Just because it has been quiet on the blog front doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a lot happening. On the contrary, there are two threads going on at the moment which are mutually supportive but require a different mindset for each, and I have wanted to write about them for a while. On the one hand it is pretty nuts at work at the moment. There is a big pile of manuscripts to be turned into books, thanks to my illness last year, and I am eagerly working my way through them at a rate of knots. It is so addictive to be working on these things – I do have a lot of other admin-y type things to do at the office, but there is something about turning a manuscript into a book and seeing the end result that is hugely satisfying, so it is easy to ignore those other important things. Like marketing for example. Our website http://www.wessexastrologer.com is long overdue a big overhaul and update, but a)the people who can do it keep not getting back to me and b)I find it hard to stay on the case because of all the other things going on. I know we need to be doing a whole lot more with links to social networking etc but I do need someone who is up to the task to help me. I am sure they will pitch up at the right moment and that this is just me being – oh, could it be impatient, Margaret? Hmm.
The second thing occupying my mind somewhat is the continuing progress of both mine and Stephen’s health. My monthly visits to Mike are always revealing as one of the things he generally asks me is how I am coping with the stress. I always reply, ‘what stress?’, because as far as work is concerned I am dangerously close to being back to workaholic kind of hours, but loving nearly every minute of it. The minutes I don’t love usually have numbers rather than words in them. I’m not good with numbers, but that is why we have the wonderful Cathy. Periodically our domains intersect in a Venn diagram kind of way, but I am sure she is happier when they don’t as I find it distressingly easy to reverse numbers and make 2+2 = something it shouldn’t.
I digress. Interestingly enough, I was heading down the same route of working too hard back in 2000 and ended up with ME. And it turns out that ME is apparently implicated in Mantle Cell Lymphoma. I suppose it makes sense: knackered immune system = Something Going Badly Wrong. So I knew on this last visit to Mike that I wasn’t actually feeling 100% because not only had I been working incredibly hard but I had also been cheating a huge amount on my diet. Wine – definitely, especially after a long hard day at the office. Weekend treats like a cream tea, or a croissant with coffee? Absolutely. I deserve it. Well that just about covers all the things I shouldn’t be having. Ooh except for cheese omelettes for lunch at the weekend. And the odd nice steak. Yum. I was justifying it to myself by saying that I’m not by nature a vegan yogi and I need to have some enjoyment in life or is it really worth living?
With all this justification nestled deep in my guilty heart I was interested to know how Mike thought I was doing. I am, after all, tipping a vast amount of expensive organic herbal supplements down my throat. One would expect some kind of trade-off. The excellent thing about Mike is that he asks you how you are and expects a 20 second synopsis before he gets to work. There is no time to wallow in anything – he has so many tools at his disposal that he can ferret out whether anything untoward is going on very quickly. Which is what he proceeded to do. He seems to use whatever the situation demands; on this occasion as he hadn’t looked at my eyes (at not into!) using iridiology for quite a while, I had to do the whole staring at him via this massive lens procedure to enable him to get a snapshot of my eye. Not gifted with the most traditional or sensitive bedside manner he spent quite a lot of time muttering, ‘this is very bad’ before he enlightened me. What he discovered, which actually fitted in with my own awareness of my body – and which I hadn’t had the chance to convey to him in the allotted 20 seconds – was that apart from the fact that my system is extremely acidic (cancer just loves acidity), a particular vein forming a little tributary on the white part of my eye indicated the possibility of a developing cyst or tumour. And its position suggested the exact area on my neck where I was feeling some discomfort, not a million miles from the original site of the cancer. He showed me in one of his textbooks what that particular thing meant and it was pretty scary. It involved the words ‘likelihood’, ‘tumour’ and referred to seeing a ‘health professional’. There were lots of other things that came up, but basically it was all different shades of the same colour. And the upshot of it was that his herbs weren’t helping much because I wasn’t helping myself.
I was just a touch down that night, feeling almost back at square one, and worrying that I was going to get sick again. The relapse rate of MCL is distressingly high and I’m not planning on becoming a statistic – well, only a good one. I realised with a thump that I really am not going to get a second stab at this. I have to get even more serious than I was last year. But strangely enough, support from a new source stepped in to scoop me up out of my worries and drop me off in a far more positive place. Quite by chance I clicked on a link from a FB group I belong to for cancer survivors, and I ended up watching a youtube video of Kris Carr interviewing Dr Kelly Turner https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=157qny9r94g. Kelly Turner is a research scientist who was so shocked at the way doctors were so ready to discredit or cover up the cases of people who had recovered from incurable cancer that she started her own research programme. Through this she met 1000 people who have all defied the odds and are alive and cancer-free today. Kris Carr is one of those people and the interview she conducts with Kelly is incredibly inspiring. Kelly has written a book called ‘Radical Remission’ which I of course ordered. It is easy to read, totally inspiring and an amazing resource for anyone who has, has had, knows somebody else who has, or just doesn’t want to get cancer themselves. What she discovered is that out of all the hundreds of different things that people did who survived their cancer there were nine things they ALL did. And they are so obvious, but not necessarily easy.
Top of the list is a radical change of lifestyle and diet. I had already felt guilty about lapsing into bad ways – as above – but reading these case histories gave me a massive boost, and the day after the book arrived I was ready to jump straight back on the juicing wagon. Ironically, Matthew has changed to a vegetarian diet so we have been having a lot more meat-free meals anyway… not that he is actually here to eat them of course as he usually gets a better offer elsewhere else :-). It is a really long slog dealing with cancer and its aftermath. There is the feeling you can never let your guard down, and the meeting with Mike was just the scare I needed; the book gave me the backup and renewed excitement about changing my lifestyle – again.
I’m not going into all the nine things that she covers, but amongst them were having a good support network – which I am so lucky to have – and eating only organic food, yes, that incredibly obvious old chestnut. Let’s not go there in this blog. What was interesting and a very big reminder for me of Things That Have Slipped, is the importance of having an active spiritual life and practising some yoga. Regular readers of the blog will remember the various paths and alleyways I have explored in my quest to deal with the cancer at a deeper level, and that is still quietly churning away inside, but when more-than-full time work and the return to a normal life come calling, it is very hard to make time to calm down and tune in. We get hooked on the ‘busyness’ and buzz of being back in the flow. So another massive irony is that Matthew is now really serious about meditating and has become a lot calmer and happier as a result. We often come home from work to the smell of incense and a solitary person sitting quietly on the decking. This has been a huge encouragement, so we have instigated regular relaxation times after work, followed by either yoga, a run, or a long, brisk walk down to the beach after dinner. It is way better than slumping on the sofa with yet another glass of wine and watching a film or whatever happens to be on the box, which is the kind of pattern we had got back into, despite our best intentions. Stephen is up to his eyeballs with deadlines and all kinds of other stress, so this is a big help for him too. Walking down to the beach at night is really special – it is so liberating and grounding to feel the wind and smell the sea – and we sometimes manage to walk barefoot on the sand too. How much better could it get?
We have also downloaded an app for my phone from the lovely Thich Nhat Hanh’s website which is the sound of a gong. It rings just a single chime about every hour, and that it our cue to sit back (step AWAY from the computer) and take three long, slow, mindful breaths. Cathy thinks we are nuts as we do it at work too, but she is used to all the weird stuff that goes on by now. It is incredibly refreshing and it makes us realise how hunched and tense we become in the periods in between. I am having fun with it too: I gradually change the message so it adapts to the way I feel. And the better I feel as I do it, the stronger and more liberating the message. This is what happened the other day through the process of several chimes:
As I breathe in I know that I am relaxed.
As I breathe out I know that I am healthy
As I breathe in I know that I am healthy
As I breathe out I feel alive and well
As I breathe in I feel alive and well
As I breathe out I feel joyful and happy.
And I really did – once I had taken a moment to recognise that fact. And feeling good gets all the right cancer-preventing hormones belting round my body. Just as runners get a high, it is perfectly possible to get hooked on the ‘high’ from meditation. But I expect you all know that… We have also been doing our own guided meditations to help Stephen cope with the stress he is currently under. It is so hard to step away from it, but it is only when we separate ourselves from the source of the stress that we give our bodies a break from the impossible burden they carry for us.
So as you can see, busy but good. I have found that there is always time in the day to do something calming and healthy – and the discipline involved in doing so has a knock-on effect in the rest of our lives too. I have gone back to no alcohol, no sugar, no gluten, no dairy or eggs, hardly any red meat, but generally a lot less meat anyway, and lashings of veggie juices and a big pile of greenery on my plate. In just two weeks of doing it I am feeling loads better and can actually listen to my body properly. As Stephen is joining me in most of this we hope that all those lovely supplements we are taking will actually have the chance to do some good. I am looking forward to going back to Mike in a couple of weeks and seeing what changes show up. I think the difference between how I feel now and how it was last year, trying to get through chemo then recover afterwards, is that I feel fully engaged and fully alive for the first time in a very long time. I love it.
And in closing, for those of you who have been asking about Titan, he is now nearly ten months old and still as loveable and gorgeous as ever. He has a mischievous streak and constantly teases the other cats, doing that ‘Play with me, pleeeeeaaase play with me’ look, but they aren’t convinced. Yet. We shall see! Here he is, doing what comes naturally.
Sensing sunny thoughts from a lovely sunny Bournemouth. Except for a touch of Hurricane Bertha.