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

Today I Rise Again

Today is a new day.

I rose today having felt what I was meant to feel, having seen what I was meant to see, having said what I was meant to say.

So many people ‘advised’ that I stop writing and that I focus on me. I know they meant this with the deepest kindness but writing ’is’ me focusing on me. It is my therapy, my release, my way of processing and feeling everything that is there to be felt.

I do not write for anyone else but myself – although, admittedly, it brings me so much joy to realise how my words have helped so many others.

I can’t help but wonder how different our world would be if someone had told Anne Frank to stop writing. I’m not suggesting I am anything like Anne Frank, a courageous young girl whom I have admired since first discovering her words when I myself too was only young, but I am suggesting that our stories are important, healing and essential. We must share our stories. We simply must.

I feel in a good place today, like I am emerging from something, like I am shedding an old version of myself and stepping forward into something new.

I sense change ahead, yes, but change isn’t necessarily bad and I find myself feeling a sense of excitement at this new adventure I find myself on.

I’ve been in worst places in the past four years since my diagnosis than I find myself in just now. There is, of course, one significant difference now. Now I don’t see chemotherapy as an option for me when the trial completely stops working (which it hasn’t, yet).

As I’ve written many times before, chemotherapy (and any treatment) is a very personal choice and I do not advocate for or against any options. But I do know that chemotherapy is not the right option for me. Not again. Not after 4 years ago. This is my inner guidance and I trust it profusely. Nothing and no one will ever change my mind.

So what are my options?

Just now, medically, it is to stay on the trial. It is to keep breathing in the gratitude that this wonderful cocktail of significantly less toxic drugs is doing something to slow down this disease (even if they can’t stop it completely).

But that is just the medical picture and, if I’ve learnt nothing else on this journey it is that the picture is bigger than what can and can’t be done in a hospital. There is so much more that can be done for my mind, body, spirit and soul.

So, yes, it is accurate when I say I am excited because I find myself wondering ‘what if there is another way?’

And that’s exactly what I intend to spend the next 16 weeks finding out.

Why 16 weeks? Because that is the length of time someone with ovarian cancer is on chemotherapy for…AND, more importantly, because 16 weeks today I plan to get my adventurous soul onto a plane to Bali where I plan to spend 4 weeks healing with my gorgeous husband…something that will only be possible if my lungs stay stable…so I’m excited…I have a focus, I have an aim and I have a shit load of passion.

It ain’t over and, as ever, I ain’t dead yet (motherf*ckers)

health, holistic health, ovarian cancer

The Necessary Grief of the Life Unlived

My cancer markers rose again.

Four months in a row.

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

It’s not good news.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, for now, I grieve.

health

A Letter to Fear

Dear Fear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love, Fi xx

—–

Read more in my books

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

Follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Book a place at one of my retreats.

—–

Fi is Currently:

Looking forward to a weekend of kayaking.

Resting after treatment yesterday.

Enjoying the imminent arrival of autumn.

Excited for Ewan’s birthday later this month!

ovarian cancer

Remission 

This week I was told I am in remisison!


This post summarises my holistic journey so far and the next steps going forward…

In January 2016 I was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer.

Due to the cancer spreading into my chest cavity and sitting on my right lung (confirmed by a horrendous biopsy!) I was told that my cancer may be inoperable.

A decision about whether or not I could have an operation was to be made following my first two chemotherapy treatments.

I started chemotherapy two weeks later.

At this time I was unable to walk around the block without collapsing; I was so weak from pain, abdominal fluid and the stress my cancer was putting my frail body under.

So, in support of my cancer treatment (which I know would only make me weaker) I also started to make many lifestyle changes:-

  • Daily Himalayan salt baths
  • Daily exercise
  • Signed off work
  • Reduced/illuminated stress
  • Daily meditation
  • In nature daily
  • No sugar
  • No dairy
  • Minimal meat
  • 8-10 veg a day
  • Only drinking water
  • No processed food
  • No alcohol
  • Natural makeup
  • Coconut oil as makeup remover
  • Coconut oil as moisturiser
  • Drinking at least 2ltrs per day
  • Vegetables at every meal
  • Started seeing a therapist
  • Took control of my health and situation
  • Accepted my diagnosis
  • Had a veg juice every day
  • Daily yoga
  • Built up my strength until I was able to walk 2-3 miles daily
  • Min 2 hours outdoors each day
  • Made all food from scratch – including my cereal
  • Daily homemade ginger juice

Within a month I started to feel much stronger, despite the side affects of my cancer treatment (which is brutal!)

I benefited from:

  • Better sleep
  • Better skin
  • No bloating
  • No pain – stopping pain relief

After two rounds of chemotherapy I was given a second scan. This showed that there was no longer cancer on my lung or in my chest cavity and I was approved for radical, major surgery.

I had a third round of chemotherapy before my operation in May 2016.

My operation took over 11 hours to complete, during which time they removed:

  • my cervix
  • my womb
  • my ovaries
  • my right fallopian tube (I only had one prior to surgery due to a previous operation)
  • my omentum
  • my appendix
  • my spleen
  • part of my colon (resulting in a colostomy bag)
  • part of my liver
  • part of my diaphragm
  • part of my pancreas 

I spent some time in a high dependency ward, followed by four weeks in a surgical ward.

Three days following my discharge home I was readmitted by ambulance due to an infection behind my liver.

I spent an additional two weeks in hospital.

This was the lowest point of my journey, seeing me receive multiple daily blood tests, drips and treatment. I was unable to eat properly and as a result I was growing weaker and more frail. I was also no longer in control of my health and unable to do any of the activities listed above. My oncologist and medical team recognised this and worked flawlessly together to get me discharged as soon as possible.

Despite several further hospital admissions, within four weeks of being at home I was no longer on any pain relief. I put this down to the alternative activities above and my holistic approach to my health care.

Following this episode I have received three further doses of chemotherapy. This has brought me to the ‘end of my treatment ‘ and with it my end of treatment scan.

This scan provided my oncologist and medical team with a baseline for future observation.

I am absolutely thrilled to say that yesterday my oncologist told me that my scan shows that my treatment to date has put my cancer into remission.

I am also extremely grateful that my oncologist took the time to show me all of my scans to date, allowing me to see my cancer and its affects on my body in January as well as my cancer free (and organ depleted) body as it is today. This was fascinating and offered me so much peace of mind.

I am more than aware that there is every chance that my cancer will relapse. My oncologist is very open with me which makes things a lot easier to deal with. However, I’m a strong believer in living for the moment and in this moment I am cancer free and loving my life!

I’ll not be giving the possibility of a relapse a second thought as all this serves to do is take the joy from today! This reminds me of my favourite quote from the founder of Maggies:

Don’t loose the joy of living in the fear of dying

Today I can say I am free from cancer

Today I can say I am in remission

Today I can say I had cancer

And what is more important than today?…

I, of course, will continue to have a holistic approach to my healthcare.

I will continue to focus on my physical, emotional and spiritual health.

I will continue to blog as my journey is still ongoing (I am still receiving formal medical treatment and support)

I will continue with my random acts of kindness.

Today I am happy and wish happiness on everyone else.

Love and light, Fi xx

ovarian cancer

Another trip to hospital

Tuesday night I was ill. Not your average ill…but proper sleeping on the bathroom floor after hours of sickness ill!

I just couldn’t stop being sick and I was in so much pain with abdominal cramps that I just curled up on my dressing gown and my husband put a towel over me and brought me a pillow. I stayed there for most of the night. The next day I was expected at a charity coffee morning in my name and, not to let them down, I had a bath, threw on some make up and turned up with a smile. It was a great event and I’m so glad I was able to go! But I was tired and knew something wasn’t quite right with my body…although at that point I wasn’t sure what was bothering me.

Later that night I noticed a suspect lump on my main abdominal scar. My tummy was also rather swollen. I joked to my husband that we might have another hospital visit in store. I wasn’t actually taking it seriously…not appreciating how serious an infection can be when you don’t have a spleen and have had chemo.

When I woke on Thursday morning the lump has grown and turned purple. This want good. I phoned my GP to make an appointment and got one for a few hours later. Feeling happy and reassured I went about my normal morning routine of taking all of my medication. I dropped something and bent to pick it up and then things got pretty gross!

The lump on my scar burst and with it came a flow of what an only be described as puss. I took a photo for the Dr which I’ve shared here it’s totally gross and I’m sorry but I did promise to share the good and bad of cancer.

It was pretty disgusting! And, in not going to lie, frightening. All I could think about was the chance of a hospital admission and I was terrified! I’d only just settled back into life at home and I was finally beginning to regain my confidence!

I phoned the hospital to explain the situation and, after a lot of back and forth about whether it was an issue for the ward or the chemo room, I was advised to come and get checked.

The whole drive there I was worried about being made to stay in. When I arrived I was met by my Macmillan nurse and it was my first question…’will I be admitted?’ followed by ‘will I still be able to have chemo next week?’

Both were met with uncertainty. If this was an infection then I’d be admitted and I also wouldn’t get chemo. Disaster!

Very quickly we were joined by one of the local surgeons. Like all members of my team, I respect her wholeheartedly and trust that she has my best interests in mind. I was right too feel this way. She checked me over and took swabs and blood tests. She agreed that I could go home and wait for the test results. If the bloods showed infection then I’d be admitted. If not then I’d just have to come in for daily checks. It felt like the best deal possible. I was so grateful.

The phone call came. The bloods were clear. Hurray! I can’t tell you how happy I was that I would be sleeping in my own bed again that night!

We agreed that I would come in the next day (Friday) for another check and that we would then make plans for checks over the weekend.

However, when I got checked on Friday, this time by another local surgeon, everything had cleared up so much that I no longer needed checked over the weekend. How amazing is that?!

I am once again so grateful for my medical team. They could have just seen a me as a patient and presumed, given the symptoms, that I had an infection. Instead they saw me as a person. They listened to me. They appreciated that I prefer to be at home and recover better there. They worked around this to ensure, wherever possible, that this could be achieved. They once again demonstrated person-centred care. I cannot tell you how happy and blessed this made me feel.

I am also once again grateful that I am able to recover at home. The fear I felt about the prospect of another hospital admission just served to remind me of all the little things we so easily take for granted at home: our own bed, our own bath, eating when we want, privacy, our pets, lying on the sofa…the list is endless.

I am thankful for this blip in my recovery as it reminded me how well I am doing and how lucky I truly am.

Chemo is going ahead next week as planned and although I am obviously anxious about the after affects, I am equally excited to be back on track with my treatment and confident I am in safe hands.

Love and light, Fi xxx

Uncategorized

Making Progress with Baby Steps

Since my post about feeling broken I’ve come on so far in my journey to recovery.

After breaking down over the needles on Saturday the medical team worked together to make things more comfortable for me. In fact their response and speed was second to none and what a difference they made! Within an hour they had made the decision that I didn’t need to receive fluids anymore as my blood tests showed that my levels were stable. They also switched all but one of my antibiotics to oral tablets. This meant that I instantly went from being attacked to an IV drip 24/7 to needing it only 3 hours twice daily. This meant that in the afternoons I was now able to be drip free! After so long this felt like a massive step in the right direction!

More importantly, this meant that I was now free to leave the hospital between lunch and dinner – if aided by my husband.

Instantly I went from a sobbing lost soul to my old self. That afternoon my husband brought my rescue dog to visit me and I’m not sure who was more pleased to see one another!

Pets really are an instant mood changer!

Together we went for a slow(!) walk in the woodlands on the hospital grounds.

It was magical! I felt so free. I was me again, walking my dog with the man I love. I still had my syringe driver and drain attached, I was still weak, I was still in pain, but I was happy and really, when it comes down to it, what more can we really ask for from life?
The following day (Sunday) my husband took me to the local Botanic Gardens in a wheelchair. 

Oh the buzz I got from being in nature again was just indescribable. The grass never greener. The flowers never more fragment. The sky never bluer. Slowly my soul was healing. Isn’t nature so powerful and wonderful.

Monday brought more positivity. I was visited by my consultant; a wonderful woman, who treats me rather than my diagnosis. She agreed that I would heal faster at home and that our focus needed to be to get me detached from all the machines/equipment. First step was to speak to the lab about the samples of sepsis taken from my body and what antibiotics would best treat it. Their response enabled me to be switched to just one antibiotic – rather than four! Best of all it was an oral antibiotic! I was disconnected from the drip completely and the painful venflon removed from my arm! Cue mini celebration!!!

Tuesday I was sent for an ultrasound scan to see if my drain could be removed. This would be dependent on all the sepsis having drained. I was so anxious. So desperate for good news, knowing that this would determine how much longer I needed to remain in hospital.

The scan, of course, was painless but they could see that a small (15ml) pocket of fluid remained. I was disheartened but I remained positive. I reminded myself that this was a tiny amount. I reminded myself how far I’d come. And I was right to, because the ward made the decision to remove the drain! They also made the decision to remove my syringe driver and try me back on oral pain relief and to stop my anti sickness medication. It was a lot of fast changes but it was positive. I was making progress. I was moving onwards in my journey and, more importantly, in the right direction.

My drain wasn’t removed until this morning but wow what a feeling! Suddenly I was free from attachments. I felt able to straighten my aching body again. Able to move more freely. I’d regained a sense of self. Today when I showered I wasn’t coordinating my usual juggling act of medical equipment. It was just me, standing under the healing water. Oh what bliss. The little things in life we take for granted really are all that matter in the bigger picture. They are wherein lies the joy.

As I write this I am dressed, no longer living in my pjs. I am free from equipment and my scars and bruises are fading. The cancer patient I faced in the mirror just days ago is fading. My sense of self is returning. This was only possible because of an exceptional medical team treating the person and understanding that health care goes beyond pharmaceutical drugs. This is person centred care. I am so grateful.

I’m not going home yet. But soon. The light at the end of the tunnel is shining bright. I’ve made it through another phase in my journey. It was tough. Tougher than tough. I saw darkness​, I felt pain, I faced fear, but it didn’t break me. I feel stronger for knowing the experiences I faced. Better for the people I’ve met. Inspired and encouraged by the human spirit and the love and care in the world.

I write this because I know many other beautiful souls will go to the dark places I went to in their own journeys. Please remember that where there is darkness there comes light. There is a way through. Never give up, least of all on yourself. You have the power to do this. You are enough.

Love and light, a very happy Fi xxx