Review and Reflect

One of my great and inspirational friends, Kay, who is an executive and leadership coach, regularly gives me insights into how to make the most of life.

With 2013 closing, she took on reviewing and reflecting on the past year. I’ve borrowed the exercise from her, with her permission, of course. I’ve just finished my reflection and review and have realised that, for the past couple of months, I’ve not been present to the amazing things that happened in my life last year. Here’s what I came up with.

GiraffeMost Fulfilling Experiences

  • Touring behind the scenes at Cape Mentelle Vineyard, finishing in the Barrel Room with a degustation tasting lunch and matching wines. Exquisite!
  • Travelling in Southern Africa for five weeks experiencing the food bowl that is South Africa, the magnificent desert of Namibia and the extraordinary animals that roam the national parks. My favourite, the Giraffe.

Biggest Challenges

  • Saying to my oncologist that I would not be taking hormone therapy.
  • Rebuilding my stamina, overall health and mental ability and agility after chemotherapy.
  • Walking 100km over 6 days on the Great Ocean Walk in Victoria 6 months after ceasing chemotherapy.

Best Surprises

  • Attending my 40 year school reunion and enjoying catching up with girls I had been at Primary School with.
  • Receiving a birthday card from Amanda, my Pilates instructor, acknowledging me for my transformation over the past 12 months. Uplifting!
  • My friend, Rachael’s daughter, Poppy, being born on my birthday. A beautiful gift of life!

Best Value for Money
Touring Namibia – high quality accommodation and food in the middle of the desert.

Most Impactful & Highly Recommended Book
Anita Morjani’s ‘Dying to Be Me‘. It transformed my view of life, living and my understanding of the power of the mind in healing.

Favourite Quote
I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. Invictus by William Ernest Henley. I feel empowered and centred every time I read the ending of this inspiring poem.

Lava FlowBest Fun
Photographing hot lava oozing out of the cliff face on the ‘Big Island’ of Hawaii. I took close to 500 photos  in 30 minutes. The ease of digital!

Best Decisions

  • Having 6 months off to travel, get well and enjoy everything life has to offer.
  • Keeping my hair short.
  • Writing this blog. I have loved the writing, soul searching and communication.
  • Taking a 300mm telephoto lens to Africa.

Most Grateful That/For

  • I have returned to good health and have had two ‘all clear’ reports from my doctors.
  • My gorgeous husband who has had a personally challenging year and stood by me the whole way.
  • My family, friends and the health practitioners who have listened and supported me.

Kay suggested REPENTING as well. There is nothing I feel I need to repent for. I had a powerful year. I am proud of myself and what I have achieved. I’m ready to start the new adventure of finding another career path in 2014 and staying connected with all the fabulous people I have around me.

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.