation, support groups, social outings and even simple things like taking the time to return phone calls, emails and text messages, which is something that may seem small, but became extremely difficult for me to do within the last few months.

It’s truly astounding how much can change in a week. I went from being on the edge of a cliff, to feeling peace, calm and dare I say it, happiness. In part, I realize that being a goal-setter is a part of my nature and without presence of objective ambitions, my world turned to nothing but doom and gloom. Surprisingly, just within the last few days, I have been riding out such a good wave that I have found myself in such a happy state of mind and didn’t even cry when seeing The Fault in Our Stars. How is that even remotely possible?

Nevertheless, I have made it a goal to keep goals. I truly feel that goal making will help me to realign my wants and needs that I have for my future and keep me on a path of contentment, even perhaps challenging myself from time to time. To start off, I have made a list of some summer goals and wishes to get me through the season and pave the path to getting back to an enjoyable place within myself and my status quo.

Here are some of the goals I have set for myself. What are your summer ambitions?

Eating: More regularly. Since my chemo began last August, my appetite has been lackluster. I would like to start eating three healthy meals per day and only occasionally treating myself to popsicles (even though they are sugar-free).

Drinking: Vintage cocktails. I’m not much of a drinker, but I’d like to take advantage of the cool, summer cocktails that Downtown Phoenix has to offer. My favorite right now is Hendricks and Lemonade and I would also like to pay a visit to the newest cocktail parlor in Downtown Phoenix, Bitter and Twisted.

Practicing: The love of authenticity, to respect and accept myself, my reality and see the good in situations, particularly those out of my control.

Mastering: The enjoyment of alone time and the art of time maintenance. I put the pro in procrastinator…

Learning: To free myself from fear and trying new things. Also, how to keep my plants ALIVE.

Trying: To be a better listener. Over the last year, everything has been about my cancer, thus missing out on some major things my friends have been going through. I’m finally in a place where I can lend an ear…just sayin’!

Playing: Outside. Although I live in the hottest place on Earth and we are about to embark on Arizona’s WORST season, I want to enjoy the outdoors (even if it means sitting on the patio of my favorite brunch spot). That counts as outdoor time, right?

Finishing: What I start. For example, I just made a six-week commitment to attend a cancer support group every Wednesday. So far it’s been week one of six, of which, week one was insanely intense. However, I am determined to commit and finish, with hopes of some liberation.

Listening: To the new Lana Del Rey album, Haim, Wet, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Lucius, along with some old faces, Fiona Apple, Lily Allen, CCR, Simon and Garfunkle, Death Cab, Brand New, RX Bandits, Good Old War, Saves the Day, Jimmy Eat World, Third Eye Blind, Frank Sinatra, Sherwood, The Beatles (((and the list continues))).

Reading: More in general and spending time at the library and bookstores, discovering new reads and getting lost in the pages. Also, finish my latest book, #Girlboss.

Remembering: To take care of my thoughts when I am alone and take care of my words when with people. Oh, also remembering to take my medications…everyday.

Wearing: Fun summer dresses and flirty skirts, but most importantly wearing sunscreen in this blazing heat.

Cooking: Ugh, anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a cook, nor do I want to be. However, perhaps I can just *help* around the kitchen a little more. 😉

Working: On the girl I was too lazy to be yesterday.

Traveling: Here, there and everywhere. Before I was sick, I was quite the little adventurer. I’d like to go on a few little trips to California over the summer and then I have a BIG trip coming up at the end of summer, but the location is top secret. Hint- it’s not a trip to the loony bin (again) and it’s outside of the United States. EEEEKKKK!

Wanting: To practice what I preach. I often find myself setting such high standards for everyone else, yet I don’t hold myself accountable at times for the standards in which I set. Also, volunteering at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital and hopefully lift the spirits of young children battling for their lives.

Love, Britt x

☠ So, la da di da di… WE LIKE TO PARTY ☠

Lately, it has been challenging not to sense some form of disconnect with friends, as my time is well spent visiting numerous Doctor’s each week, “friend time” unfortunately takes a backseat.  It’s times like these that you become more appreciative of your friends, as well.  In particularly, our friend Fletch had his 28th Birthday party on Saturday and I couldn’t have been more enthusiastic to attend.  Being surrounded by friends, all in one place, catching up and ultimately having the BEST banter and laughs is truly the cure to all that ails you.

 Happy Birthday, Fletch!

Phoenix Book and Flights

Fire

Al and Britt

Love,

Britt