FiMunro

love, light and mermaid tails


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Lung Scan

Tomorrow evening at 6.40pm I am having a CT scan of my lungs.


I’m not a huge fan of scans and I had planned to not have any more however I am desperate to get on a plane and go to Thailand with hubby one day. So, this scan is to see if my lungs are clear and I am safe to fly. Fingers crossed! I am hoping and wishing for some positive news!!

Usually it’s me sending love and light but (just this once) I’m asking you to send love, light and healing to me.

I’ll keep you all posted on the results!

Fi xxx


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The Hardest Part is ‘Looking Well’

I’ve come to realise that one of the hardest parts of living with stage four cancer is people not appreciating what that actually means in reality…

…that you are living with stage four cancer, essentially, for the rest of your life.


Unlike some cancers, it is not ‘curable’ and, as such, it does not ‘go away’. You do not ‘get better’. You live your life despite it or, as I like to think, because of it. It can be so frustrating when people don’t understanding this or when they think that because my chemotherapy is finished that I must be ‘all better’. 

They look at a photo of me on an evening out and think to themselves ‘she looks well, she must feel well too’. Unfortunately, that’s simply not always the case…

What people sometimes fail to realise is that a couple of hours out is paid for by a couple of days resting afterwards. They look at a photo and think that it paints the whole picture, whilst failing to realise that after that smile was captured I needed help to climb a flight of stairs, that I slept all the way home or that I was up all night throwing up. They read a post about me watching a comedy show but don’t realise that I only saw 20 minutes of it because I had to leave the show 5 times due to an upset stomach so bad my colostomy bag couldn’t control it, resulting in a scene similar to that time I looked after a baby with a nappy explosion that resembled a scene from “The Exorcist”…yes that’s too much info I’m sure but I promised to let people understand what living with cancer is really like – the good and the bad – and maybe someone reading this has been through similar and could benefit from reading that they are not alone…


You see, sometimes people forget…

  • They forget that 3 months ago I had five organs removed and four others partially removed.
  • They forget that treatment doesn’t end with chemotherapy. I still have a year of monthly infusions of Avastin and goodness knows what treatment after that.
  • They forget that I’ve just had 6 rounds of two different types of chemotherapy and that this will take months to recover from, and that’s without the additional recovery time needed from my surgery.
  • They forget that I am still healing, emotionally and physically, and that this sometimes takes all the strength I have.

I blame social media for this, and also, partly, myself. Lately I have been posting pictures of the nice things I’ve been doing like going to the opera and seeing Bryan Adams perform, but I’ve failed to discuss how this has made me feel physically. Yes both were amazing experiences and I’d never trade them in for anything, but they were also extremely exhausting. Following seeing these two shows within one weekend, I had to clear my diary for some well earned ‘me’ time to recover. I was just exhausted!…not like a tiredness you’ve experienced unless you’ve had chemotherapy, cancer or major surgery…we are talking out of breath from having a shower tired; needing to sit down after doing the food shopping tired; unable to clean your own house tired.

Not only am I physically tired, but I’m mentally tired too. A combination of managing tens of messages a day whilst also worrying about my upcoming ‘end of treatment’ scan has drained me of all mental capacity. I find myself numb and in need of recharging. This came to a head recently and I had a much needed rest from social media and my phone…something I will repeat in future as it was so refreshing to have some down time. As someone who loves nature and being outdoors, I had lost touch with the importance of a slower paced life, especially whilst recovering and healing. This is something I will now be focusing my energy on as I spend more time meditating, practicing yoga and walking in the woods.

 So, what am I getting at?…

Essentially I want people to:

  • realise that recovery isn’t instant, it takes time.
  • appreciate that whilst they may see ‘end of treatment’ and ‘cured’, a person with cancer may see ‘uncertainty’ and ‘fear’.
  • not to take someone’s apperance at face value, instead understanding that some pain is invisible (and that makeup can do wonders to hide an illness in the same way a smile can hide pain!)

Living with cancer has highs and lows. I feel extremely blessed for every day I have and try my hardest to live my life as best I can. Some days that means piling on my makeup and going to a comedy show. Other days it means pulling on my yoga trousers and meditating in the garden. Whatever each day brings I will not let cancer defeat my spirit. I will smile, I will look as unsick as I possibly can and I will laugh each day. That does not mean I am healed, or cured or pain free. It just means I am doing my best to recover from treatment and to live my life happily. There are so many invisible illnesses, both physical and mental. In a similar vein to my post about feeling vulnerable, all I ask is that everyone share joy and kindness and compassion towards others whenever they can. You just never know who needs it most.

Love and light, Fi xxx

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Good Grief – Rediscovering the Value of Holistic Health

I realise I’ve not really blogged about my ‘cancer’ journey since the last time I had chemo (almost three weeks ago!), instead focusing on my random acts of kindness, so this post may be a little longer than usual…

Five days following chemo number five I was admitted to hospital…again. It was Monday evening and I started to get the same abdominal pains I’d had prior to my previous hospital admission. We had the usual back and forth conversation with the national cancer helpline before they contacted the ward and I was asked to make my way into hospital. By this time it was after 8pm. I was in a lot of pain and my limbs felt weak and achy. It was as if the bones throughout my body were being drilled. It was horrible!

I was put in a consultation room while they paged the doctor on call that evening. I was tossing and turning in pain and, at one point, lay on the floor in an effort to get comfortable. During this time a couple of nurses came in and attempted to get blood. Eventually one successed but not before several attempts, more pain and more bruises.

After being seen by the doctor I was moved to an empty bay. My husband was sent away and I tried to get some sleep while I waited to be taken for chest and abdominal x-rays. I really wish I’d stop having these – it’s been once a week lately and surely that can’t be doing any good for my body!

A porter arrived at 2.30am to take me to the x-ray department. I was helped into a wheelchair and we began the journey through the maze of corridors. The lights were out in most of them and the windows were open – hospitals can be frightening enough places during the day but when in darkness and empty and cold they become very creepy!

Prior to my x-ray I was asked the same question I’ve been asked before every x-ray, MRI and CT Scan but which, since surgery, has been heartbreaking.

Is there any chance you could be pregnant?

My medical records clearly state I’ve had a hysterectomy – or at least they should. They wouldn’t ask a man…and it’s just as ridiculous to ask me! More importantly, it hurts my soul every time they ask.

Following my x-rays I was returned to the ward. During my time away my things had been moved to a bay with five other people. It was now after 3am, I was tired and fell asleep quickly, not waking until morning.

I felt miserable when I woke. Sad about being back in hospital. Sad about the reality of my treatment and diagnosis. Sad about, well, everything. It was so unlike me! (Not helped by the fact that one of our beautiful fur babies had died suddenly over the previous weekend).


After breakfast I was visited by my oncologist. She hadn’t been told I was in hospital but had seen my name on the board. I was so relieved to see her. I trust her and value her opinion. Also, I know she won’t keep me in hospital unless absolutely necessary!

We both agreed that the reason for my admission was two fold. Firstly, the aches in my legs was due to my magnesium levels being too low. This was a symptom I’ve become all too familiar with recently as they seemed to be permanently low. In response, we agreed to double the dose of my oral magnesium medication. Secondly, she explained that my extreme fatigue and aching bones was due to one of my chemotherapy drugs – Paclitaxel. To combat this she suggested reducing the dose for my final chemo by 50%. This terrified me! So we had a discussion and agreed to reduce it but only by 20%. I once again felt my opinion mattered and that I too played a valued role in my treatment plan. I’m so grateful for this as I fear not all oncology patients are as fortunate.

Having made these changes she agreed that I could go home. However, as it happened, it wasn’t going to be that straightforward…

When my husband arrived to take me home I burst into tears. What was wrong with me? I hate being in hospital and I was getting to go home. I should be elated! We waited a while, had a chat and I calmed myself down. I packed my bag and we made our way to the door. However, en route, I got short of breath, my legs gave way and my heart was racing. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My husband ran and got a nurse and when they took my pulse it was 157! I was put in a wheelchair and placed in a side room where a doctor immediately did a heart trace – it was of course fine. Although my blood pressure was very low.

My issue, it appeared, wasn’t physical.

My issue was panic. Anxiety, that I hadn’t even acknowledged, was rearing its ugly head. 

For weeks I’d been focusing so much on my physical health that I’d left my emotional health unchecked. I had stopped meditating. I had stopped spending time in nature. I had stopped treating my health holistically!

After resting I was allowed home. This time I felt calmer. I recognised what was happening and that I needed to make changes. When we got home my husband and I both fell asleep, joined by Robbie our rescue dog. When we woke, a few hours later, my sister had visited and left a surprise gift. She’d secretly been collecting messages from friends in a book for me, waiting for when I needed it most to give it to me. This was certainly that moment. My face streamed with tears as I read my loved ones’ words. It was the most beautiful gift I’d ever been given – the gift of love.

I knew then that I needed to make changes. I needed to pick myself up. And that’s exactly what I did. Over the next week I made several steps to start focusing on recovering my emotional and spiritual health and wellbeing:-

1. I wrote down my favourite activities; beauty treatments, time in nature, going to the cinema, comedy shows, eating out, spending time with loved ones. I then made plans to include these in my life as much as possible. For example, I booked a beauty treatment for every week over the next 2 months…starting with getting my nails done.

2. I went to see my GP and spoke honestly about how I was feeling. I told her that I felt ‘flat’ and disengaged. I explained that I had lost my normal routine since surgery and the frustration I felt being too weak to walk our dog or drive. She listened, not rushing me so she could see her next patient, but instead supporting me to make a plan.

3. I started driving again. Oh the freedom!

4. I started walking my dog again. Just little 5 minute walks with my husband at first but slowly we built this up and now, just two weeks later, we are enjoying 2.5 mile walks most days!


5. I started doing my random acts of kindness. They gave me focus. They gave me purpose. Most of all, they gave me joy! The ripple affects of the first one lifted me in ways nothing else could have.


6. I started cooking beautiful, healthy home made meals, focusing on using fresh organic ingredients proven for their anti-cancer or health promoting qualities as I had prior to surgery. I, of course, started with a meal from Sabrina Ghayour’s cook book!


7. I started meditating again. Remaining mindful and focusing on the present moment, rather than letting your past or potential future influence your emotions, is key to remaining positive and enjoying life. I’d lost touch with this in the weeks following surgery and, as a result, my positivity had faded at times. 

8. I started reading again. Although I am off work for treatment just now, my working career was as a researcher and I have a PhD so reading and learning are fundamental to my way of life. Prior to my surgery I’d immersed myself in learning all I could about cancer and cancer treatment – both conventional and alternative. However, since my surgery I had lost this focus and with it, I’d lost one if my greatest passions in life: new knowledge. 

9. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I started seeing a psychologist at my local Maggie’s Centre. We’ve had only one session but it helped me tremendously! At the time of my diagnosis I was training (in my ‘spare time’) to qualify as a hypnotherapist and psychotherapist and so I have a lot of respect for talking therapies, although I’d never before seen a therapist for myself. It was a really powerful session for me. I was able to talk very openly about my prognosis and treatment and also about people’s responses. She validated my emotions, explaining how I feel and my response (mainly positive) is ‘normal’ and something she called ‘good grief’. Sometimes, when you are feeling anxious and maybe a little scared, that is all you need to hear! 

As a side note, I think it’s important to mention that Maggie’s provide this service completely free of charge!

As a result of these changes I feel transformed. I once again feel in touch with who I am, my values and my holistic approach to remaining healthy.

I am glad I had a ‘panic attack’ because it demonstrated to me the importance of focusing on all three aspects of health – physical, emotional and spiritual – in order to maintain my holistic health and wellbeing.

Love and light, Fi xxx


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Home is where the fur babies are…(video)

Well I got home late Thursday afternoon and it’s just been amazing!

I am feeling much better that I did the last time I was discharged from hospital. This, of course, is helped by the lovely greeting I got from our fur babies who I had missed so much!


I’m still by no means recovered but I’m definitely in a better place both emotionally and physically than I was two weeks ago.

It was so lovely to see our animals and sit in our garden with my husband and just relax. I realised that for the past five weeks I’ve not been alone. I’ve had constant monitoring and tests, day and night. This meant that just simply sitting in the garden alone with our rescue dog was an incredibly magical moment. I’m thankful once again for being reminded to enjoy the little things in life and not take them for granted.


I’m not going to lie, there has of course been tough moments. Moments where I was too tired to move and just went for naps on the floor because it was the only place that felt comfortable. But, even having the option to do that, rather than being confined to a hospital bed, made these tough moments bearable. I know that may sound crazy but after five weeks of being directed in where I could go and what I could do, just wanting to rest on the floor and then actually being able to do so is strangely empowering.


I’ve still got a long way to go in my recovery but I’ve made great progress so far so I’m hopeful for the next few weeks. I restart chemo in just 10 days so, in preparation, I need to gain as much weight and strength as possible – after loosing two stone in hospital along with a lot of muscle wastage too. So that’s where my focus is – cooking organic meals, eating little and often and resting as much as I can while also trying to regain strength through gentle walking in the garden.

The light at the end of the tunnel is shining brighter every day.

Love and light, Fi xxx 


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Making Progress with Baby Steps

Since my post about feeling broken I’ve come on so far in my journey to recovery.

After breaking down over the needles on Saturday the medical team worked together to make things more comfortable for me. In fact their response and speed was second to none and what a difference they made! Within an hour they had made the decision that I didn’t need to receive fluids anymore as my blood tests showed that my levels were stable. They also switched all but one of my antibiotics to oral tablets. This meant that I instantly went from being attacked to an IV drip 24/7 to needing it only 3 hours twice daily. This meant that in the afternoons I was now able to be drip free! After so long this felt like a massive step in the right direction!

More importantly, this meant that I was now free to leave the hospital between lunch and dinner – if aided by my husband.

Instantly I went from a sobbing lost soul to my old self. That afternoon my husband brought my rescue dog to visit me and I’m not sure who was more pleased to see one another!

Pets really are an instant mood changer!

Together we went for a slow(!) walk in the woodlands on the hospital grounds.

It was magical! I felt so free. I was me again, walking my dog with the man I love. I still had my syringe driver and drain attached, I was still weak, I was still in pain, but I was happy and really, when it comes down to it, what more can we really ask for from life?
The following day (Sunday) my husband took me to the local Botanic Gardens in a wheelchair. 

Oh the buzz I got from being in nature again was just indescribable. The grass never greener. The flowers never more fragment. The sky never bluer. Slowly my soul was healing. Isn’t nature so powerful and wonderful.

Monday brought more positivity. I was visited by my consultant; a wonderful woman, who treats me rather than my diagnosis. She agreed that I would heal faster at home and that our focus needed to be to get me detached from all the machines/equipment. First step was to speak to the lab about the samples of sepsis taken from my body and what antibiotics would best treat it. Their response enabled me to be switched to just one antibiotic – rather than four! Best of all it was an oral antibiotic! I was disconnected from the drip completely and the painful venflon removed from my arm! Cue mini celebration!!!

Tuesday I was sent for an ultrasound scan to see if my drain could be removed. This would be dependent on all the sepsis having drained. I was so anxious. So desperate for good news, knowing that this would determine how much longer I needed to remain in hospital.

The scan, of course, was painless but they could see that a small (15ml) pocket of fluid remained. I was disheartened but I remained positive. I reminded myself that this was a tiny amount. I reminded myself how far I’d come. And I was right to, because the ward made the decision to remove the drain! They also made the decision to remove my syringe driver and try me back on oral pain relief and to stop my anti sickness medication. It was a lot of fast changes but it was positive. I was making progress. I was moving onwards in my journey and, more importantly, in the right direction.

My drain wasn’t removed until this morning but wow what a feeling! Suddenly I was free from attachments. I felt able to straighten my aching body again. Able to move more freely. I’d regained a sense of self. Today when I showered I wasn’t coordinating my usual juggling act of medical equipment. It was just me, standing under the healing water. Oh what bliss. The little things in life we take for granted really are all that matter in the bigger picture. They are wherein lies the joy.

As I write this I am dressed, no longer living in my pjs. I am free from equipment and my scars and bruises are fading. The cancer patient I faced in the mirror just days ago is fading. My sense of self is returning. This was only possible because of an exceptional medical team treating the person and understanding that health care goes beyond pharmaceutical drugs. This is person centred care. I am so grateful.

I’m not going home yet. But soon. The light at the end of the tunnel is shining bright. I’ve made it through another phase in my journey. It was tough. Tougher than tough. I saw darkness​, I felt pain, I faced fear, but it didn’t break me. I feel stronger for knowing the experiences I faced. Better for the people I’ve met. Inspired and encouraged by the human spirit and the love and care in the world.

I write this because I know many other beautiful souls will go to the dark places I went to in their own journeys. Please remember that where there is darkness there comes light. There is a way through. Never give up, least of all on yourself. You have the power to do this. You are enough.

Love and light, a very happy Fi xxx


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Getting to the route of the problem…

Warning…this post (and photos) may be too graphic for some…

—-

Since my last post 5 days ago the plan changed slightly.

On Friday I was taken to see an intervention radiologist in theatre to have my infection drained. I was to be awake for the procedure and the radiologist was to use an ultrasound and X-rays to guide the drainage. Now, I’m particularly anxious of drains after a bad experience earlier in the year where a Dr took several painful attempts to drain my abdomen; each time cutting through my skin, fat and muscle with no success…only pain! For this reason I’d asked if I could be sedated for the procedure. The Drs, thankfully, agreed and I was given an oral sedative on the ward before I was taken down to theatre on my hospital bed. However(!) en route we were told of a delay and I was taken back to the ward. Happy and relaxed I ate a wee protein seed bar while I waited. This was a mistake!…

Half an hour later I was back on my way down to theatre and met by the medical team who would be controlling my pain. They offered me the same IV sedation I’d had for my biopsies earlier in the year which had been very effective – I’d be awake but not ‘with it’ shall we say. Fantastic! Until they asked when I’d last eaten… Turns out I’d needed to be fasted for 6 hours prior! So they were no longer able to offer me sedation and instead could only offer IV pain relief. I was gutted!

Accepting this was just how it would have to be, I was wheeled on my bed into the theatre room. It was fascinating! Because I was awake and not sedated, I was able to watch the team getting ready. I was moved onto an X-ray table whilst they put on their X-ray proof vests and theatre aprons. They then scrubbed their hands and gloved up before placing theatre sheets over my body.

Next the radiologist used an ultrasound and X-ray machine to locate the abscess that had shown on my earlier CT scan. Once located he injected local anaesthetic into the area whilst a nurse started to administrater IV pain relief. The radiologist then began cutting through the layers on my abdomen and, initially, all I could feel was pressure. Suddenly I was hit with stabbing pain and I admit I screamed. He reassured me and injected more local anaesthetic whilst I was simultaneously given more IV pain relief. Once I was comfortable enough to proceed he went ahead with the final cut. It was excruciating! I burst into tears. He again reassured me and explained that he had been unable to numb the abscess wall and that’s why I had experienced pain.

His next step was to insert a tube into the abscess and then to drain some samples for the lab. Following this a drain bag was attached and the tube was stitched and tapped in place. I was then lifted back onto my hospital bed and changed into a new gown as mine was now stained with blood.

The team were exceptional. They explained everything, comforted me and even had music playing! I felt very well supported and entirely in safe hands.

I was taken back to the ward on my hospital bed and advised to remain lying down for a few hours. I was exhausted and unable to stay awake for long – a happy side affect of the pain relief.

What drained from the abscess over the next wee while was disgusting! A thick brown lumpy liquid that you definitely wouldn’t want hanging about in your body, least of all around your liver!

Although I’d been told it could be up to 5 days before the lab were able to determine if what was being drained was an infection, just a few hours following the procedure the ward received a phone call to say that the lab were already growing things from the samples. This confirmed that I did indeed have a form of sepsis. No wonder I’d been so unwell!

All I can say is I’m so glad to have access to medical treatment for this, however unpleasant it may be, and especially for the intervention radiologist allowing for treatment without the need for another general anesthetiser and operation!

Here’s to onward healing.

Love and light, Fi xxx


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Fellow Warriors

When on a life changing journey you meet people who, well quite simply, change your life. They change the way you see the world and the way you see yourself.

On my journey I have been blessed to meet many new people. Some are health care professionals, some are volunteers and some are fellow warriors. We walk this journey together – each playing a role in shaping each other’s lives.

Cancer can be lonely. Your friends and family and loved ones are all there supporting you and cheering you on but, fortunately/hopefully, none know what you are going through. None feel your pain. None see your worry as your worst fears crowd your mind. Instead they can just hold your hand, tell you they love you and watch (and cheer) from the sidelines.

Fellow cancer warriors are different. They have felt your pain. They have breathed your fears. They know the pain of telling loved ones their diagnosis. Of hearing a medical professional put a timeframe on their lives. Of having their lives change forever in a single breath. They are on the same journey.

I am blessed to have met many fellow warriors at different stages in my journey, with each playing a different and equally precious role.

This week one of my warrior friends slipped away. She, like me, did not fight her cancer but instead graceful lived her life with love and courage right until the end. She was truely a special person and, although I have only known her a short time, she played a massive role in my life and in my story. I feel honoured to say I have known her.

Thank you for the memories.

Sleep tight, Fi xxx