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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Angel by Paul Halley, Sarah Moir Violin, Halley Quartet

Friday, November 05, 2010

James Whale Fund for Kidney Cancer: the UK's leading specialist kidney cancer charity

James Whale Fund for Kidney Cancer: the UK's leading specialist kidney cancer charity

Kidney Cancer - the silent killer. The beginning

Health is a gift; it is not a given.

A year ago I was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, the most common and most deadly of kidney cancers.

The journey to that horrifying diagnosis had taken 15 months. . I had assumed that the intermittent vaginal bleeding, joint and soft tissue pain, slight nausea in the mornings and tiredness were all symptoms of a late menopause. It was not until the end of July 2008 that I was finally made to take notice that something was seriously wrong with my body. The thought that it might be cancer had never entered into my mind until that night.

My mother had just suffered a stroke and was home beginning what was to be a full recovery. I was spending the night at her house to keep an eye on her when I woke in the middle of the night soaked to the skin with sweat. My body ached all over and worst of all was the relentless pain in my lower back, as though someone was trying to drill a hole in the base of my spine. When I went to the toilet, I discovered that I was bleeding.

I used a combination of breathing techniques, Reiki and EFT (emotional freedom therapy) to bring the pain and the fear under control, changed my bedding and night dress, and slipped back into sleep. The following morning I made an appointment with my doctor.  

A cervical smear showed that there was nothing wrong with my cervix; blood tests indicated anaemia and raised inflammatory markers; tests for ovarian cancer were also negative. I was referred to a gynaecologist and endured two biopsies of the lining of my womb; the first did not have enough tissue and they lost the results of my second for almost six weeks before they finally showed up again. I was referred for ultrasound to check for any gynaecological abnormalities and other than a slight thickening in the womb lining, nothing was wrong.

Had I known then what I now know about kidney cancer, I would have asked for them to scan my kidneys too. That would have shown the problem immediately. However, once more assumptions created delay in dealing with the real cause of my symptoms. Not once was it suggested that my kidney might have been responsible for the bleed. They had ruled out menopausal periods as the source as blood tests showed my hormonal levels to be that of a post-menopausal woman. I had been through the change of life without even noticing it. The bleeding was considered to be the effects of a hormonal imbalance, nothing to be worried about.

The gynaecologist was very kind but having ruled out all of the problems under her specialisation, sent me away with her contact details and the promise to see me if I continued to bleed. I was so relieved to know that I did not have any of the gynaecological cancers that I did not even ask if there might be any other cause. It had taken from August to late January to reach this point in the journey.

I will continue with the next stage tomorrow but I want to raise the following red flags which might just save your life or the life of someone you love.

Never ignore bleeding however slight.

Never assume that anaemia is benign. Too many woman accept it as part of being female and due to losing blood every month.

If you start to bleed again after cessation of periods, even if it has been less than the usual year we use as a sign that menopause is over, do not assume that it is gynaecological.

Insist that all possible causes are ruled out.

If your inflammatory markers are high (CRP and ESR), do not allow any delay in investigation of the causes, particularly if you have other symptoms. If they rule out one set of causes such as gynaecological, ask what needs to be looked at next.

Do not expect your general practitioner to refer you on automatically to another specialist.

Do not expect your general practitioner to call you back in to discuss what else might be explored to explain your symptoms. You need to be the one who makes sure this happens.

Ask for your kidney function to be tested.

If you have high blood pressure, also ask for your kidney function to be tested. The three medications I required for high blood pressure prior to my operation are now no longer required.

Be prepared to be a persistent but polite pest if there is a delay in getting consultant appointment, tests etc. If your records go missing, create merry hell until they are found.

Without being paranoid, we must all be our own experts about our bodies. There is an abundance of helpful information on the internet. Use it.

Do not rest until you have your answer. Your life depends on it.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Out of the Chrysalis - A Change In Mind: 28 days of sugar free life - WHY?

Out of the Chrysalis - A Change In Mind: 28 days of sugar free life - WHY?: "I have been heavily overweight since childhood, the only member of my family to become obese at an early age. As the years went by there wer..."

28 days of sugar free life - WHY?

I have been heavily overweight since childhood, the only member of my family to become obese at an early age. As the years went by there were the usual succession of diets, some healthy and some decidedly not. I was the champion diet queen. I tried them all and some worked, some did not. Like so many before me it was the realisation that yo yo dieting inevitably makes you heavier that brought me to the decision that a healthy weight was not about dieting but about diet. Activity is also a component but if you keep eating unhealthily no amount of exercise is going to keep you in good shape.

I became what is often termed as a "mindful eater". I placed all my attention on what I was eating, slowed down my rate of eating and listened to what my body was telling me. I allowed myself to eat whatever I wanted to but found that in giving myself this permission, combined with the acute awareness of the flavours and textures of what I ate, I ate less and I ate healthier foods. Over a period of seven years my weight fell from almost 24stones, the highest I had ever been, to a still horrifically obese 18.

Then two years ago, in July 2008, my body served notice that something was seriously wrong. The story of my 18 months nightmare journey to diagnosis with stage 3 kidney cancer will be told another day. In the latter stages of the illness, I could hardly eat at all. Everything tasted too sweet or too salty. My weight plummeted a further twenty eight pounds in the two months prior to the removal of my kidney and the attached thrombus which stretched into my heart. I could not hold down food at all for a week after the operation and I dropped a further 13 lbs. I do not recommend cancer as a way of shedding weight. There are other less painful ways.

I recovered astonishingly quickly from my operation and was soon back eating normally again but not mindfully. After three months of near starvation, my metabolic rate had taken a dive and weight pile on again. I am not back at the weight I was before the cancer started to take its toll.

Obesity is linked to several cancers and kidney cancer is one of them. I will never know if this is what triggered my cancer but there will always be the thought that it might have. I was eating very healthily, lots of vegetables and fruit, pulses and whole meal bread and rice, adding cinnamon, turmeric and garlic to everything that would still taste palatable with it. I was also eating sweets, cakes and biscuits, not every day and in small quantities, but I was eating them. I knew that they were empty calories and what was worse that there was a theory that they might provide direct nourishment for cancer cells. That might or might not be true but I have studied enough about insulin resistance and the toxic effect that overloads of sugars have on the body to take a guess that this might be true. Yet I still drifted mindlessly until a month ago.

I was in London for a meeting with a group of Kidney Cancer Advocates and some of the top doctors in the field. Something happened at that meeting. I watched all of these dedicated people giving time from their busy lives; I heard how passionately they care about helping people like me. They were devoting their lives to us and the least I could do in return was to create as healthy a body as I can, to make my body an inhospitable place for cancer. Anything less is an act of gross ingratitude.

As they served the pastries with morning coffee, I made a decision. I would give up sweets, cakes, biscuits and chocolates until December 25th when I would review the situation. It was as though a light had switched on in my head, a no-brainer. From that moment on, I have said no to every offer of such foods. I made the promise public on Facebook and to all of my family and friends.

I have not wavered once. I have not been tempted once. A client gave me a gift of Thornton chocolates last week and I handed them over to my husband and son and told them to enjoy. I have a box of chocolates from the extraordinarily wonderful Hotel Chocolat which has now been sitting unopened for over three weeks. Normally it would  have been devoured within 24 hours. It will not be opened until Christmas Day.

I owe my life to the dedicated surgeons who operated on me on November 20th 2009. I owe my life to the staff of the Golden Jubilee Hospital who nursed me back to health. I owe my life to my family, especially my mother, and to my friends who were my guardian angels and protectors throughout this ordeal.

I will do all I can to protect that life. Should the cancer return, it will not be because I did not do all I could to prevent it.

Life is a precious gift. I also owe my life to me. There is still much to be done.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Out of the Chrysalis - A Change In Mind: Sweet Poison - How artificial sugar substitutes may add to your weight

Out of the Chrysalis - A Change In Mind: Sweet Poison - How artificial sugar substitutes may add to your weight

Sweet Poison - How artificial sugar substitutes may add to your weight

I wrote this for another blog some time ago. As I have now completed almost four weeks of sweets, cakes, biscuits and chocolate free life, I thought I should share why I have not opted for sugar substitutes, especially the artificial ones. There are many more studies on the effects of such sweeteners but the Purdue one is written in easily understandable language. If you think that this might be helpful to others, please share.

Artificial sweeteners are one of my blue light topics and have been for many years. I fought battles with my husband because he thought that "low sugar" diluting juice was better for our son than natural fruit juice. He has now come round to my way of thinking after reading some of the studies.

It has long been known that so called "low cal" diet drinks, laced with aspartame, are linked to weight gain. When I work with clients who wish to lose weight, one of the first things we address is their carbonated drinks consumption. Many are clearly addicted and consume vast quantities throughout the day. Then they wonder why they have acid reflux and a constantly uncomfortable digestive system.

One of the things that astonish them is when I tell them that if they have to drink it at all, they should chose the real thing over the diet version because at least then they would not be endangering their health to the same degree. I give them a copy of an article on research showing that those who drank the low cal version put on substantially more weight than those who drank the real thing. There is clear evidence that the consumption of diet drinks leads to weight gain in many people. The "real thing" is also damaging, just not nearly as much!
So it hardly comes as a surprise to me that the same is true of artificially sweetened foods. You can't fool the body. It knows that it has been cheated. You deliver the taste of sweetness without the download of the corresponding calories and there is confusion. The body responds by demanding more calories - real ones this time, please.
The other aspect of artificial sweeteners is my own personal observations of behavioural change in small children. One of the things that first disturbed me about them was watching the impact they had on our son when he was a toddler. He was normally a very calm little boy who played peacefully with his toys and never had a tantrum. After an artificially sweetened drink, he would become hyper. Definitely to be avoided.
What do you drink instead? Water! You don't like it? Get to like it. It is so good for you. Most adults wander around in a semi-dehydrated state because they do not drink enough water. We pour copious amounts of caffeine laden drinks down our throats and wonder why we spend so much time pouring it back out again. Caffeine is a diuretic - it encourages your bladder to make more urine. The end result is dehydration. The solution is .... water.
The occasional carbonated drink is fun and refreshing - if it is a daily part of your life and more than one can a day, you are courting trouble. If it is the diet version, you are playing Russian Roulette with your health and none of the barrels of the gun are blanks.

Out of the Chrysalis - A Change In Mind: Out of the Darkness

Out of the Chrysalis - A Change In Mind: Out of the Darkness: "I am writing this tonight for all the souls crying out in the darkness of their own minds. I want them to know that there is always a way th..."

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Out of the Darkness

I am writing this tonight for all the souls crying out in the darkness of their own minds. I want them to know that there is always a way through. It is not an easy way but there is a way. There is always a way. 

Last year when I hovered so close to death, the worst part was the not knowing. It took so long to come to a diagnosis and the waiting between tests was so painful, there were times when I felt that I could not go on for one moment more. 

For eighteen months, I knew that something was seriously wrong with my body, the body I had always been so sure of. Suddenly I could no longer trust it. I had always taken my health for granted, so sure of it because I came from a very healthy, long lived and largely cancer free family. Now my instincts told me that death was lurking inside me but I did not know where, nor did the numerous doctors I consulted. For the last six months, I knew through a combination of symptoms and blood test results that there was some form of cancer eating away at me and I grew more and more desperate and afraid, desperate to know what it was so I could be treated and afraid that it would be too late by the time it was found. 

I don't think I have the words to convey the anguish of waiting, waiting for appointments for consultations, waiting for appointments for tests, waiting for results, waiting and more waiting and then more waiting. Every morning there was the daily ritual of checking the mail box for appointment cards which never seemed to arrive when expected, at least twice because the information had been lost or not conveyed correctly. 

 Eventually it became too hard for me to even go to the box and my mother did it for me. She came to dread it a much as I did. The hope was so much more cruel. It raised me up for fleeting moments to crush me with such deadening disappointment. 

I remember one morning in particular when I was once again waiting for an appointment with the next consultant in the next speciality which might or might not reveal what was wrong. I had been waiting for three weeks for what had been an urgent request and yet again there was nothing. I knelt on the floor in our sitting room and I opened my mouth and screamed and screamed and screamed. All the anger, all the pain, all the frustration and the fear poured out of me in each shriek. Then I yelled at God. I won't repeat what I called him but I sobbed out that I could not go on any more, to get it over with and take me. Torrential tears triggered the dreaded spasms of coughing which rendered me almost without breath. I just wanted it to be over.

So many time like this, my mind turned to the thought that it would be so much easier just to slip away, to die and be free from both the physical and mental suffering. Yet, once the tears had fallen and the screaming was over, somewhere inside me the instinct for survival was fighting back. I unleashed the ferocity of my anger and frustration and slowly the beginnings of peace came to an exhausted mind and body. It was like being wrapped around in a healing balm. For ever increasing periods of time, I knew what it was to be held in an invisible yet palpable force of love and light. The shadows would return, then the venting and then that blissful sensation of something sacred encompassing me. 

It would suddenly sweep over me and I would be filled with such a sweetness of gratitude, the still centre in the eye of the storm. It took me into a place of healing and a quiet joy. In those last months before my diagnosis and operation, those moments when I rested in that oasis of powerful calm saved my life and my sanity. 

It is now a whole year since my diagnosis with kidney cancer and three weeks away from the anniversary of the operation which saved my life. Today I am healthier than I have been in years. Today I am grateful beyond all measure for the gift of the peace that saved me. I was in such agony of spirit and I found my way through. You will find your way too. 

There is nothing that cannot be overcome. We may not win the battle for our lives but we can win the battle for the way we live them. Each day, in common with many others who have experienced the darkness of cancer, I live with the knowledge that it can back and that statistically in my own case, that is far more likely than not. Living with fear is a challenge but one which does not overwhelm me. Each day is a gift to be treasured. 

I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death and I am here to tell the tale. You can keep putting one foot in front of you on your path and you will come out into the light. Place your hand in mine and walk with me, Just close your eyes and sense the flow of love and light. Feel my hand in yours. Together we walk our paths and together we find our way. 

Monday, November 01, 2010

To Light a Candle

Many years ago ,as a teenager, I read all of the works of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, one of Russia's most brilliant writers. One which impacted upon me very powerfully was "Cancer Ward". I have never forgotten the old Russian proverb that summed up the book for me:

"It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness"

It is my hope that when I leave this earth that those who remember me will see a candle whose flame chased away a little of the darkness. Life is filled with beauty and love but sometimes we need a friend to light that candle so we can see it. In telling my story and showing the positive aspects I have chosen to take out of it, I hope that I can be that friend. 

When I read Cancer Ward, I never dreamed that one day that curse would reach out and strike me. There was little history of cancer in my family and what there was seemed to be the cancers of old age. I watched my beloved grandmother die of bladder cancer at the age of 79. I was just turning 16 and it was a pivotal event in my life. I was so determined that no one should suffer as she did that I switched from studying arts to focusing on science. I had always wanted to be a writer but now I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to save lives. 

That was not to be. I had left the change too late and with little aptitude for mathematics, the stretch into A Level Physics proved to be too far for me. Troubled people had always turned to me for help and I began to wonder if there was something I could do to  heal the mind if I could not heal the body. I studied Psychology at University but when I graduated I realised that I was too young and inexperienced to make this my profession. I was also unable to detach myself sufficiently from the empathic connection to those in need and I recognised that I needed to be able to do that or I would find myself in the deep waters of the mind without the strength to reach the shore. 

My father offered me a position in our family company and somehow the years drifted by in the companionship and challenge of working with my siblings. I learned so much in those twenty five years. I like to think that I also gave much. I worked my way through various management positions until I created our People Development Department, where we used leading edge training in personal development.This was the most fulfilling, exciting and stimulating period of my career but that is a story, or perhaps several stories, for other days. 

At the age of 50, I finally began my work as a therapist. It had only taken 25 years to finally judge myself worldly wise and emotionally resilient enough to help others through the mine fields of the mind. It is my joy and it is my calling. It has been a long time coming but each year has brought me the experience and the emotional maturity essential to this work. 

So here I am today doing the work I love and yet I sense there is a further purpose to this life. It lies in the alliance of those two callings from long ago, the calling to heal and the calling to write. When I work with individuals, I reach into that one mind. The work we do helps that person and those close to them. When I write, I can reach many minds. I can be a candle that lights the darkness not for one alone but for many. 

I have always been an inconsistent writer. Like the butterfly, I have been easily distracted by the next beautiful flower. In this journey through cancer and its aftermath, I have learned a new inner discipline. It has been a long time coming. The prospect of death, of dying with the music still trapped inside me, is a spur to action. 

Someone asked me recently if coming close to death had changed me. I told him that in some ways it had but in others it had not. Near death experiences do not suddenly transform you. You still have all the same weaknesses and flaws but what you do have is the knowledge of just how strong and courageous you truly are. You have come to the edge and you have flown. 

This is the change. I no longer find it acceptable to drift in the same comfortably seductive sea of what I know and what I have always done.  In opening myself to change, I hope to be a little light in a naughty world and be of some encouragement to others to change what needs to be changed. 

Do not wait for the call of death to bring you to this realisation. Wake up and live.  What music stirs inside you fighting to be heard? Let the world hear it. Sing your song. 

On these pages you will hear my voice singing my music out into the world. It will sometimes be discordant, sometimes painful to the ear, but occasionally it may strike a chord, When it does... let the magic begin.

Friday, July 09, 2010

A Moment of Grace

8th July, 2010

Welcome to the Chrysalis, where my intent is to write what is both reflective and inspirational. Life is a journey and we learn along the way through our experiences and their integration into our life. This is my life and the lessons I have learned from the way I have chosen to live it.

This is going out to my subscribers' list. Should I have accidentally included you through some error of mine, please let me know and I will delete your contact details from this list.

I also understand that some of you will have moved on in your own personal journey and this may not be of interest or relevance any more. Simply reply to the this with Unsubscribe in the Subject box and I will immediately and permanently remove your contact details. Please feel free to pass this on to anyone you think might enjoy or benefit from reading it. They are also welcome to send me a message with Subscribe in the subject box.

I will also post this to my blog where you will be able to make comments, give feedback or enter into a discussion about the post and its meaning to you. I am very open to dialogue and to both giving and receiving support.

This will also appear on my Facebook pages, both my personal page, found under Maria Stepek Doherty, and my business page. The links are given at the end of this message.

Please be assured that I value your confidentiality and the trust that you place in me by giving me your contact details. They will never be shared with anyone else.

Moments of Grace

"Yes, tho I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, no evil shall I fear"

Tomorrow afternoon I have the second series of CT scans since my operation in November. It is something that I will face every four months or so, for the rest of my life, to check that the particularly aggressive kidney cancer which precipitated the operation, has not returned. I have been working on keeping my imagination in check, turning it away from fear driven visions to ones of positive healing. It has not been easy but fear is not to be surrendered to, acknowledged and faced, but never allowed to overwhelm.

As I sat watching television earlier this evening, I had a moment of grace. Out of the mundane came something sacred. Such is the working and blessing of grace.

Into my consciousness came these words.

I am grateful for every precious moment of my life, for every part of it without reservation.

Whatever the outcome of my scan tomorrow, I will still be grateful for all I have experienced, all I have done, all I have been and above all for the love I have given and received in my life.

Whatever, the outcome , I am grateful for my life, for all I have been and all I might yet be. I have been so blessed in so many ways. It has been a good life.

I surrender this life and whatever lies ahead to the Light. I surrender and I trust.

I surrender and I trust.

Whatever may be.

Each moment has been a blessing ,even, or perhaps especially ,those which have been the most difficult, painful and challenging. Out of these moments of darkness has come so much light, so much peace and stillness of being. In the stillness there has come a knowing of what we might term the face of God, the Divine , the deep within.

I am not an adherent of any religion but I have a deep sense of the Divine, a profound, inner sensing of the presence in all of our lives of something which is immensely powerful and good, something that is within all of us and ignites our fragile sparks of life into one great illuminating Light.

Out of darkness, the Light is born.

Out of the chrysalis, the changeling caterpillar is reborn to a new life of beauty and the freedom of flight.

Who is to say that this is not also our journey?

Tonight I experienced a moment of grace.

I am grateful.

Maria Stepek Doherty

When do you allow yourself moments to be still, to be completely in the now?

What moments of grace have brushed against you and left you still and peaceful?

What is the meaning of Grace in your life?

Allow the questions to sit in your souls and see what answers appear in your lives.!/pages/A-Change-In-Mind/136809126336401

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Out of the Chrysalis - A Day To Be Grateful

Today is my 58th birthday, a day I feared I would not see.

This time last year I was in the midst of a frightening search for the cause of my illness. I knew I had cancer and my doctors suspected I had cancer but no one knew where and all tests had proved elusive.

This time 6 months ago, I left hospital following an 8 hour plus surgery to remove my left kidney and the tumour that stretched all the way into my heart.

It is strange the difference a year or six months or six days or six hours or six minutes can make. Miracles can blossom in those time scales. Life may be taken away or life may be granted. Time is precious but it is unpredictable.

Today I celebrated my birthday with my husband and son, amidst the greetings, gifts and blessings of family and friends across the world. 

Today I drank champagne and ate hand made chocolates, Today I lifted my glass and my heart to all those who made it possible for me to be here today. I have always spoken of gratitude but never have I truly experienced so profoundly how much I have to be thankful for.

Today I watched the woodpeckers hanging from the seed filled coconut, feeding in preparation for bringing new life into this world. I rejoiced at their return to our garden, allowed peace and gratitude to fill my soul for being here to see them once again, for the hope that they will bring their young to feed later this season as they did last year.

There are patterns in our life, so beloved, so fragile. Patterns, rituals, daily occurrences that we take for granted until suddenly they are almost gone forever. There is beauty all around us that we have become blind too, goodness that we do not stop to appreciate, joy bubbling up that we push back down with all the daily concerns of our lives. We fill ourselves up with fearful "what ifs" instead of allowing "what is".

"What if" may never happen and you will not make it any less likely too by worrying about it. By all means deal with it rationally, do what you can to prevent it but do not allow a shadow that may be without substance to cloud the light of the now.

Now is all we  have. Everything else is the past or a future that may or may not be. I chose to be fully present in the now, to experience it in all its joys and sorrows. It is but a moment and it will pass. There is no guarantee of the next or the next or the next.

Now is all we have. Live it.

Now is all we have. Love it.

Now is all we have.

Now is enough.

Maria Stepek Doherty

So what is weighing you down today?

What can be jettisoned from this moment's thoughts to lift you up again?

What if  the "what if"  never happened? Will you look back and regret destroying your happiness in the now with what never came?

What if it already has? Does it help to wallow in it or could you raise your eyes for a moment, breathe deeply and look at the beauty around and within you.

So when those thoughts come out of the darkness, take your cosmic bat and whack them out of this ball park into oblivion. It is what I do with mine. Try it.

Yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is a mystery.  And today?  Today is a gift.  That's why we call it the present.  ~Babatunde Olatunji

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Light in the Valley of the Shadow

Out of the Chrysalis - from today's newsletter. Your comments are very welcome and dialogue is encouraged. 

Much has happened in my life since the last “Out of the Chrysalis”. The most pivotal has been a gradual deterioration in my health and the long protracted and often challenging journey to the eventual diagnosis of clear cell kidney cancer. It culminated in an eight hour surgery, partly on by pass, to remove my left kidney and the tumour which had grown all the way along the vena cava and into the lower chamber of my heart. Kidney cancer is one of the rarer cancers and the condition I had occurs in less than one per cent of those diagnosed.  It was a high risk operation but in the hands of three skilled surgeons and their teams, I came through. The wonderful care of medical, nursing and support staff at the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank saw me make a remarkable and rapid recovery. It is now a few days away from the six month anniversary of this life restoring surgery.

I live each day as an act of gratitude for my life. I live each day in the awareness that the very aggressive tumour (Fuhrman Grade 4) could make its comeback and I have been forced to face my mortality, to look death in the eye and say, hold back, not yet, there is much still to be done with this life. Each four monthly CT scan is another landmark, another cause for gratitude. I have had my first all clear back in March and I travel forward in the hope that the second all  clear will come at the end of July. This will be the pattern of my life from now on.

I have been forced to face fear, to walk in the shadow of the valley of death, to make the act of surrender to a will other than mine. There have been times of great sorrow, great despair but something has always been there to lift me up and out into the light again. I have raged against God in momentary outbursts of desperate anger and I have sat in silence wrapped around in a peace that passes all understanding. I have knelt on the floor of my sitting room and screamed in helpless pain, shrieking my fear and rage out into the universe, and I have found an inner source of stillness and courage which carried me beyond those moments to something deeper, wiser, beyond.

I have discovered how much I am loved and valued in ways that I never dreamed of. So many people surrounded me with their loving, healing support. I once wrote about how empty I had felt growing up, how unable I was to truly feel the love that I knew was there rather than to simply know it. This last year was so intensely moving and affirming. I had no idea that I meant so much to so many people.  I joked with friends that I was in that rare position of reading my obituaries before I departed the world.

From the very beginning I made the decision to be open about the illness. I realised that I would need everyone with me, willing me well. I really did not know just how powerful that love would be and from so many places in the world. I was prayed for in African Missionary Churches, New England Covens and in places of worship of every faith in many nations. People sat in healing circles for me and Reiki Masters formed a team to send energy to me. I was given all manner of support and each one was born out of the gift of love. That love cushioned me, comforted me and carried me through. They were and are my earth angels, my own miracle team.

So my friends, past, present and yet to come, even in the darkness there is light and that light is love. Out of pain and troubled times comes transformation and new learning. Bear with me as I process the experience and I will share my heart, mind and soul with you. Together, we learn and grow.

It is spring here in Scotland. The trees are clouds of the softest green, the green of new life returning after the long sleep of winter. I too return from my long sleep, my journey deep within, from the shadows into the Light.

Some questions for you to contemplate if you so wish:
What is undone in your life that you would regret if you died before completion?
What steps will you take today towards completion?
What have you done that you wish undone?
What will you do to make amends and be at peace with your conscience?

I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.
-Winston Churchill

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What if - five years on.

I wrote this five years ago in a world before cancer, before hospitals and operations and scans became a part of my life. Perhaps the difference I can now make is in how I live my life through this experience, in the help I can be to others making the same journey through pain and fear.

What if I took this nightmare experience and turned what I have learned into a resource for those who have entered the same nightmare?

What if instead of crying, I laughed and took this moment as a wonderful gift to be lived fully and what if those around me took comfort from this?

What if I used my pain to bring comfort and healing to others?

Now there's a thought to sleep on.

From here is what I wrote 5 years ago. I still think it worth the writing and is just as valid today.

What if ......……

This is a question which has been playing over and over in my mind for quite some time. I try to make sense of a world where there is so much pain and so many acts of horrific cruelty, and I ask myself what role love has to play in this? What difference can one woman or one man make in the devastation that surrounds us, and I find myself constantly drawn back to the idea of how life might be if we lived each day with loving intent.

As I drove back from my son‘s school this morning, all I could think about was the power that love has to heal , to transform, to create miracles. So how would it be if we made simple acts of love, our everyday practice? What if?

How would it be if we each dropped a tiny pebble of love into the ocean of life every day? What might be healed and transformed? What miracles might occur? Where and to whom would all these little ripples spread; whose lives would they wash over; what pain and misery and sorrow would they cleanse? What if all those tiny ripples of love, somehow connected and amplified? What if their collective energy was transformed into a mighty wave, rising higher than the earth, creating a cosmic tsunami, which swept away the sins of the world, and left it whole again. What if?

What if this morning on my school run, I had snarled instead of smiled? What if I had bellowed out protests against careless driving with my angry fist on the horn, instead of forgiving and allowing a story of understanding to fill my head? What if I had told myself that those drivers were “out to get me”, a symbol of the sickness of our society? Instead made a choice; I chose to extend compassion to them; I chose to sympathise with the pressure that they felt, pushing them to make mistakes, to take chances, to risk theprecious gift of life; I told myself another story in whichI pitied them and where there is pity, there is love and the capacity for anger and resentment vanishes. I sent them prayer instead of a curse.

What if, there had been one driver on the road this morning, filled with silent rage and despair, kicked around by life, until battered and broken, they had reached a place of darkness. Perhaps they were ready to die and perhaps they were ready to take the lives of others. Could one smiling face make a difference? Could the space I created for them to allow them onto the main road, when all the others drove past, make a tiny crack in the wall they had built around themselves? Could one simple loving act from a stranger shift their intent? What if all they were looking for was a sign, a sign that there is love and it practices what it preaches. What if?

Then there was the man who drove so aggressively, overtaking a long queue of backed up traffic, who then tried to push back into the line of patient waiting drivers hundreds of yards up the road. What if I had refused to let him in? What if I had looked at him with the anger and contempt I saw in other drivers’ eyes as they moved closer together to keep him out? What if he had been a father on his way to his dying child, frightened and alone in hospital? What if he had been going to lose his job if he was late one more time? What if?

What if we chose to take a moment to smile at the hostile, yawning girl at the supermarket check out, to sympathise about the long day she has had, to make her laugh with a small humorous comment? What if you were the only person who would speak to her that day who actually seemed to care. What if she is a single mum, who made the choice to keep her child, and for whom life is now a constant mind deadening struggle? What if that touch of love meant that her little one was hugged and held close that night instead of frightened by a worn out snarl or worse? What if?

What if you told the customer service agent, what a great job he is doing, what a pleasure it is to speak to someone who clearly knows their business and cares about his customers? What if you told him that you understand that the problem is not his fault and that you appreciate whatever he can do to help you? What if you spoke to his supervisor and complimented her on what excellent training she had obviously given this young man? What if these were the only positive words these two people had heard all week? What if they had been listening to abuse all day because they had been powerless to help? What if?

What if, we decided to look into the hearts of people instead of trying to read their minds? What if we gave them the benefit of the doubt? What if we stopped painting them as awkward or difficult or bad or even evil? What if we actually tried to understand why they act in the way they do? What if we sat down and listened to them? What if we treated them as we long to be treated? What if?

I could have written about war , about what happens when we forget to love, when we no longer see one another as individuals, but as monstrous projections of fear. I was tempted to write about the roots of terrorism and the dark pit of anger and despair it springs from; how all such acts create a hideously fertile breeding ground for yet more darkness to pour into the world. Instead, today I lightly touched on the positive difference one small, conscious act of kindness might make in your world.

What if you chose to be more loving today?

What if you walk out your door and commit an act of random kindness?

What if you were just a little more understanding, a little more compassionate, a tiny bit more patient?
What if you made a choice to live in the light of love, always looking for ways of demonstrating that love?

What if each small act of love dropped into the ocean of life, created that immense tidal wave?

What difference might that make to our troubled world?

What if we truly loved and all our actions came from that love?

What if?

What if.........

Monday, March 15, 2010

Some thoughts on Life and Dying

Today was my first post-operative CT scan. With a grade 4 Furhman scale tumour, this is something I will be doing every three months for the foreseeable future. I know that statistically that future might be short but I remind myself that none of us is given the knowing of the time or the manner of our death. Why should I torment myself now with the unknown when I can live and love and laugh right here, right now in this precious present moment.

Life is a gift. It is also a sacred mystery. We can never know the meaning of that gift; we can only sense it and for me that sensing is something so beautiful and so filled with light that I cannot even begin to express it. Holy is as close as I can get. Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts, Heaven and Earth are full of your glory, Hosannah in the Highest.

Here in my heart, in the depth of who I am, beyond this body and this mind, there is a song of love and transcending power pulsing in harmony with a universal heart that unites all sentient beings. I live, I love , I am.

There is no death and though I may fear the process of dying, the sorrow of parting with my loved ones, this passing from one form to another is the changing of a season, the natural energetic shift of new life from old.

Yea though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, no evil shall I fear. I trust and I surrender. In this moment I know peace.

For my mother

This is the Mother’s Day
I feared I would not see
Would not be here to
Be your daughter,

A day where thoughts
Would be wrapped round
In the grief filled space
That once was me.

So here I am
And here you are
Not just another
Mother’s Day.

A day when I allow
All the love I feel
The deep gratitude
For all you are to me.

For every step
Along the way
Of this particular cross
You helped me carry.

I am here today
Because of you
You carried me
Nine months
And all my life.

Your love sustains me
Your love empowers me
Gives me strength
When my world implodes

Raised me from my knees
When I was broken
With the burden
And the fear

You held me
When I wept
You soothed me
When I hurt
So deep
So badly
I wanted to die
To simply slip away

You held me
Until I found
The inner power
To once again
Hold myself
To be the space
That would have been
An empty void
But for your love.