The Tortoise Game…

“The hero’s journey always begins with a call.  One way or another, a guide must come to say “Look, you’re in Sleepy Land.  Wake.  Come on a trip.  There is a whole aspect of your consciousness, your being, that’s not been touched.  So you’re at home here?  Well, there’s not enough of you there.”  And so it starts…The herald or announcer of the adventure… is often dark, loathly, or terrifying, judged evil by the world…The call is to leave a certain social situation, move into your own loneliness and find the jewel, the center that’s impossible to find when you’re socially engaged… It’s a dangerous adventure, because you are moving out of the sphere of the knowledge of you and your community… If you are ready for it, then doors will open where there were no doors before, and where there would not be doors for anyone else.  And you must have courage.  It’s the call to adventure, which means there is no security, no rules… When you cross the threshold, you are passing into the dark forest, taking a plunge into the sea, embarking upon the night sea journey.”  Joseph Campbell

Cancer heralded me into this journey, deemed by most as one of the ugliest announcers of life change.  I have continually had to rework my understanding of this dis-ease and reapply my belief of its reason and purpose in my life.  I love all those that are supporting me, and do believe that one must not go through this life alone.  However, there are certain places that only fit one soul.  Right now is one of those places.  I have had to go to some incredibly dark moments, moments that were just me and the monster.  And I had to learn how to surrender or rise up or calm down or find my strength or accept.  These brutal gifts that are being shared with me aren’t for the weak of heart.  Most of the time, I want no part of them.  But after the battle has been fought and if I stayed awake for the lesson, a hard-earned jewel is added to my crown of enlightenment.  If I can’t hack it, the lesson will find its way to me again until I conquer it.

I’ve always been “an instant gratification” girl.  I like movement  and loath stagnation.  Obviously, patience isn’t a strong suit of mine.  I become itchy and perturbed if there isn’t a sign that things are flowing.  So, imagine my disappointment at the rate of my healing right now.  There are moments when the only thing I have to tally on the plus side is not feeling nauseous or getting a little bit better of a sleep.

So, the name of my game is “Tortoise.”  I can only do the next best thing.  And after that, I’ll do the next best thing.  Sometimes its taking a nap, sometimes its crying, sometimes its eating or practicing kind thoughts or watching a show about Icelandic fishermen.

My strength is coming less and less from the physical results of healing and more from an internal well of knowledge that each obstacle and hurdle are in fact there for a very specific reason.  If I try to run around them, I miss out on the beauty of their lesson.  So, instead of being frustrated, I open my eyes a little wider and trust a little harder.  And so help me God if I haven’t ended up with some pretty sick diamonds in the rough so far.  There is still a lot of rough, but I’m just taking one step at a time right now.  xx


When the ER Happens to Good People

I hate hospitals. I understand many good things can happen in them, from saving your life to giving birth. They’re just not my jam. And when you add a stubborn streak the size of the Mississippi, you’ve got a girl who has to feel like real shit to even consider going to one.  And this girl ended up feeling like real shit, so we went to the ER.

My restricted breathing became really restricted breathing.  Apparently, the hospital staff had more faith in my body’s ability to wait for hours on end, as we checked in around 10:00 am, I didn’t see a doctor until 1:00 and wasn’t in a hospital room until 9:00 pm.  The sheer panic and pain of not being able to breath is probably one of the worst feelings I have ever had (and I’ve had two 100% natural births!).  They put me on oxygen and I attempted with complete fail to try to find a comfortable position to lay in.  I couldn’t lay back because of the restriction, so my only option was to pile pillows in front of my and lean over them.  My feet would fall asleep and my legs would cramp and I can’t say I got more than 2-3 hours of light rest/sleep.

Each day, they would run blood work and CT scans and EKGs and echocardiograms and bacterial infection swaps from my nasal passages (also known as the brain tickle, one of the worst tests ever).  And each afternoon they would say they hadn’t found anything and “why don’t you stay with us another 24 hours.”

The days were bearable.  My endurance could only get me from the bed to the bathroom and back.  I would have to immediately slap my oxygen back on after the journey to try to get my body to calm down enough to breathe semi-normally.  Not knowing what was wrong was a special kind of hell.

The nights were absolutely terrible.  The horrible hospital bed that blew up and deflated at will, the over-thinking that brought both panic and the lack of sleep produced one despondent girl.  It all felt so hard, so unfair, so far from God.  I’m still working on our relationship status, and this turn for the worse did no favors in feeling supported.

I finally settled on a thought that kept me kind and calm company.  I have a friend named Danielle.  When I say friend, I actually mean she’s married to one of my ex-boyfriends.  But in the spirit of small towns, we all knew each other.  Danielle has advanced Lyme disease with complimentary bacteria to double the pain and misery.  I have never personally known someone who has endured unimaginable pain, complete exhaustion and moments of thorough hopelessness as doctors refused to acknowledge  that this disease was real and very present in her body.

To share a window into her heroic story, here is a sample.  Wife to one and mother to three, Danielle would spend her nights in profound seizures, blacking out from the sheer, overwhelming pain.  Her husband would have to “jaw thrust” her to re-start her breathing.  Her kids are old enough to know how scary this all is, and no one can give them the answers that would relieve that fear.  Their family unit had been dealt one of the biggest challenges I can think of.  And the reason I know this is because she was brave enough to share.  And because she let us into her dark night of the soul, I didn’t feel alone in mine.  My mantra was “If Danielle can get through a night, so can I.”

And now I’m sharing in hopes that someone out there might not feel so alone in their place of darkness.  I finally took a small turn for the better, and was released on Tuesday.  I am on oxygen because they don’t want my body to stress itself out.  And they still aren’t sure what it was, but they suspect the possible beginning of pneumonia.  And since my system is compromised, that’s not a great thing to battle.

The hospital took a little bit of life out of me.  I left completely exhausted to the point of hysterical tears which led to a tightening up of my chest which led to a panic attack of sorts that night.  The fairness piece was broken to bits, the idea that God would allow this and my inability to do anything about it felt like too much to bear.

But last night, my parents prayed over me, asking God to come alongside in some tangible way.  Within moments I felt a physical weight lifted from my chest.  I slept so hard, I woke up in puddle of sleepy drool.  I had made it through the night and cannot see it as anything less than a loving miracle that was gifted to me.  I realized that I am stronger than I even thought, and my endurance just got bumped to the next level of badassery.  I didn’t think I could do it, but God knew I had to pass the test.  And I did, dammit.

You are not alone in your dark night of the soul.  You have brothers and sisters that have gone through these pains and fears.  You have angels and spirits and surrounding you, not always to take the burden away but to support you through hell to a stronger and wiser self.  I almost lost my way this week.  But my soul kept me anchored to the truth that I can and will make it through each and every challenge that is put in front of me.  I don’t even need to know how.  God is taking care of that part.

If you want to check out Danielle’s blog, A Beautyfull Mess, you may benefit from her beautiful brutal story.  Xx, Brita

May You Always Do for Others and Let Others Do for You…

“Connection:  the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”  Brene Brown

I am not known to ask for help very often.  It always seems less shaming to  try to fix the problem quietly on the side than to open up and ask for help.  But as I start to unravel myself, I realize these thoughts don’t get me anywhere.  My thinking that I should have it all together by this age/stage is bullshit.  Guess what?  I don’t have it all together.  In fact, I have so little together right now, it’s a little laughable.

This line in the book, “Rising Strong” has glued itself to me lately.  “The bottom line is that we need each other.  And not just the civilized, proper, convenient kind of need.  Not one of us gets through this life without expressing desperate, messy, and uncivilized need.”

So, here I am.  At another level of courage that feels like rocks in my shoes and bleeding hangnails.  I am sitting at the beginning of many unknowns.  And I am asking for help to start the path.  Money is just a thing, but what a thing it is.  Until we can pay for medical bills and rent with prayers and love, we will need money.  And since I am relying on myself for financial means, my boat is temporarily without a motor.

Here is my request and formulated plan for what the gifted funds will go to:

*My cancer treatments and supplements are the heaviest cost, and in order to keep up my healing progress, those bills are sticking around.  Andrew has generously offered to pay for a portion of them.  I would appreciate being able to cover the remainder so I don’t skip a beat.

*I am currently staying with my parents.  They live in a 55 and older community, and while I may act like a 55-year-old lately, I am not.  I will be looking for a place for the girls and myself so my parents can get on with their retired life and we can start ours.  Because of my treatments, I am not able to get a usual job.  So, I will be trying to get work from home as soon as I am able.

*We will need a car.  Nothing fancy, but a weather sturdy vehicle to get the girls to school and the grocery store.

I am taking responsibility for the choices I’ve made that have led me to this moment and working on those broken pieces.  I will also be working my ass off as much as I can, from healing to recalibrating my new life to parenting.  And when my body has the energy and ability, I will be setting financial and work goals to accommodate my bills and needs on my own.  My goal is to be working by June.

It isn’t flowery and pretty, but it is honest.  The courage needed to ask for this help makes me feel raw and vulnerable, but it is these emotions that make me feel like I am being honest.  Your gifting to our family will be gratefully accepted and used.  All your prayers and love and emotional support are also gratefully accepted and used.  Each goes into a needed bank account, whether physical or spiritual.

My end game is to use my healing as a platform for others to feel support in their time of need.  Asking for help and gifting help is a continual cycle and I will be using your love and support to “pay it forward.”  Much love and light to you, Brita

To donate, here is a link to a Go Fund Me account set up by a very dear friend.  Thank you

How am I Today?

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”  Leonard Cohen

I have had quite a few people ask how I’m doing.  My body, this cancer, my soul, etc.  When my ethereal girlfriend wrote me from dreamy Holland, she asked how I was.  I responded with the usual bullet points.  But she asked me again,” how are YOU?”

We so often become what we’re going through.  We become depression or cancer or we become a bad mom because we’re having a bad day.  I have attached many names to how I’m doing.  But when I go silent, I just am.  When I let all those circumstances and test results and exhaustion also just be, we all settle into our places without needing to defend or explain.

Naturally, this might not satisfy some of your inquiries.  So, I will give you a few bullet points to ease your minds.  This cancer is stage 4, it has “honeycombed” into my lungs (it looks like lots of little alien legs in there).  This restricts my breathing, which restricts my life.  Obviously, God knew I needed to hibernate so it has been snowing and freezing lately and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything out there.

I am seeing a regional specialist alternative oncologist in Portland.  He has supplied me with more supplements than anyone would ever enjoy taking.  He as also forced coffee enemas on me, which I have actually come to love and adore.  I will probably never drink a cup of coffee with my mouth, but its worth it!  I also do oil pulling and take detox tinctures from Germany (German-made tinctures make them feel more effective).  I sit under an infrared light and I take two epsom salt baths each day.

I am also seeing a conventional oncologist with an understanding of the alternative therapies.  Because this cancer is ER/PR+ and is a HER2 nu overexpressor, I am getting biologic targeting agent injections (Herceptin and Perjeta).  While this doctor would like me to take everything in the conventional medical book, I am taking one thing at a time.  I want to see what can work for my body without causing it too much harm.

I am tired.  I’m not sleeping well, which can taint the whole day if I’m not mindful.  I am with my parents for the time being, and their help has been a game changer.  Asking for help has never been my strong suit.  As I’m starting to realize, you can’t go at this life alone.  So, help was offered and I accepted.

Some of you have asked about the various treatments I’m doing and if they’re working.  To be honest, it’s all a crapshoot.  No one can promise anything because cancer isn’t so easily cornered.  Its elusive and unique to each body.  What works for one may not work for another.  You try and then watch, try and then watch.  And since patience is not one of my strong virtues, the watch part is like having my nails pulled out with dirty pliers.

So, you know what I do while watching?  I crack.  Bigtime.  But there is something funny about that saying that the cracks are where the light gets in.  Leonard Cohen forgot the messy middle part.  You crack, you ooze pus and nasty old crap that has been crammed in there for years.  Then you have to clean all of that up before it tries to creep back into that hiding place.  And then the light can get in.  I guess I see why he didn’t use that middle part.  Doesn’t really have a melodic ring to it.  But it has a whole lot of truth!

That is how I’m doing.  I’ve already secured the big pieces, like survival and using this story to somehow help others lost in their own tunnels.  But the daily pieces fluctuate.  More energy or less, a rocking 6 hours of sleep or a night of painful wide eyes, hungry or not, blessed or blah supplements.  It’s all just a rollercoaster.  But it means I’m living, so you gotta give an amen for that!

Dear Cancer, I love you…

“Here’s the real paradox:  you can’t change anything until you love it and you usually only want to change something because you don’t love how it is.”  Brian Andreas

Cancer.  This word most likely has more than a neutral meaning for most of you.  Some of you have had it and some of you know someone who’s had it.  Many of you have lost someone to it.  And for most of you, this word brings fear and loathing.  You might wonder who is crazy enough to admit to loving such a horror.  I am.  Since we’re shooting down this rabbit hole together, I might as well clear up my stance on cancer.

I do know I will be treading on some very delicate toes.  I will not speak for others, but feel it is important to look at this word from a few different vantage points before we race to war on that word.

The first time I went through cancer, I didn’t actually go through it.  I edged around it, poked needles at it and feared it because cancer is scary and uncomfortable.  That cancer did go away, but the message that it was supposed to impart on me was lost.  I doubled up on my veggies and went bankrupt on supplements, because those were things I could control.  And the fear of the unknown lurked behind every corner.  If my doctors didn’t know how I got cancer the first time, how could I prevent it from coming back?

When this cancer came knocking, I unraveled my feelings one by one.  I walked with my fear, hearing its worries.  I held hands with death, understanding that it would always be a part of my life, but it wasn’t reminding me of its presence to scare me.  Death was simply showing itself as a reminder of how important living is.  When I finally came to cancer, we sat across from each other and I stopped running and started listening.

Cancer told me that she was simply a messenger.  The message was that there was something very broken deep inside of me and it was time to fix it.  She told me that I had to go deeper, that this wasn’t a surface issue.  I had to look at my soul and spirit and let them out of prison.  Let them breath, let them sing.  She explained that I wasn’t waking up to all the other internal red flags and external symptoms my body sent so she was sent as the ultimate wake-up call.  Behind this message are very deep roots, traveling back to places of old pain.

When I say that I love cancer, I don’t mean it in the way I love maple syrup.  That sticky goodness can get on any item on my plate and make it infinitely better. Fingers, sausage, coffee; it is welcomed and adored.  The love I am talking about is similar to how I feel about giving birth.  It pushes you to the brink, tests your every ability and everything else fades as you focus on the task at hand.  And if all goes well, the gift you’re given at the end is more incredible than ever imagined.  But that ending is beyond our control, isn’t it?  We do our part and let a higher power do the rest.  That is how I see cancer.

Cancer understands that I do have to kill the messenger, but that to do it in fear or panic is running the wrong way.  So, I am trying to love this cancer to death.  I am trying to understand her, and meet her halfway.  And when she feels like I have absorbed the message she sent, I imagine we will part ways peacefully.

The messy middle of all of this is that I still hate cancer sometimes.  I still blame her for all that is uncomfortable in my life.  As I peel the layers back, I find myself coming to a place of complete loathing for her.  I don’t like what she makes me look at and deal with.  And she stares back at me quietly until I realize that hating cancer is hating my body.  Because these cells that have gone haywire are still my cells.  They’ve simply forgotten how to communicate.  And in these moments of miscommunication with my body, anger ensues.  I now know when anger is coming and resign myself to just being.  I take a bath, sleep, read a book that has nothing to do with health and healing.  And eventually, I come back to peace.  Eventually.

Oh, and did I mention that this cancer prefers to be called Helen?  True story.  In a meditative state, I was conversing with her and she would prefer not to be attached to a name that causes such fear.  She prefers to make this message personal and how better to do that than with a proper name.  I’m sure this gets me a VIP membership to the front row of the crazy club, but I feel like I’m in good company.  The crazy ones are the most fun.