A news update

Intel Mobile Device

Intel Mobile Device (Photo credit: Frank Gruber)

I’m blogging remotely and via a mobile device at present – not as easy as I’d hoped it might be!  I’ve kindly been nominated for some more blogging awards and want to do justice to those who have nominated me – my apologies that I haven’t posted acceptances for the awards yet, I will do so once I have my laptop to hand and can more easily pass the awards on to other bloggers as is usually the case when accepting these gifts.  Expect to see those acceptance posts in around a week or so.

Life is a little confusing/disorienting/challenging right now for a variety of reasons. Once I’ve been able to push/pull myself through the challenges I’ll write about them but for now I am grateful to some very good friends for supporting me in ways that I couldn’t possibly have imagined. My faith in humanity was taking quite a battering, it had reached an all time low, but recent acts of kindness have gone a long way towards restoring it.

My first proper break from home/work in two years is also helping regenerate my spirit and cleanse my soul. There is no unnecessary stress here, no people to inflict situations that cause hardship, uncertainty and distress. Just the clouds and the sky, the sea and the sailboats.  For a few days I have secured a little oasis of peace that will give my battered mind and bruised body some space to heal.

Disability or discrimination -which is most distressing?

I am on the train on my way to London. It’s a 3 hour journey including my car ride to the station and its my commute to work. It’s very cold outside, on the way to the station the snow drifts were over 2 metres high in places and although the snow ploughs have been out the roads are still treacherous.


As I sit here on the train I’m wondering what it is that makes some people treacherous while others are the nicest you might ever hope to meet. Do treacherous people set out to be treacherous or are they just misguided, self-centred or emotionally unintelligent? I expect I’ll never know.  Fortunately I have more of the nicest kind of people in my life than I do the treacherous kind. I tend to avoid the latter as much as I can.


As a breast cancer patient (I’m still receiving treatment and not officially in remission yet) I’ve come to appreciate what living with disability means. I’ve also come to realise how much discrimination goes on.  Sadly there appears to be a link between those of a treacherous disposition and flagrant discrimination involving those who are different in some way, whether that’s a disability, ethnicity or gender. My earliest experiences of discrimination came as a child because I had ginger hair (I have very little hair now and will come on to that later). I was teased relentlessly by certain girls at school and, to be honest, they  simply weren’t nice girls. They didn’t grow up into nice adults either.


Now as a breast cancer patient I realise that discrimination against people with disabilities is a huge issue in spite of laws to the contrary and public awareness campaigns by any number of charities.  The UK held the Olympics and Paralympics last summer but at the grass-roots level I see little evidence that attitudes towards those with disabilities have really changed. There remains a significant amount of discrimination.


Before breast cancer I never considered myself as disabled. During the surgery and chemotherapy I wanted to believe that although my body had changed beyond all recognition I was still the same person capable of the same things. I am the same person. I am not capable of the same things.  I know I will regain some of what has been lost – stamina, muscle tone, hair, strength. I know that some things might be lost forever – being pain-free, sleeping soundly, perfect hearing, the level of stamina I had before embarking on the breast cancer train.


Sitting here on a packed train I am the only person with the tale tell marks of a cancer patient.  The majority of my fellow travellers are white middle-aged men who, I’m guessing, are also on their way to work.  Today I’ve had looks and glances – they range from ‘poor thing’ to ‘OMG she looks rough’ to ‘glad its not me.’ It’s amazing how attuned to other people’s reactions I’ve become and how their expressions and demeanour give away their thoughts.  I don’t mind the looks and glances. In some ways they are to be expected because as humans we seem to stick with what we know and that includes our preconceptions of what ‘normal’ looks like. Aside from my incredibly  pale skin, the absence of hair marks me out as abnormal in a society where women are still expected to look glamorous, feminine and girly.


The looks and glances are really just the tip of the iceberg. So much of it is hidden beneath the water when it comes to discrimination. From insurance to education to work in spite of anti-discrimination laws the discrimination continues. Some insurers either refuse to cover me or the premiums are so extortionate that I would rather take my chances and go without. Assessing risk and reward is not confined to actuaries and underwriters, cancer patients do it too.  In researching potential university courses I might choose to study in future, with a view to a new career direction for the next phase of my life, I’ve discovered many include the entry criterion ‘must be in good health.’ Hmm… I’m a cancer patient still undergoing treatment. I’ve had major surgery and six rounds of very toxic chemotherapy. I’m still having Herceptin. Although the cancer is being driven into remission, my body has been through so much its doubtful my health will ever be considered ‘good’ again. Being rewarded with ‘no evidence of disease’ includes taking the risk of heart problems, osteoporosis and PTSD. If insurance and education aren’t big enough contenders for discriminatory action, there’s also work. This has been a revelation to me particularly as I worked in HR many years ago and was proud to be employed by a company with very high moral and ethical standards.


In spite of laws to the contrary, discrimination appears to occur at every stage of the employment relationship.  My recent research has unearthed employers, including Government departments, who ask about health and sickness absence as part of the application process. Others who fail in their duty to make reasonable adjustments and yet others who refuse to accept that cancer is a disability. Like white stilettos and ra-ra skirts, I thought these kinds of behaviour were left behind in the 1980’s. I was wrong.


I sit here trying to weigh up whether the disability, including the psychological challenge of the life long threat of cancer returning (thus thwarting a long life) or the discrimination arising as a result of the disability is most distressing.  There is no doubt they both cause significant distress. My thoughts have come to the following conclusions:


Cancer, like other disabilities is distressing. It wreaks havoc and destruction not just for the patient but for those around them too. Cancer, like other disabilities, is not a choice. It happens and you learn to deal with it. An unhappy co-habitation arrangement if you will.


Discrimination is distressing. It adds to the burden cancer and other disabilities create. It adds to the burden emotionally and psychologically, it strips away dignity and leaves the victim feeling devalued and abused. I don’t like the word victim but those who are discriminated against are victimised, singled out for different, less favourable treatment. Unlike cancer or other disabilities, the act of discrimination IS a choice. People chose to discriminate (or not). It could be argued that some areas of society discriminate out of ignorance – young children for example may not realise what they are doing. It seems more doubtful that adults in positions of responsibility are acting out of ignorance and fail to realise the impact of their actions.


In answer to the question ‘Disability or discrimination – which is most distressing?’ I conclude that discrimination is by far the most distressing simply because it is within our power to prevent it yet we fail to do so time and time again.

What are your thoughts?




 (Photo credit: a77eBnY)


Say goodbye to the crocuses… for now

I would like to thank everyone for sending messages of support over the past few days. I felt I had the weight of the world on my shoulders, a weight that was threatening to crush me.  The major issues haven’t gone away but I’m establishing how to deal with them and having a plan always helps make me feel better.  A downside of holding positive hopes for the future is the impact when someone else needlessly sweeps them away… there are a lot of unnecessary situations going on right now.  I have three words for those who are causing this unwarranted stress.

Shame on you.

Although it is now officially Spring in the UK, the weather has forgotten which season we’re in. I woke to 12 inches of snow and its been snowing most of  the day. Outside its bitterly cold so much so that my half cats (they only count as half because they usually spend their time living outdoors)  have become whole cats sitting by the fire and refusing to venture into the garden unless absolutely necessary.


Just prior to the return of winter, crocuses were starting to bloom in my garden.  Now they are buried under a thick blanket of snow.  I suspect the open flowers won’t make it through the cold spell, their hope of continued blooming over a warm Easter weekend has been stifled.  Crocuses are very resilient little plants though and I think the unopened buds will sit tight beneath the snow and be ready to open once warmer weather makes an appearance.

The crocus flowers reminded me that although some things may now be lost and irrecoverable, other buds still maintain possibilities.  If I weather the snow storm those possibilities will have their chance to bloom.

Back to blogging. And Breast Cancer 101.


The dead cannot cry out for justice. It is a duty of the living to do so for them. Lois McMaster Bujold.

I haven’t been blogging lately because, to be honest, I lost my mojo.  I lost my mojo because there’s been a lot of sh*t happening. A whole damned sewage farm to be precise. You’d think I’d be used to it by now since it’s been a regular feature for a large portion of my life to date. Losing all but one of my female relatives on my Mum’s side of the family due to breast cancer before they reached age 50 is sh*tty.  Having 3 miscarriages and the subsequent clean-up operations scores fairly high on the sh*t-o-meter too. Being bullied, discriminated against, lied to, let down, isolated, poor, getting burgled and mugged… all those things encourage me to believe sh*t definitely happens. Oh and I almost forgot developing an aggressive breast cancer, having major surgery, chemotherapy, losing all my hair, taking steroids, developing a treatment induced needle phobia, gaining 22lbs in 3 months, early menopause, insomnia and herceptin – those things are a little on the sh*tty side as well. 

OK, I confess herceptin isn’t that bad.  It’s on the list because it involves needles and my brain can no longer deal with that concept. I have another opportunity to test out my new phobia tomorrow when I go for herceptin number six.

Back to the main story.  All these events occurred in less than 20 years and yet I still have a pesky optimistic streak that refuses to let me believe more sh*t will happen.  Of course I should know better because it does and once the pile is big enough I lose my mojo, go into hiding and wait for irksome optimism to flush it all away again.  Einstein said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I overcome one load from the sewage works, start thinking better times lie ahead and sure enough more sh*t happens.  As well as being needle phobic I now do a reasonable job of feigning sanity because the recent happenings include workplace shenanigans, my son suffering another fairly serious sport-induced injury, learning that the chemo fuelled steroid binge means I can’t have risk-reducing surgeries when or where I hoped to have them, losing one of my friends and finding out another’s cancer has returned with a vengeance. I think its safe to say sh*t happens. All I need now is a big bill from the tax man! (Fortunately my taxes are all up to date and paid in full so if the tax man comes knocking he’ll be sent away empty- handed).

My mojo up and left during the past few weeks due to all the above and more that I wont bore you with. It’s not quite ready to come out of hiding but I have reason to write and breast cancer 101 may be a good place to start. 

Lisa over at Alright Tit  died on 11th March thanks to breast cancer.  In spite of her positive spirit and amazing humour she didn’t live to see her 35th birthday.  Lisa isn’t alone. I know a number of women diagnosed with breast cancer in their 20’s and 30’s whose outlook is far from pink and pretty. So it seems a breast cancer 101 is long overdue. People who aren’t directly involved in or affected by this disease may be under the illusion that all breast cancer is curable and all breast cancer patients make a full recovery.  Sadly that perception is a long way short of the truth. 

Whilst breast cancer survival rates have improved dramatically over the past 50 years not all breast cancers are equal and we are yet to find a cure.  Research seems to suggest that a range of genetic anomalies and environmental factors cause cell mutations but the more we learn the more complex the transition of normal cells to potential killers appears to be. Until you start digging into this stuff you don’t realise how dauntingly difficult it is and let’s be frank unless you’re a geneticist, a cancer specialist or a cancer patient with a thirst for knowledge you have better things to do.

The charade that has sprung up around breast cancer is, in my view, quite dangerous.  It leads the uninformed to believe that everyone makes a full recovery and that dealing with the disease is pretty straightforward these days.  It also causes some remarkable comments such as:

  • “Well, at least you have one of the easy cancers…”   There is no easy cancer and breast cancer is far from easy. The aggressive forms remain very difficult to treat and the treatment is tough. The less aggressive forms can also recur, there are no guarantees, the disease isn’t choosy.
  • So chemo must have cured you then…”  Chemo aims to reduce tumours to enable surgery or prevent any micro-metastases developing into new cancers. Aggressive cancers are more prone to metastasize and chemo is not a silver bullet.
  • “It must be nice getting back to normal…”  It is nice being out of chemo but treatment isn’t over and there is no normal following breast cancer.
  • “You must be relieved it’s all over.”  It is not all over. It will never be all over because breast cancer can return within a couple of years, up to 25+ years later or at any time in between.
  • “It must have been nice having extra time at home.” It was isolating. Most of the extra time was spent having needles shoved in me, things cut out of me and worrying about my family’s future… if a vacation in Hades is your idea of fun then yes it was nice 🙂

I don’t blame people for saying these things and I don’t think they’re being deliberately insensitive.  I think the publicity around breast cancer leads them into a false sense of security – they genuinely believe its curable, easy to treat and simple to recover from.  No one is telling them cancer treatment screws up your body in so many ways, leaves many people with PTSD and pushes people to their limits in every way imaginable.

Lisa’s death brings it home. Breast cancer is indiscriminate, it is still taking too many lives including a number of very young ones.  Before it deals its ultimate blow it takes just away about everything else as this post from Alright Tit so honestly expresses. The dead cannot cry out for justice. It is a duty of the living to do so for them.Good night Lisa, I hope you’re resting peacefully now.


Buckaroo, Kerplunk, straws and camels backs

When I was a kid Buckaroo and Kerplunk were popular games. Buckaroo involved a toy donkey. Players took turns to add items of equipment onto its back all the while hoping the donkey wouldn’t buck when they placed their item onto the burgeoning pile. After being stacked high with buckets, sacks, rope, spades and various other goodies, the donkey would eventually reach the point where it could bear no more and living up to the name of the game, would buck all the pieces off. Real life donkeys don’t seem to do this, they have heavy loads foist upon them until they’re barely able to walk. The phrase beast of burden is often applied to donkeys and it’s not difficult to see why. When I worked in France one of my French colleagues said, “you English, you are stupid. You work like the donkey and what for? You are working 50, 60, 70 hours and you do not complain. In France we do not do that, we are not like you stupid English donkeys and we are happier to have time away from the work.”  My colleague made a very good point!


Kerplunk was a Buckaroo situation in reverse. Thin plastic sticks held up marbles inside a tall cylinder. Players had to remove sticks without letting the marbles drop through. As pieces were removed so the weight of marbles increased until eventually someone would remove a stick causing all the marbles to fall. Kerplunk, game over. On another occasion in France I saw children aged around 8 years old aligned in crocodile fashion marching through the Metro station at Chatelet. They were shouting, chanting and carrying placards accompanied by a small number of adults. My French wasn’t good enough to understand all they said so I asked a French colleague to interpret and explain what these children were doing. Why were they marching through the subway stations? She told me the kids were with their teachers and they were protesting about education reforms; a reduction in the number of teachers and taught hours. I was amazed. I couldn’t imagine British 8 year olds taking part in a protest to maintain teaching hours or have more teachers. My colleague laughed. She said in France children learn to protest early and French people stand up for their rights and the things that matter to them such as education, fair remuneration, decent medical care and so on.


I cannot remember when I first heard the phrase ‘the straw that broke the camels back.’ It was sometime before I reached my teens but I’ve no idea when. The idiom is thought to stem from an Arabic proverb. The camel is another beast of burden and the straw that breaks its back is the final thing making the weight on its body unbearable. Instead of throwing off the load like Buckaroo, the camel sinks to the floor broken in half and presumably dies as a result of its heinous injury. Once again while working in France I came across a ‘straw that broke the camels back’ situation. A large French company undertook a programme of transformation, restructuring and changes to people’s roles. Some of the changes were radical and the impact on certain members of the workforce was quite dramatic. A number of employees couldn’t cope with the situation they found themselves in and committed suicide. I was deeply traumatised by this situation, not the first workplace suicide Id encountered.  In my early career a young guy in my workplace committed suicide. Afterwards everyone said they should’ve realised the signs, he was under too much pressure, withdrawn, silent and very unhappy looking. He hung himself from a stairwell.  People were shocked, they talked about the stress he must have felt and mused that he had no outlet for his distress. I remember thinking how sad that a young man, probably aged around 22, felt so alone with his problems that the best solution was to end his own life. I still think its sad that he died suffocating to death in dingy stairwell, his life slowly slipping away because the burden of living became too much for him to bear on his own.


It isn’t often that I feel like the Buckaroo donkey or overloaded camel. Normally I’ll bear a heavy load and keep moving forward but of late a series of events has been edging me ever closer to broken back territory. Although challenging, in isolation each event is manageable. Cancer, chemo, social exclusion, work issues, loss of friends, discrimination, the thought (and reality) of more surgery – all unpleasant but in isolation or limited combinations all bearable. Even when they happen in combination and quick succession they’re bearable as long as nothing else is dumped on top.


This week something else got dumped on top; two additional  significant challenges to further embellish the list. I checked my major life events against the Holmes and Rahe stress scale. A score of 300+ indicates a significant risk of illness. Unfortunately many of my major life events are a direct result of illness so my Holmes and Rahe score was already running at over 300. This weeks challenges have pushed it to over 500 and there’s very little I can  do about it except wonder at what level the scale moves from ‘risk of serious illness’ to ‘be sure to note your preference,  flames or earthworms.’


I opted for flames long ago so I can look on the bright side in that respect – at least I know what’s coming to me in the end! Being downbeat doesn’t really suit me but I am human and I have limits. There’s only so much crap I can take before I feel overwhelmed and the past year has been packed full of it. Fortunately I still have a few friends and family who stand by me and check in to see that I’m OK. The young guy I worked with felt abandoned, the employees in the French company had no-one to turn to and couldn’t see a positive future once their jobs had disappeared or changed beyond all recognition. My friends and family can’t undo the hardships and stress certain others are hellbent on creating in my life but their moral support means I’m not entirely alone and that’s important. It helps me maintain a Buckaroo mindset casting off the crap instead of slipping into the camel persona and being completely broken by the weight of the load.



Buckaroo! (Photo credit: unloveablesteve)


Underdog? Not for long.

Every year Cancer Research UK run an event called ‘Race For Life.’ It’s a fund-raiser, all the participants are women and they undertake a sponsored 5 or 10km walk/jog/run/dance – however they choose to cover the distance. Funds raised go into research aimed at finding a cure for cancer in all its various forms. 

This years TV commercials for Race For Life have just started and they caught my attention for several reasons. The language and phrases used by people talking about cancer are very direct, they embody threats and insults targeted at cancer as if it were the most detestable thing you could ever imagine.  (It is detestable but I’ve never seen it addressed this way in an advertising campaign).   Statements include “hello cancer, are you scared?” “you mess with her and you mess with all of us” and “cancer you prat.”  The tone is assertive bordering aggressive with a clear “we’re coming to get you… ” message which happens to be the tagline coupled with an unsaid but thinly veiled ‘and when we do you’ll wish you never existed!’ inference.

This is not the kind of language or stance commonly taken during TV commercials and it’s certainly not an approach I’ve seen associated with cancer research fundraising previously. Most cancer (and other charity) related ads tend to layer images and language that pull on the heart-strings and make the viewer feel sorry for the person/people/animals the charity is supporting.  The Race For Life ad is nothing like that at all. It implies cancer is going to get a damned good kicking and I find the lack of tear-jerking sentimentality very refreshing.  I don’t want people to feel sorry for me, I want science to develop a side-effect free nemesis for cancer that enables everyone to be cured rather than placed in remission. 

The commercial made a clever choice when it came to the accompanying soundtrack.  The song is Underdog by Kasabian and there’s some interesting messaging going on here. There is no doubt that a cancer diagnosis makes you feel like an underdog, a Basenji confronted by a Tosa.  Initial OMG thoughts are compounded as various tests ensue. It’s like peeling an onion where each layer reveals another piece of information to determine just how serious the situation is.  At the core of the onion lies life or death and as you peel away each layer there’s plenty of onion juice to invoke tears.     I like Kasabian so was already familiar with the song – it starts with: 

Kill me if you dare

Hold my head up everywhere

Keep myself riding on this train.

You can listen to Underdog here. You get a cancer diagnosis and you have to keep your head up, keep riding this train called life.  The music invokes another warning directed at cancer – these people are refusing to be terrorized by it.  Towards the end of the commercial there’s an interesting x-ray image too – watch and you’ll see another act of insubordination.

The ad strikes a chord with me. It’s stance brings back memories of the approach I took as a child when bigger, older kids tried to pick on my kid brother. Even if they’d beaten me up (they didn’t) I’d have put up quite a fight because my little brother was worth protecting.    It’s the same kind of defiant stance I adopted when handed a diagnosis of aggressive, fast-growing breast cancer – whatever crap was coming my way I wasn’t about to bow down to it. There’s been a lot of crap over the past 10 months, unsurprisingly I haven’t been suppressed, shaken – a little, stirred – nope.

Go take a look at the Race For Life commercial for yourself.  For a charity ad its refreshingly different and good to see no hint of the  ‘poor thing’ mentality that so often accompanies this kind of fundraising publicity. 




B4Peace: Forgiveness is a four letter word

Asking For Forgiveness

Asking For Forgiveness (Photo credit: hang_in_there)

This months peace challenge is about forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a four letter word. I want to say that word is love. I want to encourage everyone who reads this to believe that to forgive is to love and in loving each other we somehow make all the Bad Things that have ever happened to us magically disappear. I am an optimist at heart but I struggle with this one because there are some situations that are very difficult to forgive. I’m not talking about the trivial things, the ones that aren’t worth getting upset about in the first place.  I am talking about events that lead us to feel deep despair, burning anger or heartbrokenly hurt.  Turning those emotions into love is almost as challenging as splitting the atom – it’s feasible but it takes the right environment, a lot of energy and specialist skills to make it happen. For most of us leaving the atom whole is much, much easier.

At this point you might be thinking ‘ah, she’s saying forgiveness has parameters – if its small don’t fret about it, if it’s huge you’re saddled with it and anything in between might be worth a shot.’

So many of the things that offend, upset or annoy us are intrinsically linked to our personal values. A situation that might cause me to be deeply unhappy may not even register for someone else. Parameters don’t really work because they’re as individual as we are and our boundaries for good/bad/acceptable/unacceptable behaviour start and end in different places. Promises and lies are good examples. I don’t care if someone I barely know breaks a minor promise or tells me a few half-truths because it’s unlikely to have a life-changing impact on me.  It’s a different story if a key person in my life breaks a major promise or tells a half-truth that will have a significant adverse impact on me or my loved ones. The chances are I will be deeply unhappy about it. It’s not just about the adverse impact  – I’m upset for three reasons – the person responsible caused a Bad Thing to happen and it’s impact is significant, I’ve invested in a relationship with that person and didn’t expect them to abuse my trust, trust is one of my core values and once broken its difficult to reestablish.  I’m not much fun to be around when this kind of thing happens!

In spite of all this I still see forgiveness as a four letter word. Not the one that’s an anagram of a popular fashion label though sometimes it might feel easier to say FCUK, FCUK off or for FCUKs sake. Tempting as they may be, forgiveness is none of these things. Saying them out loud a few times can help relieve tension but has nothing at all to do with absolution and I’ve realised over the years that in order to move forward with our lives we have to leave the past behind. Playing it over and over on a loop is a path to despair, resentment or partial insanity. A life filled with bitterness and loathing is no life at all and retaining a state of unforgiveness over an extended period of time is a good way to end up permanently bitter and enraged.

It is difficult to forgive people who cause Bad Things to happen in our lives. It’s hard to let go of all that anger, hurt and disbelief.  It’s not impossible though and there are alternative ways of viewing situations that call for our forgiveness. For me the four letter word that sums up forgiveness is GIFT.  I admit it’s not an entirely altruistic gift because it hasn’t slipped my attention that there’s something in it for me when I bestow forgiveness and draw a line through whatever Bad Thing happened. Separating the Bad Thing from the person who invoked it is where the gift begins.

If you stay mad, hurt, upset or disillusioned by the way someone else has treated you, the only person who really suffers is you. You suffer because of what happened and you add to that suffering with your own special mix of negative emotions. Why punish yourself in that way? Why waste your energy when you could be using it to get out of the situation you’ve just been landed in?

Forgiving someone is a gift, not just for them but for you too.  Even if you struggle giving this gift, it’s important to realise that by doing so you give yourself the gift of liberty: freedom to take positive actions to resolve the situation, freedom to move forward and freedom from grudges, bitterness and resentment.

Last year someone in a very influential told me something I believed to be true and acted on in good faith. A few months later that person changed their stance. Their shift in position had serious adverse consequences for me while I was undergoing cancer treatment. As you might imagine, I was upset, staggered and astonished. By Christmas 2012 I was approaching my wits end but it dawned on me I was the only person in turmoil – the other person wasn’t really bothered. The only way for me to move forward was to forgive that person’s behaviour and focus on sorting out the bad situation I’d been left in. Was it easy? No. Did it take me more than one attempt? Yes (a bit like splitting the atom – it didn’t happen straight away). Did I feel better when I was free to solve the problem instead of focusing on why it happened? Yes. Has my relationship with that person changed? Yes. Was that detrimental to either of us? No. Have I been able to let go of the negative emotions associated with the Bad Thing? Yes. Do I feel better without them? Definitely!

Forgiving is a four letter word – gift. It’s a gift to forgive someone else’s detrimental behaviour. It’s a bigger gift to free yourself from resentment, upset or loathing to move on with your life. It would be nicer, in my view, if we could live our lives and behave in such a way that we never have  cause to say sorry or forgive one another. Until that day comes keep giving the gift.

Explore. Dream. Discover.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore. Dream. Discover.

Mark Twain.

Explore. Dream. Discover.

Explore. Dream. Discover.

It’s been a busy week of work and hospital visits.

One of the interesting things about work is that it’s changing but never really changes.  I’m fortunate in that I toil alongside some very intelligent, warm and capable people.  They’re diligent, dedicated and also manage to bring a sense of humour into the office as a means to mitigate the daily shenanigans. I can’t really ask for more than that.  The company we’re all part of is lucky to have these people and it probably doesn’t realise quite how blessed with talent it is – which is rather a shame because my colleagues aren’t afraid to explore, dream or discover.  For people with their skills and abilities, a whole ocean of opportunity is waiting just outside the door even in these less than exciting economic conditions.

Work takes up so much of our time and it can be a popular topic for moans and groans (almost on a par with the British weather) but as with everything else there’s not much sense in moaning, groaning or being miserable about it.  Sometimes we feel trapped in jobs or companies we’ve fallen out of love with but as soon as we realise the bars on the windows are figments of our imagination we’re free to explore, dream, discover.  Life is too short and too precious to waste… if your job is sucking the life out of you its time to get another job!  It might take a while but investing energy in a job search is always going to be more productive than complaining to anyone who’ll listen  🙂

A volunteer pastor and spiritual leader came to sit with me at the hospital today. I’d never met Barbara before and I must admit I was a little concerned because my faith is of the wide-ranging and non-specific kind rather than being invested in any particular God. I needn’t have worried. Barbara is a woman of faith and although hers may be a little more specific than my own it is still broad enough to welcome me and make me feel at home. Every now and then we meet someone and it seems as if we’ve known them all our lives. Sometimes people who know nothing about us have a way of seeing deep inside within a couple of minutes.  Both of those things happened today.

Barbara is an Afro-American woman who moved to the UK 20 years ago, she’s older than me and has a different story to tell but within seconds it felt as though we’d been friends for a very long time.  She didn’t start out as a pastor or spiritual leader, she spent a long time working as a business consultant until the shenanigans ground her down. She walked away from the salary, the politics and the back-biting once she’d seen her kids through college.

Barbara’s first question to me was “have we met before?” so I’m guessing she sensed the same connection I did.  Her next words were “you have such positivity in your eyes… is today your first day here?” We talked. I explained that no today was not my first day, I’d been coming for 10 months now and my regular visits would continue for most of this year too.  I explained that although it might be difficult to describe much of what goes on as pleasurable,  I find ways to make each visit as pleasant and enjoyable as possible.  Mostly that involves joking with the nurses or other patients and supporting newcomers so they see it’s not as scary as it seems.  I decided a long time ago there was no point staying miserable about this cancer thing – living in a trash can wouldn’t suit me and in my little world that’s the only place Oscar the Grouch is allowed to live 🙂

Before long we were laughing which on reflection seems strange because the subject of our conversation – cancer in your thirties – isn’t much of a laughing matter.  I’m not even in my thirties!  Barbara insisted I must be so I laughed some more and suggested she could add a decade. She laughed right back at me and said I must be wrong.  Who’d have thought that a bucket load of chemo would double up as the elixir of youth?!

To me my eyes are blue-green, eyelash-less and a little tired looking. To Barbara they were a window to my psyche before I’d even uttered a word.   Who knows what or who we might discover there on the inside or outside in the big wide world when we throw off the bowlines and catch the trade winds in our sails?  Keep exploring, keep dreaming and keep discovering always because you may find yourself pleasantly surprised.