ovarian cancer

Is Social Media Making Us Less Social?

Recently I took the plunge of deactivating my person facebook page. I didn’t think much about it…I just knew I was using it too much and decided a break could be of benefit to my health.

Wow, was I surprised my the reactions I got.

  • “Are you ok?”
  • “How are you feeling emotionally?”
  • “What’s the matter with you?”
  • “Why don’t you want to talk to people any more?”

These are just some of the comments I received to my very personal decision and it got me thinking: when did social media start to define how social we are?; and when did our use of social media become an indication of our mental health?

In fact, if anything, it could be said that social media not only makes us less social but also negatively affects our mental health as we get sucked into the ‘comparison mentality’. There are increasing studies that show it negatively affects our stress levels, sleep patterns and anxiety (to name a few aspects).

After a week of no facebook I realised that I – the person who previously had used it like a drug – actually didn’t miss it at all. So I deleted my account completely (as much as facebook will allow anyway…those terms and conditions are ‘interesting’). Then, a week later I went on holiday with my hubby and didn’t take my phone, instead leaving it in our house.

I made the decision to be completely offline. For three weeks!

It.was.incredible!

While I appreciate the prospect of not having a phone for three weeks will have made many of you gasp in horror, I want to share with you some of the wonderful lessons I learned and some tips for you to take this learning Ito your own lives – don’t worry, at no point do I suggest you bin your phone.

What I Gained When I Went Offline For Three Week’s

  1. I Fell Back in Love With My Husband – Now of course I have always loved my husband – he is an angel! However, I had forgotten what it was like to truly connect with him like when we first started dating. Primarily I had forgotten how f*cking hilarious he is and how much I enjoy his company. It is so easy when you have been in a relationship for a number of years for your life together to become habit, for each day to be the same as the one before and to not really connect. Add in a life-threatening illness like mine and it is easy for what made you fall in love in the first place to move to the bottom of the pile. Talk of work, hospital tests and mindless chat about social media can very quickly and easily take over. When I stepped back from this I realised that perhaps we were not as connected as I might have thought. For instance, I spend most evenings with Ewan, however many are spent watching a film or both of us on our phones. Now, in many ways we have always recognised this and we consciously make time every week for adventures, walks and days out together yet still, in the day-to-day, screen time can take over from face-to-face communication. What I realised when we were away together was that we were interacting with one another; we were laughing; connecting and stimulating each other’s conversation constantly. It was like setting the reset button on our relationship. After all, can you imagine a first date with someone who just sat looking at their phone?…
  2. Mental Clarity and Improved Memory – My mind become much clearer and more focused. Each day I would journal ideas for my second book and rather than my thoughts being stunted or blocked, they flowed freely. A surprising addition to this was old memories started coming back to me. A traumatic relationship in my twenties has meant that I struggle with memories in my school and university years. This was worsened by six doses of chemotherapy in 2016. However, I found that as my mental clarity improved, so did my memory and, as a result, many happy memories that had stayed just out of my mental reach for years, started to return. It’s as if my mind began to completely let go and relax and my inner knowing/guide/intuition/soul (whatever you want to call it) was no longer being silenced by the constant stream of information on social media.
  3. Time and Productivity – It was so insightful to me how much time I would normally spend on my phone looking at various apps. As soon as my phone was no longer part of my life I suddenly gained a ridiculous amount of time to do things that really matter to me (ideas for you to try are listed later in this post).
  4. A Sense of Calm – I am an inherently anxious, a-type personality who always has to be ‘doing’. However, the longer I was without my phone the more calm I began to feel. I no longer felt like I had to ‘do’ all of the time and instead found myself day dreaming, wondering and reflecting in ways I don’t remember doing since I was a child. The result was a deep sense of peace and calm. I hadn’t realised how much the constraint stream of information had influenced my anxiety levels.
  5. Better Connections – it’s ironic really that not using your phone would make you feel more connected, but it’s true. When you don’t have a phone, you spend more quality time with the people you are actually with because you aren’t constantly being distracted by conversations with other people through your phones.

How My Relationship With Technology Changed

Of course, I did miss some aspects of having a phone. For instance, I greatly missed being able to speak to the people in my life that I love dearly. However, I have noticed that as a result of this personal experience, my relationship with technology has changed – in particular my tolerance and patience.

  1. Group Chats – I am in many group chats. Some are where my family connects and shares as a group. Some are with friends who are stimulating, funny and supportive. Other are, well, not. The constant buzz of conversation that is mindless and not adding anything to my life suddenly felt suffocating and toxic. Having gained insight into how draining social media can be, and having a life-threatening illness has made me realise how important it is that all of the social interactions we have, whether face-to-face or online, need add value. Fortunately some apps allow you to mute groups.
  2. Multiple Conversations – social media allows you to be engaged in multiple conversations simultaneously, across various platforms. How can you truly connect with what a person is saying if you are having a conversation with 10 other people at the same time? The answer is, you can’t. As a result, it is very hard to have a deep and meaningful conversation with people through text on a screen. I should know, after all, I am the person who sent the message “it’s f*cking cancer” to several people simultaneous the day after I was diagnosed. What ever happened to picking up the phone? (I ask myself as much as I ask you).
  3. Society pressure – It is really hard to step away from social media because nearly everyone is on it. This creates a ‘sheep mentality’ meaning that if you decide to be the one who doesn’t follow the flock you can feel like you are missing out. Fortunately I have some amazing friends who send me the photos of their children that they would ordinarily just post on social media – this makes me feel extra special as I know they want me to specifically see them, and not just their whole friends list (I don’t doubt they think I’m a pain in the arse).

Things to Do Instead of Mindlessly Checking Social Media

Now you may be wondering, if I’m not on social media how am I meant to relax/connect/veg-out/and so on? Well, don’t worry, I’ve got your back…

1. Dance – dancing to a song that makes you happy not only stretches out your body but it also helps to lower your stress hormones and allows you to move from a state of ‘fight or flight’ to a healthier state of ‘rest and digest’. The same can be said for yoga.

2. Go For a Walk – even if it is just for a short walk around your neighbourhood, going outside and breathing in fresh air reduces feelings of depression; burns calories and improves your cardiovascular health.

3. Create – when was the last time you did something creative? Creativity is a form of meditation and mindful living and allows your mind to wonder and your brain to rest. Take some time to draw, doodle, colour or write.

4. Take Some Me Time – busy has become a badge people are proud to wear. Instead of constantly stimulating your mind, allow it to rest and relax with a bath (with you phone left in the hall!), massage, reiki, sauna, meditation or anything else that takes your fancy…

5. Phone Someone – how many of us send mindless messages to people without picking up the phone and having an actual conversation? I just had a two hour phone call with a friend in London and it was so stimulating for my soul (and hopefully hers). Take some time to have an actual conversation with someone you care about, rather than sending the ‘how you doing?’ message.

6. Speak to the Person/People You Live With – you’ve had a busy day at work and the last thing you want to do is speak to another person. It is so much ‘easier’ to mindlessly look at your phone and start scrolling. How about instead, you pause, take yourself to a quiet place (I have a friend with three children who’s ‘quiet place’ is meditating on her bathroom floor – so no excuses!) and when you feel ready, start actually speaking to the people in your home, rather than reading the text on your phone.

7. Journal – I had heard of journaling and I didn’t really ‘get it’, thinking it was for ‘other people’. However, I spent a lot of my trip journaling and it was mind opening. Simply sitting down with a notebook and a pen and taking a few moments to yourself (or longer if you have the time – which you do if you aren’t on social media) to write down your thoughts is very illuminating. You can even search online for some ‘journal questions’ to give you some things to contemplate if you are struggling. I’ve learned more about myself, my values and my thoughts since I started journaling than I ever have in the past. Now I know why the people I know who have journaled for a while are so interesting, self-aware and enlightening to be around.

8. Read a Book – In those first two weeks I didn’t have facebook (before I went completely without my phone) I read two books without making any extra time for reading. I simply always carried a book with me and whenever I had a moment where I would have previously reached for my phone, I instead reached for my book. I even bought a new handbag that fits a book in it (any excuse for a shopping trip). Stop making the excuse ‘I never have time to read’.

9. Have a Nap – who doesn’t like a 10 minute nap…enough said.

But We Live In A ‘Digital Age’…I hear you cry

Of course, since I came home there has been a need for me to use social media and technology. For instance, I run a business that relies, in part, on social media and me being contactable by phone. The difference now, however, is that I engage with social media in a mindful manner:

  • My business facebook is run by a facebook account which I don’t have any friends on and I still don’t have a personal facebook (it’s been over 2 months now).
  • I check twitter once a week – my blogs are set to automatically post there.
  • I check instagram once a month.
  • I only check my business facebook during working hours.
  • I only check emails during working hours.
  • I don’t have any social media apps on my phone…no business facebook, no twitter, no instagram, no emails. This means that I have to go on a computer to check these. This takes away the mindless habit…it is a lot more effort to go into my office just to scroll through social media.

By taking some simple steps to mindfully reduce your use of technology you will begin to notice dramatic changes in your life. Maybe you will even take a compete break as I did – if you do, I’d love to hear your reflections (once you are back online of course).

I believe it’s time for us to unplug from mindless online activity and instead plug into our souls, our hearts and our intuition.

Love and light, Fi xxx

kindness, ovarian cancer

RAOK – Paying it Forward 

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!

Oh and always remember you are beautiful!

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

ovarian cancer

Love is marrying your best friend: Chemo 4 – Day 11*

I’m one of the lucky ones.
 I married my best friend.

There is no one who makes me laugh more. He is the first person to tell me ‘if anyone can do it you can’….even if what I’m suggesting is utterly ridiculous. He supports me in every decision I make…even the bad ones like painting our bathroom pink(!)…(a story for another day).
 He’s always been my confidant and companion and now…well now he’s also my ‘carer’.

  I remember so vividly the moment following my diagnosis when my GP broached the subject of noting my husband as my carer in my medical records. My what? I’m 30! How is this possible? What does this mean? How will this affect our relationship? So many questions about a situation you don’t expect to face just weeks after celebrating your two year wedding anniversary in Vienna.

  Most of the time I continue to fight for my independence because of this fact floating in my head. Most of the time I refuse to accept that my medical file has a name in the box labelled ‘carer’. Most of the time I battle through doing things around the house even on days when I know I’ll suffer afterwards (actually more so on these days because I’m stubborn and often trying to prove a point).

Most of the time….

But sometimes I get frustrated. Sometimes I have to sit down half way through hanging up the washing or cooking dinner or changing the bed covers because the chemo has made me too tired; because the fluid on my lung is making me too breathless; because my blood levels are too low; because my body is too weak; because I need a carer….

In those moments I’m still married to my best friend. He tells me to take my time. He helps. He supports me in the way he always has to do everything I do.

  Other times, like tonight, I’m too weak to even try to do anything. Instead, whilst I’m lying on the sofa wrapped in a blanket, my husband, who has already done a full day at work and then picked up some food shopping, comes home and does the dishes I’ve not managed from during the day, cooks dinner, tidies the kitchen, takes our dog for his daily walk, hangs up two loads of washing, and puts away the washing he took down this morning before work. He does all this whilst intermittently checking on me.

By the time he stops doing everything it is past 10pm and he hasn’t sat down since he got in the door. Not for a second. Not even once.

This is on top of our dog waking through the night and my husband getting up to let him out and settle him. 

He does all this whilst working a full time job.

He does all this whilst worrying about me and my diagnosis and treatment and surgery.

He does all this whilst not complaining.

And I realise, as I watch this man I love doing everything he can to support me, that I don’t have to worry about him being labelled my ‘carer’ because I married my best friend…

He is doing what he has always done….he is doing whatever he can to make sure I can do whatever I need to do.

When I was well and didn’t have cancer (or didn’t know I had cancer) I commuted two hours to my job, studied for a hypnotherapy course, volunteered and maintained a regular exercise routine. At the time I thought I managed it all because I was well organised and motivated (and, admittedly, stubborn) but, on reflection, I managed it all because I married my best friend who, as it turns out, has always been my ‘carer’. He has always done whatever he can to make sure I could do whatever I needed to do.

You see, as it turns out, having a ‘carer’ doesn’t need to label you as critically unwell. It doesn’t need to change anything. It doesn’t need to be a weakness. It’s just about being supported by someone you love. It’s about returning that support. All that’s changed is the exchange of support.

As it turns out, I didn’t just marry my best friend. I married my hero.

I love you Mr Munro.

People ask how I manage to stay so positive. The answer – you.

People ask how I remain so grateful. The answer – you.

People ask how I get through everything. The answer – you.

I love you to the moon and back.

I couldn’t do any of it without you xxx

—-

*This post was inspired by a telephone chat I had today with a lovely woman from Stand Up to Cancer. She asked me what my support network was like and how my husband was coping with my diagnosis and treatment and as I answered my mind filled with intense love and gratitude for the wonderful man I call my other half   xx

ovarian cancer

Gratitude and Thanks: Chemo 4 – Day 6

As always after a chemo session I expect to feel much better much too soon and as a result often push myself too hard before my body has had a chance to recover…not that I’m stubborn!…

So instead of focusing on the side affects I’m feeling…which are the same as yesterday with some extra fatigue and sickness…I’ve decided to write a little bit about gratitude… 

  
When in these first few days post chemo, especially during a ‘come down’ from steroids, it is easy to get caught up in the sadness and pain of feeling ill and forget to see all that there is to be grateful for.

But there is always something to be grateful for…

…Today I am grateful for the sun shining long enough that I could go for for a brief walk before siting in our garden with our chickens, cats and dog…how do we have five pets?!  

I’m also grateful for the wonderful messages I’ve received today. Messages of love and support and solidarity all letting me know that I am not alone and that I am in people’s thoughts. These messages come in different forms – photos, videos, links to articles or podcasts, comments – but all serve to fill me with love and hope. Some come from much loved old friends and some from new friends I’ve met on my journey or who are going through their own cancer journeys. It really costs nothing to show someone you care and it can make such a difference – thank you!

  I don’t really have much energy to write this evening but I wanted to end this post by passing on some gratitude from Macmillan whom I have been fundraising for since my diagnosis. The following is taken from a second email of thanks that I received from them this week…

Well done on your fantastic achievement! You’ve done an incredible job with your fundraising and it was really inspiring to read your story on Just Giving. You truly are an amazing person and we wouldn’t be able to continue with the work we do without dedicated fundraisers like you.

Just to put your fundraising into perspective, the money you raised could keep a Macmillan information and support centre stocked with all the information resources it needs for a whole year. These resources would include booklets, guides, directories and leaflets and are vital to ensure people affected by cancer get the support they need.

Now if that isn’t pretty awesome and worthy of a little gratitude and thanks then I don’t know what is!

Thank you to everyone for your love and support.

Happy Saturday, Fi xx

 

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World Cancer Day…

Happy World Cancer Day!!

WCD16_SocialMedia_GI_Thunderclap_Header.jpg

Today, more than ever, I am over flowing with love for the friends and family I have standing by my side cheering me on every step of the way. I know I have a long journey ahead of me to recovery but your messages and words of love and encouragement keep me going every single step of the way.

Last night two very special ladies did two of the most generous acts of love – with one cutting off her hair to donate to the Little Princess Trust and the other cutting of all of her hair in support of my first day of chemo. I am bursting with love for them both! xxx

This is on top of the messages I have received from loads of lovely ladies who are donating their hair at their next hair cut. This means millions to me! It was an easy decision for me – I’m loosing my hair anyway – but for these ladies it is an act of selfless love and that is what life is all about. The world needs more people like you xxxx

AND on top of that, thanks to all of your wonderful donations we have raised nearly £2555 for Macmillan Cancer Support AND with gift aid that equates to about £3200 which is insanely good and far beyond my wildest expectations!!!

I want to say a huge thank you to all of you for making this possible and supporting Macmillan Cancer Support as they have supported me and my family (and thousands like us!) xxx

If anyone else would like to donate (and remember every £1 helps so don’t feel you have to empty your bank account!) please do so here.

If you haven’t heard enough from me about cancer, or if you just miss the sound of my voice, then you can listen to me talking about my story here.

Wishing you all a wonderful day!

love and light, Fi xx