gratitude, health, holistic health, kindness, ovarian cancer, positivity

Today I Rise Again

Today is a new day.

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)

health, holistic health, ovarian cancer

The Necessary Grief of the Life Unlived

My cancer markers rose again.

Four months in a row.

Slowly rising, creeping upwards, no longer stable and far from dropping.

It’s not good news.

My treatment is no longer as effective. The trial I fought for is no longer holding things at bay. There is a crack in the dam. The dam is still there, yes, but it’s no longer as effective at holding the tide back from crushing me as it once was.

Was I naive to think that it would keep things at bay longer? Was I overly hopeful?

I thought I was realistic. I thought I had accepted and understood the odds, that I realised how lucky I was that it had worked for as long as it had. Yet my tears tonight tell a different story.

They show the hope that’s been lost, the fear, the anger, the sense of defeat in a battle I never even willingly engaged in.

And while it’s far from over (I am still on the trial treatment and it is still doing ‘something’ even if that isn’t as much as it once was) this rise marks a turn in events.

No longer do I feel like I have the upper hand. No longer do I feel in control. No longer do I feel like I have a grasp on what is coming next.

It’s the fear that hurts the most. The fear of more bad news, of more pain, of less options, of death.

It’s the fear of breaking other people’s hearts, of no longer being able to keep a brave face, of losing my sense of self to this insidious disease.

But most of all it’s the worry that I took the time I had for granted; so busy telling others to live like they are dying that I forgot to do it myself.

I’ve had many great adventures yes but did I love enough, did I laugh enough, did I open my heart to the deep vulnerability necessary for true connection?

I don’t know. But I plan to spend the rest of my days finding out and making sure.

Today marks a change, a shift. Tonight it feels painful. I feel deep sorrow and grief for the life I thought I was ‘supposed’ to have. Tomorrow I will welcome a new day, a new phase, a new beginning.

But, for now, I grieve.

health

A Letter to Fear

Dear Fear

It’s a funny old relationship we have, you and me.

Sometimes I think while you stop others from doing things, you propel me forward.

What am I afraid of? I don’t really know. I’ve faced so much pain I’m not sure there is anything left to fear.

Over the years, in the past, I’ve felt the fear of not being safe in my own home, my own body and my own life.

But, as a result, I don’t fear death, pain or grief. I’ve befriended so many of life’s enemies that invoke fear in my peers.

Yet I do still feel you. I feel you when I open up to being vulnerability, to authenticity, to truth. But I power on. I keep facing you and opening my heart because in doing so I am uncovering myself, I am growing and learning and truly feeling all that life has to offer.

I am so grateful for you, my dear friend named fear because when I feel you I know I am pushing myself to the edges of my boundaries and, in doing so, I know I am growing into the best version of myself.

Thank you for being my marker, my flag, my guide.

This is the kind of fear I crave – but none of that shitty life threatening fear please…I’ve had my fair share of that already!

Love, Fi xx

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Read more in my books

Listen to my groundbreaking podcast on all podcast apps – search for ‘Live Like You Are Dying’

Follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Book a place at one of my retreats.

—–

Fi is Currently:

Looking forward to a weekend of kayaking.

Resting after treatment yesterday.

Enjoying the imminent arrival of autumn.

Excited for Ewan’s birthday later this month!

health

A Life Of Peace – Scan Results

This cancer ‘journey’ can be full of twists and turns and highs and lows.

Most of all, it can be full of surprises.

Recently I had the surprising news that my abdominal tumours had resolved and it ‘appeared’ that the only remaining tumours were two in my right lung. This opened up the potential for unexpected treatment options including lung surgery or SABR radiotherapy. It was exciting and terrifying and, to be honest, I wasn’t overly keen on either….I mean, my previous experience of cancer surgery was hardly ‘simple’.

However, before these treatment options could be confirmed as viable I had to have a PET scan.

Previously I had only ever had CT scans. During these you are injected with a contrast dye that is great at showing abnormalities in the body (such as tumours), but they don’t always show up everything and they also don’t show how ‘active’ the abnormalities are.

PET scans, however, work in a different way. For a PET scan you are injected with a radioactive glucose mixture. Beforehand you fast for 6 hours so that your ‘normal’ cells are forced to use other energy sources such as your fat. Cancer cells aren’t able to use other energy sources (they need glucose) and so when the mixture is injected it goes straight to any active cancer cells in the body. The radioactive part of the mixture then makes these cells ‘glow’ on the scan. It’s amazing eh?! This was helpfully explained to me by the radiographer doing the scan.

So I had my first PET scan a couple of weeks ago and then I waited, not so patiently.

Today I got the results.

I must admit, as soon as I was told I was getting the results I knew they were not going to be good news. I had this deep sinking feeling in my stomach that I’ve never had before.

‘You just want to get straight to the results don’t you?’ My oncologist asked, knowing me so well after 3.5 years of caring for me. I should highlight, again, that she is incredible. I mean I have never met another consultant so focused on person-centred care. She really is a joy and I feel so lucky. I know this isn’t the case for every cancer patient in the world.

Sorry…’just get to the point’…I’m sure you are muttering.

So the scan confirmed that yes the two lesions in my right lung are very active and growing…nothing surprising about that.

It also showed that the lesion above my heart that had been visible on the previous two CT scans is in fact active and not ‘dead’ as we had hoped. This means no lung surgery for me as it would be far too risky.

Also, it showed some activity in my lymph nodes including one under my right armpit and one in my upper abdomen. This is not good. Everyone with cancer knows that it being in your lymphatic system is more than a little shite.

And yet, still, I find myself oddly calm and at peace and here’s why…

Stay with me, things might get a little ‘woohoo’ for some…

When I bought my 1996 VW T4 Campervan recently (if you missed that news flash I have no idea how as I have posted a billion photos!…well at leats 4 or 5 haha) I wanted to give it a name.

While Ewan and I were on our test drive the name Alfonzo came to me. It sounded kinda cool and I thought to myself ‘OK, this is what the van wants to be called‘. Then, when I got home I looked up the meaning of Alfonzo and was surprised to discover that it means ‘ready for battle’.

Even better,’ I thought, ‘The perfect name for a warrior’s van.’

But then something weird happened when I was driving the van yesterday.

As you may already know I am training to be a shaman. This means that I work with the spirit of things, energy and intuition (amongst other ‘stuff’ I’ll save for a future post).

So, it wasn’t unusual for me that when I drove the van to hospital for my treatment yesterday that I got a sense that the van wanted to be called Winifred, not Alfonzo. Yes, you read that right, the van wanted it.

‘Winifred doesn’t sound anywhere near as cool as Alfonzo‘ I thought, ‘So that’s not happening.’

Well, when I left hospital the van wouldn’t start for me. I sat in that car park for over an hour trying to start it, only to have Ewan rescue me and it start first time.

OK, maybe you can be called Winifred‘ I thought.

So, here’s where it gets freaky – yes that wasn’t the freaky stuff.

When I looked up the meaning of ‘Winifred’ I was amazed to discover that it means ‘joy, peace and reconciliation’ – the exact opposite of what Alfonzo means! Crazy eh?!

Now, here’s the thing. I now think this was some kind of crazy, insight, instinct, message from the universe (call it what you will) that I just need to let go, slow down, be at peace and reconcile any pain, trauma or grief that I’ve been carrying around with me.

And that, my dear lovelies, is exactly what I’m going to do, because firstly, what is the alternative? I wallow and mope and waste the fact that, right now, I still feel surprisingly well (compared to most other stage four cancer patients, not compared to healthy people I hasten to add) and secondly, my precious instinct has served me well up until this point so who am I to ignore her wisdom now.

As I move forward through the uncertainty of living (yes LIVING) with stage four cancer, I will not fight it, I will not desperately look for ‘the magic cure’, I will not read book after book in search for the answer that may have been missed elsewhere and I will not be angry that this is happening to me (most of the time – sometimes I will shout ‘f*ck this‘ at whoever happens to be listening or in earshot).

No, instead I will use it as a catalyst to live my life, and what a beautiful life it is, filled with love and joy and adventure!…and now I will work at bringing peace and reconciliation into my life too…because it’s needed, boy o boy, is it needed!

Above all I will strive to live like I am dying, to practice what I preach and to find the good and the gratitude in each and every day because isn’t that all any of us can do in our pursuit of happiness and fulfilment; to live a life to it’s fullest and to focus on what we have rather on what we have lost?

My cancer may never my cured, but it is certainly the tool through which I am healing my life. And that feels pretty good to be honest. It’s certainly better than living the life I lived before, filled with drama, anger, stress and unfulfilment. No thank you! Life is too short for that nonsense!

Now, on a much more serious note, what on Earth am I going to name my campervan?

With love in my heart for you all for reading my words and sharing my story.

Thank you, Fi xx

Read more in my books

Visit me at one of my workshops.

Listen to my groundbreaking podcast on all podcast apps – search for ‘Live Like You Are Dying’

Follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Stay on one of my retreats.

—–

Fi is Currently:

Loving my precious life.

Feeling grateful to still be alive.

Sitting on our sofa wrapped in a blanket after a lovely afternoon on the beach with Ozzy.

 Waiting for Ewan to come home with a takeaway because who would cook on scan result day?

health, holistic health, ovarian cancer, positivity, yoga

Do You ‘Self-Destruct’?

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?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Love and light, Fi xxx

ovarian cancer

Love Organic

I’m not going to be one of those people who preaches that everyone should be vegan…even I LOVE meat…

However(!)…I do preach that people should eat with a responsibility for the source of their food and the treatment of the animals before they become meat AND the treatment of the farmers.


📷 unknown

I only eat organic not only because of all of the toxic chemicals, antibiotics, hormones, pesticides (and so on) added to non organic food but also because it makes it easier to trace the source of my food and, in doing so, allows me to take responsibility for its impact on the environment.

Similarly I only eat whole foods and make everything from fresh ingredients so that I know, without any doubt, the source of everything that I eat.

I am dairy and gluten free due to allergies and, although I follow a plant based diet I am only 99% vegan. When I do eat meat I ensure it is organic, and when I eat fish I ensure it is wild (never farmed).

I could probably write a book on the research I have done into food in the last year as it is an area I am extremely passionate about, however I won’t go on and on in this post (although questions are welcome). What I will say is that I know organic is more expensive and yes our household food bill has risen this past year HOWEVER is it a small price to pay for health? ABSOLUTELY!

For me it’s just about priorities and I prioritise knowing exactly what is in the food I eat. We live in a society where we find it acceptable to spend £3 on a takeaway coffee but won’t pay £2 for organic eggs. Seriously!?

It is my firm belief that the food you eat defines your health.

This is why, this year, hubby and I will begin growing as much of our own food as possible using our existing greenhouse and also installing a mini polly tunnel.

Join me in choosing organic food, taking responsibility for your impact on the environment and having consideration for the animals and farmers involved in the food industry.

It doesn’t need to mean your outgoings each month are any more…it just might mean one less takeaway coffee or one less glass of wine (for example)…

Could you go organic?

Love and light, Fi xx

You can read more about Fi Munro on her website and public Facebook page.

She is also on twitter, instagram and youtube.

She is currently writing a book due for release in 2017.

© FKMunro.com 2017

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Raising Awareness – Woman’s Health

During my recent hospital admission ‘Woman’s Health’ – a website dedicated to providing women advice on a range of female health issues, picked up one of my blog posts featured on Ovarian Cancer Action and published it for their readers (in their own words).

Why Ovarian Cancer Remains Difficult to Diagnose

Together we will raise more awareness about Ovarian Cancer.

Love and light, Fi xxx

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Did you know smear tests DO NOT screen for Ovarian Cancer?

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“The Cancer Whisperer”: Chemo 4 – Day 20

Today I was feeling much more tired than normal…a sacrifice I’d made after some early birthday celebrations with friends last night. Which, as a side note, was a lovely evening and exactly what I needed. The restaurant even surprised me with a birthday cake and balloons 💜

Anyway….I digress…

As a result I wasn’t up to doing much today and so spent most of the day reading a new book that I’d bought under the recommendation of a friend – “The Cancer Whisperer” by Sophie Sabbage.

Well, the book is incredible…I’m already nearly half way through it!

Since my diagnosis I’ve read lots of books about cancer. These range from books written by Drs or researchers or even survivors. This book was different though. It was the first time I’ve read a book by a person who still has cancer. A person who, like me, is living with stage four cancer and is aware that, medically speaking, her cancer is ‘incurable’.

More importantly, however, despite this (or perhaps because of this…) she shares my positive outlook on life.

It was so inspiring for me to read her story and her approach to her diagnosis. I felt every word on the page spoke to my soul. Whilst reading her words, I was no longer the ‘unique case’ my oncologist and surgeon describe, but instead I felt like I was reading the words of a kindred spirit.

There is so much comfort in knowing that there is someone else in the world with stage four cancer who isn’t giving in to nor fighting (a term I loath!) the disease but is instead letting it allow her to grow as a person whilst healing her life. I am sure (or at least hope) that there are many others who share our outlook but, whilst I have read the positive outlooks of people who have recovered from stage 1, 2 or 3 cancer, stage 4 cancer patients don’t often appear to share this outlook…or indeed share their story…with others.

The thing that resonated with me most in her book is the emphasis she places on taking control of your disease and taking ownership of the decisions being made. This is also encouraged by Kelly A Turner in her book “Radical Remission”  and something I do without thought – I mean why wouldn’t I want to know everything there is to know about my illness whilst also being involved in the decisions about my treatment and care. However, I am becoming increasingly aware that this is not something I share with all cancer patients and this unsettles me. How can people be expected to heal without all the information? Sometimes people don’t even want to know what stage their cancer is – I can’t relate to this at all. I want to know everything…I mean everything!… about my illness and possible treatment. However, when I recently asked one of the surgeons if I could see my scan results I was told that I was the first person ever to ask. Ever?!

I’ve found that whilst my Drs are initially surprised by my calm and rational (and often emotionally detached) questioning, they also appear refreshed by the opportunity to talk openly about my illness with me in a way in which I am made to feel welcomed as a contributor rather than a bystander. However, I still have the impression that they hold back, perhaps unsure if my ’emotional detachment’ is denial or a front – it is in fact neither and merely an ability I hold to detach myself and reserve dealing with the information emotionally at a later stage (usually once I am home and talking through the facts with my husband). I hope that as I progress through my journey that my Drs become more comfortable with sharing information about me with me (ironic really when you think about it).

I truely feel that one of the most valuable lessons from my journey is to take total ownership of my health. I can only hope that in the future integrated, person-centred treatment of cancer patients will have become the norm in cancer care.

Love and light, Fi xx 

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The benefits of exercise… 

After years of doing research and writing research papers I’ve now been given the opportunity to be in one…Macmillan are doing a national study to look at the affects of exercise on cancer treatment and prognosis.

To do this they have employed and trained personal trainers across the UK to work with cancer patients to develop a specialist program of exercise. In Scotland they are working in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Dundee and the Borders. Patients involved in the study will be given 12 free sessions and then unlimited sessions for a low fee each month for the rest of their lives. In exchange their fitness, response to treatment and side affects to cancer and treatment will be monitored every three months. The results of the study will be published by Macmillan later next year. It is hoped that the evidence will demonstrate that exercise has a positive impact on all aspects of a cancer patient’s care, their response to treatment, and whether or not they relapse. If proven effective, this scheme will be spread across other areas.

I feel both honoured and privileged to have been asked to be a part of this study. Not only will it allow me to bring back one of the joys in my life but it also gives me an opportunity to play an active part in the growing research in the importance of providing holistic patient care. More importantly it enables me to be a part of shaping what holistic cancer care may look like in the future.

I am really excited about this opportunity and hope to see some good results in recovering my fitness, strength and lung capacity.

Watch this space…

love and light, Fi xx