Just Push Through

Where does time go? I had every intention of trying to keep this blog going, but sometimes life takes you in another direction.

The last post for safespaces was 8 October 2019. I can’t even attempt to fill in the missing links or to make any kind of promises to keep this commitment, but I’ll show up when I can and I am truly grateful to see that this blog still has support and interest. Thank you for supporting me in my desire to share my journey.

There is a renewing energy taking place in my life which has been building over a long period of time.  An expansion on so many levels that doesn’t always feel comfortable, but I’m surrendering to it every day and just doing my best. I know I’ve probably written these exact words in previous blogs. New beginnings…every day!! I’m so grateful.

An explosion of ideas has been taking form, which can sometimes overwhelm me to the point that I just have to step back and visit things as and when I have the energy to do so. Lockdown has taken its toll on many people I know, but for me, it’s been the most productive time.

Every day, I’m surrounded by pages and pages of notes containing ideas, instructions and lists of priorities. I make more notes on those notes and then I staple them together and add that on to the pile from the previous day. My main issue is that there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day and I wish my organisational skills weren’t as useless as they are, but I’m making it work. I have my own crazy method I suppose.

Anyone who follows me here as well as on other platforms will know that my website went live last week for cool mindz. This has been a project of mine that I’ve really taken my time with.

I won’t lie, I’m exhausted!!! Even as I sit here, trying to connect, I could just fall back to sleep and shut myself off. I’m truly not made for social media and all that is expected of you. I understand its benefits and worth in the grand scheme of things, but boy do I struggle. In the last couple of days, I’ve been lucky to have friends who have found the time to talk me through the technicalities of a few things. I’m really not keen to be spending all day on my phone, especially when I chose to keep fairly to myself while going through treatment, but I’ll give it a go.

I have promised myself to try to prioritize my health and put myself first, and that’s a promise worth keeping considering the journey I’ve been on since I was diagnosed in August 2018. It’s going to be a bit of a battle though, as there is just so much that I want to do and the acceleration of time is making that extremely challenging.

So with that being said. For anyone who is battling through this period of lockdown, with all love and respect, I can’t recommend it enough that you try to look beyond your situation. Where there is darkness there is always light and even a small flicker of light is enough to get you to see your way. There is always value that you can add and an opportunity to reach out, but you probably won’t see that opening if you are only looking at the devastating circumstances of your life and the lives of others.

In the last couple of weeks I have become aware of friends who have loved ones that are starting their walk with cancer treatment and to them I say, just push through. You will get to the other side and when you do, you will experience life with more love and gratitude than you could ever have imagined. The twists and turns of life can really push you to grow and see things in a unique and different way.

On the way back from a walk, just a few days ago, I said out loud how grateful I was to have been diagnosed with breast cancer. I think I said, “thank you cancer, for coming into my life and showing me so much beauty.” I know to most people that seems absurd, but honestly, it’s the truth of what is real for me.

So as we are entering a new month, with renewing energy and a long road ahead that is mostly uncertain, I would say to you, go within, and connect to the things in your life that DO feel certain, and while you are doing that, put all of your love and energy into growing THAT instead of being pulled into the energy of this virus and all that it means.

As human beings, we are uncomfortable with the unknown, we want answers, we want our problems resolved immediately, we are impatient and intolerant and mostly move towards the negative aspects of our lives first. Look to the positive, look to the horizon, move towards that little flicker of light.

Be patient. Persevere. Go within. Express gratitude for what you DO have. Pray for others, find the joy and be safe.

You can find cool mindz on Instagram at cool_mindz, Twitter @MindzCool and get in touch on the cool mindz website at coolmindz.co.uk

Creating

I have received some lovely feedback and support lately about my blog and want to say a huge thank you to those who are still following it. It’s incredibly special to me 🙂

I’m just communicating, in case you’re wondering where I’ve been. I am healing really well and feel strong and empowered. My body is coming back to itself which is really beautiful to experience. I am writing every day still, but my view has expanded beyond the blog, so with this in mind, I will have to keep my focus towards this new goal. I may share tiny bits of creativity here and there and if there is anything anyone would like to open up a conversation about, please feel free to comment.

Perhaps as a starter, I could ask what you may have gained from reading the blog and what I could add that would help give more insights?

Be well and happy and light 🙂

A Sky Full Of Clouds

My walk this morning wasn’t the usual. The sky was filled with low-hanging clouds that were moving and changing rather swiftly. It was alive with possibility and would be any child’s delight, if they could spend the entire day lying on their backs, discovering different shapes and magical friends in the sky. As I write this, I look out my window to see a flying dog on his way to something fun I’m sure.

I arrived in my park and was greeted by a big, open field with not a dog or friendly face in sight. I was completely alone and it was only one hour after the school bell had rung so I wondered if there was something I didn’t know.

 My meditation was interrupted this morning by the inquisitive voices of the children arriving at school after a long break. There was much to discuss. I could hear them commenting about the various changes to the playground area and they seemed delighted with the renovations. I have been watching the ‘old become the new’ over the holidays as there have been lots of busy bees who have been hard at work to make the playground special for when school term begins again. Anyway, I will have to get back into my very early morning routine with my meditation so I can find silence, but I’ve enjoyed lying in for a little longer, while everyone has been off gallivanting and having a fun holiday.

Anyway, back to my walk. I took to the field with my headphones on and found my pace and groove when all of a sudden I began to feel something that I hadn’t felt for a while. I started to feel a little uncomfortable. I reached the beginning of my second lap and noticed that a black car was now parked in the parking lot and a man was sitting next to it, on his phone. He wasn’t looking at me, but his presence felt slightly ominous, for no good reason. I decided to just carry on and not give in to the insecurity.

 I was drawn back to another time, when I was in Australia. I was looking for somewhere to go for a  run and was told that there was a nice athletics track down the road from where I was staying. I arrived at the track to find that there were only two people running around the track, two young guys, just jogging and chatting and paying no attention to me. I began my workout and found my pace was a little faster than theirs, so I caught up and passed them and this continued for a while. My body was happy to be moving and challenging itself, but my mind was sprinting me into a slightly darker dimension. It became clear to me that I was beginning to feel a little exposed and slightly insecure running along the track, alone, being the only woman there. I talked myself into all kinds of outcomes and predicaments and as a result, my ‘fun time’ was brought to an abrupt halt and I stepped off the track leaving the darkness behind.

Today was no different. As I was about to curve round into my third lap, I looked at the car and saw that the man was no longer there, but the window was down on the passenger side. I took my headphones off, continued walking and as I arrived at the far side of the field, I exited out of the gate and into the field next door. I told myself I was being ridiculous! I walked towards a tree on the edge of the field and decided it needed a hug. I BLOODY NEEDED THE HUG, NOT THE TREE…

 I hadn’t been under my tree for long when a white truck drove onto that field and began driving very slowly, straight towards the tree. I undid myself from the trunk and took a little detour onto the next field, below that field. Was I going mad here? I looked back nonchalantly to see the vehicle had stopped and the two men sitting in the front were casually chatting to one another, probably not even aware of me and my silly suspicions. I walked once around the lower field, back up to the same tree once they had driven off and then ‘escaped’ out the side fence into the road that would take me back to the house.

One thing is certain, my mother is not going to like this post as she is constantly worried about my safety. I’m often asked by friends whether I feel safe here and my reply is affirmative and clear. This wasn’t a simple issue of feeling safe or not. I think it alerted me to something that another friend had spoken of recently which relates to being in fight or flight mode a lot of the time in South Africa. It occurred to me that no matter where I am, I’m constantly checking the environment I’m in and am taking stock of the people and situations around me so I can make sure I’m in control. It’s instinctive.

The field I walk around is extremely safe and surrounded by houses. There is no reason to feel at risk and until now, I haven’t felt any inclination towards any concerns about my well-being, whether there is one dog walker or more. I immediately realized what was happening.

In the last couple of days I have heard a few stories of woman and young girls being abducted, attacked and raped. I am well aware that unfortunately this happens all over the world, but these have taken place back in South Africa and this news has devastated me. I can only think they are in my subconscious mind now and so took up some space in my head. It would have been so much nicer to be able to enjoy my walk and relish being out in nature as I always do, but this is the world we live in and I can’t help but feel the loss, confusion and concern for friends and loved ones.

My heart goes out to anyone who is affected by the devastation and harshness that is sometimes inflicted upon human beings. I wish our world could be as beautiful and light as the clouds were in my sky today.

Yams Versus Enlightenment!

I was in the kitchen this morning having my coffee with oat milk. I just cannot give up coffee I’m afraid, but I’ve been encouraged by the friends in my life that one cup of coffee a day isn’t something to feel guilty about, especially since my diet and lifestyle is so clean. So I’ve taken it on as my guilty pleasure 🙂

Anyway, I digress.  While sipping my coffee, I was reading up about menopause in this rather large health bible of a book that my friend Wayne (Dim Sum) had loaned me on the Summer Holiday tour. I have my own copy now and decided to move it downstairs, so the whole family could browse through it and get some use out of it. I’m happy to see that it’s being used quite a bit every day. So I sat at the dining room table and opened it up to read a bit more about how the author of the book views menopause. There are bits and pieces of advice throughout the book, but I was looking for some tips on how to handle the hot flushes or ‘flashes’ as he calls them, as mine have increased in intensity lately.

The book is called ‘Timeless Secrets of Health and Rejuvenation’ by Andreas Moritz and I’d recommend it for every household.

So here is some of what I read…

“Menopausal problems can be an opportunity for a woman to put her life in order on all levels. Menopause brings to the surface whatever issues a woman may not have dealt with successfully while she was busy taking care of her family or career. The midlife phase doesn’t need to be a midlife crisis. Instead, it can be a woman’s greatest opportunity to deal with any unresolved issues in her life, thereby freeing her from all kinds of limitations – physical, emotional and spiritual. The first and most important step in that direction is to know that menopause isn’t a disease and that the body isn’t doing anything wrong. Supporting it and treating it with kindness and respect during this important time in a woman’s life can make all the difference.”

Wait for it, there is more fascinating stuff here…

“Menopausal symptoms, however, can just as often have a spiritual basis. Hot flashes, for example, may be triggered by an awakening of the spiritual energy Kundalini. The heat waves can ‘strike’ like lightening during mealtimes, while resting and even during sleep. As this intense energy rushes upward from the base of the spine or uterus toward the head, it can cause tremendous heat in the body along with severe sweating. Following the hot flashes, the body may experience a cold spell.”

I shared what I had read with Jono, as he was doing the dishes. I was smiling with absolute delight and jokingly told him the book says I’m closer to enlightenment, so it can’t be all that bad. Of course, I’m saying this with no illusions that it is in fact true, I was just having fun 🙂  

I carried on reading about several oils and herbs that were being suggested to help manage symptoms and asked if he had heard of wild yam root. His reply was that he used to enjoy eating yams, but he wasn’t sure about wild yam root. I then asked him, if he were in my position, what would he choose, the yam root or enlightenment? His reply sent me into fits of laughter. He said, “Well you’re so far down the road towards enlightenment, I’d just keep going and save some money on the yam.” I’m still laughing. I live with such brilliant people!!!

I identify with quite a bit of what I’ve quoted here, especially putting my life in order and freeing myself of limitations. Being kind to myself and respecting my current state of mind. What I’m experiencing at this stage of my journey is difficult to put into words, which is why I’ve been silent and haven’t written again for a while. So many things are germinating and changing which is actually quite brilliant and wonderful and as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I’m inclined towards keeping most of it to myself and to only share bits and pieces with those in my inner circle. I’m a work in progress, but I guess, we all are. How exciting!!!

It’s always interesting when I hear from someone who has noticed that I’ve deactivated my facebook account and reaches out to see if I’m alright. I appreciate the concern and can understand how it may be perceived as an indication that something may be wrong. The thing is, everything is right!

I’m merely doing whatever feels right and good for me. I’m continuing to put down gentle boundaries and follow my inner truth in situations. Quite frankly, I’ve never been keen on being a part of facebook, but I won’t go into the reasons why and be seen to be spoiling it for those who delight in it. There are many positives, but for me the negatives outweigh the positives.

I’m still processing and enjoying the moments that come in and out of my life that are showing me things and helping me move forward and there is plenty to feel inspired about these days.

“Banat banat ban jai”, which loosely translated means:

 “Striving, striving, one day behold! The Divine Goal!”

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 🙂