In an effort to bring peace and harmony to my troubled mind, I sign up for an 8 week course of Mindfulness. I am not sure what it will be like except it is akin to meditation and that seems the right direction for me to go in. I have probably mentioned this before in my blog but, with the state of my memory, I cannot be sure and even if I did mention it, I am sure I did not blog about the first session. Mr Mason also enrols and together we trot off to The Haven in Fulham. There are quite a few of us for the first session and I know one of the women who is leading the group so it’s nice to see a familiar face. I don’t go to The Haven very often. I know some people swear by it but I find it less friendly and not as welcoming as Maggie’s where I spent a large part of my cancer treatment just hanging out with other people. Maggie’s has a large kitchen table and kitchen area at its centre with a log burning stove for the really cold weather. This should come in handy if the expected heavy snowfall we are predicted materialises in November. But, as usual, I digress.
We take our shoes off, divest ourselves of coats and bags and sit around in a circle with our feet supported by wonderfully comfortable meditation cushions. I sit separately from Mr Mason and, for solidarity, the only other man in the group comes to sit next to him. We do introductions and a short introductory meditation and then we have a practical exercise to complete. When I see what it is I fear Mr Mason will have great difficulty with it. We are told we are to be given 3 objects which we are to study intently. The objects are raisins and first we look at them. We then choose one (and I already have a favourite) and sniff it. Then we listen to it. Now I have never listened to fruit in my life, nor any other kind of food if I am honest. Of course, there is the popping of corn, I suppose but I can’t think of any other food which makes a noise. So, we listen to our raisins and mine does make a crackling sound when it is rolled between my fingers. I cannot look at Mr Mason because I fear he will be having an apoplectic fit at being asked to listen to a raisin. Once we have listened, we put them in our mouths and roll them around. Again, I fear Mr Mason will just chew and swallow without doing the requisite rolling so I cannot glance in his direction. After rolling, we get to chew and finally swallow the raisin. All this has been done mindfully so that we pay close attention to what is happening in the moment and use all our senses when completing this exercise.
After we have finished this exercise, we discuss how it felt for each of us and I am relieved to find a great deal of humour within the group. I even confess to having a favourite raisin and no-one says this is weird. We practise a mindful body scan which is the exercise we will be practising every day. I find it challenging to keep my mind on the task but this is the same for everyone in the group and we are told that is OK, too, as long as we bring our minds back to the point we are supposed to be focusing attention on.
Once the group is finished, we all huddle into a small area to don shoes and coats en masse and then we are whisked away by the lift and out into the autumn air. I suggest to Mr Mason that we walk back to Hammersmith via North End Road market which is one of my favourites. We buy fruit, vegetables and meat and then stop for a coffee. It is a very contented day and I have the necessary energy to enjoy it. We have done our mindfulness practice, we have had our required exercise and we have bought some great food. Arriving home, Dog is ecstatic to see us, as usual. His welcome is always cheering, even as he gets under our feet and trips us up, it is impossible not to be infected by his pure joy which is perhaps the best ending to a good day.
I’m having a fibromyalgia flare up. The pain and the exhaustion seem to stem from this rather than the chemo and radiotherapy. I could easily sleep 12 hours a day and every little bit of me hurts so I’ve diagnosed myself and decided this is what it is. So what’s the remedy? Some trashy tv and very poor daytime movies have helped. I’ve developed a raging sugar craving which I’m trying hard to ignore but that’s very difficult. The whole sugar question is also an interesting one. Sugar feeds cancer, this we know. Sugar is also not good for you, particularly in larger quantities. Fruit and some vegetables obviously have sugar in them but some of my cancer chums even steer away from those. Fruit would always be my first port of call and I really enjoy it but I feel conflicted by the amount of information there is out there about diet in cancer recovery. Ooops. I start writing about Fibro and soon am back on the cancer track. There really is no getting away from it. But soon I am going to see the Physiotherapist who will provide me with some kind of exercise and stretching regime and then a visit to the Pain Clinic to see how I can control it without recourse to Amazonian quantities of drugs. Unless it’s another kind of Pain Clinic altogether and will be full of people attempting to give me pain. If that is the case, I think I may have to retaliate and try and deliver the kind of pain I feel. With my tattoo sleeve, I feel I could do it.
Monday will see me at the Rarer Cancers Conference. Apart from hearing about all sorts of stuff (I can’t imagine what), I will get to speak to an Advocate to help me talk to my Oncologist about my kind of cancer. Why would you need that? I hear you say. Well, when I was originally diagnosed with cancer, I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer. IBC. It’s rare and aggressive. Very aggressive. After a few doses of chemotherapy, at some point I got hold of my notes and had a little look through them. The IBC at the beginning was still there but later on, it was talked about as Invasive Ductal Cancer. IDC is a very different fish to IBC. IBC and IDC have the same pathological origin (or so I am told) but the point that worries me is that their follow up is very different. IBC cannot be seen on a mammogram and yet that is something I have already been given. Hmmm. Not good. IDC is less aggressive and can usually be seen on a mammogram. Are you following me here? So the conference has come at an amazingly good time as I should be highly educated on IBC follow up by the time I see the new Oncologist. My week is interspersed with hospital appointments (Echocardiogram, Oncologist) and groups at Maggie’s with a meeting at Southampton General thrown in for good measure. That pretty much takes up my whole week and that is the general flavour of my life at the moment. It’s ragbag and disconnected but I kind of like that. I don’t want to be back in the full-time rat race. I still dream about work. I dream about one particular line manager I had (and some of you will know who this is) who bullied me mercilessly, mostly due to the fact that she had spewed so much bullshit in order to get employed that she felt threatened by anyone who was vaguely competent. She undermined me determinedly, sabotaging my work and being defensive. It was a horrible time and the fact that I still dream about it shows how deeply ingrained it is on my psyche. So I am in no hurry to get back to that and, to be honest, still feel way off being ready for work. I know I am lucky. I know other friends who have to go back to work after cancer simply because of economics and I take my hat off to them. No doubt in their shoes I would do the same but I am grateful that I’m not in that position. And so time for bed, I think. Tomorrow I am meeting with Will who is doing the website for Annabel’s Angels and I have to write for that. If you’re unaware of AA, please take a look at the website – http://www.annabelsangels.co.uk and see what we’re up to. That’ll keep me busy.
Yes, it’s true folks. I am immeasurable. This I discover at a session in Maggie’s. I can’t remember why I am there – that is, I knew at the time but have since forgotten. I am not completely simple (yet). One of the workers – and I am sure there is a better name but cannot think of one – asks me if I would like to join a session on prosthesis and bra fitting. This sounds just right. I have had dire sessions in a variety of ladies’ lingerie departments with women who claim to be trained in fitting a post-surgery bra but who seemed incapable. The one exception was at Rigby and Peller but although they do fantastic lingerie, they do not make pocketed bras and I would have to have a pocket sewn in. After shelling out over £60 for one, I do not feel inclined to pay for a pocket. Note to Rigby and Peller – get your act together and you could clean up. Their fitters are superb; lovely women dressed in black and with a really good attitude. They view you with a gimlet eye and then produce a garment in the right size.
So, having been to Marks and Spencers twice (and the service the first time was so bad the fitter reduced me to tears and I complained to the MD – would he really have wanted his mother or sister treated like that?), I decide that expert fitters would be just the job.
Someone has brought cookies and a fantastic cake with a bra on it in silver sprinkles. I love the extra touches and the trouble people go to in order to give us a good experience. So people are sitting around drinking tea and chatting, looking through catalogues and in the corner are 2 ladies with a rack of bras and swimsuits and a small queue of women waiting to be measured. I am carrying lots of bags as I hadn’t envisaged being measured but dump them quietly in a corner and wait my turn. When it comes, I have to pull up my camisole and top, my cardigan being kindly lifted by the lady behind. The woman looks at me disapprovingly. “Oh, you’re wearing one of those” she says. I am wearing a kind of crop top, Aah bra, Genie bra type thing. Anything else is rubbing and opening up my wound. “It doesn’t do anything for your shape” she says, helpfully. I start to wonder if this was a good idea. She produces a tape measure and begins to take measurements. After 3, she eyes me and offers her opinion. She says it as a question, a number with a query at the end as though I were testing her. I smile and say “Yes” because she is the one who has just measured me so surely she must have confidence in both her skills and what her tape measure tells her.
The problem with her measurement is that it varies in to other measurements I have had and now, between them all, I vary by a whole 6″. How can I be 6″ either way? 6″ is an awful lot to vary by. I smile and take the catalogue she offers and slink off, knowing I am immeasurable.