I delivered another Random Act of Kindness today. It is honestly still my favourite thing to do! This one was extra special though as it came from someone else…
Despite the fact that I am meant to be resting I needed to go and order new glasses as I broke mine teaching kids yoga. Yes I know, if I’d been resting they wouldn’t have got broken…blah blah…
Anyway…I used to work in my local opticians so I let them know I’d be popping by. One of the women that works there reads my Facebook (**waves**) and so she dropped me a message to tell me to say hi when I was in.
This I did and I’m so glad! She is without doubt one of the loveliest souls I’ve ever met. No I’m not just saying that because she will read this! She welcomed me with a warm and enthusiastic hug like no other and then surprised me by giving me a ‘random act of kindess’ envelope with money inside and asked me to ‘pass it on’.
I was so touched! I love when other people join in!
Leaving the shop I was still smiling when I went to buy some ‘jeggings’ – I hate that word but basically I need jeans with legging tops now I have a colostomy bag…anyway I’m going off topic (again!)
So I was trying them on and while doing so I could hear two friends chatting through the curtain of the cubicle next to me.
Their utter joy and laughter was infectious! From their ensthusiastic batter I gathered that one was helping the other buy a selection of clothes for various up coming events. What struck me was their passion. The one trying on the clothes was so unashamedly grateful for her friend’s help. Lsughing loudly she kept thanking her and declaring that she had ‘never looked so good’ and ‘couldn’t wait to show people’. The whole dialogue screamed LOVE!
I was really touched and knew straight away that I’d have to give them the envelope I’d just been passed moments before.
As I left I slipped the envelope into one of their hands and was met with the usual look of confusion and a mumbled ‘thankyou’ which, when combined, always translates as ‘who the f*ck is this crazy woman handing me an envelope’.
As ever, it gave me so much joy and I hope the ladies got as much out of it as I did. I just love being able to pass on acts of kindness in this way.
So, tell your friends you love them; be unashamedly you; and scatter kindness around wherever you go!
“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.
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.
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…
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);
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.