Thursday, 30 August 2012

Calm and Collected - me!

“When you have peace of mind you can steer the storms of life easier”

Ok lovely holiday - feeling refreshed and renewed - now everything was going to be clear sailing for a while with new hopes and new dreams. However, as the saying goes “If you have escaped the jaws of the crocodile while bathing in the river, you will surely meet a leopard on the way” – disaster struck! 

Poor little jellybean, my kitten, somehow fell off the balcony (we are only on the first floor and it’s not that high up) and broke her hip!  Just after midnight too. Poor little thing, not knowing how badly she had hurt herself, I rang the vet but facing a £165 charge for an emergency visit decided to wait until morning to see how she was then. Jellybean hid herself under my son’s bed. Obviously in pain the next morning I took the day off work, went to the nearest vet where she stayed in overnight and was told she had broken her hip and would need an operation - £544 to be paid in full when I took her home. Problem is I hadn’t got her insurance in place yet (another lesson learned), had just come back from holiday, and also been hit with overpaid housing benefit that also needed to be paid back too. Being faced with an unexpected large vet bill was not good news. Being assured that Jellybean would be as good as new within a month of the op, there was no choice to be made – she was my beautiful, funny, playful, willful kitten that had snuggled her way into my heart.  

A year or even two years ago my mind would have been in utter turmoil and panic.  This time, although concerned, I took this in my stride – I arranged with the council to pay back their bill in installments; tried to negotiate some credit terms with the vet but unfortunately seems that this had been abused in the past so answer was a firm no – somehow, I just knew a solution would be found. To say I didn’t pray hard for a solution would be wrong, I very much did so – and then when sitting on the bus on the way to work something someone had told me several months before popped into my head and my solution was found.  Essex Net Savers – a cooperative of savers where you can also get emergency loans. I explained my situation, faxed over the necessary paperwork and that was it the vet bill paid.  I know that a loan is not a brilliant solution, but with this loan I could choose the monthly rate at which I knew I could afford to pay back (and also saving a minimal amount as well – but can’t touch those savings until the loan is paid off), I can up my payments to pay it off quicker if I can without any extra costs – of course there is interest as with any loan but not as high as the normal banks. This solution was a lifesaver and an answer to prayer!

I did spend a few days worrying as Jellybean stopped eating and drinking and my son and I had to find solutions around that as well - one was smearing and putting wheat-a-bix around and on her mouth after not being tempted with fresh fish, chicken and scrambled egg, I think she may have suddenly thought I'm not having this horrible stuff again and suddenly started eating again My but cats can be stubborn!

“God tells us to burden him with whatever burdens us. “  ~Author Unknown

Following quickly on the heels of Jellybean was a more complex situation from my workplace, and yes stemming from cancer, my recovery and probably all the drama that seems to happen in my life.  Going back to work has not been completely straightforward and easy – I have found that my body clock has changed; I am currently waking up very early in the morning with hot flushes (and having others during the day). I am sure that I am going through the menopause – my periods just stopped just before my ops – the shock of the diagnosis, stress (?) – but they never came back – then having chemo, radiation and the Tomaxifen medication -  so I wake most mornings tired and a bit “zombie- fied”  taking me a while to get going . This made me realise that I needed to change my start time to arrive at work a little later.  I am also not as focused as I used to be and still can’t read a book (which is quite distressing), easily distracted and I feel my mind is not as efficient or organised – if you also factor in the tiredness that can still sometimes wash over me, I know that I am not doing my job as well as I did before.  Although everything is improving day by day it’s not taking as quick as I would like, nor as others would like.  So when it was suggested I would like a chat with the CEO and that if I wanted to give up work there were some good severance packages available – I was alarmed and doubted myself losing a little bit of confidence. 

I was faced with a problem that many cancer survivors can have in that when you stop treatment and begin to recover that other people expectations change in you. They see that you look much better, starting to look “normal” and think that you are ready to go full steam back to the way you were before having cancer, but not recognizing that recovery is not just a physical thing but also about mental and emotional well-being.  Recovering and recuperation is not something that happens quickly but takes time and though you may put on a mask, you are still recovering not only from all that poison that has gone through your body but everything else life has thrown at you while having cancer from dealing with the shock, stress, and emotional up and downs, and going through several minefields of changing relationships and attitudes.  During my end of treatment I also broke my ankle, moved house and through miscommunication, a lack of understanding and empathy, loss contact and support of my family that lived near to me. 

I faced these work discussions with a calmness, confidence and strength which again surprised me – although concerned, and a little worried I stated my case with truthfulness and had to be honest with myself of where I am now, not hiding issues putting forward both the negative and positive aspect of my position at work .  I felt that I was heard, and hopefully with everything now aired things can only improve and move forwards – although there are a few more discussions that need to take place.  There is work I need to do on myself, things I can improve especially being more organised – I know this will happen (albeit slowly).

“Our lives improve only when we take chances - and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves.”

As when I was on holiday, letting go, and over the last couple of weeks I have asked of myself - how long will it take me to recover?  I know the all clear won’t come completely until 5 years but when will I start being like my old self again?

The truth is I don’t think I will ever be my old self again – the person I was has changed forever although I don’t really understand who that other person was before having cancer – running and setting up a new life after being in an abusive relationship for 18 years, depression and then just as when things seemed better being diagnosed with breast cancer – is it so surprising?  It is only now I feel that there is real hope of a good life to look forward to. I have been on a journey, one that has tested me both physically and emotionally and it doesn’t matter who you are everyone needs time to recover from any form of physical and mental strain.  It is fact that many people who have finished their cancer treatments are more emotional during recovery than they were actually during treatment. 

“The miracle of self-healing occurs when the inner patient yields to the inner physician. “ ~Vernon Howard, 1967

It’s now six months since my end of treatment and although I am improving every day it is still a slow process.  My next blog will look at recovery from the treatment of breast cancer and as usual with my story tagged alongside!

PS  Jellybean is recovering well!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Letting Go

 I’ve had a bit of a “ bloggers” holiday during these summer months, a promise made to my son, but  also because I got out of a rhythmic flow of blogging when the “a” button on my laptop along with the shift key decided not to work – I wouldn’t have minded if it had been the “q” button – but control v’ing “a” when working on a blog from the right hand side of the keyboard didn’t make me eager to try! Laptop not fixed yet but we bought a Wi-Fi keyboard and mouse with the vouchers I received from PC World over all the trouble we had with them last year. Positive truth that it is the little things in life that can make you happy!

“Rest when you're weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit."

At the end of July I went down to see my dad in North Devon, and a wonderful friend drove us down along with her two children – it was the first holiday either of us had had for a very long time and the need to get away was strong within us both.  We went up and down to North Devon in early dawn, speeding down empty winding roads, the children sleeping in the back – making good time.  There was a certain satisfaction that we had beaten the holiday traffic.  There is eeriness to the dawn, a misty quiet magical time of reflection as both the moon and the sun share the same sky and the sun ascends to bring the promise of a new day.

“The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience”. - Emily Dickinson

It’s strange but wherever your parents are it feels like you are coming home and as we drove down familiar roads and saw familiar sights despite the changes I was home again revelling in the saltiness of the fresh sea air. 

“The smell of the salty water, the wind in my face, the gentle roar of the waves all combines to create a sense of peace and calm”.  -Belinda Federl

I had last seen my dad when I had my breast operation – which now seems in another lifetime, and although we had been in constant telephone contact throughout my treatment it was just brilliant to get a great big bear hug from him and to be filled with that confidence of unconditional love.  This holiday meant a lot to me – almost a trigger to start living a more adventurous life again and a bonding opportunity with my son after so much drama with the storms of life.  This wasn’t just about me it about my dad, my son, friendship, renewal and surprisingly spirituality.

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” Jawaharlal Nehru

So there I was running around playing Combat Zone, whizzing down slides, going on bike rides, playing bingo, walking along the seafront, exploring little gift shops (and yes I did go to some charity shops for those who know we well) and playing silly games. We were at mercy of the weather but the days mainly stayed fine.  There was laughter and finding joy and an excitement in each in new day.  For me it somehow was a test of stamina and the proof of my recovery although there were times during the holiday when I realised that there is a lot further for me to go until I feel completely well again.  I couldn’t keep up on the cycling, and when I fell off the bike had bruises, and breathless shock which was scary but also found empathy and concern from my son which he had hidden so well over the last few months.  Also while at a theme park, for one weird moment, I forgot my pin number to my bank card which blocked the card and was unable to embarrassingly to pay for some food we had ordered, which meant a frantic call to the bank and finding the nearest ATM to unblock the card, come back and pay – it’s my chemo-brain!  And then there was the tiredness and hot flushes that would suddenly wash over me telling me to slow down and the leaving behind and letting go of the mixed emotions of the past few years. 

"To let go isn’t to forget, not to think about, or ignore. It doesn’t leave feelings of anger, jealousy, or regret. Letting go isn’t about winning or losing. It’s not about pride and it’s not about how you appear, and it’s not obsessing or dwelling on the past. Letting go isn’t blocking memories or thinking sad thoughts, and doesn’t leave emptiness, hurt, or sadness. It’s not about giving in or giving up. Letting go isn’t about loss and it’s not about defeat. To let go is to cherish the memories, but to overcome and move on. It is having an open mind confidence in the future. Letting go is learning and experiencing and growing. To let go is to be thankful for the experiences that made you laugh, made you cry, and made you grow. It’s about all that you have, all that you had, and all that you will have soon gain. Letting go is having the courage to accept change, and the strength to keep moving. Letting go is growing up.”

Being by the sea has always been a source of comfort, healing and reflection and it was no different this time, as the children laughed splashing in the waves, or my son as usual building an epic construction in the sand (he has always done that since a small child) I wrote my name in the sand and set about searching for unusual stones glinting in the wet pools stuck between the rocks.  The sun was shining, there was a gentle breeze and sea was sparkling and whispers of waves as they lapped the shore. While searching for my stones I talked to God, thought of everything I had to be grateful for – I was calm, serene and at peace with myself and I felt a time of warmth within my soul which is such a good feeling to have. The stones outlined my name encircled within a heart.  Why was I doing this – not only because I love finding beautiful and unusual stones but also because I had read somewhere that if you write you name in the sand, when the tide comes in it will wash it all away along with all the pain, negatively and bad feelings allowing you to let go, feel free and to move forward. 

 “I wrote my name within the sand filled with stones of colour & shade then watched the tide sweep it all away along with the pain of yesterday” – Belinda Federl

“One cannot collect all the beautiful shells or pebbles on the beach; one can collect only a few & they are more beautiful if they are few”

“Laughter of children splashing in waves, creative structures of sand, blue skies ahead & letting the world slide by in a moment of time.” Belinda Federl 

“The voice of the sea speaks to the soul.” Kate Chopin 

I came away from my holiday with renewed energy, hope and purpose with a calmness of spirit which was good because unfortunately drama in my life is never far away!

I hope that your summer season brings you a change of pace to life, an opportunity to refresh and renew your batteries with restored energy and the leaving behind of your problems and worries if just for a moment and brings hope and a lightness of spirit.