The Many Faces of Cancer: Soul Over Ego

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Cancer and I have an interesting relationship, constantly playing tug of war over this body and the life I was blessed with. The perpetual balancing on egg shells as evil has made a home out of my insides, leaves me to feel as though my own flesh and bones no longer belong to me. On a day to day basis I find myself living under caution tape due to the illness that comes with chemotherapy, as well as side effects of medications. This naturally leaves me drained of everything I have to give.

There are many faces and personalities that come along with cancer. By looking at the curated aesthetic of my Insta’, 90% of the photographs would seem to showcase to the world that I am a “normal, healthy” looking woman, with a fairly active life to boot. Although that is true, I try to keep myself up and face the darkness, I’ve found that I have gotten away from showing how quickly I can become utterly debilitated. It’s truly amazing how one minute I am a bright, lively person and then in an instant I don’t recognize myself, nor this life.

You’d think after four years of living and fighting cancer, reality would have settled in. After all this time it would start to make sense, it wouldn’t still shock me or feel like a nightmare. But the truth is, it never makes sense. And sometimes when something doesn’t make sense, I feel everything so deeply. Conversely it can also be difficult to feel almost anything at all, until it dawns on me all over again that I could have never imagined one day waking up sick and never getting better.

Since my fourth bout of chemotherapy started up again in June, I am now six treatments in. The second week of September I have a CT and PET scan to determine if chemotherapy is working on my numerous tumors throughout my abdominal region and liver. This time around I am a bit more nervous than usual, being that it’s my first scan since the evidence of disease reappeared rapidly following my HIPEC operation. Demons take control of my mind pre-scan thinking of all of the possibilities, particularly because I’ve been having a rough go at it. In spite of all that, I wear strength and darkness equally well and it will be nice to know where I stand against the enemy.

On occasion it’s rather difficult not to have a pity party of one, especially when you are witnessing from the sidelines the progression of other people’s lives — i.e. babies being born, career accomplishments and general life goals. Whereas for the last few years, my main goal has been survival, which becomes a full time job. Comparison as they say, is the thief of joy, but the trouble is I am living in the thought of tomorrow. I’m not living now, I’m waiting.

Keeping pretty quiet this summer, I’ve spent most of my days with my head in the toilet or lounging around the house, thus leaving the path that I travel feeling isolated and unfair. Then I try to remind myself that whoever our maker may be, perhaps using both my good and bad experiences is meant to develop my character. A refined character.

Sometimes it takes an overwhelming breakdown in an effort for an unbelievable breakthrough. My body is broken down and I’m still waiting for that break through. Nonetheless I will press on, knowing that I have wonderful family and friends that steady me, as they are my gravity. It remains comforting to me that some of the most extraordinary people are those who have faced defeat, struggle, pain and suffering. Trusting life will only give me what I can handle, I’ll continue to believe this experience is most helpful to my evolution and remind myself that it’s always soul over ego.

PS- Always be kind to people, you never know what they are going through — even if they are dolled up, lookin’ healthy! One of the many lessons I’ve learned from this cancer journey.

Love,

Britt x

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Summer of Senior Year: Cancer and Chemo

Someone once quoted the infamous sanity quote, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.” The words melted to my soul like butter. July will mark my fourth year as a forever changed mind, body and soul.

Four years — does this mean I am a mature cancer patient? Someone on the brink of their senior year…in cancer? I’m not sure. It’s difficult at times for me to keep my blog updated simply because when you have nothing to say, add, update about, life as a cancer patient can be pretty boring. I mean, there is the possibility of keeping a consistently updated log of my Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon and overall storage of my Apple TV. But, that would just further prove that I am a hermit that rarely leaves the house.

As of late, I am a little quieter. I like staying in, not in a depressive way, but in a sanctuary sort of way. I’ve become more introverted in my older days. But, needless to say, without continuing to ramble— it’s good to be back.

And the truth is, I’m sick. I’ve been doing the same things for the past four years. Four years of chemo, four years of life altering surgeries, four years of telling my story, sharing my life and trying to figure it all out, while entering my thirties. I don’t regret any of the things I have chosen to do in terms of treatment for the past four years, nor do I regret any of the surgeries I have opted to have as a risk to save my life. Longevity, qualities of life are all things I’ve strived for in the past few years, an A+ student in the school of cancer. A peer group I never expected to be a part of, and then I was and I couldn’t imagine my life otherwise. Certain surgeries were more difficult to have, one being the hysterectomy I had thirty days after my thirtieth birthday. I laugh at myself now, because that was only the beginning.

How can it get much worse than having finality to your reproductive capabilities at the start of my third decade? My rock bottom was yet to come and would make my hysterectomy trauma seem like it was two foot small.

December, as many of you who keep up with me know that I took a huge chance with a surgery called HIPEC. Sorry, I can’t remember what it stands for, nor could I be bothered to “Google IT”. So, that said HIPEC was done in December of 2016 and I have spent the last four to five months recovering. I’ve been dealing with an array of issues. You could pretty much say I was sliced down the center, again and scar tissue from other surgeries had settled in, making my recovery even more painful. There was a collection of other issues peppered in, as my lower abdominal muscles were in a constant state of spasm, working against each other, thus creating a war on the inside. This lead to a number of bladder issues, as in, I constantly feel like I have a UTI when I in fact do not. Basically, I’m your average shit-show.

However, as time would have it I began to heal. From the inside out and I was feeling pretty f*cking groovy. Lighter, leaner, more energized, free. It was a feeling that was so nostalgic but also so unfamiliar. FOUR YEARS! I forgot what it was like to feel slightly healthy and normal.   It nearly felt too good to be true. And it was. The sensation didn’t last long. The OCD cleaning and tidying habits that I had suddenly formed began to fade, as my loss of control was again getting the best of me.   Something was up, and surprise, I was due for my first post surgery pet scan. It had been nearly five months at this point. New evidence of disease was a high possibility, but I was feeling so good. So well. So me.

It wasn’t until the night before the results, when I bent over to pick up one of Zoila’s toys from the floor. I had a twinge of pain in my lower left abdominal area; think of where ovaries would be, if I still had them. It was all too familiar and a feeling that I had felt in the past when there had been tumors residing in that very spot. The very next day, I followed up with my Oncologist who confirmed that the PET Scan did indicate evidence of disease in my lower left abdominal area. Bingo! As per usual, my gut was telling me the truth, physically and intuitively. He said I would immediately need to begin chemo in an effort to diminish it. When he walked in the door his face said it all. He believed, like so many of us that this HIPEC surgery was going to potentially provide me with an opportunity to stay off of chemo for some time, even perhaps making my cancer disappear altogether. We were all hopeful, but unfortunately it was back and apparently unbeknownst to me at this point, it was back with a vengeance. Rock bottom was right around the corner.

The beginning of summer beckons for graduations, pool parties, friends and family gathering and obviously a new outfit for each of the occasions. I was feeling summer in my bones, but it wasn’t about to feel me.   The first party of the summer season and I spent 99% of it with my head over the porcelain throne. Thankfully the hosts and their guests were gracious and kind, but certainly not the way I wanted or had expected to be starting out the summer. The summertime just before I was hoping to graduate from cancer. Move on and up— get some freedom, go college bound with this thing.

Unexpectedly, but expectedly all at the very same time, everything was the same as it had been.   Nothing was going to change in the maturity I was feeling with my cancer path. I knew nothing that was ahead and needed to buckle up because as intuition would have it, my current stock was about to plummet.

After being unable to keep anything, including water down, it was decided that entering Mayo Hospital would be the best next step. At this point I knew there was cancer activity on my left side. Chemo was set to begin that Monday and it was now Sunday in the Emergency Department. Immediately, the Doctor’s admitted me into the hospital, yet it remained unclear as to what exactly what was wrong. They didn’t take long to figure it out. My colon had collapsed onto itself, not allowing for proper ventilation to go through. My body was getting to a point where it didn’t know what to do with food. It would reject everything because the colon was collapsed and nothing could pass. Bile was exiting in the opposite direction and it was becoming septic and toxic.

Once they cracked that part of the case, they followed up to tell me that my cancer has metastasized to the lower part of my liver, a first for that spot, and then also on my lower back lymph nodes.   This was a shock to hear. Hadn’t I only just found out that it was back in the first place and now these additional places? Pure devastation ensued. The Doctors then had to implant a gastro tube in my stomach, where I would be able to “ventilate” the broth I would be drinking until the end of time. Not to mention the TPN (Total Parenteral Nutrition) — pretty much intravenous feeding that provides patients with all the fluid and the essential nutrients they need when they are unable to feed themselves by mouth.

Boom! Rock bottom. There, I felt it.

Eating can be one of my favorite past times. How long was this dreadful nightmare going to continue? FOOOOOODDDDD.

It’s been two weeks since I have had a solid meal. I feel the most inhuman I have felt thus far in my cancer sitch. They are expecting it to be at least another few weeks, two months, maximum. It all comes down to how I respond to treatment, as chemo begins next week. It reeks of freshman year of cancer all over again.

Essentially, I had a good month where I was feeling like my old self. Now my reality is that chemo is going to be in my life yet again. But, needless to say, even with this shit-show that I call my life, I know I am going to be okay. Nothing’s going to change my world. I’m going to continue to get out of bed every morning, slap on a smile and enjoy the blazing summer sunshine. I may not be able to meet up at a restaurant hot spot with friends for a while, or wear my cutest bikini to the next summer bash, but I am going to be the BEAST that I am and knock cancer out this round as well.

Imma’ graduate this next year. So long, cancer. You’ll see.

Britt xx

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Back from the Atmosphere: 🌏 

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

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

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

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

Friends would ask, “How are you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updates to follow…

Love,
Britt x

Caboodle Spring Cleaning: Cure Diva

54ec6ff6731ffb6e3353b696b4e65565Beauty and cancer are two things that don’t tango very well together, particularly when chemotherapy is in the mix.  When you are being poisoned week after week, it’s no wonder that your skin gets dry, your cuticles scream for mercy and perhaps the chemicals in your makeup might not mix well with the toxins being pumped into your body.

Cancer or no cancer, it’s always nice to be in the know as to what is in your beauty products and I have teamed up with Cure Diva to discuss Spring cleaning as to what is in that kit and caboodle, as well as their expert advice on what goes into the products of our typical everyday products.

It’s all relative and can be applied to just about anyone that looks after themselves in the beauty depot.


  1. Read the Label:
    • Use only hypoallergenic products, or those that don’t have harsh ingredients such as acids, emulsifiers, preservatives, fragrances, mineral oils, silicones, dyes or aminesYou want happier, more comfortable skin, so scan your products for these ingredients and restock your supplies with organic, chemical-free and sensitive items. CureDiva.com has an entire line of facial natural and organic skin care.
  2. Moisturize:
    • To prevent dryness and cracked, uncomfortable skin, be sure to moisturize immediately after washing and toweling dry. This means:
      • For your body, apply moisturizer after the bath or shower
      • For your face, apply moisturizer in the morning and at night
      • For your hands, moisturize after washing many times during the day
      • For your lips, use a hydrating lip balm throughout the day
  3. Blemishes:
    • Yes, some chemo treatments can cause acne on the face and scalp. Even if you suffered from acne before, take another look at your old acne ointments. They usually contain salicylic acid, retinol, benzoyl peroxide and other harsh ingredients that further dry and irritate skin. Try more natural solutions like Acne Clarifying Serum by Nurture my Body and a mild, natural soap.
  4. SPF:
    • Although SPF is used in the summer outdoors, it should become a priority when in treatment. Chemo skin is super sensitive, especially to sun exposure which can cause lasting damage even in the winter. Wear sunscreen whenever you go out, and protect your skin with UV-protective clothing (hats, gloves, long sleeves). With skincare and beauty products, choosing an SPF version is best.
    • While it can be overwhelming to find products that are safe on skin and look and smell great, asking your doctor or a friend who has been through treatment is the best way to receive a referral. Websites like CureDiva.com provide a great amount of information for those going through treatment to get the answers they need.
  5. Fingernail Care:
    • Some chemo drugs can cause finger and toenail damage. They become dry, cracked and may start lifting up. Apply cuticle balm and lots of hand cream. Checking out the label is relevant here. Switch to water-based nail color like CureDiva’s water-based nail polish by Acquarella which is my favorite when I’m dressing up!

 

Stay beautiful!

Love,

Britt x


Information: 5W Public Relations & CureDiva.com