Cycle 4 Day 3: Vipassana – Final Lessons Learned

This feels like it is becoming a little self indulgent… Oh well I am writing for me, no one else. And this is the last one, so here’s my final lessons learned.

I have a very traditional view on learning. To me it involves textbooks, exams, learning institutions. Both my parents were/are teachers. Many of their friends and family are too. Every day after school, my Dad would ask me what I had learnt during the day. I would say “The captial of Burkina Faso is Ouagadougo” or “I finally understand the Kreb’s cycle”. Never did I say “John, a boy in my class, died on the way home from school in a car accident yesterday and I didn’t feel sad or cry. And I am trying to understand/learn why that is?” Or “Sally said I was strange because I only have one eyebrow and it made me feel embarrassed” I did have the ultimate eyebrows as a kid. Light blonde hair, dark singular eyebrow! In any case I associate learning with facts, not feelings, emotions or reactions.

Of course as I got older I began to learn about myself, about my relationships and about life, through travelling, meeting new people, different jobs and then moving city and moving country. But now it seems quite superficial.  It was only when I met Martina (and Lucy F about a year earlier) did I really start to recognise that there was an additional step I was missing. Martina learns through conversation and experience and then she reflects. She looks within and does so often. I have tried to mimick her in a way. I find it an enjoyable and complete way to learn. And it’s better suited to the type of learner I am. Or maybe I am just interested in the topic (me!) and like putting what I learn into practice.

To me Vipassana is a similar way of learning – just without the conversation! It was replaced with sensation instead.

On Day 9 of Vipassana we learned that the following morning we would learn one final part of the meditation and then Noble Silence would end. We would then stay another night and leave on Day 11. Hmmm what was the point for staying an extra night – another day of torture before entering the real world. I think not. I decided I would leave just after Noble Silence ended. I did not want the first words I say to be to strangers. I wanted to talk to Alex and Vas and my Mum and Dad… I also had mentally prepared for 10 days not 11. So I packed my bags, cleaned my roon and went to talk to the Assistant Teacher to tell her I would be leaving the following morning and how do I get my phone back. I prepared what I wanted to say in my mind. I went over it over and over. I felt the anxiety in my belly rise. The teacher calmly persuaded me to stay, saying it was dangerous to leave after such deep meditiation. At the time it made sense, so I agreed quickly and happily decided to stay. But during the evening meditation, pain in my chest appeared. Right side, in the front – just where my tumour is. It had never been there before and this was intense. I wanted to know what it was!? This is where I hold something that has possibly turned into/contributed to my cancer so I wanted to know what it was. I observed. Equanimously. In the silence I was able to see that I was a little angry (maybe a little resentful) and disappointed in myself that I had been convinced against my wishes to stay. I felt like I had done it to please the teacher and not for myself. I hadn’t talked it through. I hadn’t given her all my reasons. And after all she didn’t know me or what was best for me. We had had two 3 minute conversations in 10 days, how could she possible know what was in my best interests! So the following day, noble silence ended. I had lunch, extroverted with the others who I had introverted with and then went to see the Assistant Teacher. I wanted my phone and I wanted to go home.

She said ‘No, I want you to stay’. I defiantly said “Why?” Most unlike me when talking to someone I barely know. I am polite and courteous and respectful. I toe the line, do the right thing. Unless of course I have had 10 glasses of wine. But I lost it. I told her I’d recognised this as a common behaviour of mine and that I think is detrimental to my health. When something doesn’t go as planned or I go along with something to please someone else I hold it inside instead of speaking my mind, defending my position or standing my ground. I was able to watch it move through my body. She said she was not demanding I stay. The fence after-all was a rope. I had come so far what would a few more hours matter. She said you choose what is best for you.

Now I was torn. I also am not a “finisher” and at the moment don’t really like interacting with people I don’t know – perhaps another reason I didn’t want to stay…. If I didn’t stay the course and finish, give it 100% how was I ever going to beat cancer, but if I stayed then was I doing it to please the teacher and her wishes. She told me it didn’t matter to her whether I stay or go. Hundreds of students passs through their doors each year, many leave. The decision was mine. Arhhh mental mind fuck!

I sat in the sun and weighed up my options. I could hear all the other students laughing and chatting. I didn’t want to be part of it but I knew inside it was going to be good for me.

I would stay the extra few hours. I went to dinner and met some wonderful women who were in awe of my achievements. One woman even stole me a pen so I could write before I went to bed. Criminal I know.

The following morning I picked up my phone and got in my car. I called Alex and cried. What a rollercoaster!

Looking back it seems quite trivial, but as you are deprived of so much and your interactions are limited it allows you to see how you behave without the noise in a restricted environment. Like a zoo, or a clinical trial! And if I think about this situation I can relate it to so many others in my day to day life. Maybe this behaviour didn’t cause my cancer, but it’s something that upsets me and if I want to be true to myself then I need to acknowledge it and be willing to look out for it.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! But I think I would take someone with me. Mum, are you up for it??! If not, then Jayson you’ve been nominated!

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Cycle 4 Day 2: Vipassana – Tumour and All (Part 2)

This is a little heavy, so look away if you need too.

I missed only two things while I was away. Alex and a pen.

I realised that both had turned into cravings.

Day 6 arrives and I decide to do a little experiment. I took extra panadol to see if the pain still appeared during the meditation. I wanted the sceptical mind to leave so that I could give this technique a real go. I had questioned whether or not the pain was just because of the cancer? Was it that it disappeared because I moved position slightly? Was it a musculoskeletal injury or misalignment?? Or was it my reactions to the cravings and aversions…

The day time sits came and I still experienced the coming and going of pain even with the panadol and not changing my posture throughout the meditiation. I felt reassured and I was able to embrace the technique wholeheartedly. I also began noticing the changing nature of other sensations on my body. And I became aware of even the subtlest of sensations.

For me this technique is more aggressive that my current practice of mindfulness-based stillness meditation. It’s all about relaxing your body, observing your breath, emotions, and then your thoughts in order to reach stillness of the mind. Vipassana felt brutal in its way of getting you to the same goal of stillness. But I think that is sometimes what I need. I like the aggressive chemo because one it works and two my tumour is aggressive in nature. I am still deciding on how to incorporate vipassana into my meditation routine – a question for Zoe and my yoga teacher I think.

I digress though….. So I had the pain thing under control (well, I was remaining equanimous) and the sensations were increasing and I was starting to feel the flow and vibration I get when I meditate at home. At lunch, I thought I can’t believe there are only 4 days left! I want this to last longer!!! (Sicko, right?) But by the afternoon sit I experienced a sensation of anxiety or fear. Pain I can deal with, this was different. I wasn’t sure what it related to so I did as I was told and just observed. The pain in my back returned and released but something didn’t feel right. Just before getting into bed I caught sight of myself in the mirror. I started to cry. I started to ask myself if this was all real? Did I really have cancer? Did I really terminate my pregnancy? Was this really happening? Is this your reality? Did I make the right decision to not have Moses? What had I done? I had to face it and face it alone. For the past year I have had a support team around me, propping me up when needed. If I ever had a doubt or a low moment I could choose from any number of people who are on my recovery bus each with the own special qualities to discuss/debate, seek reassurance. But here I had no one. No one to talk to, no one to ask for a hug, no one to give me a smile, no one to tell me my decisions had been correct. No one to make me feel better. It was just me.

When I got into bed I felt like a drug addict going cold turkey. My skin felt like it was being ripped off and I was just muscles, tendons and bones. I tossed and turned. I barely slept and when I did I’d wake myself up moaning or crying. (I felt sorry for snore-a-sorous in the room next to me). The 4am bell sounded and I didn’t move. I managed to get to the mandatory sits and meals and that was about all I could cope with on Day 7. I found myself desperately wanting to tell people I had cancer and that was my excuse for feeling glum and barely getting to the hall. But in the evening, sitting on my deck, having my fennel tea I realised how I strong I was and how each decision I had made had been right for me at the time. I also realised how dependant I had became on everyone, in particular Alex, and it had actually become a little unhealthy. Some may think I am being hard on myself given my circumstance, but both he and I agree that this is true to some extent. I will use him when I don’t want to actively participate in life. And then get upset when it doesnt go the way I expect it too. It’s always been the way. For our whole relationship. It is really no surprise to me but is certainly something to be conscious of now I am “out”. And the funny thing is, is that pain in my back rarely appeared since understanding this behaviour.

Day 8 started brightly, but change, change, change is guaranteed in Vipassana. You witnessed change on a minute level when you are deprived of distractions. I watched bottle brush flowers open little by little, day by day. Huge azalea bushes go from full bloom to nothing at all. I was watching the cycle of life in action on a daily basis. I was also watching the 2 pregnant girls grow day by day. On Day 8 I saw “little bit less” pregnant chick struggle with a tee shirt she’d had worn earlier in the week. It no longer covered her belly and she kept having to pull it down. It was in my face and during the midday sitting the pain in my shoulder dominated. It dawned on me that my craving for a child had turned into an aversion to pregnancy. Those close to me will be able to testify to that. I am fine once the baby is born, it’s the in between that I hide away from and protect myself from feeling any emotion. Here it was unavoidable. I talked with the Assitant Teacher about it. How do I deal with an aversion that is a biological function in my body? Accept it as it is she said. Do not react. Just be ok with it. Hmm ok then….  I will give it a try. On Day 11, ‘little bit less’ pregnant chick wore a dress similar to one I had bought for myself when pregnant. Instead of averting my eyes I thought I am going to talk to her. I heard her mention a cleaning task she need to complete (cleaning all the block’s windows). I just had to empty the vaccum cleaner bags, so I offered to help her out. I went out of my way to talk to her. To stand near her and her bump. It may seem like only a little gesture but for me it was a deliberate act. A huge step forward in accepting my aversion for what it is and begin ok with it.

That’s a lot of downloading for one post…..  Are you exhausted? Cause I am! My last realisation started to manifest itself on the last few days but I think it is something I will save for tomorrow’s post. It’s not as heavy (well I dont think so – but my goal posts have changed a little 🙂 )

Cycle 4 Day 1: Vipassana – Tumour and All (Part 1)

When I was a little girl I wondered what it was that made us different to other animals. Could it be our minds that differentiated us?

Strange thought for a little girl to have I know… But it’s something I’ve thought about over the years and more so into adulthood.

Just after I was diagnosed before I had even left the hospital, before I knew anything about meditation, I said to my Dad “I don’t care that it’s inoperable. I’m going to shrink it with my mind and then they can cut it out”. I also said to myself “my mind got me into this mess, my mind is going to get me out of it”. So when on Day 1 of Vipassana our Teacher explained that this type of meditation was like performing surgery on the deepest levels of the mind I knew I was in the right place.

Together Zoe and I have worked consistently to change my negative and unproductive patterns of behaviour. It has piqued my interest in the field of neuroplasiticty, a fairly new science, that was only really beginning to be taught when I was at uni.  For me this 10 day intensive was going to be my chance to perform my own surgery and have my own neuroplasiticty session! I guess it’s a little weird that I was excited at the prospect of reprogramming my brain, but it’s what I have been trying to do all year and now I have a chance to do it within an activity that I love and know is good for my body.

Vipassana to me at its simplest level is mindfulness with the addition of sensation. It is all about accepting things as they are, not how you want or imagine them to be. It’s about being present in the moment and using the sensations of your body to experience it.

I am certainly no expert but what I gathered from the teachings is that our bodies respond to the world around us by creating repeated sensations within. It will respond to all situations (sights, smells, tastes, emotions, thoughts) with either a craving (like) or an aversion (dislike). And this decision of like or dislike arises initially in the mind. The role of vipassana is to basically retrain your brain to not react to any sensation with love/hate, like/dislike, pleasant/unpleasant and to just remain ‘equanimous’. Calm, even, balanced, neutral. (I wondered whether indifferent was a word I could use) In any case you are to give the same attention to all sensation.

So after four days of narrowing the focus of breath down to a single point under the nose, we start to feel sensation on the whole body. From the top of the head to the tips of the toes. It could be hot or cold, tingling or prickling, pain or pressure, tension or strain, it could the feeling of your clothes or atmosphere on your skin. It shouldn’t however be an imagined sensation. If you felt nothing, then this was ok too. So regardless whether it is soft or strong, pleasant or unpleasant we were to give our attention to it in equal amounts. Moving constantly top to bottom, bottom to top. And so the re-programming had begun.

I normally sit on a chair or lie on the bed when I meditate. My body gets tired quickly and pain arises if I sit. I had a chair and a mat available to me and by Day 5 I was ready for the mat only. I started my practise and the pain appeared. Deep in my back on the right-hand side. My tumour is at the front of my chest so it was not where I expected it to be. It was excruciating, intense. It took all my concentration to keep moving my attention around the other parts of my body. I started sweating. Normally I experience temperature changes in meditation so I wasn’t too surprised at first but this became something else. I was dripping wet. It was ridiculous. The pain eventually dulled and became weaker and weaker. Never entirely disappearing. The hour sit finished and I left the hall for the evening. I felt elated, euphoric even. I was like one of those ppl in the gym or a spin class who has their endorphins or serotonin kick in and start “Woo”-ing out loud. I’d hoped I hadn’t turned it into a craving. As I walked back to my room I saw the moon and I smiled. Alex and I had agreed that when we needed each other we just look at the moon and all would be ok. It was the only time I saw the moon my entire stay.

The pain is apparently associated with the reaction you have to a particular thought, smell, sight, emotion, situation etc. and it is stored at the deepest level of your mind. They call them Sankaras. They can be shallow or deep. The teacher gave a description that stuck in my mind. A shallow sankara is like a line in the sand that can be washed away overnight with the changing tide. A deep sankara is like a crevasse in a rock formation – deep-rooted from years of repeated practise.The meditation allows them to come to the surface and if you keep yourself indifferent they will be released because like all things in nature nothing is permanant and everything changes. In some ways it made sense, but I still tried to rationalise his theory. I get that we each hold tension/stress in different areas of the body. Plus I understand learnt behaviour/muscle memory etc. I also understand flight-fight reaction. And I know when I experience fear or anxiety i feel the butterflies in my belly or sadness feels like someone ripping out my heart or heaviness in my chest. When I am happy I can feel light headed and have a rush of tingling across my body. And given that I had actually expereinced what he was talking about I was open to hearing more.

I just didn’t know what my pain was associated with. In the coming days I was to find out.

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Cycle 3 Day 21: Vipassana – Warts and All

I did it! I survived. 11 days, 10 nights. I won’t lie, it was hard work. Torturous and liberating in the same breath. But I have come away feeling lighter and stronger. Re-entering the world has been easy. I just hope that I can take all that I have learned into my everyday life now that there is noise.

I will split my post into two. “Warts and All” is the surface level stuff I experienced. The superficial, conscious mind sort of stuff. “Tumour and All” will be the deeper stuff, the stuff I found within. They will be a little longer than usual.

My first concern was allayed immediately. I had my own room and private bathroom. Apparently having cancer has its benefits! I wasn’t entirely immune to the snoring though. The sounds coming from the next room made my walls rattle. Who knew a woman could make such a noise? The earplugs came in handy 🙂

Our induction was brief and noble silence began. Silence of body, speech and mind. No eye contact, gesturing or touch.

We were introduced to our Teacher. A man from Burma, who had died last year. Hang on…. What!? Our teacher was a voice and video recording taken in 1991. Because he couldn’t answer any of our questions for the obvious reasons there were two real life Assistant Teachers. One for the men. And one for the women. It might seem weird but became very normal and the Teacher was a wonderfully wise, witty, a very interesting man. I actually thought how sad the centre staff and volunteers would have been when he passed. I would have liked to have met him.

He talked and sung a lot. I had to “train my ear” as my boss would say, so that I could understand his accent. Luckily he repeated words three times over, so if I missed it the first time round I got it the next time. His chanting reminded me of the sounds I am familiar with in the Greek church. I kept thinking our teacher would start singing Christosanaste. It was comical at first but became comforting and prepared you for the meditation as the days passed.

My uncle had told me before I left, that he knew a woman who had converted and become a teacher and ran courses in the area where I was headed. He couldn’t remember her new name. “I’m not sure.” He said. “I think it’s something like Bullshit, Bullshit, Bullshit”. His friend wasn’t our Assistant Teacher, but as I couldn’t remember my own Assistant Teacher’s name, the first few days in my head she became known as Bullshit, Bullshit, Bullshit. It was only on the 2nd day, when I had a private interview with her and she introduced herself as Anna and I heard her voice did I remove the made up name from my mind.

Funny how the mind works. The first 3 days were all about focusing the monkey mind by observing only the breath, getting it sharp in preparation for the actual technique of Vipassana. I found my mind was desperately trying to remain in control by staying busy with the world around me. I did my fair share of cloud watching, flower observing and nail painting. I lay on the grass and pretended I was the Dad in ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids’  looking for closely at all the life in the undergrowth. Amazed at what we normally miss. And what was a new reality.

I people-watched as well. I began assigning names to all my fellow students. I wasn’t very creative but there was the pregnant chick, the ‘little bit less’ pregnant chick, the ‘could be pregnant’ chick, the ‘not sure she is a chick’ chick. And the Bondi hipster, the Byron Bay hippie, the ‘Ive been to India and have the pants to prove it’ hippie, the Albino, the Goth, the Cheater, the Crier, the Crier’s doppelgänger, the Slurper, Snore-a-sorous, the model. There were the look-alikes also. The Ineka look-alike, the Fran look-alike, the Jessamy look-alike. One woman wore pants that swished when she walked. It reminded me of the Seinfeld ep when George has a pair of corduroy pants that swish, swish, swish when he moved. In my head she became ‘Costanza’. I would hear her when she walked in and out of the meditation hall and I would smile.

I started trying to work out why everyone was here. Creating stories to associate with the students. Divorcee, self-harmer, anorexia, crohns, emphysema. I then wondered if people were able to work out my reasons for being here. Would they guess lung cancer patient, pregnancy terminator….. I think not. And so my mind stopped, and from then I was able to go deeper, go within.

Plenty of ‘releasing’ went on in the main meditation hall. I ‘lost my shit’ only a few times mostly in the privacy of my own room or the communal dining hall mainly while having a cup of herbal tea. All things that I am aware of and nothing really new for me. I have done a lot of work over the past year, honestly looking deep inside and facing many of my own truths. It was just that I was clearly able to see things as they were, because of the silence, because there was no distraction, because I was alone and because I was very in tune with the sensations of my body. But more of that tomorrow. On my ‘off’ days I would be distracted by the coughing, sneezing, and general noises in the hall. I would wonder… Is that a cough or a cry? A sneeze or a laugh? 
The most light-hearted releasing moment for me came on Day 8. Eight days of noble silence, every one seemed very sombre, very depressed, the day’s sessions for me had been intense. We were now practicing vipassana and we were asked not to change our posture or open our eyes for the entire hour sit. And if this was unavoidable we could not leave the hall. I had thought in the morning that these people are so miserable (me included), and that the chemo ward would be a much nicer place to be right now. Half way through the evening sit, the mood changed when someone farted. It was not your quiet, quick fart. It was loud and proud. Long and musical. One of the funniest farts I had ever heard. It was second only to Alex’s fart in a tiny elevator with a group of small children who were playing hide and seek from their parents.

BRRRUPPP *pause* BRRRUPPP *longer pause* BRUPP.

It had come from the female side of the room. Ladies and their noises! I was sure it was pregnant chick.  I smiled, it certainly lightened the feeling in the hall.  But then the uncontrollable laughter in the hall began. I started hearing people leaving as they lost control. But I couldn’t open my eyes to see ! When I heard the door open and someone walk back in (It wasnt Costanza) I opened my eyes to see who it was and who was missing. The model was gone, the ‘not sure you are a chick’ chick was gone and a girl who I didn’t name because I did not really see her in the first few days was walking back in. She looked like she had been laughing but now had it under control. But was she the farter? Or was it one of the other two who’d left? Or was it someone else still in the room???? It was Fart-gate. But we couldn’t talk about it, we couldn’t even look each other in the eye! We’d never know! But then something strange happened. The girl who had come back in started sobbing uncontrollably, loudly and distressingly. It was like the laughter had shattered a layer and allowed a fountain of pent-up emotion to spew out. She left again. Then another girl got up and left, also crying uncontrollably. They were dropping like flies. What the fuck just happened?? How did we go from laughter to tears so quickly. When I had time to think about it, I wondered if it was what they had needed it to take it to the next level. To have their breakthroughs. I certainly needed it, to change my solemn mood. I giggled about it even getting into bed that night. I giggle about it now. 

I think thats all I’ve got for today……slightly exhausting getting it all out….  Although I was meditating for close to ten hours a lot of stuff went on. Maybe it might be three posts….

I’ll leave you with the only photo I took while I was away. My phone was taken from me at registration but I noticed rock pyramids all around the place when I first got to the centre. Alex and I had seen loads of these while travelling in South America and he was pretty good at making life size versions of them. I decided each day I would find a rock and stack them on top of one another. It was therapeutic. I would take a walk with the rock in my hand and go over how I felt and what I learnt during the day. Some days were good and others not so good, but it was a remindered of how far I had come and how long I had to go.

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Guest Writer: Leah – letter to my friend

Dear Anoula,

Ever since I’ve known you we’ve always had this weird connection where all the bullshit drops and I am just me and you are just you. Whether we’re out for dinner in a fancy restaurant, watching crap on TV in our trackies and ugg boots, crying on each other’s shoulder or laughing so hard we all but pee in our pants, I’ve never questioned why we were friends. It’s always made sense. Something I’ve always thought though was that there were always two of you. I always felt like the part of Anoula I got to see was not the Anoula everyone else got to see.

To me there was always the true Anoula (who I and a select few have the pleasure of knowing) and then there was the Anoula that seemed to be who she thought she should be, needed to be or was for other people. For a long time I couldn’t understand the switch which to me was so obvious, but during this journey I’ve seen you morph and discovered you were never about being someone for anyone, I believe you were always just trying to find your true self in amongst everything inside….and look at you now – you blow my mind!

I cried my eyes out for days when I found out you were sick. I felt so angry, sad and scared that this could happen. “It’s so unfair, this is fucked.” became my catchphrase. It hadn’t been that long ago that we were on the phone crying with happiness that you were pregnant. That journey alone had been one I was lucky enough you had included me in and now you have to deal with this. I cried to Rob, to my mum – how can I ever tell her that this is ok? How can I sit and tell her that what she is going through is ok? I felt so selfish that I could think about my feelings at all, but as you know Ive never been great at hiding my emotions.

Not long after this I made a decision. We have always been honest with each other, but it was time to take it to another place of trust. I decided from then that I was never going to be scared to tell you what I thought you needed to hear, be it something positive or something scary and at your request I was not going to “be a cheerleader and tell you to be positive” We were going to visualise your “pink healthy lung” and banish that other thing from your body.

I was never going to hide my sadness or my pain. How could I ask you to tell me when you needed me, to show me your true feelings, to confide in me if I was not willing to do so myself?

I don’t feel like our friendship has really changed, I just feel like it’s gotten deeper, like that little part of you that always holds something back no matter how well you know someone has just slipped away and it’s all just real. I’m never scared to challenge you because you’re never scared to challenge me, and for that I am grateful every day.

So, to my Soul Sister, my friend and one of the most amazing women I know. Watching the way you are handling this monster sized curve ball has had me in awe of you from the beginning. Putting yourself out there, feeling your fears out in the open, your honesty as you take control and drive that recovery bus is something I admire every day. Thank you for keeping me on this journey. I can’t wait to watch the rest of your life unfold and to watch you show everyone exactly who you are and what you can do.

Keep skipping through the park and dont care whose watching xox

Guest Writer: Martina – Pinky Found her Brain

Martina

When Anoula walked into my world a couple of years ago I would have never imagined that I’m being part of her journey TODAY. YOU changed me and I love you for it.

I personally don’t need much time to warm up to people – I come in like a storm (especially if I like someone).

Anoula on the other hand is more observant and takes her time. The Greek had to stop the German from moving into that tiny little apartment at Docklands which I never saw from the inside. She was my new friend!

Every morning when I came into the office, I pretty much ran straight to Anoula and shut the door.  I loved and miss those moments very much – chatting away, laughing about the most stupidest things and sharing our thoughts and stories ( more my stories – she is married hahaha ).

I can honestly say that I have never been so present and never felt so clear about life and what comes with it like today. Anoula came into my life at the right time.  I still struggled with some aftershocks of my past and she just came fresh of the boat from Europe using Melbourne as a little stop over.

We shared a lot of tears but at the same time joy, beautiful moments and we had so much fun together.

When Anoula and Alex (after “struggling” for a year in the most livable city in the world) decided to move back to Sydney, I felt like moving too. I even had an interview with Caroline over the phone, who was about to walk the walk through Spain, to take up her position in a Law Firm J (I’m still in Melbourne btw).

There is hardly a day where we don’t talk ever since we met.

When I got the phone call from Alex that day I still remember his voice, the words he said and the pain I felt after.

From the day my Brain got diagnosed, I have never stopped admiring her for her strength and her braveness.

She is an extraordinary woman and friend. She inspires me, surprises me, challenges my own way of living and thinking.

I thank her for sharing all her accomplishments with me. I’m so proud of you.

Besides chocolate you’re my favorite…xo

 

Guest Writer – Kat: My Friend Anoula

My friend Anoula was diagnosed with stage four cancer. I was afraid for her. I believed that a complete life over haul was necessary to give her a fighting chance. I was brought up in what could be only described as an alternative lifestyle.

I was born on a farm out the back Bellingen. My grandmother delivered me. We milked our own cows. Grew our own vegies. My Mum meditated. In primary school I was taken to meditations before school. We went to logging protests and Hippy festivals. We grew Kombucha 20 years ago. I had to make sure Mum was wearing clothes when my friends turned up.  I of course rebelled against this upon becoming a teenager but since becoming a mother myself am beginning to revert back to what I was brought up with.

Anoula was someone I would have described as straighlaced. When Anoula was diagnosed I was just beginning my journey through discovering the importance of gut health and how it affects our systems. When we were at the hospital when Anoula was diagnosed I was talking to her Dad about the journey I was making and the health education that I was discovering and he said in reference to my health “Do you really think that will make a difference?” I realised Anoula’s up bringing was different from mine and I felt afraid for her. I was afraid she would not look to bring her life back into balance. Mind, Body and Spirit.

Watching and being a part of Anoula’s journey has been a gift for me. I feel like a new level of connection has developed, a depth to our friendship and a deep admiration for her. I enjoy discussing our health and spiritual discoveries and adventures. I admire her. She has the courage to face her fears, face herself. I, do not. I’m not sure what I am afraid of because after all I believe I am a good person, albeit with average minor foibles and any internal searches would only reveal myself but I do not venture inside. I am afraid. She inspires self reflection. Often.

Anoula is a super hero. She is facing herself. She is digging deeper. I no longer see her as a victim or as someone with Cancer. The big C. This change occurred very early on after her diagnosis. I see my friend Anoula. I do worry about her. I worry about how much weight she has lost but I am no longer afraid for her.