gratitude, health, holistic health, kindness, motivation, positivity, shamanism

The Path of a Shamanic Storyteller

On Sunday night I returned home after the penultimate five day weekend of my shamanic practitioner training.

I graduate in March.

I’m not sure how to even begin to describe what this training has involved, or what it means to me.

I’ve met, and connected with, 5 incredible women who have become like sisters to me. Soul sisters with whom I’m sharing a spiritual path and, whom I hope to continue to share and grow with for many, many years to come.

They know me at such an intimate level. They have seen and witnessed the depths of my soul in a way that is indescribable. At each training weekend we sit in a sacred circle and share with intimate detail the essence of who we are, without fear of judgement and always in receipt of pure and unconditional love and acceptance.

But the training isn’t just about the sharing. It’s also about learning to work in a shamanic manner. ‘Re-learning’ I should say, as we already know…we have just forgotten.

It’s about connecting with something bigger than ourselves, stepping away from the dramas of every day life, being guided by spirit, allowing ourselves permission to learn, to grow and to step onto the true path of our soul.

And, still it’s more.

It’s a coming home. A reconnection. A remembering. Like parts of my soul are reawakening.

Put simply, it’s indescribable. Because there are no words to describe what this path, or this training, is like. Words don’t do it justice. No, this path has to be felt, to be lived.

During this particular weekend I had the honour, and privilege, of my 5 peers, my mentor and another qualified practitioner working on me as a group for 2.5 hours.

Together they held space while I talked through my healing journey and then I embodied my cancer and, for nearly an hour, I spoke it’s story, it’s voice, it’s essence.

In October when I held a ‘cancer divorce ceremony’ I wrote a letter to my cancer. I guess, you can say, this was cancer’s chance to respond.

It was powerful stuff. Pure magic unfolded as words that didn’t belong to me flowed from my mouth.

The words were soft, protective, nourishing even. It seemed the essence of cancer was not there to punish me but to guide and protect me.

I felt overcome with a deep sense of peace, acceptance and surrender.

All fear left me. I felt held. I felt connected. I felt safe. I felt honoured in my wholeness and vulnerability.

Something had shifted in me. Not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually too.

Many people ask how I ended up on this course. It was pure guidance and coincidence. A friend of mine had bought me a one to one shamanic session with, my now dear friend and retreat colleague, Rhonda McCrimmon. That first session blew my mind. I’d never heard of shamanism, the spirit world or any of the other magic Rhonda talked about.

But that’s not why I started training. A few months later (during which I was reading everything I could about shamanism) I found myself at Trew Fields Festival in Surrey (a holistic healing festival for people with cancer). There I kept meeting shamans. Suddenly, I’d gone from never having heard of shamanism to it being everywhere.

I sat in circle with one of them whom some of you will know as Anne (the founder of Cancerucan) and had a profound experience with a spirit snake. Talking to her she suggested that I was already on the path to shamanism and should seek a tutor or mentor.

So, I found myself googling shamanic training during my train journey back to Scotland, the friend I was travelling with (Claire – The Independent Single Mum) encouraging me to ‘send the email’ when I found a practitioner that resonated.

So I did. Then, during my next session with Rhonda it transpired that the person I had emailed was who she had trained with – it appeared I was being guided, once again.

Not only that but my soon to be mentor, Carol Day, and I had actually crossed paths previously while I was studying my PhD…it seemed I’d missed the path’s previous calls to my soul.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the course, or even why I was being guided to do it, but, I just ‘knew’ that it was what I had to do. This knowing was deep and unavoidable.

Has the path been easy? No. Without doubt it is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But, one thing is for sure, it’s the best decision I’ve ever made for my personal and spiritual growth and development.

To date, I’ve held back in what I’ve shared about the training and the growth I’ve experienced through it, but my guidance now is to open up completely.

Increasingly I am realising that my background as a researcher for the NHS and Scottish Government enables me to be a translator of spirituality into the realms of the every day and even into the scientific areas of life.

So this is where I will position myself, a shamanic storyteller, bridging the guidance of the spirit world into the everyday world and into the lives of those who read my words.

After all, it’s what my writing and talks have been doing for years already, only now, I’ll be more transparent about it.

With love and gratitude always, Fi xx

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, holistic health, ovarian cancer, shamanism

Why I ‘Divorced’ My Cancer

On Friday night I held a shamanic ‘Cancer Divorce Ceremony’ on St Andrew’s West Sands Beach as I said farewell to my cancer. Not because my cancer has ‘gone’, far from it, but because I no longer want to be ‘married’ to the labels of my disease.
 
You see, I think many of us, unknowingly, become married to our cancer following a diagnosis. Very quickly we find ourselves in a co-dependent relationship with our disease, avoiding looking at aspects of our lives because we are using our cancer as an excuse to hold us back. I’ve been there too. I’ve done this and I speak from experience.
 
I believe, it is only once we ‘divorce’ and detach that we are able to say ‘who am I without this’ and ‘how has this relationship with cancer changed me, my values and my beliefs.’
 
I no longer want to ever use cancer as an excuse not to do my inner work, not to look at who I am and what needs to heal, not to show up in the world as my authentic self. So, I chose to divorce from it.
 
The ceremony itself was an energetic releasing of the ties to cancer. It was an acknowledging of all that it has brought me (good and bad) and all that it took away (also good and bad).
 
But it wasn’t just about me releasing the ties. It was about my loved ones doing the same too.
 
Each of us wrote a private letter to my cancer in which we expressed our farewell wishes. Some people expressed anger, some expressed gratitude, but ultimately, we were all saying goodbye.
 
None of the letters were read by anyone else, which meant that everyone was able to expre4ss their feelings in unfiltered, raw and open honesty. How often are we able to do that in life?
 
On the night I used shamanic rituals to open a space, calling in the four directions as well as inviting in guardians of the space in the form of the energy of loved ones other members of the circle had previously lost to cancer. I asked many of my shamanic friends to attend the ceremony and together we held a circle of energy for the ritual. I felt truly blessed to be joined by such incredible people.
 
There was music, drumming and chanting as the energy of the ritual built before we each took our turn to burn our letters on the fire and say our final goodbyes to cancer. Many of the group members had experienced cancer in their family lives too and their goodbyes went beyond my own cancer.
 
We also burnt the letters of my loved ones who were not at the ceremony too. In fact, over 30 letters were burnt on Friday night.
 
Everyone who wrote a letter mentioned how healing it was to acknowledge how my cancer has made them feel, to say the things they’ve longed to say, not to me, but to my disease.
 
This ceremony was an acknowledgment that it hasn’t just affected me, it has affected all of us.
 
I wanted to share with you all the letter that I wrote to my cancer. It’s not the whole letter. The whole one was nearly 4000 words. I’ve pasted it below. May it bring you peace and insight into the magic that can unfold when we open a conversation with our disease and with our limitations.
 
With love, Fi xx
 
—————-
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“Dear Cancer
 
I want to say that I’m just really angry with you but that would be a lie. In truth, anger is not all that I feel towards you. I am also unbelievably grateful to you too.
 
You see, you enabled me to leave the life that wasn’t serving me. Yes, I could have done it on my own but you and I both know that I wouldn’t have. I needed to get sick. I needed an excuse.
 
You gave me that and, in doing so, you enabled me to not feel guilty when I left that life behind and started to forge a new path in the world. You also enabled me to say no to doing things that I didn’t want to do. I didn’t have to say ‘no’ as such, instead I was able to say ‘no, because of cancer’. It meant that people weren’t angry with me when I said no to things. Instead they were angry with you. I hid behind you in so many ways. You gave me an excuse. I told people that you made me more authentic but, I realise now, that, in so many ways the opposite was true. You actually enabled me to be less authentic. You gave me a mask to hide behind.
 
So, saying goodbye to you is actually really hard because now I will have to do all these things for myself. I won’t have you to hide behind anymore and that’s really scary because, in reality, I’m often really fearful of what other people think and I am often terrible at setting boundaries. With you there I was able to act like I wasn’t but that’s only because people don’t care what you say or do when you have cancer. Well, it’s not that they don’t care but I certainly got away with a lot more while I was able to blame you. I realise now that I’ve been using you as my scape goat. That is so hard to admit but it’s the truth. I’m sorry about that.
 
But, because of you I have grown so much. I have looked at so many aspects of myself that I never would have looked at previously. I have learnt to deal with a lot of things, and I am also healing a lot of aspects of myself that I hadn’t previously known needed healing. Thank you. I am so grateful.
 
Sometimes I wonder if it would be easier to go through life being ignorant. But actually, it wouldn’t be easier at all. It would be simpler yes but not easier. So, although it’s hard I am ready for the healing that it will bring me to say goodbye to you and to the excuses you gave me. I am ready to go even deeper with my healing work. I am ready to discover who I really am behind the mask of you that I wore for so long.
 
I am also so grateful for the relationships you brought me. There are so many people in my life now, some of them my best friends, who I only met because of you. Thank you. I genuinely can’t imagine what life would be like without all these people that came into my life because of you and the path you placed me on.
 
If I’m honest, I think that you likely saved my marriage. It’s not that it was failing or in trouble before you arrived by any means, but I was certainly on the trajectory of working harder and harder and pushing myself more and more in a bid to not look at the past traumas and buried emotions I was feeling. I was pushing Ewan (and many other people) away because it was easier but, because of you, I have slowed down and I now value him so much. He is such an incredible and precious man. I took that for granted before. Thank you.
 
I am thankful for all of the amazing experiences I have had because of you too. There have been so many things, too many to mention, all because you came into my life. Thank you.
 
But I am also angry. I am angry at how you sadden my Ewan and my loved ones. I am angry that by being in my life you make them sad and scared. But as I write this, I realise that it is not sadness that they show; it is love. I can’t help then but also be thankful for this too. You have shown me how very loved I am. I didn’t see that before. I couldn’t. I didn’t feel worthy of love and now I do. Now I know that I am worthy and that I have a purpose. You put me on the path to discovering who I am and what my life’s work is, and I am so grateful.
 
It feels really hard to say goodbye to you. I realise that I have interwoven my life with you. We are entangled. The life I have forged over the past four years is so engrained in you. I am scared of what it will be like for me to be authentic without you. I am scared about how I will show up in the world and how I will be received without you as my safety net.
 
I know that I want to change the world, or at least a small part of it, but not because of you. I don’t want that to be my legacy. I want to inspire people because of me. I don’t want people to think of me and then think of cancer. I want my cancer to be a distant memory, but I want my words to inspire, motivate and stay with people, long after my passing.
 
More than anything I want to live a long and healthy life. I don’t want to feel the pain anymore. I don’t want to feel the fear. I remember, before you, thinking that I would live forever. I want that feeling again. I don’t want to be worried constantly that I don’t have time to do all the things that I want to do. But then I guess this is what I tell people all the time, that we may die at any point and so we have to keep doing what we can with joy and passion in our hearts for as long as we are able. So, I guess I am making a commitment now to keep pushing towards my dreams and accept that I could live for many, many years but that I could also die tomorrow. The same could be said for any of us.
 
I really want that you know. I really want to live for many years. I want to be healthy. I want to become an old lady. I want to be free from you. I want you to leave my body. I want you to let me live my life now. It is my greatest wish. My long sought after dream.
 
But, regardless, I promise to commit my life to self-healing and growth and to the healing and growth of others. I promise I will keep striving forward to make the world a better place in the words I teach and the lessons that I share. This is what I want for me. This is what I want for the world. Whether I live until I’m 90 or die in my 30s, my dreams and focus will remain the same.
 
But I know that in order to do this, that I need to energetically say goodbye to you. It’s really hard. You’ve been a part of my life for so long. I am more scared of life without you than of life with you. In fact, it terrifies me. I am terrified of who I will be without you. I am terrified of what my life will be like. I am terrified of how people will treat me. I am terrified of what I will have to face inside of myself. I am terrified of the emotional and spiritual healing work I will have to do on myself and the authenticity I will have to express when I no longer have you to use as an excuse to express it. I am so scared of receiving rejection when I don’t have you to validate my words.
 
I am scared.
 
But I am more scared now of who I will be and how I will be remembered if I don’t release you. I am more scared now that if I don’t do this that I will become overwhelmed by you, and so will the memory of me. I am more scared now of losing sight of all I have the potential to become if I keep hiding behind you.
 
So, as hard as it is, I know that I need to say goodbye to you. I need to find out who I am without you. I need to find out how I can show up in the world without you as my safety net. I believe, only then will I be able to become the best version of myself and the person I was destined to be.
 
So, while I will be forever thankful for so much that you have given me and so grateful for the path you have put me on, it is time for me to say goodbye to you.
 
With gratitude and love for you always. Goodbye.
 
Fi Munro, PhD”
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

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

ovarian cancer

What Would You Wish For?

“What Would You Wish For?”

This morning I woke from a very vivid dream with tears in my eyes.

In my dream, someone had stood before me and said ‘I can take it all away, I can make it so you never had stage four cancer.’ I remained silent as they went on ‘You would never have had the chemotherapy; your hair would still be intact and you never would have suffered the distress it had caused you. Your surgery wouldn’t have happened; your scar would vanish, your colostomy wouldn’t exist and the trauma you experienced would disappear from your mind.’
In my dream I silently stared at them as they spoke and finally muttered ‘would I remember the lessons?’

‘Only if you wanted to’ they replied.

‘Would I be teaching yoga?’ I asked, slightly bewildered.

‘No, you would still be in your previous job.’

Then, somewhere between the dream and awakening I began to think about what this would mean….

I would never have taught a single child yoga and, as a result, I would never have witnessed the magic that happens when a child is gifted the ability to self sooth, or the wonder in their eyes when they learn about chakras, or the softening of their spirit as I teach them the mantra of ‘I am kind, I am loved, I am safe, I am enough….’

I would have never made the friends I have through cancer and, as a result, so many people I cherish deeply would still be strangers.

I, of course, also never would have lost the dear friends that I parted ways with during my journey (some through death and some through anger), but perhaps our story together was over and that, as painful as it was, is OK. The memories we shared will always be carried in my heart.

I never would have written my book or personally had the honour of connecting with hundreds of people as they go through their own cancer journey or who are supporting a loved one with cancer. I never would have shared the tears and felt the connection when people wrote to me about a loved one passing away from cancer, or the joy when someone survived against all the odds.

I wouldn’t have known what it’s like to have everything I thought was ‘me’ stripped away to leave the raw reality upon which I could rebuild the person I have become….no, the warrior I have become!

I never would have met, nor witnessed, the incredible medical staff who I have had the absolute privilgde of receiving care from. My oncologist, my surgeons, the nurses (oh the wonderful nurses), the porter, the cleaning staff, the volunteers and the doctors would all remain strangers and I would never know what it is like to witness, nor recieve, the passionate, person-centred care that they offer.

I wouldn’t place the value I do on time away with my hubby, on days with my family or on adventures with friends. Instead, perhaps I would have kept working long days and commuting long hours, unaware that my precious life was slipping past me in a blur.

I wouldn’t have handed out a single random act of kindness and, sadly, I wouldn’t have connected with the lives and stories of so many beautiful strangers, some of whom have become dear friends and, all of whom, have taught me some of the most valuable lessons in life.

And I realised something; I wouldn’t trade a single second of my diagnosis, of my treatment, of my surgery or of my recovery if it meant that I would miss out on any of the wonderful gifts it had brought me.

In that moment I knew that, while my cancer may never be cured, I can say now, without a shadow of doubt in my mind, that I am completely ‘healed’ in every sense of the word and that is the greatest gift of all.

I don’t know what tomorrow holds, neither do any of us, but I do know that because of (not in spite of) my cancer, that I will be living my life with kindness, with gratitude and, above all, with love.

Look for the beauty, embrace the gifts and I promise you cancer can heal us all.

Love and light, Fi xxx

‘Health Blogger of the Year 2017’

Author of ‘Love, Light and Mermaid Tails: One Woman’s Healing Journey Back to Wholeness Through Stage Four Cancer’

ovarian cancer

The Innate Ability to be Kind

Today I met my Uncle for a cuppa and he gave me this beautiful teal dream catcher.

When I got back to my car I noticed that the car in front had a parking fine on their windscreen. We’ve all been there – it’s the worse feeling coming back to your car to an unexpected bill to add to the list. I felt for the person and wondered about their reaction. Whilst doing so I noted that they had not ‘just’ missed the end of their paid time by a few moments. Their parking had been up for nearly three hours!

As I sat in my own car I began to wonder why someone would be so late for their car. I knew immediately what I had to do. I reached for something in my bag, leapt out of my car and slipped one of my blue envelopes under their windscreen wiper. Inside was a random act of kindness. At least now they now have some money to help with the bill 💖

Doing these random acts of kindness never fails to brighten my day. The simple gesture of touching a stranger’s life in a beautiful way with no expectation of their reaction is one of the most beautiful things we can all do. It doesn’t have to cost a penny. A smile costs nothing and yet it can make a huge difference to someone’s life.

How lucky we are to all have this innate gift to help others.

Love and light, Fi xxx

You can read more about my random acts of kindness and where the money comes from.

health, ovarian cancer, yoga

Sprouting For Joy – Raw Food Day 6

Sprouting For Joy – Raw Food Day 6Wow it’s already 6 days since I started eating 100% raw and I am feeling AMAZING!

Today’s video is all about sprouts! No not the kind you avoid at Christmas but sprouted nuts, seeds and lentils and why they are a must in a raw food diet. Actually why they are a must in everyone’s diet!

These are super tasty, super healthy and, best of all, super easy to prepare!

I hope you enjoy the video and feel inspired to ‘sprout for joy’ too!

Love and light, Fi xx

New to my page? In Jan 2016 , at the age of just 30, I was diagnosed with non-genetic, stage four ovarian cancer. There is no stage five. Since then I’ve quit my job as a researcher and retrained as a yoga instructor. I’ve launched my own yoga business and spend my time teaching and practicing yoga and ensuring I have optimal nutritional, physical and emotional health. I also recently wrote a book about my journey back to wholeness.

I’ve been shortlisted for ‘The Health Blogger of the Year’.

It would be super awesome if you could head here and vote to help me win.

You don’t need to provide any details (not even your name!), you just have to tick a box!

Namaste!