Lose Yourself in the Music, the Moment: Memories of a Lifetime

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A few weeks ago I had a slated visit with my Psychologist, a stunning, statuesque woman with the most attractive Russian accent. Every time I see her I am reminded of a Russian friend whom I’ve shared some of my best memories with. Innately I warm to the Doctor right away in a reminiscent fashion, regardless of my long absence in seeing her. She has the ability to put me at ease without granting the notion that I am losing my shit. She was on my level, just like my old friend, and I liked that.

After arriving in her office, ornamented with psychology book after psychology book, as well as notes strewn about her desk in an organized mess, I sat down on the plush couch, across from her high back chair. The diffuser rested on a shelf, and exhaled the most calming hint of lavender. Being that it had been awhile since I had last seen her, there was a lot that I needed to express, things that I was reluctant to share with anyone, including my husband. My heart was racing, and my mouth dry, as I began to divulge it all, skipping over any possibility of small talk.

I told her that my intellectual side was at war with my spiritual side. I told her that when I go out in public I am paralyzed by fear of the worst happening. I told her everything in my private life was pleasing, but I was still plagued with chest wrenching anxiety. And then I told her more importantly that I was starting to disremember anything that came before cancer, and that it scared me out of my wits.

Supposing she was going to prescribe pills on top of pills, it was a risk I was willing to take. My own thoughts were becoming unbearable, a constant, and frenzied sense of trepidation, and silent chaos.

“Write,” she contested. “There are a number of pills I could prescribe, but the best medicine for you is writing, and that’s something that only you can do. Flex that muscle. You are a writer, so write.”

I didn’t have much of a defense. Despite her brilliance, and numbered Doctorate degrees, it was advice that didn’t take a rocket scientist to propose, yet a remedy that I hadn’t been practicing lately.

“I can’t,” I confessed.

Aiding to the anxiety that I have been facing were flashbacks of all of the traumatic events that have taken place over the course of my cancer career. The nastiness that is coupled with being a member of the club with a cancer card, the gruesome surgeries, and the inches I’ve been to death; it was all starting to slither its way in, wrapping around my mind. The problematic issue is that all of the memories that once came before cancer were evaporating. The bones for my book had been laid out perfectly on the table for the past two years, and yet I’ve failed to give it flesh as my memories were being overshadowed. As a writer we depend on our memories to bring a perspective, and narrative from our account to paper; alive, if you will.

“Write out of order, escape yourself by listening to the music you have listened to throughout your life. Music evokes the deep-level parts of our emotions, where our earliest memories are stored. What you have done is compartmentalized the before life, and the after life of living with cancer, putting the before on a shelf to deal with the latter.”

Her words were magic.

“When we can tap into those memories, or a specific memory, the neurotransmitters in your brain will then lead to awakening another memory, and another, and another,” the Doctor articulated.

The words did not fall on deaf ears; I was in tune to everything she was concurring.

“My prescription to you is to write. It does not have to be for your blog, it doesn’t even have to be for your book, it can be just for you if you like. But, I promise you this, if you listen to music, and tap into your memories, not all of your problems will be solved, however it is the best thing you could do for yourself.”

It sounded so easy, and then again not, but I was willing to go there, re-sort the boxes in my brain, and get its contents down on paper.

When I got home I played country from the late 1980’s through my airpods; George Strait, The Judds, Alabama, even Billy Ray Cyrus. Come on, everyone loved Achey Breaky Heart, and Billy Ray is a national treasure. The waves of reminiscence to my early childhood were immense. From each memory I was able to draw another memory, and then another, and another after that, just as the Doctor preached. As the night prolonged, I realized there was an untold, layered story behind every song, from my first kiss, to my first love, leaving home for the first time, adventures in my 20’s, to the time I met my husband, and knew right then, and there he’d be the one I’d marry. The words flowed out of me as I entered a chaotic, yet focused zone in the writing universe. The bones to my story now had bits of flesh, and my memories were as fresh as if I was reliving it once again.

There are many days that I ponder my purpose or wonder if I even have one. My sole goal over the years of my diagnosis has been purely survival, sometimes leaving very little energy for anything else. Since I met with the Doctor, I have added a new goal to my life, which is to write everyday, no matter what. Thus far, it’s been filling in the pieces that are coming back to life in my mind, and although the past should be a place of reference, this has allowed me to reconnect with the person I was before my life changed in the least expected of ways. I realize that all of the memories connect, and if I didn’t have certain people, or have gone through certain experiences it wouldn’t be my life, or my narrative. It could very well take a lifetime to share my tale of this weird life, but God it won’t be boring.

PS- I hope you appreciate my Eminem reference in my chosen title of this confession. #musictherapy #inspiration #punny

Love,

Britt x

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Inspire(d).

People near and far have described me as “inspiring”. It is true. An actual FACT, simply because just about everyone I have come in contact with has shared their sentiments. By now I’m sure I’m sounding big headed, but stick with me.

Although a lovely compliment — inspiring, inspirational, inspiration and inspired are all a part of the same vernacular. One with which bears a great meaning and with that comes grave liability. A liability to disappoint or not live up to your own standard of inspiration. Perhaps even those, like me, who can’t fully understand how that definition could be synonymous with myself.

In my case, I’m living with Stage IV colon cancer. I share my struggles and write my truth through this journey. But on a normal day, I wake up and smoke copious amounts of medicinal marijuana and actually define the meaning of “Netflix and Chill”. Then, every other week, on what has now become a normal day, I go to the clinic for chemotherapy. My point being that, I’m doing exactly as you would do in this situation or any life roadblock for that matter.

In order to aspire and to inspire, you have to recognize the inspiration that we all have within our souls. I’m talking about all of the single mothers and the dads who are moms too —- working one, sometimes two jobs to ensure their child has endless opportunities. Pupils who continue their education in spite of all the hard work it takes to get there; not to mention finishing something that you started. The LGBTQ community who takes great pride in who they are, which is exactly how it should be. Or the obvious, just being Ellen DeGeneresqué.

For me it’s all of that and more. Inspiration is my husband for being brave enough to have fought on the front lines, while now going to school, working and truthfully… taking care of my cancer caboose (pun intended). Inspiring is my gorgeous, Nan who has never stopped looking out for me — retiring just to keep me company everyday. Inspired by the family I’ve been blessed with, who nourishes me with their strength and for never, ever letting doubt seep into my veins. A special friend who always remembers to wish me luck on a chemo day. To every stranger that’s expressed true human compassion by thinking outside of their own lives and onto others. All of which is my inspiration and where I draw from.

Everyone’s definition is different, and still it leads back to the fact that the world is waiting for you, now matter how big or small you may think that you are, everyone is capable of inspiring, even if you may never know that you are doing so.

In an especially dark world, it’s important that we share inspiration with one another, to bridge divides and conquer life together, one day at a time.

Now to marry the invitation of being described as ‘inspiring” —- it’s a badge of honor of which I will gladly wear.  Thank you.

Happy hearts and thoughts to all.

Love,

Britt x

What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do: Key to Cancer Support

My life seems to be divided into two very distinguished parts; pre diagnosis and post diagnosis. It’s as though they are entirely separate lives that have been lived by just one person, a split screen, then and now, the past and present. When something like this enters your life, you find your true friends and support system pretty quickly.

The diagnosis of the patient may be an initial shock, not just to the individual affected, but the people they share their lives with as well. The early days are usually high on the spectrum of support and friends bossing up, then it slowly slips away like yesterday’s trend. People move on with their lives after being gobsmacked by the news and ghosts begin to appear as friends, challenging your most coveted relationships.

You slowly stop going to parties because you’re sick in bed, having to cancel on dinner plans or you just plain forget how to talk to people because you’re self conscious that everyone pities you. Thus, friendships start to splinter. Some have their own reasons for dipping out, and contrary to that, you realize and form relationships and bonds with people you would have never expected. And for each friend I lost, I gained others who wanted to stand by my side and that is a beautiful thing.

When you are so far beneath the floor boards, experiencing things you’d never imagined can be a very personal journey. After my last blog, my friend and lovely supporter, Andrea asked a question that I had never been asked before, and thought it to be very thoughtful. She simply asked what are some of the right things to say or do for a friend with cancer. As soon as I read it, it put me in the perspective of those who are a part of this journey with me. I suppose if I wasn’t myself, in my situation, I might not know the right things to say or do, either.

Truthfully, there is not a rule book on how one should react to a friend or someone you love having cancer, nor is there a right way one should show their comradeship. Do’s and do nots, say and say nots can certainly be a thin line.

Personally, I have been very fortunate to have such a strong unit of people surrounding me from all over the globe —friends, family, strangers. I also choose to share my cancer experience with the public, therefore there aren’t many things that are off limits in terms of what to say and/or ask. Firstly, start by assessing your relationship with the cancer patient. Every relationship is different and consider your unique dynamic.

Sometimes it’s much more awkward for the person with cancer because we understand people don’t always know what to say. The best way to avoid any form of awkwardness is to treat the person the same. So much of our identity has been stripped away and we want to cling to normalcy as much as we can. Treating us like you always have is a gift beyond measure.

Uncertainty of the future tends to run through the veins of a person with cancer, with a direct connection to the brain. This resulting in many sleepless nights spent overthinking. That said, no one is able to reassure you that everything will be okay. But, hearing from a friend just to take a moment to tell you they are thinking and rooting for you, is rest assured it will result in a bright smile and swollen heart.

With this vile illness disrupting the body, one of the perspectives that has shifted for me is that I don’t want to travel my cancer journey in vein, I want to bring awareness to young adult cancer. With that, it takes the help and support of others to show that it can happen to anyone, cancer does not discriminate. If you are curious about something, anything just ask and I’ll write about it or share with you. The more you know, the greater the awareness and understanding of this disease, the less my diagnosis will be in spite. If my situation has impacted just one person and helps them in any way, shape or form, then it is all worth it.

Using humor and sharing funny things is also a great coping mechanism for a cancer patient. Laughter after all is the best medicine. It’s also a wonderful stress reliever and making light of things can allow the cancer patient to take a break from the darkness and seriousness of the situation.

Invite us anyway. Even if nine times out of ten we can’t make it, it’s nice to know we are still thought of and connected to people. And if we indeed cannot make it, please know it’s nothing personal and that we would rather be spending time with our friends or family, as opposed to laying in bed.

In most cases, cancer patients won’t tell you when they need help. It’s easy to feel like a burden to the world and being unable to do some of the most simple things can prove to be difficult. Asking the cancer patient, “how can I help?” will be ultimately appreciated. Even if we are too proud to take you up on it.

Many diagnosed patients create blogs, much like myself in and effort to keep family and friends in the loop with what is going on. If you truly want to understand what someone is going through and be there for them, it starts with understanding the situation and typically it’s a more detailed version than if I were to be talking face to face.  With writing I personally go into a zone, a trance of sorts.  Comprehending what your friend is going through can be the most powerful way to connect for a cancer patient and it also helps from constantly repeating yourself over and over again. If you want to be on this carousel with your loved one it’s nice to be able to read all the nooks and crannies of their day to day life, whether it be a blog or sharing updates on social media. It is essentially the patient expressing and opening up to their family, friends and supporters — a version of taking the time to listen.

Lastly, and I think this goes whether you have cancer or not, the best gift you can give someone, especially someone going through cancer is your time. Even if it’s for a quick cup of coffee or tea. It’s easy to become a hermit and hideaway from the world when you don’t feel well. Yet, spending a little quality time is a great way to break away from the house, hospital or Doctors office.

I hope this gives some tips and they are helpful to better understanding what some cancer patients need from their soldiers, marching by their side. Awareness is key, questions are vital, kindness is always welcomed and time is most definitely precious. Thank you to all of those who have stuck by me since day one of this strange new life. The bonds and connections that humans have the capability of is by far the most magical source of strength.

Love,

Britt x

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Nothings Gonna Change My World: Book Update

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While I have been talking about penning my story for some time, I finally feel that I am in a place to share how I have been connecting the dots to my narrative and how the experiences in my life has been in a constant state of motion, all in an effort to tell me something about myself. Speaking to how the veil was lifted and how I have leaned into the storm, although I’ve known there’s been much to fear. Share my roots that are deep and true and an understanding as to why I speak with an accent or two. How the power of credence has been absorbed due to the distresses and how suffering only comes when you yearn for things to be different. In its place, focusing on illuminating a little bit of my soul; with an introduction beyond my normal sentences about cancer. Like, what came before my diagnosis, and the valleys and mountains it has taken to get me here, a place to share my “Once Upon a Time.”

It is in the outline/transcribing process at the moment, but nevertheless in progress. Please stay tuned for more updates as I continue my novella.

-Nothings Gonna Change My World-

-Britt xx

 

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