Time to move on

What do you do

When the world frowns at you

When your life’s upside down

Is there hope to be found?

 

Where do you go

When the rain turns to snow

When your life feels insane

Is your psyche still sound?

 

How do you know

When the words are all faux

When the light’s a feint glow

Is your ship run aground?

 

Why do you stay

When your heart starts to break

When the give is all take

Is your freedom now drowned?

 

Who do you tell

When you know it’s a spell

When the tears start to flow

Is your life come unbound?

 

When do you know

It’s the last picture show

Now its time to move on

Let the darkness be gone

ship

ship (Photo credit: deepwarren)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Impossible is a matter of opinion, it is not a fact.

Mission: Earth, Voyage to the Home Planet

Mission: Earth, Voyage to the Home Planet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A long time ago someone asked me if I thought I could fly to the moon.  “Yes” I said without stopping to give it any consideration.  “But that’s ridiculous” the person doing the asking then stated, “of course you can’t fly to the moon!”  Blessed with equal measures of resourcefulness and stubbornness, I continued to declare my ability to reach the moon in spite of the arguments thrown at me. The conversation went something like this:

Person A: You cannot fly to the moon.

Me: Yes I can.

Person A: Don’t be silly, you haven’t got a spaceship.

Me: You’re right, I don’t. I would have to get one.

Person A: You can’t just get a space ship!

Me: If I needed a spaceship badly enough I’d get one.

Person A: Spaceships cost money. You don’t have that much money.

Me: I know, if I needed a space ship badly enough I’d have to find a way to raise the money. You know I could do that if I had to.

Person A (slightly grudgingly): Ok, I know if you had to you’d find a way to get the money for a spaceship. But you can’t just go out and buy them and even if you could, you don’t know how to fly anything. You don’t like flying and you’re certainly no astronaut.

Me: If I couldn’t buy a spaceship and I really needed one, I’d have to learn how to build one myself. If I had to I could build a spaceship.

Person A: Hmm. Maybe. But you still don’t like flying and you’re no astronaut.

Me: You’re right, I don’t like flying but I could learn. If I’m going to learn to fly I may as well do some astronaut training too. I like to learn.

Person A: But you know deep down that its just not possible. You can’t fly to the moon because its impossible for people like us to do things like that.

Me: It would be difficult, but it’s not impossible. If I had to fly to the moon I would. I’d find a way to make the money, build the space ship, learn to fly and complete astronaut training. I don’t doubt it would be hard, but in no way is it impossible.

Person A: You’d fail. Crash or something. It’s definitely not possible.

Me: I might fail – I might build a dodgy rocket or crash into some space debris or navigate the wrong course and end up heading into the sun. Still doesn’t mean it’s impossible though – it would just mean I was a rubbish spaceship builder who needed to improve her map reading skills.

Person A: Oh for goodness sakes! YOU are impossible.

——————-

Maybe I am a little impossible. The easiest option when posed with a seemingly impossible situation (do you think you can fly to the moon?) is to shrug and say no. The question goes away, all the thinking about how to make it happen goes away and with it, the possibility goes away.

The trouble is, I don’t believe many things are truly impossible. They might be difficult – like climbing Everest or walking to the North Pole or dealing with cancer – but very few are completely out of the question. The most successful people have often overcome the most daunting obstacles, they aren’t prisoners of circumstance, they don’t blame their childhood, education or social setting for the situations they have to face and they don’t lie down and give in. They persist, retain a positive attitude and keep going no matter what gets thrown at them. They recognise that impossible is an opinion, not a fact and that a positive attitude in spite of tricky circumstances can lead to brilliant outcomes.

As Dr John Maxwell says “your attitude colours every aspect of your life. It is like the mind’s paintbrush.”   My minds paintbrush is like a rainbow, it rarely bows to gloomy greyness or melancholy black. I think having a positive attitude really makes a difference, not only in what I’m willing to take on or overcome but also in the kinds of people I attract into my life and the depth of friendship we develop. I wonder if its true that people who can find a way through almost any situation attract others who do likewise?

When your next obstacle comes along (as it surely will because our lives are shaped by them) what colour will you put on your minds paintbrush?

Be glad of today because tomorrow is a work of fiction

Human Heart(Image credit: Wikimedia)

Human Heart
(Image credit: Wikimedia)

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

My heart was examined once again today using ultrasound to create an echocardiogram.  This is standard practice because the anthracycline based chemotherapy I’ve endured and the Herceptin I’m continuing to receive are both known to cause damage to the heart.  I’ll find out next week if my 10 oz bundle of muscle is as healthy as it was three months ago. I certainly hope so and in three months time – all things being equal – it’ll be checked again.

The heart is an amazing piece of equipment. It beats around 100,000 times in a day, circulates blood through some 60,000 miles of blood vessels and if looked after can last a lifetime without needing too much maintenance. It’s also thought the heart can contain ‘cellular memories’ – recollections of the events we experience, preferences and attitudes we hold.  Although the idea of cellular memory is fiercely contested there are some astonishing and as yet unexplained examples, including the 8-year-old girl who provided information that led to the apprehension of her heart-donors murderer.

Irrespective of whether we believe cellular memory or not, if we start out from the premise that every day is the best day of the year I suspect it might help us be happier about what we have instead of feeling miserable about the things we don’t have.


You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die.  Or when.  You can only decide how you’re going to live.  Now.  ~ Joan Baez

If you wait, all that happens is that you get older.  ~Larry McMurtry, Some Can Whistle.

We die daily.  Happy those who daily come to life as well.  ~George MacDonald

Why be saddled with this thing called life expectancy?  Of what relevance to an individual is such a statistic?  Am I to concern myself with an allotment of days I never had and was never promised?  Must I check off each day of my life as if I am subtracting from this imaginary hoard?  No, on the contrary, I will add each day of my life to my treasure of days lived.  And with each day, my treasure will grow, not diminish.  ~Robert Brault

Tomorrow is a work of fiction, every day some of us discover tomorrow never comes.  So live today, all day and write on your heart that its the best day of the year 🙂

Plastic – a man-made menace

Plastic is a man-made menace.

– Scientists estimate up to one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die each year from eating plastic (Source: Monterey Bay Aquarium).
– On Midway Atoll, 40% of albatross chicks die of starvation or dehydration. Their stomachs are full of OUR trash.
– Nearly 90% of floating marine litter is plastic, supple, durable materials such as polyethylene and polypropylene, Styrofoam, nylon and saran (Source: LA Times).
– BPA and other chemicals from plastics also leach into OUR bodies. Regular monitoring by the CDC showed more than 90% of us have detectable levels of bisphenol A (BPA) in our bodies.
– One large, well-conducted study in humans showed that people who had high levels of BPA in the urine had a higher rate of diabetes, heart disease, and liver toxicity. (Source: WebMD).
– A six-year study by a team of researchers from Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom examined the occupational histories of 1,006 women from Ontario’s Essex and Kent counties who had breast cancer and 1,146 who didn’t. Adjustments were made for smoking, weight, alcohol use, and other lifestyle and reproductive factors. The results, published online in the journal Environmental Health (19th November 2012) showed women employed in the automotive plastics industry were almost five times as likely to develop breast cancer prior to menopause as women in the control group.
– In January 2010, the FDA announced an important reversal of its 2008 claims regarding the safety of bisphenol-A, expressing new concern about “potential effects of BPA on the brain, behaviour and prostate gland of foetuses, infants and children” (Source: Science Daily)

For the sake of our planet’s wildlife and ecosystems, for your own sake and for the sake of everyone’s children, please consider your use of plastics.

We all need to clean up our act.

naomikko

 

This is the type of advertising that should be on tv everyday before dinner and lunch.

P.S:Please reblog!I hope this gets more views than gangnam style.

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Sorry guys, I really should’ve thought about this sooner

IMG_1846 - Donald Faison

IMG_1846 – Donald Faison (Photo credit: Anime Nut)

Stanley Tucci

Stanley Tucci (Photo credit: nick step)

I have a confession to make.

Until recently I’d never given much thought to what it must be like for a guy to go bald. I suppose it’s not entirely unusual as I’ve never been a man, I’ll never have the equipment to be a man and in spite of all the trouble this female body has caused I’ve decided to carry on living in it.

 

Many of my male friends have lost their hair, some at a very early age, but I never stopped to think how it might have affected them.  Now I realise it probably did affect them, it no doubt knocked their confidence and changed the way they thought about themselves – at least for a while.  Most of them didn’t talk about it and I guess that’s because we still have some old-fashioned ideas about what ‘real men’ are like, what they talk about and which emotions they’re ‘allowed’ to express.

I wish all that nonsense about being strong, silent, macho, tough, etc, etc, etc, could be banished because the guys I know have the full suite of emotions, they’re eloquent and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to express whatever is on their mind without worrying whether or not its the ‘manly’ thing to do.  I don’t care about manliness, I think its healthy to articulate thoughts and feelings  rather than keeping them locked up inside.  The act of saying what we think or feel  goes along way towards building meaningful relationships, it helps us understand (and appreciate) each other a whole lot more and it facilitates the elimination of ignorance and misconceptions.

Even though guys can look good with shorn heads or no hair at all (think Stanley Tucci or Donald Faison) I imagine the process of losing their hair and knowing it will not regrow is pretty traumatic.  Wayne Rooney said as much when talking about the reasons behind his hair transplant and James Nesbitt commented that his second transplant had changed his life and future career prospects.

Having now experienced losing my hair, all of it, I have a much better understanding of the emotions that go along with it. I know the ‘what the heck happened’ feeling when it looks like a horde of hungry moths descended during the night and chomped big patches at random.   I know what its like to look in the mirror only to find a complete stranger looking back. These aren’t feelings that fill you with confidence, high self-esteem or super-hero strength. The whole thing takes a lot of getting used to even for someone like me who can get to the ah, Fec-it! place quite quickly. Even when you know the hair loss is temporary and the big C is presenting a whole range of other interesting topics to exercise the mind…

I’ve always known that contrary to common folklore, guys can have insecurities, crises of confidence and emotional wobbles; it’s never bothered me because we’re all human and these are natural reactions to some of the curve balls life throws at us.  I suspect hair loss, especially for guys of a young age, is a pretty traumatic experience.  If you can’t talk about it because society says that’s not manly it must be quite isolating too. From 2013 onwards I for one will be less ignorant and much more empathetic to the challenges hair loss presents for my male compatriots.

The ones we have lost

The ones we have lost are not lost at all

They’re here by the sea, on the sand and the shore

In the world that we know, they may not be seen

But their spirits live on in our hearts and our dreams

The ones we have lost are not lost at all

They’re here in the clouds, a sun ray and rainfall

In the world that we know,  they may not be heard

Their voices live on through the sweet song of birds

The ones we have lost are not lost at all

They wait by our side until our curtain call

P1000771

When our time comes, then we shall be

Walking the shore, hand in hand by the sea.

In memory of my very special Grandfather (whose birthday fell on 17th February) and my dearest and deeply missed Mother (whose birthday fell on 19th February).

This body may be mutilated and knackered but boy is it resilient!

My friend Maurice at Duck? Starfish? but…23  inspired me to write about resilience following his comment on my ‘side effects’ page.  Please visit Maurice’s blog because not only will you find excellent writing, you’ll also learn a lot about Newfoundland and see that Maurice, the folks he works with and the communities in places like d’Espoir, Francois and Burgeo must be pretty resilient too.

Dictionary definitions of resilience say it’s the ability to spring back or rebound.  In the case of illness or adversity, it is the ability to recover quickly.  I am not sure how long my recovery will take, I am told anything up to 18 months to be on top form again so I think perhaps there is another angle on resilience.  For me being resilient also means enduring difficult circumstances, keeping going in spite of everything and having a steely resolve to overcome chaos and crap on a regular basis.

Finding out you have cancer or any life threatening illness is, of course, a shock but with cancer you often don’t realise you’re sick because early on there may be no adverse symptoms of the monster within.  In my case I felt well, I had energy and I was physically quite strong.  I had been more tired than usual but decided that was just my long-term relationship with pernicious anaemia.  The only sign of cancer was a rather innocuous looking dimple that in turn lead me to discover a lump the size of a broad bean.  At that point I didn’t really feel unwell.

Broad beans, shelled and steamed

Broad beans, shelled and steamed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I found out I needed surgery followed by chemo my world turned upside down.  The one thing I didn’t want to face under any circumstances was chemo… chemo-induced complications killed my Mum (and 16 years on I have not been able to forgive it for taking her away from us when she was only in her 40’s).   What if it killed me too?

On the other hand, I know what untreated cancer does to people and animals and there’s no road to happy ever after if it’s allowed to take control.  My first call for resilience came when facing the prospect of chemo, before my surgery had taken place, before I knew what havoc cancer cells were attempting to play inside a body I knew I could no longer trust and before my FEC-TH regime had even been prescribed.

My next call for resilience came with surgery.  Breast surgery for medical reasons is not the same as breast surgery for cosmetic reasons.  Operable cancer means surgery is mandatory.  You can’t change your mind and tell the surgeon “you know what, put the scalpel away because I’ve decided I’m happy with my breasts just the way the are.” To be completely accurate, it’s possible to refuse any form of medical intervention but in the case of cancer that means it’ll take hold… no happily ever after if that’s the case. For me, surgery was the only choice because death by cancer is something I’d very much like to avoid.

I’d never experienced any major surgery previously but the thought of it didn’t bother me unduly because I just wanted the ELB (evil little b*stard) out.  As it happened, the surgery itself and the post-operative recovery period were less challenging than I thought they might be.  My body recovered quite quickly.   It took a little longer to make peace with the psychological impact of this surgery and it called for more resilience because I had to learn to like myself again, scars and all.  I had to accept that this (mutilated) body is all I have to live in so I might as well appreciate it.  This appreciation had to extend to the blob of silicon and 6″x 4″ piece of pig intestine now residing in my chest too.

An article in Psychology Today says “Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after a misfortune, blessed with such an outlook, resilient people are able to change course and soldier on.”

Undergoing 5 months of chemotherapy called for resilience; the challenges it presented came in the form of side effects that made me go from looking and feeling relatively normal to looking and feeling abnormal and unwell.  Looking like a cancer patient can change the way you think about yourself if you let that happen… you simply have to get used to the way other people look at you.  Choosing not to be defined by the chemo-chic look takes quite a lot of steely resolve; dealing with side effects definitely requires some resilience. If you want to read about side effects take a look at that page, it describes what happened to me.  Fortunately not all of these things happened all of the time but several of them happened most of the time.  I tried hard not to let this get to me; sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I didn’t.  I worked on the basis that a positive attitude is half the battle.  I can be pig-headed at times as well as pig-chested – I wasn’t about to let cancer screw my life up and make me miserable every waking hour.

Until recently I’d anticipated going through chemo would be the biggest overall test of my resilience and ability to endure.   I think that assumption was incorrect because the post-chemo limbo land is now calling for a fair amount of resilience. When you go through chemo you expect to spend some time feeling unwell, to have some side effects and be less able than you were before the poisoning treatment began.  Once it’s over you expect to feel better. Coming through chemo and still feeling a shadow of my former self a month down the line is a real challenge.  I want/expect/feel compelled to do things. Simple things like going for a long walk, running up and down stairs or exercising on the cross-trainer and bike.  My mind is immensely willing but my body states in no uncertain terms “I don’t know what the hell just happened but if you think you’re going to make me run for 10 minutes you can think again sucker!”

Dealing with the frustration this causes and the feelings of being inadequate/weak/somewhat pathetic require more resilience.  It would be very easy to let this period of post-chemo alienation drain my resolve, to move from frustrated to angry and then from angry to despairing.   Fortunately as Psychology Today points out, being resilient means having the ability to regulate emotions and see failure (in this case my knackered body) as a source of helpful feedback.  My body is knackered because it’s had a tough time and I know I cannot expect the things I asked of it a year ago at this very moment. That would be both unfair and unwise given all this 5’9″ frame has endured.  Once again I find I am learning to like myself as I am, to accept there are things I cannot do right now and in time that will change. Normal service will be resumed when the body is good and ready.

A mutilated and knackered body is all I have to live in and I appreciate it very much.  It has an amazing ability to endure some very adverse situations.  I hadn’t realised how much resilience resided in me, physically and psychologically, until I needed to use it in earnest.  That said, I hope I never have to call on it again.

Walk where the sky goes on forever

vista

One of the reasons I enjoy living here is that it offers a sense of perspective. Looking across the hills and valleys towards the Welsh mountains I realise I am Lilliputian. Tiny and inconsequential, a speck of star-dust on the face of our beautiful blue planet.

On a clear day the sky goes on forever as do the rolling hills; the air is fresh and filled with birdsong.  In winter it is crisp and bracing, in spring and summer the light scents of apple blossom and wild flowers carry on the breeze.  There is no-one else around. I am alone with the oak and the holly, the cirrus and the skyline and I imagine that I hear our planet breathing, I feel its heart beating.  In that moment I am enchanted, I know I am privileged to spend time here, to take in the vista and connect with nature in all her glory.

Take a small vacation. Venture out of the metropolis, break free from the cities, their dirt and smog and urban sprawl.  Leave the asphalt jungle, the street lights and the 7-11 far behind.  Dare to become Lilliputian and forget the material world for a while – it’s over-priced and over-rated anyway.   Travel to a place where the sky goes on forever and the stars shine like a million diamonds then imagine you can hear the Earth breathe and feel it’s heart beat.

Let our beautiful planet into your soul and in that moment peace and tranquillity will enchant you too.

Take my hand.
We will walk.
We will only walk.
We will enjoy our walk
without thinking of arriving anywhere.
Walk peacefully.
Walk happily.
Our walk is a peace walk.
Our walk is a happiness walk.

Then we learn
that there is no peace walk;
that peace is the walk;
that there is no happiness walk;
that happiness is the walk.
We walk for ourselves.
We walk for everyone
always hand in hand.

Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.
Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom under our feet.
Kiss the Earth with your feet.
Print on Earth your love and happiness.

Earth will be safe
when we feel in us enough safety.

Thich Nhat Hanh

forpeace6

Two steps forward

After much deliberation I finally got around to writing my side effects page.  I held off from doing this for several reasons. I wanted to make sure nothing else was going to happen a few weeks out from the final chemo, I needed some time to get my head around what had just happened and I wanted to ensure I could give as accurate a reflection as possible of all the things I had encountered.

 

Writing about the side effects has been a cathartic experience; placing them on the screen means they no longer have to linger in my mind. They are out here, separate from me instead of rattling around in my head and part of me.  I can put some distance between me and them and bring some small element of closure to this part of the journey.   Of course it isn’t over and this is not the end. A cancer diagnosis is never over, it never really goes away but at least I feel I can start to move on from it and regain some semblance of ordinariness.   I still look far from ordinary, I stand out like a sore thumb because I have that cancer patient hairlessness, puffiness and pallor but I know this will disappear in time. Or I can just slap on loads of make-up, get an orange spray tan and pretend I’m an extra from ‘The Only Way is Essex.’

At this point last year I was embarking on a very exciting phase of my life, so many things were going well.  Just a few months later everything turned upside down and backwards; life became one long series of tests, investigations, surgeries and treatments.  Today it feels like I’ve taken two steps forward. The chemo really is over and its effects – physical and psychological – are starting to fade away.  I won’t be swinging from the chandeliers any time soon but dancing the cha cha cha might be a possibility 🙂

English: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mahalie/...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

We are living in truly remarkable times

Horse watching

Horse watching (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Three news items struck me yesterday so much so that they inspired a mention because they show we are living in truly remarkable times.

1. The Pope resigns.

I’m agnostic so have no affiliation to any particular religion, however today’s news that the Pope has resigned came as a surprise. This is history in the making.  The Pope was appointed in his late seventies and has decided after c. 8 years that as an octogenarian he no longer has the strength or energy required to fulfil his duties as effectively as he would wish. I’m sure this news was a shock to the Catholic Church and as our news has reported, it breaks with the tradition of a Pope holding office until his death. I respect the Pope for his decision; acknowledging that his age and health were impinging on his ability to fulfil his duties and dealing with it by going against the expectations of so many people must call for a lot of soul-searching. Whether you like him or not and irrespective of your personal beliefs, seeing someone who is courageous enough to go against centuries of tradition to do what he believes is right for the greater good of his organisation is pleasantly refreshing.

2. We’ve been eating horse meat.

I know this is common practice in many parts of the world but in the UK horse meat isn’t typically sold or eaten.  In the last week a new and growing scandal has emerged since the discovery that food sold in many of our major supermarkets as beef, e.g. Burgers, mince,  etc has been constituted of horse meat to a greater or lesser extent. One particular brand of ready-made lasagne was found to be almost entirely horse meat. Most people I’ve spoken to aren’t overly concerned that they’ve eaten horse products. What’s irritated them is that the practice took so long to uncover and supermarkets and food manufacturers failed to identify problems in their supply chain or manufacturing processes. The question many people are asking is if horse meat can be passed off as beef, can meat that is unfit for human consumption also be slipped into our food?

3. One in Four have no support

Recent research by MacMillan Cancer Support has identified that one in four people in the UK go through cancer diagnosis and treatment alone. Many have been abandoned by friends and family following diagnosis, for some the cost of travel prevents people visiting and for others they simply have no-one in their lives to offer assistance or friendship.  Medical staff involved in the research state that a significant number of those who are unsupported refuse treatment or are unable to get to hospital appointments. Many have gone without meals as they’ve been too unwell to cater for themselves. In a country that is densely populated, it’s remarkable that 25% of cancer patients have no support. What is even more remarkable is that this country is supposed to be an exemplar of human rights yet it is failing this section of society, leaving them to fend for themselves and, lets not beat around the bush here, die a horrible death if they’re unable to attend for treatment or refuse it because they cannot cope on their own.

Some of our politicians ought to consider taking a leaf from the Pope’s book. The horse meat in our food is a scandal no doubt driven by greed and the desire to make a fast buck.  The MacMillan 1 in 4 research is a truly shameful reflection on our modern-day society, a failing welfare system and people who just don’t care as long as they’re seen to be managing a national debt all their parties were in no small part responsible for creating.  Not so long ago people with no friends or family to care for them would’ve received state funded help at home, now they have to be at deaths door before they qualify for any assistance. (I know because I’ve looked at the Disability Living Allowance criteria).

We live in truly remarkable times where money drives greed, dishonesty and despair in equal measure. Welcome to the 21st Century Britain you won’t hear about in tourist information publications.

United Kingdom: stamp