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A daily dose of grace with a little daily space and a nice cup of tea
A daily dose of grace with a little daily space and a nice cup of tea!
How you climb up the mountain is just as important as how you get down the mountain, and, so it is with life, which for many of us becomes one big gigantic test followed by one big gigantic lesson. In the end it all comes down to one word, Grace. It's how you accept winning and losing, good luck and back luck, the darkness and the light.
(from the Philosophy box - Amazing Grace Perfume!)
After cancer awareness is not something a lot of people are familiar with. I think there can be an assumption that once treatment is over and you reach the summit of the mountain where the endless hospital appointments, scans and blood tests are finished, there is this wonderful feeling of celebration and euphoria. Life is allowed to get back to normal and you can get back to work, start partying again and pick up where you left off.
Sadly, this is not often the case. You turn around and realise, now you have to get down!
Post cancer can be a scary, vulnerable and frustrating time. After going through remission three times, I can honestly say, in some ways it is more challenging than going through treatment.
Some describe the period after cancer treatment as one of the most emotional times of their lives. This can be confusing. Most cancer patients are not surprised by strong emotions during treatment. However, they can be surprised when new or old emotions occur after treatment is completed.
During the treatment time, you are lulled into some bizarre sense of security with the pattern of routine, ever under the watchful gaze of your medical team. You are put on a conveyer belt where you go from A to B to C and you become some kind of medical robot, following directions, taking medication at the precise time each day, each week, turning up on time for appointments , always buying the same snack from the hospital cafe and nodding and signing in all the appropriate places. Routine becomes the blanket of reassurance.
Treatment ends and your team pat you on the back and send you on your way. The blanket comes off..
Over your millionth cup of tea you think, Ive done it. Im through the worst and I have accomplished something I never thought I could cope with. Your friends throw you a party, your family tell you how proud of you they are and everyone thinks you are the most inspiring person they know.
However, you finish said cup of tea, look up and while refocusing on the view over the rim of the chipped mug you are clasping tightly in your freezing hands, you realise you have no idea what the heck just happened and what is ‘normal’ anyway?
After my first and second diagnosis I was frustrated, struggling to process the previous few months and having to get to know who I was now. Being a slightly younger patient, twenty seven when I was first diagnosed, I fell into what I describe as the rabbit hole (from Alice’s wonderland) and the far reaching affects of a cancer diagnosis left me feeling angry and vulnerable.
I have a lot of friends, I have an incredible family and I am blessed with the most unshakeable support system but none of them could empathise completely with what I had experienced. It was alienating being told I might not be able to have children, no one appreciated how tired I felt and how large the needle was that I had to have (and still have) plunged into my ovaries every three months, or how I lie awake the night before a check up and imagine that rabbit hole opening up again as I tumbled ever downward for what could be a fourth time.
I slowly began to realise that the support system for people nearing the end of treatment or recovering and trying to move forward afterwards, was pretty much non existent unless it was bespoke. Not only had I just fought for my life but I was now going to have to fight to survive - ‘Cause I really had the energy for that!
But I didn't have a choice. Each time I have had to put on my pro active battle armour to prepare myself for the overwhelming amount of information that is out there. This, in itself, is a great thing. The amount of new and vibrant charlites and organisations that are developing, is amazing, but as patients and survivors, we are still having to put in too much hard work to find them!
After my second diagnosis and being told I had PTSD I decided that rather than fall even deeper into the rabbit hole, I could grab onto something familiar. I began to write. Writing it all down helped me process, find a new identity and nurture myself with honesty and self appreciation, which, I firmly believe, is the first step. How can we build new self confidence if we don’t have a sense of self in the first place and cancer is a great one for redesigning that one!
It occurred to me that there was no one place I could go to feel guided, supported and empowered, where I didn't have to verbally communicate if I didn't want to, (communication can be quite confrontational) but where I could feel reassured that this whole recovery journey was indeed normal, and the feelings and anxieties I was experiencing were not insane!
I also wanted a space where to explore activities, courses and therapies that had been helpful for other patients and survivors, as well as pro active charities that would offer me some inspiration and new ways to nurture my healing. I needed reliable recommendations; therapists and professionals who I could trust, so that I didn't feel overwhelmed reading down a list of fifty local names that meant nothing to me and having no idea if they had helped other people with similar backgrounds, or scanning through several suggestions of so many different types of yoga class that my head began to spin.
I started a blog about what I had found helpful and why. Gradually I connected with other patients and asked to share what had worked for them. Samspaces slowly became a resource and last week I launched an online community that has organically grown and A Daily Space is open!
There is a poem called Grace that struck a chord with me ten years ago when I was going through treatment the first time. A Daily Space is an analogy of this. A little prayer, a dose of daily grace for anyone who needs that solidarity and that comfort, to help us take those tentative steps back down the mountain after treatment.
The Daily Space is a monthly email that is a list of bite sized links, tips and blogs that are updated and changed each month. There is a wellbeing tip, A space to be (somewhere to go or something to do) a recipe link, soundtrack suggestion, book and app recommendations, and each month a different wellbeing professional offers a blog, describing what they do and how it can be helpful.
There is also access to a private Facebook page, offering the opportunity to connect with other survivors and wellbeing professionals, and ask any questions, before booking appointments and parting with cash, so you can ask their advice and someone can signpost and guide you further forward.
It is a link in the chain, a stepping stone and runs alongside a local support group where anyone is welcome to come and join practical workshops exploring ways of nurturing our wellbeing, as well as talking and sharing with other people who are negotiating their way back down.
So, as you sip that next cup of tea and gaze hopelessly over the rim of the mug you are clutching, wondering how on earth you are going to make it through another day, remember that 1) Tea time is meant to be shared time and 2) a tea break is a nurturing pause and space to stop after some challenging hard work. After all, they don’t call it builders tea for nothing!
“If you are cold, tea will warm you;
if you are too heated, it will cool you;
If you are depressed, it will cheer you;
If you are excited, it will calm you.”