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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Chemo Butterflies: Finding Your Well-Being

 As I closed my eyes last night, I had the butterflies. You know, the rush of what’s to come with the new day ahead. Like going to Disneyland or the thrill of waking up on Christmas morning, anticipation met with flutters. Naturally I knew that the following day I would have to wake up and begin chemo yet again, but I was greeted with those same feelings. A bizarre excitement but nonetheless, I am that girl that shows up and never gives up. The girl that believes anything is possible and willing to work damn hard for it.

There I was the following morning at 7:45a. The sun splashed into every dark thought I had on the way to the clinic. I was in an accepting mind frame that made me realize that I must be grateful for the means at my disposal, to work out my destiny. It was also so clearly apparent on the drive to Mayo Clinic, that I have been given a mind and will power for this very purpose. Chemo is not my enemy; chemo is in fact my saving grace, my hero, my best friend.

Certain experiences have an affect on you, as does all experiences in life.   When the experiences are forged by the wisdom of pain, it can be a total awakening, opening your eyes, and naturally restructuring you. When you have that, I truly believe that the universe aligns you with what you need in that moment, raising your vibration to see things clearly and allowing you to see what is beneficial to your well-being. For me, that is chemotherapy.

It might not be a dream job, but it’s what is going to hold those vile tumors at bay and for that, sign me up. Of course, ego kicks in and some of the side affects are not so glamorous, one being an “acne like rash.” Seemingly they have creams and things to manage it, however it makes me giggle. The one nice thing that I have had since having cancer is my appearance. Not in vain way, but in the sense that I can slap on a cute outfit, some lippie and look healthy and alive, even with my buzz cut. However, this just sounds painful and I have to avoid the sun like a bat. Yet, somehow at the end of the day, none of that rubbish matters. I’d rather have a face full of acne or rashes and be around, than the alternative.

Immediately when the chemotherapy hit my veins it was an instant peace of mind. The venom that is going to get those bastard tumors and cells was now running free inside of me. Hell was about to be raised and to my surprise my Oncologist also added an immunotherapy drug which fights for your white blood cells/immunity to stay tip top, while also targeting the specific areas wherein the tumors reside. On the other hand, the chemotherapy will be attacking all of the cells and with the two combined; the battle in my guts will be under brutal attack. It was a long day, but I tolerated it like a champ, other than a bit of fatigue.

Healing is not linear; I will of course have my bad days as I go through this yet again. I was born to do hard things and I will never forget how far I have come, all of the things I have gotten through, all the times I’ve pushed on even when it seemed impossible. All the times that getting out of bed seemed like lassoing the moon and when I wanted to give up, but got through yet another day and another. And at the end of my day today, it truly was my version of Disneyland or Christmas morning, for it’s giving me the best gift, which is my life.

PS- I felt all of the love and vibes today — thank you to all! xx

Britt xx

Hello, From the Other Side:

 

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The best thing about life is that everyday is a new opportunity.  As cliché as that may sound, it rings true.  Many of you know that on December 12, 2016, I underwent a rare procedure called HIPEC in an effort to provide myself with a greater opportunity to live.

There were many risks involved in having this operation, but without risk comes little reward.  I had to take that leap of faith in order to provide myself with more time and quality at that.  No doubt I had my reservations and up until the night before I was having serious second thoughts.

I’m signing up to be cut in half.”

 “Can I even endure this again, will my body be able to handle another major operation for the third time in three years?” I asked myself. My mind would not and could not stop operating on all cylinders.

Saturday, December 10 I had just been out with my Mum for a lovely day of brunch and pedicures.  It was special, quality, time before I was going to go into the hospital in just two short days.  After our pleasant day she dropped me off and Steve was at his parents house.  I lay on my bed as I was pretty worn out from the whole day and was going to try to catch a nap, when suddenly something came over me and I began thinking about the last few weeks prior and how I’d spent time with the people I love most; quality one on one time.  Were those my goodbyes?  I immediately began to shiver, my lips turned blue, my breathing became increasingly difficult and my body tense.  I thought I was dying right then and there.

As quickly as I could I called my Nan and word travelled fast.  She along with my Mum and Auntie Bev were on their way, as well as one of my very best friends, Allison.  Steve, too immediately left his parents.  No one truly knew what the situation was but knew in any case I needed immediate attention as my normally ever so strong brick walls had come crashing in on me.

Once they had arrived, I was clearly still very much alive but also in a state of panic and still freezing and stiff. They comforted me and Allison even called her brother with whom is an ER Doctor to get some medical advice on what they should do since I was refusing to go to the hospital.  If it actually was my time, I wanted it to be in my own home, not the cold hospital.  Her kind brother suggested that I meet everyone halfway and allow the paramedics to come and assess the situation and I obliged, particularly because those were Steve’s wishes as well.

Long story short, there were about five paramedics that came and determined I was having a forceful anxiety attack and low and behold my walls did cave in on me.  After awhile I calmed down and I was so grateful to have them by my side.  And I was happy that it happened when it did and not the morning of the surgery. For some reason I believe that, that freak out needed to happen in order for me to actually go through with the surgery, for me to know that everything was going to turn out okay in the end.

It was now time to be the queen I know I can be.  It was Monday and it was show time.  I rolled into that operating room feeling free of anxiety or fear, but instead excited for what was on the other side, post operation, despite the brutal recovery.

The Doctors practiced their magic and before I knew it, I woke up in the intermediate care unit.  I felt fabulous as the drugs from the operation were still in my system, even making a video of the news that had been shared with me that I was “CANCER FREE!” It felt so good to say those words, even if I was in la-la-land.

However, as the course of my stay at the hospital got longer and longer, the Doctors became less and less liberal with that word.  In turn leaving me to wonder what any of it really meant, even having it reiterated today at my follow-up visit with my surgeon now that I’m completely clear headed.  Where do I go from here and am I free of cancer?

The truth is, I’ve won the battle but not the war.  By having this surgery they have removed any and all signs of tumor that currently exists in my body, by cutting me open to remove them, scraping my insides and attacking with chemotherapy.  Therefore at this time I’m free of cancer.  However, I still remain a Stage IV cancer patient as I have had recurrences in the past, ones which have recurred rather quickly I might add, so I am considered a VERY HIGH RISK patient.  My cancer could come back tomorrow, next month or two years from now.  The moral of the story is I will be under surveillance non-stop by my Oncologist and looked after by the pros.  Naturally we all are hoping for the best-case scenario, but he kept it real with me, which I appreciate.

In the meantime, I’ve been home for the last week and a half recovering and it’s going well.  Slowly but surely I’m getting back to my old self.  I cannot express the gratitude I have for all of the love I’ve received leading up to the surgery, during and after.  It truly warms the cockles of my heart.  Now we are just trying to get through the holidays and get back into our routine.  When things get too routine, I just need to keep myself humble and remember that everyday is a new opportunity.

Happy New Year, my loves.

Love,

Britt x

Video: Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy

For better explanation of what the Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC) is all about, I have included a video.  Personally, once I saw the video I had a much better understanding as to what this crazy, invasive procedure is all about.  The days are getting closer and closer and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous for what’s to come and the thought of being cut open again. But, as I said before I am hoping for the best!  Hopefully this video helps for better understanding.

 

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