Questing for Life

The Brain

It’s hard to believe it’s just over 12 months since I ceased chemotherapy. It’s taken the whole year to return to good health, that is, my brain functioning, what I call, ‘normally’; my energy and stamina returning; my hair ‘looking good’ and the feeling of overwhelm or the sensation of ‘I can’t cope’, gone. What a relief it is to experience the miracle of my body feeling healed.

However, this week I discovered that feeling good is not enough. I had a check up appointment with my integrated GP and was told my liver is still under par and my immune system is struggling. So now I’m on a 75% fruit, salad, bitter greens and vegetable juice diet, new supplements and a weight-bearing exercise programme. I’m finding it hard to follow this new eating plan and feel energetic all day. I’m giving it a go. A little more discipline is definitely needed if I want a healthy liver and strong immune system.

365-gratefulsPhotographer, Hailey Bartholomew released a beautiful book recently, 365 Gratefuls. It’s the result of her writing down every day, one thing for which she was grateful, during a bout of depression. She did this for 365 days and has accompanied her writings with photos she took. Hearing her interview with Sam Worthington made me think of how grateful I am for my life, my friends, my family and the opportunities that open themselves to me every day, and especially over the past 18 months.

One of the things I’m really grateful for is the Quest for Life Retreat I attended last year. After being told by my nutritionist and my integrated GP that the mediterranean diet would be best for my healing, I thought, “how am I going to cook the mediterranean way?” It is one thing to know, it is another to do!  I felt I had lost my ‘cooking confidence’. I checked out healing retreats and found Quest for Life in nearby Bundanoon.

With the assistance of my Oncologist, I set up the chemo sessions around the next Quest for Life retreat. My goal, as I said in my last blog, was to practice mediation, and reconnect with cooking and eating healthily – the mediterranean diet. Whilst there I also reconnected with myself.

Community GardenI felt very vulnerable when I was first diagnosed with early breast cancer. Who isn’t? Who could I turn to for advice and support? Whilst there is an enormous community available through the Breast Cancer Network Australia and Breast Care Nurses, I felt I needed something more. It was the powerful love and nurturing Quest for Life provides. We ate healthily, mainly vegetarian food with fresh juices and vegetables from the community garden. Each day started with meditation and yoga, learning a range of meditation techniques. Then followed seminars and workshops which gave us tools to empower ourselves given our individual circumstances. Some partners attended. They were able to express the emotional pain they were feeling.

Self-esteemThe most powerful sessions for me were two one-on-one counselling sessions where the counsellor took me deep inside myself. I connected with my power, joy, love, courage and sense of self. I forgave those who had caused great hurt in recent times.and saw myself as a ‘beacon of light’. I still use this image regularly to uplift and reaffirm myself.

Creating a collage of what we would like our lives to be over the next 12 months was the final exercise. Mine included many of my favourite things – children, healthy food, good coffee, meditation, yoga, travel and photography. Looking back, I have fulfilled on all of these goals. The final one was my recent trip to Africa – an adventure of a lifetime.

My priorities in life have changed. No longer do I work myself to exhaustion. My modus operandi is to love and value myself; to be present to the world and my environment moment by moment; to contribute to the health and wellbeing of others and to love unconditionally. Sometimes that is difficult, particularly when I’m sent unexpected challenges. Quest for Life gave me the tools to cope with this and a renewed confidence and trust in myself.

I am GRATEFUL for my health and my life every day.

The Power of Meditation

In the Namib Desert, Namibia

In the Namib Desert, Namibia

I’ve been in Africa for the past five weeks. Most of the time was spent in the desert. What a wonderful place it is for meditation and mindfulness. Whilst we travelled great distances and were up early most days, there was a rhythm and beauty to the landscape which enabled mindfulness. Each day was meditative, spiritual, peaceful and rejuvenating at the same time. I felt fully alive.

Meditation has kept knocking on my door for most of my adult life. I resisted it for years, afraid of losing or disconnecting from myself. How wrong I was.

I have been quite an anxious person most of my life. I was given a meditation tape by my doctor in my 20’s. It had nothing on it. I thought, “he’s playing a joke on me”. Then a previous boyfriend gave me Dr Gillian Ross’ “Meditation for the Third Eye”. It took me many attempts and a few tears before I let go enough to do the meditation. Over time I got a calming benefit and found peacefulness. Then I stopped. Why? Work and life got in the way. And I think, subconsciously I thought I was ‘cured’!! Of what?

When I started to go through menopause I would wake up several times a night especially at 3.00am, alert with my mind racing. To get myself back to sleep l would do Ian Gawler’s ‘White Light’ meditation. A friend had told me about it when he had prostate cancer.

Then, when I was diagnosed with early breast cancer, I realised I had lost my calmness of mind. I had completely given up meditating. My mind was racing more often than it was calm.

Lying Down Meditation

Lying Down Meditation

Post operations I started my daily practice again lying down. I did two 5-minute meditations each morning where I would breath deeply, relax my body and visualise love and light radiating through me, and I’d experience the miracle of being healed. For the next 5 minutes I would envisage the presence of love, light and miracles throughout my day.

After attending the ‘Quest for Life’ programme for people with cancer at Petrea King’s Quest for Life Centre, I did many of her guided meditations – Golden Light, Forgiveness, Rainbows to Healing, Healing Journey. When I woke up each morning I would ask my mind and body which meditation do I want today. It would tell me instantly. I call this my intuition and I always followed it. Invariably during the mediation any questions or concerns in my subconscious would be resolved.

The calming healing aspect of the meditation gave me strength and put me in a beautiful place every day, no matter how I felt physically.

If I was unwell, I meditated lying down. When I had some energy, I sat in a chair or cross-legged on a cushion.

No DrugsDuring this time, a friend introduced me to a beautiful energy healer, Michelle Richmond. She suggested I do Joe Dispenza’s meditations, ‘Water Rising’ and ‘Body Parts’. These meditations were miraculous. They put me deeply in touch with my intuition. After the fifth chemo session I was struggling physically. My breathing was very laboured and I had developed a persistent dry cough. In my meditation, on the 4th day after this session, my body clearly told me, “NO MORE DRUGS. Please do not put anything else into me”. I also got this message at Quest for Life, but was too scared to heed it. It was like a light turning on. It opened a new episode for me in my treatment. (I am not recommending this decision. I am using it to show the power of meditation.)

I had breakfast with some girlfriends that morning. When they said, “how are you?” I broke down. “No good” I sobbed. They said I looked like life was being sapped out of me. I told them about my meditation and that I didn’t want to continue chemotherapy.

And so began a new discussion with my husband, family and doctors. I ceased chemo after session five. I felt it was starting to harm me more than I was willing to experience.

I decided to LIVE A QUALITY LIFE however long that may be.

Walking Meditation experiencing the day's beauty

Walking Meditation experiencing the day’s beauty

I continue to meditate every day, whether it be by allowing the beauty of the world to greet my body for several minutes each morning, a walking meditation, a guided meditation, my personal meditation or through yoga. I have received the GIFT of meditation and will not let it leave my life again. It is very powerful.