Hi, I’m Caroline and I just wanted to share with you how Tropic changed my life and my skin. I trained as a beauty therapist over 25 years ago and in that time, I worked with a lot of skincare ranges, some very expensive! Over the years my skin became increasingly sensitive particularly with outbreaks of eczema on my hands, and neck from working with fragranced products that unfortunately my hands became so red raw with eczema that I had to give up being a beauty therapist all together, which for me was heart breaking.
Only last year I heard about Tropic through a friend so I thought I might as well give it a go. I was always on the lookout for something natural and without irritants but I could never seem to find it, in the past I’d tried so many creams but to no avail. The lovely Tropic lady recommended that I should try the Super Deluxe box which came with the cleanser and bamboo cloth, spray toner, moisturiser and exfoliator, and apparently THE amazing “Super Greens” serum to help repair my skin, so I decided to give it a whirl, the results were truly amazing. Within a few days my skin was noticeably different, it appeared smoother, visibly nourished and my redness just seemed to vanish, even my friends noticed! And guess what? my eczema went from my hands! It really was a life changer for me, so within 6 weeks I joined Tropic and started my own beauty salon up from home doing what I loved best, treatments! I couldn’t be happier and I love spreading the Tropic love of “Good for you” skin care to my clients and I’ve never looked back!
Tropic is created by the inspirational and passionate Susie Ma who is about “greener beauty with a conscience”. All her products are FREE FROM: - parabens, alcohol, mineral oils, methylisothiazolinone, Triclosan, Talc, Lanolin, Gluten, Petrochemicals, Beeswax, Phthalates, Microbeads, phthalates, toxic chemicals, and more… …Also, Tropic is made locally in Surrey and freshly made for you so it’s never more than 2 weeks old when you receive them so beautifully fresh. Tropic is the fastest growing skin care in the UK and they have won over 70 awards and still being added to.
Tropic is also vegan and cruelty free. “Pure, Honest and Effective.
I love everything about Tropic and there are so many gorgeous products to choose from including body washes, body smooth exfoliator, whipped body butters to self-tans, body shimmers, body and bath oils, and lavender pillow midst to help you sleep! Tropic also has natural bare mineral makeup and hair care that is silicone and sulphate free and still new products to be released this September, so can’t wait for that.
I would love you to give Tropic a go because I know they are truly amazing products, nothing hidden just great products and they always offer a 30-day money back guarantee so nothing to lose.
If you need help and advice my number is 07775 896233. I would love to hear from you!
My website is www.beautyandsole.co.uk
If you love the products as much as I do then there are great business opportunities too; such as their “Business in a Box”, just ring me if you’d like to find out more.
P.S. Download the “Think Dirty” app and find out what’s in your skin care products, you might be quite surprised……
Be careful what you say to yourself ..your brain is listening to it all!
That might sound a bit dramatic, but it really is true. When you vocalise negative thoughts about yourself, you’re giving them the power to grow and to nurture more negative self talk.
I have started this short blog with the above statement as it’s one of the statements I use most often with my clients.
Even when we say negative things about ourselves as a joke, it still sinks into that sneaky little negative side of our brain to grow and fester into something much more harmful to our self esteem.
What is Body Positivity Anyway?!
Body Positivity is an often misunderstood term covering so many areas of our lives but I use it as an overarching term to describe my passion for guiding people through the wide variety of areas contributing to their self-esteem, self-perception and their ability to become the most authentic version of themselves.
It's most definitely not just about size or clothes, but it is about acceptance of the real you and your individuality, particularly following big life changes such as serious illness, the menopause, childbirth or bereavement.
When you’re slipping down that rabbit hole of low mood as a result of a life change or a lifetime of negative reinforcement, it can seem too difficult to even begin to deal with the symptoms; so being prepared for such challenges empowers you to be able to retain control and move forward to a more positive place.
I am the eternal pragmatic optimist but don’t let that fool you! I haven’t led a life filled with flowers and champagne! I’ve worked very hard to change my own self perception and to tackle my own self esteem and now I coach and guide others to be able to make those changes for themselves.
I’m known as Mrs Positivity.. and for good reason!
I was once shocked by a friend’s comment to me soon after I split from my first husband in 2000. I had been separated for a few months and had recently met the man I have now been with for over 18 years – great news!
“I’m surprised you don’t have flat feet Jane: you land on them so often!”
Hmmm... interesting point of view and let’s be honest here: that hurt a lot at the time but I chose to ignore it and now I flip that comment in my head so I can see that this person was offering me a compliment by highlighting my ability to make the best of a negative situation.
I only use the above as an example of how other people’s perceptions of you can affect how you feel about yourself and how you can control your feelings every single day.
Like any challenging life event, you can’t always control the actual event or stop it from happening BUT you can control how you respond to it and how you move forward.
Below you will see my top 5 reasons why you’re making yourself miserable. You are responsible for your happiness and, by welcoming that responsibility you will feel free from stress and uncertainty by being able to tackle challenges as they arise.
You’re continually comparing yourself to others: One of my favourite sayings (developed by me!) is “There’s only one you so who are you comparing yourself with anyway”?! The continual comparisons with people you know or the apparently perfect beings on social media (!) will never result in you feeling great about you. Not only that but it’s such a waste of time. Instead of spending ANY time comparing – why not do something that makes you feel amazing – go for a run, read a book, write a story, have a cuppa with a friend (choose your most positive friend)
You buy clothes that don’t fit you or suit you: When I was young in the 1980’s, I would squeeze into the on trend mini skirts and drainpipe trousers which were uncomfortable and most definitely did not make the most of my body shape or personal style. These days, I do things differently and every day I encourage women to only fill their wardrobes with clothes that fit them and suit their individuality. It’s very difficult to be content with yourself when you’re wearing clothes that are too small because ‘you’re always a size 12 so why does this size 12 top feel so tight?!’
You keep trying to ‘fit in’: You get into the habit of side-lining your own needs and personality traits in favour of pleasing others and fitting in with others’ expectations of you. Many times, you’re not even aware that you’re doing it. The result of this is that you are never content with the person you see in the mirror every day. Wherever you go and whoever you try to be – the real you will ALWAYS be there waiting to be invited back – Try letting her in and see what happens.
You apologise all the time: All you people pleasers out there – This is for you. I bet you apologise when someone spills a drink on you. I bet you apologise when someone steps on your toe and I bet you apologise when someone lets you down? – It’s lovely that you care about others’ feelings but by apologising for no valid reason, you are giving others permission to de value your needs and telling yourself that you are not worthy. (I refer you back to the statement at the beginning of this blog).
Try to just take a second to breath in before that apology slips out – If it’s appropriate for you to apologise then your logical mind will help you out but if you jump in too quickly, that emotional side of you may send you down the wrong path.
You keep dieting in an unhealthy way: When you starve yourself or eat in an unhealthy way, your brain quite simply cannot function properly and your sense of happiness and reason are hugely diminished. I have worked with people with anorexia and in many cases they were so malnourished there was no ability to even begin to build a new self esteem until nutrition was addressed. This applies to both under and overeating for different reasons but the key message is that diets are destructive and healthy eating is a lifestyle. (and this is nothing to do with weight, size or body shape). If you get this right you’re half way to sorting your self esteem.
I recently considered the reframing of negativity that I’ve experienced over the years. From teen days until my 40s, I experienced a lot of less than positive comments regarding how people (mainly girls/women) perceived me.
“You talk too much” “You’re a bit much for me”
“You’re just lucky”
“You’re not as nice as: (insert name here)” BUT...
and that’s ok.
It’s so important to find your clan – find your tribe – find the ones who like/love you for you and like/love you BECAUSE of your quirks, not despite them.
So let’s consider the reframe of those comments because I know the
truth about me just as you do about you. I’m in charge of my own perception and you’re in charge of yours!
This reframe still feels challenging as we’re taught not to ‘big ourselves up’ and not to be self indulgent but, think of this as your personal CV.
Sell your fabulousness (is that a word?!) and let’s see you shine.
Here’s my reframe to get my CV started ... Read it then have a go at yours...
“You talk too much”
I learnt a long time ago that I needed to be chatty to make friends as I was always the new girl at school. I’m now a sociable adult (although perhaps a bit of an early discloser!) and my true friends love the energy I bring to an event.
“You’re a bit much for me”
I try very hard to be my best self for those around me to ensure they feel at ease. I am passionate about many things and yes! I’m loud but my natural empathy makes me easy to talk to about literally anything – If that’s not your thing then I understand and can recommend loads of fabulous associates and friends who will be more in keeping with what you need.
Looking after myself is most emphatically NOT selfish – It’s not possible to be a supportive friend, mother, daughter, wife if you don’t look after your own needs first
“You’re just lucky”
I personally don’t believe in luck but regardless; in my case, I have created all the good in my life by accepting help, taking risks, educating myself, surrounding myself with good people, removing negativity and not staying down when I fall. If that’s lucky then ok! I’m just lucky.
“You’re not as nice as .....”
Hmmm... this is a difficult one as it feels so personal – In reality, what the person should have said was “You’re nothing like ...” and I’d have to agree
because I’m unique and there’s no-one like me! – thanks for noticing
So...My 3 reframing tips are:
1. DoyourownpersonalCV–it’snoteasytoblowyourowntrumpetbuttake this as permission from me to do so. (You are amazingly you and no-one should bring you down)
2. Neverbeafraidtoremovenegativepeoplefromyourlife!Youdeservetobe understood for who you really are.
3. Ifnegativityisrollingaroundthatlargestoragespaceinyourbrainthenwrite it down and reframe it based on the facts of who you are.
I think you get the gist of what I’m all about and what to expect from me so if you want to hop onto a free discovery call to see what changes you can make then email me on: firstname.lastname@example.org or
go old school and call me on: 07944 811939
Feel free to join my fab free closed facebook group on
Follow me on Instagram: @therealbodypositivitycoach Jane x
This is the first time I’ve written a blog that’s not just for me. I’m feeling very honoured that Sam Spaces even asked me. I’ve been thinking about what to write for a while. My life and my volunteering at the hummingbird cancer centre has led me here.
We often hear things like Cancer journey, the Cancer rollercoaster, Cancer being our mountain to climb and how having Cancer changes us. I like to call it my Cancer story, this tiny play on words makes me feel like I have a bit of control and choice in my Cancer world, even if it’s just choosing when to start the next chapter, turn the next page even when you know there’s stormy Cancer pages ahead.
This year I will have had Cancer in my life for 10 years. August 2009, we were told the words. ( I can’t even remember the actual words used anymore.) I was 35 with 4 young children, people like me don’t get Cancer. I thought it will be ok, this is not gonna change me. In fact, I remember saying those actual words to this day.
Seven operations, six Chemos and hormone therapy later, battling just living, well surviving each day takes its toll. Our whole daily life changed, I no longer did every school run, I never cooked every dinner. I was in the hospital when my youngest lost his first tooth. But we hugged and played, I was given the all clear of breast cancer after the ops and the chemo. six years later (in 2016) the sneaky little bugger came back, this time in my lung (he’s called NORMAN) and many of my central nodes. We can’t fix or remove Norman, So I choose to live with my body squatter the best I can.
The week I found out I had stage 4 Cancer was the scariest of my life, I was planning my funeral in my head, I pictured myself in the hospice, I was terrified beyond belief, I was back on the Cancer rollercoaster. I am however very very lucky. With treatment, Norman is staying locked up in his solid metal box, and my nodes are behaving. I’ve had a bad scan, even found Cancer in my bones, but we’ve kicked that in the butt with treatment.
I now live my life very very differently, but hopefully in a good way, Once I started to see both Norman and myself could live together, I got brave, I climbed out of my “being scared of living” box. I have the most scariest thing living inside me. I can’t always make every day count, we all need duvet days and that’s ok. but other days I live my best days possible. I live better now than I ever have done.
I started a blog to help others understand, to hopefully help those newly diagnosed feel less scared, it’s not really my thing, being a dyslexic and also a fairly private person. I am living my dreams. I’ve been trained in Cancer hair care and help as many people as I can. I climbed a mountain just because I could, I wanted to prove to myself that I’m still in charge, I’m living my story, not Normans. Last year I took part in the London Moonwalk, 26.2 miles in the night walking London in a bra, I was even filmed for the One Show. We even planned and had a wedding blessing last year, the best day of my life, so far. I’m not sure what challenges we are doing this year. To be honest, I’m just loving life, my husbands got a campervan, we are exploring new places, enjoying waking up with sea views. It’s very simple but I love it.
Having Cancer makes me see the world differently to how I did, I want to cherish everything. I do often have times when I feel like I can’t cope, like I’m sinking into dark places, with no simple way out. I’ve found nature and spaces to be a great source of grounding when I feel like this.
When I have a duvet day, I have a tree that I watch, It gets blown around and is standing bare right now, but it will blossom beautiful pink blossoms in the spring, it just stays standing tall. The tree’s branches change, but the core of the tree stays the same.
My Cancer story is much like a tree. During Cancer treatment. my tree is bare, it’s having to cope with many storms, wind, rain and snow while standing naked. Cancer brings us many storms, and at times we don’t feel strong, but we somehow survive just like the tree does. I have fruit trees in my garden, these need a little TLC each year, to remove the dead branches, so they can flourish, When we have cancer we feel like we lose a lot of things, I know that I lost friends that I thought were close, and things like housework are never at the top of my to-do list. I think maybe before Cancer my tree was a little overgrown I was trying to care for too many branches. I now have fewer branches, but try to care for the strong ones.
A tree seems like something very simple. It just stands tall in its own space, whether that’s by the side of the road, on a beachfront, or in a garden. A tree has all it needs, roots for water, rain and sunlight. The storms help the trees to remove dead branches or blow seeds into the ground, for new growth. It’s all amazing and yet very simple at the same time. When we have Cancer all our needs are usually met medically. But emotionally it’s a different story. We come away feeling like we’ve changed, not really knowing our place, being a little scared and battered to stand tall in our place. We question our roots, what was once important to us, might not be any more. How does a tree do it??
The tree’s roots have to travel through dark and often lonely places, but these roots are strong and find all that the tree needs. I have some amazing friends around me, the friendships have very strong roots, they need to, as sometimes it’s hard to stay standing tall.
I think Cancer has changed me, just like the seasons change the trees. but my tree trunk, my core, my true me is still me. LOVE and HONESTY, have always been me and they still are. Cancer takes away some of our branches, we even lose our blossom for a bit, we have to stand naked in the storm. sometimes it feels like winter will last forever. but given time and love, all our trees can flourish.
Trees are amazing, even those trees at the roadside can blossom. However, the trees that get extra TLC and care do the best. Cancer is a terrible hard storm, often we don’t realise the damage done until the storm is over. This is often when the normal world thinks we are ok, but when we need the most care.
I’ve been looking at lots of trees and some of the most interesting ones. are the ones with branches covered in ivy, their branches look thick and tough, they look protected by armour, I think these branches are pretending to be ok, they are trying hard to cope. to find their sunshine through the ivy which is putting the branch into darkness. but even that’s ok, the tree has other branches, it has its core and its roots. but maybe today it needs to feel covered, feel that the ivy is hugging it, these branches look the strongest, but are actually the weakest. always always be kind to yourself. the ivy won’t get your good branches.
One of the biggest things Cancer has taught me is that its easier with help. Talk, shout, scream, climb a mountain, climb a tree. but please know your happy place is still there, your tree trunk core is still strong. and given some sunshine, your tree will blossom.
Before cancer, I was certainly not a writer. I’ve never had any inclination to write. No novel burning deep inside me nor any aspirations to write anything. But, somehow or other, writing has become a big part of my life since my breast cancer diagnosis. In fact, over the course of the past couple of years, I have set up a website, www.tickingoffbreastcancer.com, which consists of practical tips and advice for someone going through breast cancer treatment; I regularly write blog posts and articles for other cancer organisations and charities; and I have written a book about my breast cancer experience (also called Ticking Off Breast Cancer) which is due out September 2019.
So, I suppose the question is, how did I go from being someone who didn’t write and had no interest in writing, to being someone who just can’t stop writing.
Well, there is a bit of story there. Towards the end of chemotherapy, a friend told me that another friend of hers had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She asked whether I would have a chat with her – we were of a similar age, had children the same age, lived in the same town and as it is fairly uncommon to get breast cancer in your early forties, she didn’t have anyone to talk to who had been through it. I said of course. So, we arranged a time for her to pop over to my house for a cup of tea and a chat. In advance of her coming over, I thought that it would be helpful to retrace the previous few months and work out what I could tell her about. Her breast cancer was the same type as mine and she would be having similar treatment. I asked myself, what would I have wanted someone to tell me had I spoken to someone after I was diagnosed but before my treatment started.
I would have wanted someone to give me:
I found it very therapeutic writing out these practical tips. And so, I also started to write out an account of my life from the day I was diagnosed and throughout treatment. I’d been journaling anyway, so I took my whole experience – what had happened at each step of the way, how I felt about it all and all the chaotic, confused, anxious thoughts and reflections that were crowding my brain, and popped them into a written narrative.
It was a form of therapy in a way. All the stress, anxiety and difficulties I had faced since October 2016 were leaving my head and going onto my laptop. I was able to put my thoughts and feelings into some sort of order by writing them down. And there were a lot of thoughts and feelings – I was scared, anxious, sad, up and down a lot, overwhelmed constantly by the whole experience. Writing was a way of taking back a little bit of control. It was as if, by writing about everything, I was gradually lifting a weight off my shoulders and off my chest. There is a saying that by talking about something you can get it off your chest. Well, for anyone who suffers with anxiety you will know how it feels to physically have the weight of anxiety pushing on your chest. Writing has most certainly got a lot of anxiety off my chest. And, this personal breast cancer account is going to be published in September this year, in the form of a book by the same name: Ticking Off Breast Cancer.
I know that reading accounts of other people’s cancer experiences is incredibly supportive. You realise that you are not alone:
Someone else has felt the way you do
Someone else has had the side effects that you have had
Someone else has worried about the same things as you.
Someone else has struggled with the same issues as you.
Someone else has had the same fears as you.
And when you know that someone else has felt, thought and worried in the same way as you, you feel less alone. You feel comforted by that fact and you can take strength from those personal accounts to keep going through the tough times. I really hope that my book will provide this support to someone who is going through breast cancer themselves, and their family and friends.
And this is also why I have opened up www.tickingoffbreastcancer.com to guest blogs from other people going through breast cancer. People who may not have written anything before, but have written something and would like to share it. And people who have their own breast cancer blog but would like to share their writing with a different audience. Everyone is welcome to contribute. Just get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.
Sara is the founder of www.tickingoffbreastcancer.com, a website dedicated to helping people through their breast cancer treatment from diagnosis to living life to the full once treatment ends. Aged 42 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Sara decided to set up the website to support those who do not know which way to turn for help after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis; those who are overwhelmed by the breast cancer resources online; those who may be scared to go online for fear of what they might find; and those just looking for a comfortable, safe, calm place to turn for help. The website provides practical advice for each step of the way, together with many links and signposts to other online resources. Follow her on FaceBook, Twitter and Instagram. Sara’s book of the same name, Ticking Off Breast Cancer, is due out September 2019.
Facing chemotherapy hair loss? Read on…
At Suburban Turban we‘ve been designing hats for women coping with chemo hair loss for over 11 years. Our studio started small back in 2006, (my spare room!) I’d been an ‘Ascot’ milliner for 10 years and had never considered designing hats for women at time when they had a real need for elegance and soft headwear. I responded to a friend’s request, a surgeon at Royal Surrey Hospital, to organise a GRACE (http://www.grace-charity.org.uk/) fashion show fundraiser and the rest as they say is history.
We’re now a team of 5 milliners, designing and producing 2 collections a year. The studio moved to just outside Guildford, in Surrey. Here we can create hats right from processing and pre-shrinking fabrics, all the way through to trimming and finishing. As a small artisan company I love the fact that we’re able to bring uniqueness to our designs, selecting beautiful fabrics and hand-finishing trim details. Suburban Turban has become known over the years for our dressy daywear and eveningwear styles, many of which incorporate draping fabric to create shape and volume. We also love developing head wear solutions for specific needs – the non-slip exercise hat (https://www.suburbanturban.com/rachel-sports-chemo-hat.html ) and the realistic hair fringe wig (https://www.suburbanturban.com/hair-fringe-wig-for-hair-loss.html) were created from clients’ requests. If you’re facing chemo hair loss, or know of someone who is about to start chemo treatment, here are a few milliner’s tips to help make the transition with minimal stress.
We regularly hear ‘I don’t like hats. I have no idea how to wear a hat, or what suits me?’ Many of us only wear a hat for practical reasons - warmth in the winter, or shade in the summer. Not enough of us regularly wear a ‘Trilby’ because it’s part of our ‘style look, or a cocktail hat because we want to make an entrance when we walk into a room! Hats for hair loss will need to be worn for much longer periods of time – both indoors and outdoors.
Tip no. 1 - Lightweight fabrics in soft hat styles help make that indoor/outdoor transition easy and avoid overheating. Think trying to wear your bobble hat or ski hat indoors whilst meeting the girls for a coffee – it would look suitably casual, but it would be rather warm to wear indoors. Feel the hat and remember fabrics that feel soft and lightweight in your hand will feel the same on your head. Try to avoid scratchier wool mixes, synthetic fleece materials and linings, felted wool on a sensitive scalp needs a liner, (more of this later).
What’s your style tribe? Are you a casual dresser – a busy stay at home mum with children; an office worker requiring a smarter approach; or somewhere in-between the 2?
Tip no. 2 - Look at hat styles that will easily fit with what you currently have in your wardrobe – caps for casual days – school pick-up, dog walks and supermarket trips. Beanies and turbans for casual to smart or indeed smart office days. Think about colour too – this will make the everyday ‘getting ready to go’ quicker and less stressy. You’ll feel much more confident and in your ‘comfort zone’, if the style and colour feel right.
If I buy one black chemo hat that will work with everything - right? It is understandable to think that black goes with everything, but treatment can change your skin tone. You can look paler and more tired – black only tends to accentuate these characteristics.
Tip no. 3 – Think about deep jewel colours for your hats – they add colour to your skin tone and even on a ‘tired’ day help you to look well. You are going to need more than 1 hat over what could be a 6 month period of hair loss. They won’t get particularly dirty – they may collect a little make-up / perspiration but they will need a freshen up and a re-shape. If at all possible buy 2-3 and ring the changes – your hats will last longer with a rest.
So all hats are the same I just need to pick one up and I’m good to go. Another key difference with hats for hair loss wear is that they need to be cut and made deeper at the back of the head. Sounds obvious I know (!) I know but not all hats cover the back of your head. Winter knit hats will but you may not wish to wear wool knit (or synthetic knit) next to a bare scalp and they’ll be too warm.
Tip no.4 – Look at fuller styles like Baker Boy cap, bucket hats, beanies in lighter fabrics, berets – any style that is made fuller so that when you pull it down on to your head it doesn’t ruin the overall shape of the hat and you get enough coverage. Cloches are another good style that sit deep on the head.
Many women (not all) tell us that at the point of total hair loss (sometime around chemo treatment no. 2) the hair follicle is super sensitive and a wig/ headwear can be a real struggle. This seems to last for a week or so and then settle down. We would strongly recommend you plan ahead and have a soft beanie ready for this time. This way you have something to put on and you can wait till this phase passes. You can of course plan ahead – cut your hair shorter, purchase your wig whilst your own hair colour is there for reference, purchase hats for those times you don’t wish to wear a wig. This is all very much down to personal preference and how you wish to manage your hair loss.
We’re here on the end of the phone if you need style help and advice, or indeed if you’re local enough to come and try them on at the studio. Hair loss is one of the hardest knocks of cancer treatment, but there are now plenty of solutions available - realistic textured wigs and stylish headwear. You can take control of your hair loss, reclaim your confidence and feel gorgeous again.
(1019 word count)
© Nicky Zip - October 2017
“I’m sorry to say Mr Blair, but you have a brain tumour. It’s the size of a large egg, and we are going to aim to operate, perhaps some radiotherapy, chemotherapy, but if theres nothing else we can do, we will just keep you comfortable.”
As my husband was given those words I felt myself sinking into the floor. The world seemed to go slowly as I looked up at his Mum, perhaps expecting to catch her, but she just looked white. I looked to Ross, he seemed shocked, but calm.
Thats Ross though and there really wasn’t anything more to say.
That was the beginning.
He had been having headaches for a few weeks, had been going through depression and mood swings, but we had a new baby and we put it down to that.
Ross’ Mum, Dionne and I drove home without him and the car was eerily silent. No words could express what we were feeling.
Pure shock and fear. Deep, deep fear.
Getting back to my house we were met with Matty, Ross’s younger brother (who had been babysitting my two girls, while we had gone into hospital) he asked if everything was OK and his Mum told him the news. We just hugged and cried. Terrified.
Matty and Dionne left to go and see his sister and for a short time I was alone.
I phoned my parents and sister and delivering the news to others made me sob. What was happening? He had gone in with headaches!
The truth is I new it was going to be bad, I never for one second thought it would be this, but I knew something was going on, something bigger.
I phoned my agent and left her a voice message. As a TV actress I had just finished filming BBC Casualty and had booked a film. I wanted to let her know that couldn’t happen, I just wanted to tie up loose ends, be present in what was happening.
I looked around at my house and I wondered what it all meant.
What would happen with us? The girls? How would I cope with this?
Nothing seemed to make sense and there was no answers.
I am an extremely positive person and I just knew I had to focus on one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. Clear everything, seek help from those around us and be there for Ross emotionally.
We have an extremely good bunch of people around us and over the coming weeks (with Ross’ instruction) a schedule was put together and everyone took turns having the girls. We wanted to make sure they didn’t get embroiled in any of it.
Brooke was about 3 years and Texas 1, so they couldn't really understand, but I knew they would sense something if they were around us.
Everyone chipped in, they took so much pressure off us and those that did that will always have a place in my heart. The girls nursery, lead by the owner Steph, took the girls for months, free of charge. That is the good in the world, that is humanity.
Someone from American contacted me in the early days and we spoke online. This lady had grade 3 brain cancer and she was very pragmatic about it all. She gave me the advice “This can still be your life, it will be brain cancer life now, but it doesn’t have to define you”
This stuck with me and as an advanced practitioner of The law of attraction and someone who knows that what you focus your mind on, you bring into your reality, I practiced what I preached.
When people tried to tell me how horrendous chemo was going to be for Ross, I said “He will be fine, we will focus on that when it’s here”
People mean well, but they often impart their own fears onto you and that just wasn’t how this was going to run. Some may see that as naive, but you’re wrong. Ross hasn’t read a single thing online, or otherwise into brain cancer, chemo, radiotherapy, brain surgery and because of this he doesn’t know what he is supposed to feel, he just feels it if it’s there.
He has been remarkable. 2 brains surgeries, chemo, radio, seizures, doctors poking and prodding, having his driving licence taken off him. He has defied what people said.
He has left intense chemotherapy to go and play football, or ride his bike. He would go into chemo and say “shall I breeze this one?” and I would, of course, tell him “yeah, do it! Why not?”
You will never hear Ross say “This is a nightmare” or “why me?”
Quite the opposite, you will hear him say “Why not me? None of us are immune, it’s just science” or “I’m bored if it now, it’s gone anyway” “They keep telling me I’ve got cancer, but I can’t feel it!”
He is never a victim, WE are not victims.
As the partner of someone going through stuff it can sometimes feel like you are watching a movie you cannot do anything about. You feel frustrated for them, want to take away any pain, but yet you are left to watch. I had to learn to let go of trying to control Ross. I wanted to tell him what to eat, what he could and couldn’t do.
I was scared, there is so much information out there (often conflicting) and I just wanted him to be OK. You have to let your loved one make decisions or you will find your relationship will shift.
It does shift naturally anyway, as the partner, or carer you take on roles you didn’t have before. Believe me, I was not chief driver in our house and I don’t relish in it now. At the beginning everything was down to me and although we have tremendous support, it felt alien.
Nearly 3 years into his diagnosis and he is currently having chemo again, you wouldn't know there was anything going on in his body. It’s hard to imagine what we have been told is reality, so we live like it’s not.
It’s not our reality right now and we live with hope. We are very realistic people, we know its not an easy one, but we try to live in an authentic way and mix practical (doing a will and power of attorney etc) with living our normal life and hoping for the best.
It’s the letting go and the fear that stops most, but the reality is that MANY people LIVE with cancer. It isn’t free of cancer, or death. It’s upkeep, its appointments, but in-between you live.
The advice I could give to others going through this is to block out negativity, focus on your loved ones and being as normal as possible, don’t try and force new ideas onto them and find time for you.
You are useless if you go down. You have to have time out and it’s a good idea to let people know you don’t want to talk about cancer all of the time (or people REALLY will)
Remember cancer isn’t personal, it doesn't ‘only happen to the good ones’, you don’t have to be defined by this, in fact there can be positive to come out of it.
I had no experience of cancer before Ross and no real understanding of the impact it has, now I know that peoples lives get shook up and rung out and I want to help.
My approach isn’t for everyone though, I'm pretty straight talking, no bullshit and will not have negative chitter chatter. Say to yourself everyday “I will work this out” and get on with you day.
I have been thoroughly changed by Ross’s cancer diagnosis and I am not the person I was 3 years ago. I have seen and learnt things that will stay with me now forever and I am very strong.
As a carer, or someone close to someone with cancer, I am on your side, I am holding your hand, I alright there with you, I know, I KNOW and you are not alone.
Sending strength and love to all.
Please come and say hello via Twitter @hollymatthews, Instagram @hollymatthews84, My Facebook page I am Holly Matthews, or my YouTube HollyMatthewsonline
Anxiety is something that touches the lives of all of us who go through a cancer journey. It begins with getting your head round a diagnosis and the anxious feelings that accompany coming to terms with impending treatment you don't want to be having. It continues with the stress of waiting for the results of scans that show how successful your treatment has been. And to me this was nothing compared to the anxiety produced by feelings emerging after I had gone into remission. Feelings that had I had bottled up in order to face the situation I found myself in and to be strong for my husband, child and family. Feelings that would rise up unexpectedly when life didn't quite go to plan.
But throughout this challenging time there was one thing that was guaranteed to lift me out of this, even if only for a short time: art. Ever since I can remember there is nothing I have enjoyed more than sitting down with a pencil and a piece of paper and capturing whatever is in my head. As a child I'd sit and draw what I'd seen in nature. I drew so much that I became quite skilled at it. As a teenager, my love of doodling got me through some tricky years when I needed to escape from the world. I carried on as an adult, not always being able to find the time to put paintbrush or pencil to paper but enjoying every moment when I did.
And of course most recently, I used art to get me through some very tricky moments after being diagnosed with non Hodgkin lymphoma last year. I sat in my hospital bed wondering how on earth I would get my head round having to have chemotherapy in a few days' time. A friend had thoughtfully brought me in a sketch pad and pencils and I spent many hours drawing pictures of my baby son, who I only saw at evening visiting time. It didn't take away the difficulty of the situation, but it took me away to another place, and my anxiety lifted.
Once at home, undergoing treatment and then moving into remission, I didn't find it so easy to make time to create artworks. Apart from looking after my own health, my son was my priority and the only real time I had for myself was when he napped. The only way round this I could find was giving myself 15 minutes each day to draw. This was enough and slowly, as each day passed, ideas in my head for paintings came to life. At this time of day, apart from needing to sleep myself, I felt a real need to switch my mind off and art helped me to do this. To me, it has always felt like a kind of meditation. By focussing on representing what I am drawing on a page, it is almost as if I am switching off a part of my brain. Objects become shapes and curves and worries become distant memories.The act of being creative not only reduces anxiety but also makes me feel that I am moving on to a new place in my life, something so necessary after what I have been through.
Art therapy can be valuable in dealing with difficult thoughts and feelings that need to emerge. I recently attended an art therapy taster session organised by the charity Victoria's Promise for our women's cancer network. We were encouraged to create a picture showing what the group meant to us. Mine depicted rays of sunshine surrounded by flowers. I felt this was representative of the way the group was supporting me and the other ladies in moving forward in life positively. After looking more closely at a swirl I had drawn in the centre of the picture, I realised that it represented a cancer cell, present as a reminder of the anxiety that I was still going through as I moved forward in life. I had not expected this exercise to be so revealing in such a simple way.
I do not believe that there are people who are incapable of being creative. We all have our own ways of expressing ourselves. It is possible to learn how to draw through various techniques which involve seeing what you are drawing as a collection of lines or shapes rather than familiar objects. Many people are told when they are young that they cannot draw or produce a good piece of artwork, which leads to a feeling of inadequacy. Adult colouring books have made art accessible to everyone, however, and are especially popular, perhaps because focusing on details in a picture and choosing colours to fill in the shapes can be so relaxing and therapeutic.
In the spirit of art and creativity helping to overcome anxiety, I am planning a charity art exhibition together with Sam Spaces. This will not only raise money but also awareness of the journey that cancer can take us on, whether that be during or post treatment. We are planning to exhibit work by artists whose lives have been touched by cancer, whether as a patient or as a supporter, friend or relative. A section of the exhibition will be devoted to work by those who do not consider themselves to be artists, but have expressed through art what they are going through. If you are interested in participating, please email ....... Watch this space for more information!
If you’d have told me two years ago that I’d be tapping on parts of my body to ‘release energy’ and repeating funny phrases whilst I was doing it, I’d have probably laughed in your face. If you’d have then said I’d go on to use this technique with other people in coaching sessions (where they want to!), I’d have told you to shut the front door. Yet, here I am, doing both these things.
I first found out about Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT, also known as Tapping) not when the Daily Mail reported that Lily Allen used it to quit smoking but when I was beginning to understand more about the tools and techniques that would help me recover emotionally from my cancer experience. During it, I had all the traditional works (surgeries, chemo and other drugs) and also complementary support from acupuncture, massage and reflexology to help with sleep, stress and general wellbeing.
This is no miracle healing story, I wanted and needed all the conventional drugs I could get my hands on but also knew that my mind needed holistic support. When it was all over, even a few years later, I knew I had some thinking patterns that were stuck and weren’t helping me, and wanted to venture further than the traditional coaching and therapy type support I was finding.
So when I saw a friend’s EFT video, whilst it looked a little strange, I was open to trying and engaging with it. I was particularly drawn to the idea that it combines the physical and emotional aspects of our experiences, helping us to re-programme memories and thoughts that are destructive, by using both the body and words. I also liked how, once I’d learnt the technique, I could use it independently any time I liked, unlike other talking or body therapies like acupuncture.
Finding EFT videos online and then a practitioner, I realised it was something I responded to really well. It allowed me to focus on specific parts of a memory or thoughts that were troubling me, and to pick it apart gently without ‘flooding’ into the whole event. I loved it so much, and felt so much better – for me, lighter, brighter and calmer – that I went on to train in it and use it as a tool within my coaching practice with others.
What is EFT?
EFT is a form of non-needle acupuncture deriving from a Chinese medicine background of understanding the meridian energy points in the body. Tapping along these in particular sequences is said to bring about energy shifts, resulting in difficult memories or feelings being experienced differently e.g. a reduction in anxious thoughts or a change in an experience of pain. EFT can be done with a trained practitioner and also on your own once you’ve learnt the technique. The points you tap on are shown above:
The words spoken during the tapping are as important as the tapping itself. The set-up phrase leads the topic of what will be tapped on. There are two parts to this phrase. Part 1 is an acknowledgement of the issue you’re facing. It should be as specific as possible, so rather than ‘even though I have anxiety’ being more specific is preferable, such as ‘even though I have anxiety about going back to hospital’. Part 2 is the acceptance of this feeling. This isn’t trying to make you be OK with the feeling, nor is it to cause you guilt that you don’t already. Rather, it’s a way of giving yourself kindness in acknowledging you feel this way. This is usually ‘I deeply and completely accept myself’ or ‘I accept this anyway’ or even ‘I’m OK’ – whatever feels right at the time.
The set up phrase is completed three times whilst tapping on the karate chop point (see to the EFT diagram above), to focus the session. The full tapping sequence is then completed using key words from the set up phrase. You tap on the points at the speed and strength that feels comfortable. Before we start, we also rate the intensity of the identified issue on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most intense, to understand the level before starting tapping.
What’s the outcome?
Most people report feeling differently about their issue after a few rounds of tapping and talking. It may be that the feeling or emotion sits physically somewhere different in the body, or a pain they had before feels different, or is even gone.
If you’re working with a practitioner, they would continue to ask questions and further look at the detail of the issue, doing more rounds of tapping until the intensity has changed significantly.
This isn’t about a cure – I practice EFT and use it with others not claiming that it will cure an anxiety disorder, acne, arthritis or cancer (and I personally would run a mile if someone had these claims). This is about managing thoughts and feelings that we also experience in our body, in order to feel differently and hopefully better about them.
What’s the evidence it works?
Empirical evidence supporting EFT is available but thin on the ground, which isn’t surprising – as an alternative therapy there is little incentive to fund research to test its efficacy. But the way I see it, using EFT, along with other complementary therapies, is a personal choice. If you discover something you’re interested in and benefit from it in some way, I encourage you to go with that, rather than questioning it or having it questioned by others.
Why do we think it works?
Repetition – repeating out loud the issue that’s troubling you, especially with a practitioner, takes the pressure off of it being stuck in your head and equally starts to numb the intensity of it. It may be the first time you’ve acknowledged this is an issue and that can also bring relief.
Acceptance – In being honest with ourselves that we feel something we don’t like but we’re alright anyway it bring a strength to our thinking. - there’s an element of forgiveness and understanding that we don’t often allow ourselves.
Adjusting energy – tapping on the points in sequence does produce shifts. It will be different for each person and EFT may not be for some people but it does have funny, interesting, results. I usually laugh or yawn a lot when I do my own rounds and for me that’s a sign that something is moving around. I equally might feel quite teary for a day or so and whilst I don’t want to feel sad, I know it’s moving things in my mind that needed to be released and that’s super important for me.
There are many ways to use and interpret EFT, and likewise a range of practitioners. I trained with the EFT Centre in North London which offers good online resources for different areas of EFT use and you can also find great videos from practitioners like Brad Yates. I’ve also created a video specially for SamSpaces followers as well as a written tapping sequence below, both of which cover the topic of anxiety about returning to hospital (and are slightly different from each other)
So if your interest is peaked, try it out and see how it feels. Like it? Great, find more videos that resonate with you, or feel free to get in touch with me to find out more. A cancer experience is tough enough and we should take full advantage of all the support, during and after, that we can get…err tap!...our hands on.
Watch the unique SamSpaces EFT video here!
You can email me at email@example.com and find out more at coachingemily.com
Example EFT tapping sequence
This written sequence focuses specifically on the issue of anxiety about a scan. You can replace these words with others words that are pertinent to you at any time.
Rate the intensity of the anxiety about your scan on a scale of 0-10, with 0 being the least intense and 10 being the most. Remember this number for later.
Say the set up phrase whilst tapping on the karate chop point:
Even through I’m feeling anxious about going for my scan, I accept myself anyway
Even though I have anxiety about my scan, I accept I have it
Even though my anxiety about my scan is high, I deeply and completely accept myself anyway, and I’m OK
Tap on each of the following nine points with these phrases:
In between eyebrows point: “anxiety about my scan”
Side of the eye: “anxiety about scan”
Under eye/cheekbone – lots of anxiety about my scan
Under nose – feels high
Under bottom lip – thinking about this a lot
Sternum – distracted about my scan coming up
Under arm – don’t want to think about my scan but I am
Top of the head – anxiety about the scan
Repeat Step 3
Bring your hands to a rest and close your eyes. Take two deep breaths. Then rate the intensity of the anxiety again. Observe whether it has stayed the same, increased or decreased. If increased you may want to take further breaths and just tap around on the points without the words before checking the intensity level again. If it is the same or decreased, notice what words or thoughts came up for you in the last round and begin to use these words in a new set up phrase and tapping sequence. Continue until the number has reduced sufficiently for you. Close the session with further deep breaths.
Please note that in carrying out this technique on your own you are taking full responsibility for your own health. Thanks ☺
I’m Jaelithe Leigh-Brown and I set up www.mrsmojo.co.uk to teach busy, stressed out mums, what to eat so your body can thrive, how to exercise when you don’t have the time and how to be confident, so that you can look in the mirror and love what you see. I want to change the way women feel about themselves and how the health industry works. No more dieting, doing exercises that you hate, or looking in the mirror and seeing what you want to change. I am a Fitness Coach, Life Coach, Nutritional Advisor and published author with three kids aged 6 and under. I want my kids to grow up in a world full of healthy, happy and confident women so I offer tips, advice and online courses to help frazzled mums become fabulous through my website www.mrsmojo.co.uk.
In the last two years I’ve had a personal bereavement, a breast cancer scare, major damage to my knees - so much so that the consultant told me that I would end up in a wheelchair by the time I’m 45 - I’m 38 and this last year I’ve had pins and needles and numbness in my hands so bad that I struggled to hold a toothbrush and get my kids ready for school. The diagnosis appeared to be lupus, but fortunately I’ve just had it confirmed that I’ve got carpal tunnel syndrome.
Throughout this challenge I’ve learned a major lesson which has reshaped my life and my business. I’ve learned that I need to be kind to myself and love myself. As a coach I always taught this to women and I thought I was being kind to myself, but the constant high impact exercise and non-stop work ethic has certainly had a part in my ailments and feeling of overwhelm.
I’ve learned to listen to my body, to meditate every day, walk, cycle or do my yoga and to take time out to have fun. With this new attitude I have redesigned my online Fabulously Fit Bootcamp for women. Instead of being another health and fitness course, it now focuses on loving you.
As I listened to my body I realised I was still suffering from a car crash that I had had as a teenager. An old man had driven into the back of me, causing me to have whiplash. I’ve had a bad neck ever since and I’m sure that the symptoms in my knees and wrists are linked. My posture is always iffy and the noises my joints can make going up and downstairs are cringe-worthy.
My search for an alternative therapy while I was waiting for test results took me to our local beauty room where I asked about reflexology. I’d had this when I was pregnant with baby number one and had really enjoyed it. The therapist said to try Bowen therapy as she had suffered from muscle spasms for years, had three sessions of Bowen therapy and has never had a muscle spasm since. She warned me that it felt like nothing was happening during the session and that the day after her treatment she felt like she had been hit by a car.
I made an appointment with the Bowen therapist and was lucky to get a session within two days of calling.
So what is the Bowen Technique and how can it help you? It all started in Australia with a man called Tom Bowen who wanted to be a doctor. He developed Bowen therapy and by the sixties he was treating 13,000 patients a year. The theory is that the light pressure and rolling over your muscles and connective tissue sends a message to the brain which then starts to heal the parts of the body that need to be healed. It’s just like flicking on the switch that needs to be flicked for you to get better. The Bowen Technique can work well for most joint issues or sports injuries including frozen shoulder, backache, whiplash injuries, sciatica, knee and ankle pain and hamstring injuries. It can also work for those of you suffering from migraines, asthma, hay fever and arthritis. It even works for infant colic and for bed wetting in older kids as it can encourage the stimulation of the hormones needed to help stop bed wetting. Sessions cost from £30 depending on where you are and some GPs can refer you for treatment.
According to www.thebowentechnique.com cancer patients are able to have Bowen therapy. The website states ‘there are some ideas that you shouldn’t do lymphatic work with cancer patients, but this is not borne out by evidence or by the many lymphoedema nurses and physios working with cancer patients day in day out.’ Bowen therapy can treat issues that don’t relate to cancer such as sleeping problems, back ache, mental fatigue etc. The website suggests to ‘try not to focus on the cancer, but instead what the problem is that is being presented instead. “What’s the problem?” is always the question; “cancer” is never an answer which we can realistically progress to treatment from.’
My therapist, Kerry Cassells agrees that Bowen Therapy can be beneficial for anyone with cancer as it helps to reset/reboot the nervous system, encouraging it to switch off the fight/flight nervous system and switch on the relaxing part of the nervous system (parasympathetic nervous system). Some moves can also affect the lymphatic system too. She advises to seek medical guidance to determine whether or not it’s for you.
So, how was it for me?
The day before my treatment I met up with a friend who I hadn’t seen for a few months and we chatted about what was happening in our lives. I happened to mention that I was going to have Bowen therapy and my friend admitted that she had had it after her second pregnancy as her hips and back ached as she breastfed. She described it exactly as the therapist had and said that it felt like the Bowen therapist just flicked you and waited, then flicked you and waited. She too said that the next day she felt like she had been hit by a bus and after just three sessions her aches and pains had vanished.
I was really excited to try Bowen therapy and the therapist, Kerry chatted to me about my issues and then looked at how I stood, lay down and sat, as well as the movement I had in my neck and shoulders. Then I lay on a massage table and Kerry applied a light pressure and rolling movement to each of my main acupressure points. As she did this I felt like there was a hot water bottle all over my body. She said that some people feel nothing, others feel warmth and others feel an energy around them. She laughed as she said this because she is a registered nurse and is used to science and concrete evidence for everything she does, but says it’s as if she can see the energy around people. The warmth I felt was such an amazing feeling to feel.
When it came to working on my neck and shoulders my neck was so stiff, especially on the right hand side. Kerry described it as a metal coil. She had to work on it more than in the other areas and said my body was holding on to a lot of trauma. She discovered too that my pelvis was misaligned, which probably explains part of the trouble I’ve had with my knees which has passed onto my hips and she said that my left shoulder was lower than my right, which made my head and neck hold more tension in them. Again, this would have been from the car crash I had as a teenager.
I left feeling very chilled out and the warm feeling stayed with me for most of the day. I was advised to carry on with my exercise as normal, drink lots of water and not have any other treatments for seven days.
I slept quite well that night, but when I woke up the next day it felt like I had been in a car crash all over again. It was funny, as it was all in my left side, whereas after the first crash I had it was all in my right side. I couldn’t turn my neck or head fully and my lower back hurt like mad. This lasted for a day or two and gradually I felt fine again. After that first session my pins and needles and the numbness had improved.
My second session was exactly the same. I lay down and Kerry applied a small amount of pressure and flicking to the key acupressure points of my body. Again I felt a lovely warm sensation. The following day I ached all over again, but not as bad as the day after my first session. The aches and pains gradually disappeared over the next few days and the pins and needles were nowhere near as bad as they had been. In fact, they almost disappeared.
I did want to have a final session with Kerry, but my husband’s job took us away from Scotland to Yorkshire. Had I not have had the sessions, I believe that my symptoms would have been unmanageable. I had been packing and lifting boxes on a daily basis and the numbness had got so bad I couldn’t even hold the parcel tape and scissors, never mind lift anything heavy. Thanks to the Bowen Therapy I managed to get all the packing and heavy lifting done and I stayed calm throughout the move!
With all of this in mind I have stayed committed to being healthy, happy and confident. It has been tempting to drown my sorrows in chocolate and wine, but instead I’ve thought about this experience as my body’s way of telling me that it’s not happy. I’ve continued to give it the best food that I can and have continued with my exercise program that doesn’t punish my body. I’ve stayed happy by learning to live in the moment. I’ve talked about this for years, but have never set aside time to do it properly. I’m one of those people who work through their ‘to do’ list at full pelt and then settle down about half an hour before bed to do something for me. Yesterday I had lots of work to do, but I really wanted to snuggle up on the couch and watch a film with my three young kids. They normally just get half an hour of TV each day, so they jumped at the chance. We snuggled up and watched ‘Enchanted’ and it was bliss. Yes, my jobs are still there to do, but I feel so much happier and more fulfilled for the time I had with my kids. Finally, I feel more confident as I am learning to give up my need to control everything and am trusting that things will work out fine. That’s made me more confident with my business too - I will achieve my goals at the perfect time. I also believe that the right treatment will turn up at the right time for me and so far it has. My knees are much better, my posture is getting there and my pins and needles are being managed by wrist splints at night. This belief may sound a bit ‘far out’ there, but the option of worrying and living in fear is not going to do me, my body, my family, my friends or my business any good.
I hope that by sharing this experience I have helped you in your outlook. You can feel bogged down by what’s going on in your life or by what you have to do. For the week ahead really try to live in the moment and just chill out and do something that makes you feel happy. If you feel like not doing housework for one day to have coffee with a friend, then do it. None of us know what lies around the corner, so let’s make the most of today.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Bowen therapy then check out www.bowen-technique.co.uk
I’d also like to say a big thank you to Kerry who worked her magic on me. Check out her Facebook page kerrysbowenbodyworks or contact her on 07775982426.
“When you are going through hell, keep on going. Never never never give up.” Winston Churchill
About Jaelithe Leigh-Brown
My mission is to empower women to be...
·Motivated to be all that they can
·In love with the life they have
My goal for this year is to help frazzled mums who have a never-ending ‘to do’ list feel fabulous, so that you can be healthy, happy and confident, so that you can have quality ‘me time’, time with your kids and time with your partners. Get started with my FREE meal planner for busy mums. http://www.mrsmojo.co.uk/busymumsmealplanner
‘Mindfulness is an integrative, mind body based approach that helps people to manage their thoughts and feelings.’
In an effort to stay ‘mindful’ of the influx of information out there about this very topic, I have decided to get straight to the point and perhaps be a little more pro active with this particular blog!
On looking online at the mountains of research there is on mindfulness as a recovery tool, I felt totally overwhelmed, literally didn't know where to start, so in an effort to save you guys the same (ever so mild!) panic attack, which of course would completely defeat the point, I thought I would blog a little list about the exact Mindful apps/books and courses that one can dip in and out of but that can also genuinely aid healing and recovery, especially after cancer treatment, without requiring a trip to a monastery in deepest darkest Tibet.
Im going to dive in with the mobile techy option! I have to admit that when it comes to mindfulness apps, there are a lot out there! I could write a list an arms length but the one that has totally rocked it for me and actually had me practicing for three minutes at least, every night, is Calm: Meditation techniques for stress reduction.
It charges a small monthly charge but it is worth every penny. I love the choice of scenes that fill your screen and their matching soothing sound affects. I have been known to simply have that playing in the background while working - this lot have ‘calm’ down!
The choice of meditations are really inspiring and very practical, such as nine seven day programmes on topics such as managing stress or Seven Days of gratitude as well as a selection of times for various individual meditations on themes including loving kindness or deep sleep. There is also a kids option too (which my nearly six year old loves, though I cant promise that she keeps still through them!) Some are guided while others are not, but I have found this app to be the most affective in keeping me in a mindful routine.
Another one that I often dip into, not just for myself, but for my post natal clients too, is Insight Timer.
Again, there is a small monthly charge but there are libraries of choice, from different practitioners and timings to different themes, as well as a huge selection of courses, music, stories, guided and non guided meditations.
COURSES: The Haven MBSR Course
Mindfulness is a way of learning to relate directly to whatever is happening in your life, a way of taking charge of your life, of doing something for yourself
-The Haven, Fulham
I did an eight week course four years ago at The Haven and loved it. I had to commute from Surrey to Fulham but it was worth the journey, even while undergoing seven weeks of radiotherapy! It is a very thorough course, exploring all the different forms of mindful practice and the theory and study behind it all. I loved finishing every two hour class with a mindful exercise, mostly lying down under blankets and listening to Caroline Hoffman, the leader of the course, guide us through body scans.
The course is now available on line but the homework at that time was the key to the effectiveness of the course. They say it takes thirty two days to form a new habit so you are encouraged to practice every day and are given the appropriate CD’s and reading to help you. I found the homework a real distraction while waiting for my daily radiotherapy and it helped me feel less anxious and give the exercises a really realistic framework to practice them in.
We explored mindful eating, mindful walking, sitting and even speaking. From a post cancer point of view, it was the perfect course for me at that time, as everyone there had been affected by cancer so making for a very bonding and sharing environment.
My only negative feedback of a mindful course like this was that it merely felt I had scratched the surface of mindfulness and I felt like I needed to do another course to explore some of the themes more fully.
For more details check out: https://www.breastcancerhaven.org.uk/Pages/Events/Category/online-classes
020 7384 0099
Mindful Elephant Course
‘I love my clients and the process of teaching mindfulness - although, in reality, there is no ‘teacher’ and we discover the ‘learning’ together.’
- Gill Johnson, Mindful Elephant
For those based more around the Surrey area, there is a fantastic mindfulness course based in Godalming called Mindful Elephant (chosen because the name was quirky and memorable!)
Gill Johnson is a mindfulness teacher and facilitator for MBSR/MBCT group courses for the general public, schools, hospitals and workplaces. After a chronic pain condition Gill found herself attracted to the work of the famous Jon Kabat-Zinn (link) and discovered links that helped her deal with her own physical pain. She started to share them with hospital patients as a volunteer and she found the improvements so dramatic that she enrolled on a training course.
Making mindfulness accessible to everybody is something Gill feels very passionately about and she is involved in a number of other initiatives but as she admits, it is difficult to keep up with the ever evolving research that is coming out of the rapidly growing area.
If you are interested please feel free to contact Gill;
Tel: 07785 921 950
‘It is a real honour to hold a safe space and offer guidance for people to explore mindfulness’
I came across Shelila and her amazing Lollipop Wellbeing a few years ago, through social media. Sheila has a huge presence on twitter and runs courses in the Manchester area and occasionally Brighton. Her tips and posts on social media are a brilliant way of continuing a mindful approach to life while not on a course or afterwards.
Sheila set up Lollipop to provide accessible support for people who want to reduce stress and improve their wellbeing when it saved her life after approaching burnout from work related stress. For those who are not local she provides as many free resources as possible via her website including audio meditations and a monthly practice plan combining ideas for mindful living.
Shelia’s main focus within her mindful teaching is around self kindness, which of course, is something we are all in a little need of! Her recent blog ‘Everyday Mindfulness’ will resonate with a lot of us; http://www.everyday-mindfulness.org/growing-fearless-mindfulness-public-speaking-and-performance-anxiety/
Sheila discovered the self kindness area of mindfulness by accident. The more she deepened her practice the more it helped her with things like anxiety, grief and self criticism. When she attended a Breathworks Mindfulness for Stress (link) course after experiencing a lot of stress at work and in her personal life, she realised she wanted to teach because it felt like paying it forward. She is now a Breathwork associate as well as a Mindfulness teacher and as well as being a qualified personal coach working one to one with clients too, she is incredible active.
For more details; www.lollipopwellbeing.com
BOOK - Wherever You Go, There You Are
Believe it not, I was given this book my (very mindful) mum in law! I love the title!
Written by the man himself, Jon Kabat-Zinn, this explores all the ways we can include mindfulness in our lives, whether we be a beginner or professional! It maps out the ways of cultivating a more personal mindful frame of mind where we can appreciate each moment at a time and help make moments for rich and full.
Jon Kabat-Zinn is also the founding director of the renowned Stress Reduction Clinic and Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He teaches mindfulness and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in various venues around the world and has written a zillion books on it all (but this one, in my opinion, is one of the easiest reads!)
BOOK - Mindfulness; A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in A Frantic World
‘This is precisely focused to help ordinary people boost their happiness and confidence levels whilst also reducing anxiety, stress and irritability.’
Another good read, this book gives a fantastic background to all things Mindful with a focus on more mindful based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) This means that the practice is more about doing a little every day for there to be any sort of effect and they help you out with a little CD in the back of the book to guide you through setting out a new mindful routine. It is a great one to have to hand if doing any mindfulness courses.
It is specifically for people who just want to include mindful practice in their daily life for their own wellbeing rather than for depression or a specific problem and it is recommended by the UK’s very own National Institute of Clinical Excellence - in other words, it works!!
A mindfulness course may not be your thing but if getting creative is, have a go at this. Easy to find, easy to do and perfect at helping you tune into that tiny, undiscovered space that might be waiting for liberation (and a little clarity!)
There are umpteen colouring books on the market at the moment. I have seen a huge selection at supermarkets as well as bookshops such as Waterstones but whether you sit down and do it for five minutes or an hour, alone or with your child, it is a very easy and effective way of getting some space and mindful time into your day.
Explore! There is so much out there on this topic but I hope these ideas may be useful. I have to admit that I do not always find it easy to come back to my breathe and focus on the now but I have also learnt that the practice of mindfulness is exactly that, practice. It doesn't need to be hours and hours every day but whether you prefer to find encouragement alone with an app or with a group in a class, it is definitely having a positive impact on many of us and if we can connect with that breathe on a regular basis and oxygenate our bodies and minds, healing has no limits.
“Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing.”
– Jon Kabat-Zinn
These are a collection of blogs written by other cancer patients, survivors, friends and family as well as wellbeing and health therapists who wanted to share their expertise to help inspire and encourage us with recovery and healing. Over the last thirteen years I have put a lot of time and focus into my own self care and I have explored many activities and products that I wanted to share, so I have written a few too! Enjoy xx