Season 2 Ep 1: Speaking with Veteran, Advocate, and Ewing Sarcoma Survivor, Brandi Benson


Today on the Getting Better Podcast, I am speaking with Brandi Benson. Brandi is a cancer survivor and advocate, speaker, author, veteran, and entrepreneur. In 2009, after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer while deployed in Iraq, Brandi fought to overcome her diagnosis, heal after her treatments, and reclaimed her life through therapy, physical activities, and other healthy-living practices. Her mission is to provide an effective blueprint of strategies and resources that survivors, their loved ones, and anyone struggling with “an enemy” in whatever form, can use to improve their overall mental health and decrease the likelihood of mental decline. Listen to the full episode below, on iTunes HERE, or read the transcription!

 

Jessica Walker
Welcome back to The getting better podcast with another episode to encourage and empower the cancer community. I'm your host, Jessica Walker, and today I'm speaking with brandy Benson. Brandy is a cancer survivor and advocate, speaker, author, veteran and entrepreneur. In 2009. After being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer while deployed in Iraq, Brandi fought to overcome her disease diagnosis heal after her treatments, and she reclaimed her life through therapy, physical activities and other healthy living practices. Her mission is to provide an effective blueprint of strategies and resources that survivors, their loved ones, and anyone struggling with an enemy in whatever form can use to improve their overall mental health and decrease the likelihood of mental decline. And this is going to be an amazing conversation. She's an incredible woman, and I cannot wait for you to meet her. So welcome, brandy.

Brandi Benson
Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited. I actually was kind of like, Instagram stalking you for a little while. I'm just gonna go and do it. I'm gonna reach out to her, maybe we can work together, get some stories going. So I'm honored and grateful for being on the show. And I'm ready to talk about everything. I'm gonna open book today.

Jessica Walker
Incredible. And you have a lot to tell you have quite the story. So I would love for those who are new to you. If you could just start by sharing a little bit about where you were when cancer entered the picture for you, which I know is quite a unique story in your case.

Brandi Benson
Yes. Okay. So I have a different story. I first discovered my cancer and 2009. But I was experiencing the symptoms during the end of 2008. And the December timeframe. I was deployed in Iraq. And I was at six miles south of Baghdad in a place called de wynia. And I was stationed at Fort operating base, which is called a fog. I was at fog echo. So I was working out a lot. And I thought really like what was going on while I was so tired and exhausted. And like the extreme fatigue that I was experiencing, I thought it was just because I was in the middle of a war.

And, you know,

I'm 24 I'm away from my family for the first time. I'm like, literally in a different country. So I was kind of just attributing all of these signs and symptoms that I was having to just being kind of like nervous and anxiety and just being in a foreign place and being at work. But I didn't know that cancer was like setting up shop in my body. I had no clue that this, this tiredness and you know, this grogginess that I'm spilling it was one of the symptoms for Ewing sarcoma cancer. And so that kind of entered the picture in December timeframe. 2008. And then in 2009, I was working out, of course, a lot, because when you're deployed in Iraq, there's not really too much to do sometimes with databases that you are on. So a lot of actions, a lot of, you know, mortars and bombs and stuff going off, but it was also pretty much, you know, pretty boring, you know, so to say. So I was working out also, I was working about three times a day, you know, during the breakfast lunch morning, you know, every, every chance I can get I was working out. And I thought, I think it was January 2009, the 17th. And I was had done legs that day, some stretching and moving around and trying to get you know, everything going. And I noticed this large lump sticking out of my leg. And I didn't think anything of it, because I'm young, and I didn't even know what a tumor was. And I didn't know that cancer, you could, it could be anywhere in the body, I thought cancer could only be in the brain or the lungs or breast, stomach, just the the well known areas of cancer. So this lump in my leg, I thought maybe I had pulled a muscle or something or that I was maybe going too hard at the gym. So I kind of just chalked it up to being like a pulled muscle. And I'm, you know, didn't go back to the doctors for a couple of more days. And that's how it all basically started was I was in Iraq working out and I discovered this protrusion sticking out of my leg.

Jessica Walker
So I feel like I know that yours is of course an extreme circumstance. But that is such a common thing that especially when you're young and you experience these symptoms that you just pass them off as any and all things beside cancer because why would it be cancer, you know, right? So at that point, did you come home? Like how did you then move forward after you had your diagnosis? What did that look like for you?

Brandi Benson
Um, so after I finally, I had a couple of different friends while I was, you know, trying to figure out what was going on with my leg in January. I had my roommate that was, you know, kind of in my ear telling me that something's wrong. I had the guy that was working out with at the time, he was like my trainer, quote unquote, working out over there. And he was telling me that's not right, maybe we should get that looked at. And because I was so exhausted and so tired, I was thinking, Okay, if they are right, like something could be wrong, not detrimental to my health, something could be wrong, that means that I'll probably get quarters and quarters is when they give you like a couple of days off, and you get to rest and like sleep it off. So my whole motivation was like, Oh my gosh, if I go to the doctors, I'm definitely going to be able to get some extra sleep. So I'm like, okay, like, whatever this is, like, I'm gonna go to the doctors, I'm going to see what they're gonna say. And my whole goal was just to get some more rest, because I was so tired. And so I get to Captain Mei, who was our medic, at that fog. And she was pushing on it and prodding and moving it around and asked me, does it hurt? How long have I had it? is are there any other lumps like this anywhere? And of course, all my answer, are there knowing that they it doesn't hurt, I don't have anything in anywhere else. It just popped up. And so she brings in another doctor or another medic, and they're like, both, like looking like something is wrong, but they won't tell me what it is. And because I have never been in that situation. And I've never been with somebody who has been in that situation, I had no clue. You know, what was really going on what they were really thinking I was just like, oh, gosh, I really must have pulled a bad muscle looks like I'm gonna get, you know, a lot of quarters. And so they immediately knew something was wrong. But because I didn't have the right equipment to test to test me and then properly diagnose me, they can't tell me Oh, this is whatever it is. So they sent me immediately on a helicopter to Baghdad that night. So we had we had to leave at eight at night to Baghdad is like the heart of Iraq. And we're in a now we're in a green zone. So Green Zone is a lot less activity, it's a lot safer. You don't have to walk around with your weapon and stuff like that. So I'm thinking this is kind of like a little, a little vacation a little bit. So I go to bad debt. And before I leave, I tell all my friends, hey, I'm going to bad debt. Is there anything that you guys want from the commissary or the PX over there? I have people asking me for they want Nike shoes, I got somebody asking for candy. And I'm like making this long list of stuff. Because I really think that I'm coming back. So I get there and get to Baghdad, and they take a CT scanner, but because that's why I left five fo was to get a CT scan, I get the CT scan and the doctor comes over. And he's like, you know, it's pretty confident stuff. And he's like, okay, I was a PFC at the time, Private First Class, and he's like PFC Benson, we can tell that there's blood flowing in and out. However, we really suggest that you go to Jeremy, I'm like, why would I go to? I know, like, why? Me? I'm like, okay, and again, so my motivation is I need more breasts, I'm so tired. It looks like, you know, they might send me back earlier, and I don't really want to go back because I'm so exhausted, I just can't keep my eyes open. So I opt for Germany. So we go to Germany, or I go to Germany. And when I'm in Germany, it's the same kind of principles. Everyone's just bouncing around different areas. I finally get to a doctor and he tells me that it's a tumor. And that's when everything became a little bit more serious, because I'm like, Okay, well, what

is a tumor? I didn't know what a tumor was. I didn't know how you got them. I didn't know if it was like, hereditary. I didn't know I didn't know anything. I didn't even know if I knew anybody who wanted to know more. I just I had no absolutely no clue that, you know, this was like the beginning of the end of my life, I had no clue at all. So after they tell me how the tumor, they then do a, I just saw they did the MRI, they tell me it's a tumor. They now have to do a biopsy. I'm like, okay, so right now, the tumor in my leg hasn't grown too much. It's pretty much like the same size, maybe a little larger. It was like the size of a grapefruit right now in my like, but you could only see it if I pulled my left leg up to my chest. And you'll see this like lump sticking out. And it was really deep, deep, deep, deep down in my leg and my abductor muscles. So it's like the inner thigh area. So it's really down in there. And there's like a, you know, like a large side piece of it sticking out. That's the only way I would have, you know, discovered it. So if I was moving around and stretching in that manner. So I get the biopsy. And I remember the doctor telling me, he says to me, Well, we'd Let's just hope and pray that it's not Ewing sarcoma. I'm like, Oh, okay. He's like, Let's pray. It's a nerve sheath tumor. I'm like, what, what are you saying, Hey,

I know I'm like

what?

So I look up you and start going I spell it wrong. I don't I don't even know how to spell it. I don't even know what I'm looking for. But you know, of course, I find what it is that I am looking for. And it just says like, Oh, God, just terrible stuff. You know, they're going to have to chop off my leg expressed to the brain, the spinal cord and the lungs. A lot of people don't live from it, the survival rate of, of going past five years is very slim. Just all this crazy stuff. And then there's like these three key things that makes me think that okay, this can't be that can't be what I have. It says it happens to young little boys. It happens to Caucasian boys, and hat. And it says it hasn't happens to like, boys. So I'm not young. I'm not a male, and I'm not all Caucasian. So I'm like, Oh, I'm in the clear. This pot, this cannot possibly be me. Yeah. This is this is this is absolutely no way. So I'm thinking, Okay, I probably have a nerf sheet tumor. That's just probably what is so then I'm like, really focusing on that. And that one looks like it's the better one. And, you know, like, I guess the statistics of survival are a lot better. It's not as aggressive something okay, this is probably what I have. But even think that I have to be staring at these two like foreign words, and like accepting One of them was just so surreal. Because like, three weeks before I felt healthy, I was fine. This lump wasn't there. It's like, How did my life take this drastic turn? And then how did I not see the signs? It was just so. so surreal, so surreal.

Jessica Walker
So then, so I'm not I'm not familiar with you and sarcomas. So what is the treatment like for that? Did you have treatment in Germany? Did you end up coming back to America? What What did that look like?

Brandi Benson
Oh, my goodness. You went sarcoma cancer is a very rare and aggressive cancer. This cancer, it's it grows rapidly. So after I finally got diagnosed, and I was told that it was Ewing sarcoma cancer, I had been, like actively knowing that I had this to my leg for a month, it was in stage one, B, and it was the size of a small watermelon. It was massive. And I think why it started growing so rapidly, not only because this, you know, this were rare, replicated really fast growing cancer, but they kept doing biopsies on it. And so when you when cancer, you know, it like it keeps on creating itself, and it keeps making more and more and more. And that's what cancer is like the cells don't know when to stop. So when I had trauma to my, to my, to the area, when they're doing a biopsy, my body thinks that it has to heal itself and replicate and fix the cells and fix itself. So you know, so it's growing and growing and growing. Every time they do a biopsy, it gets bigger and bigger, and it just keeps getting massive. And I remember when I finally got to Walter Reed, which is in Washington, DC, and it was local, it was located then Washington, Washington, DC, now it's at Fort Belvoir, or somewhere in Virginia, I don't remember. Okay, I have to look it up. But when I finally got there, it had grown significantly, I couldn't extend my leg out, I couldn't put any pressure on it. It was huge. It my leg was going numb, it was pushing on my main artery and my left leg, I couldn't extend my leg out, it was I was having a lot of issues with it. And it was like, really, it was turning hard, like a rock might hold and a leg was like if you could probably break something on that portion of rock hard. So that you know that that's what started happening like physically with me. But as far as the treatments are concerned, I had to do 17 cycles of chemotherapy. And that consisted of five days of treatment, eight days off, five days of treatment, eight days off. And I continued that for about 10 and a half months, and I did chemotherapy about 101 or 100 times in 10 months. It was extremely, extremely, extremely hard, extremely hard. I've never, like I feel like cancer is the type of disease that will really like truly strip your whole strength away physically, your strength and like you are only left with your mentality like your brain. Like how much endurance Do you have mentally? I feel like it's a huge mental game. For me, it really was, oh, gosh,

Jessica Walker
yeah, there's so much I wanted to lose what you just said, just you're my brain to wrap around. So what was that timeline from when you left Baghdad to when you got to DC how fast was that?

Brandi Benson
And that was about three, three weeks. No, no. It was Yeah, three weeks.

Jessica Walker
So that was a quick

Brandi Benson
turn. It was really fast. They knew something was wrong with me. So I left January, on January 17. And I got to the hospital, I believe it was, it was on my nephew's birthday around his birthday. So it was like February 3, and fourth.

Jessica Walker
Wow, that is quite quite the whirlwind, quite the diagnosis. I mean, just the fact that it grew that much in three weeks. I mean, that's just wild. And I again, thank you for sharing about, you know, I'm just I'm glad that I don't know how many listeners know about that. Like, that's just that's so interesting. And, and I love what you said that I mean, it really is a test of mental strength. And you're a tough woman. I mean, you are a veteran athlete, you you work out all the time. And like I the fact that like, you can get to that point where you're just like, what else can I give, like, I am so beat down like, I it's just so impressive. And I know that that has led your experience through that intense diagnosis and intense treatment is what has led you to become the advocate that you are. Yeah, and you are a huge advocate for cancer survivors. And you were even presented with the Courage Award by the sarcoma Foundation of America to recognition of the positive impact you've had by inspiring other survivors. And yes, why do you feel that it's so important to speak out and give a voice to your story, but also a voice to other survivors?

Brandi Benson
I feel like it's important for people to know that, yes, you're going to be faced with some sort of adversity, it could be cancer, it could be a divorce, it could be your inner demons that you're fighting. But there's always somebody out there who was going through the same thing. And for me to let people know that, yes, I went through this traumatic event I had, you know, I had to learn how to walk and run and I had like self identity crisis, I had to really muster up some mental fitness. Like, I feel like I've been through the wringer. However, we are so much more capable of this so much in this world. And we don't know how much strength we have, until that's all we have left. And I just want people to know that we really have it inside of us if you truly, truly want something, if living or if aspiring to do something or to have something like if you are dedicated to have it, anybody can have it, anybody can do anything, we are so powerful, we are so creative, I just my goal is just let people know that you may have cancer right now, however, whatever is going on is not going to be your future forever, you can beat this you have you have the choice, you are the host of your own body, you can you can do this. So I just want people to know that, if I can do it, you can definitely do it. It is something that is so possible, you know, just don't I hate when I get a lot of different individuals that reach out to me, and they will be so depressed, and they're so sad. And I totally understand that. And I get that I feel like there should be a timeframe of that, though. Because you can't live in this moment of depression, or feeling pity for yourself. There's has to be somewhere in you, where you have to be your own superhero, you How are people supposed to? You know, I don't know where it is, but like, believe in you as well, if you don't believe in yourself, Mm hmm. You know, it's I just feel like you have there has to be some sort of timeframe like, yes, you have to experience these these feelings and these emotions that you're going through. However, this doesn't have to be the entire duration of your treatment plan, you have to come up on top, you have to be strong, you have to know that life is going to change. If you want to change if you want to feel sick and ill and just not well, this entire duration of your treatment plan, then by all means, indulge in these emotions that are not as pleasant However, if you don't, you need to change your mind frame and switch it when you have that possibility to do that.

Jessica Walker
Yeah, and I I've heard that several times. And that's definitely a tool that Tommy and I have used where you do. Let the emotions happen. Like you don't try to pretend they're not there. But you do kind of like a lot yourself a time. I even do that sometimes on a daily basis. And I'm not a survivor. But as a caregiver, it's like, you know what, I'm going to let myself soak this morning, but at 11am. I'm moving on from this and it's just like times you have to put these little parameters in place to somewhat compartmentalize, but also just like to, to get on the right side of that mindset. And and I want to jump back, I kind of skipped ahead. I know that you had surgery as a part of your treatment as well. And I know that that that's very common in many different ways for cancer survivors to have some sort of surgery. And it changed the way that you're active and the ways you move your body and I'd love if you could speak on what that was like for you what that transition was like and how you're navigating it today.

Brandi Benson
Yes, so I had something called a limb sparing surgery and that meant that they were going to Try to save my leg. However, they were not sure if they were going to be able to do that, because they didn't know how far the cancer had affected or what margins were going to be clear or not tampered with. So I literally went under the knife, not knowing if I was going to wake up with the left leg or not. And I remember going, Yeah, laying down and just praying and tell him that starts and like I just told him, like, Listen, whatever you do, like I need my leg, I don't care how much muscle you take out, just please let me get, you know, let me have my leg. And he's like, we're gonna do our best and like, okay, so I wake up from surgery, and I had a block of my like a headache. Gosh, what is it called, um, an epidural. So I had an epidural in my leg. And it was, it was a blocker as well. So it wasn't able to fill my left leg. And I remember laying down there and I'm like, Oh my gosh, I can't feel anything. I couldn't roll my toes. I couldn't move anything around. I'm like, Oh, my, like, they took my leg and I'm like, oh, gosh, and then I put my hand down, and I feel it. And I'm like, Oh, you know? Okay, like, Okay, I have my leg, but I just can't so and then they explained to me how the epidural, and you know, this is what they took out. And so at first my leg was extremely swollen from all of the surgery and the tugging and the pulling and everything that was going on with my leg. So at first, I didn't see the difference that I had in my leg until after the surgery, and after the healing and after everything was, you know, kind of like put back into place into perspective. So they ended up taking out my adductor muscle, the three compartments added there, and your adductor muscle is the lay of the muscle that's responsible for bringing in your legs. So like, when you're turning a corner, you're able to keep your leg like in or sprinting or running. or just in general, like if I were to lay back into flutter kicks, my left leg would start would start hinting out towards the left, like I don't have muscles to keep it straight. So they remove that. So that meant that I wouldn't be able to run or jump or sprints or do any of these physical activities like I used to. And growing up I was like an athlete, I played basketball and soccer I did track I did softball, swimming, lessons gymnastics, whatever you can think of I played that sport, and I did very well. So to go from having this really athletic body type of body physique to now I have like a disability with my left leg because there's no muscle there. It's extremely weak, I had to learn how to walk, how to learn how to jog, and sprinter, how to learn just a bunch of different things with this new left leg because I had this huge portion missing out of my leg. So that was really, really, really, really hard. And then I remember in the hospital, kind of just coming to like a realization that this life that I was fighting for the entire time in the hospital was gone, this old brandy that I was just so stuck on and thinking that as soon as treatments over, as soon as everything's over, and my physical therapy is over, I'm going to get back out there, I'm going to return to the old me. And I was like, This person is gone. And not only is she gone, but she's dead like that individual is long gone. This I will never, ever be able to do those things that I used to, with confidence be able to do, I'll never look the same anymore. So saying goodbye to the old brandy and like hello to this new brandy and rediscovering what I was good or bad at or, you know, testing the limitations of what I could or couldn't do. It was just something that was so foreign to me, and so hard to grasp, because the entire time I was in a hospital, like I was really, really trying to fight for this old life that was you know, I was never gonna I'm never going to have

Jessica Walker
some I mean, yeah, the the mental gymnastics, I mean, just backing up a little bit of going under not knowing how that surgery is going to go. It could have two extreme options. I mean, that's just that has to be so intense to experience. And then and I think what what you're sharing, I hear a lot that people there's a moment when people going through treatment and survivorship realize that they're really not the person that they were before cancer, no matter how much they want to be. Right. And it's such a hard thing like Like you said, it really is like the old you is gone. And you have to learn about who the new you is. And I can even say this as a caregiver, like I barely recognize the person I was three years ago, just through this experience with Tommy, so I can't even imagine what it's like to then also have a new physical hurdle to get over so right was that I'm just so curious. Was that like a moment for you where you realize this or was it kind of like a slow Like realization over months or how did you What were those first steps like for you in entering that the new brand new that the new life that you're leading now,

Brandi Benson
I,

it took a very long time for me to realize an individual that was fighting for is gone. It literally took three years, just because I had a process a lot of stuff that was that happened. Absolutely. So I also was married at the time, and the guy was married to was planning on leaving me because he knew I had cancer and everybody thought I was gonna die. Right? So I was going through a really, really terrible divorce. You know, I felt like, really, like he like he stabbed me in my back. I feel just like who can I trust? Yeah, I can't trust this man. And even at my weakest point in my life, like he's trying to get out and leave me, he was literally found another girl was moving in with her. And I ended up catching on and getting out, you know. So there's just so much going on at the delegatee I'm, you know, I'm dying of cancer. And I just had to like recover from all of this stuff that was happening. So when our spine like to myself, I'll say about two years after treatment and going through that marriage and physical therapy and just like realizing like what really happened. So like 2011 is when I finally realized that I am not the same person, I am lower than I was before. So took about two years, two long years.

Jessica Walker
Those are full two years. Um, so I mean, you have overcome hurdle after hurdle in your 20s. And I would love to talk about like, what is positivity look like to you even when it feels far away. Because I know that that is something that so many people struggle with, it's like, when you're going through these really dark moments, it just feels like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. And so like, what do you do? Or what what tools can you offer for someone who's listening who might be struggling to pull themselves forward out of that dark spot,

Brandi Benson
I would say look at the bigger picture. And don't make any temporary decisions off of or don't make any permanent decisions after temporary situations, circumstances, events, feelings, because it's not going you might be in pain right now. But that pain is not forever. You might be sad right now or depressed right now. But it's not going to be forever given that you have the right tools to pull yourself out of that, you know, out of that depression, and you're reaching out and you have a good resource and community and stuff. So it's I just have realized that it's just not going to be forever. It's just not. And I know, that just seems so easy to say. But that's just how I feel. Now I know, when I have bad days, I know there's not going to be forever and I know there's going to be a solution that I'm going to come up with. Or if someone tells me know about something and I want to like do some sort of event or I'm not the right fit for it. I may not be the right fit for them. But there'll be somebody else is going to say yes. So I just nothing really dims my light anymore. Nothing makes me feel like I'm defeated. Nothing makes me feel like I can't do anything because somebody else is gonna say yes, somebody is out there that's gonna say they want to collaborate with you, they want to do a partnership, or you are the right fit, you know, so I just, I don't get caught up in the I don't know, just the temporary, like setbacks or let downs that I have, because I know that's not going to be forever. That's just that could be a learning experience. Why did that individual say no, you know, maybe you didn't answer the question correctly. Or maybe you didn't pitch yourself the right way. So next time when you have to come in front of somebody who will say yes, you can use those resources or there's new tools that you've collected, you can implement that into the into the future. So it's like, everything's just a big lesson. You know, I just I don't get held. I just don't get held up anymore. I really don't. And that's the biggest thing that has changed me like, as a person and just my approach at life. Now. I'm just so much more like fearless, relentless. I feel like anything's possible, because I feel I've been through the hardest part of my life, and I came out on top. I don't know how much worse it could be. Hopefully not any worse. But you know, I don't, I just I'm just so optimistic about stuff. So I just feel like, be positive all the time. There's no need to be negative or to be harping on that unless that's all that you want. If you want to live a life of you're not being happy or the feelings you're feeling. Don't bring your joy then, then that's what you should focus on. However, if that's not what you want, then you should seek things that bring you joy or make you happy, or things that make you feel proud. So there's one example I'm not sure if you have ever heard of Dr. Yunus. Have you ever heard of him?

Jessica Walker
I haven't.

Brandi Benson
You haven't? Okay, good. So there is somebody who's a Japanese scientist he passed away, I think was like 2014 or 16 something, but a couple years ago, he is a scientist, and he is the one who discovered that our words have so much power. And what we say. And what we are, when people are saying same things to us, they have a lot of power, he did an experiment on two different water bottles, they had the same amount of water, the same water, same type of material that they were being held in. And with one bottle, he labeled it like ugly, you know, fat, not beautiful, and he would say these things to this water for a month, the other water bottle or the other water he had, he would say nice, lovely things to say he loved it, how great it was, how much it gratitude, just how appreciative it was of this water, okay, then he froze them. And when he looked under the microscope, the ones that he was being negative and pessimistic and just, you know, not very positive to it had Jagat crystals, and it started molding, the one that had the I love you and gratitude that was saying constantly and positive affirmations to that beautiful crystals that we're shooting out. And it's just really nice, symmetrical shapes. So it's just going to say that our words are extremely powerful. And if we want to live a life, of positivity and love and joy and stuff, you need to speak those things, you need to be doing those things, you need to be having those things you need to focus on that. If you want a life of not being optimistic, or happy or joyful, then you know, you have the right to, to create that. So whatever we're focusing on whatever we're creating, and whatever we're saying or paying attention to, is what's going to manifest into our lives. And we just need to be careful about what we are talking about and doing and partaking in because we're going to create that reality

with us.

Jessica Walker
Thank you so much for sharing that. I haven't heard of that study. But that's so so cool. And I completely agree that like our words and the energetics that we speak into ourselves, and the people around us create our reality. And that that's such a good takeaway. I mean, honestly, everything you just said is such a good takeaway for any listener, whether you're going through cancer or some other hurdle that what you seek seeks you. And it's like, it's just that kind of rotation. And I just think that's such a good reminder for everyone that even if you're going through something hard, it it is temporary, your emotions can be temporary, the situation whether no matter how long the situation goes, your response to that situation can shift if you choose to. Such a good such an a takeaway, and I'm interested because I have not been in the military. And I don't know very many people who I know personally who have and I just I know that you have to have such a tough mentality and have such strong perseverance and determination to put yourself in these kind of intense situations that you go into when you're in the military. So how did your military career and your connection with other veterans how's that impacted your perspective as you navigate survivorship and encourage others to, to reclaim their life after something unexpected enters the picture.

Brandi Benson
Um, so after getting out of the military, I was that was not the plan. I got out because I felt like I was a hindrance to the military, I couldn't run jump sprint, you know, I just I couldn't be a real soldier like I wanted to because I was disabled. Now. You know, I was significantly less, my strength was in my left leg was just not great. And I felt like if I were in a firefight, and I had all this gear and stuff on me, and you know, I fall to the ground, and I'm exhausted and tired. I don't want like my battle buddy having to pick me up off the ground and trying to fight for me and him or her. So I just felt like it'd be best for me to get out. So me getting out of the military really was because I just felt like it was my time and I had to do that. But like the connection I have with the military, and my treatment plan will say the military saved my life. They paid for all of my treatment, I paid for my surgeries, my my medications, my physical therapies. They also paid for a stipend for my mother. So when I was sick with cancer in the very, very beginning stages and the three week stage, really quick death in the day. When I was sick, and I was flying from Germany back to Walter Reed in the States. My mother had quit her job, left everything and decided to come down to the hospital with me because she wanted to be there for me, which is so amazing. And I'm so grateful that she was able to to take that leap of faith for us both to be there for me. And so at the time that she did that She also had my nephew who was two at the time, his name is Donovan. So she and he both came to the hospital to come live with me. My sister was deployed in Iraq as well. So she had two daughters in Iraq at the same time. So when she was there, she didn't know if she was going to have money to, you know, feed herself, where was she going to sleep, she just didn't know anything. She just knew. If she had to sleep on the floor, she was gonna sleep on the floor next to me. But the military, the army, provided her a stipend, so she had somewhere to sleep, she had food, they gave her, you know, a monthly allowance for her to take care of me and to bring me different places, if I needed like, you know, wherever I had to go, my doctor's appointments or whatever I needed, they provided her with income. So they really, really, really, really took care of her. They, my nephew was in it and a daycare was free. They really, truly looked out for the family members that were on that board, and I'm just I owe them my life, they saved my life, they saved my leg. So they did an amazing job with my treatment plan, I couldn't have asked for anything, anything more. I am well aware that my treatment was in the millions of dollars, because of how many treatments sessions I had to have, the surgeries I had had, I had have seven surgeries in one year, I had infections in my leg, I just had so much stuff going on had tons of blood transfusions. So they really, really saved my leg. And I'm forever grateful for that, as far as getting out of the military, and how I'm able to translate with those individuals and be relatable with them. So I opened up a company called resume advantage and resume advantage. We do different employment services. So we do resumes and cover letters, we do workshops, we do professional biographies, we do 90 day business plan strategic letters, we basically get you ready for the interview process. And if you need any help beyond that, then we'll help you help you with that as well. Wow. But yes, so it was mainly geared towards the veterans at first, because when I first got into the military, I'm you know, just get out the military. And I go through this program, called a cap, it was called a cap. Now, I don't know what it's called now, it's okay, the transition program, I believe it's six months long. And so these six months, they're transitioning you out of the military to the civilian sector. And then there's this one portion, where you go over a resume, you go over a cover letter, they're going to help you try to find jobs, they're going to do all these great things. However, when I was going through it, I felt like the ball had been dropped severely,

I felt like

I'd given my life to this country. Now I'm sick and other kind of just dropping me off. And just like, Here you go, you know that you're gonna have to go, I felt like I was ill prepared. I felt like, I just didn't feel ready to leave, it was just such after like six months prior wasn't enough time, I just wasn't ready. So I created resume advantage to help those individuals who felt like there was a gap there like there was an unmet need. So when these people did my resume, I felt like it wasn't very authentic. It didn't speak to my capabilities, it didn't talk about my highlights my accomplishments, it was really like cookie cutter, like everybody's resume was basically the same. And I'm thinking how am I supposed to get this job or this position, if all of this sound the same, you know, so resume advantage was birth. And that is just there to help communicate the individuals or the veterans, their, their, their, their value, what they bring to the table, what can they do their their expertise, their awards, and I kind of just create this really nice, beautiful resume that translates who they really are on this piece of paper. And I have been very, very, very successful at placing these individuals in their jobs. So I'm able to be a change maker for sure. Ever since getting out of the military. And that's the that's like a huge connection that I have right now. For the veterans is being there as well. Now after the fact.

Jessica Walker
And it just as you have such a heart of service, I feel like every hurdle you go through, you're then looking to see how you can help the person following you go through that hurdle with less difficulty. And also shout out to your mom, she sounds like an incredibly strong woman. And I'm sure that they probably where you get a lot of your strength. So I mean, just to kind of wrap up, I mean, I could talk to you for hours. It's so much information for listeners through your story and your perspective and your experience. And one of your missions is to help people transform their lives by encouraging them to take charge of their healing and their wellness. You do this through speaking. What is what does that mean to you taking charge of their healing and wellness and what are some first steps that listeners can take to head down this

path of

healing for themselves.

Brandi Benson
First, I feel like you have to recognize what it is, what is it that you want to do, a lot of people don't feel successful or don't feel like they have any value, because there's no goal. They don't know how to get from a beat, CD, whatever it is, they don't know how to get there. So finding out what it is that you want to do, if you want to be a school teacher, if you want to be a personal trainer, but finding out what your passion is, why you're passionate about it, and what drives you is so important in order to take charge of your life. So you're not feeling like the days just been thrown at you. So now instead of waking up just not knowing what to do or why you're doing certain things, have have to do lists, have some goals, have long term goals, short term goals, daily to do lists, things that will keep you focused on what it is that you're trying to accomplish. So when I say Take, take control back over your life is finding a focus and your passion or your why to what it is that you're doing. Why are you doing this? What are the benefits that you're giving? Or you're receiving? Or that you're providing to somebody? So figure out your goals, what is it that you're trying to do? And then your wellness? Are you eating right? Some people think that drinking seven sodas a day and eating candy all day is is going to be goodness, like no you need, you need Whole Foods, you need a nutritional value inside of your body. Cancer cannot thrive in a body that has high alkalinity in it. So that means you got to cut out those those sugary foods, those those candies, those processed stuff, your body has to be at a nice homeostasis state for you to be able to do and feel your best. So eat well walk exercises, engage in different activities, if you want to pay it if you want to walk your dog for a while, but going outside and being outside in nature. I mean, there's not only vitamin D, that's outside, but there's vitamin K, there's vitamin A, there's vitamin D, there's so much vitamin that the that the sun provides for you. being outside is so good for you. It's like a like a nice little charge. So just doing that just being aware, I feel like being your elite version of yourself is super important. And whatever that is for you just try to be that person. For me, it's you know, I'm always trying to push the envelope, I'm always trying to be better than I was the year before. I always want to surpass these goals that I set for myself this year, I have a goal of attaining some some federal contracts with government for resume advantage, I ended up finding a really great company that's helped me work with this and get my, my, my letter sent out and getting my company eligible for that. So that's why it's like a really big deal for me. And another one, becoming a speaker getting picked picked up by speaker Bureau. That was a huge thing for me that just ended up happening. We're getting the contracts, everything's in motion should be sometime this week. But

Jessica Walker
congratulations. That's awesome.

Brandi Benson
Thank you. I know, it's like anything's possible. If you just write down what it is that you want to do. It will happen, you will start seeing ways and people and circumstances and situations that start to pop up, you know, like, Hey, you know, try this over here. Why don't you come over here? Why don't you do this. And if you're just a little curious of what it is that the world has presented to you, you can have and do and be anything like this world is limitless, anything is possible. It really is. So you just got to find out what it is that you What drives you and what it is that you want to do. Because it's out there and you can have it

Jessica Walker
a powerful message brandy, that's amazing. I so many things can like came to mind when you're saying what you just said I feel like one of the quotes is live your life by design not default, which sounds like exit like exactly what your your message is, is follow your creativity, follow your curiosities, and, and go after it and and i think that that's such a great message to end on here. It has been amazing talking to you, Brandy, I know that people are gonna want to connect with you more for sure. There's so much to learn from everything you've shared today and more. So where is that I'm going to link all of your contact in the show notes. But where would you think is best for people to reach out if they want to connect with you and learn more about what you're doing?

Brandi Benson
Um, I would definitely say reach out to me on instagram because I'm on there all the time.

Yes, that's brandy br a and di l dot Benson bn s o n is my name.

Jessica Walker
Perfect. All right. Thank you so much. Brandy. This is an amazing episode and I'm so grateful to have had you here today.

Brandi Benson
No problem. Thank you for having me. Have a fantastic evening. You too. Bye.

 

 



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