Wednesday, 24 October 2012

"This is who we are and much much more."

In my mindful weeks holiday I have enjoyed time to reflect on some of life's paradoxes.And then I read the wonderful open letter to the woman who called Obama a retard on twitter,Letter from Special Olympian .Please do read it, you wont regret it. Its a dignified challenge full of grace and eloquence and I felt compelled to do this short blog after reading it.

 As it made me think of how often disability, illness, change in circumstance affects peoples perception of us. That somehow this difference makes us less then we were, different from others,in need of a different approach. The head tilt that says so much. Now of course that's not always bad, if the encounter is one of empathy and mutual respect
.But I guess my plea is , see the person not the condition. And also remember that every experience in life makes us who we are.I loved one of the quotes from my Mindfulness class last week, "Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional". An important message to all of us i think, with the right support all challenges are surmountable,And they add to our strengths in the long run, they don't diminish them.

Reasons to be cheerful.Our lovely pup, Cara, has gone out for her first walk today. The wonders and smells of Inverleith park greeted her. En route she met a workman down a hole. As he popped up to say hello she kissed him.I hope he enjoyed it as much as she did!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Smile because it happened.


I was going to write about prevention and breast cancer this week.But I am on holiday and trying to practice my mindfulness more regularly so i have decided I might just do some mindfulness reflections instead.A little post regularly to enable my mindfulness practice.

"Dont cry because its over, smile because it happened." Dr Seuss

The quote above came to mind as I reflected on a really lovely family weekend, celebrating birthdays and seeing so many people I care about in one room, from new born babies to people 80 years plus. What a complete joy and how quickly it galloped passed. They have gone home now, the puppy is coming back down from hyper space and the cat has emerged back out from under the bed.And I have a week off to recover! So yes i feel a bit sad its over...of course I do.But mostly i'm really smiling with fine memories and looking forward to the next happy occasion to treasure.

Sunday, 14 October 2012


" Live your life each day as you would climb a mountain. An occasional glance towards the summit keeps the goal in mind, but many beautiful scenes are to be observed from each new vantage point"

So this week saw day one of my eight week mindfulness class. Leading me through a process which I hope will help to embed  practice of being more mindful. It's a secular process aimed at increasing well being and reducing stress. Me stressed? I know, such a preposterous suggestion:/).

Our first week involved going around the room and describing our expectations and challenges currently. As I described my expectations and current challenges I found a strange sadness settle on me. I often talk about my experience of cancer but I usually bat it off with skill. I did say to the group I am well now but hoping mindfulness will help me achieve better balance at this stage of transition. But something in the admission to a group of strangers made it so much more real and it flattened me. I am mindfully aware of it now and just accepting it. ( ha!)

I know I am going to love the reflective and participative nature of this course. Mindfulness is paying attention non-judgmentally and with kindness. We learn it may also be called be called heartfulness. And this came back to me at a meeting  later in the week. We were describing what really good health and social care look like. Considering lots of examples that illustrated what made it excellent care was fascinating. And what became obvious was, importantly alongside evidenced based support and treatment, it was also care delivered with heart. 

And it struck me that the way to embed it in the system of health and social care is also about leadership;to lead with heart too. So freeing the leaders and practitioners to do what they instinctively know to be right and engage them with kindness and respect. What was shocking was some people, when asked, could not think of a good example of health or social care. So it needs to change urgently. We can agonise on what has brought us here in western culture but what's more important is that we need to bring the heart back. Mindfulness is one route, but only one.

Over the years the leaders, mentors, teachers,  healthcare professionals who have inspired me always demonstrated  impressive knowledge , wisdom and worked with their hearts.And it's what I aspire to! And yes i think it probably does cost but the returns are so rewarding for all concerned. More importantly too, is can we afford not to?

Reasons to be cheerful.
The dual therapy of mindfulness and puppy mayhem are keeping me on track. But as the image above suggests, I can probably learn to be more in the moment from Cara the mad pup!Both weeks ,so far ,of the mindfulness taster class and day one I have had to go straight from work. Being stressed going to a Mindfulness class, feels a little's a busy week ahead so wish me luck. After this a family birthday party is coming up and then a holiday. Woo hoo!...Oh and is it just me but is the cats "bum" looking big(ger) in this?

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Just dont ask me to wear pink, OK?

It's impossible not to know its breast cancer awareness month, with national landmarks fabulous in pink. Journals full of stories of women impacted on by breast cancer and numerous news items. And I am remembering that last year I began to feel a little overwhelmed by it. Bizarre given my job , but true none the less. And I notice in me a reluctance to wear pink , almost as I am surrounded by it, it's my last way to say this doesn't define me.

And as read others blogs and tweets on the subject I hear their own frustration. One in particular made a special plea to remember in the middle of all the pink awareness, that breast cancer isn't a pink and fluffy disease it's hellish and hard and steals lives for too many people. It's not I'm sure intended, but the constant awareness raising , without the balance of understanding the real impact , has the effect of perhaps disenfranchising those its meant to help.It's hard to escape it and sometimes you just need to.

So I have worn red and purple too this last week. Pink isn't the colour of anger or distress and that's what I feel when I see the evidence of lives shortened, families struggling, poor care or inequalities in outcomes for people.And its those emotions that drive me to do what i do.....just don't ask me to wear pink, OK?

This week as well ,the Robert Burns statue at Kilmarnock Cross was given a bit of a makeover in support of the detect cancer early national campaign to make women more aware of the different signs and symptoms of breast cancer. Images of real women’s breasts exhibiting the different signs of breast cancer were placed on the local monument this week to raise awareness of the Scottish Government’s Detect Cancer Early campaign amongst people in Ayrshire.

All good I hear you say, but lets be honest it’s caused a wee stushie!( NB Scots for a row!) Because the Bard himself was shown with these images and there are those who fear it dishonours him in some way.

Now in January on Burns night I wrote a blog when I plagiarised him terribly in my poem “Tae a Breast” I did apologise to his memory but pointed out as well, he was aye one to appreciate the subject matter! And let’s not forget we are still constantly bombarded with images of naked breasts in the media, except this time it is to help save lives. Using iconic Scottish images and celebrities is helping this ground-breaking campaign to maintain momentum and
i say, well done!

So perhaps this is a small case of “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, ganging aft agley.” But would the Bard himself have had a bit of a laugh…I think so... Will it help to reinforce the messages of this vital campaign, to let women know that breast cancer signs and symptoms are more than a lump and ultimately save lives….yes it will.

So lets not be too “Holy Willy” about this and accept that if we want to stop 1,000 women a year in Scotland alone we need to be bold. The detect cancer early campaign is that and its also saying clearly to women “ Don’t get scared, get checked.” It may have caused a bit of a storm in a "D" cup ( thanks to my colleague Myles for that pun!)but in my view its worth it.

Reasons to be cheerful:My friends daughter had a baby this week. She is simply beautiful and i got to go to see her today! a real joy. And Cara is thriving, full of cheek and intelligence.We had to wash her finally and she was unimpressed at first but she does smell better, thankfully. Now, does anyone know how to stop dogs trying to eat snails? ( don't ask!)

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Simple acts of kindness can change a lot.

In a week that had the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Board come to Scotland, saw the launch of Breakthrough 100 and held a parliamentary reception to launch Breast cancer Awareness month I will admit to have shed a few tears. OK some may have been about how sore my feet were by the end of Thursday and others maybe on Monday when the alarm went off and I realised a new week had begun, but mostly it was because at all the events I attended last week there was raw honesty about the impact of breast cancer on people.
We hadn’t allowed a pink glow to prettify breast cancer and tidy up the traces. We faced it squarely and said we as group of people and as an organisation have the desire and ambition to change breast cancer for good.
And the pink explosion of October is a very important part of raising funds for all our work. So every pink item sold (not telling you what I just bought in M&S but it is very pretty!), every pink pin bought, every pink party enjoyed will help to save lives and I thank you all for the part you play. But let’s not pretend that raising awareness alone will do that. We need a call to action too and this month we are urging everyone to be aware of the 5 common signs of breast cancer. If you want a copy of our TLC campaign which you can have to remind you of them, then text SIGNS on 84424 and we will send it to you. As the twitter hashtag says the key message is #morethanalump.
I really met some fantastic women last week, all of them interested in our work and many immediately signing up as part of Breakthrough100 to raise their £1000 to support our work here in Scotland. Not all of them directly impacted on by breast cancer, but all of them understanding that this is a cause important to each and every woman. And through supporting us they in turn are part of a great network of women all united in a common cause and can enjoy that sense of community and purpose too. I suspect there will be the odd party along the way too. What could be better? We would love to hear from you if you would like to join us.
The parliamentary reception i mentioned was hosted by Jackie Baillie the health spokesperson for the Labour party and addressed by the new Cabinet secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Alex Neil but I think it was Elizabeth who stole the show. She told her tale of tough times including being widowed before her own breast cancer diagnosis. She had to check with a friend whether the symptom she had was something to worry about. Luckily her friend urged her to seek treatment straight away. Her tale was a harrowing one but if I am honest the part that was my undoing in her talk was the description of a very simple act of kindness by the theatre nurse who seeing her distress arranged for her to have her husbands photo by her side as she went into and came out of theatre. A simple act that gave her great comfort. We all found it hard to speak after that.

And it reminds us that simple acts can change so much. As the cabinet secretary said we can all make a difference, spreading the word about breast awareness. And we can all do simple acts of kindness too that change someone's life, however small.

Reasons to be cheerful. Simple it's the acts of kindness, goodness and passion to make a difference that cheer me each and every day.And cat and dog relations are improving, slightly.. Koshka has assumed position of King.

Using your bounces wisely!

  Autumn awaits I found I hadn’t the drive to write this blog last month. We’ve had precious time with family and fitted in some well paced ...