Posts

Showing posts from April, 2013

Day 30 reflections on this "one wild and precious life"

Day 30 This one wild and precious life? The final day of the month long challenge and I feel a confession coming on...yes you know already, I missed a few. But in my head that's progress because I'm not seeing that as failure but  just allowing myself to make self preservation choices. When I embarked on the challenge I did it to stimulate me to write a little more on some fresh topics and some of them worked well for that. But not all of the topics resonated with me, some were a bit too complicated for a life on the move ( Pinterest case in point!) and some days I just had no time. Now the old Audrey ( stop it!) would have made herself do it all or submit to some self flagellation for not doing it. But I am just accepting that some days it was a challenge too many. Yesterday's penultimate challenge was to say three things you like about yourself. I had planned to do it . But I ran out of time ....and steam so here are two of them today. The first thing I like is that I lik

Never doubt...every day courage Day 22

Image
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.”  - Margaret Mead When I did counselling training some  years ago now, a phrase I heard stayed with me. It was "challenge people on their strengths". In other words open people's minds to the possible, rather than focus on what they aren't doing or can't do. It always resonated with me and so it came to mind again with this task today. What fuels my activism is when I see others living their dreams for a better world, facing their challenges head on, being the change they want to see in the world. They inspire me to expect more, overcome the barriers, let go of the learned helplessness or even hopelessness and hold fast to my fundamental beliefs that things can be better. Those people who stand firm- in the fire of dissent, of ridicule, of belittling, of hierarchy,  of power- and say  "this is not inevitable, this can be better". It's that every

If we had no winter? Day 21

Image
“The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all.” – Mulan Perhaps we have all witnessed this? The person who grows with their challenge, whose inner beauty emerges more fully as they meet their  challenge head on. Their grace uplifting to witness and wonder at. I have friends whose wisdom and inner peace has deepened as they have approached their terminal illnesses. I have learned so much from them and had conversations that I could never have hoped to have with others in different circumstance. A rare gift in many respects and their beauty has indeed shone. But when I think of what makes me bloom, it's not adversity. Adversity has many impacts I have found. It clarifies the priorities in life, the sharp contrasts brought into focus. It makes you find your courage in the deeper places . It makes you witness those you love having to struggle alongside you, your adversity inevitably theirs. It brings pain in all it's forms. It challen

I take it back...Day 18

Image
Today's challenge took me back to my first diagnosis with cancer. I had just returned to my role as a nurse after sick leave and bereavement leave.I was working in a medical practice in my own town. I specialised in seeing people with long term conditions and for counselling. I loved my work. It was all about the relationships we built, we got to be part of their lives, we knew their families, we heard stories no others were told, they trusted us. We shared their ups and downs .....but it wasn't the deal that they shared ours. So although I had just returned after a particularly awful time in my life, my patients in the main did not know.  But they had felt my absence at some level. And so it was one day-when I was so exhausted- the mojo having long since left town, a certain older woman came into the consulting room. We knew each other and she harrumphed into the chair, looked me straight in the eye and demanded-"so where have you been, on a course or some

Shouting out on Day 13

Today's challenge is a shout out to fellow activists who have helped you. I am inspired by many people I see as activists making a difference for others but there are only two breast cancer blogs I regularly follow. That is no disservice to the others, it's just that it overwhelms me to read too much about breast cancer so by necessity I ration my intake. The two blogs I read are by Marie of @jbbc Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer and Yvonne of Time to Consider the Lillies. I love their quiet wisdom, lyrical prose and deep honesty about the impact breast cancer has had on their lives. I feel that often they are talking my truths , eloquently describing my own pain. And even with all that when their blogs pop up in my email I look forward to reading them. We cover three countries and two continents and  although we share a celtic heritage, what is our true community is the landscape left by breast cancer. I'm so glad to have found them in that community...I just wish for their

Take time to be kind....to yourself. Day 12

Day 12 is what would you advice yourself on day of diagnosis. I am not at my desk so this is by necessity simple and fast. But really so is my message. It's: Take time to be kind to yourself, don't worry about work, prioritise yourself, and focus on getting through treatment and getting well again. I tried to keep everything going and I couldn't really do that and do what I needed to recover. Would I do it differently now. Yes indeed. 

First do no harm?

First do no harm? When I first started work in charities I found people would tell me their stories, first of diabetes, more recently with breast cancer. Taxi journeys became sources of information, a litmus test of services and experiences of living with these conditions. It's amazing once the flood gates are opened how revealing the conversations become. And more recently as my work focuses on the lived experience of care, these are now my landscape. Discussions may start differently but in time I hear a story of care......or let's be honest often it's just the opposite. By Friday afternoon I wanted to put my head on the desk and weep at the poor care and insensitivity I had heard about in that one day alone.  It grieves me sorely to say it but its true. A book I read as a student nurse came back to me " Limits to medicine" by Ivan Illich . It's not a lazy read for a Sunday morning under the covers. It demands your full engagement and for those

Apps and blips. Day 11

Image
Your favourite app and social media platform is the challenge. I have said often how I love twitter so I don't plan to say much more other than I love how it connects. It does however have its risks and this week as major news broke in the UK about the death of Margaret Thatcher, I closed it down. Not wishing to be taken down a route of no return. She was a woman who stimulated strong reactions...and I'm not immune to them! One which does not contain the same risks and the social medium I have enjoyed just to lift my soul is Blipfoto. It's a daily photo diary. I don't post daily but it reminds me to look for the beauty of moments that I may have previously let pass. Others posts are amazing and each photo generally has a little story to give the context. My photos of the cat and dog are the ones most viewed of course!   But most importantly the app I really want to tell you about it's the ibreastcheck. It's an app developed by Break

The light and the shade Day 10

Image
I'm the one in the family that takes photos. There's something for me about capturing precious times. Never being absolutely sure they are certain in the future. It's a source of irritation for my children in particular! There is also something slightly ridiculous taking a photo with an iPad......it's so large and cumbersome, but it's fantastic to catch a moment in time. And family gatherings are easy with a screen so large. But usually I'm not in these gatherings, being the one behind the camera.  To be really honest I'm not that keen to have my photo taken, I stiffen, close my eyes, smile awkwardly and then press delete. This makes today's challenge-just that-a challenge.  When I created a website recently I had to find some photos to use. The one I have chosen ,I used too in my website. www.audreybirt.com.  The designer, Emily Hogarth cleverly integrated it into the design. It feels very personal, a real sense of who I am, so muc

No act of kindness is ever wasted....day 9

Image
Advice for carers is today's task. As many of us will be, I have been both a carer and someone in need of care. There is no doubt both are hard.  And  I have found it so hard to write this. In part I'm reluctant to offer advice when we are all so different. I don't wish to be prescriptive so here are a couple of things that helped me both times I had treatment for cancer. They may work for you too. Recently when I was convalescing my son and his partner really helped by coming over  and making a meal then staying and sharing it with us. I loved that, they helped us both and we got to enjoy their company too. Absolutely the best of both worlds. When my children were little and I had cancer for the first time, the offer from friends to take them, to give them a break was so valuable. I could relax knowing they were having fun.I felt less guilty and they got relief from the burden of a sick parent. It helped us all survive a difficult time. Small things matter r

Day 8. Ability to know the dark

Image
Todays challenge was what is the animal that represents your condition, for me of course that's breast cancer.Initially I thought no....no animal can do that. I like animals , none can represent a cancer in my head. But then I thought of a neighbours black cat that terrorises the area and it took me to thinking of a panther. So I looked up what this stunning animal represents in animal symbolism. T he words "symbol of the feminine" were there, "understanding of death" and alongside "cunning and strength" there was "ability to know the dark". Now "beauty and boldness" too were there....but the final words that captured me were "reclaiming ones power." Panther it is....but the power I reclaim.....for now.

Day 7. Shocked? You should be.

Image
Today our challenge is to pick out a ridiculous headline about your condition. Lets face it there are many ; hardly a day goes by and we read that broccoli  or mushrooms or under-wire bras, under arm deodorant etc etc either prevent or cause cancer. Really?? Please , please stop reporting unsubstantiated, poor quality research that either offer false hope but mostly insults all of our intelligence. Follow reputable sources of information like the Breakthrough Generations Study if you want proper information on research into the causes of breast cancer. But it's not one of those headlines I have chosen. I have gone for one of the many headlines at the time talking of the "shocking". campaign on breast awareness that I helped to launch last September. The shocking part you see was the advert showed real breasts with signs of cancer. The message being its not only lumps that are cancer. It still astounds me that we are shocked at the image of bare breasts simp

Return to sender? Day 6

Image
It's write a letter day for day 6. We could write to our older selves or to our condition. I have previously written to my younger self and loved that...my most important message i found being enjoy life and don't sweat the small stuff . But writing to my older self paralysed me. Is it tempting providence? Or do I find it hard to visualise myself as an older person....preferring to trust the here and now? I suspect a history of cancer stops you being complacent about the future and that's where I am just now. So instead it's a letter to my condition...breast cancer. Dear Cancer Twice, yes twice you have now come along to disrupt my life. You weren't invited, I'm not even high risk but that didn't stop you. Both times you came when I was least expecting it. Not prepared at all. No full cupboards or freshly laundered life prepared for any guests. No, just muddling along each day and even at times feeling in my prime and there suddenly you were.

The only legacy of cancer would be an enhanced love of life....thats my wish!

Day 5 of the health activist writers month challenge "if I could do anything as a health activist....."we are urged to think big about something we could achieve now. No restrictions like time or money, strange how hard it is to think like that, how constrained our aspiration can be by the grinding reality. Knowing what stops the aspirations in the here and now, creating almost a learned helplessness. So my fear is that I'm not aspirational enough, that I accept what really should be the unacceptable. Why is that? Perhaps we are naturally a cautious culture, not rebels, more negotiators. Or is that just me? That said ...my aspiration ultimately is that no one dies before their time from breast cancer; that either we can prevent it ever developing (really the fundamental goal surely) or through personalised diagnosis and treatment we minimise side effects and maximise impact to save lives...not just quantity of years but quality of years too. So how do we achiev

A resource for breast cancer.....day 4

Today's task is to create a resource for the newly diagnosed and I had a slight heart sink moment! My thought was this is huge. Also I felt conflicted as I  know my style is to collect information and try to suffocate the cancer with the weight of my knowledge ...and that's exhausting. But I remember getting two leaflets when I was diagnosed the first time and they had photos of white haired women on the front. I thought long and hard about ripping them up and getting rid of them out of the tenth floor window of my hospital room. I didn't........ but that's how much I hated them. So it's such a personal thing and timing is everything. Perhaps our best resource is a key contact like a well informed breast care nurse who understands you enough to sign post you to the right information at the right time. And someone who understands the important role that charities play in providing support and information too. Breakthrough Breast Cancer information produc

Day 3, my image for breast cancer

Image
An image that represents your condition. That's our challenge today, the third day of the health activists writers challenge. And an image I kept thinking of was a mountain, now not the pretty and pert Paps of Jura ( yes they are real and on the rugged and remote Isle of Jura). But an image that suggests a long slow endless climb, with glimpses of wonder and beauty but with danger at its core. Buachaille Etive Mor in Glencoe.

Day 2. For the newly diagnosed...my thoughts...

Let me introduce myself to people new to breast cancer. On day two of the health activists challenge we are charged to share with you some posts that may help those first diagnosed......in my situation with breast cancer. 1. My first blog was to try to find a boundary between Audrey , work and breast cancer.  Boundaries help you to retain yourself in the whole madness of a cancer diagnosis. Writing has helped me process what I was experiencing in the moment, that I do know. I described my self as a mother, daughter, wife, director of a Breast Cancer charity etc to explain that I was all those things and cancer would impact on it all, not just my job. I remember that my nieces told me in no uncertain terms to remember I was an Aunty too. You see your cancer affects so many around you. 2. But you can't take responsibility for them all.........and you can't take their pain away. 3. But you can let them help you . People commented on my courage ( I wasn't I was get

On anniversaries....

Image
The health activists month writers challenge popped in my in box today so I thought I would join. It seemed appropriate as its an anniversary for me and I wanted to write about it. It's two years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer again..yes again. It was on Easter Monday actually, so two years ago that was a different date. But it was that day when my soon to be surgeon phoned to say yes, it's cancer but its very early and treatable. Great news its early,I thought , then got on with the job of packing it in to nice boxes to deal with and hopefully control. I knew the ropes after all. I knew how it worked, I would decide what assaults on my body  I would need to deal with. I knew that my early diagnosis meant relatively light touch treatment. I knew I would need time off work but that was ok within limits. I knew that some people I thought I could rely on would disappear . I knew that I could be honest with my now adult children and minimise the impact. I kn