Life Lessons: 30 Things

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Typically before a big surgery my mind begins to overthink, racing with thoughts of what I have learned over the last three and a half years since being a cancer patient.  The thing about cancer is that it changes people.  It sculpts us into someone who understands more deeply, hurts more often, appreciates more quickly, cries more easily, hopes more desperately, loves more openly and lives more passionately.  I wanted to take a moment to jot down the top 30 things off the top of my head that cancer has taught me and share them, pass them along.  Some being more obvious than others, some being more simple as well.  It never hurts to be reminded from time to time that sometimes it can be the small stuff that can make us the upmost happiest.

Enjoy!

  1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
  2. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
  3. Don’t take yourself too seriously. No one else does.
  4. You don’t have to win every agreement. Agree to disagree.
  5. It’s okay to show your emotions. It’s okay to feel.
  6. Don’t compare yourself to others; you have no idea what their journey is all about.
  7. Don’t bother with pity parties.
  8. Burn the candles, use the nice stemware and wear the fancy dress. Every moment is a special occasion.
  9. Go with the flow.
  10. Be eccentric, who cares if people think you’re out of your mind.
  11. The most important sex organ is the brain.
  12. You cannot hold anyone else accountable for your happiness; it’s up to you.
  13. Forgive.
  14. What other people think of you is none of your business.
  15. Time heals.
  16. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your family and friends will.
  17. Believe in miracles.
  18. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.
  19. Listen to your body.
  20. Envy is a waste of time.
  21. Deep breaths calm the mind.
  22. Yield.
  23. Make your intentions pure.
  24. Turn wounds into wisdom.
  25. Peace will always be there for you in your darkest moments.
  26. How you feel is always more important than how you look.
  27. The big questions are worth asking.
  28. Love will always win.
  29. Always make self-care a priority.
  30. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.

Love,

Britt x

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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

 

Feature: 10 Important Questions You Should Be Asking Your Physician

61ONssbT0IL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Not too long ago I had the opportunity to score a feature story with Dr. Kevin Haselhorstauthor of Wish to Die Foras well as Emergency Physician. It seems pretty clear that he’s a clever man.  His passion is to help patients understand the questions they should be asking at any relative stage when you visit your physician, particuarlarly leaning towards an emergency situation.  Yet if you read the book you realize that everything he says is  relative to everything you should be asking anyway.  It is always nice to be prepared in the back of your mind and know the right thing to say when you’re in a wrong moment.

When I was initially diagnosed with cancer, we did not have any direction from our Doctors or the hospitals I was treated at.  Without having any guidance on what the next stages were and where we were supposed to go from there,  we often felt that we were out there on a lonely island, constantly wondering what was next or if we were taking the right steps and moving in the right direction. We of course had never been through anything of the sort. As my journey continues, my passion is to spread awareness and if this post reaches even one person and helps them, then that will be a blessing.

Dr. Haselhorst’s passion is preparing and making us aware of the questions we should be seeking, if we or anyone we care about are put in an unfortunate  situatuon.  Please read Dr Hasthorst’s feature below:


 

10 Important Questions Patients Never But Should Always Ask Physicians 

Patients often find it difficult to talk to physicians when they don’t particularly feel well. They tend to lack self-respect in these situations, failing to speak up for themselves. Naturally, this sentiment reflects upon physicians who are seen as not treating patients with dignity. Dignity implies self-confidence and certainty, rarely afforded to patients. Patients are mostly discounted in the decision-making process because they are not asking the right questions at the right time.

Emergency Medicine physician, Kevin Haselhorst, author of the book Wishes To Die For, firmly believes that patients have to be more proactive in their life-and-death decisions by asking pertinent questions and becoming informed. He encourages people to complete advance care directives to alleviate undue suffering at the end of life. But most patients don’t know what to wish for when life takes a turn for the worse since they rarely know what is being asked of them.

“The ultimate choice to live or die is not really just a medical decision,” he says, “… it’s a spiritual calling and one’s healthcare directives need to become one’s spiritual guidance documents to the living.”

Dr. Haselhorst identifies ten important questions he recommends people carry with them when they go to the hospital or when they see their physicians. They are designed to help them ask the right questions, make the right decisions, and achieve the best outcomes. Here they are:

Is this medical test really necessary?

Most of the testing performed in the emergency department are normal. This might have been reassuring to the patient, but often unsatisfying overall. Is the patient’s time and financial resources being respected or wasted? If the physician was almost certain that the tests would be normal or that they would not change the treatment plan, then why is the test required? Asking the doctor this question increases the chances you will receive adequate information.  If given the option, patients might wish to have doctors fine-tune their evaluations rather than shot-gun them. It can save pain in the emergency room and then later at home when the bill arrives.

Can you feel and understand my pain?

The doctor needs to know how bad is your pain, on a scale from 1-10, and where the pain is coming from.  Patients are asked this question routinely, but the number is not as useful and important as the actions and expressions you share. What you feel and what physicians perceive has to be communicated carefully since it is critical information that often determines what the doctor does next. Without adequate discussion, you may end up being prescribed pain medication rather than a being offered alternatives to the real source or cause of the problem.

How am I supposed to cope with the stress?

Patients and physicians rarely consider tension to be the primary cause of headaches, difficulty breathing, chest pressure or abdominal pain. Many ER physicians are reluctant to enter into discussions with anxiety-laden patients and may unconsciously suggesting that these symptoms are all in the head. Asking the doctor this question reduces the risk of these symptoms being ignored and increases the likelihood of you getting help that goes well beyond merely coping with anxiety. While it is true that the end of suffering is ultimately gained through the practice of acceptance – going with the flow of acknowledging and letting go, you should not be required to suffering unnecessary stress.

How can I be sure you are taking me seriously?

Did the physician take the time to ask you a lot of questions? Did you know the answers and give the doctor detailed information? Surprisingly, it is difficult to describe how they feel or remember when your symptoms started.  So write down the details you want to talk about with the doctor before you leave home. Tell the doctor what is going on, where and when it started. Tell the doctor what happened and what you’ve done or taken. The more you reduce the uncertainty that exists the better able the doctor will be to listen to your situation. Go prepared.

What am I to do next? What is the plan of action?

Ask the doctor to go over what you need to know once, twice, even three times. Till you get what you need to know. Don’t be the patients who claims, “The doctor never told me anything”.  As well as you can, ask the doctor for information about what you should do and what you should know. Write it down. Seek first to understand, and then repeat what you need to do out loud to the doctor to make sure you understood. Ask for a verification of the plan of action and steps to be taken.

How old do you think I am?  How old am I acting physically/mentally? 

Very few people wish to look or act their age, but when you get to the ER, it’s time to fess up. Don’t try to act like someone younger or healthier that you really are or feel. Act yourself and be real with the doctor. Adopt an attitude of honesty, sincerity and reason. Be in charge of your health. Pay attention to the health issues you can change from the ones you cannot. Confront the reality of the decisions you have to make. Exercise the best judgement and wisdom you are capable of.

Do you want to see me again?  When should I come back? 

Make sure you get clear orders and that the reason to come back is necessary and appropriate. Not needing to come back to the ER is not a comment on your popularity. But coming back to make sure you don’t need cardiac-bypass surgery is necessary and appropriate. If you’ve been in treatment for a while, cutting ties with primary care physicians or signing out from the emergency department is usually scary. Ask the doctors to tell you when you should contact them and under what circumstances you should call for a return visit.

Am I dying? How long do I have to live?  

These are two tough questions. You may think that you won’t be dying anytime soon, even if you are in treatment with a terminal illness. Healthcare professionals usually shield or discourage patients from thoughts of dying. Yet sometimes, these are the questions that need to be asked and confronted directly. Don’t believe your physician has a psychic ability to answer these questions.  Be prepared and listen carefully to his or her best medical opinions and judgements.

What is the endpoint to my disease or illness? What is the final outcome of this process or treatment?

Ask the doctor if the condition is transient, temporary or permanent. Ask how long it will take to recover. Be real and be prepared. The actual medical condition may catch you off guard. You may have to deal with a lengthy recovery. The chances of survival may not be that promising.  The outcome you hope for may not be possible and eternal life is not an option. Some time, the endpoint begins when you surrender – accept and understand – the medical conditions you face. It is only then that you can maximize the potential to both live the rest of your life happily and die with dignity and at peace.

Can you offer me spiritual guidance please? Can you respect my wishes to die with dignity in my own way? 

Physicians connect with patients on many personal levels, but rarely through in a way that address one’s personal and spiritual needs. As the end of life draws near, you may have needs that the doctor cannot provide or address. While your doctor may appreciate the struggles of you face empathetically, you need to ask the doctor to stop intervening on your behalf and allow nature to take its course.  Your dignity can be recognized if you tell the people around you to appreciate who you are spiritually, first and foremost. It is your right.

Love,

Britt x

Content provided by Direct PR on behalf on Tranquility Publishing and Dr. Hastlhorst
c/o Be Still My Heart Blog

Food Exploration: Vegan Food, Fighting Fatigue with Chef Jason Wyrick

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In the effort to broaden my horizons, as well as up the ante on my health and wellness, I attended a cooking class this afternoon.

This happened to be out of the ordinary for me, as I am rubbish at cooking or anything having to do with the kitchen. But, it’s a new year and a new me (maybe).  The class was offered by the Cancer Support Community- Arizona and was led by Chef, NY Times Bestselling Author and vegan genius, Jason Wyrick.

Over the years I have been an on and off again vegitarian and have always had an interesting and psychological relationship with food.  Nowadays, I often lack much of an appetite and when I do, it’s usually all of the terrible foods as opposed to the proper, nutritious meals that my stomach can handle due to my colon cancer.

Prior to today, I had zero knowledge of Chef Jason, or the benefits that a vegan diet can bring.  This class was specifically built around fighting fatigue and understanding on a high level how to retrain your palette to the different compounds within organic foods, as well as the antioxidants and super foods that are best to boost your energy.  Seemingly, all of the things that I am clueless about, yet happened to find incredibly interesting and eye opening after today’s course and the three recipes that Chef Jason shared.  Delectable and mouthwatering seems like a cheap shot, considering just how appetizing and healthy his recipes were.

Here are the vegan soup recipes that Chef Jason shared.  I hope you enjoy as much as I did!

Green Tea and Shiitake Noodles

  • IMG_56752 to 3 cups of brewed green tea
  • Salt to taste
  • A sprinkle of five spice (Cinnamon, Black Pepper, Fennel, Cloves and Sichuan Peppercorn)
  • 8 to 10 small shiitakes, sliced
  • 1 small package of ramen, udon noodles, or thick rice noodles
  • Cubed extra firm tofu
  • Keep brewed tea warm and add the slat, five spice, and sliced shiitakes
  • Bring to gentle simmer and add noodles, cubed tofu and cook noodles al dente.

Chilmole with Sweet Potatoes and Beans

  • IMG_56764 to 6 guajillo chiles, toasted and rehydrated
  • 3 cups of water
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Salt
  • 1 sweet potato, cubed
  • 1/2 cup of masa harina
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of rinsed beans
  • 2 cups of spinach
  • Puree chiles and water, transferring to a pot
  • Add pinch of cinnamon and salt to taste
  • Bring to simmer then add sweet potato until al dente
  • Slowly whisk the masa in until the soup thickens
  • Add beans, spinach and serve

Avocado Roasted Garlic Soup

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  • 1/4 cup of roasted garlic cloves
  • 2 large avocados
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of water
  • Puree all ingredients
  • Serve room temperature


Be sure to check out Chef Jason Wyrick and sign up for free recipes, videos and tips to a healthy vegan diet at www.thevegantaste.com!

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Love and yum,

Britt x

12.05.15: Post Surgery Update

12.05.15 BKO. from Britt Ochoa on Vimeo.

Yellow, from the hospital! I hope everyone is having a beautiful weekend. Here’s a little video update from earlier today (sorry if I am in lala land). Talk soon, soon, soon.

Love,

Britt x