I rose today having felt what I was meant to feel, having seen what I was meant to see, having said what I was meant to say.
So many people ‘advised’ that I stop writing and that I focus on me. I know they meant this with the deepest kindness but writing ’is’ me focusing on me. It is my therapy, my release, my way of processing and feeling everything that is there to be felt.
I do not write for anyone else but myself – although, admittedly, it brings me so much joy to realise how my words have helped so many others.
I can’t help but wonder how different our world would be if someone had told Anne Frank to stop writing. I’m not suggesting I am anything like Anne Frank, a courageous young girl whom I have admired since first discovering her words when I myself too was only young, but I am suggesting that our stories are important, healing and essential. We must share our stories. We simply must.
I feel in a good place today, like I am emerging from something, like I am shedding an old version of myself and stepping forward into something new.
I sense change ahead, yes, but change isn’t necessarily bad and I find myself feeling a sense of excitement at this new adventure I find myself on.
I’ve been in worst places in the past four years since my diagnosis than I find myself in just now. There is, of course, one significant difference now. Now I don’t see chemotherapy as an option for me when the trial completely stops working (which it hasn’t, yet).
As I’ve written many times before, chemotherapy (and any treatment) is a very personal choice and I do not advocate for or against any options. But I do know that chemotherapy is not the right option for me. Not again. Not after 4 years ago. This is my inner guidance and I trust it profusely. Nothing and no one will ever change my mind.
So what are my options?
Just now, medically, it is to stay on the trial. It is to keep breathing in the gratitude that this wonderful cocktail of significantly less toxic drugs is doing something to slow down this disease (even if they can’t stop it completely).
But that is just the medical picture and, if I’ve learnt nothing else on this journey it is that the picture is bigger than what can and can’t be done in a hospital. There is so much more that can be done for my mind, body, spirit and soul.
So, yes, it is accurate when I say I am excited because I find myself wondering ‘what if there is another way?’
And that’s exactly what I intend to spend the next 16 weeks finding out.
Why 16 weeks? Because that is the length of time someone with ovarian cancer is on chemotherapy for…AND, more importantly, because 16 weeks today I plan to get my adventurous soul onto a plane to Bali where I plan to spend 4 weeks healing with my gorgeous husband…something that will only be possible if my lungs stay stable…so I’m excited…I have a focus, I have an aim and I have a shit load of passion.
It ain’t over and, as ever, I ain’t dead yet (motherf*ckers)
It’s day 3 of our December kindness calendar and, today I want to talk about reaching out to those you love who are struggling.
Often someone (or multiple someones) in our life can be in need of help, support and a bit of extra tlc.
But life is busy and our own day to day dramas get in the way of us being there for anyone else.
We find ourselves making excuses like ‘I don’t have time’; ‘I don’t know what to do to help’; or ’I don’t know what to say’ …and so we do nothing, we say nothing, we continue with our lives.
Meanwhile the person who is struggling doesn’t know what our absence means and it only adds to their current situation.
I’ve been on both sides of this…the person avoiding the person in need (before I knew how to be there) and the person being avoided.
Both are shit.
So today is about taking a moment to reach out to that person in your life in a way that is filled with love and kindness.
Here are some ideas that I use when I don’t know what to say or do…
➳ send a message that says ’I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do. But I am here. What can I do?’ Trust me…it’s always better to say this than to say nothing.
➳ ask ‘how is your heart?’ This is different from asking ‘how are you?’ …to which the honest answer is usually ‘rubbish’ (or a swearier equivalent) …instead you are letting them know you really care about what’s going on for them.
➳ write them a card or note that says ‘I’m here when you are ready to talk’. There is no pressure for them to be ready now. You are just letting them know you are there when they need you. And trust me, they will take you up on it.
➳ Finally, it can be so easy to say ‘let me know if I can do anything’ but it can feel like an empty offer. Instead suggest something… would you like me to pick up some shopping for you? Walk your dog? Take the kids out? Sit with you? Often people in trauma don’t know what they need. Be the person who is actually there, doing something.
What else has helped you to know you are loved, seen and supported?
With love, gratitude and kindness today and always Fi xx
Acts of Kindness’ by handing out more envelopes but also by sharing daily kindness tips in ‘an alternative advent calendar’.
December, a time of love and connection has become so material and consumer driven that we can often lose sight of what matters (and who).
So this is my small step towards reminding us all of what matters…and it’s not something you can wrap in shiny paper and stick a bow on!
In fact…did you know I don’t give Christmas presents or cards…I’ll write a separate post about why and what I do instead.
So, today, on 1st December 2020 while many of you are eating the first piece of chocolate in your Christmas countdown I encourage you to join me in day one of my kindness calendar and LEAVE A POSITIVE NOTE IN A PUBLIC PLACE.
And…even better…send me a photo of it too!
With love, gratitude and kindness today and always Fi xx
Have you ever slipped into ‘self-destruction’ mode when what you really needed was ‘self-care’?
I certainly have…and more recently than you might think!
Lately I’ve found myself making all kinds of excuses for this – ‘I’ve lost a lot of weight I should eat high calorie processed food to regain it’ – ‘my body is tired, it’s ok to eat sugar’ – ‘I’m too exhausted to go out in nature today’ – and you should see my Amazon purchases after a hospital admission!…yes all books but no definitely not ones I needed!
All of these were excuses for not supporting my body, mind and spirit to properly recover. Instead I was giving myself a hard time, not acknowledging reality and, in fact, making my situation worse through self-judgment rather than much needed self-love.
Realisation, finally, hit me yesterday when I said to my nurse “I’m just too tired to do anything” – now, firstly, dramatic statements like this (in my experience) are usually just excuses and secondly, her reply was the wake up all I needed.
She reminded me what I’ve been through lately: 9 weeks of vomiting; 10 days in and out of hospital; two stone weight loss; an abdominal drain of malignant fluid; being told my cancer had spread (again); an IV of two broad spectrum antibiotics for a week; unable to eat for over a month; starting an immunotherapy trial…need I go on?
I realised that despite all of this happening, what I hadn’t done was give myself the necessary time to properly understand the effect this has had on my emotional and spiritual health.
Yes I’d started lots of self care practices – yoga, acupuncture, reiki, reflexology, Body Stress Release etc but I had done so with the frustrated mentality of ‘why isn’t it fixed yet?!’
What I’d needed to do instead was to treat the wounded parts of myself with care and compassion (like you would a small child – a friend recently suggested)
So yesterday I embraced what these parts needed (in particular after a long day in hospital getting dose two of my immunotherapy) – an afternoon cuddling my hubby in the sofa with Ozzy watching comedies…tick!
Then today I did the same. I didn’t get up at the crack of dawn like usual but instead had a lazy morning getting up only in time for my medication; then I sat about in my pjs eating a leisurely breakfast while watching Ted talks before me and Ozzy set out for a long walk in nature just the two of us – allowing me some valuable alone time in nature.
It feels so refreshing to be giving myself ‘permission’ to acknowledge that I am wounded rather than fighting this reality with frustration. In doing so, I am allowing myself the time it takes to truly heal and become whole again.
I wonder if you’ve acknowledged the wounds you’ve gained recently or in the past and if you’ve given yourself permission to take the time and space you need(ed) to heal?
Or perhaps you can relate to being in the ‘self-destruct’ mode through diet, exercise, indulgent or impulsive shopping, self judgement or anything else?
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 💜
I pledged to hand out one of my kindness envelopes every day between 1st and 24th December but it simply hasn’t happened for many reasons including a lot of resting and also some much needed time with my nearest and dearest!
I’m still, of course, handing out 24 envelopes in December (I don’t break promises) but now I’m just handing out multiple on the days I do venture out.
So, this is a wee update on 5 envelopes I handed out over a week ago. I hope these short stories inspire you to do good and to be kind.
Christmas Envelope 11
Many of you now know that I recently did a shark dive for Maggies’s Centres. It was an incredible experience that I’ve wanted to do for over nine years but had been putting off. If it hadn’t been for the support of my incredible oncologist and Macmillan nurse it would have remained a dream as my health conditions would have prevented it becoming a reality. However, with their support I was able to do it and I’m so so grateful! It was absolutely mind blowing.
Anyway, as usual, I digress. The dive took place at Deep Sea World in Scotland. It’s one of my favourite places as I love the sea more than anything else – a result of growing up on Guernsey. We’d been there the week before for my original date for diving and I’d handed out a couple of envelopes but my dive had been postponed for medical reasons so we were back again. Now, what you may not know is that we’d also been there the week before my surgery. It was one of the special things I did with my hubby to celebrate life that week.
That was back in May but a chance meeting with a wonderful woman who worked there had stuck with me and I was so glad to see her again that I gave her an envelope.
You see, back in May I was in the middle of chemotherapy treatment and, a combination of extreme weight lose, muscle wastage and no hair meant that, despite my best efforts, I had the look of a typical cancer patient.
When we were in the cafe at Deep Sea World a member of staff asked if she could give me a hug. I must have looked confused because she had quickly explained that she had had cancer in the past and that so had her mum. We began talking and she explained that her mum had had ovarian cancer. The same as me! She’d also had a big operation and was now doing grand! It was such a blessing to hear and exactly what I needed to calm my nerves so close to my own operation. The woman gave me the peace of mind that nothing else would and over the coming weeks and months I thought of her often.
So, a few weeks ago, following my shark dive my family and I sat down for lunch in the cafe again and here she was working (oddly she hadn’t been working the week before so if my dive hadn’t been postponed then I wouldn’t have seen her). We chatted and hugged again and this time she told me how well her mum was doing. Again, she left me inspired and filled with hope.
This woman is an angel to me and so deserving of an envelope. In fact, it was one of my favourite to hand over. I only wish I could have done more for this beautiful soul.
Christmas Envelope 12
One of my other favourite things to do is go to the cinema. I have no idea why but for me it is one of the most exciting nights out. Perhaps it’s because you can loose all sense of reality whilst emerced in a movie. I don’t know but I love everything from the massive screen to the surround sound and dark room. I especially love the trailers which I call ‘mini movies’. If it was a choice between going to a bar or going to the cinema, I’d pick the cinema every time! So, hubby and I go on a regular basis.
Last week was no exception and we found ourselves in the queue with me buzzing as always at the thought of seeing a new film. In the queue behind us was a man and his wee boy. Just the two of them. It got me thinking…you don’t often see men out with their kids on their own. Well, not that often anyway. I remembered that every second Monday on my train journey to work I used to see a man and his wee boy having to say goodbye to each other. I watched this relationship for two years during which the wee boy grew from about two to four. Every goodbye was as heartbreaking to watch as the previous. The wee boy would be crying and telling his daddy how much he loved him. The dad would be smiling and telling the boy that he’d see him in two weeks. They’d talk about the fun they’d had and the adventures they’d have the next time. Every time the dad was wiping his own eyes whenever the boy wasn’t looking. It was one of my favourite moments, seeing this connection between two souls who unconditionally loved each other but couldn’t be together. It was both heartbreaking and life affirming to witness.
The man and his child in the cinema got me thinking about this and, for some reason, I knew I had to give them an envelope. The man looked somewhat bemused as people often do when I approach them but, moments later, I saw them laughing together at the sweet counter and I knew I’d chosen well.
Christmas Envelope 13, 14 and 15
A few months ago I was honoured to be asked to speak at two Macmillan lunches for Team McKeown. It was a real privaledge to work with such amazing people.
Following the events, Caroline McKeown who leads this team with her hubby Des, very kindly offered me free tickets to see Michelle MacManus perform in Glasgow with an incredible Indian meal before hand at Ashoka Regent Brasserie in Kirkintilloch. It was such an amazing gift and a wonderful act of kindness that meant I could take out some great friends who have supported me this year.
Everything was perfect from the meal – which was so incredibly tasty! – to Michelle’s performance.
Whilst at the show I had decided to hand out three of my kindness envelope but(!) instead of handing them all out myself I gave one to each of my friends (aka Christmas helpers) to hand out too.
I gave mine to a young couple looking very much in love standing beside me in the never ending queue at the bar.
One of my friends gave hers to a woman walking behind us as we left – sadly I didn’t get a look at her.
My other friend, however, gave hers to a woman that not only ended up sitting beside me but who had also seen me present at the Macmillan lunches and what a blessing this woman was to me…
Seriously! She was like meeting an angel. This woman spoke from her soul about how my presentation had touched her and inspired her to ‘no longer sit back as an observer‘ but to ‘take action‘ and ‘make a change‘. She spoke with such passion and love as she told me her story and loses she’d experienced. We held each other, we sang together, we laughed and we cried and, I can honestly say, that despite our brief encounter, this woman touch my soul.
I said to her, “you know I think we needed to meet.” She replied telling me that “yes” she’d needed the inspiration. “No” I laughed “I think we needed to meet for me”.
And you know what? I truely meant it too. I’m a firm believer that you never meet anyone by chance, that everyone you meet has a lesson to teach you or a story that you need to hear. Just with the woman in the cafe mentioned above, this woman came into my life with her story at the right time and I was listening. Thank you beautiful soul.
So, what my message to you all? Listen carefully to what the world is trying to tell you. You never know where the story could lead you.
Love and light, Fi xxx
Ps. On Christmas Eve I handed out an incredible 10 Kindness envelopes!!…I’ll post an update soon!xxx
At this time of year as we spend time with our loved ones, take a moment to remind yourself how blessed you are to have them beside you.
Raise your glass to those whose only wish this Christmas is for a healthy new year and for the wonderful medical teams working throughout the holidays to ensure loved ones are with their families this Christmas.
Take a second to give a nod and a wink to those who have passed this year – those you knew and those who touched your life.
As you read this remind yourself that you are blessed…
You are here, you are alive and you have so much joy and love still to live.
Make it happen. Make today count.
Hug a little tighter. Laugh a little louder. Love a little deeper.
Merry Christmas everyone! Thank you so so much for you love and support this year and for your messages of hope, love and kindness.
Love and light, Fi xxx
*SLAHN-chə is a word literally translating as “health” in several Gaelic languages and is commonly used as a drinking toast in Ireland and Scotland.