Time

The concept of time in the life of someone with a diagnosis of any kind is probably not the same for someone living in a space where health is taken for granted. There are various moments on my journey that come to mind where I’ve had to surrender to it. Time, for me now, is something extremely valuable and something I’m learning to respect more than I did before.

Last week I had the most brilliant time in the countryside with two special people who took me on the most exquisite walks, made sure I was fed (boerewors on the braai style) which I totally welcomed. They took me away from the London vibes into the perfect space that is their home away from home,to forget about the last couple of months. Thank you Tim and Tom!! You are both incredible, your home is glorious and I love that we ate cake..more than once.

I came back into London with a date with Sophie planned for the following day!! Yay! We had a chilled lunch and then caught a show. Brilliant day my Sophie Soph! She is now a West End performer people. She has made her debut in Mamma Mia and I couldn’t take my eyes off her when I saw the show. So proud!!

Today has been a good day despite my immune system struggling to normalize. I guess it’s a case of too much too soon so I’m going to take a step back and carry on at a less pressurized pace. This has happened several times since chemo ended so lets’ see how this goes…

Today was good because while I’m recovering from whatever bug I may have picked up on the tube, my time was spent catching up with people I love. I’ve been doing quite a bit of that lately which I’m finding helpful with the current state of mind that I find myself in. I’ve avoided writing for a long time. WordPress tells me it’s been two months. It feels longer.

I’ve needed time 🙂

I attempted to write on two occasions, but both were unsuccessful. When I explain myself to the people who know me, I feel understood. I’ve said things like, “How can I write and make sense of anything when nothing makes sense?” and “How do I communicate what I’m going through when it’s not clear who I am anymore?”

I’m sure you get the picture, so I won’t elaborate further and even reading that back doesn’t capture it fully.

I honestly have so much to say, but will probably need more time to put it down or maybe one day it’ll all come flooding out of me and you’ll all wish I’d remained in the corner of the Monopoly board, behind bars.

I’ll try and share a few things that I’ve experienced during this “lost” period.

I’m not sure whether I’d communicated clearly in earlier posts that one of the side effects I’ve experienced for quite some time and probably one of the strongest ones to my mind, has been menopause. The general assumption is that it’s been induced by having chemo and could change once it’s cleared out my system, but for now, it seems like it’s here to stay. Menopause is also not really something that you’ll understand fully till you’re having volcanic eruptions of your own. This description was provided perfectly by my friend Aurelie. Thanks pal..at least we both get it now 🙂

How does this affect me? In various ways would be my answer, but let’s just look at two rather important things, sleep and meditation.

Sleep is hard to come by when you’re tossing and turning, opening and closing windows, washing yourself with cold water, reaching for your homeopathic remedies hoping at least one of them will take effect, praying everything you’re currently doing will settle the hot flush down and just when you think you’re on the up…another hot flush sneaks up on you, takes you down and it’s the same pattern all over again. I don’t worship my hot flushes enough to count them, but you need more than two hands sometimes.

A big one for me is how it impacts my meditation. I’ll wake up early to make sure I have quiet time before the kids from the school opposite me arrive and begin their screaming/shouting/singing ritual, which I actually quite enjoy, but not when you’re trying to meditate. So if I’ve had a decent nights’ sleep, then my meditation is on track and timed with perfection, but if I’ve had a menopausal manic one, it’s usually a case of getting up whenever I can manage to open my eyes. That’s one challenge. Then once I’ve actually managed to find myself in the upright position and seated for a good long meditation, it’s no different to going to sleep. The windows open and shut, I cover and uncover myself and because I’m now upright, my nose runs, so I’m rushing to fetch a tissue, then back again to open the window again and try and pick up where I left off in finding the peace I’m so desperately craving. I’m making light of it, which is a probably a good thing as I thought I’d lost my sense of humour a few weeks ago, but honestly, it’s not actually humorous.

Meditation is a vital part of my life and something I don’t want to be without, but it’s become so tricky and frustrating that sometimes I just sit and allow the frustration and the flush to pass over me, while listening to the voices of little children who are definitely not working towards a silent existence, and why should they when they’ve got a big playground in front of them.

Here’s another. When you have chemo, as is commonly known, you lose hair, in various places. Some are welcomed. I’ve never had smoother legs in my life 🙂

The one thing that surprised me and will explain the runny nose I spoke of, is that you lose nose hairs as well, so there is nowhere but down when it wants to run. There isn’t time to slowly reach for a tissue. It’s a mad dash, especially when you’re in the company of others. It can be quite embarrassing if you’re not prepared for it. I now have tissues in every pocket of every item of clothing I own. The trick is to remember to take them out before you do a wash load. First world problems.

The obvious thing is losing your hair on your head, but the cold cap made all the difference for me and although most of my hair fell out, the bits that are left are evenly spread so I can tie it back while the rest is catching up, so I look much the same as before. The new hair is very sweet actually. It’s soft and some bits are straight and others have a gentle curl, but they are all growing into something that is beginning to make a new style for a new gal.

I haven’t mentioned that I lost my eyebrows and lashes about 3 weeks after chemo finished. This in itself was so interesting to experience and I’m enjoying following their growth as they push back through every day.

I had wondered what it would feel like to be without them. I’m not one for too much make-up, but one thing I always like to do is put a brush of mascara on. Well, when there’s no lash, there’s no brush needed and my reaction to this surprised me. I was due to attend a course on the weekend of the week they disappeared, so I basically rolled out of bed, showered and got my things together for the day and left. I didn’t even bother with my beanie and there was surely still a reason for that, but I didn’t care. En route to the course,  I was standing at a bus stop, a bus arrived and a young girl who was sitting on the upper deck was looking down at me. She was staring for quite a while, which gave me the opportunity to look up and smile at her. She smiled back. Who knows if she was daydreaming or taking in the splendour of who I was that morning, but I felt completely liberated. I carried on like that for many weeks and have to say I wish women could experience that same freedom, without the reason behind the hair loss of course. I think women who approach a more natural way of being in the world are often labelled as “letting themselves go,” but I have never subscribed to that school of thought. A balance between the two is more what I believe is healthy.

Well, this has surprised me as I wasn’t sure I’d get beyond 400 words so I’m encouraged. I still have plenty to say on the subject of time, but I’ll leave it there for now.

Oh, maybe one last thing. When you have lots of time on your hands and don’t know what to do with it, don’t only lie on one side, with your neck in an awkward position when binge watching your favourite series on your ipad. You may need to spend time getting that fixed too and who has time for THAT?

Here’s to a cold Icelandic sleep for me tonight. Thanks for staying with me. Sorry if you felt I’d abandoned you. If you did, I’m sorry and I understand as I have those issues too and am happy to discuss them or write about them and encourage more conversation about them..and now I’m just talking nonsense because I can’t believe I actually managed to put something down today that makes any sense at all, so now, while I am making little sense….I will slip out quietly ..

Sorry about the picture of the clock..I ran out of time and had no creativity left..

Aunty Boop ..this is for you!! Thanks for bugging me about another blog. I did it x

Shifting Towards Who Knows What…

The desire to write and share more of my story has evaded me for several weeks now. I have had messages from concerned friends asking if I’m alright. The truth is I am dealing with many challenges and changes and while I process them, I prefer to keep a sacred space around them.

There are parts of me that I can still recognize and there is another side of me that seems completely new. I am growing to like this “new person” more and more 🙂

I don’t want that to come across as being obnoxious, because that is not where I’m coming from. I am merely stating a truth. A fact that was brought to my attention by other cancer survivors who have told me that I will never be the same again. A close friend likened it to a “rebirth.” Call it what you will, but it is present and growing daily and showing me things that perhaps I may have overlooked in the past. It’s confirming intuitive thoughts and feelings on specific situations and giving me a stronger sense of self.

Who is this “self” and why the obsession? Every day I am asked how I am and how am I feeling. I openly share what is happening with my body and my hair and whether I’ve slept or not and how things went at the hospital. How are my emotions and am I coping today?

Words of comfort flow daily from those close to me which is one of the biggest gifts I could receive. Just that feeling that I’m not going through this alone, even though essentially …I am. For the most part of this entire journey I have done it alone. I am naturally a solitude seeker, so going it alone is actually what works for me. It’s simpler that way and “simple” is the way forward… for me anyway.

I have opened up my personal life in the spirit of being open and honest about this journey. Perhaps with a view to helping someone else or fulfilling a sense of it being part of my purpose, but I feel almost protective over it right now. There is too much going on for me to explain and I am beyond exhausted.  

I feel hugely empowered to be in the moment with each shift and change and am more certain of myself and my emotions than ever before, so if I feel something negative, I say it, which may be slightly jolting for someone who is perhaps used to me reacting a certain way. There may be very little left of the people pleaser in me by the time this story draws to an end.

I’m not going to launch into all the reasons why things are challenging, because to me that is becoming a rather boring story. The same can be said for my previous ramblings about losing my hair. It is hair and it will grow back.

I was recently having a catch up with my friend Adam who has a beautiful head of hair. Long, luscious, dark locks that he sometimes ties into a man bun. So while I was describing that I was beginning to look rather like the phantom of the opera underneath his mask, Adam decided to remind me how incredibly gorgeous, shiny and strong his hair is. His enthusiasm was growing and growing, as was my amusement, and just when I thought he’d finished, he found more adjectives to boast how magnificent his hair is looking. We were in fits of laughter. There’s a reason why I call him “brat.”

I maintain that humor is vital in life, not only when you’re going through the good vibes, but also when life takes you down, what would seem like a dark path. This is not a dark path I’m on. It’s one of the most challenging I’ve been on, but it may just end up being the most rewarding and liberating journey I could ever dream of taking. I’ve met people who are fighting a very “real” fight and are warriors in their own right. They spend little time in the trivial and more time in communicating the inner truth of themselves. A persons journey through cancer is extremely tough and tiring and other people are not going to know the right thing to say or appreciate what you’re dealing with, but that’s not important. We are becoming “bigger” versions of ourselves, without sounding patronizing. It’s impossible to go through this and not be changed by it. Having others around you acknowledge and support the change they see in you is quite a special thing.

I don’t know what I’m shifting towards, but I know it involves many changes of a physical, emotional and spiritual nature. I’m up for it. I welcome whatever they may be, but I have no illusions that it won’t be tough and right now..it’s pretty tough.

Don’t underestimate the capacity inside you to become comfortable with something completely new. To look at yourself in the mirror and not see the same face looking back at you, and still love what you see.

That’s my two cents worth for today…And now I’m going to put my beanie on my head, to cover the bald patches and take myself off to go and hug a tree…

Happy to share just a “little” bit of me today 🙂

“Change yourself and you have done your part in changing the world” – Paramahansa Yogananda

Chemosabe Eight – Keep Moving!

It’s been an incredibly busy week, which in many ways has been such a welcomed thing, but now that I’m at the end of it, I’m realizing how important rest is, especially when your body is going through something challenging. I’m not feeling too good after chemo on Thursday, but my symptoms are mild, so I’m incredibly grateful and am focusing past them.

The days leading up to treatment were lovely and full and I was feeling positive and strong, so I didn’t doubt that I’d have the energy to get through.

Tuesday started with a picc line dressing change and blood tests.  I sat next to a girl I often see on a Thursday. She usually sleeps through her treatment, which seems to be a long one. She mentioned that her final chemo would take place on Thursday so I asked how she was feeling about it and we chatted for a while. We ended our conversation by asking the nurse if we could sit next to one another on Thursday so we could catch up some more. Another patient, who I also see on a Thursday, was openly sharing his current state of mind with us. He compared his experience as a cancer patient to that of being a puppet on a string. It’s the perfect explanation actually. There is a feeling of limitation of movement and choice in general and everything is orchestrated to make sure you’re on track with treatment, hospital visits and medication so it can sometimes feel crippling.

I finished up at the hospital and spent the rest of the afternoon running errands which I’d decided, would all be done on foot. I wanted to take advantage of the fact that I was feeling really good and strong. Midday, when I was finally on my way back home, I realized that I’d been a little too ambitious, so I took the bus home as I felt completely exhausted. I had a date planned later in the day with Susie and Caralyn who were both in ‘A Little Night Music’ with me, so I had to keep going. We had settled on meeting somewhere I hadn’t been before, which made a nice change for me. I’ve stayed away from the underground and public transport as much as I could to avoid picking up germs, but I felt I’d cope with a little exposure that day and I’m so glad I did. I had the best time with you girls. Thank you both 🙂

Wednesday was an early morning call to get to a different hospital for my follow up with Oncology and more blood tests. There is usually quite a bit of waiting around on these days. The overall feedback is that I’m coping well with treatment which is nice to hear from the specialists who see so many different patients all day long. They are always encouraging and supportive.

I had another catch up planned with my friend Marie in the afternoon and was scheduled to attend a talk later in the day with my friend Leigh. The talk only ended at 21:45 so it was going to be a long day and my instinct was that I’d make it through, which I did. I had a brilliant day and left the talk feeling really inspired with lots to think about.

Chemo day was up next and after a bit of a lie in, I ventured off to the hospital. As it turns out the nurses had moved my cold cap machine to another section of the ward to accommodate sitting with Lisa Marie, but she was asleep on the other side of the ward, so I settled in. It was busy and chatty and as lovely as the people were around me, I was feeling tired and quiet, so I have to say, it wasn’t my best day and I wished to be in the corner where I usually am. To add to that feeling of wishing I were in my quiet corner, I also didn’t feel great once the chemo cycle started. Sometimes you can sit there and not feel a thing and sometimes you know it’s going in. I had a strange sensation in my body on Thursday that I recognized from the first day of treatment. It leaves you feeling uneasy and the feeling hasn’t really left me all weekend, but I’ve taken it slow as much as I can.

Friday was the most beautiful day, with the sun beating down and a gentle breeze blowing, it was perfect. I went for a long walk in the park down the road from where I live and hugged several trees along the way. There is a special tree that I sometimes spend time sitting underneath. I call it my ‘wishing willow.’ On Friday I was feeling really quiet and a little emotional for some reason.  I entered into the shady space of the tree, surrounded by the beautiful cascading green leaves and circled around the trunk several times, speaking my thoughts out aloud. Tears streamed down my face as I walked slowly around its trunk and spontaneously began a dialogue with someone who is very special to me. Last year, just before my first surgery, my dear friend Gordon passed away. There has been little time to process his death properly, although I have felt a gaping hole since his passing. This is the month of his birth and perhaps the quietness that I have been feeling is somehow linked to him, and I am now ready to process this huge loss. He was a father-figure to me and my biggest mentor, someone who understood me fully and was always there when I needed him.  If Gordy were here now, watching me go through this, he would have had lots of wisdom to share.

Yesterday brought the most precious little soul into the house. Jono had his overseas family around for lunch and I got to meet the rest of his lovely family and little Charlie who is now 19 months. I was hooked on sight and his little laugh was actually all the healing I needed this weekend. He brought so much joy into the house and the entire day was truly special with great food, good conversation, playful moments with Charlie and wonderful sunshine 🙂

There was a magical moment when Charlie walked into the shade of a baby willow tree in the garden and stood there for a while, with such delight on his face.  Even Charlie found his ‘wishing willow’ tree.

“I am a willow of the wilderness, loving the wind that bent me – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Chemosabe Seven – Quietly Working Through Changes

Yes, I have been quiet. I suppose the first assumption or concern is that something is wrong. I have needed space, that’s all, and I have taken it. The messages that have come through from family and friends on a regular basis have brought me huge comfort. They understand me so well, that I hardly need to explain myself, which comes as a huge relief. Can I explain myself at the moment….I wonder?

Each week, as it unfolds brings me into a new flow of thoughts and consciousness. I’m either processing changes or challenges with my body or I’m mentally working through a wide range of things, some of which I may find difficult to share and even choose not to. I’ve realised how much I truly live in the moment. There really is no other way, when you’re on this path 🙂

My meditation and teachings from Yogananda have firmly instilled a calmness and happiness with where I am each day. I am thankful, supported and protected through all of this.

I’ve had little desire to write in the last while since chemo seven, and even now as I am sitting here, I wonder what will flow out of me. I seem to be processing quite a number of things, one of which is relating to how we all communicate. I’m not particularly drawn to social media much lately, unless it feels real and certain. I’m slightly removed, in more ways than one, so I’ll keep things simple because that’s the only place where I can still share my journey from, without meaning to offend anyone.

My decision to be so open about my life came into question during this quiet period. I’m constantly told how brave I am to be sharing things so openly. I have never felt that it is brave, it’s just something that came quite naturally out of where I was a few months ago, almost like it’s part of my purpose to share. I know things change from moment to moment and I did have a thought recently that perhaps it was short sighted of me to be so open. Things are in a constant motion of change and I am feeling those shifts every day.  I’m not entirely sure what has shifted in my mind, but I will continue on with my writing, because I said I would 🙂

Chemo number seven was as it normally is. I had a lovely new nurse, Abdul, who really showed such kindness in the way he approached everything. I took my own blanket as the cold cap is really not pleasant to deal with, so every bit of comfort helps. The cold cap is working to a point. I still have hair. It’s hanging on, although I can’t believe how much is still falling out. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I sometimes wish that it would. I find hair everywhere and spend a fair amount of time picking it up and removing it from all around me.

A friend of mine who came to visit not too long ago told me that he was afraid of how he’d find me. I think it’s perfectly normal to feel that way. If you’re reading my blogs you should hopefully have a clear idea of things, as I’m not painting a picture that isn’t there. My hair is falling out, and I know where the little bald patches are, but I’m actually able to tie my hair in a low ponytail and look pretty normal. I suppose he thought he’d find me with a bald head, no eyebrows and eyelashes. So far there is nothing for anyone to be afraid of. I am as I usually am. I did so love his honesty and gentleness in sharing his concerns and we had such a special time catching up. Thank you Richy for coming to see me, despite your uncertainty.

Here’s the thing that I have observed about cancer patients and particularly people receiving chemo, and of course I am generalizing here. They don’t particularly care about all that external stuff. They are in survival mode and are tuned into other things that I suppose may be difficult to explain. We are not terribly focused on what we look like. I have sat with patients who are at various stages of their treatment and it all seems completely natural and comfortable and safe. There are no airs and graces as to how things are. It’s quite beautiful to witness.

I had a really strong weekend after chemo seven and did all sorts of household chores and was generally very active and on fire. I had another appointment at the hospital on Saturday which is linked to the complications I was having relating to the haemoglobin results, but all is looking good so it’s probably just the chemo doing its thing and my body is doing its best to cope.

The rest of the weekend, I meditated, read and had a few naps so it felt really peaceful and calm and completely fitted into the quietness that I was craving. I turned down a few opportunities to connect with friends, which felt quite selfish, but I wouldn’t have had much to offer in terms of conversation and they weren’t offended.

I am loving this discovery that it’s alright to say no to things and as I’ve said before it has been  a slow change from wanting to do the right thing to please someone, to actually just saying that you’re not quite up to it.

So, my humble apologies if you felt I had left the building. I am still very much here and present  and willing to share things as a go and when I feel I can.

The changes currently taking place, that I’m able to feel and process quietly are actually very exciting and I knew they would come 🙂

“Never be afraid of change. You may lose something good, but you may gain something even better” – Deep Banerjee

Chemosabe Six – Finding An Old Rhythm!

Everything in the Infusion Suite ran as well as it always does.  I’m still in constant amazement at how the nurses negotiate their way around so much responsibility and they carry it all with such care and grace. Thursday was a chemo and Herceptin day and Alison took brilliant care of me while patients breezed in and out. I’m in a routine now with everything so it all runs like clockwork and Netflix has become a great companion as I work my way through all that’s on offer. I’ve had some great suggestions from Sophie and Sivan so if you need any recommendations, I’m your girl 🙂

I popped in to say hello to Fortune on my way out and decided to walk the journey home. As I left the hospital, an older lady with a walking stick turned back as if to say something to me. I asked if she was ok, but I think she was actually talking to herself. Anyway, once I’d made contact, we were locked into a conversation. She moved at a very, very slow pace, but this actually suited me fine as I wasn’t about to run a marathon myself. We chatted all the way up to the main road and I saw her to her bus stop. I generally love talking to people and have always enjoyed interactions with elderly folk in particular. She was a dear, dear lady. We said goodbye and I set off for home.

On the way back, I stopped into a bicycle shop to have a browse and see what was on offer. I wasn’t planning on buying anything, it was just a spontaneous decision. I’ve always loved riding and had a bike throughout my childhood. My sister and I used to ride to school and around the neighbourhood growing up in Zimbabwe. I remember staying very close to her as we crossed Samora Machel Avenue together. She was my safety and my guide. I’m not sure why I went inside to look. Perhaps to break the monotony of the walk home from the hospital, who knows?

I got in and Jono and Baz were home, so I told them about the bikes and we had a quick catch up chat. Jono was about to spend some time on his drum kit practicing. He’s a professional drummer who does loads of gigs and teaches kids to play drums. I’ve been to one of his gigs with Jen and he’s incredible to watch. I had asked him a while ago if he would mind taking me for a few lessons when he has a gap, which he rarely does and he had agreed. He offered up the time and I accepted 🙂

I played drums for five years in high school which wasn’t exactly yesterday.  My sister Heidi was the lead drummer, but when she left school, they’d need a replacement so I had been trained up to take her place. We had an incredible time being a part of the school band. We had band practice before assembly most mornings and often times in the evenings. We even traveled a little with the band for concerts and competitions. It’s definitely a happy memory for me and something I’d always thought I’d like to pick up again at some point, purely for the pleasure of it.

I sat behind the kit, picked up a set of sticks and Jono took me through some of what I’d forgotten and slowly, it started to come back and make sense. We worked through a song, then another and then a couple more. I felt nervous and unsure of myself, but I carried on making the connection with each drum beat, hoping it would all come back. I have a way to go, but it’s at least a start.  It lifted my spirits like I can’t explain and took me back to when I was a young girl in a brown school uniform sitting at the back of the orchestra, behind a drum kit playing with all the confidence in the world. Thank you Jono!!!

I couldn’t wait to tell people what had just happened. I was beyond excited. I’d forgotten it had been a day at the hospital. There was one more thing to do that I had been neglecting for a while. I opened my laptop, found the information I needed and sent an email inquiry about attending a ballet class at a church just down the road from me. Jen had kindly saved the info for me and will hopefully tiptoe into class with me one day soon. Yay Jen!! I went to sleep with a really happy heart 🙂

Friday came with a few health challenges, but I got some help from my GP and basically slept most of Friday. Saturday was much the same and Sunday seemed like I was off to a good start until, midway through making breakfast, I found myself suddenly doubled over in abdominal pain and about to pass out. Jen and Jono were both on gigs, but they have incredible friends who live a few doors down. Judy and Rowan arrived in no time and took over the breakfast duty which was a huge relief to me as I really needed food. Eggs, broccoli, marmite and spinach (Popeye had the right idea), got me back up and running thanks to Judy and Rowan. You are both lifesavers, thank you!!

Still struggling with anemia, so I didn’t make my ballet class unfortunately, but I know it’s there when I’m feeling stronger which I’m sure I will. It’s really one day at a time, so it will happen when the time is right. I did have a quiet day today working on a concept that I’d like to test out when all this is over, so the day was productive despite the disappointment of missing ballet.

Right now I’m listening to the faint drum beats of one of Jono’s pupils who is having a drum lesson downstairs and Jen is practicing piano for an upcoming recording. Dynamic duo!! I live in a beautiful, bustling house of music, laughter and general good vibes 🙂

“What we play is life” – Louis Armstrong

Chemosabe Five – A Slow Walk Downhill!

It feels like I’m in a glass cage with many different faces looking in, each with a question or concern or a need to get something from me, mostly blood.

Sounds a little dramatic and I rarely indulge in drama. Trying to work out why my body is reacting the way it is, has injected a little drama into my life of late. I won’t mention all the details as it’s deeply personal. Is it the chemo? Is it hormonal, or both? Could it be something else relating to something else, relating to, I don’t know?

My body has no idea what it is meant to do or not meant to do at the moment. I think what it does want, or mentally, what I need, is time out. I don’t know if I can handle another conversation about what may or what may not be functioning as it used to. It’s all getting a little intrusive, but that’s nobody’s fault.

Last week, the only day I had away from a hospital was Tuesday and even though my experiences at the hospitals are positive, I am feeling like I’m completely over it at the moment. To the nurses in the Infusion Suite who are now following my blog, I will always look forward to seeing you!!

I had mentioned before that my haemoglobin count had been jumping around since last week and after being told that it had dropped even lower, it was recommended that I have a blood transfusion, which I agreed to have last Friday. We still can’t get it to settle, but fingers crossed that it does 🙂

The transfusion itself was straight forward and the whole experience was very pleasant. I was at a different hospital and was looked after by Om and Anthea who were both completely brilliant and caring. As the first bag was set up, I directed my thoughts towards the fact that I was receiving life blood from some lovely soul out there. I’ve always given blood, but now I was on the other side. I felt deeply grateful.

The first bag took 3 hours. I was mostly on my phone responding to messages coming in from various sources so I was very distracted, but feeling fairly upbeat. The time went by in a flash. Anthea hung up the second bag which would take another 2 hours. Again, I inwardly expressed my gratitude. Anthea remarked that my cheeks were starting to look rosier which was music to my ears, but I wasn’t feeling any different. The second bag emptied as quickly as the first so I packed up, said thank you and wished everyone a good day and made my way slowly out the building and down the road to find the closest station to get a train home.

For most of last week, my steps felt laboured, my breathing shallow and overall, I wasn’t my usual quick paced self. It took a while to get to the station, but once I was on the train I just sat. I got off at my stop, had some stairs to climb and walked back to the house like someone I didn’t recognise.

For the entire weekend I felt like I was sitting with someone I didn’t know. My thoughts and curiosity escalated and I began to wonder about who had given me their blood and what it may mean to have someone else’s DNA flowing through my body. I know it seems unkind, but I actually felt like there was an imposter in my body. I know that’s unfair and extreme, but it unhinged me a little. I honestly wasn’t feeling like myself and all I was able to do was sleep. It’s difficult to explain, but I’ve stopped over thinking it at least and I’m sure things will improve.

I have received so much love and support since the transfusion and over the past few days, but that too has been clouded by a feeling of not being able to communicate with anyone, especially to discuss anything relating to my bodily functions. Friends are checking in to see if I’m dancing yet. I can assure you, I’m NOT dancing.

My journey feels like it’s reached the “messy stage” and I suppose that happens for most people going through chemo. I’m not attaching too much power to that statement or even submitting to the idea that things will now get harder. I am also incredibly cognisant of the fact that there are stories and situations out there that are far more severe than mine, so what feels messy to me may be a walk in the park for someone else, but you can’t make comparisons with something like this and it’s wise not to.

I’m chewing on something new this week. I haven’t been connecting to the things that I normally do that have helped me get through so far. I’ve reached for chocolate and ice cream and have done a fair amount of venting, which I know my friends may secretly like, but isn’t usually something I do.

I made a statement a while ago that my body now belongs to medicine. While I was lying down doing some visualisations yesterday, I was reminded that we are not our bodies. All of these emotional reactions in the last week, although justified are not the fullest expression of me. My deepest “knowing” is on a soul level. That’s where the answers lie, and the unconditional love and comfort is and the clear realisation that everything is ok in my world regardless of what is happening or not happening with my body. I was glad for the reminder.

To those in my inner circle who embraced me and my tears, called at the right time with perfect advice, or let me vent and then gave me space, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I won’t mention names as I’d worry that I miss someone out, but you know who you are.

I’m not sure if this is a good thing, but I do feel slightly recalibrated by all of this so let’s see what unfolds in the second phase of my treatment. You can’t have any expectations with this can you? That would be a huge mistake to make.

Tomorrow is my sixth chemo treatment and third Herceptin injection.  Long way still to go with Herceptin, but half way there with the chemo!

I’m not my usual happy, energetic self, but high five anyway 🙂

How Kindness And Community Have Inspired Me To Push Through!

With my haemoglobin count being low last weekend, I was asked to have extra blood tests this week, so on Monday I set off slowly to the hospital. I wouldn’t say I felt ill, but I was definitely low on energy, short of breath, had aching muscles all over which had kept me awake a little the night before, my face was starting to resemble that of a teenager starting puberty and my hair was coming out all over the place.

Yay!!!!! Good morning world and a great start to the week 🙂

I made my Green Smoothie, took loads of supplements and set off uphill to the bus stop. I felt like I was dragging myself along or as one of the nurses, Alison calls it, walking through porridge, but it’s not a long walk. Once the bus stops at the main road it’s another 13 minute walk to the hospital and on that stretch I was wondering if I should cancel my afternoon plans. Sophie and I were scheduled to buy a wig, so I had one ready in case things escalated. I fancied the idea of getting into bed rather, as every move felt like such an effort, but I immediately told myself to push through.

At the hospital, the nurse took bloods, did a picc line dressing change and while she was busy we chatted about her dog Woody and hair loss. Dee advised me to perhaps not act too prematurely in case it stops falling out and as it’s falling out evenly, you can’t see a difference. There is just no way of telling how things may go. She gave me perfect advice.

I actually had a wonderful hairdresser of Jens on standby to either give me a pixie cut or the shave this week, so I contacted Fraser to tell him that he was off the hook, for now.

I sent Sophie a message to check on our plans, but her day had changed so we rescheduled, which meant I had the afternoon free.

I decided to pop into Natural Health North Finchley, which is the health shop that I’ve been going to since my diagnosis. It’s a great store filled with so much goodness, including the people who run it. It’s a beautiful thing to connect with people, especially like-minded people. I walked into the shop and we all greeted one another with big smiles. I haven’t seen them since I started chemo. Jay has been following my blog which is really awesome of him. We had a catch up about a few things while I was browsing around collecting supplies. Whenever I’ve needed any input about supplements, body products or foods, Jay and Erdi have bent over backwards to provide the best advice to support my own research and choices. I’ve learned so much from them both and really appreciate their generosity of spirit and support. I feel like I’m a part of a little community of people here in London, all looking out for one another, which really makes me feel taken care of and inspired to be here.

I had a few other things I needed to get and Jay had told me that I should pop over the road and go through a little alleyway that I hadn’t seen before, to get one of the items on my list. I left Natural Health and walked slowly through the alleyway. I didn’t know it yet, but I was about to discover something wonderful!

I’d been looking for the right gift for someone very dear to me and as I opened the door I knew I was about to find it. Marissa greeted me straight away and wasted no time in explaining the lay-out of her magical treasure trove called ‘Recycled Inspirations.’ I knew this wasn’t going to be a quick browse, as everything I laid my eyes on was calling for my attention. I had nowhere else to be, so I put my backpack down in a corner and continued walking around the shop, with Marissa as my tour guide. She was aware that I was looking for something specific and led me to the perfect display cabinet, so once I’d chosen each item carefully we continued bonding. She asked if I was South African and as it turns out, she was born in Johannesburg. What a lovely realization and what an incredibly special lady she is. She even gave me beautiful healing crystal as a gift. I left on a high with an even stronger sense of community that was growing by the second 🙂

Tuesday arrived and I was expecting a delivery from a very special friend who had messaged me on Friday offering support if I needed it. Specifically, she wanted to send me some meals to “make things easier for me”, she had said. How incredible!! I sometimes marvel at the timing of things because this wonderful gesture came in the week that I would be at the house alone, which meant I wouldn’t have the luxury of home cooking thanks to Jen or Jono. It also came in the week where I was actually feeling quite vulnerable and exhausted so I accepted the help. Lara’s message to me mentioned sending a “little parcel”, but what arrived were several parcels which included healthy vegan pastas, organic soups, fresh juices and she’d even thrown in a tub of organic vanilla ice cream, organic biscuits and Green & Black’s Organic dark chocolate collection!! I felt like a giggling child as I unpacked it all and lay it out on the kitchen counter. I called her straight away to thank her. Lara Bunting, you are an absolute angel to have spoiled me this week with your thoughtfulness and care and your request for me to “lean in” if I needed any help. I certainly did need help this week and I am so grateful for you.

Tuesday was definitely the highlight of the week. After the food delivery, Sophie and I had a lovely catch up and browse around ‘Crisis’ which is an awesome charity shop across from the wig place. We went to collect the wig we’d chosen weeks ago only to discover it wasn’t in stock, but clever Sophie spotted an even better one from across the room, so now I have a gorgeous brunette wig, thanks to you Sophie. See you now now!!

Back at the hospital this morning (Wednesday) for more blood tests to see how I’m doing before chemo tomorrow and the possibility of a blood transfusion is still being mentioned as I’m probably at my lowest in terms of symptoms and the haemoglobin count is climbing very slowly. Despite the fatigue, I decided to walk the entire trip back to the house and leave the bus altogether. I honestly think it’s the best idea to challenge yourself and push through, even when you feel you may be at your lowest. The walk home was invigorating.

I am now resting in bed and the plan for the day involves good eating, thanks to Lara, maybe a nap and hopefully lots of writing. I’m trying to keep momentum with these blogs, but sometimes the day takes me in the opposite direction.

Let’s see what the rest of the week holds, but so far, this week has surpassed my expectations and increased my sense of “belonging.”

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Helen Keller