Sharing What’s Inspired Me!

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What inspires me to blog is a desire to express myself and share with others what I’ve learnt and am learning. It’s also a desire to assist and support others. The sharing of information, experiences and ideas connects us.

Often I think I need to know exactly what I’m going to say before I write. This has been stopping me from blogging for the past few months. Now I know what I want to write about, but I don’t know what I want to say, so I’m letting my pen and the excellent books I’ve read lately do the talking. They’re:

Embracing the Warrior, An Essential Guide for Women by Dr Karen Coates and Vincent Perry;

Beat Cancer, The 10-step plan to help you overcome and prevent cancer (also subtitled How to Regain Control of Your Health and Your Llife) written by leading cancer experts, Prof. Mustafa Djamgoz and Prof. Jane Plant; and

Feminine Lost, Why Most Women are Male by Jennifer Granger, an intuitive transformational coach and author.

All of the books are about getting to know – with different approaches – what makes us well, whole and fulfilled human beings.

I met Karen Coates at Gwingana Lifestyle Retreat earlier this year at a Women’s Discovery programme, which I did with my cousin, who has also had breast cancer. I was inspired by Karen and concerned by what she had to say about how the amount of stress we experience daily and weekly over an extended period, without relief or release, can build the levels of cortisol and adrenalin to a point where we can become sick. What we eat each day and the products we use on our bodies, our clothes and in our homes can also affect our health.

embracingthewarrior1Embracing the Warrior gives a simple and exact instruction on managing the health challenges of the modern world… without resorting to pharmaceutical drugs. Part of the book concentrates on some of the major health issues confronting people today: dealing with stress, managing and preventing osteoporosis, understanding depression and lowering cholesterol. The chapter, Pharmaceutical Dominoes – The Compounding Effect of Drugs, is particularly enlightening. Karen also talks about ‘gut’ health and how important this is to remaining well.

Beat CancerBeat Cancer provides guidance to help you beat cancer. The authors cutting-edge plan covers every aspect, including:

  • The latest essential information about cancer – what it is, what causes it and how to prevent it
  • A thorough review of all the conventional complementary treatments available
  • The lifestyle changes you can make to defend your body.

My best friend, who was a little concerned when I took an integrated approach to my health, bought me the book after hearing Jane Plant interviewed. Jane has lived nearly half her adult life with breast cancer. She now is convinced that an approach that integrates the best of conventional medicine with a good diet and lifestyle is essential to beating cancer. (p11-12)

I believe my friend now understands the approach I have taken to my health. She has introduced some dietary changes into her own life after a period of feeling unwell. These have significantly improved her vitality and feeling of wellbeing.

Feminine LostFeminine Lost explores the premise that all human beings are constructed of two energies, one masculine and one feminine. With the rise of the feminist movement, she says many women have migrated to their masculine side, some to the extent of losing access to their feminine side altogether. Could this be contributing to the increase in breast cancer, I ask?

It’s now 2 years since I concluded chemotherapy treatment. I feel as though the ‘chemo brain’ has finally left and I am fully restored to my former passionate fit self, however with a great deal more wisdom, love and care for myself and others.

I’m ready to return to work and my life as an entrepreneur.

Healthy CookingI’ve teamed with Naturopathic Nutritionist and Chef, Emma Ellice-Flint, to start a new business, The Vital You, as a result of my health travels. It’s designed to relax and revitalize with a weekend of workshops where participants learn how to source, cook and enjoy easy, fresh, delicious, healthy, nourishing food. They’ll also experience some de-stressing techniques with mindfulness, meditation and yoga. We’ll be providing a practical ‘recipe for good health’.

The experiential workshops are designed to provide you with vitality every day and a lifelong, healthy mind and body. If you’d like to find out more about our programme and the November weekend visit www.thevitalyou.com.au.

Dealing with Fear

DoYouFearCancer7 People talk a lot about fearing cancer. They seem to be intimately connected.

False-evidence-appearing-realWhen I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I didn’t feel much fear. I just knew I needed to take action. From the first diagnosis until now, I have generally found my fear comes from those around me. When it visits, I have to take strong steps to keep myself “on the wagon” and fearless so to speak.

The first time I felt momentary fear was when I was having dye injected into me to locate my sentinel lymph node prior to having a lumpectomy and sentinel node removal. The radiologist was talking to me about breast cancer and likely progressions. She said you may find you need to have your ovaries removed. Momentarily I freaked out. I’d gone from being in for a lumpectomy to possibly having my ovaries out. I noticed what was happening and stopped my brain going in all directions and let go her comment, trusting my doctor had me in for a lumpectomy only.

The next occasion was the middle of the night, after my lumpectomy and the woman in the bed beside me was a few hours ahead of me in coming out of her anaesthesia cloud. She was on for a chat about all the details of her cancer, surgery and prior chemotherapy. I had to ask her to stop talking to me. I was starting to get very anxious taking on her fear. I hoped I wasn’t going to go on her journey.

fear-is-in-your-head1I came out of my first surgery feeling confident, until I went to see my surgeon. He told me I had a grade 2 cancer and would require all my left axillary lymph nodes removed, six weeks of chemotherapy, 6 weeks of radiotherapy and 5 years of hormone therapy. That’s when my fear did kick in. I thought I was losing myself, my power and my say over my life. I had become a number, a statistic. That generated a great deal of fear until I started reading, seeking more information and advice.

As I’ve said in a previous blog, the chemotherapy generated the most fear in me. As I started to lose myself, I got very scared. I thought I was dying. I sought help on a number of fronts – acupuncture, meditation, yoga, counselling, shiatsu – to assist me to deal with my fear. Meditation empowered me most and still does.

Once I had finished chemotherapy, I occasionally had friends ask if a friend, who had recently been diagnosed, could call me. Initially I said yes. These calls took me back through my whole experience, bringing up my fear. I had to decline such requests. Any mention of someone with breast cancer tends to kick start fear. Instead of talking I started this blog and have been referring people to it ever since. I hope it is making a difference.

feel-the-fearFear is never far away. Over the past 6 months I have been dealing with mild phantom breast pain and lymphoedema. It is hard not to think the worst when the pain starts. Instead of worrying, I take action and see my lymphoedema physiotherapist and lymphatic drainage massage therapist. Visiting them is always reassuring and sets my mind at rest again. Their treatments are helping my condition. As is my morning meditation. Just 10 minutes seems to set me in a great and peaceful frame of mind for the day.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a birthday dinner and a beautiful young woman started to talk to me about her recent breast cancer experience, her treatment and life on hormone therapy. I could feel her fear. Whilst I talked a little about integrated therapies I have used, the supplements I am on and how effective they have been, I felt her fear ‘invading’ me. I know that sounds dramatic. It was palpable and difficult not to absorb. I suggested she read my blog and if she found it interesting or of benefit, then perhaps we could speak further.

o-BECOMING-FEARLESS-facebookIt took me two weeks after this conversation to stabilise myself and feel fearless again. I realised, no matter how courageous I am, fear is never far away. It’s important to acknowledge it and not let it take me over. Fear is an accomplice of cancer. I believe keeping fear at bay will assist me to stay cancer free.

The Power of Letting Go

IMG_0864Tuesday two weeks ago I was enjoying glorious spring skiing in fabulous Park City and Deer Valley, Utah. I was feeling fit, strong, happy and well. Life and my health were back to normal. Things couldn’t have been better.

Then I received an email from my sister in Australia saying my mother, who had a terminal lung condition (Chronic Obstructive Airway Disease) had contracted a chest infection. She’d been put on antibiotics and they were waiting to see how she would respond. Judging by how previous episodes of this nature had gone and her enormous resilience, my husband and I thought there was no need to take any urgent action. It was a wait and see situation.

Two days later another email arrived, the infection had become pneumonia and Mum was expected to live another week. The big question was, ‘did we need to rush home or would she live the full week predicted?’ I had to choose between going home immediately and staying an extra couple of days. It was a difficult decision because we’d had calls of this nature previously and Mum had pulled through.

I changed our return travel to arrive back in Australia well within the time frame suggested by the doctor. Whilst doctors can speak to us from the perspective of statistics, they cannot speak for us as individuals, as we see time and again. Someone is told “You have six weeks to live” and he lives 12 months. “You have 3-6 months to live” and she lives 18 months. The moment of death is the choice of the individual.

It was my mother’s 81st birthday on March 14. I’d sent her a birthday card before I left and was planning to buy her that black cardigan she wanted when I was in Park City. The realisation that I wouldn’t be getting it for her saddened me greatly.

My family organised a champagne lunch for her birthday and I arranged to call in for the party. Thank goodness for mobile phones. My husband, who is a prankster with heart, came up with the idea of doing a little performance for her, over the phone. Given the time difference, we were standing on a street corner in Park City with cold hands juggling the phone and my husband started. “Hellooo… Dorothy or can I call you Dottie (her least favourite name)? Dottie this is Pastor Ray from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Park City Utah. We’ve heard it’s your birthday and I’ve gathered together a small group of choristers to sing you happy birthday!” We then chorused happy birthday to her. She loved every minute of it and announced he was her ex-son-in-law. She laughed. We laughed. It was the best birthday present we could have given an ‘old performer’ who was holding court with her family.

Thirty-six hours later, on the day of our departure, I got a text to say the end was nigh. I wanted to be free with the choice I’d made not to leave earlier and to give my mother the farewell I would’ve given her had I been there. I called the hospital. They took the phone to her and I told her I was well and in the best shape I’d been in for many years. The skiing holiday had done wonders for me. I also told her I would follow her legacy and be with my husband to the end. Two things that were important to her. Finally, I said, “if you need to go before I get home, you are free to go.” I was at peace with our relationship. I had said everything I’d wished and needed to say. The nurse said she smiled and shed a tear.

I am clear I was with her in spirit for the duration of our holiday and to the end.

Peace StonesWhen we were in transit at LA airport, I thought, “I have to contact my family, NOW.” I called my brother. He said, “the end is near.” I asked him to hold my mother’s hand for me. He did and told her he was holding it for me. Then I said, “Mum I acknowledge you for your courage, love and commitment. You will always be in my heart.” As my husband spoke to her and my family laughed, she passed away.

She had survived breast cancer with great courage and determination 35 years earlier. She was an outstanding role model and inspiration for me and many other women whose path she crossed.

I am grateful for my life, the loving family into which I was born and for my extraordinary mother.

 

 

Freedom At Last

What fun January was! We enjoyed our beautiful country property, animals and it’s garden; had time with family in Sydney and Melbourne; caught up with old friends and competed in the Geelong Race Week regatta.

Gwinganna-SunsetI was also in a thinking, reflective, creating state for the whole month, culminating in a three-day Women’s Discovery Programme at Gwingana Lifestyle Retreat in the Gold Coast hinterland. I went with my cousin who has also had breast cancer. Not only was it time out for reflection on what the year ahead may hold for both of us, it was a time to have fun enjoying fitness activity, nature, “Dreamtime” each afternoon, fabulous healthy food and hugely informative lectures on health and wellness.

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Dr Karen Coates

From the moment I arrived at Gwingana, I felt I had chosen the right retreat and location for us. We both wanted to move on from our breast cancer experience and start a new phase of our lives. Our programme included three lectures and a forum with Dr Karen Coates, a GP, obstetrician, gynaecologist and nutritional and environmental medicine practitioner.

We had the opportunity to request some lecture subjects up front. Breast cancer and it’s treatments were something we wanted to hear and ask about and we did.

The first topic addressed was what we need for Optimal Wellness:

  • nourishment
  • movement
  • stress resilience
  • reduction in our toxic load

The second was stress. How it manifests in the body (through adrenalin and cortisol production) and impacts our immune system and ‘gut health’. I completely tuned in to this. For a long time I have thought and felt that illness, particularly cancer, is caused by stress and our bodies being overloaded.

Our second day talk was on cancer and how to give yourself the best chance of staying well and ‘cancer free’ post diagnosis and treatment. The power of positive thinking is one of the key factors in healing. The following research statistics astonished me and provided me with the biggest gift of the retreat. Following a ‘natural treatment’ course is almost as effective as taking pharmaceutical drugs to keep me ‘cancer free’.

  1. A hormone blocker, such as Tamoxifen, is 68% effective
  2. Drinking one glass of red wine a day (and avoiding white wine and spirits) is 50% effective
  3. Putting on running shoes and doing 50 minutes of vigorous exercise (getting the heart rate up) 3 times a week is 60% effective
  4. Taking a GP prescribed Vitamin D is 65% effective
  5. Eating cruciferous vegetables – brussel sprout, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage regularly (ideally daily) is 37% effective

I have been following points 2-5 for the past 18 months. To have my intuitive approach, which is supported and guided by my integrative doctor, confirmed by another highly regarded practitioner gave me a renewed confidence in myself and the path I’m on.

Last December I had started to doubt myself with each little ache that showed up in the left side of my body. Also the fluid level in my body began to rise with the hot Sydney weather and I was diagnosed with early lymphoedema. I then started to worry and wonder whether I was regressing. No, I wasn’t regressing, I just had ‘noise’ in my head creating mischief and worry.

nia-is-a-celebration1At Gwingana, I danced, meditated, walked, reflected, listened, relaxed and came away lighter in mind, body and spirit, ready to start a new business.

Gwinganna_Meditation2I have been working on my ideas ever since – thinking, planning, talking, researching and networking. I’m excited and energised with a renewed zest for life. I feel I have truly ‘come out the other side’, having learnt an enormous amount about myself and wellness.The old enthusiastic me is back. However I am more loving, thoughtful and connected with myself and am present to the love in the world around me. This has been the greatest gift I have received from my brush with cancer.