Hark Publications: Coming to my Senses: Finding my voice through ovarian cancer
“I found it exciting to read about her inner struggle, her courage to face very painful decisions. She talks openly about how everything that we do in life comes with a price tag, and only if we are willing to face this and the consequences, can we truly be healthy and take control of our lives, including our bodies. I have not had to face a life threatening illness, but I found that when she shares her deepest feelings, she speaks directly to issues in my life.” (extracted from Amazon review).
After 25 years of living in London, I am leaving to live in the country.
I’m only going 90 miles north of London, but to a die hard Londoner it feels like another country. Don’t get me wrong, I am excited about this change, and really looking forward to my new life in Stamford, Lincolnshire, a part of Middle England that my husband has long coveted because it’s a gateway to the Northern and Southern countryside, giving us easy access to the Peak District and Lakes, and a hop and a skip commute back to London.
As I write this, I realize that I’m not saying goodbye to London, but to this house that we have lived in for 13 years, and all that it has contained.
When we moved into our 1909 Edwardian terrace it was my dream home. All the hallmark features that estate agents love, we loved: the cornices, high ceilings, and stripped floors. We didn’t mind the tiny garden because we had a huge open plan live-in kitchen, and this has been the happy hub of our home. We have entertained ourselves and our friends and family here, celebrated milestones, anniversaries, Christmases, and also taken refuge here when I was ill with cancer.
For a long time after we knew we would never have children, I hated the house, and the empty rooms that would never be filled with childrens’ voices. I tried redecorating, moving paintings around, shifting furniture into different positions until Peter never knew what to expect when he came home each day. Nothing eased my pain. When I got cancer, the house protected me, and I was grateful for the comfort it gave me. All the space enabled me to create a painting room and a meditation space, so that whenever I need to paint I could just pick up my brush and canvas and paint on the floor. I could spread out, sleep in different rooms when I was too tired to move upstairs to our bedroom, and when I literally couldn’t walk up the stairs because the surgery and chemo had ravaged my body. Then, I could curl up on the large sofa, under my meditation blanket, and be grateful that there were no children crying and needing my attention. I heard my own cries, and my family moved in to live with us for a while, and the kitchen became a battle station, where all my soups were made, juices pulped, smoothies blitzed, and my mother cooked up organic veggie meals to tempt my appetite back from beyond. I couldn’t find it, but she did, and the kitchen hummed with her love and activity, the space large enough to contain the racks of fruit and vegetables that my father was buying on a daily basis.
The house became my fortress, and although I knew I would leave it one day, back then it was also my sanctuary. For ages we toyed with the idea of leaving London, and spent endless weekends toiling up and down motorways looking at converted barns, chicchy apartments in historic buildings, wrecks that would become our ‘project’, and finally exploring Southern France in an attempt to find our next home. It was all good research, and part of my process of letting go of our house, slowly, tentatively moving on, exploring what it would look and feel like to live a different lifestyle, wandering outside the safety of my sanctuary. Always I came back, not quite sure and ready I had found what I wanted. The building wasn’t quite right, the project overwhelming, and the poor airport links in France a turn off.
Then in June this year I reached my golden gateway, my 5 year cancer clear date, and everything changed. Although the house had been on the market since January, we were getting no buyers. Everyone loved the house, but no-one wanted to buy it. The price was right, it was in tickety boo condition, so what was holding a sale back? I was. I was scared to leave, and move into the unknown space that survivors know only too well. Suddenly, everything I had worked towards for the last ten years – wellness, was mine, and quite simply I was overwhelmed. I had passed the test, and was free to leave my sanctuary, which had suddenly started to feel like a prison. I didn’t need to stay anymore, it was safe for me to step outside of my bolthole, and start the next stage of my life. The minute I admitted this to myself, our buyer walked through the door and we sold the house.
I realized that I didn’t need to say goodbye to bricks and mortar, but to acknowledge the memories and the deep gratitude I felt. After all, this was the house that my beloved cat had lived and died in, blessing us with her companionship, and taking her last breath in my arms, the house my beloved goddaughters had painted and slept in, the house where I’d made life changing and life saving decisions, and where Peter had lovingly nursed me back to health. We had loved, fought, grieved, stood our ground and united in this house, and survived.
Bless this house and all it has stood for and contained.
By talking openly (you don’t get much more open than Letterman Live!) about his cancer diagnosis, Michael Douglas is doing us all a favour.
As a cancer survivor myself, I didn’t want to rush out and tell the world about my diagnosis, but I sure as hell wanted to find people who were willing to talk about their experiences. I had tons of questions, and getting a diagnosis is the loneliest feeling. Now I’ve passed my 5 year clearance, I feel differently – I want to shout and tell the whole world, ‘hey, I reached the top of this mountain’!
So hats off to Douglas for speaking so candidly, and at such an early stage of his treatment, when inspite of his optimism, he must be scared. A stage 4 cancer is not where you want to be. As Emma Thompson said in the movie ‘Wit’, about her character who had been diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer, ‘let’s just say there isn’t a stage 5.’
And it’s interesting that he has referenced the stressful events in his life (his son’s recent jail sentence and his ex-wife’s law suit against him) in the context of his cancer diagnosis, and not simply blamed his heavy drinking and smoking habit, because for sure both are not good for you, but not everyone who drinks and smokes heavily gets cancer.
What research has shown is the link between stress and illness, and how often cancer will form in the organ that is stressed. And in his case, it’s formed in his throat.
It must ‘stick in your throat’ when your ex-wife sues you for money she believes she is entitled to ten years post-divorce! And your son is banged up in prison, and no amount of star pulling power and lobbying can prevent that.
Just an ordinary dude coping with ordinary life. Just like the rest of us.
Ultimately, what we really feel will be voiced through our body whether we like it or not. The body and soul have a way of telling us the truth, and it’s our job to learn to pay greater attention to what it’s saying.
In my confessions of a cancer survivor post I referred to the time when I began writing again in a writing group. This process felt like picking up the dropped threads of my life. The weekly writing group enabled me to restitch my wounds, a bit like a new tapestry.
I was reminded of this again yesterday when I visited The Draycott Festival in Draycott, Derbyshire. Homes, gardens, businesses and public places were transformed into exhibition, workshop and performance spaces, showcasing paintings, textiles, jewellery and sculptures. I was especially interested to see Alysn Midgelow-Marsden tapestries and Laura Mabbutt whose work consists wholly of natural fibres. The Festival is in its fourth year and is organised by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden who owns The Beetroot Tree in Draycott.
The Beetroot Tree is a space offering workshops in different mediums, which is much more than art and craft as therapy. It’s the remaking of something new, the creation of a new vessel, reshaping, remodelling, rethreading. Of course it helps to have a space like The Beetroot Tree to create inside. This is a Jacobean barn which Alysn and her husband have sympathetically converted into a gallery space, cafe and workshop studio. At the back there is a tiny shop which stocks most of the tools and materials to create the arts and crafts exhibited in the gallery. With wooden floors, tempting muffins and teas in the cafe, and a pretty garden with iron sculptures, this is a special place to enjoy and envy – at least if you are like me, who dreams of creating such a place! Congratulations Alysn for building your vision.
I wrote a story yesterday about my friend Judy who has been diagnosed with a recurrence of her breast cancer, and how sad I am about this. In writing this, something profound happened. Not only did it tip me into my own grief about the recurrence I had four and a half years ago, but judging by some of the comments I received on Hub Pages, people appreciated my honesty, it touched a nerve. There are plenty of resources on this hub if you or someone you know is going through this.
I want to thank and acknowledge my friend Birte Edwards who encouraged me to write this story and blog about it, and has asked me when she can see my paintings live as the flat screen doesn’t do them justice! Well Birte I’m going to work on that.
I was sharing this with her during our weekly Mastermind group. We are both members of a very special online community called WEST, which stands for World Entrepreneurial Success Training. Nothing is off limits in this group and one of the many benefits I get from being part of this community is the chance to brainstorm and get my questions answered by experts who have become friends.
Thanks to everyone for your encouragement and comments.
March is ovarian cancer awareness month, which is weird because cancer doesn’t observe the calendar.
When you are diagnosed with ovarian cancer it feels like you have no time to waste, and even less to understand all the options, which is why I wrote an article about some of the alternative treatments for http://www.helium.com. Alternative treatments are often ignored by doctors which makes it difficult information to find.
I hope you find this article helpful. Leave me a comment if you do.
To access the Alternative Cancer Treatment Guide by Dr Rosy Daniel, Integrated Cancer Consultant and founder of Health Creation, go to http://www.healthcreation.co.uk. Dr Daniel has trained a team of health coaches who will guide you through your options and ensure you make the right decision for yourself.
This was originally intended to be my painting blog, but now it's also about writing, what we ache for, and everything else important.
"Your paintings are like auragraphs. You pick up the information from the person and express it through art. However, they are on an altogether deeper level - not dealing with the outer projection of ourselves, not even with the spirit, but on a soul level. They are soul reflections".
Mary Clair Kelly, Cruse Counsellor