Overcome the Enemy Inside You

Drive On Podcast
Drive On Podcast
Overcome the Enemy Inside You
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Brandi is the founder and CEO of Resume-Advantage, an employment service for both civilians and transitioning military veterans. Brandi earned a B.A. in Mass Communications and Journalism from Ashford University and an M.F.A. in Writing from the Savannah College of Art and Design. She is currently pursuing a Human Resource certification from Cornell University.

She is an American speaker and storyteller for TLC Lions, an author of The Enemy Inside Me, a brand ambassador for the Sarcoma Alliance, and an Iraqi War Veteran.

In 2009, after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Ewing Sarcoma, Brandi fought to overcome her diagnosis, heal after her treatments, and reclaimed her life through therapy, physical activities, and other healthy-living practices.

Through her speaking engagements and signature topic “Overcoming The Enemy Inside You” culled from the title of her acclaimed book, Brandi transforms the lives of her audience by encouraging them to pursue different avenues of physical and mental therapy to take charge of their healing and wellness.

Brandi has had the pleasure of speaking for with Rolls-Royce, Guy Carpenter, Subsea 7, SNOW Companies, Bristol Myers Squibb, Kevin Hines, HOPE Nation, The Hines Foundation, LSP3, Salesforce and many more.

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, take charge of their healing and wellness.

Links & Resources

Transcript

Scott DeLuzio:    00:00:00    Thanks for tuning into a Drive On Podcast where we're focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community, whether you're a veteran, active duty guard, reserve, or family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzio and now let's get on with the show. Hi everybody today my guest is Brandi Benson. Brandi is an Army veteran who served in Iraq before being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Through this experience, she's written a book titled The Enemy Inside Me. And she's here to talk about overcoming the enemy inside of you. She's also the CEO of resume advantage, which provides employment services to both civilians and transitioning military veterans. So welcome to the show, Brandi. Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and everything about you.  

Brandi Benson:    00:00:52    Thank you so much for having me and I would be glad to do so. So yes, I'm Brandi Benson. I'm originally from California. I ended up joining the military in 2008 and I joined from Illinois. So this transition, I ended up moving to Illinois. I think it was Gurney. And I was staying with my sister, whose husband was at the time they were married. He was in the Navy and he was at this place called Great Lakes. He was stationed over there. So we all lived over there and my sister had joined the military before me. And I thought that me being the bigger the older sister that I should probably be doing something with my life as well. So I decided to join as well. So I joined in 2008. I was in the active or regular Army for one month and nine days.  

Brandi Benson:    00:01:46    So when I got to my first duty station, I was there for one month, nine days. And I was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. And I immediately was told that I was going to be deployed to Iraq. So that definitely came up very, very fast, came  a huge shocker, I felt , why would the military want me to go? And I just learned how to throw a grenade, how to clear a room, how to fix a collapsed lung and you know, all of this stuff,  I just finished ruck marching, and basically  getting used to doing all this stuff. So it was really interesting that they didn't care how long you were in the military, you're going out in metal. What, so I find out that I'm going to beat the points and then I automatically start getting anxiety and I'm stressed out and I'm not sure if I'm ready for this; did I make the right choice.  

Brandi Benson:    00:02:39    I'm only 24, where the hell are they going to send me? So I was just really confused on what was going on and why this was happening. So I've been told that I'm going to go to this place called FOB Echo, which is  190 something miles south of Baghdad. And it's at this place called Al Diwaniya FOB Echo, so we're going there. So I immediately started doing research on YouTube and I found out that they just had this huge mortar attack that happened, and somebody was able to record it. People are screaming, crying, and I'm , oh fuck, this is so bad. This is where I'm going. And I'm , oh my God. Then I'm  talking to my friends and asking them, have they seen this happen? You know, what's the research that they've seen?  

Brandi Benson:    00:03:31    We all just kind of , oh, this is really bad. And then I even tried to talk to my chain of command to try to talk them out of not letting me go. Because I feel  I'm not ready. I don't think I'm ready. I don't think I'm ready to do this yet. I'm not even sure if I paid attention in basic and AIT, I was really questioning all this stuff. I don't know if this is going to be a good turnout. So I was just really scared, really nervous about it. So they ended up sending me anyway, I don't care. You're going to the military. I mean, you're in the military. Your first duty is to protect your country. This is what your job is. You're going. So I go and I leave in October, it was 2008.  

Brandi Benson:    00:04:11    So when I get there, it's not very bad. It's kind of , to me, it seemed  a college town a little bit,  people are playing basketball, having a good time everything's all right. And we're on a small little FOB. Then November rolls around and things get a little quieter. It's too cold to play basketball; everyone's inside. And then that's when all the mortar shooting started happening and the bombs started coming in and crazy shooting at people trying to get on base. And it's just really hectic. I think someone ended up committing suicide in a couple of different shoots down for me. It was getting really out of hand during the winter time frame. So around December time frame, I'm experiencing extreme fatigue and really tired. And I can't  kick this tiredness at all. And then that's when I started noticing a different change in me,  something's going on? And I'm just not quite sure what it is.  I was just still tired and I thought it was because I was deployed in Iraq. I'm 24, I'm young, I'm away from my family. I'm in the middle of war, maybe that's what's going on.  I need more rest. But then that's when I discover a month later in January, this lump in my leg. And then that's when everything went straight downhill.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:05:31    So, you discovered this lump in your leg. Right. And so in addition to the fatigue and things, was there any pain or was it just all of a sudden you notice there's this lump that wasn't there before and now, oh my God, it's sticking out and it's a sore thumb almost, you know?  

Brandi Benson:    00:05:51    Yeah. No, and it wasn't even sticking out the way I found it. So that whole month, in December I was  working out really hard. And one of the consensus was, if you got a 300 on a PT score, you get three days off. And if I could get three days off, then I will definitely catch up on my rest. Everything will be okay. So I worked really hard at the gym.  I was working out three times a day, I'm running miles keeping up with the guys and doing really great. And then in January, so I've been working out all December and I think that's why I'm more tired than January. At the beginning of January I was working out and I did legs that day and I pulled my left leg up to my chest and I was laying on the bed and I was just holding it, stretching it. And then I felt a lump sticking out of my leg. And that's weird. So I stand up and I don't feel it, then lay back down and I'm stretching and I feel it again. It only felt very deep inside the cavity of my leg somewhere. And that's the only way I found out was stretching. I would have never known that it was there at all. I didn't even know that things like that happen to people. I had no clue. I was so naive.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:06:59    Well honestly, that's the reason why I asked the question about how you discovered this, was it a pain? Was it something that wasn't protruding or anything like that? Because, you said, you didn't know, and you didn't know that that type of thing happened to people. And I'm sure the listeners who might be listening to this might not know that either. And so [I want people] to be able to learn from other people's experiences. So unfortunately this is something that happened to you, but if we can pass some information and knowledge on to the listeners, hopefully they can discover this type of thing soon if it does happen to them and realize that it's something that they probably need to go get checked out. So, okay, you discover this lump in your leg. What happened from there? Did you, obviously you probably went to the medics or whoever you had on base there and tried to figure out what was going on with you, but what happened there?  

Brandi Benson:    00:08:00    I discovered the lump and I think nothing's wrong with me at all, because I don't know, you're young, you don't think anything crazy is going to be happening to you because you feel invincible. That's definitely what it was.  

Brandi Benson:    00:08:15    I was just 24 and I'm healthy and I'm really keeping up and I'm running the fastest times and my body’s in the best shape of my life. So this lump in my leg didn't concern me one bit and it didn't hurt. So I thought it was probably gonna go away. So I show him my roommate, I show my SEO, I show a couple of friends and everyone's, “oh, why are you not concerned?” Why would I be concerned?  It doesn't hurt. And every time I push it, it won't go anywhere. It's just this hard mass just sitting in my leg. So it’s probably nothing. And they're, “well, you know what? I think you need to show Captain Mate,” who was our medic over there.  

Brandi Benson:    00:09:01    So I go to the medic station, I go to show her and my whole premise of going to her and showing her is because now that I've had six, seven people say that this is concerning, this is something wrong. I know she's going to put me on quarters. I know she's going to let me go get some rest and go to sleep. I'm thinking, there's no way that all these people think something's wrong. And then she's going to say,  go back to work. So I went there. I'm thinking I'm going to get put on quarters. I just needed a couple of days to catch up on rest. I'm really tired. So that's the whole reason why I even went. So I go to her and I show her my leg and she looks really concerned, but she's not saying anything.  

Brandi Benson:    00:09:42    And she just gets really quiet. And then she brings in a couple of different people and then everyone leaves and they're  talking outside a little bit. Then they come back in and they're  touching my leg a little bit and asking me how long have I had it for? Is it painful? When did it pop up? Do I have any other bumps like that? And I don't know anything. It just, I just saw it. It's not hurting. I'm not sure. She says, okay, well, we're sending you immediately to Baghdad to get a CT scan. I was like , okay, cool. If I go to Baghdad, I'm going to be in the green zone, not the red zone anymore. It's going to be safer. It's going to look, feel a little better living quarters.  

Brandi Benson:    00:10:22    So, that's totally fine. Plus it's further away. That means I'll get more rest. I won't have to go to work. I'll be able to sleep in. So, that's totally fine with me. So I go get a CT scan, get that done. The doctor comes over and he says, we know for sure there's blood flowing in and out of it. However, we highly suggest that you go to Germany and I'm going to go to Germany.  What? That means I'm definitely out of the war zone. I can maybe go get a beer and I'm over 21. I can. I'm in a beautiful picturesque place.  I would love to go to Germany, the food's probably really good.  I want to go there. And  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:11:02    So, at this point you're really just concerned with the fatigue, right? I mean, it seems to me from what I am hearing that you just want to get some rest. 

Brandi Benson:    00:11:09    The further I get away, the longer I'll be able to catch up on sleep. And then I won’t be as stressed out or wondering where the next bomb is going to come because our alarm system or our security system that we had didn't work or go off. I don't know, 10 seconds 30. I don't even know what the timeframe was, but it's supposed to go off ahead of time to let you know, there's incoming. It was broken. So you never knew when the next mortar bomb, whatever was coming. So that was very stressful as well. I was just happy to be out of there. And another thing I didn't mention was when I was leaving, I had a whole bunch of my friends come back or they came back to my room. They found out I was going to Bagdad. 

Brandi Benson:    00:11:52    So they gave me stuff that they wanted me to bring back for them because we all thought I was coming back. We didn't think anything was going to be wrong. Some people had Nike shoes, some had food, drinks, blankets. They wanted me to go through the shops wherever and get this stuff. So I had two, three lists of stuff to get for three different people. And they wanted different stuff. They gave money to do this because we all thought that I was coming back and I never came back. So I still owe them money and I don't have any of this stuff. So yeah, that's 14 years ago. But anyways, I finally got to Germany and when I'm in Germany, they tell me to get an MRI. And then I'm in constant contact with my mother and I'm telling her what's going on.  

Brandi Benson:    00:12:38    And I'm letting her know that I'm in Germany. And she's wondering, why are you in Germany? You're supposed to be in Iraq. I'm, oh yeah, I got this lump in my leg. And they're  taking me to different places and I had to get things checked out and she was a lump in your leg. It’s just a lump and she's, I don't think that this is something serious and I take it seriously because I just didn't know. So I go to the doctors, we get the MRI and then I get the results back and he tells me that it's a tumor. And I was, well, what the hell is that? What is a tumor? What is that? I've never met anybody with a tumor before.  

Brandi Benson:    00:13:19    So I go online and I do some research and I find out that a tumor is a massive cell and it could be cancer or it could be benign. And I'm, whoa, what does this mean? I'm okay. So what I'm thinking is cancer. I'm like, there's no way I could have cancer. Because I'm young, I'm healthy. I don't do drugs. I'm not into all these terrible things, and I'm young. And I thought older people got cancer because that is who I see. People who were older had cancer; they smoked or they drank or they did that stuff. So, it can't be cancer. There's just no way. So I tell my mom it's a tumor. She's really concerned, really upset a little bit that I'm not taking it as serious.  

Brandi Benson:    00:14:11    And then, I get my biopsy done. And the doctor says to me that he hopes it's not Ewing sarcoma. And I was, what the hell is that? And he says, but I think it is a nerve sheath tumor. And I was, what is that? So I automatically go online again. And I start doing research and I find out both of these are cancers. And I'm, okay, this is really serious. This is not a joke. I'm going to die. So I called my mom, I don't remember talking to her on the phone. And I was really depressed and sad. And I was just, oh my God, it was horrible. And talking to her super early in the morning. It was four in the morning or five in the morning. And she also had my nephew Donovan.  

Brandi Benson:    00:15:00    He was a baby at the time. My sister was also deployed in Iraq. She was at the air force base. So it was much better and safer. She is deployed, my sister is deployed my name, my nephew is with my mom. And I'm talking to my mom with them and she's, well, what do the doctors say? They said that it's cancer. And she started screaming so loud and she dropped the phone. And it was just so sad and just so heartbreaking. And I could hear the panic in her voice, which made me cry. And I was really scared about what was going on. And I remember, I got off the phone with her or before I got the phone, she said she was going to come and take care of me. I don't care what happens.  

Brandi Benson:    00:15:44     I'm coming to take care of you. I'm leaving everything in Texas and I'm going to be there. And I was, oh my God, this is the worst news you could ever get in your life. I'm in a foreign country. Now I'm dying. I don't know what's going on. I don't have any family with me. I don't have anybody. And this news is just crushing my soul. This is terrible. So I automatically go into a deep, dark depression and I start taking pills, sleeping pills because when I'm awake, I start thinking about having cancer and where it's going to be manifesting to and what's going to happen and I'm going to die and I'm going to go to hell or heaven. I was fucking freaking out, man. I don't know what is going to be happening with me.  

Brandi Benson:    00:16:33    And so just start taking a ton of Benadryl pills. And I slept the rest of the days, except for the summer when I had to go to the doctors and find out what type of cancer it was. So, the first five days I just took lots of Benadryl and rested and I'm sleeping as much as I can. And, I remember talking to my roommate who was there and we were reading the exact same book and we had the exact same blanket, which is so odd. I just think that's really weird that out of all the books in the world, we were reading the same book in the same chapter, and had the same blanket. Very strange.  

Brandi Benson:    00:17:13    And I just remember thinking, this is so crazy, but she ended up going back, I can't remember; it was Taji or something like that starting with a T. She was good. She went back to being deployed and I was sick and stuff, but that's just a side note. I just thought that was so bizarre that that happened. Okay. So, I go to the last appointment and they're going to tell me what type of cancer I have. So remember the doctor said he didn't want me to have Ewing sarcoma because whatever the reason was that was the worst of the worst. He didn't want me to have it. So I don't want that either. So I go there and I'm talking to him and he says, okay, we think it's a nerve sheath tumor. And I'm, okay, cool.  

Brandi Benson:    00:17:52     That's not the bad one. That's not the one that the doctor was all scared about. I tell my mom the information, tell everybody everything. I don't remember, but as I'm getting checked out, I'm just really sad and depressed. And I'm trying not to move around too much because I'm not very smart about cancer. I didn't go to school about that. So I'm not trying to walk too fast.  I don't want a piece to break off and go somewhere else.  I had no clue how it works. It's just, I didn't know. So I was trying to do the best I could to not make it spread anywhere. So go to Germany, the long flight, sad, depressed, all that. And I remember falling asleep and waking up to this guy in a stretcher. And he had been in some sort of bombing or something and he was dead.  

Brandi Benson:    00:18:44    Yeah. It was terrible. And he was right in front of me. What the fuck? What is going on, man? And then he had another friend that was over there and it was just so terrible. He was, they were all burnt and bad. It was just horrible. It was just bad. It was so scary. This is what I asked for. I asked to join the military and this is what I got. So I get to Walter Reed. And then they tell them they have to do a new biopsy. I asked why. And they said, because they have to make sure that it's the same cancer that they thought I had. So the old cells had died and they had to get a new, fresh biopsy.  

Brandi Benson:    00:19:24    So I do a new biopsy and they come in and firstly, tell my mom to go get my mom. So my mom comes out and they're talking to my mom and my mom comes back, she's crying, she's all upset and stuff. And she looks all worried and she's nodding up her tissue in her hand and stuff, oh God, this is probably not good. And they sit me down and they tell me, well, we've confirmed the type of cancer that you have. And I'm, oh, okay. And then he says, it's Ewing sarcoma cancer. And I was, no, oh God, that's the one the doctor did not want me to have. So of course I started researching. Right. And it spreads to lungs, your spinal cord, your brainstem, and you don't have a high survival rate past five years.  

Brandi Benson:    00:20:16    If you, if it does leave, it will come back. And so it spreads to all these different places. And they're talking about the chance to amputate my leg at my hip. And I have played soccer for so many years. And I don't know, that probably I'll never play again because they're trying to take my leg. It was just really, really, really, really tough mentally, physically, emotionally. It was just so draining knowing that this was going to be my future and my family and my mom and my nephew and all of these people, we're going to have to watch me die. It was really hard.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:20:54    Yeah. So did you ever discover the cause of this cancer? Was it  exposure to anything in the environment or was it just bad luck.  

Brandi Benson:    00:21:03    They think it's bad luck. I think it's the burn pits and the mortars and the radiation and all that stuff that we were all exposed to because there were several people that were from deployment that were on that ward. There were about 13, 12 of us and they were all from deployment. They all came from being deployed. Every single one of them was sick with cancer. They didn't have the type I had and every single one of them ended up passing away and dying. 

Scott DeLuzio:  Oh, wow. 

Brandi Benson: I was very, very disheartened, very sad. I would be confined in one on one day and the next day they'd be gone and this is my life now; you never know what's going to happen. I don't know. You know, my cancer is going to spread anywhere. I don't know if they're gonna have to cut my leg off. It was really hard.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:21:50    And so, what ended up happening? So, they were talking about maybe cutting your leg off and how/what did that process look like? What did they end up doing? And how did that treatment end up going for you?  

Brandi Benson:    00:22:05    Yeah. So when I found out that I have Ewing sarcoma cancer, they gave me a whole new regimen. And to tell me that they were going to be starting aggressive chemotherapy.  We have no time to preserve your eggs, this is a very time sensitive thing. You have to do it  as soon as possible. So I do chemotherapy for five days on eight days off, five days on eight days off. And I continued that for 10 months and I did about 101 chemo therapies in 10 months.  I was dead to the world. I was so sick, so weak. So, it was just really bad. I dunno, I just looked so ill.  I had a grey pale color. It was insane. So crazy, bald head. It was crazy, but still they tell me, they're going to amputate my leg because they're not sure if the chemotherapy is going to respond or not.  

Brandi Benson:    00:23:06    And because they've never had a case of Ewing sarcoma cancer before ever in their entire history that they've been working there. Even till this day, I reached out to my surgeon in 2018 and said, Hey, thank you so much. I'm so grateful. You know, you gave me this opportunity to live my life again. I'm not sure if you remember me. He's like, of course I remember, I've never had a case since. Right. Never. So he remembers me for sure. So I go through my whole treatment process. They are still talking about having to cut my leg off. I'll have to learn to walk again, all of that. And they're just not sure if I'm going to be living or not. So they are constantly coming in our room and having me update my will, the Chaplin's coming in and he's laying this huge cross on me and being dramatic, but he's probably being caring but dramatic to me, put some cross on me and asking me if I believe in God and, if I'm religious or not, and have I given my soul to the Lord and just so much stuff, and oh my God,  these people really think I'm going to die.  

Brandi Benson:    00:24:13    And so I start thinking I'm going to die because when you go to the doctors, you want to have answers and you usually take their advice or their input. And you kind of put it higher and you value it more than yours because they're the experts in that field. So I'm thinking, okay, but if they think I'm going to die, I'm probably not going to make it. There's no way that all this is happening, updating my will at the time. And praying over me all the time and constantly coming in my room and checking on me and seeing if this treatment's responding or not. I didn't think I was going to live and neither did they. So that was very discouraging to go through. I did six rounds of chemotherapy and the very initial beginning, then we did a large surgery and that removed my abductor muscle out of my leg.  

Brandi Benson:    00:25:08    So that's the main muscle that's in your inner thigh. They take that whole part out. They removed about six pounds of muscle and fat and all that out of my leg, took that out. So now I've got one skinny leg, one regular. I have to learn how to walk again. My legs are swollen all the time. I have this huge hole in my leg that won't close because my immune system is so suppressed that it can't rebuild up anything. So I'm walking around with a limp; I can't feel my legs. I have neuropathy in my fingers. And then my feet, it was hard. The chemotherapy was so hard on my body.  I would go pee and you could smell it. My skin smelled like poison. I would hallucinate, I would see dead people, I would have a bad stutter.  

Brandi Benson:    00:26:03    Some of them made my bladder bleed.  It was insane. It was just so much to go through just to save your life. But I really valued my life. So yeah. 

Scott DeLuzio:  It beats the alternative, I guess.

Brandi Benson: How to torture myself nearly to death every time, bringing it to the brink of death, and then they rehydrate you with saline and try to save you back to life so they can bring you back to the brink of death again. So I continued that for months and months and months. Then when I first started out, I was very strong, in great shape. I had, I'm not gonna say six pack, but I had a really nice physique on me. Really the best shape of my life. I was working out  crazy in Iraq. So by the time it was all over with, I was being pushed in a wheelchair.  

Brandi Benson:    00:26:53    I couldn't walk, I couldn't even sign myself out of the hospital. I was so weak. I couldn't even hold a pen in my hand; mom had to sign me out. It was hard, it was insane, but I ended up making it through. I've made a promise to myself that if I got to live, that I would make a better second chance in my life. And during that whole time, when everyone thought I was gonna pass away and die, I kept a journal for myself and this journal, it ended up being a book, but it started out as a journal. And it was for my nephew in the event that I did pass away because I wanted to leave him something that he would have from me, because I just didn't think at two years old, he would remember me or what we were doing, what was going on.  

Brandi Benson:    00:27:43    So I was going to leave this journal for him, a little diary for him about what was going on, how I was feeling, how sorry I was that I was going to be leaving and passing away and not be able to meet him or really get to know him. So then somewhere in between that time in that process, I had a promise against myself that, if I got to live, I was going to take his journals and make it a book. And that's how the Enemy Inside Me ended up being created.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:28:14    And that was going to lead into my next question for you too, is so, the title of your book, you said, the Enemy Inside Me, and I'm just going to guess here that you're probably referring to more of the mental enemy inside of you, I'm sure the cancer is also a big enemy there too, but there's probably a lot of mental things going on there too, because you know, you go from you're in your mid twenties, you're invincible. Nothing's going to happen to you. You just want to have maybe a couple of days off to rest and recuperate, to “oh my God, I'm knocking on death's store here.” And there's a whole range of emotions that went along with all of that. I got to imagine that the mental side was pretty significant. So, let's talk a little bit about your book and what that all was like and how you were able to overcome that enemy inside of you.  

Brandi Benson:    00:29:14    The Enemy Inside Me is about something that's not allowing you to be the best version of yourself, the elite version of yourself. So that could be adversity. That could be a bad relationship. That could be insecurities. It doesn't have to be something, I don't know, something huge like cancer, it could just be anything that's not allowing you to be the best version of yourself. And to me, I feel throughout my life, I've had several of these different enemies inside of me that are not allowing me to be the best. It just so happened at the time it was cancer. Then after cancer became insecurity, it became learning how to love myself over, it became learning how to accept myself, because I was so upset with how I looked at what was going on and how my life was turning out and how I didn't plan for all this to be happening to me.  

Brandi Benson:    00:30:05    But I had to learn how to accept this and work with what I was given. So yeah, it's just about being able to identify those things that are not allowing you to be the best version of yourself and finding  a roadmap of resiliency of how you can use your tools from the past to kind of help you build a better future for your present self. And that's what it's really just about. So for me, again, it was cancer. And so I had to learn how to work with this new individual of myself and the enemy was cancer. So how do I take this old individual that I've been fighting for this entire time in the hospital, this old Brandi Benson, this little life I couldn't wait to get back to. And I had to realize that that person is dead and gone.  

Brandi Benson:    00:30:56    I'll never be the old Brandi again, that person is gone. She'll never come back. And so I had to accept that portion of me until I move on to make it work for myself. And that's just what it's about. Just finding the blueprint, figuring out what works for your triggers, all of that stuff, mental health, super important, giving yourself breaks, being kind to yourself, knowing that being vulnerable is something that's amazing. We don't always have to be the one wearing the superhero Cape. Sometimes you need help. Sometimes you need to speak about it. Sometimes it's important to express yourself and these are all just things that I've learned throughout the years, 14 years later, because I definitely was someone who didn't want people to take on my burden. I didn't want them to feel they had to help me like I was an obligation.  

Brandi Benson:    00:31:46    So I wouldn't really explain or express how I was feeling or say that I needed help when I should have been asking for help. I just felt I didn't want to put my problems on somebody else because they were just too much for me to carry myself. Why would I want to do this to my mom or to anybody? I just had a lot of mental enemies that were kind of dragging me down and I kept it for years. You have such a long time. And I didn't say anything for a long time. It was just destroying me mentally. It kind of festers out physically. So it's just important to recognize that and to ask for help when you need it.  

Scott DeLuzion:    00:32:24    Yeah, no for sure. That's one of the things that I try to talk about a lot on this show is getting people to get the help that they need when they need it, when they recognize that there's something wrong and sometimes you don't even recognize that there's something wrong, but you know, someone else might, and they might say, “Hey you're not quite yourself, so maybe you might want to go talk to someone” or whatever the case may be, but you need to act on that and talking about mental health things when you look at someone yourself who had cancer, no one says, “oh, well just suck it up. You have cancer and deal with it.” Because itI would just be crazy for somebody to say something like  that to you, you know?  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:33:07    But sometimes, there's a stigma around mental health and you know, people will say, “well, just suck it up and deal with it.” You're having a bad day or whatever, but you know, sometimes it's more than just a bad day. There's a whole lot more surrounding that. So, you're right. You know, mental health is definitely a big, big part of all of this. And if you don't have that strong base to start from, if you weren't strong mentally and emotionally to begin with, it would be much harder for you probably to have gotten through all that you went through.  

Brandi Benson:    00:33:41    Yes. I think it's also really important to have a strong support system. I feel that is the key that I had that nobody else had on that ward. All 12 or 13 because I  can't remember the exact number, but all of them were all by themselves. They didn't have anybody. I was the only one who had my mom there living with me in the hospital; she was there. And I feel because she was there, she was able to remind me of how strong I am at my weakest. She was able to distract me if I was feeling too sad or whatever it was. She was able to kind of bounce back and helped me when I needed it the most. When I felt I couldn't do it. And I didn't have enough in me.  

Brandi Benson:    00:34:27    She somehow mustered the strength up and helped me even more. And nobody else had that. I was the only one that had that. Everybody else passed away. And I feel she is a reason why I'm here, her support, even though she couldn't take my pain away physically or take the cancer away. She was there for me emotionally and spiritually, and  just there for me. And that's what people who are going through recovery or going through a hard time need. And that's what they need the most. And if they don't have a support system, I feel they should seek one out; but there's groups now on Instagram, there's Facebook groups, there's different therapy groups. I just feel getting out there and talking to people who are going through a similar situation, such as yourself is very vital to someone's longevity.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:35:22    That's great advice. I think with finding that support network, if you don't have close family or whatever, it's important to know that there's other people out there who might be in a similar situation maybe they don't have the exact same form of cancer as you did for example, but you know, it's still a scary situation if you have any form of cancer. And so if you didn't have that support network built in with your own family, then I'm sure there were other people there who you could have maybe leaned on and maybe they leaned on you, you know? So, or even someone who recovered through it and was able to be a maybe a mentor, if that's the right word, I don't know. But, who could have helped you out with that and let you know what you were experiencing and you know, what to expect.  

Brandi Benson:    00:36:16    Exactly. Yes. I feel the scariest thing is the unknown. You don't know what's going to be happening. That's the most frustrating, most of my anxiety goes through the roof. Just not knowing what's going on, not knowing if on the other side of the door,  if you open it, is it going to be okay? Or is there a monster, should I be defending myself and getting ready to run after something? Or am I going to be embracing this thing and behind the door? What is it? So it's just hard to prepare for the unknown and then having somebody who's been through it, who's walked through the door and can tell you, this is what you can look out for, look out for this. You might feel symptoms of that. This is totally normal, so yeah. Find that.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:37:03    And so you do some public speaking on this topic too. What is your advice to people who obviously have that support system you talked about already, but what is your advice to people who are trying to overcome their own enemy inside themselves? Whether it's cancer or whether it's some other enemy, if you want to use that word, inside of them, what is your advice to them on the first steps of trying to use some of the tools that they've learned over their life and apply them to their situation.  

Brandi Benson:    00:37:38    I would say if the life that they're living is not bringing them happiness or joy or whatever that is, find an example of what they think, or they aspire to be and see how that's working for them. So this individual is, I don't know, working with different groups, or there are different programs or different things. Try to start emulating whatever it is that you're missing and start replacing it with the stuff that is not as healthy for you, environmental, life or health wise. So if you want to be in shape, but you're eating junk food all the time, but you see this person that is your role model is eating apples, being healthy, they're doing other things. Well, you can use some of those tools that you're learning vicariously through them and implement them into your life.  

Brandi Benson:    00:38:29    So making the small little changes, just dissecting life and figuring out where is it that you're unhappy, what is it that's making you happy? And how can you explore that more or amplify that a bit more. Take a step back and kind of analyze what's going on with your life. What's the big picture here, or what is it that you're not happy with and how can you find ways to fix that? And so, remedy those issues and those problems, because I feel  we can all live the life that we want. And what happens to us is all a result of our decisions that we've made. If we may have better decisions and we're more informed with more resources and we have better, healthier outlooks on life, you can live the life that you want,  

Brandi Benson:    00:39:20    but it all starts with making a choice. So you have to see what's going on in your life that you don't like, fix it, find a way to fix that, find a way to take those things and resources that you see and implement it into your life. And it doesn't have to be the exact same thing.  I see it as somebody riding on a yacht or something, and I'll have to try to get the exact same yacht, but do you want to be on a boat or you want to be in the water? Maybe the ocean makes you happy. So I come to the beach more, start doing more things that are outside and outdoors and nature, just exploring what makes you happy. What's not making you happy, figuring out a way to bring those happy things into your life.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:40:00    Yeah. But I mean, that's great advice. And I think one of the things that you mentioned is the environment that people find themselves in and that can have a significant impact on your state of mind and your wellbeing. And overall, I had a guest on this podcast early on and after he got out of the military, he was hanging around with people in his hometown. And they were into a lot of bad stuff, drugs, and all this kind of stuff. And he ended up finding himself homeless and he decided, you know what, I just need to get away from all of this. And so he moved away. He had bad relationships with his family. He had bad people that he was hanging out with. And he moved away from all of it. He got away from all of these bad things. And he changed his life. And now he's a successful business owner, raising a family, he's doing well for himself. So, it's just, sometimes you just need to kick yourself in the ass and say, I need to do something to change, this isn't going to change for me. So I need to do something and change it.  

Brandi Benson:    00:41:15    It's our decisions or choices that we're making, and those become habits. And sometimes those habits end up getting yourself in jail or something bad happens. So you need to fix it. You have to take responsibility, fix it and do something better with it. And we all have the capability of discerning and free will. So if someone's living a terrible, shitty life, well that's because maybe you're not making the right choices. Maybe you're continuously in this environment, that's perpetuating more stuff that you don't want to experience. You got to take yourself out of that. And I know it sounds very easy, and I know it's very hard and sometimes impossible thinking for people, but sometimes you have to think out of the box and you just gotta go with it and try, because at the end of the day, you have nothing to lose. If it didn't work out, you're just back in this exact same spot, right. You have nothing to lose, you have everything to gain. So just do it.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:42:12    And as a matter of fact, not only do you have nothing to lose, you've actually gained some insight into something that doesn't work. And so just don't do that again, then move on and try something else, you know? 

Brandi Benson:  Check your blueprint, check. 

Scott DeLuzio:    00:42:23    Yeah, exactly. You know, so, it didn't work, maybe you wasted a little bit of time and stuff, but you can try something and then move on. And if that doesn't work, try the next thing. And the next thing until you get what you want, that type of outcome, and even you were talking about diet and nutrition and all that kind of stuff. You know, instead of when you go to the grocery store, just don't buy the cookies or the chips, buy the apples and the fruit and other things like that. Instead of just letting it rot in your refrigerator, put it out on the counter and make it be right in front of your face. And so that way, when you walk by and you're looking for a snack, it's there grab that and eat that instead of looking for junk food.  

Brandi Benson:    00:43:09    I would say, do things in moderation. I feel  life is meant to be joyous and great, and there's so much great food out here. My gosh, it's so hard not to be a hundred percent, not bad with it, but we're human and we all make mistakes. And I feel  we can penalize ourselves and go beyond the super strict fad diet, if that's not what you, you don't want. So I feel it's okay if you want to enjoy some cake or you want to eat a little bit of cookies here and there, but you shouldn't be eating the whole box every single day.  Every day you don't need 12 cookies. Maybe you can have two or three, and you'll also have a healthy salad and you'll have, I dunno, maybe the next day you have cake, but I don't know. You're balancing it out somehow. It's all about balance. For some people can be so healthy that they're not seeing  they're healthy, but they're not healthy because they're so malnutritioned because they don't have enough calories or they're not getting the right nutrition in their body. So they're not eating protein or they're not eating sugars, but you can't live off broccoli all day. That's not going to work.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:44:13    Right. Exactly. I want to be sure that we also get a chance to talk about your company Resume Advantage. I know a lot of veterans struggle with their transition out of the military, finding meaningful work and talking about happiness. But also dealing with the transition out of the military, that all can be tough. What is it that Resume Advantage does and how does it help veterans in their transition?  

Brandi Benson:    00:44:40    So, when I was getting during the transition with the military, I felt  there was a huge lack in me and then everybody else. And all of our resumes sounded the same. If we had the same job, we all had the same shit on the resume that sounded ridiculous. It wasn't fair. I feel if we're going to be going towards the same job, how are they going to know who's better? Who's more qualified. It all says the same stuff.  They literally copy, pasted it, put on a piece of paper and here you go. That's your resume. So I felt  that was something that was missing a hundred percent. And I give my life to a company, organizations, such as the military, and I'm leaving.  

Brandi Benson:    00:45:22    I would expect a little bit more creativity on the resume to accentuate and communicate my value that I bring to an organization. And what makes me different from the next Jane, Joe, whoever it is. So that's what my company does. We work on finding your qualities, your skills and communicating them on paper the way that the employer wants to hear it. So some people think that when they're in the military, that they don't qualify for certain jobs because it's different jargon, different lingo, all that. But if they just were able to manipulate the sentences, change the structure of the words and know that yes, you might've done something in the arms room that means you were handling a budget of whatever the amount was for all these weapons. You were doing inventory and logistics. You were managing different employees who were your soldiers.  

Brandi Benson:    00:46:19     You're doing a whole bunch of stuff, but they don't know how to match up the lingo quite well. So I do that for them. I take pride, I'm very happy and excited when I get individuals that are veterans or people who are in the military, and maybe they want to spruce up their resume. But I'm just happy that I'm able to let them know that they do qualify for certain jobs and all you gotta do is just move this structure around a bit, but that's what we do. We just communicate your value on paper. So the employer will give you the interview. And that's what the whole point of a resume is to get the interview.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:47:01    Right. And there's so many companies out there, especially the big companies who get tons of resumes every day, every week whatever, they just get lots and lots of resumes. And without listing out the right qualities, the right keywords that they're looking for, you may not even get the interview and you may have all the qualifications, but if you don't communicate it effectively in that resume, then you might be out of luck in that way. So yeah.  

Brandi Benson:    00:47:32    We have the applicant system ATS, and you have to hit the key industry buzzwords that that resume is laid out for you, one. So you have to make sure if they're asking for a certain management or asking for a certain amount of years, you're highlighting that experience and explaining the key successes or accomplishments and why you are valuable, or you deserve that job more than anybody else. And then what you can bring. Sometimes I'll put in  their hobbies that kind of make them a little different, or just make them more,  when you do, when you're going through a resume, you're trying to see if this is the right one for the job. So I sometimes list out their hobbies, I'll list out their hard and soft skills. I list out accomplishments, and I'm just trying to brag as much as I can. And I make these people sound like scientists and amazing. It's great. I can do some really great stuff.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:48:32    That is great. And you were saying before, it seemed like a lot of these resumes were just very robotic and they were, okay, here, let's copy and paste these skills and put them on the thing and then send that out. But that doesn't really speak to who you are as a person. And you were saying, a lot of times hiring managers are looking to see if this person is a good fit maybe for the company culture or whatever the case may be, but without some color to the story, you don't really know who the person is other than some robot on a piece of paper, you know?  

Brandi Benson:    00:49:08    Right, right. And that's why the interview is also really important. We help with your interview process as well. So making sure that they're speaking with confidence and they're given different examples, so it's called a star format. So it's the situation, task action, and result. And so when they're asking you a question, you answer in the star format. So this is what, so they say how when you ran into a hard time managing this type of employee, what'd you do? So you say the situation, what the task was with the action that you did to resolve that and what the result was to get straight to the point. And they're, oh, okay.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:49:43    Yeah, no, I got it. I got it. Yeah, that makes sense. I think another great service is because a lot of times when someone joins the military, they're 18 years old or whatever, and they're there. That's the only job that they really had in their adult life anyways and they aren't really used to going on an interview after getting out of the military. And so that could be an intimidating process to go through sitting down and talking to someone and talking about your strengths and weaknesses and all this kind of stuff. And if you've never done that before.  

Brandi Benson:    00:50:17    There’s always a trick question. I always say, my weakness is saying no, I'm an overachiever, that's what you want.

Scott DeLuzio:  Or, I prepare too much!

Brandi Benson:    00:50:26    Oh, I'm not really good at budgeting.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:50:28    No, that's this job.  

Brandi Benson:    00:50:32    Take them off. He's not good. Take them off. Yeah.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:50:36    So, anyways, I mean, it seems this type of service is really, really useful for the veterans who, maybe don't know how to communicate their value on paper, or even in verbal, in the interview format where they need to sit down and talk to someone and be able to answer those questions, in an interview. So this seems like a really great service. So I'd highly encourage anyone who is looking to transition out of the military or even if you've been out of the military and you're looking to spruce up your resume, maybe looking for a career change, something along those lines reach out, the company is Resume Advantage. I think that that would be a good first place to start.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:51:25    And through talking with you over this last almost an hour now, time really flies, but it seems like you really have a good grasp on understanding people and understanding what they need and how to communicate their values to prospective employers. So, well, it's been a pleasure speaking with you today, hearing about your story, hearing about the struggles that you went through with the cancer and how you've recovered and how you've thrived afterwards, is really inspiring to me and hopefully to the listeners as well. Where can people go to get in touch with you or find out more about your book and Resume Advantage and everything else that you're doing.  

Brandi Benson:    00:52:20    Okay. So if you want a resume or some sort of employment services, you can go to www.resume-advantage.com. So that's my website and then the email. So say you want to work together, you need a resume updated or created whatever your choice is, you would go. But my email is [email protected] If you need somebody to do speaking engagements, that would be www.Brandilbenson.com. And then that email so many Moe's is [email protected] And you can find me on Instagram. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and my handle is Brandi L Benson.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:53:16    Perfect. I will have links to all of this in the show notes. So anyone looking to get in touch with Brandi, whether it's for employment services or to hire her as a speaker, or even to find her book, I'll have a link to her book, which is available on Amazon. Is it any where else or is it just Amazon?  

Brandi Benson:    00:53:35    it's on Amazon and it's on Barnes and Noble and wherever books are sold.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:53:42    Yep. Perfect. Yep. No, that's okay. I'll have the link to Amazon in the show notes. So you can definitely grab the book there and again. It's been wonderful speaking with you and hearing about your story and everything that you've accomplished since getting out of the military. I really do appreciate your time,  

Brandi Benson:    00:54:03    Have a great day, and thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:54:07    Oh, you're welcome. Thank you. Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website DriveOnPodcasts.com. We're also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube @DriveOnPodcast.  

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