FiMunro

love, light and mermaid tails


1 Comment

Kindness Ripples for Maggies

As I’m sure you already know, I hand out Random Act of Kindness envelopes to strangers in a bid to make the world a happier place whilst also raising awareness for Ovarian Cancer….If you don’t know this already then please check out my dedicated kindness page!

Well…just before Christmas I left an envelop on a parked car at the hospital where I get my cancer treatment. The woman who received it got in touch and let me know that she was ‘paying it forward’ as so many wonderful recipients have decided to do.

This is her message to you all.

I received one of Fi’s wonderful teal, random act of kindness envelopes on my car in December, along with the money was the card. When I looked into what it was, I was amazed to read Fi’s story and her journey. I was inspired to put this gift to good use. I made up a medical tv drama anagram quiz using the £10 gift from Fi as the prize and I am pleased to say it raised £67 for Maggies Dundee. Fi continues to inspire me and also some of my friends who are also carrying out RAOK of their own.

Love and light, Fi xxx

kindness


8 Comments

How Yoga Healed My Fear of Cancer

“I’m really sorry. You have cancer”.  
      I’ll never forget that moment. The moment the word ‘cancer’ entered my world.

      I was just 30 years old and I was being told I had stage four ovarian cancer. There is no stage five. My diagnosis was terminal.

      I knew, in that moment, that I had a choice: a choice between succumbing to my poor prognosis, giving up and immersing myself in fear and self-pity; or choosing to embrace life, rediscovering the joy of living and spreading positivity with those that I meet.

      I, of course, chose the latter.

      So, when I was told that my cancer was likely inoperable but that they would give me chemotherapy to ‘make me more comfortable’ I decided that my story didn’t need to end there. I had far too much living to do. I still had the power to remain in control.

      Mustering as much strength and positivity as I could – you need to remember at this stage I was critically ill and could hardly walk – I decided to dedicate my time to my health. Having practiced yoga and meditation as a form of relief from a very stressful work life for a number of years I knew that health and healing should be viewed holistically. I began developing my personal healing journey by looking not at the cancer in my body, but at the dis-ease in my mind, body and spirit. The deeper I explored, the more I realised that I wasn’t as healthy as I’d once thought. Stress, anxiety, grief and, unsurprisingly, sugar where plaguing my immune system. I needed to start making changes and fast!

I started to meditate daily – something I’d previously pushed to the bottom of my priorities, telling myself I was far too busy for ‘nonsense’ like that. I started to spend time in nature breathing in the beautiful fresh air that surrounds our country home. I also started to embrace a whole food, sugar free diet. And guess what, something wonderful started to happen. Just 10 weeks following my diagnosis I was approved for surgery.

      In May 2016 (five months after my diagnosis) I had the largest operation the team had performed on a stage IV ovarian cancer patient. During this they removed my ovaries, fallopian tubes, womb, cervix, appendix, spleen, omentum, part of my bowel (I now have a colostomy bag), part of my liver, part of my diaphragm and part of my pancreas. Recovery was hard and I spent a long six weeks in hospital.

      Once home I wanted to immerse myself into everything I’d been learning. Most importantly, I wanted to start practicing yoga again. However, no one could tell me if it was safe. I’d been told I shouldn’t expect to even walk up stairs for a few months, but here I was 3 months later, walking 2-3 miles daily and desperate to bring Asanas back into my life. A deep inner knowing was telling me this was what my body needed and I wasn’t prepared to give up.

      Finally, admitting that no yoga studio was going touch me, I approached a teacher training school. If no one knew if it was ‘safe’ then I would learn for myself. I would become an expert in my own body and healing. Amazingly they took the risk and, just 4 months after my surgery I enrolled in their 12-month training program. Something incredible started to happen. No longer was I just being taught about yoga as a form of fitness – the prevalent view in modern western society – but, instead, I was learning about the holistic benefits of yoga. I was learning about pranayama, the yamas and niyamas and a plant based diet. I knew this was the healing journey I had craved.

      And, I was right. I have now been in remission for nearly 6 months and, aside from some fatigue, I am feeling healthier and happier than I ever thought possible.

      I don’t know if yoga and embracing holistic health healed my cancer but one thing is for sure, it healed my fear of cancer and taught me how to live again.


      I now embrace a happy and fulfilling life flowing with joy and positivity. Having started my teacher training as a means of supporting my own healing I now want to share this knowledge with others and help them on a journey to recovery too, and not just those who have cancer, but all those living with dis-ease in their lives. Most importantly I want to encourage those I teach to embrace yoga philosophy.

I recently qualified as a specialist children’s yoga instructor and in August I’ll qualify as an Ashtanga Teacher for adults. I have just launched my own business as a yoga instructor. I couldn’t be more excited to start this new and exciting phase in my life.

Love and light, Fi xx


 —

Fi has recently set up her own business as a yoga instructor for children and adults.

You can read more about Fi Munro on her public Facebook page.

She is currently writing a book about holistic health and healing due for release soon.

She is also a regular blogger for Huffington Post.



4 Comments

living with fatigue

I’ve tried and failed to explain life with fatigue but this week someone explained it to me perfectely and I had to share it.

They just ‘got it’.

First let’s get one thing out of the way…fatigue and tiredness are not the same thing. Not even close. You don’t know what fatigue is like until you’ve experienced it. I don’t care how many kids you have, how many late nights you’ve had, how hungover you are, what your work pattern is (insert anything else here) you just don’t! Yeah I thought I knew what it was before too…turns out I was wrong…

Ok so now my little rant is over let me share the explanation…

Fatigue is like waking up each day with 4 cups of energy whilst everyone else has 20. You can choose how you spend each cup. You might choose to use two on seeing a friend, one on yoga and one on cooking dinner. The rest of the time would be spent lying down. So each day is about making a decision on where to spend your cups. Also keep in mind that obviously sometimes you have to spend cups on doing housework, paperwork, food shopping and other necessities…

BUT you can’t spend 5 cups one day and expect it to be ok because you’ll just have 3 the next day. That is how tiredness works. That is NOT how fatigue works. With fatigue if you spend 5 cups instead of 4 then it will cost you ALL of the cups for the next COUPLE of days. In my case this means sickness, sleeping, an inability to think and function clearly…

So if I don’t answer the phone, change our plans last minute, have to rest, can’t spend as much time with you etc etc then it’s just part of my life with a long term medical condition and that has to be ok.

Personally I choose to spend my cups on yoga and writing because I am extremely passionate about them and I want to make a difference for others. The days I don’t do either of these I feel lost and alone. They make my heart sing! If cancer has taught me anything it’s to do what matters to you with the time you have.

I carefully plan when I use cups on social activities. Don’t get me wrong,  I would LOVE to have the same ability to socialise like I did before but it just isn’t the case. I think people think I do lots of social activities each week but in reality I actually restrict my time to seeing two friends each week because I’ve learnt that anything else leads to cancellations which I know hurts people’s feelings. Especially if they haven’t seen me for a while.

In amongst all of this I also need to find the energy to spend time with my husband -sleeping with my head on his shoulder while he watches TV doesn’t count! – and with my incredible family.

When you start to add all these things together you soon see that the cups of energy don’t spread far. Especially when, in the analogy, a ‘normal’ person has about 20 cups each day and can ‘borrow’ from other days.

Fatigue is a really disabling condition and it’s also emotionally challenging because sometimes people, as hard as you might try to explain, just don’t get it.

So, if you are going through your own journey with fatigue, know that you are not alone. I get it and maybe one day others will too.

Love and light, Fi xxx


7 Comments

don’t disable me further

I know many fellow warriors (and, in fact many others) have to go through the process of PIP i.e. applying for disability ‘benefits’ and I wanted to share my experience with you all. As a researcher and service designer I find the process embarrassing to say the least. Not embarrassing for me – no in fact it has been soul destroying for me – but embarrassing for Scotland and the U.K. that we find this process acceptable.

Let me explain.

First of all I have issues with the words ‘benefits’. Having a weekly payment that is barely enough to cover a week worth of shopping because you are no longer able to be the primary wage earner in your house, pay your mortgage or other bills etc is not a ‘benefit’.

Secondly, the process takes months! I applied in December after not having the strength to do so for the 11 months previous because the form is over 20 pages long! I was told that a decision will be made a minimum of 16 weeks after my application. In the meantime I have to hope that we can cover our bills on one wage. What about single people? Worse still, what about single parents who are unable to work due to cancer or other conditions? They could become homeless in that time.

So what does the application process involve? First it involves filling in the giant form I’ve mentioned. This asked you to go into graphic personal detail about how your conditions affects you. You know, listing all the painful consequences that you’d rather not talk about with anyone. Like the fact you can’t do your job anymore because the drive alone leaves you so exhaust you spend the next few days on the sofa. I recall recently I drove to my work for my farewell meeting. The drive there and back was just over three hours and I was there for only two hours. The result however was two days in bed. Cronic fatigue is a massively debilitating long term side affect of chemotherapy and massive operations.

Or how about the fact that sometimes your Stoma bag becomes detached and you have to bin your clothes – a factor that now mean I always carry spare clothes with me.

I could go on…

Now I’m an extremely strong person but some of the questions asked in the form had me in tears. I understand they have to know these things but the have already received a formal, detailed description from my oncologist!

After the form had been with them for 6 weeks I received a letter to say they were sending someone to my home to assess my condition. Not an oncologist or surgeon or GP or Macmilan nurse who understands my diagnosis…no…just someone to assess me in my own home. Someone without any experience of me.

For weeks I’ve burst into tears every time I think about it. The thought of one person coming into my home and judging me on face value and then making a decision about my ability to work that potentially overides the decision of my medical team and employer! It’s frightening.

The appointment for this assessment is far from handeled in the government suggest ‘person centred manner’. It states that you must be available for the given time…

“If you are not available without good reason when the health professional visits, the decision maker at the Department for Work and Pensions is likely to disallow your claim.”

What is good reason? Is the fact that the time they’ve allocated the time I’m usually napping a good reason? Probably not. Is the fact that it’s over lunch time on Valentine’s and that I’d like to spend it with my husband because such days have extra meaning when you are living with a life threatening illness? Also probably not. So what do I do? I behave like I’m told and I wait for the two hour slot there given me, not knowing the name of the person visiting or whether they are male or female or what their training and qualifications are. In fact, whilst they know every personal detail about me and have right of access to my home at their discretion…I know not one fact about them. This is not person centred care. This is dictatorship.

I know people who read my blog may be thinking ‘you’re so active how can you be classed as disabled’ and so I think it’s important to highlight some things for those who don’t know me or who haven’t personally experienced cancer…

Some days are great. I manage some yoga and do some reading and maybe even see a friend for lunch before spending an evening cozied on the sofa with my hubby. The next day I’m shattered though. In contrast, however, some days are awful. I get up in pain, I don’t manage to eat, I’m chained to the bathroom floor for hours unable to move due to constant sickness. When I finally venture out I make it to the sofa where I spend the next few days. Or there are other days where it starts out great and I go out ready to enjoy a day and then I am suddenly rushing to a public bathroom where I embarrassingly spend hours, desperately wishing I was home. 

My life before was completely different. I traveled four hours a day to commute to my job. I worked full time as a researcher. I spend every evening either socialising or volunteering and in my ‘spare time’ I trained to be a hypnotherapist. I may not be disabled by sociable standards but I am disabled compared to me before. I hope the process will acknowledge this.

As I write this I am overwhelmed with fear. My life is being judged by someone who does not know me and who I do not know. They have so much power over how my life moves on from this moment. I can’t help but think that the process is disabling in itself.

I can only hope that the person who visits me today will recognise this.*

Love and light, Fi xx

*edit. The person who visited was compassionate and caring. Within minutes my fear vanished and I felt listened to. I have to still wait 6 weeks for a decision but in the meantime I am reassured that she cared. Whilst the process may be debilitating and lack a person-centred approach the human connection was real and supportive. Work needs to be done, however, to improve the ‘paperwork’. 

For now I just have to wait and see if the ‘system’ recognises and values the impact invisible disabilities have on people’s lives xxx


1 Comment

Is this the best it gets?

As I lay there on the floor, wrapped in a towel, unable to move from the pain and sickness I wondered does it ever go away? The fear? The illness? The anger? Is this the best it gets?

Every ache, every pain, every twinge, every new sensation bringing with it the lingering thought ‘is this cancer?’


No longer do you just get a head ache. No it must be a brain tumour.

The pain in your side can’t be from overdoing it. No it must mean the cancer in your lungs is back.

Upset tummy? That’s definitely the cancer spreading.

No matter how positive you are in the day to day, the here and now, the fear is just a moment away, waiting. Death walks beside you every step of the way.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not wallowing in a constant fear, depressed and unable to live. No, that would mean that the beautiful lessons cancer brought me had been ignored.

Instead I am aware of its whispers. I hear it call my name in the quiet moments of pain, in the dead of night, punctuating my daily joy with subtle reminders of its permanent presence.

Internally I scream,

“I heard you. I learned the lessons. Now hear me. I want to LIVE!”

Of course it will not hear. You cannot bargain with stage four cancer.

It is such a cruel reality; the gift of knowing how precious life is and wanting to live and enjoy every moment coinciding with the fact that your life will be shortened by this gift. Oh the painful irony.

Perhaps, however, that is part of the beauty of stage four cancer. Perhaps if remission meant ‘never to return’ instead of ‘short break‘ then the lessons wouldn’t be learned. Time would march on and slowly we’d slip into old habits, forgetting the value of each moment, each breath.

Yet this fear does not bring joy.

People want to comfort you, telling you it’ll be ok. You are different after all don’t you know…

You know the truth though. You smile and nod, excepting their reassurance but inside your pain feels belittled. Why won’t someone just listen to your fears without comforting? Why won’t someone just hear your words?

In the incredible book ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ the author perfectly states “there is cancer and then there is CANCER“, highlighting the difference between those who have curable cancer and go on to live happy, healthy lives and those who, like me, have incurable cancer which will linger in the shadows ready to pounce.

Recently a friend said “we’ll look after Ewan when you’re gone.” The acceptance, the acknowledgment of the reality of my disease was the most comforting words I’d ever heard. They didn’t depressingly insinuate that my death was imminent, neither did they ignorantly suggest I was ‘heathy’. No, what they did was reassure me. With those words they also silently said, ‘I hear your fears’, ‘I love you’, ‘I support you’, ‘I’m here’. 

I was not as alone as I’d once thought. They knew. They accepted.

And suddenly I realised. Perhaps everyone ‘knows’.

Had I really thought talking about it would make any difference? Is that what I want?

No.

Would constantly grieving the future change the reality?

No.

Perhaps all each of us in this journey together – the cancer warriors and their loved ones – can do is savour each moment, each smile, each breath without anticipatory grief of an, as yet, unknown future.

Yes, perhaps that’s all any of us can do. Each and every one of us on this wild and wonderful journey called ‘life’. We can live for today, irrespective of tomorrow, and pause and smile at all of the wonderful, incredible and beautiful moments there are to be grateful for.

You see, living in fear doesn’t change anything. However, living in gratitude…now that can change your whole world!

Love and light, Fi xxx

Ps. Dear Reader, please don’t take this post to mean that I am ‘depressed’ nor that I want to talk about my prognosis all the time. Instead please understand that I wrote this post merely to highlight some of the painful moments felt on the rollercoaster that is LIVING with late stage cancer.xxx

You can read more about Fi Munro on her website and public Facebook page.

She is also on twitter, instagram and youtube.

© FKMunro.com 2017 


1 Comment

The Importance of Going the Extra Mile

Today I had an absolutely incredible experience I want to share with you all!

A dear friend invited me out for afternoon tea at Malmaison Dundee – this was a potential nightmare for me!…due to range of allergies and stage four cancer I follow a strict no dairy, no gluten and no sugar diet and, historically, that basically eliminates everything in an afternoon tea.

I nervously called the hotel and explained my allergies weeks in advance. ‘Not a problem at all’ they explained. Still, I was nervous. I so didn’t want to be ill and, selfishly, I also didn’t want to be faced with a dull salad I could make at home while my friend was spoiled.

Well the pastry chef went above and beyond! She carefully prepared a beautiful selection of food for me. Each item met my dietary needs and she even carefully didn’t use any artificial sweeteners either! She went one step further and came to introduce herself and explain genuinely that she had enjoyed the challenge of creating something new!

This was without doubt the best eating experience I have had since diagnosis! For the first time in months I felt I was eating like a ‘normal’ person and it was incredible! The simple act of this wonderful woman taking pride in her work gave me an amazing experience.

In fact, all of the staff were exceptional and I feel truly blessed!

This post is a HUGE thank you to Sara the pastry chef at Malmaison in Dundee and the rest of the team…especially our waitress too (she was awesome as well)! The world needs more people like you who take a pride in their work. Thank you for being awesome!

Unsurprisingly I gave Sara one of my random Act of Kindness envelopes too!

Perhaps we can all learn from people like Sara. We can…

  • Enjoy our work
  • Take a challenge as an opportunity to learn
  • Help others
  • Smile
  • Be kind
  • Go the extra mile

I feel truely blessed to have had such a lovely experience.

Thank you to everyone involved!

Love and light, Fi xxx


2 Comments

Love Organic

I’m not going to be one of those people who preaches that everyone should be vegan…even I LOVE meat…

However(!)…I do preach that people should eat with a responsibility for the source of their food and the treatment of the animals before they become meat AND the treatment of the farmers.


📷 unknown

I only eat organic not only because of all of the toxic chemicals, antibiotics, hormones, pesticides (and so on) added to non organic food but also because it makes it easier to trace the source of my food and, in doing so, allows me to take responsibility for its impact on the environment.

Similarly I only eat whole foods and make everything from fresh ingredients so that I know, without any doubt, the source of everything that I eat.

I am dairy and gluten free due to allergies and, although I follow a plant based diet I am only 99% vegan. When I do eat meat I ensure it is organic, and when I eat fish I ensure it is wild (never farmed).

I could probably write a book on the research I have done into food in the last year as it is an area I am extremely passionate about, however I won’t go on and on in this post (although questions are welcome). What I will say is that I know organic is more expensive and yes our household food bill has risen this past year HOWEVER is it a small price to pay for health? ABSOLUTELY!

For me it’s just about priorities and I prioritise knowing exactly what is in the food I eat. We live in a society where we find it acceptable to spend £3 on a takeaway coffee but won’t pay £2 for organic eggs. Seriously!?

It is my firm belief that the food you eat defines your health.

This is why, this year, hubby and I will begin growing as much of our own food as possible using our existing greenhouse and also installing a mini polly tunnel.

Join me in choosing organic food, taking responsibility for your impact on the environment and having consideration for the animals and farmers involved in the food industry.

It doesn’t need to mean your outgoings each month are any more…it just might mean one less takeaway coffee or one less glass of wine (for example)…

Could you go organic?

Love and light, Fi xx

You can read more about Fi Munro on her website and public Facebook page.

She is also on twitter, instagram and youtube.

She is currently writing a book due for release in 2017.

© FKMunro.com 2017