Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Ducks and Buddhists ~ Nina



Looking at the skies for something, finding ducks and accepting help

With all other changes to myself, my surroundings, my friends, my life; I do recall that May last year still felt like May always had. It's always been my favourite month. And perhaps more a splodge of ego than anything else winning me over- for it is my birthday month- I do recall it felt the same as ever and that was wonderful as I don't even feel like me anymore so why should May feel like my special month. May was always a month of newness, freshness, colour, sunshine and an enormous dose of shaking up and shaking off. But this year especially I had felt like a closed oyster. Tight and tough, cross and yet well protected in my shell. I still tried to occasionally walk a little way though since chemo stopped and even whilst I was paying for it for a few days after, I tried to convince myself I could build up my muscles and get outdoors again. The picture above was one of those days. And what did I get rewarded with? A giant duck- what else?!

But bone mets don't work like that. Muscle is connected to bone, bone is fragile and extra pressure on bone is not recommended- at least by my oncologist and osteopath. I was saddened. I'd taken so much pride in creating this ‘outdoorsy girl’ since my first brush with cancer ten years ago. Go get some bloody hobbies I thought, get up out and LIVE! Do what all the cancer positivity seems to be saying. And I did, I really did. I ate well, got fit, got superfit, took some outdoorsy qualifications and oomph I was off. I left my husband, found my first love and ‘did stuff’. I'd never felt so free either and so able to express myself outside of an increasingly dreadful work environment in FE. I had reinvented myself and I quite liked her. 

But now here I was. Am.

I'd thought about dying several times. My first love left once it was clear what my life would be like. Or did I push him away? It's possible but it's also possible I was protecting myself for I knew he'd never care for me. His ego had got more enlarged in our lives and he earned himself the nickname of Munchausens Matt due to his penchant for hospital beds and doctors surgeries. It was scary.

I did a few cool things with friends, some bucket list stuff which actually felt like a necessity back then but I got increasingly tired and less able to manage some of my wonderful ideas about what fun was (and it wasn't climbing up 127 steps to a sticky cottage in Whitby- though once we'd got up or down that was pretty nice). I got some complimentary holidays too from a couple of great charities and a fabulous friend who's still leading the support at my rear and had great laughs with family and friends. But it was so very tough and I began to realise that home was where I was happiest and safest. And more comfortable!

But back to May. I'd recently finished a long and arduous chemotherapy of docetaxel and I really did feel dead inside. Body working but my spirit felt kicked around. What on earth was living? Is this it? Can I choose my own way out of this? My heart was with my children though and I felt like on reflection they kept me hanging on in there like their smiling faces did for me ten years before whilst doing a similar treatment. Primary cancer felt like there was a mountain to climb. And then get off. In comparison Secondary felt like a plunge pool of gunk- never to get out of or wash away . I felt so trapped and battered down. Is this it I kept thinking? And then the book came.

How To Be Sick: A Buddhist Inspired Guide For The Chronically Ill And Their Caregivers by Toni Bernhard. The book came with me each morning to the bath. I would soak my sore and aching bones until cool and then covering myself in a thin towel, take the book quietly back to my bedroom. I didn't want to be ‘ chronically’ anything though. I'd always tried to maintain a hard, tough ‘in-charge’ exterior and this wasn't my idea of tough alpha girl material. And I didn't want to be sick. I wanted to fight it to build it up to walk it off to shake it out. But I cowered inside like a small thing and after a shaky start read and read and read this ‘bible’ of support and hand holding and spirit building and of courageous living. Toni Bernhard gave me a promise of a ‘not too bad life’ and that felt better than ‘good enough’ it felt achievable and realistic.

“There is sickness here, but I am not sick”; again she meditates, “There is sickness here but I am not sick”. Perseverance wins as she realises after saying again, “Of course, there is sickness in the body but I am not sick!”. What Bernhard described as both a revelation and a source of great comfort was her discovering the Buddhist sense of Annata, or an unfixed or unchanging self. A revolutionary departure from its Hindu roots, the Buddha offers to the disciple a sense of a self which is fluid, as she says “ an ever changing constellation of qualities” (p.38).

So here I was. Soaking to the point of deep wrinkling. Osmosis occurring as my body offers its own water to that of the bath. As pink and wrinkled as a newly born Aardvaark. I'm not sick.

2 comments:

VixyPixy said...

Beautifully written Nina. Such an emotional post relating to the conflict of getting out and living your life against the restrictions cancer brings. The book sounds as though it has given you great strength. xxx

Tamsin Sargeant said...

I love so many things about this post - it's searing honest, it doesn't skirt away from the very real challenges and restictions you face and yet your strength and courage shine through.
I could especially relate to what you say about going on for others and retreating to 'home'. I love, love, love the quirky, witty title and the support you found in a book. Fantastic. Thank you for sharing. X