health, holistic health, ovarian cancer

Carol Bareham 22.12.1972 – 01.04.2020

As many of you are already aware, my dear friend, my ‘cancer bestie’ as I liked to call her, passed away on 1st April this year.

Like me, Carol lived with late stage ovarian cancer, being diagnosed just 4 months before me.

In the year leading up to her death we talked almost every day about life, death and love. In many of those chats Carol would remind me that when she died (always convinced that she would die before me and no wonder with the treatment options in Northern Ireland being far inferior to those available to me in Scotland) that I was to write ‘an epic blog post’. No pressure Carol!

However, despite writing being one of my most utilised healing tools I have found it impossible to write this post for her until now, 6 weeks after her death. The reason? Writing it means that she is actually gone. Writing it is the final goodbye, the ‘closure’ I have been avoiding. Writing it means that I really don’t get to see my friend again and that reality has just been too hard to face.
Almost every day, I find myself having conversations with her in my head,  desperately seeking the advice and guidance she offered me over the past four years of friendship, unable to believe that she is actually gone.
However, despite my avoidance, I could imagine, only too well, Carol telling me to get a grip of myself and write the bloody thing already so, here goes. Carol, this is for you. I’ll love you for always.
—-
Carol and I didn’t meet in ‘normal’ circumstances. In fact we first ‘met’ over the internet on 8th May 2016 . This was an auspicious date. It is World Ovarian Cancer Day and it was also the day before I had major surgery to remove multiple organs from my cancer ridden body.
Carol wrote a comment on my blog that day which read Good luck tomorrow…I had the op in January after 4 chemos too and I am pleased to report all went well and I recovered from it well. Having 2 further chemos after the op, well that is another story! I hope it is a big success and will be keeping everything crossed for you. Have just discovered your blog and have been hooked on it all day…have experienced very similar thoughts and feelings, you have a lovely way of saying what many of us cancer patients are feeling. Will be awaiting your next post now post op! Carol xxx”
People comment on my blog and send me messages and emails all the time. I mean I literally get hundreds of private messages every week and yet this one, from Carol, stood out for me and, to this day, I have no idea why but I am so glad that it did. This simple message became the start of one of my most valued friendships and just goes to show we really never know what a simple act of kindness will lead to.
Over the months that followed Carol and I would often exchange weekly messages. Over time we exchanged phone numbers and began texting each other on a more regular basis. While I had no one in Scotland who I could talk to about living with late stage ovarian cancer, I had found in Carol someone who I could share everything with. She just ‘got it’. Every thought, worry, hope, fear, anxiety, pain, horrible embarrassing experience cancer had brought me, Carol had seen and experienced too. There is nothing quite like a friendship build on the common ground of literally shitting yourself through chemotherapy!
However, despite regular messaging, it wasn’t until two years later that we first finally met in April 2018 when Carol and her family were visiting Scotland from their home in Northern Ireland. Despite having planned a lovely ‘normal’ get together my cancer had other plans and I ended up in hospital for the entire time Carol was over. Despite this she still visited me and it was pure joy to finally put a face to the name I had been messaging and sharing ‘everything’ with over the previous two years.
Then, a whole year later, in April 2019 I visited Carol in her hometown in Northern Ireland as part of my book tour for my second book‘How Long Have I Got?’
During this trip I was finally able to meet Carol’s incredible family and friends, including the group of ‘Northern Ireland Ovarian Cancer Ladies’ that she had established. I have never been made to feel so welcome and supported.
Another year of messaging passed during which Carol’s health started to decline more rapidly than my own. She had stopped chemotherapy; her body, mind and spirit having now had enough and she was now doing her best to enjoy her life as best she could despite cancer. However, it wasn’t until winter 2019/20 that I finally started to accept (as best as one can accept) that I was going to lose my dear friend.
At the time my own health was declining rapidly and so began a daily discussion, peppered with the darkest of humour and jokes that only two terminal cancer patients could share and get away with, of who was fairing worse off. This shared dark sense of humour and a willingness not to shy away from the hard times is one of the reasons I will always love Carol so much.
One of the most powerful things about going through this cancer experience together was that we were able to have completely honest and frank discussions. Neither of us ever avoided discussing the reality of either of our situations. And neither of us ever pretended things were any easier than they actually were. I didn’t pretend that Carol wasn’t getting sicker and likewise she offered me the same courtesy. This is a rare and beautiful gift, as hard as it may seem, because it meant that we were able to have conversations that may have otherwise been avoided.
For instance, once Carol had transitioned from her home to a local hospice and I had finally accepted that Carol was going to die, instead of pretending otherwise, I messaged her one day and said “I am either coming to your funeral or coming to see you now. Which would you prefer?” this was in response to her telling me repeatedly not to come and see her. I knew, however that this wasn’t because she didn’t want to see me but because, like many of us, she didn’t want to accept the love that I would be offering in the act of traveling from Scotland to Northern Ireland just for her. She replied almost instantly, “come now”. And so, I found myself sitting at my kitchen table, at 5.30am the following day making plans to go to Northern Ireland to visit her.

The earliest I could go was two weeks later due to a number of hospital appointments that I already had scheduled. During these two weeks our connection and friendship grew stronger. She knew that I was dropping everything that I could to come and see her and she accepted that love and connection. Similarly, I knew how important this time was for her and her loved ones, and I accepted the love and deep honour it was to be a part of this precious time. And I mean honour. So many of us shy away from facing the hardest moments in life like tragedy, grief and death but, I’ve found through my own personal experiences, that it’s in these moments that the greatest opportunity for connection truly lies and that is an honour, and a gift.

During this time some of my other friends would message me to ask how Carol was doing. Many would reflect on how sad it must be for her to be dying. I knew a different truth, however. Carol wasn’t sad. She was ready. Over the previous few months she and I had discussed frequently how she was done with the suffering her illness was causing her. She had taken time to connect with and love her family and friends and she was now ready to release the pain. It was because of this that I didn’t feel sadness about her dying. I felt loss yes and I felt pain, deep pain, but they were my pain, my loss, my imminent suffering, they weren’t Carol’s.

Her messages during this time and, indeed, her conversations when I visited her were all about how happy she felt about the life she had lived and how calm she felt about the death she now faced. I remember having a similar experience with my friend Ali before she died from the same disease. Our final conversations weren’t filled with fear, they were filled with love and acceptance. This, I’ve realised is a gift that the dying can offer the living; to show peace in the face of death. In exchange and recognition of this, the living can offer the dying a gift too. We can choose to show up at this time. To be there, in whatever way they need us. To express love and gratitude for the time we shared together. And, above all, to not avoid their death and our grief because it is too hard for us but, instead, to recognise that grief is often an unavoidable expression of love.

I’ll never forget the journey across to Northern Ireland to see Carol. The weather was wild to say the least. The boat rolled from side to side and up and down as many of the passengers took to lying down in a desperate attempt to avoid sea sickness. I have never been so grateful for a childhood brought up on boats in the Channel Islands!

When we arrived, after a stop for some much-needed food, Ewan drove me straight to the hospice. I wanted to see Carol straight away. I’d waited two weeks and I wasn’t waiting a minute longer. He dropped me off at the door, driving away to check into our hotel. This is what I’d asked for. I wanted to see her on my own first. I wanted time for the two of us to connect. Part of this was about my needs, but part of this was also about protecting Ewan. Carol’s diagnosis is the same as mine and, as a result, our stories have often mirrored one another’s. Ewan knows this and I could see the fear in his eyes about what her now being in a hospice meant for me and, ultimately, what it meant for him. Despite the open honesty in our household about my death and, indeed, about everyone’s certain death, I still wanted to protect him from it being so tangible. It turns out, however, there was no need. When death is faced with love, in the way Carol taught us both to do, it can actually be a really beautiful thing.

I walked into Carol’s room with no idea what to expect. We hadn’t seen each other face to face for a year and for at least half of that time she hadn’t allowed any photos. But I needn’t have worried. I was greeted by the same smiling and vivacious woman I loved and remembered. Without a second’s hesitation she had wrapped her arms around me in a hug, despite her pain and multiple medical attachments, and was asking me to get into bed beside her for a proper chat. I, of course, obliged.

As I lay there with her laughing and sharing stories with one of her other friends who was also there, sitting in a chair beside her bed, I began to reflect on the beauty of this connection. Here we were, three women, all of us living with a terminal diagnosis of ovarian cancer, two of us currently receiving chemotherapy and one of us dying from the disease and yet there was not one ounce of sadness in that room. There was only joy. How often could I say the same of other encounters in my life?

While in Northern Ireland I’d spent my mornings with Ewan walking our dog Ozzy, before spending the afternoons and early evenings with Carol at the hospice. We spent most of our time together sharing stories and laughing. Carol had even managed to plan a short 80s themed party in her honour at which all of the people in her life were able to come along to; many of them to say their final farewells. It wasn’t a sad affair, however. Instead it was one filled with music, food, celebration and fancy dress. Above all, it was filled with love. This wasn’t a woman mourning her premature death, it was a woman celebrating her incredible life. As I stood back and observed all of these people coming to see her, dressed in full 80s fashion no less, I couldn’t help but think of my own death and how what I was witnessing would be exactly what I wanted for myself – love, laughter, music and, of course, fancy dress.

The following day I knew I would have to say my own goodbye to Carol. We didn’t have the 80s costumes, or the party to hide behind. We were having to face this head on, in full recognition of the fact that we would never see each other again. I spent the afternoon with her, as I had done over the previous days. We were joined by one of her best friends, whom had welcomed my presence with such warmth despite it, undoubtably, encroaching on their precious time together. During this time we recorded a podcast together. This was something that Carol wanted to do to not only dispel some of the fears around being in a hospice, but also to share some of the lessons she had learnt about life and death. Unsurprisingly, most of what she talked about was love.

We both put off the moment when I would have to leave. “Just ten more minutes” became a frequent and then desperate phrase until, eventually, there was no choice but to say goodbye knowing that we would never see each other again.

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

As I drove away, my heart broken, tears streaming down my face, I reflected on how often I take for granted that I will see someone again. You see, while I knew I wouldn’t see Carol again, I never know I ‘will’ see anyone else in my life again. I reflected on myself saying goodbye in a rush to those I love; dashing away, not always lingering to hear my loved one’s words, to hold them a little longer, to entwine our fingers, to kiss their cheek, to hold them close for just one more second. All these things I did with Carol instinctively as I fought back the inevitable, love filled, tears from cascading down my cheeks until I left the room, not wanting her last image of me to be one of sadness but, instead, one of love and joy.

In one of the last messages I sent to Carol after I had returned back to Scotland, I asked her “but how will I do any of this without you?” “Simple,” she replied, “You will love harder like I have taught you just as you make every day good like Ali (my other friend who died from ovarian cancer) taught you and you will keep living your life every single day as best you can for as long as you can.”

As I reflected on this and the legacies that her and Ali had gifted me through our friendships, I wanted to know what my own legacy would be. What message would I leave for the people I left behind and those that came after me? I realised then that there was no better phrase than “never at the expense of joy”. If I were to leave any kind of impression on the hearts of those I love and who love me then please let it be that.

This brings me to the final and lasting lesson and legacy that Carol left me and all those who love her: LOVE HARDER.

Perhaps it’s that simple. Perhaps it’s not about always thinking that you may never see a loved one again. After all, that does feel more than a little depressing. Perhaps, instead, it’s just about loving them harder.

What does loving harder look like?

For me it’s about looking someone in the eye when they speak to me, rather than looking at my phone. It’s about always valuing my time together with loved ones as sacred, fleeting and precious. It’s about listening when they talk. It’s about asking about the things that matter to them and caring about the response. It’s about making memories, laughing and experiencing joy but also about being there in times of need and support. It’s about not being afraid to show your vulnerability when times are tough and also not being afraid to show your awesomeness when times are great.

I don’t always get it right. Far from it. I’ll sometimes sit scrolling through my phone replying to messages rather than cuddling into Ewan on the sofa. Or I’ll get distracted when someone I love is talking and miss the important part of their story. But I catch myself now and I call myself out for it. I’ll pause and ask myself “Is this how I want to live my life? Is this how I want to be remembered? Is that what Carol would have done” And then I’ll make different choices the next time. Ultimately that’s all any of us can do; take little steps, day by day to love harder, to connect more deeply and to choose to spend our time with those that matter most to us. Anything else, over time, ultimately costs us our joy.

This is what Carol taught me above all else and it’s the lesson I will carry in my heart until the day I take my own last breath. May this lesson be a gift to you too, even if you never had the honour of meeting Carol for yourself.
With love for Carol and all those who love her always, Fi xx
I’m sorry Carol. This post isn’t as ‘epic’ as you might have hoped because how can I put into words what you truly mean to me, the lessons you taught me or the fact that I will always carry you in my heart every single day that I am alive and able to do so.
I may not have known you through your school years, never had the opportunity to work with you, to go to the pub with you, to have adventures or holidays or build wild and fun memories together but what we had was something entirely different from these types of friendships. What we had was a deep understanding of each other’s pains and fears, of our daily struggles and what it feels like to live with late stage cancer every single day year in and year out knowing that one day it will cause so much inevitable pain to those that we love.
What you gave me, dear Carol, is one of the greatest gifts anyone has ever given me. You gave me true, unconditional love and friendship that enabled me to be seen in all of my darkness as well as my light, without fear of judgment.
I am so grateful that cancer brought us together and so sad that it tore us apart. While this blog post may not have been what you hoped for (it’s a lot of pressure writing for a dead person you know!) I want you to know that when I publish my next book it will be dedicated to you my lovely so that everyone will know what an incredible woman you were and continue to be in the hearts of those who love you.
May your name and all that you stood for continue to shine bright for many years to come and, in your memory, may we all remember to tell the women in our lives to be hyper aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer. I know that you, like me, had only one wish following your diagnosis – if we can’t be saved then at least let our diagnosis save the lives of other women.
So please, dear readers, share the following symptoms with the women in your lives. There is no screening test for ovarian cancer (no, smear tests do not test for it!) The only way to find out if you have it is to know the symptoms and see your GP if you have two or more of them for two or more weeks.
Please do not ignore any of these symptoms. Early diagnosis of ovarian cancer is curable…only late stage diagnosis is not.
THINK TEAL
T – toilet habit changes
E – energy levels dropping
A – abdominal pain and/or swelling
L – loss of appetite and/or weight
Carol and I also both experienced shoulder pain prior to diagnosis and I always start to get migraines when my cancer is spreading.
Know your body.
Don’t be embarrassed.
See your GP.
If you don’t do it for you or for me then, please, do it in loving memory of Carol Barenham.
With love and gratitude always, Fi Munro xxx
gratitude, health, holistic health, kindness, positivity, shamanism

The Source of Creativity

What are these wild and whimsical ideas that come forth to me in the dark?

Where do they emerge from when they burst through the boundaries of my consciousness.

Creativity finds its source in the most unusual places

We do not ‘have’ ideas. They come to us. They ‘have’ us.

Elizabeth Gilbert talks about ideas seeking their host. Nothing has resonated with me more. I have new book ideas every week. A new passage tries to birth through my fingers onto the keyboard each day. But I have learnt to only accept the ones that speak to my heart. I have learnt to only embrace the ones that call to my soul.

Where is my passion found? What is my motivation? What is the one true message I want to birth into the world? I ask myself these questions every time a new idea comes to me.

The answer is simple. The answer is always the same.

I want to teach people how to live, how to truly, unashamedly live their one beautiful and precious life with joy and love and kindness.

I want to inspire people to embrace the magic of the everyday, to break free from the mundane, the drama and the suffering.

I want to spread a message into the web of the world about hope, love and kindness. I want my words to demonstrate that magic and joy are not found in a perfect life, one without suffering or trauma or anxiety or fear. No, magic and joy are found in accepting our life just as it is, right now, without change, without question. They are found in the deep surrender of our heart and soul.

So I say yes, without fear or question, to the ideas and words that speak this truth – the only truth I know – and I send love and gratitude to every other message that calls out to my soul, sending them on their way to find the storyteller who ‘will’ birth them into existence.

I know why I’m here. I know what my message is, what my purpose is, and I will spend every moment I can expressing that through my words, both written and spoken.

I often see my creativity, my writing muse, as a crow that sits with me while I write. But sometimes she flies beside me, desperately trying to get my attention. Sometimes she pecks at my eyes and face while I try to sleep. Sometimes her persistent attention grabbing nature is unavoidable and I climb out of bed in a sleep induced daze and let her write through me.

That is when my best writing is done.

Other times, I find myself too tired, too busy, too distracted, and she simply flies off, delivering her words to someone more willing.

In those moments I lose my best work. But it was never mine. It was hers. She is the messenger from spirit, from source, not me.

I am written through, the words breath through me, through my heart and my soul and onto the page. They are not mine, they are yours, they are gifted to you through me.

May they inspire you to live the life of your dreams.

It’s all temporary, this precious life that we each hold. But, it’s up to us to make it memorably and meaningful rather than mundane.

And, in my experience, a memorable and meaningful life is found in connection, in acceptance, in love and friendship and hope and closeness and curiosity and passion and surrender to something bigger than ourselves, whatever that may be. But it is never, never, found in seeking perfection.

With live and gratitude always, Fi xx

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?

ovarian cancer

What if there was a stage five to cancer?…and it was positive…

I havn’t been blogging recently, instead I’ve been focusing on writing my book and so I’ve been saving my updates to just my Facebook page. However, whilst away in Europe just now I had an experience that I had to share with you all…Hubby and I had booked a last minute train journey from Scotland to London and then on to Paris. Instead of micro planning the trip like we would have previously, we just booked return tickets and our first two nights in Parirs. After that, we decided to leave our holiday to chance by arriving in Gare De Loyn (Paris’s international train station) and booking on to the next train….with no plans of where we would end up, no accommodation booked, a true adventure to say the least.

Anyway, I’m digressing, as usual. On our first day in Paris we stumbled upon one of those beautiful serinipidous moments that I hope you will enjoy hearing about. At the very least, I hope I do it justice in my writing because, for me, it was utterly magical.
We had spent the day wondering the city. I’d been telling hubby that Paula Cohelo (my favourite author) frequently mentions in his books that to ‘know’ a city is not to do all the tourist attractions but to ‘get lost and discover it for yourslef’. With this in mind we hadn’t joined the crazy long queues to climb the Eifle Tower, instead we had marvelled at it from the ground below before wondering through the streets, lanes and local parks. In fact we wondered so far that by the end of the day a background app on my phone recorded 5.5 miles – the furthest I’ve walked in one day since my diagnosis.

Walking through a park whilst searching for somewhere for dinner I was struck that everyone around us was busy taking ‘selfies’ and not enjoying the moment. Now, don’t get me wrong, those who know me know I’m guilty of more than a few selfies so no judgement from me, I was just struck that it was what everyone was doing. No one was actually talking to one another – so busy where they trying to capture the perfect moment that they were forgetting to actually live it. I recalled a conversation I’d had with one of the documentary makers last year. They’d explained that there had been a study done that you remember experiences differently if you look at them through your phone taking photos of videos. In short they were saying to live the moment rather than capture it to show an ‘airbrushed’ version of your life on social media.

Again I’m digressing, but it is relevant I promise…

As we were walking, surrounded by people on their phones, something caught my eye. Just past everyone else there stood a very smartly dressed man standing away from the crowd feeding the birds. As I watched I noticed a large animal near his feet. “Is that an otter?” I asked my hubby. “Where?” He declared, no doubt confused by my random question about a water mammal whilst in the middle of a busy city. However, I pointed and managed to convince him that we needed to explore further.

So, we made our way over to the man, who appeared embarrassed by our presence, giving the sense that we were intruding on a private event. What we witnessed was beautiful and I feel both blessed and humbled to have been a part of it.

The man had a large bag of bread from which he was feeding a range of birds, including two groups of newly hatched ducklings. However, he was also taking his time to carefully peel and slice pieces of carrot to hand feed a large water vole. By large I mean the size of an adult Tom cat. The interaction between them was awe inspiring. This man, in his no doubt designer suit was not just feeding these animals but he was doing so with love and care. These were his pets, his friends, his family. Each time he fed the water vole, just a rodent to many, he knelt down and whispered to it in French before it gently took the carrot from his hands. Standing close to the man, I also had the pleasure of this beautiful wild animal coming up to me.

​​
“Do you speak English?” I asked the man in French.

“A little,” he shyly replied.

“Do you come every day?”

The excitement was evident in his reply, “oh yes, every day, I live just there, ” he pointed nearby.

We continued to watch the interaction and I’m glad we did because the magic increased. The man bent down again and handed the water vole a large piece of bread. Taking it with the same care it had the carrot it wondered to the water edge where it placed the bread in the water. Confused we watched as a group of large fish came to the surface to eat the bread.

“Did it just intentionally feed the fish?” Hubby and I asked one another. ‘That can’t be.”

However, as we watched the man carefully cut another piece of carrot for the water vole which it again accepted with care and ate in front of the man. Next the man gave him another piece of bread and, amazingly, again it carried it to the water edge to feed the fish.

Isn’t that incredible?

With love, care and daily patience this man had created a bond so strong with this wild animal that they were now working together to feed other animals. In harmony their kindness was creating ripples.

Two things struck me in that moment: The first, of course was the beautiful connection that can come between the love of a human and an animal. It’s something I’ve experienced many times myself with pets and wild animals alike and it is always a privilege and a joy. The love this man was expressing was a pleasure to witness and the joy it gave him was evident – I am sure he would have many stories to share over a coffee.

The second realisation was that not one other person in the park that day had noticed this interaction. Too busy taking selfies alongside tourist attractions like thousands of people before them, they hadn’t experienced the magic and wonder in that very place that you wouldn’t find in any tourist guides. I finally understood what Paulo had meant in his books. 

I said at the start of this blog post that I hoped I could do this encounter justice and I doubt that I have. In reality I think this moment had a profound meaning on my life so deep that I wouldn’t be able to express it through the simple action of documenting words. You see it relates to a conversation I had recently with someone I care about. They had explained to me that they had stopped following my public Facebook page because it was too focused on cancer. “That’s just not you.” They’d declared.

It had left me thinking….what was me?

Yes in March my Facebook page had, admittedly, taken a huge focus on cancer in recognition of ‘Ovarian Cnacer Awareness Month’. However, it was also the month that my health had suffered most since the end of treatment with my magnesium levels dropping radidly again. Coincidence? I think not. I am a strong believing in attracting what you think about. I mean I am the girl who I for no genetic reason had convinced herself that she’d be diagnosis with ovarian cancer at the age of 30 and lo and behold look what happened…

Their simple words had touched me deeply and I realised they were right, I am not about cancer. Whilst I like to raise awareness I do not ‘suffer’ from my diagnosis. I am not a ‘victim’ and don’t even get me started on ‘fighting cancer’ – I loath that term!

“So, what am I about?” I was left wondering.

This encounter gave me my answer, It reminded me exactly what makes my heart sing.

I am about love. I am about light. I am about healing. I am about joy. I am about LIVING – truly, madly, deeply!

What if cancer has a stage five after stage four? What if Stage Five is finding out what you are about. What if Stage Five is about LIVING?

My wish for you…enjoy the moment. Get lost and discover the hidden joys in your life – trust me they are everywhere when you start to look! Above all, if you have a late stage cancer diagnosis, may you embrace stage five and start to LIVE with the same love and care as the man I met in Paris.

Love and light always, Fi xx 

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CT Scan…finding the cancer

Following the news I had cancer my consultant asked me to come to hospital the next day and be admitted as an inpatient. This was so I could get a CT scan, some medication to manage the pain and sickness and a drip to manage my dehydration.

I was told to arrive at 10am and, because I didn’t know how long I’d be in for and because I love an excuse for some nature time, I went for an early morning walk with my husband. Isn’t there something magical about the cold winter air when you are feeling down and crapy?!

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It was a beautiful day and really helped to give us some perspective, and time away from our constantly buzzing phones(!), to just be alone together and talk about what was going to be happening over the next year.

When we arrived at the hospital I was put on a drip as planned – cue a million attempts at getting a cannula in my hand!…hard to believe I used to be a blood donor with the hopeless veins I know have!

I was told I’d been booked in for my CT scan at 2pm so in the meantime I sat and chatted with my husband and two sisters playing ‘Cards Against Humanity’ – if you’ve not played it before I can only warn you that it is not for the faint hearted(!!) and probably sums up my dry sense of humour entirely! It is a great laugh!

There was almost a sense of relief in going for my CT scan – it may sound crazy but I knew it was taking me one step closer to my recovery and although I knew it was likely to uncover news I didn’t want to hear, it was all part of the necessary process. However, once I was in the CT room I had what we will call my first ‘moment’. They had to put dye in the cannula in my hand and it was so painful! I am pretty good on the old pain threshold side of things but wow was that a sore one! I cried and think I may of actually screamed at one point as the poor nurse injected the dye and rubbed my hand for comfort.  On reflection, this was the first time I had been alone since my diagnosis and I think what actually caused this reaction wasn’t the pain but the reality of a long journey in which often only medical staff would be able to hold my hand.

The CT scan only lasted about 10 minutes and then I was able to go back to my bed on the ward. I was exhausted – it is amazing how much cancer (and not being able to eat because of cancer) exhausts you!

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That evening my husband and I met with two oncologists and were told the early results of the CT scan. They explained that they review the suspected primary sites first (in my case my ovaries) and then your vital organs (head, liver and lungs) and then the rest. Whilst we knew we would get the full results the following day following their multi-disciplinary team (MDT) meeting they wanted to let us know that it had been confirmed that I had cancer in my ovaries and that my head and liver were clear – well thank f%&k for that…some monumental good news in a sea of crazy!

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That night I didn’t sleep well – a result of having a bed next to the nurses station and the anxiety of waiting for the full results the next day.

love and light, Fi xx