Sunday, January 25, 2015

The musings of a human cat...

On our way to the airport departure lounge in 2010 at the top of the escalator I was met by a smiling face and large display board. I stopped as I read the words Brain Tumour...

Hi I'm Sue from a Brain Tumour Charity

Mr H, following behind with the bags, piped up over my shoulder: yes Dawn had one.

So you are a survivor. 

I told her I was delighted to see them there, dropped some money in her collection and carried on.

But those words, that title stayed with me! 

I guess without surgery I would have died. They warned me there was a tiny chance I could die during the operation; they wrote it on the consent form. Risks.....Death. 

Ten days later I remember opening my eyes after more surgery to remove a brain abscess (a complication of my tumour surgery) to see one of the lovely physiotherapists with tears in her eyes at the end of my bed. 

I cried out I don't want to die...I haven't written a will.

So am I a human cat and have I used up three of my lives?  

Before I wrote Brain Tumour Survivor on my twitter tagline I hesitated, but did it because Sue had called me one. I am not normally a sheep and Survivor was not a word I would have chosen to describe myself! So I stopped baaaa-ing and deleted the word. I don't see myself as an Epilepsy Survivor so why with the Brain Tumour? 

Instead I have learnt to live with them and their consequences. They change my life but I still have a life. I am lucky.

But dealing with Breast Cancer brought death back into the room. Not because death was imminent, not even close, but because it comes holding hands with the word Cancer. 

Once again I have looked Death in the eye. But I still have time to breath the air, watch the snowdrops peek through the soil and spend precious time with my true friends and family.

And swim. And sing....
Remember to...
Dance like there's nobody watching
Love like you'll never be hurt
Sing like there's nobody listening
and live like it's heaven on earth
William W. Purkey

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

When my mind runs away...

In the last six years I have spent hundreds of hours waiting. I have waited to see a nurse or a surgeon. I have waited for a Radiographer to call me through for a scan. For my name to be called, a sign that it is my turn...

I am a practised wait-er. I would like to say an expert but I sharpen my waiting skills all the time.

When I was a working wait-er I was a do-er, I would carry notes to be read, minutes to be drafted, reports to be edited. Then I stopped work but was still in full bag mode. A bag stuffed with magazines, a novel or two. I tried to read away my rapid heart beat and sweaty palms as I waited to be called in...

Since I started writing my Blog I carry a note book too, to jot down new material or a sound bite snatched from a conversation to use at a later date. But I find that anxiety is not a good companion to writing, ideas get stuck like cars in a traffic jam. 

Today as I sit in the hospital waiting room, my mind chatters like children whispering behind their hands.  I take a deep breath and blow the air out, sometimes two of these changing breaths help me calm my mind.

But, like a rapid river, the words keep flowing....I don't know why you are even thinking of having this surgery...the Blog Award tickets go on sale today...I must get a walk in...loose some weight...remember to ring Sue....should I go ahead with the surgery or not...

So I call in Ruby Wax, who has given me a bag of tools to Tame my Mind. 

I lower my eyes to the floor, plant my feet on the ground and free my back from the curve of the chair. Then I ask myself what am I feeling? 

I lead my thoughts mindfully from my head to my toes, I stop at my belly. 

A fist like knot is screwed up tight. There sits the cause of my river of words.

I breathe into the knot then as I breathe out I imagine the knot melting away. I breathe in and out slowly and like a large cloud dissipating watch the knot reduce. I breathe in again and as I breathe out watch the small clouds start to move away. 

As I pull my breath into my lungs, my thoughts are now entirely focused on the space that was taken up by the knot. 

In its place is a beautiful blue sky...

I open my eyes and smile.

"The best cure for the body is a quiet mind"
Napoleon Bonaparte

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Fallow days...

On January 1st, when the first curve of the sun appeared above the horizon I expected my energy to rise with it. A new year. A new start. Get up and go I thought. And tried. 

I feel great I told everyone, I have been cured of cancer. Now I will get on with living.

The first week we stripped the Christmas tree and packed the decorations into their boxes for another year. Back in the warm baby pool I went for a swim. I lunched at the deli. I spent a whole morning back at the hospital to have my first annual boob service! I hitched a lift to singing and sung my soul out...

But the last few days I have hardly had enough steam to get washed and dressed let alone do my daily ten minute slow amble along our lane, Like my attempt to return to work a few years ago, it hasn't gone to plan.

I moan to a friend, Jane on the phone: my energy has gone poof. It has floated up the chimney and I have spent the last couple of days lying on the sofa watching daytime TV. I hate it 

Now Jane was listening I grumbled on like advancing thunder...

I am fed up of feeling exhausted, I wish Father Christmas had brought me more energy....

Jane spluttered

For goodness sake Dawn, you expect to be back at the starting post already! With what you have been through! Farmers allow their fields fallow years! So come on. I expect you will need a couple of fallow days a week for a long time yet.

You sound alive. You are alive. I can't wait to see you...

So now I will wallow in my Fallow days. Enjoy them rather than fighting to sow more seeds....

Maybe I will finish knitting the alpaca cardigan I started almost two years ago. Crochet more flowers...

The secret of change 
is to focus all your energy, 
not on fighting the old 
but on building the new

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

It is time to press reset...

I can't wait to slam the door on 2014 but before I do I will flick through this twisty, turvy, stormy year.

I started it with a
Caribbean suntan and was awash with plans to celebrate my 50th year of life! But instead days full of curtain closed darkness crept in when a consultant said the words breast cancer. To me. To my face. My breast.

But rather than dwell on those dark days I shall end the way I started; in the sunshine...

The good things:
I got the chance to get bald. Stripped back to my baby self. Today I want to stand on the spot, hold my arms out and whirl. Shout I am free,  I love my new funky style!

I launched myself into a world full of hats! Tried out styles I would never have dared before, I wore jaunty berets, Downton cloches; a c
aribbean calypso of colours... a life without hats is a thing of the past.

Friends and family drove for hours just to sit and listen; to take me to see the sea and to stand on a beach. They made torturous traffic logged journeys to get me to oncology and back...Thank you are two words which could never show what these things mean to me!

I have learnt to keep my cortisol levels in check and stress levels on empty. Because hand in hand with rest and a focused calm mind (achieved through mindfulness and meditation), they allow my body to heal, kick start my immune system and create space for my mind to refresh.

I have a third chance to get on with living! To let my heart sing. Another reminder that EVERY moment COUNTS! Every single second! I shall wrap myself in every smile. Cherish my family and every friendship. Drink in the beauty of every sunset. Treasure every breath shared with My Mr H...

Thank you my friends and social media family for staying with me this year. 
Thank you for your tweets, messages and emails of support. 
Thank you for telling me my Blog gives you hope and that it helps you to keep going when your own strength is being tested.
Thank you for giving me a chance to become the best individual health Blog 2015...

It's time for me to press reset and start a new chapter...
and wish you a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Are you with the wheelchair?...

Mr H is my legs as we reach airport security on our way to a wedding...

...with a wave of her arm, a suited lady directs fellow travellers to a queue to be scanned. She glances down at me, stripped of my coat, scarf, bags, belt, all metal objects except the plate in my head, then steals my smile as she asks Mr H

Are you with the wheelchair?

Aha. I had forgotten once I sit in a wheelchair I am a wheelchair! journey with airport special assistance has begun... 

The smiling ground crew collect me from the gate and with fellow wheelchair users they escort us to lifts, then across the Tarmac to the aircraft ambulift which awaits us...

Yippee we all shout as the fridge like lift whirs us into the air to rest level with the closed aircraft's side door. Our entry into the warmth. Our man knocks. We wait. Tap tap. We wait, shivering in our coats. Knock knock knock...

Then out of our window we spot the able passengers beginning to snake their way out to the aircraft. We all know that they will now be allowed into the warmth before us even though we were there first.

Fifteen more shivering minutes pass with us suspended mid air in our ice cold, wind chilled, fridge. We watch with opened mouths as the aircraft is hooked onto the tug. I bang on the window and shout

wait for us

No one looks up!

Our man hammers loudly on the closed aircraft door. We wait. Knocks louder... then to squeals of teeth chartering relief the door is opened.

Do we get an apology? Not on your life!

When we land we are told to stay seated so the able bodied passengers can get off first. They climb aboard a waiting warm cosy bus to be transported from the aircraft to the airport terminal. 

At last we are ambulifted onto the Tarmac only to become a three carriage train: Mr H is my driver, a mother pushes her young child as he clutches his Spider-Man toy and an elderly man struggles with his wife in her chair. It is a long dark walk as we are escorted along the normally unseen outside trails of Bristol airport on a wind chilled winter evening...

Shivering we pop out by the luggage carousels to collect our lonely suitcases. Everyone else has already left!

But when the Groom jumps in early with his eager I do and love glistens in his brides eyes, the journey I have travelled this year to witness such joy becomes a distant memory...

Monday, December 15, 2014

Now the storm has passed...

Barry white's words are singing in my may be winter outside but in my heart it's spring...because when I saw my oncologist he said your bones are cancer clear. One simple sentence which like a red traffic light,  brought our jumble of fear, questions about the future and sleepless nights to a stop. 

Once again I have a future, it will be filled with an extra scan each year, but I know how to do annual scans, my brain tumour.saw to that.

Mr H and I keep casting glances at each other and grinning like lottery winners. We are lottery winners! Bad news has left us alone for Christmas. Mr H keeps hugging me extra hard and when he comes back from a run, with sweaty tears he declares his utter joy and love for me. 

Its a GTBA week all round. We are off to a wedding. This wedding has dangled like a golden carrot as I have trudged my way through this year of cancer.  I won't need an excuse to wear a hat and eat cake!!

...and I have made it onto the short list for the UK Blog Awards 2015 - Individual Health Bloggers Category. 
Thank you all for your votes which got me to this point! 
I raise my glass to you...and to further raising awareness of the impact that brain tumours and breast cancer have but showing that even with these life can be enjoyed

Oh and before I go... GTBA is my term for Its Good To Be Alive

Dance, Smile, Giggle, Marvel, Trust, Hope, Love, Wish, Believe. Most of all enjoy every moment of the journey and appreciate where you are at this moment instead of always focusing on how far you have to go.

Mandy Hale

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Having a hat of a time!

In Oncology I cannot pass the hat shop without dipping into my purse, in fact I have to plan hat buying time into my visits. Last week I spied a purple and red one...

I need it I told Rachael as I treated her to my hat buying grin. It is getting colder and it will match my coat...

I used to think hats were for wimps and when I rambled around the country I refused to cover my head unless the ground was winter white! But having no hair has thrown me into a playground of hats! I spend hours hat browsing on Amazon then watch with glee as the postman slides them through the letterbox and grab what I can when Accessorise have their 70% sale. 

Some have rain protecting brims, others are cosy warm wool, one has a feather and a few are just because I couldn't live without them!  

Each day I pick one out with care, a colour to complement my outfit and thickness to match the temperature outside. Then I do my mirror-look test before I leave the house.

I have inside hats too and as the evenings get colder Mr H often exclaims my little Eskimo you do make me I lie on the settee, a thick woolly hat on my head, scarf round my neck and blanket wrapped around me. The cancer treatment has stolen my body heat. 

I have a wedding coming up and am in a hat war with my sister in law. I know I will win! Although I have given her a hat start by declaring my hat wearing head...

When the clouds are grey a rainbow of colour brightens my day. 
I am having a hat of a time. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Life - Use the whole box of crayons...

That's not grey hair I tell everyone I see, I use a white crayon

I am greeted each morning with a black and white smile and for the first time in 7 months I woke with a few hairs out of synch. 'Jane' my sandy blond wig is now back in her box. But I have enjoyed my hair holiday, away from brushes and combs, getting showered and dressed then popping Jane or a multi coloured hat over my shivering head...

I have splashed out on colour for my new swimming costume too so it's blue like the sea. It has a pocket at the front to store my new silicone boob! 

When I emptied out my swimming bag, a musty towel went in the wash, rotten Zogg pool socks are now in the bin.and my toiletries refreshed. Today I shall dip my toe in the warm water of the baby pool a year after my last dippy dip!

I used a new crayon and Tamed another Tiger last week. I joined a Community Voices Acapella singing group and when I walked out the door after my first visit my heart was singing as much as my voice. The room was full of characters who use the whole box of crayons to brighten their lives.

But the black crayon keeps making its mark. A recent bone scan due to new hip pain did not rule out bone metastases so now I wait for an MRI scan and hope that it is degeneration not more bright red big C...

Make the most of the life that you have and use the whole box of crayons

Monday, November 17, 2014

Six years ago today...

Six years ago today 
I drove a manual car 
Wore high heel shoes 
Carried a briefcase 
Walked without a limp or a stick 
Danced with abandon 

 Six years ago I didn't need to 
Concentrate on every step 
Worry about tripping over mats and cracks 
Book assistance when I travelled abroad 
Let energy dictate my day 
Use handrails and lifts 
Wear a softie in my bra

 Six years ago 
I had yet to become Mrs H 
Mind The Gap A-Z had not been born 
I had never been to the sunny Caribbean 
I hadn't discovered mindfulness and meditation 
I had no idea how determined I could be 
 Or realise that every moment should be treasured…

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