Radiotherapy Treatment #2: A New Visualisation 

I get to wear my mask for the first time today as they zap my brain! I’m kinda excited….what a sicko. My Dad is coming with me. I think he might be excited too. 

I read a book when I was first diagnosed. It’s the thought that counts. By David Hamilton. It among a number of books and people, helped set my path and allow positivity into my life. 

I had started reading his second book. How your mind can heal your body. But I couldn’t get into it. Hamilton makes it clear from the get go that this is just his theory, he could be wrong and that there isn’t that much science behind it. I needed more at the time and so put it away. Since the surgery it has become a bit of a night-time read for me followed by an episode or two of Veep. 

Last night I saw a new visualisation. I don’t think Jabba the Hutt is going to cut it with these new lesions and I’ve been ‘seeing’ this for a while in my meditations, contemplations and general daydreams….but last night I heard music, I saw myself ‘in it’, and it felt more real. I hadn’t taken my full gamut of pain meds so I don’t think I was hallucinating either. 

*Cue Nina Simone Music*

  It’s a new dawn. 

  It’s a new day. 

  It’s a neeew life for me. 

And no, I am not taking inspiration from The Bacherlorette ad, although I sometimes wished I blogged about that show instead of my actual life…but I am strutting along some city street. There could be some slow motion action too. 

So I am dressed as a tarted-up scientist. Tight white lab coat, slick back hair, dark rimmed frames, Nana Merle’s diamond earrings, shiny lips, air-brushed skin, fabulous black heels. We have a photo in our study that is quite close to what I look like (minus the lab coat and frames). The photo was taken in a photo booth in Marylebone Station one cold winter morning as I needed it for a monthly rail pass I just bought. I took the remaining photos home to show Alex, cause I didn’t think it looked like me. He asked who it was, ’cause it certainly wasn’t the woman who left the house each morning’ and he wasn’t convinced it was the woman he had recently married. The photo travelled home with us because we always wonder who she was….I guess now we know. 

  
So I’m confidently strutting the streets in my fabulous get-up to get into my body (the lab)….. which is where all the glamour ends, reality begins and my actual visualisation starts.

When I was a bench scientist, my main role was to grow bucket loads of decidual endothetial cells in petri dishes. These cells line the many blood vessels that are found in the juncture between the uterus and the placenta during pregnancy (have I lost you…too much information??). 

The main problem growing these cells was that the petri dish could become contaminated with another cell type called fibroblasts. They are a type of connective tissue and they quickly became my arch nemesis. Overnight, the fibroblast could multiple and cover the whole dish leaving only a few endothelial cells left to replicate, rendering the sample useless for future experiments. 

One way to manage the growth of the fibroblasts was to lug a whole microscope into a laminar flow hood and then carefully suck out the dodgy cells with a long glass pippette. (OK, definately lost the non-scientists! Maybe the photo will help) 

 It meant that the right cells, the endothelial cells, had a chance to grow and fill the dish, ready to harvest and freeze for future experiments. 

So that’s what I’ve started imagining in my body. A glass suction pippette sucking out the various areas of ‘contamination’. 

So I’M FEELING GOOD!!!!

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Cycle 8 Day 13: Having a Whale of a Time

I have been writing an article for a magazine and the theme is ‘health’. I had been describing how my world stopped being two dimensional when I was diagnosed. I lived on the surface, on the x and y axis and disease had created a 3rd dimension for me, the z axis or as Siggi would called it ‘the vertical’. It’s not something I experience as a permanent state of being but it is a place I can now access when I feel the need. 

I had been struggling to finish the piece not sure if it would be understood. I couldn’t get my point across. I didn’t quite have the words. But yesterday I experienced my third dimension on a whole new level. Yesterday I went swimming with whale sharks. Yes, whale sharks! And the actual experience was just what I had been trying to explain in my article. 

After two long flights on progressively smaller planes, a bus trip and a short ride on a tender, we took a boat out pass the protected reef into the vast blue ocean. On the surface, it was a frenetic ball of energy. Once a shark was spotted, the boat would get into position, 2 groups of ten snokerllers hustled to the back of the boat, wetsuits on, flippers on, mask and snorkel on. Wait for the signal…..then go, go, go.  

In the deep water we formed a line. It seemed chaotic, mindless, madness. My heart raced, my breathe quickened and my sense of presence seemed to disappear. I was obviously running on adrenaline. And what surprised me was how I was not really aware of my surroundings or my body. I was on automatic, not wanting to be aware of surroundings after all I was floating in the middle of the ocean, trying not to swallow water, trying not to think about what else was swimming about underneath my feet. Just treading water. Just to keep afloat. Just how I act sometimes in real life. 

  

Then the next signal is given. She is heading our way! Just look down. And swim with her. On the surface it was rough, noisy and full of people. Below it was beautiful. Clear blue. Graceful. Peaceful. Silent. Amazing. Still.

I was able to stop, take it all in, breathe. Appreciate all that is. Feel my body and really experience it. Not in my mind but in my being. Just like I do when I meditate or even wash the dishes.  

I realised that I was scared at first, slightly paralysed by fear, apprenhesive of the unknown. But once I looked down and saw how beautiful and calm the unknown can be I know that when I need to dive under and see life from a whole new perspective I can. It’s not that I want to escape the surface world I live in, but incorporate some of what I have seen below the surface above. 

The whole trip wasn’t a deep philosophical journey though…. 

   
 

Cycle 7 Day 12: Tell Me What Is Love Revisited. Another Gawler Account.

This is a warning for my Mum….. please don’t get too upset when you read this!! 

I was so disappointed when I realised that the contemplation exercise we were to do was the very one I had done 8 weeks previously. (See my post from Cycle 5 Day 11

I knew the questions, I knew my answers, I knew what to expect. Ok it wasn’t exactly the same because I was doing the exercise with Mum, but what was I going to get out of it?!

I donned the superiority cap (Ms Know It All) and turned to Mum to start the contemplation. 



The first few rounds we talked through the superficial stuff. What love means to us, the types of love, who we love, how and why we love the way we do. Essentially I repeated what I had said during the previous retreat, not diving deeper instead just acting out what I thought were the right things to say. But as Mum shared more and more, I felt I could too. I said that I thought love was innate but I wasn’t sure if I knew how to love. I wondered if it wasn’t in me. I felt like I did it wrong (now there is some good use of the English language!). Maybe I felt like I knew there was another way, a way that was more natural than how I love at the moment. More free, more easy, like I felt during the last time I did the exercise.

When Mum shared that the day I was diagnosed was the worst day of her and Dad’s life, I felt like something snapped inside. She was so upset. My heart broke a little. 

All my life I have tried to please, to do the right thing, to be the good girl. I remember as a child splitting my head open for the second time and saying to Mum when the stitches were going in ‘why does this always happen to me and not Vas. I am the good one!!’ (you know it’s true Vassil!!!!). I tried endlessly to create a perfect reality that was pleasing to me and to others, even if it felt wrong deep down. And although the development of my disease was something that was totally out of my control, a small part of me felt like a disappointment to my family. And now if I don’t get better and do as I am told by the doctors that I will be even more of a disappointment. Ridiculous I know but that’s some times how I feel. It’s not something I like to dwell on but I sometimes think I have ruined their lives and there is no turning back. 

Talking through it with Zoe today gave me some perspective. I told her that when Mum and I sat at the end of the exercise and had to hold our gaze on one another I struggled. Not in the awkward, uncomfortable way I had experienced with my colostomy bag friend but because I was so sad that I had created such pain and heartache in their life. I could see it in her face. I could hear it in her voice. It was the most real she had ever been. And I was the cause. 

I know this is not my fault, I know that no one is to blame. But perhaps in my subconscious I really feel this way and the exercise had brought it to the surface. I was physically having to look it in the eye and it was tough. 

Zoe said I had been fighting this my whole life, it was time to sit with it and be ok with it. Be ok with being a ‘disappointment’, be ok with failure. Be ok with not being perfect. No one is! I need to own it, whatever ‘it’ is because it is real and it is mine. 

I had a strange sense of peace when I left her. Similar to the lightness I felt after I completed the exercise with Mum. 

——————–

Well that was a little babble worthy!

I think the chemo is still in my system working its foggy magic on my brain. But I guess another layer of me exposed…. Gotta love self discovery. Always something new to find. Always something new to learn. Lucky I am still interested, guess it’s the scientist in me!

Cycle 7 Day 10: From Nowhere to Now Here

“From nowhere to now here”

As I think back over the five days away, this lovely saying was a reminder of the winding road so far. 

This time around, I was less emotional, had fewer breakdowns and fewer breakthroughs. Infact it became very clear that I already have all the information I need to heal, I just need to get on with it. Review my plan and stick to it. 

For Mum, it was a different story. She got to meet other cancer patients, hear their stories, and bond with other carers. She listened to lectures about mindfulness and contemplation, learnt  to meditate and ate lovingly made vegan food. She even went without a cup of tea for 5 whole days and showed no signs of any withdrawal headaches!

Initially, I struggled having her there. As a child, teenager (even as an adult) I never liked to share with my parents. I didn’t want to share my thoughts, feelings or what was going on in my life. But this all changed with the diagnosis. I let my guard fall. I let the deeper part of me rise to the surface and I let them see me. In the beginning it was easy, but lately I have retreated a little and things got more and more superficial and I’m not sure why. 

So the Gawler retreat couldn’t have come at a better time and bringing Mum along allowed her even greater entry into my new life. She got an insight into what I believe in, a chance to understand my thinking, and see why I have chosen to do what I do. 

It was important it was Mum who came. Alex lives it everyday. He understands completely. He knows me. Vas also gets it and is where I need him to be. Dad, well…..this was definately not a place he would be comfortable in. We bond while watching the cricket or talking science. And for me, that’s perfectly fine. But I need my Mum to understand. I want her on my bus. 

The 5 days created a platform for us to keep building on. It gives us something deeper to talk about, something other than the weather. It also gave me an opportunity to see my mum in a different light. I got to understand her better. To see her struggles, to see her heart and her heartache. 

I wonder if she feels the same? I am pretty sure she does. Either way the 5 days were worth it. For both of us. And a pretty good lead into Mother’s Day. 

 Happy Mother’s Day Mum xxx



Cycle 7 Day 4: Gawler Take #2

I have taken some time out and have come back to the Gawler Foundation for a week.  

It is a 5-day follow up and it’s run by the man himself, Ian Gawler. 

This time I’ve bought Mum with me. She is excited. I am nervous.

I tried to understand why last night over a vegan meal with Martina and Mum. 

I knew that my experience would be different this time round. Maybe it won’t have the impact of the first, not being by myself can change how you cope, interact. But talking it out, I realised I am a bit nervous about meeting Ian Gawler. I’ve got that feeling you get just before you meet your idol and you hope they meet your high expectations. I remember as a teenager seeing Courtney Love perform for the first time. I was obessed. (And don’t judge me it was the 90’s. She was cool. No really she was……Well if you don’t believe me I am sure Tam C will have my back). But it felt like that night… Waiting for her to take to the stage in her lace. Anticipation, nerves, excitement all wrapped into one feeling. 

Well I arrived, I met him and he didn’t disappoint. 

I am looking forward to listening to this man share his recipe to ‘wellness’ over the next few days hopefully absorbing some of his knowledge. 

I was moved by Ian’s story when he shared it with us. However, I felt more inspired and more uplifted hearing about news from one of the other youngish participants (who was on my first retreat) that his disease is no longer measurable. His prognosis was dire, yet he had other plans. I felt high. I had seen his determination and attitude first hand. It wasn’t defiant as such but just an inner confidence. Which is what I am searching for here this time round, that and delve into some more emotional healing because we all know I love that. 

So five days, here we go. With Mum in tow

And just so you know, a few like minded ppl mentioned they were a little star stuck by meeting Ian in the flesh. One even joked he was going to ask him to sign his meditation stool…. Made me laugh out loud! 

Cycle 6 Day 12: Singing Bowls and Labyrinth Facilitators 

Last night I went to a crystal singing bowl sound meditation. Try saying that three times quickly. 

It was held in one of the (many) yoga studios in my village and I was thinking of every excuse under the sun not to go. The chemo come down was in full force, so a pity party had begun in my head. It’s too cold, it’s raining, it’s right on dinner time, mum and dad are here, there’s something on tv I want to watch. Deep down, I knew it would be a good chance to let my body relax for an hour or so. I pushed the noise to the side and went. 

I arrived, found a yoga mat, lay down and got comfortable. The bowls were set up in the middle of the room. Some are frosted, some clear, all with tea candles inside. They were beautiful.



The women facilitating introduced herself. She doesn’t like to label herself but she is part medium, part labyrinth facilitator, part sacred land healer. A year or so ago I would have been in hysterics. What is a labyrinth facilitator?! But she was also a sound therapist and that’s why I am here. I love the sound of these bowls can create. It can be hypnotic and I need a bit of that at the moment. 

She rubs an oil on my arm and then beats a drum over me to connect to her guides. The meditation begins and the bowls begin to ‘sing’. 

I have to say I don’t recall too much after this. My body relaxed and I drifted away. Every now and then I’d wander back into the room when the pitch of the bowl pierced my ears and vibrated in my body. At times I felt the left side of my body tense and a pain would appear here or there. I tried to surrender and go back in. 

I was finally ‘woke’ by a rain water stick hovering above me. * Insert confused faced emoticon.* But it sounded authentic. And was strangely calming. 

I stood up in a daze. Although, it didn’t have the magical impact as say the harp meditation concert at Gawler, my body was thanking me. It was light and pain-free. It felt blissful. 

As I walked home, my head was clear. My thoughts were still. Then I smiled. My first thought had come to the front of my mind…..I think I might actually know what a labyrinth facilitator is. Funny how things change.