Today I achieved one of my life long dreams I couldn’t be more proud.
As many of you know, in May 2016 I underwent major surgery for stage four ovarian cancer during which I had multiple organs removed. The recovery was tough and involved a week in a high dependency unit and almost two months in hospital whilst I regained enough strength to walk, recovered from sepsis in my liver and adjusted to life with a colostomy bag.
At the time I was told it could be several months before I was even able to walk up stairs or bend down and my husband moved our bedroom downstairs into our dinning room in preparation for my return home.
Not one to be defeated I, perhaps crazily, decided this was the time to pursue my dream of becoming a yoga teaching and so, with the support of my oncologist, I approached a yoga training school.
Just weeks later I was sat in a cafe having an interview with the course leader. I was convinced she would be put off by my medical situation and turn me away however, miraculously, she took a chance on me and in early September 2016 I started a 12 month training course.
I had a PhD by the age of 26 so I am not shy of a little hard work but what followed was, at times, the hardest education journey of my life. Physically weak from surgery, emotionally and mentally drained from chemo, I constantly struggled to keep up with my wonderful classmates. Each month we would have coursework to complete, postures and adjustments to learn and, of course, hours of yoga practice. We not only studied yoga but also pranayama (breathing), chakras, meditation, nutrition, yoga philosophy and so much more!
Each weekend of training left me exhausted and requiring often days to recover but I loved every single second. My monthly yoga training weekends became key milestones for me. Getting through two days of training reminded me how alive I was and how incredibly well I was doing despite everything my body had been through.
My physical, emotional and spiritual health responded and my holistically health drastically improved as a result. Now, a war after finishing chemo my cancer markers are low and stable and I have never felt more alive.
Today after what could have been the worst year of my life I completed my yoga training and received my full qualification.
I have never been more proud of myself and hope that my story will inspire others to never give up on their dreams because if you just believe in yourself and you keep taking tiny steps in the right direction then anything is possible!
If I can train as a yoga instructor whilst living with and being treated for stage four ovarian cancer then just think what you can achieve.
Follow your bliss and magic happens!
With special thanks to the wonderful, inspiring and supportive people who trained alongside me; to the course leaders and trainers who took a chance on me and to everyone who has supported my yoga business. You have all played a massive part in making my dreams come true and I am forever grateful.
Tomorrow evening at 6.40pm I am having a CT scan of my lungs.
I’m not a huge fan of scans and I had planned to not have any more however I am desperate to get on a plane and go to Thailand with hubby one day. So, this scan is to see if my lungs are clear and I am safe to fly. Fingers crossed! I am hoping and wishing for some positive news!!
Usually it’s me sending love and light but (just this once) I’m asking you to send love, light and healing to me.
I delivered another Random Act of Kindness today. It is honestly still my favourite thing to do! This one was extra special though as it came from someone else…
Despite the fact that I am meant to be resting I needed to go and order new glasses as I broke mine teaching kids yoga. Yes I know, if I’d been resting they wouldn’t have got broken…blah blah…
Anyway…I used to work in my local opticians so I let them know I’d be popping by. One of the women that works there reads my Facebook (**waves**) and so she dropped me a message to tell me to say hi when I was in.
This I did and I’m so glad! She is without doubt one of the loveliest souls I’ve ever met. No I’m not just saying that because she will read this! She welcomed me with a warm and enthusiastic hug like no other and then surprised me by giving me a ‘random act of kindess’ envelope with money inside and asked me to ‘pass it on’.
I was so touched! I love when other people join in!
Leaving the shop I was still smiling when I went to buy some ‘jeggings’ – I hate that word but basically I need jeans with legging tops now I have a colostomy bag…anyway I’m going off topic (again!)
So I was trying them on and while doing so I could hear two friends chatting through the curtain of the cubicle next to me.
Their utter joy and laughter was infectious! From their ensthusiastic batter I gathered that one was helping the other buy a selection of clothes for various up coming events. What struck me was their passion. The one trying on the clothes was so unashamedly grateful for her friend’s help. Lsughing loudly she kept thanking her and declaring that she had ‘never looked so good’ and ‘couldn’t wait to show people’. The whole dialogue screamed LOVE!
I was really touched and knew straight away that I’d have to give them the envelope I’d just been passed moments before.
As I left I slipped the envelope into one of their hands and was met with the usual look of confusion and a mumbled ‘thankyou’ which, when combined, always translates as ‘who the f*ck is this crazy woman handing me an envelope’.
As ever, it gave me so much joy and I hope the ladies got as much out of it as I did. I just love being able to pass on acts of kindness in this way.
So, tell your friends you love them; be unashamedly you; and scatter kindness around wherever you go!
In January 2016 I was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. I was just 30 years old.
Overnight my whole world changed as words like ‘incurable’, ‘advanced’ and ‘aggressive’ filled my life.
I though that was it. I thought my life was over.
It turns out that I was wrong.
You see, positivity comes from within and life is what you make it…
As for #LifeWithCancer, it’s been pretty awesome!
I’ve done some incredible things since I was diagnosed. I’ve set up my own Bliss yoga business for kids and adults, I’m about to publish a book to help other people facing adversity, I’ve been in two BBC documentaries, I’ve swum with sharks, been on a cruise, been to award ceremonies (and even won some award!), walked at the top of a mountain, most importantly I’ve started truly LIVING!
You see #LifeWithCancer doesn’t have to be the end…it can be the beginning of something wonderful. So go out and grab life. Claim it, live it and love every second of it because at the end of the day life is for living and having fun each and every day!
As I lay there on the floor, wrapped in a towel, unable to move from the pain and sickness I wondered does it ever go away? The fear? The illness? The anger? Is this the best it gets?
Every ache, every pain, every twinge, every new sensation bringing with it the lingering thought ‘is this cancer?’
No longer do you just get a head ache. No it must be a brain tumour.
The pain in your side can’t be from overdoing it. No it must mean the cancer in your lungs is back.
Upset tummy? That’s definitely the cancer spreading.
No matter how positive you are in the day to day, the here and now, the fear is just a moment away, waiting. Death walks beside you every step of the way.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not wallowing in a constant fear, depressed and unable to live. No, that would mean that the beautiful lessons cancer brought me had been ignored.
Instead I am aware of its whispers. I hear it call my name in the quiet moments of pain, in the dead of night, punctuating my daily joy with subtle reminders of its permanent presence.
Internally I scream,
“I heard you. I learned the lessons. Now hear me. I want to LIVE!”
Of course it will not hear. You cannot bargain with stage four cancer.
It is such a cruel reality; the gift of knowing how precious life is and wanting to live and enjoy every moment coinciding with the fact that your life will be shortened by this gift. Oh the painful irony.
Perhaps, however, that is part of the beauty of stage four cancer. Perhaps if remission meant ‘never to return’ instead of ‘short break‘ then the lessons wouldn’t be learned. Time would march on and slowly we’d slip into old habits, forgetting the value of each moment, each breath.
Yet this fear does not bring joy.
People want to comfort you, telling you it’ll be ok. You are different after all don’t you know…
You know the truth though. You smile and nod, excepting their reassurance but inside your pain feels belittled. Why won’t someone just listen to your fears without comforting? Why won’t someone just hear your words?
In the incredible book ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ the author perfectly states “there is cancer and then there is CANCER“, highlighting the difference between those who have curable cancer and go on to live happy, healthy lives and those who, like me, have incurable cancer which will linger in the shadows ready to pounce.
Recently a friend said “we’ll look after Ewan when you’re gone.” The acceptance, the acknowledgment of the reality of my disease was the most comforting words I’d ever heard. They didn’t depressingly insinuate that my death was imminent, neither did they ignorantly suggest I was ‘heathy’. No, what they did was reassure me. With those words they also silently said, ‘I hear your fears’, ‘I love you’, ‘I support you’, ‘I’m here’.
I was not as alone as I’d once thought. They knew. They accepted.
And suddenly I realised. Perhaps everyone ‘knows’.
Had I really thought talking about it would make any difference? Is that what I want?
Would constantly grieving the future change the reality?
Perhaps all each of us in this journey together – the cancer warriors and their loved ones – can do is savour each moment, each smile, each breath without anticipatory grief of an, as yet, unknown future.
Yes, perhaps that’s all any of us can do. Each and every one of us on this wild and wonderful journey called ‘life’. We can live for today, irrespective of tomorrow, and pause and smile at all of the wonderful, incredible and beautiful moments there are to be grateful for.
You see, living in fear doesn’t change anything. However, living in gratitude…now that can change your whole world!
Love and light, Fi xxx
Ps. Dear Reader, please don’t take this post to mean that I am ‘depressed’ nor that I want to talk about my prognosis all the time. Instead please understand that I wrote this post merely to highlight some of the painful moments felt on the rollercoaster that is LIVING with late stage cancer.xxx
You can read more about Fi Munro on her website and public Facebook page.
I pledged to hand out one of my kindness envelopes every day between 1st and 24th December but it simply hasn’t happened for many reasons including a lot of resting and also some much needed time with my nearest and dearest!
I’m still, of course, handing out 24 envelopes in December (I don’t break promises) but now I’m just handing out multiple on the days I do venture out.
So, this is a wee update on 5 envelopes I handed out over a week ago. I hope these short stories inspire you to do good and to be kind.
Christmas Envelope 11
Many of you now know that I recently did a shark dive for Maggies’s Centres. It was an incredible experience that I’ve wanted to do for over nine years but had been putting off. If it hadn’t been for the support of my incredible oncologist and Macmillan nurse it would have remained a dream as my health conditions would have prevented it becoming a reality. However, with their support I was able to do it and I’m so so grateful! It was absolutely mind blowing.
Anyway, as usual, I digress. The dive took place at Deep Sea World in Scotland. It’s one of my favourite places as I love the sea more than anything else – a result of growing up on Guernsey. We’d been there the week before for my original date for diving and I’d handed out a couple of envelopes but my dive had been postponed for medical reasons so we were back again. Now, what you may not know is that we’d also been there the week before my surgery. It was one of the special things I did with my hubby to celebrate life that week.
That was back in May but a chance meeting with a wonderful woman who worked there had stuck with me and I was so glad to see her again that I gave her an envelope.
You see, back in May I was in the middle of chemotherapy treatment and, a combination of extreme weight lose, muscle wastage and no hair meant that, despite my best efforts, I had the look of a typical cancer patient.
When we were in the cafe at Deep Sea World a member of staff asked if she could give me a hug. I must have looked confused because she had quickly explained that she had had cancer in the past and that so had her mum. We began talking and she explained that her mum had had ovarian cancer. The same as me! She’d also had a big operation and was now doing grand! It was such a blessing to hear and exactly what I needed to calm my nerves so close to my own operation. The woman gave me the peace of mind that nothing else would and over the coming weeks and months I thought of her often.
So, a few weeks ago, following my shark dive my family and I sat down for lunch in the cafe again and here she was working (oddly she hadn’t been working the week before so if my dive hadn’t been postponed then I wouldn’t have seen her). We chatted and hugged again and this time she told me how well her mum was doing. Again, she left me inspired and filled with hope.
This woman is an angel to me and so deserving of an envelope. In fact, it was one of my favourite to hand over. I only wish I could have done more for this beautiful soul.
Christmas Envelope 12
One of my other favourite things to do is go to the cinema. I have no idea why but for me it is one of the most exciting nights out. Perhaps it’s because you can loose all sense of reality whilst emerced in a movie. I don’t know but I love everything from the massive screen to the surround sound and dark room. I especially love the trailers which I call ‘mini movies’. If it was a choice between going to a bar or going to the cinema, I’d pick the cinema every time! So, hubby and I go on a regular basis.
Last week was no exception and we found ourselves in the queue with me buzzing as always at the thought of seeing a new film. In the queue behind us was a man and his wee boy. Just the two of them. It got me thinking…you don’t often see men out with their kids on their own. Well, not that often anyway. I remembered that every second Monday on my train journey to work I used to see a man and his wee boy having to say goodbye to each other. I watched this relationship for two years during which the wee boy grew from about two to four. Every goodbye was as heartbreaking to watch as the previous. The wee boy would be crying and telling his daddy how much he loved him. The dad would be smiling and telling the boy that he’d see him in two weeks. They’d talk about the fun they’d had and the adventures they’d have the next time. Every time the dad was wiping his own eyes whenever the boy wasn’t looking. It was one of my favourite moments, seeing this connection between two souls who unconditionally loved each other but couldn’t be together. It was both heartbreaking and life affirming to witness.
The man and his child in the cinema got me thinking about this and, for some reason, I knew I had to give them an envelope. The man looked somewhat bemused as people often do when I approach them but, moments later, I saw them laughing together at the sweet counter and I knew I’d chosen well.
Christmas Envelope 13, 14 and 15
A few months ago I was honoured to be asked to speak at two Macmillan lunches for Team McKeown. It was a real privaledge to work with such amazing people.
Following the events, Caroline McKeown who leads this team with her hubby Des, very kindly offered me free tickets to see Michelle MacManus perform in Glasgow with an incredible Indian meal before hand at Ashoka Regent Brasserie in Kirkintilloch. It was such an amazing gift and a wonderful act of kindness that meant I could take out some great friends who have supported me this year.
Everything was perfect from the meal – which was so incredibly tasty! – to Michelle’s performance.
Whilst at the show I had decided to hand out three of my kindness envelope but(!) instead of handing them all out myself I gave one to each of my friends (aka Christmas helpers) to hand out too.
I gave mine to a young couple looking very much in love standing beside me in the never ending queue at the bar.
One of my friends gave hers to a woman walking behind us as we left – sadly I didn’t get a look at her.
My other friend, however, gave hers to a woman that not only ended up sitting beside me but who had also seen me present at the Macmillan lunches and what a blessing this woman was to me…
Seriously! She was like meeting an angel. This woman spoke from her soul about how my presentation had touched her and inspired her to ‘no longer sit back as an observer‘ but to ‘take action‘ and ‘make a change‘. She spoke with such passion and love as she told me her story and loses she’d experienced. We held each other, we sang together, we laughed and we cried and, I can honestly say, that despite our brief encounter, this woman touch my soul.
I said to her, “you know I think we needed to meet.” She replied telling me that “yes” she’d needed the inspiration. “No” I laughed “I think we needed to meet for me”.
And you know what? I truely meant it too. I’m a firm believer that you never meet anyone by chance, that everyone you meet has a lesson to teach you or a story that you need to hear. Just with the woman in the cafe mentioned above, this woman came into my life with her story at the right time and I was listening. Thank you beautiful soul.
So, what my message to you all? Listen carefully to what the world is trying to tell you. You never know where the story could lead you.
Love and light, Fi xxx
Ps. On Christmas Eve I handed out an incredible 10 Kindness envelopes!!…I’ll post an update soon!xxx
This year I faced Death. Not in a fleeting moment. We didn’t bump shoulders. No. Death and I stared each other straight in the eye.
It wasn’t the first time. In August 2015 my heart stopped during emergency surgery I’d required due to internal bleeding.
Interestingly that also wasn’t the first time…
No, it appears Death has hovered around me my whole life…from a near miss during my mum’s pregnancy (that’s her story to tell, not mine), to toxic shock from an allergic reaction to medication to being knocked down by a car (to name a few encounters).
You’d think my life long dance with Death would have made me wake up and realise that there was some message I was meant to receive. That Life was trying to tell me something…
On reflection now I realise that each encounter was more profound and extreme than the previous. Almost as if Life was shouting that little bit louder to get me to pay attention.
But no…in fact, it had the opposite effect. Instead of making me live for the moment it made be subconsciously believe that I was invincible, that I could survive all of this and so could put off my hopes and dreams until tomorrow…
For some reason, whilst brief encounters with Death had had no impact, the knowledge that it would now walk beside me for ever more was an entirely different story. Suddenly I was all to aware of my mortality.
True it didn’t taken just any cancer diagnosis. No, I was gifted a non-genetic, stage IV, possibly inoperable, ovarian cancer that ‘shouldn’t have happened’ to a thirty year old.
Life’s message had finally been received and I was listening.
So what do you do with this message? With the realisation that tomorrow isn’t to be taken for granted….that Life offers no gaurentees.
I remember the week before my big surgery. My husband took some holiday from work and I made a list of things I wanted to do. I never said it to him at the time but Death was with us at every moment. I was overwhelmed by the thought of not waking up from my surgery. It was to be a massive operation – the largest they’d done in one sitting – and that was frightening enough without the added concern that the last time I’d been on an operating table my heart had stopped. The surgeon had been brutally honest that there was more than the usual operation risk I wouldn’t wake up.
So, I had one week and I wanted to make it count. And, as a result, for the first time, I mindfully chose how to spend my time. I wasn’t wasting a second. Nothing was taken for granted.
I told people how much they meant to me. I loved them without reservation;
I had a picnic in a local park and invited everyone I knew (it was awesome);
The result? I realised what makes me happy and what truely matters in life.
Where you work, where you live, what you wear, what you drive; how big your house is; how much money you have…it’s all nothing. Nothing. Nothing! NOTHING!
Who you truly are; who you love; what makes you smile; what makes your heart sing…now that’s something! That’s what life is really all about!
In those few days I learnt more about Life and where my joy lies than I could have in a lifetime.
This is why I’m so grateful for my cancer. This is why I’m so positive and filled with love and joy and a childlike passion for life. And, if I’m totally honest, this is why I’m not ashamed to say I love mermaids and unicorns and glitter and sparkles.
You see, I am me! And I’m so proud of being me! Every day is a blessing and I’m so grateful to be healthy enough today to enjoy this very moment.
If I had one wish it would be that everyone reading this would just embrace the reality that we are not promised tomorrow so we must live today unashamed of who we are; we should love with all of our heart and we should laugh as loud as we can and as often as we can (even if only at ourselves)!
The day before my surgery I planned to write letters to those who mattered most to me, just in case. In the end, I never did because I’m a strong believer of ‘tempting fate’ and fortunately those letters weren’t needed as I’m still here. But, this gave me a hidden gift because now I know who I would write a letter too if I had to say goodbye. I know every single soul in this world who means so much to me that I’d want to tell them. But that’s not the gift…the real gift is I get to appreciate this knowledge every single day and make sure I show them so that, if the time comes, they won’t need a letter.
One day you’ll just be a memory for some people. Make sure you’re a good one.
So, my message to you… don’t wait until tomorrow to love, to laugh, to follow your dreams. Do it today.
The question I get asked over and over again is “how do you manage to stay so positive?”
Increasingly I believe it’s because I stay so busy, I don’t allow myself to stop and think about the reality…
I don’t let the words ‘stage four’, and everything that really means, sink in to my consciousness.
I just take each day at a time and try simply do my best.
Is this a state of denial? Perhaps but I don’t think so. I mean I have moments of realisation so debilitating I can’t move. Moments of panic so strong I can’t breath. The thought of my life being over is never far away. The promise of tomorrow never taken for granted.
However, I’m not sad or depressed. My life is not consumed by these moments but rather punctuated by them. They are little reminders of my mortality and with them they bring gratitude for each day, for each moment of joy and for each breath I take.
These emotions don’t remove my positivity but rather highlight its importantance.
How do I stay so positive shouldn’t be the question…but rather why do I stay so positive?
The answer to that question is much more straightforward.
I stay positive because I know better than most how precious life is.
I know how important it is that we never take a single moment for granted.
I know how valuable each breath we take truly is.
Life is a gift. It’s the greatest gift of all.
Life you life in a way that doesn’t take thingyft for granted.
Enjoy each moment and love with all of your heart. Because, quote simply, none of us are promised tomorrow. We are all mortal. We are all ‘terminal’.
Following the excitement of being in Tay FM I went for lunch with my mum and dad at a nearby cafe.
Finishing up, I asked my mum if she had spotted anyone who she would like to give one of my envelopes to. She instantly picked a young couple sitting behind us.
So…in my usual style…I approached them, excused myself, gave them the envelope and walked away quickly before they could ask me any questions.
It still gives me that magical feeling…spreading kindness around like glitter and making strangers smile.
We left the cafe and I thought nothing more if it, other than hoping the envelope had brought them a smile.
But, as with my other acts of kindness…these recipients tracked me down. This time making a donation to my justgiving page for Macmillan Nurses, following my Facebook page and sending me a message saying that they wanted to spread the word.
And not only that…but they intend to pay it forward with their own random acts of kindness and are encouraging others to do so too!!
A few days ago myself and Alicia Cork were having lunch in Dundee when a lady approached us, gave us this envelope and then promptly left. Confused at first, we opened the envelope and inside was £20 to pay for our lunch, we were totally taken aback! On the other side of the envelope was the name of a website and after looking on the website, we discovered that the lady who generously gave us this envelope is suffering from stage 4 ovarian cancer. She has an online blog where she not only seeks to raise awareness for ovarian cancer, but also spreads positivity through kind actions like these. We were completely taken aback by her generosity, kindness and positive attitude in the face of adversity and because of this we have happily donated to her cause and will in the near future spread the “Random act of kindness” in the hope of bringing the same joy she gave to us, to other people. Whilst we aren’t suggesting that everyone go out and give £20 to random strangers in restaurants, it would be super amazing if anyone else could donate anything at all to her chosen charity, or even just check out/share her truly inspirational blog. 🙂 thanks! Fi Munro: Love, Light & Mermaid Tails https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Fi-Munro?utm_id=13 https://fkmunro.com/
Isn’t that amazing!
Oh I LOVE the feeling this gives me!
Let this be a reminder to us all that, regardless of what we hear in the news, there is still some good in the world and if we work together, just maybe, we can let that goodness, positivity and love grow!