ovarian cancer

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 

ovarian cancer

What would you do if you had a week to live…

This year I faced Death. Not in a fleeting moment. We didn’t bump shoulders. No. Death and I stared each other straight in the eye.

It wasn’t the first time. In August 2015 my heart stopped during emergency surgery I’d required due to internal bleeding.

Interestingly that also wasn’t the first time…

No, it appears Death has hovered around me my whole life…from a near miss during my mum’s pregnancy (that’s her story to tell, not mine), to toxic shock from an allergic reaction to medication to being knocked down by a car (to name a few encounters).

You’d think my life long dance with Death would have made me wake up and realise that there was some message I was meant to receive. That Life was trying to tell me something…

On reflection now I realise that each encounter was more profound and extreme than the previous. Almost as if Life was shouting that little bit louder to get me to pay attention.

But no…in fact, it had the opposite effect. Instead of making me live for the moment it made be subconsciously believe that I was invincible, that I could survive all of this and so could put off my hopes and dreams until tomorrow…

That is until my cancer diagnosis.

For some reason, whilst brief encounters with Death had had no impact, the knowledge that it would now walk beside me for ever more was an entirely different story. Suddenly I was all to aware of my mortality.

True it didn’t taken just any cancer diagnosis. No, I was gifted a non-genetic, stage IV, possibly inoperable, ovarian cancer that ‘shouldn’t have happened’ to a thirty year old.

Life’s message had finally been received and I was listening.

So what do you do with this message? With the realisation that tomorrow isn’t to be taken for granted….that Life offers no gaurentees.

I remember the week before my big surgery. My husband took some holiday from work and I made a list of things I wanted to do. I never said it to him at the time but Death was with us at every moment. I was overwhelmed by the thought of not waking up from my surgery. It was to be a massive operation – the largest they’d done in one sitting – and that was frightening enough without the added concern that the last time I’d been on an operating table my heart had stopped. The surgeon had been brutally honest that there was more than the usual operation risk I wouldn’t wake up.

So, I had one week and I wanted to make it count. And, as a result, for the first time, I mindfully chose how to spend my time. I wasn’t wasting a second. Nothing was taken for granted.

  • I told people how much they meant to me. I loved them without reservation;
  • I had a picnic in a local park and invited everyone I knew (it was awesome);
  • I went out for amazing meals – I’m a foodie afterall;
  • I went to an aquarium – I LOVE water;
  • I spent time with my family;
  • I walked my dog and ran about in nature;
  • I went to the theatre.

The result? I realised what makes me happy and what truely matters in life.

Where you work, where you live, what you wear, what you drive; how big your house is; how much money you have…it’s all nothing. Nothing. Nothing! NOTHING!

Who you truly are; who you love; what makes you smile; what makes your heart sing…now that’s something! That’s what life is really all about!

In those few days I learnt more about Life and where my joy lies than I could have in a lifetime.

This is why I’m so grateful for my cancer. This is why I’m so positive and filled with love and joy and a childlike passion for life. And, if I’m totally honest, this is why I’m not ashamed to say I love mermaids and unicorns and glitter and sparkles. 

You see, I am me! And I’m so proud of being me! Every day is a blessing and I’m so grateful to be healthy enough today to enjoy this very moment.

If I had one wish it would be that everyone reading this would just embrace the reality that we are not promised tomorrow so we must live today unashamed of who we are; we should love with all of our heart and we should laugh as loud as we can and as often as we can (even if only at ourselves)!

The day before my surgery I planned to write letters to those who mattered most to me, just in case. In the end, I never did because I’m a strong believer of ‘tempting fate’ and fortunately those letters weren’t needed as I’m still here. But, this gave me a hidden gift because now I know who I would write a letter too if I had to say goodbye. I know every single soul in this world who means so much to me that I’d want to tell them. But that’s not the gift…the real gift is I get to appreciate this knowledge every single day and make sure I show them so that, if the time comes, they won’t need a letter.

One day you’ll just be a memory for some people. Make sure you’re a good one.

So, my message to you… don’t wait until tomorrow to love, to laugh, to follow your dreams. Do it today.

Merry Christmas.

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