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!

September 4, 2014

Blue sapphire

He said, " You really are different from last time I saw you. The problems seem to have less control over you, it is more like... you have taken back control."

That's what my company doctor said. He was quite happy with my progress (remember: progress = progress no matter how small). But I took some steps, made some decisions. Here I am, voilĂ  it's September.

So let me start with that horrible physiotherapy training. I quit. I did it, I finally decided it wasn't for me. Thanks to Ashley who reminded me there are 100 ways to climb a mountain.

The only thing it did give me was enough confidence to put on my running shoes and just go for it. Before I got sick I used this app called Get Running and I really liked it so I am using it again. You can find more information about it here. Basically it's a Couch-to-5K running plan, but I will start running twice a week instead of three. I will take it slow. Let my body get used to it. But fuck hey, I'm doing it. My first run... was very emotional. Because I was thinking of the horror my body went through... and now I was here all of a sudden... fresh air, beautiful nature, wind in my HAIR! I really cried my eyes out when I got home. It was good. A milestone I would think.

I always do some yoga stretches after my run. If you're interested, I follow exactly this routine. I try to do some other exercises for my upper body through the week, low key, whenever I feel like it. No pressure. First priority is: running. Because it is something I like and I think I really could benefit from this mentally as well.

But I made another decision after talking to my psychologist and psychiatrist... I was going to give the anti-depressants another go. So I made this long list for my psychiatrist and he was pretty cool and understanding about everything. I am still seeing my psychologist every three weeks and it's nice talking to a woman. But this dude, well he gets me. Which is good I think when somebody prescribes you medication. I have been taking it for almost a week now... I think I feel a little more calm, a little less emotional... more steady? Of course it is way too early to tell how this will work in the long run. But at least I'm not freaking out or feeling like a zombie (it happens, been there.. done that). So I think we're on the right track with this as well. Which made me cry as well. Weird eh? I have been feeling so much pain and heartache... now I finally get a little bit of fresh air... As if I'm taking a deep breath... and I cried because I didn't have to cry.

So all and all that sounds pretty good and uplifting doesn't it? I don't expect miracles all of a sudden.. but at least there's improvement. I expect more bad days, but I know the sun will shine as well! 

August 20, 2014

Heavy emotional baggage

While the rest of the world seems busy with their ice buckets I have been struggling on the treadmill and lifting weights. Heavy.

So this whole physiotherapy training thing isn't really going well. Physically, I can handle it. But I absolutely hate the place, how it makes me feel being there. The confrontation. The commitment freaks me out. So mentally... I'm not doing too good. I cry before I have to go there, and I cry when I come home. I don't expect people to understand this, but I can't help myself, it's how I feel. I try to tell myself this is going to help me recover. I try to look at it in a positive way. But I'm not feeling it.

So last time I was there the question we all have been waiting for popped up. One of the women asked me why I was there. We were waiting for the rest to show up... so I told her I had breast cancer and was treated for a year and half. She was in shock and well never would have guessed I was 30+. It was very emotional, telling my story to a stranger.

Then the physiotherapist AGAIN told me it would probably be better if I came twice a week. This time I felt like he was really pushing me. So I felt like crying right away. But of course I didn't in a room filled with sweaty, heavily breathing old people. But I can't go there twice a week, I can barely handle once a week!

Then one of this old blokes, he tried to grab my attention before but I ignored it, asked me what was wrong with me as well. Well I felt really uncomfortable this time and told him I was sick for a year and a half and that I was trying to get back in shape. He wanted to know more but I told him I'd rather not talk about it. Which felt good. So yay me!

I talked about it with my parents... and next week I will have another physiotherapist so I will give it another go. But if this thing is making me upset and unhappy it's not going to work I suppose and I might quit. I have to admit I got upset about this as well (OMG I get upset over ANYTHING, get it now?!) and it makes me feel like a loser. Like I can't handle it. Like I'm not doing the right thing... Afraid people are going to say but you do want to recover right?! But maybe this is just not the way for me. We all have to follow our own path I suppose. We'll see. I'm just happy I can talk to my parents about these things and they really understand and help me so much.

Perhaps it also has something to do with what my colleague's husband told me. He went through ten years of cancer treatment himself and he told me to kick my butt and get back to work. I was flabbergasted. His words really hurt me. Obviously he was speaking from his own experience... and has no clue about my story or the person that I am. His story made me sad but once again this proves you can not compare cancer to cancer. Or people with people. Fucker. He even told me I was spoiled for still living with my parents. I mean hello... don't you think I'd rather be living at home with my sweet bunnies all by myself if I could?! Argh.

Talked to my psych about some of the positive things (yes yes). I visited work, I had colleagues coming over with their dog. Or their 2 year old boy. I have been busy with my Etsy shop. A Vespa ride with dad to a farm. Lots of outgoing and incoming snailmail. I met with my pregnant friend and her 3 year old daughter. Even though some of these things are very hard for me... I also sincerely enjoy it and it feels good to be able to connect with people again. Because I feel so god damn lonely sometimes.

The only thing that bothered me about the psych is that I told her about my new blog and that I wanted a place to blog about happy things. She said why couldn't you do that on this blog? Because, she said, I should not forget it's all the same, it's all me. WTF?! You think I'll forget that?! I know cancer will always be a part of my life... and I'm not ignoring that. I just want this blog to be informative for people who are going through the same thing and not having to deal with a post about pimping an Ikea cabinet. There.

Something nice to finish. I have been looking for new glasses. Which is a big deal! A new look! I found lovely brown specs... but they have to come all the way from Denmark so I'll have to wait a few weeks probably. 

August 3, 2014

Rain grows flowers

Just before I went to sleep last night I checked my phone and stumbled upon this message on facebook about people with a lumpectomy that did have a reoccurrence. 

Try getting some sleep then. 

I actually realized that I haven't been thinking that much about reoccurrence. I think I have that hidden somewhere deep down inside of me and I don't want to think about it. But last night that door was set open.Wide open.

It totally freaked me out. What would happend if I had to relive my worst nightmare all over again?

Forever and always my biggest fear will be that my cancer may return. 

So there I was in the middle of the night. A silent, yet paralyzing fear that I felt in my soul, in my bones and heart. Creeping and crawling. I told myself I was okay and kept repeating that.

I stood infront of my window, trying to get some fresh air. Without my glasses the world looked so blurry and dark. As a photographer what do you do when life looks blurry through the viewfinder? You adjust your focus.

It's weird how everything seems worse at night. Because I don't want to feel like that again. I have been disappointed by people as well. Cancer is isolation and loneliness. 

But hey who's in charge here? It's little ol' me. I need to make some changes. Some decisions that are good for me. Be selfish with myself.

Because if a certain person/website/board/social media/... or whatever it is that is making you feel bad... it is time to cut them out

Simple as that. 

I am going to focus on things that make me happy. Sweet people that are loyal and true and are helping me to feel better. Love is stronger than fear. So I am going to try and love really hard. 

I know I already took some small steps... I want to fill my heart with what is important to me and be done with the rest. Starting another blog where I write about other things than my disease is one of them. You can check it out here: Tea with Bunnies.  

Courage, dear heart. Don't be so hard on yourself all the time. Be happy with what you have, while working for the things you want. Time and patience are your best friends.