Hi I’m Brittnea (Britt) Chambers, I’m 32 and I have terminal cancer…..
Yeah a couple of years ago I would have introduced myself in a completely different way.
More like Hi I’m Britt, I’m 30 and I’m a triathlete…..
How times do change!
Anyway I’m Britt, in 2017 I was hospitalized for an appendix mass for 2 weeks in the UK and then was sent home. I came back to New Zealand to sort out a couple of things and the next thing you know I’ve had a major operation, lost 30cm of bowel and told I have bowel cancer.
And just like that my whole world changed.
What?! Me?! How?! Never! I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, quite frankly I’m boring! I’m fit I train hard and race harder. I eat well (ish), I’m an athlete. No one ever mentioned cancer.
Yes I know I had a change in bowel motions but it was gluten and lactose intolerance right? And the anemia and fatigue? Well obviously its down to being an elite female athlete…… right?
Well that’s what I’d been told for the last 5 years anyway.
I stopped going to the doctor because this stomach pain didn’t show up in bloods or samples, there was nothing wrong with me and it was really all in my head. I was a drama queen and there was nothing to worry about.
But you can’t think like that, it eats you up, and really you have to make the most of the time you do have. Only worry about the things you can worry about the rest will take care of itself. No point worry about things that you can’t change, its about moving forward, being positive and making the best of the situation you have been given.
Long story short:
I had emergency surgery for a perforated appendix mass on Sunday the 3rd of December 2017. I was in hospital for 10 days. A few days after being discharged I was called by a nurse of my surgeons that I needed to come in and see him.
A follow up I assumed as I hadn’t seen him since the operation.
Cancer. Yes cancer.
Everything moved very quickly after those words. I was told I’d have to do chemo and had surgery for a port as I was going to be on a regimen called FOLFOX (5FU an Oxaliplatin; aka the devil). This started mid January last year.
It entailed a fortnightly cycle. I would go into oncology in Auckland on the Monday get a 2hr infusion and then my pump (5FU) aka ‘Bruce’ for 48 hours. On the Wednesday I would go back in and get Bruce disconnected. The rest of the week was hell before the nausea and fatigued died down and then I would have my ‘good week’.
Unfortunately I only lasted on the Oxaliplatin for 6 rounds. The side effects of neuropathy were to great and could lead to permanent nerve damage. I endured chemo for nearly 9 months when my body had just had enough and I was back in hospital and taken off chemo.
I had scans in August in Auckland and told I was ‘cured’! There was nothing to worry about, I was not sick and they had more important people to deal with who were sick and were actually on chemo.
This plus a few other factors lead me to make the move down to Christchurch. I was going to stay down here and try get my head back together and get fit again, get my life back.
But I was still sore, and I was still tired. It would be 2 steps forward 10 back.
Its just the chemo, its side effects, you’ll be fine, you’re better, there’s nothing to worry about, your bloods are good, yes your anemic, but you’re a female athlete.
To many things, to many coincidences.
Two trips to the doctors on consecutive days and the insistence of one of my biggest supports I was sent for a private ultra sound the Wednesday afternoon. Public wasn’t an option as it would have been weeks spent waiting and this had gone on to long now.
A call from the doctor the next day that I needed to be admitted to Christchurch hospital for urgent CT scans. There was nothing wrong with me right? I was told I was fine, I was cured! This was obviously just a precaution.
The 9th of November changed my world (if it could have been changed anymore!). After two CT scans I had a hoard of somber looking doctors, surgeons and nurses come into my room. I knew it wasn’t going to be great.
You have peritoneal disease.
Peritoneal disease. It is a rare, advanced and aggressive form of cancer. It is usually only found in its advanced stages where there isn’t much that can be done.
Worst case you have 4 months, best case 24 months…….for what?
To hear that changed everything. Things people worry about or take for granted all go out the window. What someone might think of you, you just don’t care anymore, worrying if you’re fat or skinny, ate this or that, none of it matters anymore.
You have 4- 24 months to fit in everything you’ve ever wanted to do with your life. All those things you thought you had time for, you don’t. All those big buck list items you had time to get fit for and to achieve are gone. All those people who cause drama and bring you down are cut.
The only thing you have time for now is what can be done. What you can achieve. The people that love and support you no matter what. You find out the people that stick by and are 100% incredible and then those who just fall down the wayside, but you don’t have time to mourn or worry about those losses, they aren’t worth it.
You only have time for people that bring you closer to the sunshine and believe me those people are worth their weight in gold. I feel very lucky with the people I get to share my life with now.
Currently I’m back on chemo. This isn’t a cure. Its to hopefully slow growth and prolong quality of life. I’m not after quantity, I want quality and I want do do all the things that I can still do.
I’m on a similar regime called FOLFIRI (5FU and Irinotecan), fortnightly cycles with Bruce back for 48hours a time.
I get CT and PET scans mid February to see if its helping slow growth. If it is I will stay on chemo for 6 months if not I’ll come of it as the nausea, restlessness and fatigue with this regime are brutal.
I’m hoping for closer to 24 months than the 4 month mark as I have so many things I want to do and achieve before my time is up.
I want to raise awareness for bowel cancer in young people. If I can help just one person to get checked and not have to go through what I have had to go through that’s a win right there.
I want to inspire and motivate people. Show them that even though you may feel like you have nothing to smile for you have every reason to smile. To show people that no matter what you can get out there and do what you want to do.
If i can do it so can you.
Follow me on some of my crazy adventures and challenges I have lined up for myself, while I try check of a bucket list the size of my room and make as many happy and memorable memories during that time!
Some challenges to come:
- Run to Remember- 24th Febuary 10k run- https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2019/the-press-run-to-remember/christchurch
- Relay for Life- 16th March 12hr running challenge- http://selwyn.relayforlife.org.nz/event/relayforlifeselwyn2019
- City to Surf – 24th March 14km run – http://www.city2surf.co.nz/
- ‘Rapha’ 500- 8 day challenge were I ride 500km in 8 days to raise money and awareness for bowel cancer NZ- TBC (date and total distance to be confirmed post 3 month chemo CT scan and oncologist and sports doctors recommendations.
Until next time,