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  • Brittney Blane

Cancer, Loss, and a Come back. This is My Story...

Over the past 2 years I've started and stopped this post probably more times than I'd like to admit.

{ A FAIR WARNING BEFORE I START: This post will be the longest I’ve ever posted.}

If you know me personally, then you know how long-winded I can be in conversation. Talkativeness is just something that runs in my genes, and I have fully embraced it.

So that being said, I’m going to tell you my story. I’m going to bare my soul for a bit.

I’m not one to parade my personal life around on my sleeve for the world to see (especially on the internet,) but today I’ve decided to share. Not just because I feel that an explanation for my absence here on my blog is owed, but in hopes that someone out there, in the very least, will find hope or comfort in times of personal struggle or maybe even just a bit gratitude for their current blessings.

I figure if I want to step back into the blogging world after basically dropping everything, running, and not looking back, I owe everyone that much. You're about to get a full-length, unedited recollection of a very personal and trying time in my life. AND a few bits of information that I would probably consider TMI, but I don’t want to leave anything out or hold anything back. If I just breezed through the major details, then it wouldn’t be my whole story. And let’s be real, if you’re breathing right now, you’ve struggled at least once in this life with something or another, and I am no different.

Now I am going to ask that you bare with me because I'm about to get vague and philosophical (just for one little paragraph I promise.)

We learn so many lessons in life. I'm sure that is something you know all too well, as do I. The beauty and the furry of those lessons is quite possibly the fact that no matter how much we think we know, or how much we prepare, we can never see what's coming next. The change, the growth, the forced's all inevitable, and a part of every life lesson. But sometimes, those lessons and trials hit harder than expected, and right out of no where. That's what happened to me.

Ok, now that I've rambled a bit too much for a fashion blog (it's my nerves people,) I will get to it.

( a little disclaimer: I am in no way saying what I went through is the most trying or hard time an individual can experience in this life. Far from it. I am simply sharing something that, at the time, was extremely emotionally and physically trying for me. I realized then, just as I do now, how blessed and fortunate I am that events unfolded as they did, and that I am still here today to tell you my story from that year. )

So here it goes:

It all started in January of 2015. Like most twenty-somethings out there I was full of life, health, and vigor. I looked forward to the surprises the new year would bring. I started my year with fresh eyes and an open heart. Ready for adventure, excitement, and at the very least, a few romantic date nights with the hubby, and an excessive amount of cuddles from my little pooches. I even looked forward to getting back to my blog after a short hiatus I chose to take over the holidays so I could spend more time with family and friends.

And while the year did gift me with a few romantic dinners, lots of much-needed laughter, plenty of affection from my dogs, and other happy moments; it also brought fear, sadness, and a few hardships.

I like to kick off the New Year every year with a jumpstart on my health, and that year was no different. So, January is typically the month when I make my annual doctor appointments. If you’re a lady out there, then you know the most important appointment of the year (not so much the most fun however,) is the annual trip to your OBGYN.

So I booked it, I went, and I went along on my merry little way wishing the doc a great year until I saw him again next January.

And then the phone rang.

It was my Doctor’s office saying I needed to come in again because they found a spot.

A spot?

It was probably nothing.

...I told myself this repeatedly with the upmost confidence that I’d go back in to the office, get it checked out, and get on with my life.

Well to skip all the in-between details, and (what was, according to my doctor and many other women I know,) the rather common biopsy, I’ll get to the next significant part of this story.

The phone rang again.

This time when I answered little did I realize, I would never forget where I was that exact moment. When things happen to you that seem to split life into a before and after, you never forget the exact moment. The exact place you were, every detail of the world moving around as you stand completely still.

I was in Michael’s craft store perusing the dollar section and thinking, “They sure did put out the St. Patty’s décor early this year.” I was thinking that very thought when I heard my doctor say the word cancer.

I froze in the middle of the store as I heard him say the words aggressive cancer,

And I was full on paralyzed when he suggested a total hysterectomy at 28 years old.

The phone call took roughly a minute and 30 seconds. And that’s all it took to change my life.

I spent the next few days trying to let it sink in, crying, sobbing, and staring at the floor for hours at a time. Up until that very moment I hadn’t realized how blessed I’d been; how lucky. In your twenties it’s so easy to take your health for granted. I don’t mean not pursuing healthy habits like eating your veggies, drinking plenty of H20, or finding the time in your busy life to exercise regularly. I did all those things. When you’ve never been faced with illness, it’s easier to discount it when you’re young. So wrapping my mind around a life threatening ailment, much less the c-word, had me partially freaking out and partially comatose.

Now I can tell you with extreme confidence that I've never been a depressed person in this life. However, the sadness I felt when I received this news was so crushing and so bleak, had it not been for my faith and my family, I’d be battling two diseases instead of just one.

But my loved ones infinitely proved something to me right away: my family was my rock, my mother was my super hero, and I was still abundantly blessed.

If it hadn’t been for them, I wouldn’t have made it through emotionally. Every time I fell apart they were there to constantly hold me up, and my mother jumped into action.

With no signs of fear or sadness from them, they encouraged me to press onward with fierce confidence in a complete cure to my cancer. They reminded me daily that God is the ultimate physician, and that prayer was a much better use of my time than worrying. They were so right.

So with my hero by my side, I sat down with the oncologist to make a very tough decision.

For those of you who may not know, I do not have any children.

Bringing life into this world and raising a human is potentially the most important thing an individual will do in this lifetime. Since I knew a hysterectomy was my only option for a complete recovery and no possibility of relapse, I too was resolved that this was the right choice. Understanding the seriousness and enormity of that choice, I decided that I just wasn't going to be a parent, and that is totally ok.

I want you know I was and am completely content with the decision I made. Was I fearful? Yes. I was afraid. Afraid that the cancer was worse than they had foreseen. Afraid that they would find it in my lymph nodes during the procedure, and I’d have to have chemo and radiation treatments. Afraid I’d feel different both physically and mentally. Afraid I would have regrets when it was all said and done, because even though I was ok knowing I may never become a mother, I was about to solidify the possibility.

But more than that, I was oddly confident.Confident in the precise hand and skill of my doctor who clearly had a compassion towards all of his patients, and a passion for adamantly working towards a cure for cancer one day. Confident in the path the Lord chose to lead me down; knowing He was still in control no matter how tattered my life might have seemed. Confident in knowing that this was my only option.

And finally, much to my astonishment, I actually felt grateful. Grateful that I even had a possible complete cure without a battle through chemo and radiation. Grateful that I hadn’t wanted to have children prior to this because I know how completely crushing that could have been and has been to so many other women who’ve been in this very situation. Grateful again for my family and my friends.

Then the tides turned a bit.

One Sunday morning, about a month before my surgery was scheduled, I walked into my church building, as I did most Sundays, to be instantly greeted with a warm hug and a gentle kiss on the forehead by my grandfather. That Sunday I happened to be wearing a brand new dress, it was the perfect blush pink with a detailed lace paneling down the front. Immediately after my grandfather greeted me that day he looked at me and said, “Sugar, you sure look beautiful today. That’s a nice dress.”

His compliment made me smile, and even more than that it made my entire morning.

After church that day the family went to eat lunch together; which is also very typical for us on a Sunday. As we were walking to our cars that day, my grandfather stopped and called out to me across the parking lot. We hadn’t discussed my upcoming surgery or my cancer at all that day during lunch, but as he hastily made his way to me, he softly grabbed my arm and said, “Sugar, don’t worry about your health, God will always take care of it.”

That’s the very last thing he ever said to me. He passed away that next weekend.

If my year had been bad so far, it had just gotten worse. Much worse.

Although he had heart problems in the past, his death was very sudden to our family. My grandparents have always been my lifetime heroes and role models. Both such wonderful people; I can hardly find the right words that would due their amazing characters, unwavering faith, and deep selfless love for our family justice.

I shared so many wonderful things with my grandfather. My love for academics comes from him. And my passion for writing and constantly seeking knowledge was always something he optimistically challenged and encouraged. I lived my whole life trying to make him proud. I hope that I did. I hope I still do.

With all of the emotions I had already been feeling, it broke me. My confidence left me. The fear of him no longer in my life was raw and sickening. I didn’t tell anyone at the time, but I secretly thought to myself, “I can’t get through this surgery without him.” He had always been such a comfort to me in my life anytime I’d ever felt vulnerable, and now he wasn’t going to be there. I was scared before. Now I was terrified.

We said goodbye to one of the greatest men I’ve ever known in two ceremonies; one at our church, surrounded by people my grandfather loved immensely, and another at the veteran’s cemetery with a very touching and honorable tribute to his life as a Navy man. I remember my mom saying afterwards that he would have called it his finest moment. I have to say I’d agree.

Faced with my fears of the upcoming inevitable surgery and the cancer that lurked with in me, I knew I owed it to him to overcome those fears. To do my best to make him proud in this moment in my life, no matter how impossible that seemed to me.

So that June I had the surgery. They used a robotic technique that left just a few tiny scars on my abdomen, and all went well. Recovery was a little difficult, but that was to be expected. Though I have to say, now that it’s all over, the memory of the physical pain from the recovery process has faded a bit, but the extreme love and kindness given to me by some of my oldest and dearest friends during that time will never be forgotten. A couple of those friends I hadn’t seen in years, and still I felt their love like our friendships hadn’t skipped a beat. I didn't tell many people at the time, but the kind words and actions by those I did still brings tears to my eyes.

Six weeks later, as I sat in the waiting room for what would be my very last appointment with my oncologist, I slowly scanned the quant space with mixed emotions. I was one of the lucky ones. There were woman of all ages sitting around me, some waiting on consultations, some waiting on chemotherapy, all dealing with their own personal battle. As I sat there and noticed their ailments, I also couldn’t ignore their astonishing strength. Never have I ever sat in a room with stronger women. Some so frail from the chemo, yet even the feeblest of them with hope and perseverance in her eyes. All greeted each other with a silent smile. I will never forget these strangers. I will never forget these extraordinary women.

So now that it’s nearly the end of 2017, and the year that I started out with such wide, bright eyes is almost 3 years behind me, I can confidently say: Yes, I now have more scars than I ever expected to get that year both emotionally and physically. But I also have a greater love for life, and a deeper gratitude for those that love me than I ever thought possible. I feel more alive than ever. I’m healthy, and I know that that’s a privilege in this life, not just a given. I’m grateful for my struggle, and what it’s taught me. I have a greater awareness of every single person in my life. I have a deeper compassion for those who are facing their own hardships be it much smaller or much, much greater than my own. All of our struggles in the life are significant. You should never allow yourself to think otherwise.

Thank you for letting me share my story. It took a lot of emotions to get to this place. Just hitting the post button will take some courage for me.

For the past two years I have deserted my little corner of the internet. If you have a passion for blogging, then you know how dear a blog can be to the writer behind the keyboard. This blog is no different for me. It is one of my passions; one that for too long I pushed aside, and let other things in life get in the way. Moving forward, I plan to start adamantly blogging, and sharing my love for fashion with you all once again.

Thanks for not giving up on my blog, even when I abandoned it. I’m so glad I found my way back to this place.

I want to end this post with a few words that proved so substantial to me during that year, from one of my literary heroes:

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” – Maya Angelou.

  • Love Brit

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