I had a fabulous birthday and whats more there's a gathering of the clans this weekend and I can't wait to see them all. I recommend distraction when you are in a slow process of recovery. And I do feel stronger but aware too of my fragility. A bladder infection has made this week a real challenge but its clearing now. And the clouds have cleared too, the sun has shone ( even if its freezing as Cara needed her coat) and things are looking up...ish.
I've gone back to doing a bit more on my book which I had paused for a time. And alongside that reading "When breath becomes air" Paul Kalanithi. It's a book by a young neurologist ( and so much more) who finds he has terminal lung cancer. Risky read for me just now maybe but there is so much learning from those who heal and also need the healers. We learn so much about how to care. Of course in a way we have travelled similar journeys and I know the value of being alongside those who know how it feels to have a serious diagnosis. His more serious than mine, but I don't want to hide from my own mortality and maybe part of me wants to understand more about how to face it. But mostly his writing is beautiful and honest and its a compelling read.
I've thought a great deal about this part of the journey of recovery I'm on. Our health systems treat issues, they deal with bumps in the road but they don't help us to be well again. Nutrition is seen as a side issue, activity advice is paradoxical given how exhausted you can feel and psychological recovery is left to chance and circumstance.
Recently there was an update on alcohol intake advice and the CMO in England suggesting that we all do as she does and think about our risk of breast cancer every time she has a glass of wine. Now information on alcohol and cancer risk is important and I wholly endorse the advice but I won't print my first thought when I read this. I wondered about the over 1000 women (and men) diagnosed with breast cancer each month in the UK and how they felt when she said that. I have written before about how guilty I have felt when I have been diagnosed with cancer; guilty for worrying my family, guilty for not being well and able to be the Mother, Wife, friend or colleague I wanted to be and guilty for what I did wrong to cause it.....if anything. So thanks for making that guilt a bigger burden.......unsubtle and pompous public health messages rightly make people angry and ( listen carefully) are counterproductive. Nanny state accusations have been thrown at her. The states important role in my view is to legislate where it can help and not be influenced by corporate bodies with their own agenda ( Westminster take note), thats not nannying, its good governance. My own call would be for a nurturing not a nanny state. I don't want a Mary Poppins spit spot approach to my health advice -a spoon full of sugar won't cut it. But I would like good access to healthy food, advice on how to recover my well being, how to cut down the risk ( and that's all we can do) of recurrence and support to help me adjust psychologically and perhaps most importantly to have self compassion in recovery period. Now currently that's whats missing. For the lucky they may have access to rehabilitation programmes, Maggies centres and for the very fortunate, theWEL which covers these issues in depth but they are a drop in the ocean. I would love to see community based programmes to support recovery which awakens our own well-being,self compassion and believes in all of our potential for growth and healing.
So this weekend I will enjoy time with my family and enjoy a glass of wine with them too. Don't tell Sally Davies but I won't think about my breast cancer risk on that occasion at least. I will think about the healing power of connection, of laughter, of fun and of love. Make sure you get lots of doses of those on a regular basis and life will be good, whatever else it is.