I can now come clean as to why I had a break from the clinic.
I’m sure there’ve been times when you know you need to pull back and face what life throws at us – and that’s what I needed to do for a few months.
Please accept my apologies if I haven’t been there when you’d hoped I could be.
No – I wasn’t away on holiday!
No – I haven’t retired!
and Yes – I’m really pleased to be ‘back’!
I was receiving fortnightly chemotherapy treatment for the metastasis from the original bowel cancer I had 6years previously. At that time, following the surgery (6years ago), I was able to treat the situation in a more ‘naturalistic’ way.
This time, however, it was extremely obvious, that I was going to have to approach this spread of cancer cells though my torso in a very different way. I’ve always explained that I am a Complementary Therapist. That means you take the best from all therapies, including the best from the medical profession.
This journey has been one of those ‘fascinating’ experiences, and I feel thrilled I am able to report that, having had 6months of fortnightly cycles / infusions I have just been given the go-ahead to have a 3month break from all treatment.
Pretty amazing considering that I wasn’t expected to survive past last Christmas!
At the very start, I specifically told my medical team, and personal supporters, that I did not want to know what the prognosis was and so it wasn’t until the end of January that I was told the original severity of my situation.
What I can say, following my ‘life’s adventure’, is that I feel extremely blessed to be in this position today. I am of the belief that my experience has provided me with the opportunity to more fully understand the life threatening experiences that we face and to be able to provide, with greater ability, help and support to others who have been thrown a curveball in their life.
They may not be the same journey – but the way we approach them can be very similar.
Something else I know is that nothing is ever ‘by chance’ and one of my favourite quotes (as pictured at the top of this blog) has become even more important to me now!
“Here is the test to see whether your mission on earth is finished: if you’re alive, it isn’t!” Richard Bach
Some things that I had forgotten about these months, until people have reminded me in the past few days…
- Having lettuces go slimy in the fridge as I wasn’t able to stand for long enough to wash them!
- Managing a 10 – 15min activity and then sleeping for at least two hours in order to recuperate!
- Crawling up the stairs at times as my legs couldn’t manage each step!
- Finding that the weight of one damp towel, that had been spun in the washing machine, was too heavy to pick up!
- Being unable to stand up straight for several weeks! I came up with the bright idea to put a pack on my back and, with the weight of two full Soda Stream bottles in there, it helped me stand reasonably vertically! And – now?????? Oh yay! I’m almost back to ‘normal’!
(One of my supporters recently blamed my medical team, for getting me back to my ‘crazy’ self! Hahaha!)
SO HOW CAN I HELP YOU – or someone you know – to approach a ‘Life Journey’?
And – what can I suggest to those of you who know people going through a ‘life journey’ and don’t know what to say, or do?
Probably the first, and biggest feeling when facing our mortality is FEAR! This often comes from looking ahead and worrying about what lies in front of us.
Having come across Bronnie Ware’s book, ‘The Top Five Regrets of the Dying’ 10years ago, (4years prior to my first ‘hiccup’), I found these realisations really worked for me.
(If you haven’t heard about this palliative care nurse’s amazing study, I encourage you to follow the link at the bottom of this blog.)
The next issue can be a feeling of ISOLATION! Who can you turn to?
I have four suggestions:
1. CHOOSE YOUR THERAPISTS CAREFULLY.
Decide which direction you’re going to head. I had decided (initially) that I would not go the chemo way and I would do what I did the first time around… (Check my blog “George Left the House”)
However – it became very clear when I met with the oncologist (and being a complementary therapist), that in this case – I was going to have to go the allopathic route. I became aware that now, chemo treatment is very different to that in the past.
With the ability to carry out a biopsy, there is now the ability to target the specific tumours. No longer is it a ‘shotgun’ approach where we cross our fingers that something might be hit in this ‘scattered’ approach.
If you decide to head in a more ‘natural way’ choose your therapists for what you know you need. There are all sorts of options.
2. CHOOSE YOUR SUPPORTERS WISELY
a) I was so lucky in that it was very clear, right at the beginning of my journey, who I would choose to stand close beside me.
You may find that you will have to give it some serious thought and, if you realise they’re not the right ones for you, feel free to swap them out.
This is YOUR life! You must feel confident to make your own choices.
b) When referred to the Hospice by a medical professional, I was horrified! Until then I had innocently thought that the Hospice was only for the dying. How much I have learnt along the way…
Initially the most important Hospice ‘gift’ for me was the 0800 number that I could use 24/7!!
When we are going through incredible pain our family and friends are often not the best ones to call for support, as they can feel totally helpless. The worst pain can often be felt at night and the amazing Hospice nurses are there for you!
Being referred to the Hospice – for palliative care e.g. medication, free counselling, acupuncture, physio etc was incredible.
The other amazing thing is, the Hospice is there – not just for the patient – but the wider family as well, and it is a FREE service!
My brother and sister were truly grateful (as was I) when one of the nurses spent over an hour, in my home, explaining how to help with my needs… She explained that I was a determined woman, I was still mentally able to make my own decisions and to ask what I needed. We can be so eager to help our loved ones that we can end up ‘guessing’ what is needed.
(BTW – I became aware, only a few days ago, that you can refer yourself to the Hospice!)
3. FEELING YOU’RE LACKING KNOWLEDGE?
Decide how much information you want to know and, if you want to know heaps – ask!
4. ASK YOURSELF “WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT IS NEEDED ‘RIGHT NOW’”?
One of the biggest things I found was the need, and ability, to withdraw. I sometimes needed space in order to address the situation I was in. I found I could only manage a maximum of 20mins visiting at any one time. After a 10 – 20mins visit I would often find I slept for 2 – 3hrs.
At first I tried to make others feel comfortable by ‘pretending’ to cope. I realised that I could fool most of the people most of the time. At first I didn’t feel brave enough to ask people to leave when I was exhausted.
Having a little note to put on the door became a really helpful thing…
“Thank you for thinking of me.
I am unable to receive visitors at this time.
Love, Judith xx”
SO WHAT DID I FIND HELPED ME – AND WHAT WHAT WOULD I RECOMMEND CONSIDERING?
- Becoming an observer… of my personal situation.
We’re all in different situations…
Our individual situation is usually very different to others AND we need to work out how we can cope.
- Making the determined decision to ‘Live in the moment’ at all times! This is not always easy – but it really is vital!
- Having (selected) supporters to be there for me at meetings etc and to let go from being SO independent.
- ‘Letting go’ and allowing people to help while unable to do normal daily tasks.. e.g. Driving to appointments, changing (and even ironing) my bedding, providing food, gardening, house cleaning, shifting things around in cupboards so I could reach things, sorting medication into daily packs… the use of a wheelchair (used several times to visit the Zoo! Grin!!)And most importantly – such as friends bringing muffins for morning tea and sitting at the end of my bed. They were able to chatter as I lay in bed enjoying feeling ‘involved’
What I truly valued was that my family and friends treated me the same as they always had… They continued to invite me to outings etc – and accepted my answer be it Yes, I could attend, or No, not at this time. I continued to feel ‘involved’.
- Recording the discussions with oncologists and others, if possible, so they can be replayed. I’m convinced our body shuts down some areas in order to cope with the healing process. With me – it seems my hearing was definitely ‘suspect’…
- Keeping notes was, and still is, very important to me. The week following the chemo infusion provided a surprising variety of reactions but it was possible to track what ‘flares’ I might expect, and on what days. I still ‘live in the moment’ and don’t look ahead to what might happen… I refer back to my notes when, or if, I feel ‘yucky’.
- Trusting in the process. Medication was given following the chemo to guard against any feelings of nausea and I never felt nauseous throughout the entire journey. BUT – If it seemed the medication was not serving me (e.g. the Morphine) I discussed it with the doctor. Knowing that I wouldn’t be on medication forever (and I’m on only one capsule now) I was able to get through the seeming mountain of pills at times.
- Knowing I’m not the only person going through this and, if I ‘want’ or ‘need’ to I can reach out to have a chat with others who are in a similar boat… either through the Cancer Centre or the Hospice.
- Making ‘determinations’.
My own personal ones….
- LIVE IN THE MOMENT! (right from the start I ‘determined’, this is not a ‘battle’ – it’s a journey!!!)
- Find any teeny tiny positives along this journey and use images to lift my spirits
- Look after myself in all ways
- Treat myself to things that I might not normally eat. As I found to my horror… lack of food and water can lead to overnight hospitalisation! (The reason for lack of food & water was my brain not thinking clearly as I mentioned before.)
- My emotions are the most important thing
- Be kind and gentle with my body
- Use any and all techniques and healing therapies that feel ‘right’ for me; (what works for one person may not work for others.)
- Be honest about how I feel
- Remind myself I don’t have to be ‘brave’ all the time!!!
- Have a reason to get up – even if I go back to bed later. My cat will always wake me for food! Haha!
- Know I am the most important person in my world at the moment and I am no use to anyone if I forget this
- Know that I may develop other ‘experiences’. e.g. the DVT I accept that these sorts of things may be ‘spin offs’ from medications and I’m able to cope with things like this!
- Know I’m a strong woman and a ‘warrior’!
WHAT CAN A PERSON DO TO HELP A FRIEND?
Keep in touch via a short email, texts, Messenger or WhatsApp. Weekly messages make SUCH a difference. It’s easy to start feeling that we are forgotten…
If we should break a limb it’s often much easier for people to keep in contact as there’s usually a finite length of healing.
With a medical condition it’s often hidden and can have an indeterminate length of healing.
- If you’d like to speak to your friend text to ask if they can talk at the moment.
- Provide a meal that can be frozen, or ask if they would like you to pick up some groceries. Don’t feel offended if they say, “No”, it can take some time for people to accept help.
- ASK YOUR FRIEND WHAT WOULD BE APPRECIATED!!! You may be surprised at their request.
- Ask if they’d appreciate you driving them to an appointment, weeding the garden, doing the washing, vacuuming… As above, don’t feel offended if they say, “No”, they may suddenly ask for your help when they get past the feeling they’ve lost their independence.
Be aware that their energy levels will be much less than usual and pretty much guaranteed far less than you can possibly imagine.
Please remember that all these thoughts are from my own personal experience… They are just some of many ideas that I used and they can be integrated into any other treatments that are indicated for all sorts of situations.
I’m aware that my current situation of being told I can leave treatment for 3months is an absolute blessing.
Who knows what’s ahead but, at the moment, I know I’m alive and so my mission on earth is not finished!!
I’VE BEEN TREATING SOME CLIENTS FOR A COUPLE OF MONTHS BUT I’M
NOW BACK IN THE CLINIC FULL TIME AND LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING YOU!
I have a couple of pdf check lists I’ve created – that may be of use:
1. Needing Support? Ideas for How to Ask for Support
2. Have a Sick Friend? Ideas for Offering Support
Just click on the links to download them.
My various ‘looks’… including the pretty realistic wig!