June 21, 2015

(En)joy!

Summer has officially started and it's raining cats and dogs. So I'm on my laptop, listening to some music while staring out of the window. I'm home.

I have been back at my place for about three months now and although I still have crappy days... it feels good to be able to take care of myself.

I actually feel like I have been able to really 'enjoy' things. Fresh flowers on the  balcony or in my home. Saturday movie nights with the bunnies. Simple walks through my neighbourhood or bike rides to the farmer's market. Shopping and lunch dates with my sister. The birds checking out the new birdhouse on my balcony. Getting another haircut. Cooking and trying new recipes. Talking to my bestie from High school who I had not spoken to in over ten years! Doing yoga with my Tara Styles DVDs. Restyling my home and finding a new coffee table while thrifting. Having my retired colleague over for a visit. And of course there's always a creative craft project to work on!

I still feel very fragile and vulnerable though. I'm easily swept of my feet by other people's thoughts or cancer related news on the TV. But hey, I have been through a lot and I'm okay, even though sometimes I'm not. Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful. Sometimes your heart needs more time to understand what your brain already knows. So lets be patient with ourselves. Embrace ourselves and the strange things that make our weird big heart happy. Stop comparing ourselves to other people. We are all beautiful and unique.

I also had my annual check-up which is always a nerve-wrecking thing. I get nervous and come up with these horrible scenarios about three weeks before the actual mammogram date. But I went in, chin up.. smashed boobies afterwards... and I was told everything looked fine. So that was quite a relieve as you can imagine and I celebrated with ice cream and cake. My treat.

I try to remember myself we have no control over the future. Later is now. We really do not need a lot to be happy. A kind word, sincerity, fresh air, clean water, your health, flowers, books to read, furry paws, a cozy home and to love and be loved. Joy must be the most magnetic force in the universe.

March 31, 2015

Leap...

"Leap and the net will appear." -John Burroughs
I did it!

I really did it.

One of my biggest goals for this year was to move back home into my own apartment together with my bunnies. After living with my parents for two years, the support they gave me... I have no words for that. I will be forever and ever grateful for that. They were next to me with every step I had to take.

Despite me moving out and oh my god it was very emotional... for everybody. It was the right move. The right time. Spontaneous and crazy. But I have changed and I know now, the net is there when I need it. I love my family. This whole disease has changed our ties. The connection I feel, the love, the warmth. It heals me. We cry, we laugh, we hold hands.

I've lost a lot because of cancer and I know I still have a long way to go. But I finally feel like I'm rebuilding my wings. I also know that every single emotion I felt or went through.. it had to be felt. Exactly like that. Because I have to work through it... in order to move on. The people that are no longer in my life... well that is fine. I don't need them. I'd rather surround myself with people who actually support me and inspire me.

This thing will always, always be a part of me. But finally... there is light. Love and light. And wounds are healing. Body, mind & soul. I have planted a seed and it's going to grow and bloom. There will still be bad days. Depressing stormy rainy days... but they will pass.

I think I'm finally benefiting from the anti-depressants and the Mindfulness training I went to... it all lead to taking this step forward. So we keep moving forward... because that's the way it works. Climbing the mountain... while running into some bumps every now and then. 

So here's to spring & new beginnings.

March 7, 2015

I have a thing for lists

+ I had 5 sessions of the Mindfulness training so far and it has been good! I'm so glad I took the big jump and went for it. I love the meditations techniques, the way how it's actually a lifestyle. It changes your perspective, even though it's hard and it goes very slowly. But this is something that is close to my heart. Definitely. I can recommend it. Whether you've dealt with cancer or not, depression or anxiety or stress at work.. or simply feel the need to take a deep breath. Check it out!

+ I spent a couple of afternoons at my own place. Watching TV, drinking tea, a walking meditation through the neighbourhood, rearranging my livingroom. AND I even brought the bunnies with me twice! It was so cute and emotional and it brought back so many memories. I love these sweet fur babies. Hopping through the house, finding back their old favourite spots. Next step: spending a night in my own bed. My psychiatrist told me that I still have some mourning to do, but there's only one place where I can do this and that is my home. I guess that makes sense and all. So it is not going to be easy, but eventually things will get better and I hope to feel more confident about myself.

+ I am trying to get of the couch and set new goals. So I went to the Kröller-Müller Museum with my dad and saw work of Picasso, Monet and Van Gogh! I was nervous and tired... but I did it. I also went to this children's farm/petting zoo with my parents. Hey never too old for these things. I refuse to grow up especially when I hug a goat. It was wonderful! I love animals! We also went to this beautiful protected nature area for a windy walk and it was good. Fresh air!

+ Another thing that was really important to me was visiting my friend who had just given birth to a beautiful baby girl. I was really looking forward to seeing her and her first daughter as well. So cute! So it was good talking to her and I had a lovely afternoon with lots of smiles. 

+ I also had one of my favourite little visitors coming over, my colleague's son. Who is just adorable and we played on the ground and had fun. 

+ I also celebrated Lola's 5th birthday. Can you believe it? Furbabies, they grow up so faaast! 

- The bad stuff. I'm still struggling with my anti-depressants. I am now using a mix of Citalopram and Mirtazapine and the side effects for the last four weeks have been awful. I did lots and lots of crying. I have been feeling like crap. Emotional, vulnerable, scared. I'm meeting with my psychiatrist next week so I'm hoping it either goes better by then and otherwise we have to talk about our next step. Perhaps I need to take a break from meds because I'm so tired. But this scares me as well, because I really could use some 'help' with the big steps in recovery I still have to take. We'll see, we'll see. 

+ I'd like to finish with something positive. At Mindfulness training we had to keep a list of positive things that happened during the day for a week. Because we often remember the bad stuff and neglect the good happy tiny pleasures in our life. I actually felt really good about this and decided to go on with it. I found a wonderful app called Gratitude356. Practising gratitude has been scientifically proven! You can check it out here if you're interested. Give it a try!

January 23, 2015

What is Mindfulness

You could call it awareness, attention, focus or presence. Mindfulness has roots in Buddhist philosophy and religion which I find very interesting and fascinating. But it also takes on a new, secular definition when viewed from a Western psychology view finder.

Or as the famous Dr. Jon Kabat-zinn defines it, you can think of mindfulness as simply being fully in the moment, paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgemental.

Sound simple? It's not. Being engaged 100% doesn't come easy, especially in our world of distractions. It means actively listening and not zoning out (even a little) when your co-worker tells the same story for the third time, and it means using all your senses in even mundane situations like washing the dishes or waiting at the bus stop.

So what's the point? Well the benefits sound pretty amazing actually:

+ Mindfulness is good for our bodies: A seminal study found that, after just eight weeks of training, practising mindfulness meditation boosts our immune system’s ability to fight off illness.

+ Mindfulness is good for our minds: Several studies have found that mindfulness increases positive emotions while reducing negative emotions and stress. Several studies in fighting depression and preventing relapse.

+ Mindfulness changes our brains: Research has found that it increases density of gray matter in brain regions linked to learning, memory, emotion regulation, and empathy.

+ Mindfulness helps us focus: Studies suggest that mindfulness helps us tune out distractions and improves our memory and attention skills.

+ Mindfulness helps people with PTSD: Studies suggest it can reduce the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the aftermath of a traumatic happening.

Here are a few key components of practising mindfulness that Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat-Zinn and others identify:
  • Pay close attention to your breathing, especially when you’re feeling intense emotions.
  • Notice—really notice—what you’re sensing in a given moment, the sights, sounds, and smells that ordinarily slip by without reaching your conscious awareness.
  • Recognize that your thoughts and emotions are fleeting and do not define you, an insight that can free you from negative thought patterns.
  • Tune into your body’s physical sensations, from the water hitting your skin in the shower to the way your body rests in your office chair.
If you're interested in reading more you should definitely check out Thich Nhat Hanh and Jon Kabat-Zinn books written on Mindfulness.

I have decided to jump (with a heavy nervous heart)... but I'm going to be part of a Mindfulness training. It's organised by the psychology department in my hospital... so I will be familiar with the surroundings. But I'm very nervous about the whole thing. However I do think, this type of thing fits me and I could really benefit from it. I will start next week Wednesday.

So let's take a deep breath...

January 19, 2015

Like a rolling stone

A new year. New feels. New breathe. New chances. Same dreams, fresh starts. Out of my head and into the moment.

But then this happened and I think I sort of had a breakdown two weeks ago. Lets just say it involved a bathroom floor and lots of crying.

I finally realized I needed to cry out of for help again. Because I was taking 45 mg anti-depressants... but really what's the point when you're on the floor of a bathroom? So I called my psychiatrist and long story short; we're quitting the anti-depressants (this week 30 mg, next week 15 mg) and then we will meet again to talk about my other options. Let's face is, with the Tamoxifen/Zoladex there aren't that many options left. But I'm sure there's something I can try. Which means I can start all over again. New meds, new side effects, worrying if this is IT.

Despair. Frustrating.

So then I had a couple of pretty good days. I went to the hairdresser, got my first serious hair trim (well at least it felt like that) and I also let it dye. Which means new profile pic! So it looks pretty good, curly... and like the old Ciel. Except.. I am not.

But hey then I spent some time in my house. Have been restyling a bit, cleaning, etc. and it felt really good! So good I could dance (and perhaps I even did a little dance because no one was watching me).

It still drives me nuts that I can go from feeling pretty good at one point... and hit rock bottom like two minutes later. I know this is called recovery and I know partly it's the Tamoxifen/Zoladex. But still... it's pretty fucked up. It makes me feel like crap. But I know I have to work through all these feelings and emotions and when I'm ready I will release the ones that no longer serve me. Love, light, patience and kindness are the answer.

Perhaps a little mindfulness will help? I'm looking into this... if I go through with it more on that some other time.

So depression, what it feels like? Like I am drowning and everybody else around me is still breathing. Sometimes it feels like I carry this big rock around my neck, and it's so heavy. I get upset over EVERYTHING. Which is hard to understand for other people. My heart, my soul, they are in pain. Some serious pain. So I have been looking into a more spiritual way of healing.

Creating a sacred space. Be gentle with myself (really tough). Crystals and cleansing. Meditation. Becoming closer to nature. Chakra balancing. A photo a day challenge on Instagram. Today I had lunch by myself and treated myself to a big bowl of veggies and fresh mint tea. Well whatever keeps me going... It is a fascinating magical world after all.

P.S. Shut the fuck up about Blue Monday.

December 29, 2014

Home

I am now officially 33 years old and Christmas went by pretty quickly. I was actually able to enjoy myself. Well I did the best I could. Being with my family was good. Opening presents and stuffing ourselves with good food. Watching Home Alone (1 and 2). Snuggling with the bunnies. It was good. Better than last year and WAY better than two years ago.

But.

Right now I feel terribly sad. I think I am done with 2014. When I look back I think of all the projects and hobbies I picked up to help me through the day. Whether it was Wreck This Journal, photography, blogging, writing letters, Postcrossing, Swap-Bot, Etsy, art journals, flower pressing... or a helluvalot DIY projects.

But it's not enough any more.

I want my life back. I am so sick and tired of feeling miserable. I want to feel alive and part of this world. I want to be independent again. I need to be where I belong. Oh dearie, I miss my home.

So where are we on the apartment cleaning? Not quite ready yet, but it's slowly coming along. 

I was hoping I would feel better by now. Be more steady. Less mood swings. More happy days. But what if I'm waiting until I'm ready... and perhaps no one is ever ready to do anything. What if there's no such thing as ready. We only have now.

Of course I have to stay patient and trust my journey. But what if all it takes, is one big step? I know I have my safety net, it's always there but it still is god damn scary. So 2015 I challenge you to be better! I don't know exactly when... but I am coming home.

December 9, 2014

Remember December

December is a tough month for me. But I think it is for many people. Because it's not only a month of celebrations (Christmas and my birthday) but also one where we get a bit melancholic and look back on the miles we walked. It's getting dark earlier, we light our Christmas tree and we think of the people that are no longer with us. While magazines and TV show us how Christmas should be celebrated with lots of glitter and happiness... I truly believe many people feel sad and lonely during December.

The road to recovery is long, bumpy and very dark at times. Recovering from cancer treatment isn't just about the outside — it's also about healing your soul. Sometimes we forget where we came from, the things we had to face and the battles we fought so hard for. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we are not where we want to be, but neither are we where we used to be.

So for 2015 I made a memory jar. I am going to collect happy moments, accomplishments, milestones, silly fun times, daily blessings and surprises and I will put them in this jar and read them all on December 31st 2015. I will get to relive these special moments and be proud of the steps I took


I hope I can inspire you to do the same thing and enjoy the little things in life... for one day we'll look back and realize they were the big ones.

I met with my new oncologist the 1st of December and everything was fine. I have to say, I miss the conversations I had with my old onc.. it was way more personal. But this new onc was nice, friendly and seemed to know what he was talking about. I was able to ask him all of my questions which I always write down. If all goes well, I will see him again in December 2015! So that's good. Less trips to the hospital. Another mammogram is scheduled June 2015.

I also met with my psychiatrist again. We're still experimenting with my anti-depressants. I am now on 45 mg. Fingers crossed I am going to feel better because I don't want to try another pill with possible new side effects. I know I need to give it some time and like I said, December is a tough month.

So no more hospital visits this month. I am going to try to focus on all the family stuff. Enjoy spending time together. Being able to buy them presents. This is my first Christmas without treatment. My birthday is coming up, turning 33. I'm going to try to enjoy these small moments... even though it's hard and I have dark memories in the back of my mind.

But next year will be lighter and brighter!

November 15, 2014

Home is where the heart is

Despite me freaking out about my conversation with my company doctor... I took some big steps. I can feel the change.. and it makes me very nervous... but it is with mixed feelings because I'm also proud of myself.

+ We started cleaning my apartment.
+ I bought some new things for my home. 
+ I spent there an afternoon by myself which was very emotional and therapeutic.
+ Even though I do not live there yet, I had my boss over at my place for tea.
+ Saw my company doctor and explained why I freaked out over our last appointment and he totally understood. He also said I should continue to work on these steps I'm taking. But that I'm not fit for work yet. So for now I'm trying to focus on moving back home, trying to enjoy life more... be more stable.
+ Sold all of my Christmas postcards in my Etsy shop.
+ I had lunch with an old colleague.
+ Spent some time with my sister; shopping, tea time, lunch etc. 
+ My colleague and his 2 year old son visited me.
+ I really enjoy swap-bot! You can't buy happiness but you can swap?!

- I still feel very emotional and cry about really silly things. 
- I am overwhelmed by almost everything.
- I panic when I have to make appointments or have to add structure and rhythm to my life. 
- I'm having doubts whether the 30 mg antidepressants are enough. I have to discuss this with my psych in December.
- I sometimes cross my boundaries and I end up feeling really exhausted. 

+ Despite living at my parents' place for two years my home still feels like home

October 21, 2014

Stormy head

So I come here to write about the bad days and today is one of them. Which means prior I had a couple of pretty great days; I visited my colleague's farewell party (which was a HUGE step) for me, I had another colleague and his son visiting me yesterday, I also spent some time with my sister interior shopping and eating ice cream which is always good. But today... is crap.

Last week I talked to my psychiatrist and he is a very nice man. He gets it. Which is nice. Although he has a Lego lunch box. He explained a little more about how the anti-depressants work and such. I have another appointment in six weeks. Until then we see how it goes... But I'm not climbing this mountain without any bumps in the road... that's what he told me. It's completely normal that I still face bad days. To be honest I think I'd freak out if I didn't had any after everything I've been through. He also said, I react the way I do to certain situations, because of what happened to me. I don't have enough 'leverage' to respond in a way I would normally do.

My company doctor told me to spend more time socializing, replace cancer by fun stuff. If only it were that easy. But he also gave me another compliment that I'm doing great even though it might not always feel like this. He said, "Six months ago I couldn't even have a proper conversation with you and here we are talking and laughing."  He wrote down he wants me to work on my physical condition and that I should spend some time at my own place. By giving me these 'orders' I totally freaked out of course... because I feel I have to do this my way, in my own time.

But hey last week we started cleaning my apartment. After two years I have to say... it IS necessary. My parents are helping me with this, and when we're done, perhaps I can spend some time at my cute little place by myself. We see how it goes. When I'm ready. I should do this my way. My way. Or the fucking high way.

I bought myself the new iPhone 6 plus, very happy with it! Also got my matching sport band so I can start walking again. If it ever stops raining that is!

So for the last couple of days I sort of had these moments were I feel dizzy for just a second. Not when I get up, but more when I sit or stand still. It's weird. The hypochondriac awakes... definitely do not trust my body. I mean I was confronted with my own mortality at age 30, this is just... well obviously you think the worst. But then again you don't want to jump to these conclusions after all the treatment you have been through and well, you don't want any more doctors or fucking scans... so what to do? I know it's probably the medication causing this and I will bring it up next time I speak to one of my doctors. If shit hits the van and it becomes worse I will see my home doctor. But for now I just have to believe I'm okay. Okay. 

Once again the weather fits my mood. It has been raining and feels a bit stormy all day long. Lets aim for a better day tomorrow!

October 4, 2014

Changing colour

So it's been a while, Hello October. In case you were wondering, I'm ignoring Breast Cancer Awareness month. Call it denial. Whatever. I am so done with that shit.

As for the running part... that didn't go as planned. Wow nothing does go as planned did you notice?! Better all let it go and see what happens... So I ended up with some serious knee ache and decided it was better to quit for now. I cried a lot because of the quitting part yes. Because I finally had found something that made me feel normal, and not like a patient. Something that felt so good... and wow my body could handle it. Guess not. So I am not giving up on this... but for now it's back to walking. Today I walked my first 5K. It was pretty good... the music, nature, just me, myself & I... at fast pace.

I'm still experimenting with the anti-depressants. I am now on 30 mg. Because after a few weeks things were back to normal (in other words: lots of crying). But I can't really say the 30 mg is making me feel a hell of a lot better. Don't get me wrong I have good days, but it's still a struggle sometimes. I know with anti-depressants you have to give it a few weeks.. so that's what I'm going to do... and I'm meeting with my psychiatrist in a week or so.

What else, what else? I saw my radiologist which brought back lots of bad memories. Radiation treatment. The dressing room, autumn, walking through that hallway with my upper body undressed. So I try to do what my psychologist says, I let myself think about it... for a while... let it flow. Then I tell myself, you are here now, no treatment whatsoever. You're okay. And then I try to move on. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I suppose it takes practise, but I kinda think that is the way to approach these triggers.

Next week I will have my Zoladex injection. But it's the last one this year. 

I have been keeping myself pretty busy with penpalling, snail mail, mail art, mail swaps, etc, etc. I enjoy it a lot! I also have been working on Christmas postcards for my Etsy store, they are already available if you want to check them out!

I also had my second hair cut! It really is growing and my curls are sooo coming back! I also have a pair of new specs which I really love. I have started to buy some new autumn/winter clothes as well. Which feels good. Ah and I also gained some weight. Hallelujah!