Friday, 25 May 2012

Mindful and music full!

This weeks blog could be short. I did too much and I was shattered, it would read. I agree not exciting . It could also be a theme of accepting the impact my recent diagnosis has had and that this year needs to be the one where I prioritise my recovery. Two health care professionals  have said this to me this week.I had to stifle my reply which would instinctively be a big fat NO...not the whole year...I want it over now! But  I know its true and it doesn't mean I am not going to be working etc but just that I still need to make time to finish my treatment. And I need to stop trying to work it around my work diary, because the time will never be right if I try to do that. In a week when I met my London colleagues in Edinburgh it highlighted my pull. I work with great people, in a great charity, all of us passionate about our mission.....and I miss them. And the daily challenge of an interesting job. Briefly I considered asking to join them at a meeting the next day but recognised the danger in that so instead I attended to my needs and joined a mindfulness class. How valuable that was. I have long been an advocate of mindfulness not just in health but as a healthy tool for organisations , individuals, even governments. Alongside my study of gestalt it has helped me notice more and understand that I have choices about what to engage with. But I guess under stress is when I , like us all ,can lose that balance and default to older habits. So this week I am mindfully noticing my inner struggle but setting it aside and not letting it dominate. I am also mindful of my inner voice which when it says push yourself...and instead try to work with my energy, not against it. A small breakthrough maybe! The other impact of a mindfulness session is feeling less of that bone weary tiredness that's lurks around corners for me just now. I have an app for Mindfulness and do recommend it if you have a suitable device. It's easier to be shown in person first but it's a great tool to support mindful practice. It leads me to reflect that social media can be both a friend of mindful, reflective practice but I suspect an enemy too, filling the head with information and risking no space for reflection. One of the debates I saw and did reflect on this week was the potential paradox of a drive to independence in Scotland at a time of global economic crisis. Madness some would cry at such a time, whilst others argue that all the more reason to have influence over your own destiny and belief in your countries resources in all its hues. I wonder too if there is a similarity in the work we have done into how important it is to our supporters in Scotland that we fund research based here. Now we all know that research has the power to save lives across the globe so surely it's base is irrelevant? And of course that is recognised but so is the sense of pride that the research done here in Breakthrough Breast Cancer in Scotland is world class and impacts across many boundaries. I wonder if indeed they are paradoxes but perhaps more two sides of the same coin, recognising and valuing interconnectedness as well as respecting the cultural, national and geographical context. Both important, both our reality.  Reasons to be cheerful. It's not only been a mindful week but it's a music full one too. We saw the Firebugs at the local folk club and they were so good. Hearing my son, his girlfriend and his good friends sing and play their own songs with such talent and commitment is so uplifting. You can google and Facebook them and find their new EP. You can also see two of them running in the Edinburgh Marathon at the weekend supporting Breakthrough Breast Cancer:-) Listening to them inspired me to listen to some folk /americana tunes at home. Listening to Alison Kraus sing the beautiful "dimming of the day" moved me to tears , bringing to mind a lovely family we care about who are struggling too with a recent cancer diagnosis. Such a hard time for them. Music is always such a powerful way to connect with emotions. And tomorrow we go to see Tosca, a birthday celebration for my husband. It's ,as always , so important to savour and celebrate the good times. I hope you have some planned too.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Would you like a top up?

I approached the clinic with trepidation as you know. I has worried that the fat graft reconstruction had not really taken and that the surgeon might take me down a new unplanned route. So in my head I had planned them all and had a tick off list for pros and cons. Exhausting mentally as you may imagine. However he was happy with me and reminded me that i was told top ups would be required. I did know this and it wasn't just a case of selective deafness...honest. But now I know what a top up means. Because my normal answer to would you like a top up would be , oh that would be lovely, thank you. So in my head a top up was a sort of "more tea vicar" scenario, stress free and simple...could do it in your lunch break kinda thing. Well I got that wrong, didn't I? It's more bruises than a round with Mohammed Ali , general anaesthetic and hit with a stun gun type of top up. One of my prepared scenarios was, actually I can live with it now so let's just leave it at that. But I realise that's foolish, to stop a processes in its tracks before its finished. And I found myself saying that it's not the pain or bruising, it's the time off work I feel concerned about. I know, a bit mad but that work ethic is deep in the genes! But I am told its a much smaller op and much faster recovery time. Well that's Augusts plans for me I think. I had hoped for Edinburgh festival going but there's always next year.... And we agreed that breast cancer treatment is a long haul with many false summits. I guess my latest op was one of mine. But my journey is nothing compared to many. Its often surgery, chemo for nearly a year ,radiotherapy, reconstructive surgery, top ups and tweaks.And that's not including the emotional roller coaster. Then theres the follow up, with occasional heart stopping waits for biopsy, mammography and scan results. And for many too , recurrence with all the fear, pain and further treatment that that entails.  My own mountain has had some false summits but it's a small one compared to others Himalayan style climbs and sometimes with less hope of success. The mortality statistics are so encouraging for breast cancer now BUT lets not forget the journey for many for survival is a hellishly tough one. The stats  hide the truth of a breast cancer experience and it doesn't stop when treatment finishes. So for ALL the brave people who live through a breast cancer journey ( and I mean family and friends too) I salute you. And all our work is not done till we truly see the mission of Breakthrough Breast Cancer a reality ....a future free from the fear of breast cancer. Reasons to be cheerful. I am seeing friends this weekend and really looking forward to that. We had a beautiful walk yesterday at the coast in North Berwick. A marvellous beach, great bird watching and on this occasion Colin Firth. No I didn't see him as he was filming in a house we passed by. But I didn't have any make up on so frankly I wouldn't  want to meet Mr Darcy  looking like that now would I? Feeling a bit done today after my walk but it was good at the time but may have over done it.....Now all we need is for the sun to come out.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Buy it , Fight it....and beaux seins!

As I admitted the other day I am still not up to shopping strength. Even on line there are a number of abandoned baskets when I have just run out of steam. This is a particular issue just now as we are in the middle of the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer Campaign. Now this campaign is a hugely important one in raising awareness and funds for our life saving work in Breakthrough Breast Cancer. In the past I have bought some really great items as part of Fashion Targets, from dresses at Laura Ashley , top shop trends setting items to much used t-shirts and umbrellas from M&S ( or Percy Pig land as we know it.) I have had a browse already on line but not seen any of the items in person-my chosen shopping method. I really like the "Fabulous" and "Amazing" t-shirts from River Island as modelled by the effortlessly glamourous FTBC team at Breakthrough ,in a recent photo I saw. I am all for embracing your inner fabulousness but may not be courageous enough at my stage in life to advertise it! The Coast dresses are lovely  and Laura Ashley have a day dress that is full of summer. There are things for every pocket really, including tote bags and bracelets in the likes of topshop and M&S . So if like me you aren't up to a Moonwalk or a marathon but want to do your bit...why not shop! As this years campaign would say Buy It Fight It. See more on http://fashiontargetsbreastcancer.org.uk/. I need to get into the shops this week before they all go.... Shopping may remain a challenge but I have found my gallery legs I am pleased to say. Meandering around work of arts is a favourite past time. I loved the Hepworth Gallery I visited recently and  a visit to the Miro exhibition was fascinating. I loved the variety of sculptures, including one that as soon as I saw it I thought "I will would have some like that, but maybe a bit higher". Then realised I had said it out loud! Fortunately those around me understood my drift and laughed with me. One of the smaller sculptures was called The Woman with Beautiful Breasts.(la femme aux beaux seins). Of course my attention was drawn to the asymmetry of said breasts. The title may have challenged the image but I loved it....no guesses why. I felt quite uplifted by his representation and contemplated a wee copy for my desk at work! The shop was strangely free of them but believe me I think there is a market. Reasons to be nervous today folks. I see my surgeon tomorrow and worry that more work will be recommended. Of course it's my decision but I am back to "what if " scenarios again and I can feel the stress levels rising. I might take a wee photo of "La femme aux beaux seins" and see what he thinks! Wish me luck...

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Back to Percy pig land..again!

I would say each day could be described as a game of two halves. I have had definite hints of mojo peeping through the clouds only to have it drowned by a deluge shortly after wards. And understanding this some more I am trying to work with my energy rather than push it up hill as my usual style would be. I am really enjoying being able to walk a little more but it grieves me to admit that shopping remains overwhelming  and exhausting.  A walk around Waitrose nearly saw me off and not just the bill either! This was followed by a visit to the land of Percy pigs to visit the underwear department again. Again you cry?Too true, this year has been the eternal quest for a comfortable bra that I would pay good money for. My husband wisely exited stage left so as to avoid any re- enactments of the Father Ted episode in the lingerie dept. And it was also wise to avoid me when my limited options cause me to resort to a Tourette's style outpouring. However a very sensitive and kind assistant helped me find something that cheered me up and fitted my ever changing size. No I am not saying what size it is, you need enhanced disclosure rights for that! The real achievement will be when I can keep it on all day. The cat looked rather surprised last night when I announced it would have to come off ( nothing surprises my husband now). And it struck me that perhaps I could measure my readiness to return to work by how long I could keep a bra on!!! They are a pretty astute bunch I work with so if I have to nip off half way through the day and return a slightly different shape with a relieved look on my face they are going to guess, don't you think? A friend posted a saying the other day that read "Happiness is when you take your bra off at the end of the day". Amen to that. So the return to work test with a difference but it could be significant. Reasons to be cheerful. Time with friends and family again this weekend to look forward to. I have perfected the no squash hug thankfully, much needed for such social occasions. Homeland has now finished ( nail biting episode and going to worry about Carrie till it returns !) but The Bridge continues.  I haven't a clue what's really happening to be honest but it's hooking me in, I love the theme tune and enjoying the Denmark vs Sweden banter. Mmmmm what does that remind me of?

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Walking barefoot.....

My highland interlude has come to an end and I have returned home. But the end of the break was as special as the beginning with time for walking barefoot in white sand , collecting shells for the garden and watching Urqhart Castle on Loch Ness emerging dramatically from the morning mist. What a special time it was. But it's nice to be home. Todays walk around the local Botanic gardens included a visit to the exhibition about nests. Artists creations to reflect nests speak of their importance and it struck me that especially in times of vulnerability how even more important my own nest has become.[p] The last few days I have felt exhausted, recovering from my trip. It's a delicate balance between rest and building stamina and I don't always get it right. I guess I have spent a year trying not to give in to tiredness and whilst I would agree  it's not a wise coping strategy I would also admit to feeling scared to give in to it incase I can't get out of it! Like a huge well I might fall into and not climb out again. Even as I write it it makes no sense but the fear is no less real. And the tiredness isn't just physical ,it's emotional too. A weariness of dealing with the impact, the dilemmas, the risk analysis, the implications and just feeling sick of it all. I know it will go in time...I just want it to hurry up! I guess in part I hoped that the reconstruction work would some how wipe it all out -draw a bold line in the sand, putting it firmly in the past. And maybe it will yet?[p] Yesterday I met a few of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer team in Scotland and it was great to hear the banter again. They were careful not to burden me with work but it was good to flex the brain a little, discussing council elections, forthcoming events and sharing some funny tales of life in a charity! Apathy and council elections do seem to go hand in hand as we discussed. Yet so many decisions made at council level impact on our lives so fundamentally. And the gender imbalance of elected candidates has been noted with concern too. The headlines have been full of who can claim to be the winner but what really matters is what happens now. The voting system means collaboration is the key to successful decision making and the optimist in me hopes that perhaps that could mean less tribalism and more decisions right for local communities. I read a comment saying they visualise there are lots of discussions and deals going on behind the scenes....a bit like Borgen but without the power macs! And the women too it would seem...[p] Reasons to be cheerful. A lovely break refreshed me. Also I enjoyed catching up with team Breakthrough, hearing their enthusiasm and energy for our important work. I am getting out and about more and thats so welcome. The nights are bright and a super moon is promised this evening, thanks to the proximity of the moon to earth. The cat can't wait! Oh and it's series finale of Homeland soon...

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

At risk of sounding like a visit Scotland advert?

I will admit this week did not start all that well. I was easily moved to tears and all too in touch with my vulnerabilities. Having explored what was on my mind the previous week,the words" I don't want to go back to feeling like that "kept recurring. What I recognise is the feeling of struggling with tiredness that I wanted to avoid. For what felt like a long time after my first diagnosis I would start the week worrying about having the energy to get through each day. My recent diagnosis was at an early stage so I have generally been optimistic about recovery from the cancer but I have worried about "going back there again". Clearly "there"  remains a scary place for me. And I have felt angry that this new diagnosis could take me back there potentially. So feeling stronger  is an important goal of this recovery time for me. I have also slowly realised that some of the reconstructive work has been less successful than I hoped. I have tried to measure normality in this situation but that's hard to do. I need to wait till my follow up, but I am trying to adjust my expectations. And having mostly been at home I have had too much time to think about it. Going out is great but I have tended to pay a price for it too. Consequently i was looking forward to our planned break in the Western Highlands but also nervous of how i would manage. But a few days in I am calling it my therapy! It has been absolutely fabulous. Good company, the sun a constant companion and the scenery ....just wonderful. What a marvellous country we live in. The trip north passed snow capped mountains and meadows peppered with spring flowers. We arrived first of all at Kyle of Lochalsh, with the craggy outline of Skye a defining presence. I managed to stay upright all day but crashed and slept like a log and frankly it's been sleep therapy since then.  This should be available on prescription! Since then we have done a boat trip from Plockton and meandered along some amazing viewpoints. Yesterday the drive over the highest mountain pass in the UK to Applecross was spectacular and the sea food for supper more than lived up to its promise. So I may have to stop before others and be the last to waken but I am coping better than I thought and I am loving every moment. As I write this I am sitting outside, listening to the waves lapping,the sun is sparkling on the water and the Cullins of Skye are dominating the skyline.  A Visit Scotland video couldn't do it justice, I promise you. I have shared some photos on twitter and I know many of you share my love of this area. My son and his girlfriend joked with me that the only reason I was going away was to get some material for the blog....I won't say what I replied but to be honest, they aren't wrong. It would have been one line that read "I am bored" other wise. And we have not only felt part of a tourist board advert but also met some true British eccentrics! At the top of the pass yesterday we saw some bikers dressed in monks and nuns outfits. And then met them later in the pub when they were dressed in Sherlock Homes outfits. It's true I promise you! Its a regular trip i believe.....Another couple we met had a few days off, looked at the weather forecast and  travelled 14 hours to spend a few days here to enjoy some Wild Camping. They have not regretted it. Reasons to be cheerful.....well it's obvious isn't it? This trip is so good in so many ways.  Good company, good food, amazing weather, perfect settings and good opportunities to build the stamina. I am so lucky to have this time and it feels like this has helped me turn an important corner, physically and psychologically. So do visit Scotland ( or get out and about in it if like me you live here) if you can. We have had sunshine and no midgies and I am assured its always like that in the Western Highlands;-))