FiMunro

love, light and mermaid tails


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Love and Kindness – RAOK Envelope

Yesterday I handed out one of my random act of kindness envelopes. It’s been a while I know! – for those of you who aren’t familiar with these cash envelopes I hand out out to strangers you can read more here.
I was out having lunch with my hubby and two friends in a local cafe when I spotted the owner having cuddles with another customer’s dog. Now, I’m never one to miss out on the chance for any kind of animal encounter so, of course, I made my way over to join the fun.

I was met by a huge dog full of affection – a result of a clearly loving owner! As I was walking back to my table the owner of the cafe explained that the women and the dog were regulars and that the dog is provided with a tuna sandwich all of its own when they visit. Yes you read that right!

Well I was so touched by this clear act of love. As many of you know my dog was a huge support to me during my treatment and so it’s always a joy for me to see similar relationships. So, without hesitation I got out an envelop and asked the owner to pass it on to them without telling them it was from me. This was a new approach as ordinarily I pass it on myself.

The feeling was just as wonderful as always – knowing that through a simple act of passing on the kindness that had been giving to me I was brightening a stranger’s day. I LOVE it! I hope that it will have brought joy and love to this person in an, all too often, sad world. 

More importantly I hope it will have reminded them (and you reading this post) that kindness is a wonderful and powerful thing that can really change the world.

I love being able to pass on this kindness to otherrs and I’m so grateful to each and every one of you who has ever donated to my ‘kindness’ pot.

Remember, kindness doesn’t have to be the ‘gift’ of cash. It can be a smile; holding open a door; forgiving someone; listening; hugging…the list is endless. What act of kindness will you do today?

With love and light, Fi xxx 

EDIT: I received this beautiful response from the recipient…

Hello Fi. Yes I had to investigate and discover the kind person who chose me as the recipient of your gift. What a surprise it was. I’m still getting my head round what turned out to be a memorable Saturday. I was taken with your joy when meeting Mia and the look on your husband’s face when you were leaving was also notable – now I know. You have been through the wars and I am pleased to learn that you are surviving and making the most of life. I hope that I may encounter you in the future but meantime your kindness is much appreciated. Keep well 💜


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What if there was a stage five to cancer?…and it was positive…

I havn’t been blogging recently, instead I’ve been focusing on writing my book and so I’ve been saving my updates to just my Facebook page. However, whilst away in Europe just now I had an experience that I had to share with you all…Hubby and I had booked a last minute train journey from Scotland to London and then on to Paris. Instead of micro planning the trip like we would have previously, we just booked return tickets and our first two nights in Parirs. After that, we decided to leave our holiday to chance by arriving in Gare De Loyn (Paris’s international train station) and booking on to the next train….with no plans of where we would end up, no accommodation booked, a true adventure to say the least.

Anyway, I’m digressing, as usual. On our first day in Paris we stumbled upon one of those beautiful serinipidous moments that I hope you will enjoy hearing about. At the very least, I hope I do it justice in my writing because, for me, it was utterly magical.
We had spent the day wondering the city. I’d been telling hubby that Paula Cohelo (my favourite author) frequently mentions in his books that to ‘know’ a city is not to do all the tourist attractions but to ‘get lost and discover it for yourslef’. With this in mind we hadn’t joined the crazy long queues to climb the Eifle Tower, instead we had marvelled at it from the ground below before wondering through the streets, lanes and local parks. In fact we wondered so far that by the end of the day a background app on my phone recorded 5.5 miles – the furthest I’ve walked in one day since my diagnosis.

Walking through a park whilst searching for somewhere for dinner I was struck that everyone around us was busy taking ‘selfies’ and not enjoying the moment. Now, don’t get me wrong, those who know me know I’m guilty of more than a few selfies so no judgement from me, I was just struck that it was what everyone was doing. No one was actually talking to one another – so busy where they trying to capture the perfect moment that they were forgetting to actually live it. I recalled a conversation I’d had with one of the documentary makers last year. They’d explained that there had been a study done that you remember experiences differently if you look at them through your phone taking photos of videos. In short they were saying to live the moment rather than capture it to show an ‘airbrushed’ version of your life on social media.

Again I’m digressing, but it is relevant I promise…

As we were walking, surrounded by people on their phones, something caught my eye. Just past everyone else there stood a very smartly dressed man standing away from the crowd feeding the birds. As I watched I noticed a large animal near his feet. “Is that an otter?” I asked my hubby. “Where?” He declared, no doubt confused by my random question about a water mammal whilst in the middle of a busy city. However, I pointed and managed to convince him that we needed to explore further.

So, we made our way over to the man, who appeared embarrassed by our presence, giving the sense that we were intruding on a private event. What we witnessed was beautiful and I feel both blessed and humbled to have been a part of it.

The man had a large bag of bread from which he was feeding a range of birds, including two groups of newly hatched ducklings. However, he was also taking his time to carefully peel and slice pieces of carrot to hand feed a large water vole. By large I mean the size of an adult Tom cat. The interaction between them was awe inspiring. This man, in his no doubt designer suit was not just feeding these animals but he was doing so with love and care. These were his pets, his friends, his family. Each time he fed the water vole, just a rodent to many, he knelt down and whispered to it in French before it gently took the carrot from his hands. Standing close to the man, I also had the pleasure of this beautiful wild animal coming up to me.

​​
“Do you speak English?” I asked the man in French.

“A little,” he shyly replied.

“Do you come every day?”

The excitement was evident in his reply, “oh yes, every day, I live just there, ” he pointed nearby.

We continued to watch the interaction and I’m glad we did because the magic increased. The man bent down again and handed the water vole a large piece of bread. Taking it with the same care it had the carrot it wondered to the water edge where it placed the bread in the water. Confused we watched as a group of large fish came to the surface to eat the bread.

“Did it just intentionally feed the fish?” Hubby and I asked one another. ‘That can’t be.”

However, as we watched the man carefully cut another piece of carrot for the water vole which it again accepted with care and ate in front of the man. Next the man gave him another piece of bread and, amazingly, again it carried it to the water edge to feed the fish.

Isn’t that incredible?

With love, care and daily patience this man had created a bond so strong with this wild animal that they were now working together to feed other animals. In harmony their kindness was creating ripples.

Two things struck me in that moment: The first, of course was the beautiful connection that can come between the love of a human and an animal. It’s something I’ve experienced many times myself with pets and wild animals alike and it is always a privilege and a joy. The love this man was expressing was a pleasure to witness and the joy it gave him was evident – I am sure he would have many stories to share over a coffee.

The second realisation was that not one other person in the park that day had noticed this interaction. Too busy taking selfies alongside tourist attractions like thousands of people before them, they hadn’t experienced the magic and wonder in that very place that you wouldn’t find in any tourist guides. I finally understood what Paulo had meant in his books. 

I said at the start of this blog post that I hoped I could do this encounter justice and I doubt that I have. In reality I think this moment had a profound meaning on my life so deep that I wouldn’t be able to express it through the simple action of documenting words. You see it relates to a conversation I had recently with someone I care about. They had explained to me that they had stopped following my public Facebook page because it was too focused on cancer. “That’s just not you.” They’d declared.

It had left me thinking….what was me?

Yes in March my Facebook page had, admittedly, taken a huge focus on cancer in recognition of ‘Ovarian Cnacer Awareness Month’. However, it was also the month that my health had suffered most since the end of treatment with my magnesium levels dropping radidly again. Coincidence? I think not. I am a strong believing in attracting what you think about. I mean I am the girl who I for no genetic reason had convinced herself that she’d be diagnosis with ovarian cancer at the age of 30 and lo and behold look what happened…

Their simple words had touched me deeply and I realised they were right, I am not about cancer. Whilst I like to raise awareness I do not ‘suffer’ from my diagnosis. I am not a ‘victim’ and don’t even get me started on ‘fighting cancer’ – I loath that term!

“So, what am I about?” I was left wondering.

This encounter gave me my answer, It reminded me exactly what makes my heart sing.

I am about love. I am about light. I am about healing. I am about joy. I am about LIVING – truly, madly, deeply!

What if cancer has a stage five after stage four? What if Stage Five is finding out what you are about. What if Stage Five is about LIVING?

My wish for you…enjoy the moment. Get lost and discover the hidden joys in your life – trust me they are everywhere when you start to look! Above all, if you have a late stage cancer diagnosis, may you embrace stage five and start to LIVE with the same love and care as the man I met in Paris.

Love and light always, Fi xx 


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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


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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


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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.



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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


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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


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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