Holy Orders for a stress free life

14.12.27 :: Day Four, Jimbaran, Bali [BD2014] Angga Santoso via Compfight

Would you like to be stress free?  Maybe Annie Phillip’s advice from her book, ‘Assertiveness and the Manager’s Job’, can help us get there.  It applies to us all regardless of our role in life.  Anyway, aren’t we all managers of our own lives?

  1. Thou shalt not try to be all things to all people

  2. Thou shalt not be perfect or even try

  3. Thou shalt leave things undone that ought to be done

  4. Thou shalt not spread thyself too thin

  5. Thou shalt learn to say no

  6. Thou shalt schedule time for thyself and thy supportive network

  7. Thou shalt switch off and do nothing regularly

  8. Thou shalt be boring, inelegant, untidy and unattractive at times

  9. Thou shalt not feel guilty

  10. Thou shalt not be thine own worst enemy

 

Songs to listen to when you are going through chemotherapy

   Orfeo & Majnun ¬ 20161126.0305

Lieven SOETE via Compfight

Check out the www.thewritingshed.org.uk – they’ve posted this on their blog for their #Playlist Thursday!   Thanks Daniela Pesconi-Arthur! 🙂

(I’ve revised it slightly, as I’ve left out my all time  favourite,  Proud Mary; who better to kick ass than Tina Turner?!)

Strong Songs

When I was going through chemotherapy I had a playlist of what I called my ‘strong songs’ which helped me to feel, just that – strong!

At a time in my life when I felt weak and afraid, I needed something to help me feel empowered and stronger than the cancer I was fighting. I needed to feel less of a victim and more of a warrior taking on the bad guys.

So I would crank up the volume and listen to the powerful voices singing to me of hope, strength and survival.

I would try to find the ‘hero inside myself’ just as Heather Small from M People said I should. And it felt like Kelly Clarkson’s message of ‘what doesn’t kill you, will make you stronger’, was written especially for me. As for Rachel Platten’s ‘Fight Song’; it became my personal anthem.

All of the songs on the playlist were like ten motivational coaches willing me on and promising me brighter days were ahead!

And every time I heard Lionel Richie I felt strong enough to dance on that damn ceiling!

 

 

 

 

 

Being Grateful – An Easy Way To Remember!

I’ve decided to forget about making a list of New Year Resolutions this year. Let’s face it they are usually broken before the ink is dry on the paper.  No, this year I am making things easier for myself and I am making just one resolution; to be grateful.

I like to think I am already grateful for all I have.  But, if I’m honest, when plans go array or a new worry crops up, it is tempting to feel that life is all about taking one step forward and three back.  Before I know it I am feeling disillusioned and unhappy.   On those days it  is easy to forget about the simple blessings I should have gratitude for.  So my resolution is not to just pay lip service to being grateful, but rather to be mindful and more active about it.

I used to have a gratitude journal which I would write in with a list of ten things I was grateful for.  But, because I left it to last thing at night, I would forget to write in it. When I would remember,  half asleep and tucked up in bed,  I would resent the fact I had to get out of bed to do it.  And if I didn’t, I would feel bad.  Madness!! It slowly became just another task for me to add to the already long list of things I did. Completely the opposite of what I wanted a gratitude journal to achieve.  It  fell by the wayside like so many of my resolutions.

But recently I read about  the idea of a gratitude jar. I don’t know who came up with it, but it is a brilliant idea.   Simple and ingenious.  And perfect for someone like me, who is big on ideas, but short on time.

Without going to any expense I washed out an old beetroot jar, (bigger than a jam jar and therefore I can cram in more things to be grateful for), and stuck a label on it with the word gratitude in bright red capital letters.   I had help from my eleven year old daughter who decorated it, with bits and bobs, from the pound shop. She had fun doing it and it looks a lot funkier than a plain old beetroot jar.

I’ve sat it on top of a block of Post-It notes with a pen beside it. It’s positioned on the window sill in my kitchen (the place where I spend the most time), and when something I’m grateful for pops into my head, I jot it down on the Post-It note and put it into the jar.

Easy!

As it sits within my line of vision, I’m more inclined to think of all the things I’m grateful for every day.  It is also something the whole family can be part of.  Even teenagers can find something to be grateful for in the midst of their angst ridden lives.

This one small resolution is already having a positive effect on my life. I feel in a better frame of mind and I am generally more positive and optimistic.  I am more inclined to tackle tasks head on and get things done. I actually feel lucky.  And I’m hoping, like any good self-fulfilling prophecy, the luckier I feel, the luckier I’ll be!

If I feel any negativity creeping in, then I can unscrew the lid and pick a Post-It out at random, to remind myself of all the things I am thankful for.

And at the end of the year, I’ll empty the jar, and remember how good I had it in 2017!

The Elf on the Shelf!

 

A little visitor arrived at our house a couple of weeks ago.  Yes it’s that time of year again and the Elf on the Shelf has arrived.  Over the past couple of years she, (I say she as our elf is a girl called Pixie) has become as much a part of Christmas as Santa Claus.

From reading posts on Facebook it would seem everyone knows about the phenomenon which is, ‘Elf on the Shelf’.  To be honest our family have come late to the party as we only heard of it last year.  And let me tell you there’s quite a bit of commitment to hosting one of Santa’s little helpers.

For anyone out there who isn’t familiar with Elf on the Shelf, it is a little scout elf which arrives in your home before Christmas to keep an eye on those naughty or nice kids.  Each night the elf flies back to the North Pole to report to Santa Claus about the children’s behaviour.  The next morning the elf returns to rest in a new and different place in your home.  Children then have the fun of trying to find out its new position.

Believe me this is a serious business and it takes a little bit of planning!

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve woken in the middle of the night to realize I’ve forgotten to move Pixie.  I have to drag myself out of a warm bed to find her a new resting place.  Who knew Christmas would become so complicated?

Last year we thought it would be great craic if Pixie wrote a note to our daughter every night.  Of course it had to be in teeny tiny writing because an elf has teeny tiny hands.   Our older daughter volunteered herself for this task but after three weeks she soon became sick to the eye teeth of writing to an elf every night!  And then the task fell to me!  So if I wasn’t moving an elf around in the middle of the night, I was writing notes to her at 2am.

And Pixie isn’t that well-behaved herself.  She has made huge inroads into the big box of teacakes I was keeping for Christmas.  Four layers of biscuits and apparently Pixie has ate her way down to the last layer!

This is the last year for Santa to come to our house.  Another door closes and it only seems like yesterday I was starting out with my family.  So many Christmases have come and gone, all the planning and presents, making sure Santa brought everyone what they wanted.   I hate to see the magic of believing in Santa leave our house.

We are lucky this year in that my eleven year old daughter truly believes in Santa Claus.  As I write this she is tracking him on Google Maps.  Last time I looked he was in Fiji!

I want to hold on to her belief for as long as I can.  I’m reluctant to tell her the truth but by summer I will have to.  She transfers to secondary school next September and I can’t let her into the pit of precocious teenagers still believing in Santa.

Of course, Christmas will still come next year with all of the glitz and glitter but it won’t be the same.  A little bit of the shine will have been lost.

So I’m not going to complain about dragging myself out of bed at 2am ; this is the stuff memories are made of and I’m going to miss these crazy antics next year!

Opportunity Lies in Difficulty

I stopped writing on my blog last year.  I left it at point where I felt like I had won the lottery because I had been given the news my chest and bone scans were clear.  But I still had to face chemotherapy and between it, the busyness of family life and my doubts about writing a blog in the first place, I found it too difficult to keep up.

I felt my writing wasn’t good enough and who would want to read it anyway!   As time moved on and I settled back into ‘normal’ life, (whatever that is), I did not want to revisit those painful few months.  It was behind me and I just wanted to live in the here and now and not think of the past. I certainly did not want to write about it.  But I hate leaving things unfinished and so here I am again. My goal today, before I hit the parent teacher meetings for my daughter, is to finish this bloody blog post and update you on how things have been.

I’ve been through four cycles of chemotherapy which involved two drugs called Taxotere and Cyclophosphamide.  I couldn’t believe it when a nurse told me one of the drugs was originally derived from mustard gas used in the First World War. Ironic isn’t it, something which was used to kill, is now part of a treatment to cure?  But as Albert Einstein said, ‘in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.’  And how fitting the connection with war, because I felt like a soldier going into battle, scared, but ready to fight and praying to God I’d stay alive.

The toxic nature of the drugs terrified the hell out of me but I was lucky enough to receive a piece of advice from a very wise lady who told me, “Don’t dread the chemotherapy as your body will respond to your thoughts, making the whole experience more difficult.  Rather imagine it as a wonderful medicine flowing through your veins to heal you.”   As I sat on the Parker Knoll chair every third Tuesday over the course of four months, I tried to remember her words.

It is interesting, though, how everyone is an expert.  I was told by someone, who incidentally was in excellent health themselves, I was mad to go through with chemotherapy.  Easy to say when you are not in the situation.  I know the arguments against chemo, but would you go it alone unless you had a proven alternative?  I wasn’t willing to take the risk.  I thought of my family and I would do anything to stay alive for them.  Another person asked me, ‘why has your soul invited this cancer in again? On some level you must want to experience this.”  Yeah right, this was definitely on my bucket list!

I love alternative medicine and I think it can complement conventional cancer treatment.  Reflexology, meditation, yoga; I love them all.  Unfortunately, because I had to have the chemotherapy administered through a PICC line, I had to give up yoga as any sudden movements may have dislodged it.  For any medical nerds out there, PICC stands for peripherally inserted central catheter.  It stayed in my body for the duration of my treatment.  It was necessary as the veins in my left arm were so fed up of the last dalliance with Mr Chemo, they gave up the ghost and refused to do the dance with any more needles.

In the end I didn’t mind the PICC; it meant I was spared the torture of nurses poking and prodding me like a pin cushion to find a compliant vein every time I went for treatment.  One nurse suggested I had a phobia of needles.  I don’t.   I do have a phobia of nurses who don’t have that magic touch when it comes to stubborn veins.  Also, an added advantage of having the PICC line meant the district nurse had to call every Monday to check it.  I liked the comfort of those visits.  We would chat as they worked and she would address any worries I had.  I did have a male nurse who called once, but for the most part it was female nurses.  They were my lifeline through those months.

I’m sure you’ve heard it said, if the cancer doesn’t kill you, then the treatment will.  The fear of chemotherapy is almost as bad as the fear of cancer itself.  It is impossible to go through it without side effects.  Fortunately I wasn’t sick and although, I had muscular aches and pains, they were not as severe as I had expected.  But everything I ate tasted like cardboard, so I loaded all my food with salt and spices to give it a kick.  I drenched salads in lemon juice and olive oil and spicy Chinese food was heaven.  Hardly a healthy diet but a gal has got to eat!

The steroids they gave me for the first two days would put me on such a high, I felt like I could have taken on Kilimanjaro! My mistake, by the third day I crashed and burned.  I very quickly learnt to conserve my energy.  I also made the mistake of taking the steroids too late one evening, which left me wired all night.  I could’ve taken on a nightclub and danced til dawn.

I think the fatigue was the hardest to bear.  It was more than feeling tired.  It muddled my brain and I struggled to make decisions on the simplest things, but my God, why are there two hundred types of bread?

Of course, the most visual side effect was losing my hair; for the second time in my life.  But, come on, at least this time, I knew what to expect?  Or did I? I felt I was resigned about losing it; if the treatment was going to keep me alive, then it was a small price to pay.

I was calm and composed.  Or so I thought.  But my calm composure melted away, in the words of my mother, ‘like snow of a ditch’.  I hated my wig.  I didn’t have the courage to tell the wig lady I didn’t like the way she had styled it.  To me, I was a dead ringer of Garth from Wayne’s World, but far less attractive!

I cried, in a way I hadn’t done, since receiving my  diagnosis.  I felt so angry,  disappointed, sad and then angry again that this cancer bitch had come back and I had to go through all this again.  The wall I’d carefully constructed to keep everything under control, was hit by a bulldozer of emotions and I couldn’t keep the mask on any longer.  But by the miracles of the universe, my best friend happened to call in the middle of my melt down.  Sometimes, we need someone else to be our strength.  She called the wig shop and asked for a restyle.  The wig looked better but I never got over the feeling I looked like an extra from Wayne’s World; from then on the wig was christened Garth.  In the end I just felt more comfortable in a scarf and although I did not forgo the wig altogether, more times than enough it lay curled up like a cat on the couch.  And if I was dressing up for a meal out, a big plus was the fact I could sit the wig on my knee and see from every angle how it looked as I styled it.

Garth did provide some laughs.  My children would take turns trying it on and we would all laugh about how daft they looked.  Then there was the night I came home from town feeling very sweaty, hot and itchy.  I just wanted to be free of the fecking thing.  I burst through my back door pulling Garth off my head, while simultaneously shouting freedom to what I believed would be an empty kitchen.   I realised my mistake as I faced my son and his friends and my daughter’s boyfriend all staring open mouthed at the wannabe WilliamWallace!  I will never live that one down!

I feel well.  I feel healthy.  I feel glad to be alive.  But I also have times when I feel depressed, sad and afraid.  The fear of the cancer returning pops its obnoxious little head up every so often.  Hearing news of someone who hasn’t survived can trigger it.  An advertisement for Cancer Research; showing the obligatory patient with bald head panning across the TV screen, can also invite it in.  Cancer is a lonely place, as the advertisement professes, but the adverts usually make me feel lonelier.  Nowadays, I hit the off button.   I’ve also learnt that on the days when fear walks in my door, puts its feet up and makes its menacing ass comfortable, I get my walking shoes on and walk out. Some days it follows and falls in step beside me, filling my head with dark thoughts, but I keep walking.  I am glad to say there are more days when I am steps ahead and it can’t keep up.

Those are the days I feel invincible.