Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Quest

"And this is my quest, to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far".

The Quest is to be who we are with all our madness”.

My ‘quest’ as a young girl was to simply appear normal to others. My background though privileged was not what I perceived as normal due to my naive expectations that it should be. On the surface, I'm sure my life appeared enviable to others, but below the surface lay the dragons that had to be hidden. My parents’ alcoholism, my feeling of inadequacy and worthlessness and my great fear of people; their expectations and their view of me. I lived in a state of self-centered fear and anxiety which for several years I medicated with alcohol and pills

Along the way, most of the dragons have been confronted. Along the way I shed most of the feelings of inadequacy when I shed the notion of a punishing God. It is not a virtue any more to beat myself up for not being perfect or even ‘good’. I don’t any more believe whatever Higher Power is up there or in us all, cares whether I am ‘good’ or not though I do believe that I shall take from the Universe exactly what I put in and that I am expected to 'try' and to do my best. I am still capable of feeling guilty about my actions but now I just observe the feeling, take what action is necessary - or not, and don’t wallow in the bog. In fact my life has improved enormously since I gave up guilt and there seems to have been no 'punishment' for doing so.

Along the way I learn’t that “MY FEELINGS ARE VALID” This was a big key to self acceptance. I learned that if I say I like blue and you say you prefer green, that doesn’t mean that my love of blue is wrong! It doesn’t mean that you probably have a degree in colour and what do I know about it anyway as I never went to university and only got 5 “O” levels. It means that we each like different colours and that is VALID – not right or wrong.

I have come to learn to change the negative voices in my head into positive’s. The ”what if the lab ruins my film” or “what if I’ve done a bad job and I have to face my clients having failed them” thoughts on the way to the lab are swiftly and now automatically – through long practice - changed to “Expect good things, Sylvan” and “Everything is a gift, a lesson or a test” therefore everything that happens to me is useful.

Along the way, I have learned to say "I'm sorry"; "I have made a mistake", and, "I don't know how to do this".

This saying is on my computer and is a truth for me. “Uncomfortable thoughts make uncomfortable feelings. Change the Thought”. That’s all I have to do. When I am in emotional pain it is because I have a negative thought or belief going on. A thought that causes pain is not the truth. When I change the painful thought “I’m not good enough” to “I am enough, I have enough, I do enough, I don’t have to be perfect or good - and neither does anyone else” the pain goes away.

That doesn’t mean to say I don’t get scared sometimes, and it’s very, very hard to be positive when you are feeling ill.

I have, in fact, just come out of quite a down period caused mainly by a bad reaction to the side effects from the hormone treatment that the Marsden, in their greatly appreciated wisdom, wanted me to continue with, and I have decided, in the interests of quality of life to discontinue it. I certainly don’t recommend that everyone follows my example and, if my prognosis for lack of return was not so good, I would not contemplate it, but 3 months of Arimidex caused me tendon stiffness and turned me into a semi-invalid. I then changed to Tamoxifan and a month later the hormones and menopausal symptoms upset my mental balance and had made me quite depressed. I returned to the Doctor and asked them to once again punch my statistics into the computer and tell me what the results would be if I didn’t take this stuff for the next five years. They came up with a 1.7% difference in the outcome ( in my case) which (for me) is not enough to risk my cheerfulness and love of life so I’ve stopped taking it. In addition, (I speak only for myself, again), I am still receiving the Herceptin drip every three weeks till next March which adds a 50% risk of non return to the statistics and that makes more sense and apart from being slightly more tired, does not cause any other side effects.

I recently learnt a new technique at the Haven Breast Cancer Clinic who give wonderful support to people going through the crisis of this illness. First I have to name my fear. One one occasion as I was commencing chemotherapy, it was, naturally, the thought of losing my hair. Gosia taught me to say out loud. “Even if I lose every hair on my head and I wake up in the morning to find the whole lot on my pillow, I love and accept myself and I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO IT". (Almost impossible to say this but once uttered a change takes place) and then, followed by “Even though I don’t lose a single hair on my head and it stays healthy and thick, I love and accept myself and I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO IT". This is such a powerfully transforming thought process. But you have to say it out loud. Try it with your worst fears and see what happens. After I had done this exercise I was surprised with the realization that I would almost miss the experience of losing my hair if it didn’t fall out. As it happened I lost most of it except my fringe, and it never bothered me at all. In actual fact I enjoyed being able to create my little hats which I wore happily.

A therapist once told me how amused she was that I kept asking her what was normal behavior. She said most of her clients were trying to be different!

I have come to learn along the way that there is no 'normal'. If anything, dysfunctional is ‘normal’. We live in chaos and it is a miracle that we survive it all. It is a great privilege just to be here.

I am part angel, part beast - just like everyone else. I am a spiritual being having a human experience. The human experience is hard for a spiritual being but if I soldier on and am able to be honest and open I will be shaped into the person I was meant to be by my life’s experiences - good and especially the (seemingly) bad.

I have had quite a bit of ‘shaping’ already!

I like this saying: “ Success is the ability to be comfortable with those around me and to want what I have”.

My quest nowadays is to be comfortable with who I am, with all my madness, and to be comfortable with and love others with all theirs, and to be content with what I have.

I have still a long way to go, but I certainly have come a long way too.

This months happy moments include:

The news that Barry George’s innocence is to be re-evalued. Nobody in Fulham believes that he killed Jill Dando including his ex-wife. My own theory is that Jill was expecting someone for lunch, as she had bought two Dover Soles at 10am that morning in the King Street Mall. As she was due to go out for supper with her fiancee that night, it seems likely that the fish was to be consumed at lunchtime and unlikely that she would put that expensive fish in the fridge or freezer for the next day? Perhaps her lunch companion sent someone else in his or her place with a gun that had a special bullet that didn’t make too much noise. It certainly wasn’t Barry George. Anyway, I do hope he is released soon and compensated well for a terrible injustice.

Halloween - Trick or Treating with Mia, Isadora and Imogene and joined by local (on the beat again thank God) police.

Chris and Lis’s wedding was fabulous. They were driven from the ceremony in Chris's father's old Rolls 20 which had been bought by Tony Porter a few years ago in a run down state and restored to concours condition. Tony and his wife Iris very kindly lent and drove it for the day. Mia and Page made beautiful bridesmaids. Lisa looked radiant and the whole event was a tasteful and happy occasion.

Chris's best man Jerry made a hysterically funny speech; the food was superb and (watch out Russell) I caught the bouquet - or rather Lisa threw it to me!!!! (for more photos go to and click on yellow winking sun)

Claire's new arrival - little Olly. Claire Nicholls is the most brilliant refexologist and works on my feet about once a fortnight. She is a natural healer and amazingly intuitive and I'm quite sure has helped me get through the chemo as well as I did. Now that Olly is here, she has been working on my feet with him in a sling, but last time he was too big so Mia held him which was a great thrill for her. If you want the best reflexologist in town phone her on 07985 077 227.

Mia's home made biscuits. Mia is becoming a great cook and had progressed amazingly from her mud pie with tea bags and all my herbs and anything else in the cupboard concoctions when she was three to some very tasty and creative bickies. She still does not follow a recipe so they are different (and improving!) every time. Pictured is her latest offering.

Kiny & Co We had a delicious lunch with Kiny, Nick, Isobella and Marina in their work in progress house in Hurley followed by a trip to the Les Lions Polo Farm which is managed by Nick. Mia and Isobella rode the two tiny Shetland Ponies and I took pictures of the amazing tack room full of Stirrups and Saddles, Boots and Stick and Hats neatly arranged round the walls.

Weekend with Annie & Paul in Gloucestershire. Wonderful weather, walks and food in my oldest friend Annie's beautiful new home. I had the most exciting bath I have ever had (on my own that is) in her new bathroom which is stunning with its blue LED lights and candles. I was so relaxed I forgot to take a picture of it but will next time. I also enjoyed playing football with Pickles the corgi who fetches, fields and dribbles the ball just like a real player. And I just had to take a picture of Sunday lunch. I think I gained about 4 lbs in two days as the food was so good but it was worth it. Old friend Kerry and I drove down in my lovely Noddy car. He is quite immobile having broken all the bones and tendons in his foot "coming out of Annabelle's" hmnnnn!!! and is getting about on a sort of zimmer frame scooter.

This brings me to the end so I'll leave you with this sign spotted in Marsham on the way home (tou b)