Britt Andersen

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A Year of Postpartum Depression followed by a Breast Cancer Diagnosis.

I’m sure reading the title of this post gets you really excited. Postpartum depression and Cancer? Sign me up! I’m looking at this screen and all I can think about is taking a nap. I don’t want to write about this, but I’ve felt the need to write about it for a very long time. People need to read about my experience, and I need to get it out of my system and move on.

Brain fog….brain fog….chemo brain…..oy….ok, let’s see if I can get this out.

A little over two years ago, my family moved across the US for my husbands work. We were so excited and anxious for change. My amazing husband had just graduated with his Masters in Chemical Engineering and we were ready for the next phase of life. Our families live within about a mile from each other, so moving across the country meant leaving all extended family members behind. Looking back, I now realize it wasn’t only being away from family that was hard, but I was also probably experiencing culture shock.

A few weeks after we had moved, we discovered we were pregnant with our third baby and we were so happy. Family is everything to me, and bringing another sweet babe into our lives was exciting! So along with having to figure out life in a new location with new people, add in having to navigate pregnant…baby…. doctor world too. My husband was also in the training part of his new job and was working probably 80 hours a week.

This pregnancy was pretty similar to my other pregnancies. Nauseous for the first few months, hormonal for the full nine months, gaining weight quickly in the mid months, sleepless nights in the last months…exhaustion. The biggest difference with this pregnancy, was that I was so much more tired. Add in all of the change that our family was going through, I was a little bit of a mess.

After training, we moved to Upstate NY. For my husbands job, now that he had completed the training part, he had to qualify. He was working on average 90 hours a week. Also, because of the nature of his work, mobile devices were not allowed on site, so I couldn’t contact him while he was at work. Not so fun for a mom who is so big she could hardly walk and was about to give birth. I seriously had one woman come up to me and tell me she would pray for me because I looked so big and uncomfortable. Side note- I’m 4’11” and carry all out front and it is hard and painful, but I am so grateful that my body was able to grow and carry three beautiful children. I know that many womens’ bodies are not able to do this, so please do not think I am complaining about this.

Fast forward to baby being born, life being altered again, and me being really confused about EVERYTHING. I felt heavy, and I am not talking about post baby body. I felt as if there were invisible weights pressing down on my body all the time. I felt low. Not unhappy, just low. I was so lost and confused. It took everything I had to take care of my kids. I made sure they were fed, kept them clean, and did my best to get them into bed on time. I did a pretty decent job at taking care of them, but was not taking care of myself and the house…I remember standing in the kitchen staring at a plate on the table and trying to will myself to move it over to the sink. That is all. I wanted so desperately to get that silly plate over to the sink. There was so much weight, I felt like sinking into the floor. I finally managed to move it and felt a little relief….the heaviness was still there…never ending.

I was scared to leave the house. What if one of my kids runs off and I can’t catch up to them? What if someone tries to hurt them? I remember laying on my bed, sobbing, my husbands arms around me, asking him what was wrong with me. Why can’t I make a good dinner (I can’t tell you how many times we had fruit and yogurt for dinner), why can’t I get ready in the morning, why can’t I do the dishes, and above all, why can’t I take a nap?! My sweet husband was just as lost as I was, but he was very patient with me….I wish I could have followed his example and learned to be patient with myself.

My mom realized what was going on with me and suggested to me over and over that I go and see a doctor. It took me a long time to accept that I had Postpartum depression, and even longer to go and see a doctor. I wanted to see if I could combat it by myself first.

Each morning I drew the curtains open to let in as much light as possible. I forced myself to eat breakfast (usually a smoothie loaded with greens and other super foods), I tried to get myself and my kiddos dressed each day, I listened to music, danced to music, and sang at the top of my lungs! I tried and tried and tried to do all of these things and more, and when I failed, I hated myself. I was so angry for not being able to function as a person, I was angry for not being able to be the mom I wanted to be.

Finally, after a lot of gentle encouraging from family members, I went to see my doctor. She started me on a low dose of anti depressants. I noticed a huge difference within a few days. My husband even said, “My wife’s back!” I think the biggest change I noticed was the weight and pressure was gone. I felt like I could move again.
One thing that was left was the way I was thinking about myself. Because I had struggled, fought, and failed for so long, I discovered that my way of thinking was very negative. A new challenge…I decided that for every negative thought I had, I would think of three positive ones. This helped and made me very aware of just how many negative thoughts were happening in my head, especially about myself…and the strange thing was, I really did not believe these negative things. I did not think I was an awful person, but that thought would manifest itself anyway. I remember praying over and over again, for help to change what was going on in my mind. I wanted to be positive. I wanted to love myself.

Things started to get better. I started to come out of the “fog” as I like to call it. I was getting better at being aware of my body and taking care of it (sleep!), which led me to the doctor again, and then to the emergency room, and then finally to discovering the lump in my breast.

Those are posts for another day…but I wanted to say that in a very strange, real, and surprising way….cancer has been a blessing. Through fighting cancer I now how the tools/knowledge that I desperately needed last year. I’ve learned to be patient with myself. I’ve learned how important it is to care for my body, goodness, I love my body (bald head and all!) I’ve learned how to banish negative thought and replace it with positive. I’ve learned to let things that are not important, go.

I’ve gone from one painful trial right into the next, but this time I’m a little more prepared.

Why I am sharing my Breast Cancer Story….I am a natural over sharer, BTW.

Every time I post something on Facebook or Instagram, I ask myself, “Why am I doing this? Why am  I sharing this personal and painful experience with everyone?” I’ll probably continue to ask myself those questions, but thankfully, I do have a few good reasons. 

The most important reason for me sharing all of my experiences publicly is to help others who are going through this specific battle, and to help those of you who will be going through this battle at some later point in their lives. For the first couple of months when we were in doctor appointment phase, almost every single time I left the house, I encountered someone who was going through the same thing. Crazy huh? I think Heavenly Father knew that I wasn’t going to pick up the phone and dial up someone who had battled breast cancer and ask them all sorts of questions about it….I’m not sure I’m even ready for that now. But luckily, people were placed in my path, and once we began talking, I received a bit of a fighters’ attitude from each. Every person was so encouraging, that once I walked away, I felt….a little awesome. I could do this. In the meantime at home, however, I looked at a few blogs and you tube video journals…mostly the video journals actually, and seeing women get through their battle was so hopeful. I really have been wanting to do a video journal type thing, but I hardly have the energy. So, I’ll be writing for now, in hopes that my words will help others fighting the pink fight!

In the beginning I found myself saying “cancer” as often as I could. “I have cancer,” “Do I seriously have cancer?” “Cancer, cancer, cancer” “These are my new cancer pajamas,” or “I am going to sit down, be lazy, and watch youtube videos of Jimmy Fallon because I have cancer.” A sweet friend messaged me and compared reasons for saying “cancer” out loud to the same reasons Harry Potter says “Lord Voldemort” rather than “You Know Who.” Calling it “cancer,” and saying it out loud gives it less power. This has been so true for me. Saying it, makes it much less scary. Sending my experiences out into the digital universe, makes it less scary. 

I’m sharing because I want to remember this huge, terrible, and great experience….I think. Actually, I’ll get back to you on that one…

My last reason for over sharing :) is that I receive so much strength from all of you. Your words help me breathe, your sweet packages of “cancer goodies” make me smile, and while I often do not have the courage or energy to call or message you back, I am thinking of you. 

Thank you for letting me overwhelm you with information, complaining, and all of this cancer stuff. Today is my last day of feeling good for the next couple of weeks. Tomorrow I receive my third Chemo treatment. Ugh. That does mean, however, that I will only have five more to go! Silver linings, my friends. That is what life is all about, right? Finding the good and beautiful in all of the hardships we are facing. Anyway, sending love to you all. 

P.S. I am not a writer. I am not going to spend a long time on these posts, because I cannot afford to and do not have the energy. There will be spelling errors, there will be incorrect grammar…but I do not care. :) I’m playing my cancer card here and telling you that my brain just doesn’t work that way. I can sing, dance, tumble (well, not anymore with the surgeries and babies I’ve had), play the violin and piano, photograph, and do tons of other awesome things….can you? :) Our brains and bodies work differently, so you’ll have to be patient and forgive my mistakes.

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About

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I am a wife, mother, a daughter, sister….you get the idea. My life is greatly defined by my beautiful relationships I have with my family, and especially the relationship I have with my Heavenly Father. I am so grateful. I enjoy….no, that isn’t right…..I love beauty, and I’m pretty good at noticing it all around me. I love music, I play the violin, piano, and I studied voice in college. I actually studied music dance theater in college. So, I do lots of artsy things. I just began painting and am practically obsessed when I have time. ;) I love learning about the body, studying food and nutrition, and am a certified Ashtanga Yoga Instructor.

On April 22, 2014, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 29. Most of my life right now is centered around curing my body of this disease. I hope that my words and experiences can be of some comfort to any who are in a situation similar to mine or to any who find themselves basically just having a bad day. We all have our trials, and though they are not the same and may not even be relatable, you are not alone in that lame stuff is happening to you. We all have our obstacles or our stumbling blocks. I’ll be writing about mine, and about how I am overcoming them.

It won’t all be about cancer. I’ll write and share my other interests, and who knows what else. Really I just began Chemo and have a lot of sick downtime…so I may even post some silly videos here or something. Anyway, welcome to my blog, and welcome to my journey.

Brave face

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This was me today, putting on a brave face for my chemo “class.” What I hated and loved, was that my nurse (and my great oncologist a few weeks ago) flat out told me it was poison that they are putting into my body. It ain’t pretty guys. The medicine kills all rapid growing cells, like cancer, and also kills white blood cells, which stinks. For those of you who speak “cancer,” I am getting ACT. I asked the nurse what would help with my white blood cell count, and her answer surprised me: LAUGHTER! #breastcancer #bebrave

You will suffer

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You will suffer. I am suffering. My family is suffering. I have cancer….as painful as this is, I know that there are people I love who are suffering even more. Going through things that I imagine to be much more difficult. Life isn’t fair. I used to think that everyone would get their fair share of pain, that everyone would get an equal amount of trials. Life isn’t fair. Some people get pushed to a limit that they and even the people around them think they cannot bare. But still, none are exempt. What matters is how we react to the pain. When things happen to us that are out of our control, we are still in control of how we react, what we do next, how we care for everything around us, how we care for ourselves, and how we care for one another. And to those I love who are being pushed to the limit, who are in so much pain, they just don’t know what to do, know that you are the strongest of us all. You have the greatest potential for good. Find the good. Strive always for the good. Be strong. Go forward with faith. It is never too late. I love all of you, you all give me so much strength. Sending love. #breastcancer #trials #wecandothis

New hair….before it all falls out!

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And finished! I love love love my cut, and I wasn’t expecting to. In fact, I’m almost a little more bummed that I’m going to be bald in a few weeks. But at least I can grow it out to this after! I made an awesome new friend who did a fabulous fabulous job! Laura, you are so awesome! #breastcancer

I’ll try to post the videos of me getting my hair chopped off…right now I am working on an ipad so I am limited in what I can do!

Cancer catch up.

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I just posted this on someone’s instagram, but wanted to document it on my own: I’m a 29 year old wife and mother of three who just had a mastectomy and am about to start chemo. My daughter guessed my age to be 36 and my first thought was something like, “what?! I am way younger than that!” But my next thought was, “goodness, I hope I make it to 36.” I never want to forget my age. Each year, I am going to celebrate how incredible and fabulous I am. ;) I really truly hope to live my life, and get…..OLD!!! :)

Over share post…

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Over share post. So don’t read any further if surgery and breast cancer stuff bothers you. I’m just going to give you short quick one liner updates…because I am tired. Had a mastectomy and began reconstruction during the same surgery with “skin expanders.” Because I was “well endowed” they were able to fill the expanders quite a bit. I’m like a size B guys! This has made it less emotionally difficult. I had drains for the last two weeks and they came out today! I hardly felt one side, but the other side was so painful, I wanted to swear so badly but I didn’t! I totally cried after though. I still can’t shower myself, do my hair, raise my arms up, or lift anything for two more weeks. I start physical therapy next week. We go to Boston this weekend. I have my first chemo class next week. Get my port in sometime next week or the week after (that is a procedure they do at the hospital and I will be out for that), and then chemo starts on the 9th of June. I’ll be bald a couple of weeks after that. Those are the updates, mostly I was excited about my inflated pectorals. ;) thanks for the love, support, cards, gifts, books, movies, etc…. You have all made this lame cancer experience a little less lame. Thank you, and I love you all so much. :)

Cancer catch up continues…

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Today, I felt a huge divide between me and all of you non cancerous folks. :) I saw pictures of families at Disneyland, people exercising, peers performing, friends, who at the moment, seemed to have perfect lives…it was painful today. After this battle, I hope to truly be present, and not take for granted all of the beauty around me, and to relish those adventures, and those moments. I hope all of you have a wonderful day tomorrow. Do something you’ll love and remember. I’m still on major pain meds so…..if none of this makes sense, know that I love you and am grateful for all of you! #ineedtoceupwithanawesomebreastcancerhashtag

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