britt confronts cancer fears and has the best road trip EVER

My life is crazy. Seriously crazy. In the past week and a half, I confronted my fears about cancer, took a road trip from Twin Falls, Idaho to Los Angeles, California, and went to a theatre-nerd prom. Simply existing has been a thrilling yet frightening rollercoaster with all of the best payoffs (although I think I may be getting a little motion sick from it all).

But good news!

I think I can say with moderate certainty, dear friends, that I am out of the woods with all the major life-threatening drama. I swear that sometimes it feels like Portland is trying to dispel all of the toxic shit floating around me before I move to Los Angeles. Fine, I’m down with that, Portland. Let’s do it all now. As long as the pendulum swings the other way in time to bring me a pleasant and successful transition into my new life. Got it? Good. Thanks, Portland.

But yes! Good news! Before I tell you the bottom-line of this saga, let me take you on a journey of my past week or so.

In my last post, I tried to address in a somewhat tactful way that I was going through a bit of a cancer scare and was pretty freaked out about it. It was a tough thing for me to write about. The whole experience and “waiting game” that came with it made for the longest few weeks of my life.

Last Tuesday, I got a biopsy on a class 4a solid cyst was found in my left breast (as I have learned, fluid cyst= good news, solid cyst=reason for concern). My mom drove down from Tacoma to take me to the procedure. I could not have been more thankful to have here there. Thanks, Mom.

I felt pretty strong while we were in the waiting room, but when I put on the patient dress thing and walked into the room where the procedure would be done, I started shaking. I assumed the position on the cold, reclined chair where they have you lie down really still while they poke needles in you and vacuum out of your insides. This is when I started to cry. I cried on that chair in my pathetic apron, feeling stupid and helpless and scared, while my mom held my hand and told me I was being brave. I felt like I was 7 years old. I felt embarrassed and I’m not really sure why.

I got most of my tears out before the radiologist and technician came in, thank goodness. The experts walked me through the procedure (I realize I had no idea what a biopsy entailed exactly, and I’m glad I didn’t know until then) and I nodded calmly in response and they asked me if I had any questions.

“Can I watch the screen while you do it?”

I can’t remember if I actually asked that question or if it remained within the walls of my skull because my voice-box stopped working. But either way, they did shift the screen on the monitor in a way that I could watch the procedure if I wanted to. And I did.

I looked down my apron as they stuck a huge-ass needle in my boob, I watched as they removed the needle that numbed the area, I observed intently down my chest as they inserted a vacuum to extract a biological sample of the cyst. I also watched the monitor.

At this point, I was genuinely academically intrigued. It was pretty incredible. I saw the different instruments puncture through my skin and penetrate the gumball-sized lump in my chest. I watched them poke and prod, I watched the mass change shape slightly in the monitor as in pulsated and moved around, reacting to the foreign attack.

The most unsettling thing about the procedure, however, was the way the vacuum felt as it sucked out parts of my body. I can’t really describe it, it just felt unnatural and horrible. But luckily I had other things to focus on while they were doing that. Like coughing.

Among other things on my mind that day, I was getting over a pretty gnarly cold on the day of the biopsy. I was in the part of the cold process where I would have extreme coughing fits at any time and would need to chug a glass of water to get it to stop. While the procedure was underway, I was concentrating so damn hard on not coughing while the needle was in my chest–such a delicate fucking thing– that I kind of forgot about everything else that was happening. It took every ounce of my concentration, breath control, and will-power to keep that cough at bay while the doctor was at work.

I never warned anyone in the room of this (which, in hindsight, was a mistake), but I told my mom about it afterwards. I think she was half impressed and half alarmed. But whatever, I did it. I am awesome.

The second most unsettling thing about the whole experience was when the doctor told me that he diagnosed a 21-year-old of breast cancer a month ago. I don’t remember why he felt the need to tell me this. I think his point was something along the lines of: “you never know”, and “it’s good to catch things early”. But still. Thanks, Doc. Minor heart-attack happening, here.

But yeah… eye on the prize, people. Eye on the prize! I got through the biopsy just fine. And now I have a rad battle scar (until the bruising fades, at least) and it is a fucking badge of honor. Black and blue and green and yellow and bandaged. This, my friends, I call ZOMBIE BOOB. And I am proud!!

Good job, boob! You did it!!!

And best news, my friends?!

…I got the results from the biopsy back last Thursday… and I am CANCER-FREE!!!!

I heard this news in Twin Falls, Idaho, where I flew out to road trip with my dear friend Suzzane to Los Angeles (she is starting her grad program in social work at USC– you go girl!). The doctor called me when Suz and I were watching episodes of Parks and Recreation on the couch at her mom’s place. My phone rang and I froze and didn’t answer. I hid in the bathroom for a while and had a minor panic attack. Then Suz held my hand and encouraged me to check the voicemail. Bless her heart.

And it was the best news I have ever received. I am so grateful. So happy.

..And to top it all off, we woke up at the ass-crack of dawn the next day to road-trip to our new home (well, my new home in a few months)! 14 hours in a car, 10 pee-breaks, 2 alien-themed jerky tourist-trap stops, and epic fun. It was one of the best days ever. EVER. My little heart was pounding the happiest of beats in my chest every mile of the way.

What a journey. 

Let me take you on a journey. A journey of epic shit I did this WEEK!

My Week:

After the close of “Aloha Say the Pretty Girls” with Theatre Vertigo (my last show as a company member… sniff sniff, cry cry!) last week, I welcomed a much-needed “break” between projects of mine. Well…”break” is such a relative term. ‘Cause let’s be real. I never rest.

So! Last Monday was the annual Drammy Awards, which is the biggest cast party/awards ceremony/reason for theatre people to drink that Portland has to offer. It is the Tonys, Oscars, and nerd- prom all rolled into one. And this year, my amazing friend Nicole Gladwin MC’ed. She is the Baddest-Ass there ever was. And the best stage manager ever. And the best human ever. I love her.

So anyway. Each year the Drammy Committee books out the McMenamins Crystal Ballroom downtown and hundreds of theatre professionals get dressed up in their hottest suits and dresses to celebrate all things theatrical. Pretty rad, right?

This is what a sea of theatre people looks like.

This is what a sea of theatre people looks like.

No, THIS is what a sea of theatre people look like.

No, THIS is what a sea of theatre people look like.

I very was proud to sit at the Theatre Vertigo table this year with my company. Because we kiiiinda TOOK IT HOME. We won Best Sound Design (GO RICHARD MOORE!) for our winter show, The Velvet Sky (which I helped produce as Company Artistic Liaison to the director) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role for our fall show, Mother Courage and Her Children (GO BROOKE CALCAGNO**!). Company Member Kerry Ryan also received the other Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her work in Post5 Theatre‘s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream (HELL YEAH!).

Brooke and I were joking that night about how our spring show, “Aloha Say the Pretty Girls” was a shoe-in for Best Production (the show was kind of a train-wreck), but HEY. Ya can’t win ’em all, right?

Oh, theatre. You slay me.

But anyway. For the most part, we were kind of a big deal that night.

**Also, for what it’s worth, I was wearing the now Drammy-Award-Winning Brooke Calcagno’s dress to the ceremony that night. So, obviously, that gave me hot and talented points.

See? Hot and talented points. And yes. I did get ready by myself in the dressing room of the theatre. I'm having some separation anxiety issues already, okay?!

See? Hot and talented points. And yes. I did get ready by myself in the dressing room of the theatre. I’m having some separation anxiety issues already, okay?!

In other news.

On Wednesday of last week, I had an audition for a theatre job I reeeally wanted to get at a company I reeeally admire, but alas. I dropped the ball on that one. That Wednesday I gave a vanilla, not-dailed-in, super-distracted audition. Sigh. It happens. I had to remind myself at least eight times to “let it go” as I walked back to my day job after the audition.

To be quite honest, I just couldn’t get my head in the game after the biopsy the day before. I was scared and shakey and was having trouble sitting up straight and moving my left arm without feeling pain or a weird weak sensation. But most of all, I was scared to death of finding out the biopsy results at any given minute.

But whatever. It’s about showing up and doing the work no matter what, and I showed up and did the work. It’s okay if it was not my best, I cannot always deliver my best. I am not a machine. I am HUMAN!

And, as you know, I found out the (terrific!) results that next day, on Thursday. So I was not in limbo for too long. 🙂

…Which is when I began my EPIC TRAVELING ADVENTURE with Miss Suzzane Cawthra to Los Angeles, from Portland, via Boise/Twin Falls Idaho (don’t try to understand it, just go with it). It was beautiful.

Suzventures

#suzventures

That Thursday through Monday was one of the most amazing stretch of days I’ve ever had. There was so much to be thankful for, to be happy about, and even more to look forward to. I feel like I have already received my prize.

You guys, I simply CANNOT WAIT to move down to LA. With each trip I make down there (and clearly, I cannot stay away) I feel more and more at home. During each trip, a couple more tiny pieces fall into place. And some of the most important people in my life, the ones that I have chosen to call family, are there. It feels right. I’m going with it.

I am wanting to talk more and more about this experience, but I will save it for next time. This post is already too long and even I’m starting to get bored reading it (Quick, Britt! Put in more GIFS!!).

Done.

But if there is one thing my life isn’t, though, it’s boring.

I am in a good place. I am so happy to be out of the woods after the BIG LIFE THREE (burnt-down house, hit-and-run on car, cancer scare). I am grateful to be back to the “normal life” stresses of trying to not-perform-shittily at auditions, paying-off massive credit card debt, double-booking myself and worrying about letting people down, breaking my own heart, and being deathly afraid of failure. No, that’s not melodrama people. That is my amazing life. Chock-full of challenges, ups-and-downs, and major successes and payoffs. I feel much stronger today than I did a month ago. And I have so many amazing forces in my life that have carried me through and leveled me up in life.

… Not the least of which were the three tubs of Salt and Straw ice cream (2 pear/blue cheese-my FAVE-, and one strawberry balsamic and pepper!) that found their way to me, like magic, after my biopsy.

Sigh. Amazing.

Sigh. Amazing.

And also, thank you, dear Dani, for your love from afar. Even though you are in India, I feel lucky to have little gems like these to get me through your two-month stateside absence (yup, you knew this was going to end up on our blog somehow… I LOVE YOU!):

(Ladies and gentlemen, that is my soul mate.  So BACK OFF.)

love from the lucky girl born on Friday the 13th,

~britt

hot and sweaty

Ha!  I bet you thought this post was gonna be sexxxxual.  PSYCH!  

Nice try, suckas.

But wait… what exactly are we talking about here, Dani?

Well, Britt…this post is actually about this guy:

Bikram Choudhury photocredit: bikramyoga.com

Bikram Choudhury
photocredit: bikramyoga.com

Ohhhhhh BIKRAM! How I love you!! And your crazy hat!

SO HOT!  Hmmm… Wait a minute, we can make this sexier…  Let’s go with this:

Bikram Choudhury, age 17

Bikram Choudhury, age 17
photo credit: bikramyoga.com

Ooooo that’s much better. Nice work, D.

Why thank you, Britt! So this guy is a yoga guru who used yoga to completely rehabilitate his mangled knee, and thereby came up with an absolutely insane brand of yoga all his own.  Bikram Yoga, practiced at 105 degrees Fahrenheit and at least 40% humidity, is 26 yoga postures practiced in a specific order so you can get fresh, oxygenated blood to the deepest, darkest, most forgotten regions of your body.  You have to arrive to this 90-minute class 15 minutes early, and stay 10 minutes afterwards, just to lie there in “dead body pose” and let your body acclimate, making this whole thing a two hour experience.  And there’s only one rule in Bikram: YOU CAN’T LEAVE THE ROOM. 

I remember hearing about Bikram  and the “YOU CAN’T LEAVE THE ROOM” rule for the first time. I remember thinking, “What the hell?? Is this some kind of torture method disguised as yoga? No thanks.”

Actually, I was looking at Bikram’s website, and he ACTUALLY calls his yoga studios “torture chambers.”  Aren’t y’all soooo excited to go out and try it???

The whole experience sounded like an ordeal to me and I don’t do too well in the heat anyway. Needless to say, I never considered giving Bikram yoga a try until Dani mentioned to me she was practicing it.

What sold me about Dani’s experience was how certain poses unlocked certain emotions for her–for example, experiencing an impulse to laugh or cry –and I am incredibly fascinated by how our emotional life can be triggered by our bodies. As an actor, my body is my instrument. I often find it difficult, as many actors do, to lift my guard (both emotionally and physically, in the way I carry my body), to let go, and to release my too-firm grasp of control. Bikram presents an incredible opportunity to simply let go. And the results you get from pushing your body to the limit and practicing the mindfulness of the present moment (meditation, yo!) are incredible.

 I couldn’t agree more!!   With all of those things!!!   You HAVE to let go of control and just exist in the present moment, because the physical intensity of the experience gives you no other choice.  If you start thinking about whatever wacky-ass pose you just attempted, you will get disheartened/distracted; if you start future-tripping and wondering how long the torture will last, you lose all hope.  Any distraction will cause you to compromise whatever posture you are currently in, and therefore lose the essence of the whole experience.  It is the most delicious torture.  

But wait, let me back up to how I first got into this whole yoga thing:  Groupon, bitches!!!!  In Fall of 2011 I tried Bikram yoga for the first time by plunging in for the recommended 10 days in a row, and I felt like a new human being afterwards.  I went like crazy  to Vancouver Bikram Yoga for the rest of the month until ye olde Groupon ran out, and I was totally hooked on this yoga thing.  Each class literally felt like a 2-hour trip/spirit quest, and taught me so much about myself, mind, body, and soul.  

It looks like little something like this: 

Notice to the left of the “Salted Pretzel” is the “Wind Removing” pose.  That is ACTUALLY the name of that pose, and it ACTUALLY literally squeezes the farts out of you.  Bet you never thought about that before!  Next time you have a big burrito before a big date, make sure you remove some of that wind before leaving the house.  Thank you, Bikram!

Seriously. One time I was in class and the gentleman next to me farted an unrealistically loud fart. In 6 months of taking class, I had never actually heard some one rip one. And especially not like that. It was… alarming. No one acknowledged Fartzilla of course, but he then proceeded to let out gigantic farts throughout THE REST OF CLASS. One after another. Long, loud, sustained farts. There must of been, like, at least 15 farts joining us that session. It took everything in my power to keep from losing it. I’m sorry, but I had to let you guys in on that one… I’m not about to suffer through that memory alone. (You’re welcome.)

Oh my God I’d never heard that story!  Daaaaaamn!  Well I bet that guy had such a great date that night all fart-free and glowing with health and wellness.  FRIENDLY TIP:  If you do choose to go to Bikram, leave plenty of time to completely reassemble yourself before going out on your fart-free date afterwards.  You will sweat more than you ever thought possible in this class.  

Yes! But Bikram is sexy so that should give you extra points.

No, seriously, it is.  I mean you saw the picture of young, studly Bikram.  Sexy!  Despite all of the sweating and farting.  God we are making this sound so appealing!!  Well good luck on your hypothetical post-Bikram date.  Hooray dating advice with Britt and Dani!!  

For the record, I don’t regularly practice Bikram yoga anymore, since it is rather cost-prohibitive without ye olde Groupon.  However, at least twice a week I go to normal yoga classes at my favorite place in all of Los Angeles, YogaVidala up in Los Feliz.  Actually, it was really the intensity of my experience with Bikram yoga that turned me on to all yoga, and since then I have been having a blast exploring all the different schools of thoughts and ways of practicing.  If you live in LA, have never tried yoga, and DON’T want to try it out in the Bikram torture chamber, come on down to YogaVidala on the last Saturday of each month at 2:00 p.m. for a FREE Intro to Yoga class.  If you are anything like me, and even if you’re nothing like me, it will probably totally change your life.  

Without a doubt. It changed mine. Even if you only get into the studio every once-in-a-while (the situation I am currently living in), your body remembers this stuff. It lives in you. Like your farts.

…Until Wind Removing pose removes them. 

So venture forth, new Bikram Yogis! Fart no more! Spread the Good News! Be free!

Your beginning-yogi-partners-in-crime,

~Dani & Britt