The Day I Asked My Mother To Tone Down Her Comments On My Blog

Yes…this is true. I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but it seems like I have to, as I think it’s an important lesson and I have quite a way to go still with all this sharing, so it’s best to get it out of the way and get my poor Marmie back on track…or back online at least.

This may turn out to be my most awkward blog 🙂

I have thought this through a great deal. I’ve discussed my feelings with a few close friends, including my sister who always has lovely advice to offer. I am very awkward with praise. I’ve said many times over that I am more comfortable to give than to receive. It’s a longstanding, ongoing issue of mine and if there was ever a moment to test out these limitations and get over it, this seems to be the time.

What did I think the outcome would be when I decided to casually hop onto facebook one day and begin sharing my story?  A large majority of my friends on facebook are actually friends, mixed in with family and quite a few more distant friendships or connections from long ago. What would I do if someone I cared about shared something of this nature on a public forum? Well, I’d do exactly what everyone has done from the start. I would encourage and praise and show my support. Truth be told, I don’t spend much time on facebook and my relationship with it could be viewed as somewhat one sided or even selfish. I don’t really “use” facebook. It’s rare that I go browsing, but I have been known to, on occasion and comment and like what I’m seeing. It’s a complicated relationship and one that I’m still working on.

So, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, back to the issue at hand.

I remember being in my final year at high school. I had a meeting with the school counsellor to discuss how I was going to manage leaving school earlier than expected. I would complete my final exams, while on the road with Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, playing the role of Alice on an exciting 6 month tour of the show. The rehearsals began in Johannesburg while I was supposed to still be in school in Port Elizabeth. The reason I’m mentioning this is because the conversation that took place in that meeting focused more on my concern with how people may react toward me with this attention that I was getting. The school was always extremely supportive of my extramural activities which often involved me skipping school to take part in dance exams, eisteddfods and shows. I was concerned that people would think that I thought I was a “big deal” and wanted the attention and the limelight.

I am now a 46 year old woman. Surely these things shouldn’t be of any concern to me, especially if my precious Marmie wants to comment on her daughter’s post. What a moment of realization for me.

I have always believed that an illness is often manifested as a result of where we are emotionally or mentally. Of course there are so many things at play and you should be looking at it from many different angles to work out how you got to where you did. I’ve had plenty of time to think about this and I never pass up the opportunity to look deeply at an issue so I can do all I can to work at it and ultimately overcome it. The work is mine to do, not anyone else’s and I’m aware of what I need to focus on.

What cancer has given me will take many conversations to unpack. If I was ever awkward to receive and have attention focused on myself, I think that will be a minor issue after this is all over.

Since I was diagnosed I have done nothing but receive. I have often felt very overwhelmed and uncomfortable with the level of praise coming from comments on facebook, particularly when the word “inspiration” is mentioned. My mother uses it a lot. When we discussed my concern, my exact words to her were, ”Why don’t you let other people decide whether I’m inspiring or not?”

The issue lies not with my kind-hearted, devoted and proud mother. I adore her. The issue lies with me. And if it wasn’t clear, facebook was going to make it clear. Just then, I received a notification that a dear friend of my mother’s, who is going through her own battle with cancer, had commented on my post. She had left such a heartfelt message which included the word “inspiration”. Wham!!!

I immediatiely sent my mom a cheeky voice note telling her to say whatever she felt from now on. I asked her to please write a short, loving, sweet, unemotional, unattached, bland comment, with no trace of the word inspiration. I won’t repeat what she said in her voice note to me, but we were in fits of laughter. We understand one another very well and always see the funny side to situations.

The lesson…How others choose to react is not within my control. I don’t need to feel uncomfortable and attempt to downplay myself  or ask my mother to tone down her feelings to alleviate awkwardness. Better to accept that if people want to show love and support, that I am worthy of receiving such love.

I don’t do anything for recognition. In fact I’d rather not have it. Looks like I’m going to have to work harder at this one, but in the meantime…I’ll just carry on blogging 😉

 

 

 

 

The Sudden Need To “Own It”

My head is bursting with stories and I’m sitting quietly trying to decide what to say. Because I’ve decided to start sharing my journey somewhere in the middle of it, I’ll have to hop from one moment to another which may be confusing, mostly for me. For today, I’ve decided to share my October week on facebook. The week of my birthday and the moment I decided to “own it”.

I was sitting on the grass in the sunshine, thinking back to a conversation I had with a stranger in my final week on the Summer Holiday tour. I was told to “own my life” and be open and willing to share it because you never know who may need to hear it. Quite a bit has changed since then, but it’s special to look back…

Here are the posts from that week.

22 October

Hey lovely peeps. This post is not an announcement! To anyone who may have noticed my slight withdrawal from social media and even a slight distancing in communication in general, here’s why. I make no apologies for it, but feel it’s a good time to explain and as someone recently said …”I should own this”

I’ve been on a bit of a journey with my health since being diagnosed with breast cancer on the 1st of August while on tour with Summer Holiday. I won’t go into any details as this is not the space for that. This is also a very private and sensitive subject so I’m sure you all respect that too.

Those who have known since the beginning have seen that I have just carried on as normal and have been the same cheerful person throughout the past few months, but I just want to reassure anyone who is alarmed by this news that I am better than I ever have been. I do feel the urge to begin writing about my entire journey so perhaps at some point there will be a channel for me to share as I honestly have so much to say about this incredible time in my life that has filled me with such love and gratitude and confirmed my faith and belief systems.

I am recovering from surgery as we speak and have left the Summer Holiday tour, but fortunately I will only miss the final two weeks which is a blessing. So, as I am resting and have more time on my hands, I will gradually share some insights and magical aha moments to hopefully inspire you. I have been inspired by so many people and experiences already and I know there is still more to come. There is magic everywhere

So as this is breast cancer month and also the month of my birth, I feel it’s fitting to own and share a little bit of my “rebirth” with those who are happy to listen. Sending love and smiles from afar

24 October

So, here we go. Firstly I want to say that your kindness towards me is not lost. The way in which each of you has responded reflects back on you and although it seems that it’s all directed at me, it all actually flows into an energy flow that we can all tap into and share. So let’s whirl those beautiful messages around and each take strength and upliftment from them. The qualities you have chosen to acknowledge in me exist in each one of you.

My only desire in being open is to encourage and hopefully inspire a slightly different way of seeing a cancer journey. I don’t seek a platform or attention from this. Those who know me well know this to be deeply true of my nature.

I have often looked upon social media as something I don’t enjoy and something which takes too much time and energy. In this particular moment of my life, I choose to see it as community. My posts may not reach everyone and may even annoy some, but that is not my concern. Perhaps that may be the best way to start…with truth.

Since the start of all of this, I have chosen to speak my truth in every situation. Truth is golden to me. It’s on the top of my list and is a vital part of my daily food. Speaking my truth to the doctors has brought me freedom and time to work out exactly what “my” plan is for this. Speaking my truth to my loved ones has allowed us all to communicate in the most respectful and loving ways that support what I have needed every day. Speaking my truth to strangers has shown me how magnificent human beings can be and has resulted in little miracles which I will unpack later. Truth!!!! I can go on….and I will carry on writing, but for this platform I will keep it short.

All I want to encourage in this message is always seek the truth, always tell the truth and always know what your own truth is and stand in that and don’t apologize for any of it. There’s that saying….. “The truth will set you free” ..It’s the truth!! Have a brilliant day all. So much love

24 October “ Was a chatty day for me it seems”

The easiest way I can start to communicate where you find me in all of this change is to begin with Faith. This is often a conversation where some people shut themselves off and with respect I fully understand why. I can only share what is true for my life and the rest is all up to the individual. We all need to be authentic in how we approach such a personal subject. There is no right or wrong path…only the path you choose.

I have breezed in and out of the hospital most Monday’s which is our day off on the tour and although I have had a multitude of procedures to help the doctors get a clearer picture of things, I have remained calm, cheerful and relaxed and oftentimes, quite a joker. I asked my mom if this was normal and if I’d been this way from childhood. Her reply was pretty much…yes. The doctors have said “We don’t see people like you in London, let alone in the hospital”.

Here comes the Faith part. I have loved God from very early on in my life and learning and reading about the stories in the bible was the kind of quiet time I craved. I have complete faith in my “Father”. I wasn’t afforded much time with my physical Father, but my Father figure was firmly in place right from birth and I knew who to call out to when I was uncertain and needed guidance. My calls lately have gotten stronger and stronger and there is no doubt that I am being heard,

I walk every day holding Gods hand and openly talk to him throughout the day, not all day… but I find my moments to express gratitude or to just “check in”. I am also strongly rooted in my path of meditation and am deeply grateful for the teachings of my Guru, Paramahansa Yogananda. This is MY truth and THIS is a big part of why nothing has changed with this diagnosis. I remain grateful and ready to see what unfolds as each day comes. Where I am, is where you find me

25 October

Something that we wouldn’t be able to be without is family. Mine isn’t a large family and we are spread out all over the place, which makes things harder, but it’s the best darn family I could ever have wished for. They have been amazing.

Families aren’t always “rosebuds and daffodils”, as sometimes the dynamics of those individuals aren’t always in sync and the expectations can be hard to reach, but even those encounters can be beautiful as they allow you the opportunity to really test who you are within the circle of love that is your family. Sometimes the hardest encounters teach you the best lessons.

I think I have been quite a challenge for my family, with my choice in career and the fact that I am fiercely independent and quite self assured, but I think the fact that I have continued to stand in my power and not back away from my truth has slowly by surely made a difference. I appreciate their patience.

I had some conditions in sharing my news with my family. They were realistic I thought. No negativity and fear, as this is not how I do life. Keeping the circle as small as possible in order for me to not be so exhausted in having to share information on test results etc with a football team. And most importantly. This is a diagnosis, not a death sentence and I need support in my choices to manage this, not opinions and fearful projections that are not mine to carry. Not too much to ask for? These incredible people that I am lucky enough to call family have completely listened to what I needed and have shown absolute and unconditional love and support throughout.

So perhaps the lesson is that although families know one another intimately, they can’t be asked to guess what we need from them, unless we tell them and put a few boundaries down in a gentle way so we can exist happily and support each other. I speak from both sides in this message.

28 October

Fear, woohooo!!! A big subject and one of my favourites. Yogananda said, “Wherever your mind is, that is where you will spend your time”. So powerful! He also said, “When the consciousness is kept on God, you will have no fears; every obstacle will then be overcome by courage and faith”.

I have spent many years learning how to surrender. This little gypsy has been travelling from place to place and letting go of her old life and accepting and growing into a new space and I have to say. I love my life and wouldn’t change a thing.

I think there is an expectation when you’re told that you have cancer that there will be some kind of break down or traumatic reaction or feeling of hopelessness. The doctor and the nurse watched me very carefully and waited, but it didn’t come. I joked about this with a friend of mine and casually told her that I was fascinated with myself, not in an egotistical way, but more in a funny “haha” kind of way. Since that first consultation at the hospital, my appointments with the doctors are light and happy and there is an openness and support that I couldn’t have imagined possible. Of course it is all very professional and they say what is necessary, but they really get me.

I chose to go to each appointment and procedure alone as I really felt that I wanted to protect my space and not have to deal with someone else’s fearful reactions or heavy responses, although I know it would only be out of love and concern. I put my boundaries down with those who knew what I was dealing with and once they were firmly in place it allowed me to focus on carrying on with my life and the Summer Holiday tour. It was very important to me to just carry on as if nothing had changed and I really was given all that I needed by everyone, especially the cast, to be able to do that.

I remember when I was on the Sound of Music tour, I think we may have been in Johannesburg. One of the boys playing Kurt was feeling anxious just before we had to make our entrance onto the stage. I told him to look at me and repeat, “fear is afraid of me”. He did and we spoke it out together over and over again, “fear is afraid of me” and then we smiled at one another and walked on stage.

We need to make ourselves bigger than our fears and know that we have the power to overcome anything. “Fear is afraid of me” – P Yogananda

Let Go!! It’s not in your control

This is a subject I feel deeply connected to and would love to admit that I’ve mastered. I’ve had a rollercoaster ride, as we all have had, and on that rollercoaster, I sometimes squeel with delight as I reach a peak and realise I am unafraid and could go round for another circle of jerks, dips and tumbles, feeling my stomach drop with my eyes wide shut so as to avoid the reality that I cannot get off until the ride has come to a standstill. Still the adrenaline is pumping and I’m smiling and giggling nervously, but I know that in a few more minutes, I’ll get off with a sigh of relief and say, “I’ll never do THAT again”.

It’s often the case that we enter into the day with an idea of how things may take shape. Our will is strong and our intentions are set and our minds focused on the outcome.

Well, my day began with an early morning walk to the medical centre down the road from where I live. The air was crisp and it felt good to be up with the school run. I passed two school girls who were playing music and dancing on the sidewalk. I commented on their moves, we all laughed and I carried on walking up the hill. I was booked in for a round of blood tests to check various things, but mostly to do a liver function test. It had been suggested by a close friend of mine, Aurelie, to arrange for some IV Vitamin C drips to boost my immune system. We all know that chemo can be extremely unkind and deplete the body in various ways.  In order to have the treatment, you would need a blood test and a prescription. Once that is in order …you’re good to go.

Well, it’s not as simple as it sounds and there are all kinds of protocols that are put in place, all for a good reason, but not something I was willing to submit to. I had it fixated in my mind that unless I had at least 3 treatments before chemo starts, I wouldn’t cope. The doors were shutting in my face, not in an unfriendly way, but simply because it just isn’t the norm for a request such as this.

Frustrated, I sent Aurelie a voice note explaining my annoyance. Aurelie has had her own journey with cancer and has been such a solid source of strength, advice and support. My story is overshadowed by what she had to go through. Such a strong woman and fellow Scorpio sister. She broke it down for me, told me to embrace how I was feeling and the overall message that I received was to let go. She reminded me that everything I need in order to handle the chemo, I already have. The will, strength and most importantly my meditation and faith and that all of those things will get me through..not a Vitamin C drip. Those were exactly her words to me.

One of the areas that I’ve been so committed to is my diet. I changed to a vegan, mostly raw food diet as soon as I was diagnosed and cut out sugar, wheat, dairy and caffeine. I fasted once a week while I was on tour and have been taking every supplement that I researched was good for my condition. I am probably the healthiest I have ever been. A little on the thin side, but I’m feeling strong and vibrant. Aurelie’s advice kept coming and this is what she said…” Eat, my love …when does a woman ever get the free, clear moment to eat as much as they want! Get some delicious stuff in your body”. In other words….let go!!  Thank you my friend!

I got out the house, hopped on the bus to get to an appointment and because I was early I took a little wander. I came across a health food store called Nirvana Health and went inside. I asked for some advice, specifically relating to boosting my immune system before chemo and was led to a product I had never seen before. It’s called the LifeMel Range –  A range of unique food supplements from the beehive, made by bees fed with a mixture of specially prepared herbs. That’s the description in their advertising.

So my day began with a few rounds of blood tests, doors shutting in my face, some lovely counselling from my dear friend Aurelie and it ended in Nirvana:)  And now I have three little bottles of LifeMel which it says, “will enhance my immune system and alleviate side effects induced by chemotherapy”. How incredible is that???

I’m so glad I let go!!!

World Cancer Day – A New Meaning

Who would have thought that I would be writing and sharing stories about my life that included cancer. I have always had the deepest respect for those close to me who have had their lives unhinged by a cancer diagnosis or the loss of a loved one. Some have undergone long, unending suffering and some have literally taken my breath away with how suddenly it has taken them. My perspective has of course shifted and if I ever showed a slightly nonchalant attitude towards someone’s story about cancer, believe me when I say, I will never be the same again.

I have so much to say and my stories will probably jump around a lot and may seem confusing, but for today, I will write about …today!

Walking in the rain is one of my favourite things to do and it just so happened that I had a day planned with one of my favourite people.

I will tell you briefly about how I came to meet the incredible Sophie Matthew and if I run out of space in this blog, I will share a special story of hers in another. I met her at an audition for Nine To Five which she was helping cast…multi-talented is our Sophie. I remember her being so lovely and friendly and calming. I met her again at an auditon for Bananaman and she read opposite me and was again….just lovely!! One day, many months later, I walked into the rehearsal room for the UK tour of Summer Holiday and there before me was Sophie. We didn’t join the dots till later, but we both acknowledged that we seemed familiar to one another. I joked that we probably knew one another in a past life…which I am now convinced is true 🙂 I thank Racky Plews, our director, for casting me as Sophie’s horrendous mother Stella. Red bus……yes!!!!! Private joke, sorry..

So for the next 6 months we would tour all around the UK, share a dressing room (mostly), tell stories..and also tell stories, laugh and the best of all – I got to shout at her and push her around the stage. That makes for incredibly good bonding and a life long friendship. Hopefully you have a lovely picture in your head because she is a perfect picture to me.

And now I need to quickly shift the focus a little and back track for those who know me and have followed a little of my journey on facebook. I posted about my first surgery in October which was relativley straight forward and successful – to a point. I then had a second surgery in December which was a single mastectomy with immediate reconstruction which I am happy to say, I am in my 8th week of recovery and it is all healing beautifully. I will write about these at some point, but what led to our outing today is the next unfoldment of my journey which involves chemotherapy and I have a lot to write about that particular subject, but not today.

So now, back to the day. Sophie and I met and walked in the rain arm in arm to a place that was recommended for wigs. While I’m on chemo I will be using something called a cold cap which has been successful for many women so you can hold on to your hair. It’s incredible to me that this option even exists! As I’m an actress and extremely passionate about my career, I’ve chosen this option so that hopefully I can jump back in after my treatment and carry on as before. It’s not a pleasant experience I’m told, but worth a try and in case, for some reason it doesn’t work, Sophie and I have chosen two rather spunky wigs..one is particularly on the spunky side.

So, on World Cancer Day, I share this story with you and I salute every person that has been touched by cancer. One thing I know is that cancer brings people closer together. I am thankful for my lovely “daughter” Sophie, who has been supportive since I was diagnosed on the Summer Holiday tour. Thank you sweetheart for sharing your precious time with me today to make sure that my head is covered and if you ever need me Sophie….I’ve got your back!!  X

My Very First Blog – Yay!!

Some have said I am inspiring…I prefer to say that I am inspired. What inspires me you may ask? I have a multitude of answers to that question and will find moments to write about them all.

I’m inspired by people, travel – especially long train rides, rainy days, the innocence and delight of children – children with special needs in particular, deep and loving friendships, loyalty, honesty, walks in the park, animals, hugging trees, solitude, chocolate (only dark now without the sugar), healthy living, walking through London, visits to Cathedrals, the sound of birds singing,  watching families hanging out together, compassion, strength and humility, hospitals (who would have thought, but I have many a tale now that I practically live at one). I love deep conversations, chats with Uber drivers, the generosity of friends, loved ones and sometimes strangers, the magic of theatre, honest communication. I’m inspired by the unconditional love I have always felt from God since I was a little girl and if I was uncertain He was there, which I never am, that’s been taken care of. I am deeply inspired by the love, guidance and protection of my Guru (yes, I have a Guru and if that puts you off, it’s nothing I’m willing to change). I’m inspired by love, my family and perhaps, finally…stories. And I may just have lots of those to tell.

Some you may like and some you may find silly and annoying, but I’m comfortable with that as they are my stories and I’m more than willing to share.

I promise to be honest and open in my telling and to not be reserved in my approach, even though some situations may seem very personal, I will do all I can to protect those who have affected my life both positively and negatively. Sometimes the relationships which have been the most challenging can show you darker aspects of yourself that shouldn’t be hidden, perhaps a little tweaking may be necessary, but they should never be hidden away.

I chose to call this Blog Safe Spaces because in amongst all the chaos that is life, I have always managed to find myself, or create for myself a safe space in which to handle life and to grow.  A very dear friend of mine who I call “my lion” spoke of having a safe space in a conversation we were having about his life, and I have never forgotten it, so with his permission there it is. Thank you my lion.

I have often felt a little awkward with the idea of writing as I don’t fancy myself to be particularly strong in grammar and constructing interesting sentences that capture people’s imaginations, but what I can offer is simple, honest and heartfelt ways of sharing what is my reality and experience. I was a bit of a class clown in school, so I wasn’t really paying attention to composition.

I thank you in advance if you decide to spend a little of your precious time reading over my musings and wish you the most magical experiences in your own life and in everything that touches it.

Here’s to magic and creating!!