Sunday, 22 July 2012

Where do you find your hope?

A friend sent me the quote “HOPE – Hold On, Pain Ends” which touched me, and I passed this on via twitter receiving a reply from one of my followers saying this is just what she had needed to hear at that time.  I was so happy that these words had brought hope to another person across the world.

“As I stared at the wide blue yonder hope swelled in my heart
Hold on pain ends
The gentle breeze whispered in the air,
Hold on pain ends, don’t despair
I smiled; I laughed and said a prayer
My hopes laid bear
In the expectation that life will get better

I remember well the hopes I held within myself from diagnoses of breast cancer, while in hospital and recovering from various ops, and going through chemo and radiation treatments (with a broken ankle I might add!).  All kinds of them; some were simple about daily life, like hoping someone would pop round for a coffee and a chat, or that I could wave a magic wand and the housework would all be done – to hoping to find a new place to live (which I did do eventually), that I  would be able to go back to feeling so much better with a promise that not only would my own  life  but others who were also having issues too lives would improve - to hoping that my son did well at school and much bigger things as to the hope our politicians, banks and people in power managed to get together to sort out our economic mess and then to the somewhat  more unrealistic hope of world peace!  I have been a hopeful person all my life, but sometimes my hopes have been dashed as it has relied on other people, other outcomes and learning really that you cannot rely on hope alone, taking action brings your hopes closer to fruition. 
All of us have hopes, dreams and wishes and most of these are the same across this world - to be happy.  Such a commonality from such diversity. 

“I laugh, I love, I hope, I try, I hurt, I need, I fear, I cry. And I know you do the same things too, so we’re really not that different, me and you.”

Dwelling recently on my hopes, I wondered what defined hope, is it something tangible or intangible, is it a feeling or an action, can hopes interfere with dealing with reality so less of a positive thing and does it have an end result? Dreams, wishes, promises and expectations all are connected to our hopes, although optimism and positivity is often confused with the definition of hope.  As with everything in the world there are people who have studied this! 

Hope is described as "a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen - a feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best" - or "the act of looking forward to something with reasonable confidence - to cherish a desire with anticipation".  In the English language the word hope can be used as either a noun such as expectation, expectancy, trust, promise - or a verb trust, expect, anticipate. So hope is both a feeling and an action.  Hope may be a state of mind or the expression of a state of being but when hope is combined with action…it is truly a force to be reckoned with.  

“Approximately 77,000 years ago at Lake Toba a super volcano erupted in Sumatra, Indonesia plunging the planet into a 6 to 10 year volcanic winter, during which light was obscured, plants and animals died and human populations were almost completely wiped out.  The population of humans in the world reduced to less than 10,000 breeding pairs. The fact that this small group of relatively fragile species populated the whole planet illustrates the deep driving power of the mental state we call hope.”

“According to Greek mythology, the first woman on Earth, Pandora, was given a box that she was not to open under any circumstance. Too curious to resist, she opened it, and all of the evils of the world flew out: hate, pain, destructiveness, starvation. When Pandora saw what she had done, she closed the box before the last thing in there could escape. That last thing was hope.”
People who started with just hope throughout history have pushed our boundaries, worked towards positive change.  Some hopes just started with a dream, a goal for a better kind of living, freedom and justice.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." Martin Luther King

I am very much an optimist, convinced that things will work out well, but do recognize others are pessimists and view hope in a completely different way - but I would much rather wake up with smile looking forward to the day rather than with dread, and my hope for the promise of such a new day keeps me positive (if that makes sense).  There is an important distinction to be made between hope and optimism. The two are often confused. To be optimistic means to believe that everything is heading towards a happy ending. To hope means to believe that whatever happens, a way of coping and building towards the future may be found. 

Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” ― Václav Havel

Health professionals are becoming more aware of the importance of hope and taking spirituality into account when planning and delivering care to those with chronic illness, cancer, survivors and those who may not survive. Spirituality and religion can offer an explanation for the disease and offer hope that is integrated into the patient's social and cultural beliefs. 

Many people when first diagnosed with cancer see it as equivalent to a death sentence, leading to fear but the understanding that the diagnosis and treatment will bring profound change to their way of life. Some take the opportunity to search out in this time of uncertainty their own spirituality and often gain new strength in the fight for survival (this was certainly the case for me).  Medical studies into this area have proved that increased spirituality lessens suffering as patients often perceive their experience from a new point of view, with new opportunities permitting change brought about by survival and comfort for those who know they may not survive. Despite feeling so ill, weak and weary and living day by day hope always was with me, and hope was also given to me by friends and family that kept me holding on and the knowing that it would pass.  

“During chemo, you're more tired than you've ever been.  It's like a cloud passing over the sun, and suddenly you're out.  You don't know how you'll answer the door when your groceries are delivered.  But you also find that you're stronger than you've ever been.  You're clear.  Your mortality is at optimal distance, not up so close that it obscures everything else, but close enough to give you depth perception.  Previously, it has taken you weeks, months, or years to discover the meaning of an experience.  Now it's instantaneous. “ ~Melissa Bank

This increasing awareness of how spirituality can help those with cancer and chronic disease, some caregivers use the HOPE concept with their patients: H—sources of hope, strength, comfort, meaning, peace, love and connection; O—the role of organized religion for the patient; P—personal spirituality and practices; E—effects on medical care and end-of-life decisions. 

“As your faith is strengthened you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will, and that you will flow with them, to your great delight and benefit.”  ~Emmanuel

Different religions give people their identity, their lives a purpose and meaning and different kind of hope.
 Hinduism: Gain release from the cycle of rebirth and merge with the eternal Divine, thus escaping an inhospitable world. Turning towards and discovering God provides a perspective and an unfailing source of support and strength which ensures that "one does not succumb to the heaviest of sorrows".
 "In the history of the world, Hinduism is the only religion that exhibits a complete independence and freedom of the human mind, its full confidence in its own powers. Hinduism is freedom, especially the freedom in thinking about God." 

Buddhism: Gain enlightenment and, in that way, free yourself from the sufferings that come from illusions and attachments to life. Buddhist believes the reason people are so unhappy is that they want or crave things: when people don't get what they want, they become sad. The idea is that we are our own source of unhappiness, and we can change how we feel by changing our attitude and desires.
“Live in Joy, in love, even among those who hate. Live in joy, in health, even among the afflicted. Live in joy, in peace, even among the troubled. Look within. Be still. Free from fear and attachment, know the sweet joy of living in the way.”

Judaism: Do God's commandments. In Jewish culture the tradition of hope is perceived as a central and indispensable aspect of their religion and has inspired thinkers who see the rainbow beyond the cloud.
“Hope is like peace. It is not a gift from God. It is a gift only we can give one another"

 Islam: Submit oneself to the will of Allah. In Islam no worship is complete without the presence of three qualities: love of Allah, hope in His Mercy and fear of His Punishment.
The eye of the heart, though closed in fallen man, is able to take in a glimmering of light and this is faith.”

   Skihasim: teaches that all human beings are equal and can realise the divine within them through devotion to God, truthful living and service to humanity.
“Bad thoughts cause illness of the mind, body and spirit. Practice optimism”

  Taoism: Achieve inner harmony. Hope requires personal care, nourishment and patience and of growing in potential.
    “Both praise and blame cause concern, for they bring people hope and fear.The object of hope and fear is the self - for, without self, to whom may fortune and disaster occur?”

  Christianity: Try to love the way Jesus loved. Hope for Christians is an essential and fundamental element of Christian life. In the Old Testament Hebrew words such as “Yachal” (“trust) and “towcheleth“ (expectation) are used in verses to mean hope. While in the New Testament the Greek word “elpis” is used more commonly and means “to expect or anticipate with pleasure” Hope here takes a different meaning which is a guarantee, a firm assurance, there is no maybe.
“For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

   Atheism:  Not all atheists believe in the same things just because they happen to lack a belief in a god. They believe that they have this one life to live and feel that this motivates them to live it to their fullest but it doesn’t mean that they have no hope which has the power to pull them through difficult times.
      “Atheism and anarchist theory were the first things that gave me any hope in this world. They were the things that said we had the power within us to make things better”

I am a Christian but strongly believe that whatever our religion creed or colour we should respect others' beliefs and learn from them especially where hope unifies us. 

 “Hope is necessary in every condition. The miseries of poverty, sickness and captivity would, without this comfort, be insupportable.”   Samuel Johnson

Hope normally comes into play when our circumstances are dire; not going well or there’s considerable uncertainty about how things will turn out particularly when we are ill, in financial trouble,  grieving, or living within an abusive situation. Hope opens us up and removes the fear and despair and allows us to see and feel that everything is maybe not as bad as it is, and will/can improve allowing us to become creative in solutions and have belief in a better future.  As long as you live there is always hope. Every day we hope that we can still wake up to another day and we also hope that what we have planned for that day will happen (although it is advisable to stay flexible – plans change as well as hopes!). 

Another good thing about having hope is that it pushes and motivates us to achieve our goals.

“Keep your heart open to dreams. For as long as there's a dream, there is hope, and as long as there is hope, there is joy in living." Anonymous”

Charles Snyder a specialist in positive psychology determined his own definition of hope and came up with the hope theory:

Goals: “Goals are objects, experiences, or outcomes that we imagine and desire in our minds." goals involving hope fall somewhere between an impossibility and a sure thing

Willpower: “Willpower is the driving force in hopeful thinking” Willpower draws on the perception of our desired goal as well as one’s mental energy. It also depends on how well we understand our goal. 

Waypower: “Waypower reflects the mental plans or road maps that guide hopeful thought”. There are important versus less important goals that play a part in one’s ability to plan through a goal, to map out a plan. Hope is the “mental willpower and waypower for goals”

I am not sure that I understand the above theory but I do agree that with the sense of hope come positive emotions such as happiness and joy, courage, and empowerment and we can aim to bring our hopes to fore by setting goals even if they are step by step daily goals. 

How about false hope? False hope is hope built entirely around a fantasy, a hope that has no knowable chance of coming to fruition like for example you hope for something that can’t be changed like bringing your dog back to life. False hope has enabled people to cheat and exploit others for material gain. You shouldn’t pin your hopes on other people or on things that are improbable like winning the lottery because this kind of hope most likely will cause disappointment. You can also lose hope and lie to yourself. “Lies shatter hope. And the only thing that can destroy lies is Truth”. For example living with extreme poverty is how people in the slums of the world lose hope - the reality of the sounds, smell and feelings of their situation stop them from hoping and dreaming of something better. I read somewhere that “a human can last for forty days without food, a few days without water, eight minutes without oxygen but only a few seconds without hope”.  And it is often said that. “If you lose hope, you lose everything.” But even where everything seems hopeless there is hope as many people around the world unite together to offer help, initiatives and encouragement, urging Governments to give hope to their own people and letting them know that they are not forgotten – it may not seem to be making much of an impact but I believe good will come of it or is that the optimist talking?

“In a world filled with hate, we must still dare to hope. In a world filled with anger, we must still dare to comfort. In a world filled with despair, we must still dare to dream. And in a world filled with distrust, we must still dare to believe.” ― Michael Jackson

Illness reminds us of the fragility of life. With illness, we learn that we are not invincible but hope encourages us to continue moving forward even though we do not know where we are going. Hope is our comfort when we are waiting for test results, waiting for appointments, waiting for symptoms to subside, waiting for healing, waiting for a cure.  And if we get a bad test result, or our illness flares up, symptoms get worse hope is the light that shines on these moments of darkness. Hope knows that not everything has the perfect answer but it has the power to control how you respond to life’s circumstances to persevere, encourages us, and the greatest gift of all to give hope to others.

So what are my hopes and dreams now I am in recovery – well to stay in recovery is one; to regain more of my equilibrium and health (but not overdoing it); to reconnect to all my family as life is too short not too (with mutual understanding and goodwill); but also to understand and be comfortable with the person I am and who I am becoming; that my son will grow into an aspiring, healthy loving strong man; to grow in my faith and finally, like virtually everyone else in the world, to be happy although recognising that along with happiness there is always sadness.  If I have hope then I can give others hope too whether through dialogue, action, support or love. 

 “Hope is the thing with feathers. That perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words. And never stops at all.” ― Emily Dickinson

Hope is the sunshine that breaks through a dark cloud; Hope is the smile, warmth the laugh out loud
Hope is the love you hold within your heart; Hope is the beginning of a brand new start
Hope is the comfort of a kind word; Hope is the heroes we have in the world
Hope is the wonder to be found from beauty; Hope is the diversity joining in unity
Hope is the promise of a better day; Hope is the wish for another way
Hope is the opportunity that knocks; Hope is the path clear of stony rocks
Hope is the losing before you gain; Hope is the rainbow after the rain
Hope is the thought our sufferings brief; Hope is the growing of our spiritual belief
Hope is the anticipation of looking forward to; Hope is the journey to something new
Hope is the matter of all faith; Hope is the silence that keeps us safe
Hope is the expectation when you are down; Hope is our wings that lift us from the ground
Hope is the chance for us all to share; Hope is the way you begin to care.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Don't suffer in silence

This blog is very personal to me and normally where I am usually a positive person and try not to dwell on the past too much and move forward I have also come to realize that if your past leads to the person that you are today that it does need to be confronted and the negative emotions put into a kind of perspective that you can learn from,  rise above and not let them consume you, and then carry on to be the best person that you can be.

I was married for 18 years and it was never really a brilliant relationship from the start, but I was bound to the word "love" and at first the emotional drama of having arguments and passion of making up was addictive. The good days outweighed the bad days and the mind games  to some extent played by both of us. There is a quote that says "don't let yourself be a victim" and that is exactly what I did.  My lack of confidence, self-esteem and love for myself trapped me to suffer in silence on how bad everything really was.

When a child came into the equation then everything changed, things were easier when my son was a baby but once he started to grow and form his own ideas, opinions and to become his own person then life became very difficult.  My husband now had two people to play mind games with and they became nasty- the saying "stick and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt me" is not true - words can hurt very much indeed and with the constant lack of respect and barrage of the things he said to me and his own child  I see were unbearable for someone who professed to love me and his son.

I am not sure if he resented the love I had for our child,  his own believed failure of his life and not being able to accept what he had, to not being able to stand up to what he thought was injustices to himself; caused him to become bitter and twisted (searching for excuses for him really should not be in contention here) - but like a light switch would flip into anger suddenly, or into melancholy, to wanting absolute control.  I became a referee between child and father trying to keep us as a family unit, encourage and create meaningful and quality time as well as keeping a lid on my own emotions.  It was a losing battle and the interactions started to boarder on violence and menace- it was not a happy or healthy environment for any of us to live in.

I started to find solace at work thinking that the catalyst was the three of us together but I was disabused of this notion when I came home one evening and found my son hiding in the wardrobe and food all over his bedroom floor - his dad had become angry because he didn't want to eat something.  This was the last straw at what I saw as his abuse of our son but which he saw as our son being spoiled by his mother.  It was the day before the school holidays and I left him to stay with family.  My husband was contrite, delivered flowers to where I was staying, said all the right things and made promises that we would go for marriage counseling, and he anger management.  More fool me I believed in his promises and platitudes.

For a few months there was an improvement and then situation at home got worse and I had to ensure my son was kept safe after school by staying with babysitters, friends anywhere but with his dad, and I myself went into relationship counseling.  I suppose it came to head on two counts - my son has SVT (rapid heartbeat) but at this time this was not known and it was thought he was having panic attacks, and my husband's behavior became more twisted and overtly violent.  I moved out from our bedroom and slept on the floor in my son's room.  Rather than trying to show more love, understanding,  this infuriated my husband  that he would torture us with load music night after night, banging on the door when we were sleeping, begging for sex, turning off the electricity and keeping us locked in the house, making us feel guilty by saying he wanted to kill himself,  became threatening and there was always that sense of hidden danger and I became frightened of both my own and our son's safety - I spoke to Social Services, sent my son to his grandad and when I was offered a place to live sixty miles from where we were living, I took that offer.

Why am I telling you a this part of my life's story now - well I was asked to consider, as part of a new poetry group I have joined, to write a poem on "leaving" and although both my son and I have had counseling since that move, all those emotions came flooding out which I had thought I dealt with. Also after reading recently about women being abused, I have felt a strong need for my story to be told.  My poem is this story and needs to be read out aloud by myself to others to convey the emotion I feel on this part of my life -  poetry written by the poet conveys what they feel - but the emotions of when you read the poetry depends on who you are and your own story.

I have glossed over the things that happened to both me and my son somewhat here, because to be totally explicit about every incident, every nuance here is not the right forum, but have tried to address a lot in the poem and I have to come to realize that when there is no respect in a relationship there is no love. Suffice to say it everything did come ahead and I did have my husband arrested and cautioned subsequently for threats to my life.  I do feel immense sadness for my son because his father completely rejected him with his last bit of control and bitterness saying that without me he was not his child and when my son sent him a father's day card shortly after the divorce he somehow found out what school he went to and sent it back saying not to contact him, he was not his son anymore - since then my son has blocked him out of his life.

 I have since met many woman, children and some men who have lived with abuse and have seen the emotional toil it has had on them - my story is not unfortunately unusual. The one thing I do ask if you are reading this blog and are living with abuse - please do find the courage to leave, don't suffer in silence - there is a brighter, happier  life out there for you and help is available if you seek it. It may be a struggle to get back on your feet and you may have many obstacles to overcome but you are much stronger than you think and almost anything is better than living in these circumstances.

Bless you all.

An Empty Shell of a life once lived

Tell me how could you show yourself to the world that you are a victim, you are the one who has been wronged, that you are blameless and believe there are no reason to your actions
You pushed acceptable boundaries, with bitterness you tried to wear me down with your mind games, threats and accusations.

How long was I hypnotized by your charismatic charm, your pretense dragged down by your failure, your dented dreams your inability to stand up to authority. You entwined me with sweet smelling roses, but I never expected the sharp thorns dripping with venom trapping me with your promises and lies. Oh when I think of the chances you were given - but what are you to me now but a parasite getting drunk and high on twisted emotions

Where did our laughter go?

Sex a chore just like the washing up expected, always on your mind you robbed of romance and violated by freedom to choose, and in whatever way I put it or strongly deny it you raped me with me pretending a passion that just wasn’t there

Not just I tasted the excrement that came out of your mouth nor experienced your simmering intimidation, your sneering disdaining consideration and was blind to the dejection and desolation of a child just looking for your affection. We walked on eggs shells he and I crunching under hob-nailed boots - propping up your feeble weak mind, making excuses for your failure to love

How many years did I waste?
How many years did I deceive myself?
Why did I wait, why didn’t I protect
Why did I bury my head in the sand blindfolded to the consequences on an innocent mind?  

You didn’t think I would survive, couldn’t do it on my own – you said I would die if I left you

And when my eyes were opened, my courage found and all hope abandoned, I watched as we imploded, and like a rubber band stretched too tightly - it snapped and all and I could see was the rot and rust – the mice running amok with their scratching and scrambling, and although the windows were left open to breathe  fresh air the coldness invaded as all the warmth  and joy had already been bleached away, the cracks you tried to paint over but you couldn’t change and the torture became harder to bear.

I walked away from you without a backward glance

I gave to you back the keys to my heart and slammed the door in your face and left leaving an empty shell of a life once lived

And now? Just like photos forgotten and left in a box, the pain is fading being locked away.  Yet still you prey on my mind, just a memory a sad, sad memory that I have left behind. I feel sorry for you, I can forgive – thanks for the experience  a life lesson learned – but can I forget and forgive the rejection of your child forsaken in your last battle for control– and you are the victim? You shit

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Actions speak louder ....

While writing my latest blogs and wallowing in therapy of writing poetry and blogging on themes such as anger, love, laughter and sunshine, I have realised that I have only given snippets away of where I am now in my life and my cancer journey. 

In some ways I feel very much that I am on an on-going spiritual quest, reconnecting with life - but I have soon found out that making a commitment to meet people, accepting social invitations, promising to do something and then not being able to do it, and making plans for a day is still not a good idea.  The saying is “energy begets energy” and I know this true but still wanting to run before I can walk I find my energy is all spent and I back to square one!  I need to go more slowly.
It’s just over four months since my last radiation treatment, and just under six months since chemo finished – the assumption of many people is that I should now be well on my way to recovery but as so aptly described "disease-free, but not free of your disease”  this is not the case.  

I can still get tired just at a drop of a hat, and in fact last Saturday I spent the morning looking at carpets, lunch with a friend,  the afternoon watching the town’s carnival and listening to live music in the park in the early evening.  It was a lovely day but “knocked me for six” and the Sunday was a write-off and had to take time off work on the Monday as well!

Focusing is a real problem; I still can’t read the books I used to read, just simple “chit lit” book reading is best at the moment - although I have tackled reading more serious short stories – and completing a crossword is an absolute impossibility.  It’s worse now I have started back at work – being a secretary and having trouble focusing is frustrating for both me and my employer! Organisation of paperwork at home, keeping up with the bills etc. is another worry.  

I am also having hot flushes during the day and night and aches in my shoulders that keep me awake. This is not helping my focus as I think I am also starting to going through the menopause which have all of the symptoms described above so figuring out what is reactions to treatment and medication and what are the normal symptoms for a women going through the menopause is not easy.

Mouth soreness has recently suddenly started reminding me of how I felt through chemo treatment, my toes nails are still falling off and my skin is so much dryer - let alone still doing exercises to carry on recovery from my broken ankle earlier in the year and on my arm to prevent lymphoma!

It might sound as if I am a bit of a hypochondriac but a real fear at the back of the minds of most cancer survivors (still not sure if I like that word!) is that the cancer will come back somewhere or in the same place in our bodies so each symptom cannot just be dismissed - we have to consider, examine and stress about it before visiting our doctors and specialist to calm our worried minds. I had my first mammogram after a year a couple of weeks ago, with the results coming back within the next four to six weeks – I am assuming no news is good news! 

 LOL you may laugh I did wonder how they were going to do a mammogram on my left breast which is no longer there – correct (!) they only did the right breast.  My next scan is in October so a little while longer to wait yet for some reassurance (I hope).  

There is really no point getting frustrated or upset when I cannot do something I want to do, and what do I expect? My body has been poisoned, experienced trauma – and it can take up to a year (and longer in some cases) to feel better, stronger and more able to lead a “normal” life. 
So I have come up with a plan for over the coming months, and yes, before you point it out to me, quitting smoking is not there, and some of it I should be doing anyway – I know! “Old habits die hard” and I seemed to have hit some them again with a vengeance after treatment stopped especially with regard to food!

  • Take a half hour walk per day especially when the sun comes out and more stretching exercises, moving on to cycling and swimming (although a bit self-conscious about swimming with just one boob!)
  • Do things that I really enjoy, choosing how I spend my time more wisely and learning to say no or realising I just can’t do this yet!
  • Bin it, file it, action it and try to take action almost immediately rather than sitting on issues that get worse rather than better, or frankly on paperwork that just clutter up the place!

  •  Stick to a routine trying to go to bed and waking up at the same time and sleeping in a cool room, wearing clothes that let my skin breathe
  • Start experimenting with different relaxation techniques
  • Keep a notebook/diary with me at all times and actually using it!
  •  Ensuring I am having my five a day of fruits and vegetables (and more) and eating on time to regulate my sugars better.
  • Visit the dentist!!!!!!!!
  • Drinking more water and chewing gum (but not obviously – I hate that!)
  • Using affirmations and a grateful diary and carry on my spiritual path
  • Getting less stressed with my teenage son pinching the computer for his new gaming network, playing x-box, answering back, having subjective hearing and realising that his brain is geared in another way for a  few more years yet!
  • Finding a support group or setting up one of my own!
  •  A bit more pampering, a good skincare routine, and more effort on my appearance including colouring my hair!
I suppose it’s not “rocket science” - it is the case of not just using the words but actually doing something about it - “actions speak louder than words”!  In one way or another we do all know how to look after our health to some degree, some of us ignore advice or just pick out bits and pieces that we want to do, some of us go to extremes, some just have no choice in the matter and others just don’t care – it’s hard to find a balance between pleasure and health.  None of this new – and is one reason why I love quotes – the ancients, and people of yesteryear had  more or less the same advice as we do now!

Don’t get me wrong things are so much better now - I have joined a poetry group and the people there enjoyed my poetry (such a confidence booster) and I hope to do some poetry slams later this year; I am more active in my Source group; my twitter follows have gone up (#BelFedCol) and people are now reading my blogs more and more across the world. I have been asked to guest blog on My Name Is Not Cancer – MNINC – which is a great honour as it is such a good organisation and great site for all people suffering from cancer ( and can be found on Facebook as well ) –  this should also help to discipline, hone and develop my writing skills.  

A friend is running the “Race for Life” next week with my name on her t-shirt and I will be there supporting her come rain or shine all decked out in pink – watch this space for a video my son has promised to do! 

We watched the Olympic Flame go through town on Friday getting up extremely early (well for me anyway) and despite the rain the atmosphere and community spirit was fantastic (my son did a great video of the event of which I am very proud of and can be found on - please excuse the MW3 and Mine craft vids if you decide to investigate and you are not a gamer!) and realised what a great town, community and country I live in. Although not watching any of the Olympic sports in the stadium and despite the money the country has spent on the games which we can ill-afford, and the tremendous corporate spin on them I do hope to make it to the marathon and visit the Olympic Park to soak in some of the atmosphere – I am just hoping the rain will stop by then! After the wettest June on record, and July going the same way, two weeks of sun and no rain will be bliss! 

Finally although I haven’t been back to work for that long I am looking forward to a week’s holiday at the end of July in North Devon to see my father – it’s been nearly two years since I last made that trip and several years actually going somewhere on holiday!
I am spending more quality time with my son – admiring and taking an interest in the videos he is creating and doing this going a long way to maintaining a good relationship (although I have absolutely no interest in WM3 or Mine Craft and so takes an effort) – just need some more work to encourage him to be more active in doing those little handy jobs around the flat - things like putting the pictures up on the walls that have been just sitting there since we moved in (April)!   

We now have two cats with lovely strong loving personalities – one is a 15 week old kitten (Jellybean) and the other is a 20 month rescue cat (Dave) - they help me manage my stress levels by the entertainment they provide, the calmness of a cat purring on your lap and worrying instead about something more than how I am going to pay a bill, if my insurance claim will come in so I will be able to afford to get carpets for the flat before winter sets in, a new TV as ours in on its way out – the fridge freezer looks as if it may go kaput any day now too, those new trainers my son needs and getting my washing dry!  

I still know that I have so much compared to so many around the world and am so grateful to the free National Health that we have in our country (although taxes do go some way in paying for it), how good the cancer treatment was that I received and has made me realise just how lucky I am in this regard and here in the UK we should both support and protect the NHS rather than moaning about it all the time! It has also made think what cancer treatment is available to those poorer countries in the world.

For those with cancer reading this - how are you coping in your recovery period - like cancer treatment itself reactions and our journeys are different yet many issues stay the same.

 “Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better”. Emile Coue

“Live in rooms full of light
Avoid heavy food
Be moderate in the drinking of wine
Take massage, baths, exercise, and gymnastics
Fight insomnia with gentle rocking or the sound of running water
Change surroundings and take long journeys
Strictly avoid frightening ideas
Indulge in cheerful conversation and amusements
Listen to music.”
~A. Cornelius Celsus (25 BC)

“The best six doctors anywhere
And no one can deny it
Are sunshine, water, rest, and air
Exercise and diet.
These six will gladly you attend
If only you are willing
Your mind they'll ease
Your will they'll mend
And charge you not a shilling.”
  Nursery rhyme quoted by Wayne Fields, What the River Knows, 1990

 “When it comes to eating right and exercising, there is no "I'll start tomorrow."  Tomorrow is disease.”  Terri Guillemets

“The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd druther not”  Mark Twain 

“Sleep, riches, and health to be truly enjoyed must be interrupted.” - Johann Paul Friedrich Richter

Monday, 2 July 2012

Sunshine Songs (playlist)



For those in the know, my Aunt once a week challenges me to write a poem, not just to encourage my creative side, or to give me inspiration for blogs but also as a way of therapy and to come to terms with being a “survivor” of not just having breast cancer, but also depression arising from an abusive marriage, and to be able to move forward more positively to find the person inside of me that I want to be.  I have always said that my blog has been of huge therapeutic importance to me and scientist have proven that by keeping a journal, or these days a blog, opening up and expressing your feelings is another way of facing and coping with life’s anxiety and stresses. It doesn’t matter if your journal is just personal to you (and I did keep one for a year I ran from my marriage and through my depression), how you do it, or whether it is made public.   If my blog also brings comfort, starts a debate, educates, inspires, brings a smile and thoughtfulness (even to just a few) then that is a good thing too!

“If you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm.”  Frank Lane

So this week my blog is about sunshine and I have shared my weekly poem later on in the blog.  When considering how I would write the poem I realised that there are so many different metaphors as to what sunshine means to each one of us.  For me it’s that special feeling when you feel the first warmth of the sun on your face, the healing rays and the light and energy the sunshine gives out uplifting my spirits and enveloping my heart with love.   

When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator.”  Mahatma Gandhi

Now that I have moved to a second floor flat, with a balcony on the Southside, I have never felt the sun so welcome for such a long time.  After living in a house that was quite dark just having light to brighten up my day has made a huge difference.  I can now just sit in my lounge soaking up the healing rays of the sun through the window, observing the heavens from sunrise to sunset to a starry night.  I open up my balcony doors to a fresh warm breeze and I have noticed just how much more hopeful, calm and happy I am (even if I still shout at my sun to help me keep the place tidy!). 

I know I need to be careful of being in the sun due to my radiation treatment (and generally it’s not a good idea for anyone to be out in the sun too much), just spending a little time outside when the  sun is shining, with most people feeling cheery, calms my nerves and lift my spirits.

“A sunrise or sunset can be ablaze with brilliance and arouse all the passion, all the yearning, in the, soul of the beholder.” ― Mary Balogh, A Summer to Remember

We have had strange weather here in the UK recently, a heat wave at the end of February beginning of March, dreary days in May and April and the wettest June on record! So it is very noticeable how much happier everyone is when the sun shine is shining. 

There’s a reason for this. Our bodies need sunlight in the same way it needs food, water and exercise.  The sun is a person's most crucial source of vitamin D.  Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a host of physical ailments, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, allergies, Alzheimer's, obesity, and depression.  Also in addition to the noticeable lift it gives your mood, it also helps lower your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, improves your immunity, regulates your weight, and reverses symptoms of many chronic diseases.  

The field of science that studies the effect of weather on our health is called human biometeorology. Vitamin D is the best natural antidepressant you can have and sunlight increases the chemical called serotonin which is a neurotransmitter in your brain which levels can have a profound effect on your mood. Scientists have also linked that depression coincides with a dearth of sunlight to the hormone melatonin, which regulates sleep. When sunlight fades, some of us produce copious amounts of melatonin, contributing to the drowsy; out-of-sorts feeling that can plague us on winter days

A half hour walk around the block during the sunniest hours of the day just might be a more effective and less harmful than prescriptive medication for depression!

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you.” Walt Whitman

Of course having too much sunlight can also have a detrimental effect, causes not only premature skin aging and sun spots, but also: skin cancer (which is on the rise due to amount we sunbathe).  However, the right amount of sun exposure is good for you.
We’ve been told to avoid sunshine… keep indoors during peak sun hours… cover yourself with sunscreen if you go outside… wear long-sleeved shirts, hats and sunglasses even when it’s not sunny… and limit your direct contact with the sun’s rays - but this is not always the right thing to do.  Although protein and genetic tissue are damaged each time your skin burns, putting you at greater risk for skin cancer, clinical evidence shows that sunlight in moderation may also prevent 17 different kinds of cancer! It is actually more dangerous to avoid sun exposure completely and the benefits of sun exposure will far outweigh the possible dangers.  Independent scientific research has shown that if you live in a sunny climate, or if you live in a not-so-sunny climate but expose yourself to sun, then your increased production of vitamin D due to UVB radiation will help lower risk of a host of debilitating and fatal diseases.

So don't be afraid of going out in the sun  ... enjoy the sunshine soak up its healing rays, lighten up your mood and let those happy hormones flourish.  Just remember everything in moderation and avoid getting sunburn!

“Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine”. Anthony J. D'Angelo

When starting to write my poem on the radio came on the song “I can see clearly now” and the sentiment it expressed closely matched how I was feeling at that time;  so I based my poem around this and to add  extra complexity(!) around other sunshine songs as well.   Adding music to the mix gives a different dimension to the poem and I think a kind of uplifting atmosphere –  just as I found poetry, short stories (couldn’t focus on a book in its entirely), films and art an inspiration and comfort during my cancer treatment the same goes for music.   

I am not sure if the poem actually works with the sunshine songs, whether it adds value to the written feelings that flow from me - but there again I am only just developing my poetry and this is an experiment - you can’t be fearful to experiment with life now and again. I am sure there is a quote somewhere about experimenting with life!

The Sunshine songs I chose are very mixed , rock, pop, disco, classical, some oldies and some newer songs, some we all know and others you may not know,  and some are remixes of very popular songs –  but each song resonated with me either through memories, the lyrics, atmosphere or the energising uplifting beat.  Not everyone will like the songs on the playlist although there is something there for everyone! 

My brilliant son created me a You Tube Channel - as well as designing the background  on it as well  and also updated my blog page so I can add necessary links etc and generally made it look much more inviting than before!  This has meant that I have been able to create a playlist for anyone else who would wish to listen to the songs mentioned in the poem.  I have also listed the playlist after each verse.

I hope you enjoy!

 It’s gonna to be a bright (bright) sun-shiny day
 I can see clearly now - acoustic cover

A ray of light in the night sky rising above the horizon and the sun blazes forth
“I can see clearly now the rain has gone. I can see all obstacles in my way “
“Sunshine”, “Welcome Sunshine”
“Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind, it’s gonna be a bright (bright) sun-shiny day.”
Spears of fire in their fury welcome in a new day, a new dawn, a new start
Darkness infusing with golden light spreading warmth surrounding the cold fear around my heart
“Sunshine”, “The Sun is shining”
Whispers the south winds, wiping the sleep from my eyes, wake up, wake up my head I raise
“Here comes the sun”,Good day sunshine,”
The grey clouds have gone, and a smile bubbles up and I look at the skies and pray with silent praise
“Let the Sunshine in” let it be “Everyday Sunshine”

(Play list: Sunshine - Ambient - Soundtrack  - John Murphy, Force & Jack Speed Feat. Lisa Abbott - Welcome (to the sunshine), Avicii & David Guetta - Sunshine (Seif Festival Remix), Bob Marley - Sun is Shining (Brand Blank Remix), The Beatles - Here Comes the Sun , The Beatles - Good Day Sunshine, Let the Sunshine In (Hair), Fishbone - Everyday Sunshine)

Sunshine touches my troubled mind, a golden thread of warmth happiness entwining my soul
“I think I can make it now, the pain is gone, all of the bad feelings have disappeared” (far way)
It’s been a “Cold day in the Sun”, “Away from the Sunshine”
“Here is the rainbow I’ve been praying for, It’s gonna be a bright (bright) sun-shiny day.”
Laughter in the sun lightens my mood, calming the thoughts of the struggle and worries ahead
Have been so weary, so weary frustrated and lost, lacking the energy to get up from my bed
 “Invisible Sun”, “Distant Sun”, travelling down the “Sunshine Road “,
Such a long time in the shadows of creeping illness, the greyness of a depressive mind
From” Sunny Hills”, I’m “Waiting for the Sun” “take me to where the Sun is shining
Long time seeking the healing golden rays, with all the enthusiasm of life and joy to find
Oh to hear the “Sound of Sunshine” again, singing in my heart the “Sunshine Song

(Play list: Foo Fighters - Cold Day In The Sun, Automatic Eye - Away From Sunshine, INVISIBLE SUN-The Police, Distant Sun by Crowded House, Owen Campbell - Sunshine Road, Bobby Caldwell - Sunny Hills, Waiting For The Sun - The Angels With Dave Gleeson, Take Me Where The Sun Is Shining – COLESKE, Michael Franti & Spearhead - Sound of Sunshine, Jason Mraz - Sunshine Song)

As the sunshine breaks through stormy weather, brightening the dreariness of my world
“Look all around, there’s nothing but blue skies, Look straight ahead, nothing but blue skies”
Ever “chasing the sunshine with a “pocketful of sunshine,”
“I can see clearly now, the rain is gone, I can see all obstacles in my way “ (no more lies)
The sorrowing burdens slip away and what is past is in the past, what has been unsaid locked away
Life expanding, opening up fresh challenges and possibilities excitement in each and new bright day
 With Sunshine on My Shoulders” I am going “to soak up the Sun”
A new confidence, strength and energy rising from the ashes of a kindling fire
Nothing will “Steal my Sunshine away”, “when the Sunshine Comes”
Now time to rest, time to recover, time to recoup, not losing my balance on life’s high wire
On these “Sunny Days”, I will “keep on the sunny” side of life

(Play list: The Wanted - Chasing The Sun, Take me away (a pocket full of Sunshine, Natasha Bedingfield, Sheryl Crow-Soak Up The Sun, Steal My Sunshine- Len, When the Sunshine Comes (Instrumental) - Kero One, Sabrina Starke - Sunny Days, Keep On The Sunny Side - The Whites)

 Whatever now comes my way I have the strength to stand alone and survive
I can see clearly now the rain has gone. I can see all obstacles in my way
“Behind the sun “- “I make my own sunshine”
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind, it’s gonna be a bright (bright) sun-shiny day
I gaze out of my window I see children at play hear the laughter, the songbirds sing
I look up into the calming blue sky, and thank god for the love in me these things bring
We are children of the Sun”, and” life is beautiful”, ” life is wonderful 
I still have a life’s magical story to unfold, and grateful that it can still be told
 And while we have “Season in the Sun” please “Don’t let the Sun go down on me
I am thankful now that healing has begun and in my heart the Sunshine I now hold
It’s a “brand new day”, a “lovely day” and  “I’m walking on sunshine

(Play List:- Behind The Sun by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alyssa Bonagura - I make my own Sunshine, Feeder - Children of the Sun, Vega 4 - Life Is Beautiful, Life Is Wonderful - Jason Mraz, Seasons in the Sun – Westlife, Don't let the sun go down on me-Elton John, Brand New Day by Joshua Radin, Lovely (88 Sunshine mix) remixed by BE – Bill Withers, Walking On Sunshine - Katrina & The Waves, Mashup Germany - Bright Sunshiny Day Jimmy Cliff)

“Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower”. Hans Christian Andersen

 I also wanted to mention, that it is not just the sunshine that has an effect on our moods, I also love the comforting sound of the pitter-patter of rain while I am sleeping, the exhilaration of watching lightening and storm rage outside while I am snug inside, walking on a windy beach watching the waves crashing, sitting near a cosy fire while it is cold outside, and the wondrous beauty of each individual snow flake

“For the man sound of body and serene of mind there is no such thing as bad weather; every day has its beauty”  George Gissing

The British are famous for their moaning and complaining about our changeable weather – and this can be mostly seen during Wimbledon!  But it is something that bonds us together; a conversation opener and I often moan and complain along with everyone else - although I do laugh at myself afterwards thinking about the conversations I have with regard to the weather!

“Don't knock the weather; nine-tenths of the people couldn't start a conversation if it didn't change once in a while”  Kin Hubbard

I thought I would add another poem to end of my blog and it is really inspired about letters in newspapers, global warming and conversations on the bus!

Oh why is the weather not always better?

Dear Sir, I just had to write …

Everyone is saying “We are fed up with all this rain” going round with a gloomy face, “I don’t care if we are in drought, and we prayed for the rain, but now it’s time for the sunshine to come and stay out”.  We look at the rain down our window panes and wonder if we can get our washing dry, water pouring out of gutters, swelling drains and rivers rising high.  But the kids are all out there with their umbrellas splashing in puddles glorying in getting wet - but still it isn’t enough we all use water too much, demand outstrips supply and this is all we are going to get.

And now the sun is here and having beautiful days, we complain it’s too hot, so humid, suffering sun-burn and like it not – we long for the shade of a breezy wind to cool down - or we suffer from hay fever sneezes and wheezes going out with a frown.  Warm sweaty nights trouble sleeping, bugs and mosquitos buzzing and creeping.  But the kids are all out in paddling pools, water guns at the ready longing for the beach, and those with solar panels rub their hands in glee their heating and electricity harnessing nature has been breached.

Dear Sir I just had to write ….

Wrong leaves on the line, trains running late - commuters all frustrated and fraught. Wind whipped up in raging storm weak sunshine rays are caught. “Where has the summer gone?” we all complain “it went by far too quick”.   Why do the clocks have to go back we yearly debate yet enjoying that hour’s lie in, it gets on my wick?  But the children are kicking up the leaves feeding the squirrels and whirling round and round like small whirlwinds.  And far out to sea - or the blot on the landscape - whizz of the propellers of wind farms spins.

“Why aren’t we ever ready for the snow and everything just stops?” we ask.  Dark freezing nights and the boilers stop working, pavements are slippery roads unsalted as the temperature drops.  We’re scared to go out in hats, scarves and boots as our breath warms the air. Potholes, floods, black ice and accidents - what a nightmare.  But the kids are outside building snowmen, sledging and laughing looking forward to the excitement of Christmas.   Power cuts are looming, and we feel despair at the energy we use, and the exorbitant costs of turning up the gas.

Dear Madam, in response ….

The British weather is a source of conversation where ever we go, but we are lucky in our preservation as other countries in the world show. We don’t have extremes of freezing and boiling, of tsunamis and hurricanes spoiling, of hunger and earthquakes, disease and death and we should thank our fortune of our little isle with every breath.  Our children can play, grow and be natured in relative wealth.  But we shouldn’t take for granted our responsibility that we are given for our world and its health.

Dear Sir and Madam

Look around you are you blind, can’t you see the flowers growing in their glory, the lush green of the grass the songbirds musings as they frit and flow – the freshness after the rain as the sun starts to shine and our smiles begin to show.  The wondrous colours of autumn oh what a gift, the beauty of snow as the seasons begin to shift.   And although we are saying “What strange weather we are having - the seasons don’t seem right its cold when it should warm, rain when it should be dry”, the weather is giving us a fright.  Is it global warming and we aren’t looking after our planet and is it time that we begin to care more?  No one seems to agree which way we should go, reduce our carbon footprint, and recycle, nuclear power or natural energy - but it’s something we certainly can’t ignore.

 “May flowers always line your path and sunshine light your day. May songbirds serenade you every step along the way. May a rainbow run beside you in a sky that's always blue.  And may happiness fill your heart each day your whole life through.”  Irish Blessings quotes

“Whatever your weather, let the sunshine in bringing happiness to the shadows of your heart and soul” Belinda Federl (aka me!)