What would you do if you were diagnosed with a terminal disease?
In September 2016, after surviving a sudden life-threatening illness, actress Leah Bracknell heard the shocking words we all dread.
“Sorry. You have stage 4 cancer”
With no option of surgery, ‘palliative’ chemotherapy was all that was offered to her.
Based on her blog somethingbeginningwithc.com – Leah shares her remarkable and inspiring story of learning to live with a terminal illness. Drawing upon her experience as an actor, yoga teacher and shamanic healer, she shines a light on the human spirit’s power and capacity to be extraordinary, even in the darkest of circumstances. Discovering transformation, wonder, hope, joy, possibility, positivity, and beauty along the way.
“I chose to cultivate a relationship with my disease. To ask it: why are you here? And what have you to teach me? I discovered that when I ceased regarding cancer as my enemy and looked beyond the fear, it gave me the opportunity to embark on a profound personal healing journey, emotionally and spiritually that has transformed my whole outlook on life.
Having cancer has restored a deep appreciation and gratitude for my life. It has been an awakening. Cancer has been my greatest challenge, but also my greatest teacher, one that has rekindled my passion for life. It has taught me that a life well lived is the best medicine, that we can all be the alchemists of our own “healing”, whatever the outcome, and that life is not merely about existing or surviving, but thriving with a capitol T.
Cancer has given me back my life.”
This is an experiential event and you will be able participate in some of the healing practices: meditations, visualisations etc that Leah uses on her journey to assist you with your own.
“Having cancer or any serious illness can be a dark, frightening and lonely road. So, let’s walk it together, standing tall, side by side, hand in hand.”
WHEN: January 18th 2018 7.30pm
TICKETS: £19 and £14.50
WHERE: Venue and Booking : Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regent’s Park Road, London NW1 7AY
Leah Bracknell, mother of two, actress, yoga instructor, shamanic healer was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in September 2016, after suffering a near fatal pericardial effusion. She has worked in TV and theatre for forty years, from Shakespeare to panto and is best remembered for her role as Zoe Tate in Emmerdale. A yoga instructor for over a decade, she has taught workshops around the country and at the Yoga Show, MBS, Wilderness Festival, and Mind Body Soul Exhibitions and written for Om Yoga Magazine, Yoga Magazine, Spectrum, her teaching has been widely featured in the press, including This Morning, Lorraine, BBC Radio. She has released 2 DVDs Yoga & You and Yoga for Life. In 2010 she underwent an intensive Shamanic practitioner training.
You can read more of Leah’s work on her blog Somethingbeginningwithc.com
If I can wake each morning with a prayer of gratitude in my heart, and close each day with the same, I know I am living well.
If I can acknowledge all the blessings and gifts that come my way, now, yesterday and tomorrow, it blows away the cobwebs of fear and grief and confusion and despair, and my life feels sweeter and richer than never before.
If I can plant the seed of hope in the garden of my soul, and nourish it with love and compassion, and fertilise it with forgiveness, and water it with the sweet cleansing rain of faith, trust and belief, then I will witness how it flourishes and grows and reaches its roots deep into my heart and every cell of my being, and blossoms in the winter of my yesterdays lost and blooms on the horizon of tomorrow, with the gift of divine grace and beauty, until my spirit soars like an eagle high above the mountains of the Sierra Madre.
If I can remember that each step I take is supported by a thousand ancestors, then I need never fear being alone, abandoned or forgotten. No matter where the path leads.
If I understand that everything happens for a reason it colours my experience with the understanding that all challenges we face are an opportunity to learn and grow, to heal what we have ignored, to love harder, live more passionately, to serve more gracefully, to reach out and join hands with those who need a friend, and to take the hand of those who reach out to us. To embrace life, to embrace one another, build bridges where the way is blocked, and honour this wonderful earth, our Mother, our home.
I have awoken with a fire in my belly, a good fire, one that speaks of life, a beacon in the dark, and if I place it on a high enough peak perhaps you can see it, perhaps it can light a flame in your heart, and when you feel its warmth, then you may be able to light one too, to pass it on, for each of us can be a light in the dark for someone else, and someone else, and someone else, until there is a chain of golden light shining far and wide connecting us one to another. Encircling us in our connection not our disparity, healing not dividing, loving not hating.
If I remember that it is not personal, that the universe is not out to punish me or anyone, that I have not offended god, I have not been bad in a previous life, but that the nature of existence for every inhabitant of this incredible planet: human, animal, plant, mineral, follows the natural order of birth, life and death. At least in the physical and material sense. Then I see that it is not a matter of justice or injustice, it just is. And our spirit sings the song of our soul long before we understood that we had chosen to come here, and our story will echo in the hearts of those we touch long after our job here is done, like a whisper to those who come after us for generations to come. When we become the ancestors who guide the way.
I had the honour and privilege this week of sharing a beautiful and profoundly moving ceremony dedicated to honouring our ancestors and those who have passed, sitting in circle with our dear sister and brother from Mexico and friends old and new to celebrate el Dia de Muertos – The Day of the Dead.
In a teepee, in a field, under the stars, surrounded by pigs, the call of the owls disturbed by this unexpected nocturnal intrusion piercing the quiet, we gathered together to pray.
In the centre the fire unites us, one to another, and carries our prayers back in time to those who have departed, melting the boundries of life and death. To be able to acknowledge the gift our ancestors have given us, through the living of their lives, generation after generation, their stories flowing in our veins if not our memories, their successes, their failures, their struggles, their joys, to be able to thank them, to weep for them, is a truly humbling experience. One that is not merely about mourning, but celebrating and honouring. And more than that, it is about remembering, even those we didn’t know for they live in us, and feeding them with love.
The altar was resplendent in offerings of flowers, favourite foods, candles, fruits, interspersed with pictures of loved ones. Sacred songs were shared, and beautiful, healing prayers offered to Grandfather fire, with Mother Earth, the stars, the moon, and each other as witness to this moment of beauty. A moment in time in which all our stories weave together across space and time, one unique moment never to be repeated, where we become one with each other and all that is the great mystery of life. To be able to make a prayer of gratitude, to give thanks before and above all else is, I have discovered , one of the most powerful medicines I know. I realise prayer, is not merely for demanding what I want or feel I need when the chips are down or when the horse has bolted, but is a doorway to connect with something which unites and inspires, and transcends the material, the mundane, the profane, and gives voice to the person I aspire to be.
So, if I may, on this beautiful, mysterious, misty morning, I’d like to share my morning prayer with you:
To all our relations, those who have walked before us, and those who will come after, to our allies and guides who walk with us in invisible realms, Thank You.
Thank you for my life. Thank you for my health. Thank you for guiding me and giving me strength and inspiring me each day.
Thank you for my beautiful family, my husband, my mother, my children, my friends far and wide, I pray that you watch over them, keep them well, protect them, give them strength when they feel weak, inspiration when they are lost, and keep the flame of hope alive always in their hearts. I pray they feel loved when they are alone, and that they see and know the beauty of their spirit.
Thank you for all the support and prayers with which I have been blessed, and I pray that I have the grace and humility to truly accept them. And that I may find a way to honour them in return. I give thanks for the ceremonies that have been held in my honour and for those who prayed for me there. I thank you. Deeply from the bottom of my heart.
I give deep thanks for the friendship of our brothers and sisters from Mexico, for the journey shared, for their love and prayers, I pray for them, for their healing and protection of their land and their home. Long may our friendship continue. I pray I may return soon.
Thank you for the healings I have received, for all the medicines that I work with, conventional and alternative. For those that are part of my healing journey. For the abundance of food I have to eat. For my home, my shelter, my haven.
Thank you for my feline friends, who sit with me, make me laugh and drive me mad with little “gifts”.
Thank you for showing me the joy in life that once had become hidden from view, which, despite the greatest of challenges, has exploded like a dazzling firework in the darkest night sky, reinstating a profound sense of wonder and awe.
Thank you for teaching me that a life well lived is the best medicine, and that we can be the alchemists of our own healing, that we can chose to be extraordinary, that life is not about merely existing or surviving but about Thriving with a capitol T.
Teach me to be compassionate and forgiving. Not to judge or criticise neither myself or others too harshly.
And remind me to sing and laugh and dance each and every day, if not literally, then let my spirit dance with wild abandon wherever I may find myself.
Thank you for giving me my voice, and for daring me to use it when my instinct would have me hide away and retreat to my cave.
Thank you for helping me to see and to understand why I am here, for giving me meaning and restoring purpose, for showing me how I may continue to be of service in gratitude for the life I have been given.
I pray that we may all remember the song that the stars were singing when we were born, that tell us who we are, how precious we are, and how brilliantly we can shine.
I dedicate this prayer to you, with respect, with gratitude and with love.
I would love to know what you think of this idea.
Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is the last thing anyone wants to hear. I know, because it happened to me: stage 4 with very few options. No surgery. No radiation. And no hope. Because that, of course, is a dirty word. (It’s lucky I have a filthy mind!!)
So . . .
How do you pick yourself up off the floor when all the doors are slammed in your face?
How do you continue to smile?
How do you put HOPE back on the menu?
How do you continue to see your glass half full?
And most vital of all, how do you turn a devastating, frightening situation into a journey of personal empowerment and healing?
The last year has forced me to take a good hard look at all aspects of my life BC (before cancer). Shedding what no longer serves: habits, patterns, relationships, beliefs etc and replacing them with behaviours and practices, in fact a whole new way of being in the world and inhabiting my life that fills me not with fear, anxiety or negativity, well, not all the time anyway, and creating a life I am worthy of. A life I am proud of. A life that says, you may kick me, but I am going to get up, again and again, as many times as I need to, sometimes it may take a while, but I gonna keep on keepin’ on no matter what.
This last year has given me such an enormous appreciation of life and all the gifts it has given me. Cancer has challenged me to be strong when I feel weak, to get up when I fall down, to honour those difficult emotions that spew all over the life I once lived, to take up my sword and shield and endeavour to become the person I have always hoped I could be. It has demanded that I am honest with myself, even when I can’t face what I see, be honest with others even when I am clumsy, to express my love and gratitude for those who walk with me.
Since the day my world changed irrevocably, I have tried to develop a relationship with my illness to ask it what it has to teach me, what it wants me to change or face up to, in order that I don’t merely react to it with fear, loathing or avoidance. I don’t see cancer as my enemy, but a challenge, a gauntlet thrown down for me to seize with both hands. And it has repaid me: I have learned to be so damn grateful for my life, every last bit of it, to forgive myself my “mistakes”, and to try to forgive those who I believe hurt me. And each and every day I love and thank my poor scrawny body, tumours and all, because its doing its very best.
I decided that cancer was not going to be my gaoler, but my teacher. Not my darkness, but my light. I’m not going to lie. It’s a tough road. It’s a lonely road, even when you are surrounded by love. No, not every day is wreathed in smiles. But when I smile, I smile, and when I laugh I laugh, and when it rains I put my umbrella up and wait for the storm to pass.
We cannot always change the situation, but we can choose how we respond to it. One step at a time. One breath at a time. Together. It’s always better together.
It’s time to collectively change the narrative: to seek empowerment not defeat at the hands of cancer. We are told that only a “cure” is a win. I disagree, I don’t know if cure is on the cards for me or indeed you. But I do know that there is so much healing to be discovered along the way, and it’s right there in the palm of your hand. Yes, it is.
I’d really like the opportunity to share this with you. I draw on my experience as a yoga teacher, workshop facilitator and shamanic healer, and even my acting career, to inspire and guide me through these difficult times. I believe that our mind is our most powerful medicine when we learn how to tame it, for there are times when it feels like an unbroken stallion forced under the saddle for the first time. Granted it’s not particularly conventional: I use journeying to connect with spiritual helpers and ancestors, visualisations, meditation, breathing excercises, yoga practices, and allow my creative juices to flow. I am not saying it’s a guaranteed recipe for a radical remission, but that ain’t gonna stop me. I am still here. Still banging my drum. Still causing trouble. And this time last year, I wasn’t so sure that would be so.
I ask myself, would I turn back the clocks to a time before cancer? Genuinely, I don’t know. I can’t answer that. I am certainly in no hurry to go anywhere. But the last twelve months have shown me not just the absolute worst of times, but some of the best times in my life. Little nuggets of gold that I would not have found otherwise. And I had to wake up to the fact that my life was in desperate need of an overhaul. Cancer was my call to action. It has taken a huge leap out of my comfort zone. And, yes, it’s work in progress. Constantly. But it is paying off. And for that I am grateful. Every day. 365 days of gratitude. My incredible year.
So, I am thinking of putting together an experiential/interactive talk to share my experience of living with cancer and some of the methods I use. Probably in London later this year. In order to get an idea of feasibility, as these things can take some organising and I do have one or two things on my plate right now, please indicate below if you think you might genuinely be interested. Just so I can get determine if it’s a good idea or just one of my madcap brain waves.
Sending you much much love, strength and inspiration on your journey.
To healing. To empowerment. To Life.
Blessings. Om shanti. Peace.
Between the trees the candles flicker and beckon, leading us down towards the clearing
Where the fire glows.
We gather, in circle, side by beautiful side, in anticipation, bodies swaying, drums and rattles in hand. Nervous. Poised. Expectant.
And then, arising from the remnants of the day, it comes.
The first call to action.
Like a heart beat in the night.
Boom. . . . Boom. . . Boom. Spirit horse is rounding us up and calling us to play.
Is that my heart or is that my drum? I no longer know or care, carried along, I am, on the rising crescendo of sound and rhythm.
Boom. Boom. Boom.
Like moths around a flame, we dance, we sing, we merge with the fire – heart and soul surrendering to this, the Dance of Life.
Boom. To be blessed by the earth beneath our feet, protected by the guardians of the woods, under the loving watchful gaze of the Moon and an audience of stars.
Boom. Here I am. Naked. Daubed in body paint and drumming the guts out of a Saturday night with a load of strangers. And, yes, totally, stone cold sober. BOOM!
This is a celebration of what it means to be truly alive.
In this moment I am intoxicated on life.
I am SKY CLAD and LOVING IT.
This is not just an ordinary day.
This is deep healing. This is my medicine.
It is so. so easy, and completely understandable, if we allow ourselves to get lost or caught up in the fear, grief , anger or negative emotions that accompany a serious health diagnosis. It can be so hard knowing which way to turn, and overwhelming to come to terms with such shocking and shattering news, and it might feel as if nothing is within your control. And, when we are at our most vulnerable physically emotionally or spiritually, the hardest thing to retrieve or retain is our sense of personal power. It becomes a vicious cycle: so the more disempowered we feel, the more threatened and unstable our life appears to be, the more opportunity for the newly created void to be filled instead with the negativity of fear etc. Until, we can only see the glass half empty.
As I gaze deeper into the flames and surrender that part of me that is judgmental, cynical or afraid. And, when I stop questioning the rationale behind my actions, when I truly give myself permission, just to BE. To go with the flow. To let go. That’s when the power returns. Drummed up again from somewhere deep within, and from somewhere deep inside the Mother. Besides, when the chips are down, there ain’t nothing to lose. Not even my dignity. And there is everything to gain. Because when you meet the fear, face it, when you challenge the expectation, when you peer beyond the confines of the box, when you surprise yourself, that’s when you can take the reins. That’s when you can climb back into the saddle, at least just for now. And there, ‘neath the inky sky, drum in hand, entranced, I let my heart burst open to the magic of the midnight flames, as the fire flirts and dances with me, enticing me like a lover, guiding me like a teacher, mad, frenzied, exuberant, teaching, whispering secrets, purifying.
The way I see it, is that the potential for deep “healing” is within us all. And, the concept of “Healing” is very different form the notion of “Cure” in my opinion but no less profound.
Everyday, the focus of my intent, is for healing. It enriches my life, my wellbeing, and lies beneath almost everything I do. Carrying this intent within my breast, has made what is a difficult journey into an adventure, a pilgrimage. If in some small ,yet clumsy way, I can share my #glasshalffull with anyone, to lighten the burden of your quest, to spark a small flame of hope, to walk alongside you, then it would be a privilege.
I feel very blessed. When cancer called, it revealed to me a long overdue, yet golden opportunity to embark on a healing adventure. And, I intend, not only to walk it with my head held high, but to reach out to the tribe, to walk with me. It’s a funny thing; when you have cancer, the talk is all of drugs and chemo, and appointments, and scans, and radiation, or surgery, and mets, and mutations, injections, biospsies, samples, protocols, plans, options.
I’ve seen a lot of medical staff during the last 8 months, incredible people, doing an incredible job given that the resources available to the NHS are so severely stretched. My gratitude for their care and service is matched only by my admiration for their dedication. Yet, not one has made any suggestion of implementing healing practices which exist beyond the parameters of conventional allopathic medicines and treatments. I’m not merely referring to complimentary or alternative therapies, of which I am a big supporter, but with a background in yoga and shamanic practices , I strongly feel that we do ourselves a dis-service if we ignore our own capacity for being :
The Alchemists of our own Healing.
We all possess our own unique Medicine. Medicine, is anything that heals. Our Medicine is our unique gift from spirit, to the world, a spiritual gift or talent. The tragedy for us humans is that we have forgotton this fact, something our indigenous brothers and sisters still remember. Losing sight of the medicine and magic within us, makes human beings sick.
Believe it or not, being diagnosed with cancer, allowed me to explore my connection to my own medicine. If you are still not sure what I am talking about, it is anything that makes you happy or enriches your experience. For me, it may be drumming around a fire, meditating, listening to healing frequencies, making offerings, lighting a candle, for you it may be enjoying a cuppa with friends, it really doesn’t matter. We just gotta find what is that does us good, then go for it.
Now, I don’t make excuses, if I know It makes me feel good, if it helps me relax, if it makes me see the joy in life, then it is Medicine.
The more we invoke the power and potential of our own medicine, the more we restore ourselves emotionally, energetically and spiritually. It is my thinking that dis-ease comes about when there is a psycho-spiritual malfunction. So, the more we can take the opportunity to resolve any wounds or unresolved emotional traumas that have or continue to cause us pain, the more we can cleanse harmful negative energy from our system.
So, for example, I have found it challenging, yet so, so liberating to do some work around forgiveness, both of others and myself. It’s a question of making peace with things, and it feels so clean, clear and good. I’m not there yet, it’s work in progress. But I’m in the driving seat. So, next stop, anger. Well buried, that one, Let’s see which stone that’s hiding beneath.
I am grateful that I have the foundations of a strong spiritual practice. I cannot imagine facing this journey without it. Within it I find a world of magic and possibility, of imagination and power. It reminds me that, within us all, we have all the answers we will ever need to truly know, that within us all resides an inner warrior, inner teacher, inner guru, and our inner healer. It furnishes me with an opportunity to practice gratitude, for everything. And the more I can embrace this attitude of gratitude, the more joy and fulfilment I receive from life.
Every morning, I open my eyes, and the first thing I say to myself is: Thank you for my life. Every damn bit of it. Why not? I am alive, I have my family, a roof over my head, food in my belly, and love and support. That makes me pretty rich. Thank you for my life. Thank you for my Life. The more I take the time and space to honour it, the more it becomes my truth and reality. It is cancer that has shown me just how plentiful my life is, how blessed it is. If we open our eyes, and charge ourselves with really observing and witnessing how things are, what will we find once we strip away negative and entrenched belief systems that no longer serve us? We will perhaps find the person that we are truly meant to be. And there is no time like the present to begin to set them free get to know them.
One of the hardest things a human being can do, is to remember how to love themselves. When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
Do you immediately cover yourself in a cloud of judgement, negativity and criticism. What message is that reinforcing? That you are not worthy? That you are unloveable? That you are unattractive? Where do these thought forms come from? How long have you been telling yourself this. When did this arise? And, how healthy is this for you? How might you feel, and what impact might this have on your healing and wellbeing if you were able to challenge and change this thinking?
No matter where, when or who makes you feel this way, you have the power to transform this story. Yes, you really do. If you believe it to be so. Just give it a try.
Clear your mind. Place your left hand over your heart centre, and your right over your solar plexus. And, looking into a mirror bless yourself with these words borrowed from Hawaiian and Polynesian traditions.
Please forgive me.
I love you.
Begin with 12 repetitions. You could build to 108 using it as a mantra. Please practice this excercise with an attitude of compassion, non judgement and loving kindness towards yourself. Even if you struggling with receiving the blessing you are bestowing upon yourself initially, commit to it. There is an ancient and powerful energy/vibration within the affirmation, so don’t be afraid to fake it ’til you make it. If you trust that it can work, then it will. If you experience resisitance within you, that’s OK, it’s normal, don’t give up. You are worth it!!
And, if you want to take a leaf out of my book and dance naked around a fire, just you go for it. Being naked reminds us of our vulnerability, it reminds us we are all the same, it connects us to the elements, it challenges our beliefs about our bodies their attractiveness etc. So, I wanted to let me body know how proud I am of it, to tell it it is doing really well supporting me through this, how amazing and beautiful it is. We all are. It’s a primal act of encouragement. I am sending a message of positivity to it, not hatred and disappointment.The fire teaches us all about strength and courage, it ignites our warrior spirit, shines a light where there is darkness, burns away and purifies anything that no longer serves us, it wants to gobble all that pain, and fear, and dis-ease. The fire is hungry for your prayers, it wants to hear the deepest secrets of our hearts. our dearest wishes, the fire wants to remind us how to dance, how to sing, how to be in community, not just with one another, but with all life on this beautiful planet, and this universe. The fire is our most ancient ancestor, come to us directly from the sun. And it resides within each and everyone of us. A flame, a spark of life.
(Below, harvesting the energy of the sun)
Rub your hands together, do you feel that heat? Do you? Do you feel the fire? YOU created that, it comes from within you. Now place your hands upon your body wherever you need healing right now.
Gently, with an intention of love and compassion.
Feel the heat pass from your hands to your body, and imagine all the love in the world , right now, is surrounding you. Holding you. Flowing into you. Caressing you. Protecting you.
There you have it. Medicine in the palm of your hands.
Om shanti. Peace. Peace. Peace. Always. With love.
Oh, yes. And my #glasshalffull tonight? Prosecco!!! It may be a banned substance, but I am going to give myself full permission to savour , relish and enjoy.
Two buzzards circling,
Spread-winged, eagle-eyed, in freedom flight,
spring soaring. Roaring by
Gone now in a flash, the bat of an eye, the beat of my heart,
the train speeds on and life flashes by.
This journey wears a groove in my life, deeper it cuts each time I say
“Return to London, please”
No Madame Tussauds, No Big Ben, No all singin’ all dancin’ West End Musical.
No all-seeing London eye. No, not for me.
What would it spy if it gazed my way,
something beginning with c?
Or a scan here, a blood test there, just a scratch, biopsies galore, are you seeing the pharmacist today? Well, I won’t beat around the bush, Disappointing, not what we’d hoped.
Well, it’s not what I hoped to be pumped full of drugs, or radiation, or chemicals.
Not what I’d hoped at all. Just saying.
Passing by familiar landmarks, at speed.
The station where you used to meet me, and leave me. Hello, goodbye. hello. goodbye.
Happy, sad, happy, sad.
Pat and Jim’s. But no one’s home. No one’s waving, not today.
Field after field. Tree after tree. House after house. Allotments. Gardens. Trampolines. Toys. Washing. A thousand lives passed by in a flash.
And are gone.
A thousand stories, a thousand tears and a thousand reasons to be joyful.
Lambs, birds, rabbits, sometimes if I’m lucky, a deer.
This green and pleasant land is testament to the mastery of the mystery.
And onwards we rush, destination – cancer,
Do NOT pass Go.
Do NOT collect £200.
And, I’m terribly sorry , but your get-out-of-jail-free card has, regrettably, expired*.
(*Which, conversely, is something I am doing my utmost NOT to do.)
Past the airport. A plane landing overhead touching down just yards from the train tracks.
Last year, that was me.
That was then.
And Before, is a very different country from Now.
Now, is a land post-apocalypse, post-invasion, where anarchy and chaos preside. Where fear and grief and anger are on the daily menu.
Three courses for £12.95. Bargain.
Now, does not always feel like a safe place to live.
I declare myself a refugee from Now. I want a holiday from my life. Time out. A sabbatical. At least let me get off the ****ing train.
For here, in Now, the ground shifts beneath your feet. The waves close in over your head. You are falling from a high cliff, and a hand reaches down to help you, yet you – just- can’t- quite -reach. You shout and shout until your throat is raw, but no one can hear. You try to dial 999 but your fingers are jelly and your phone just won’t work.
That’s what Now feels like.
And then, there it was.
Large as life, and incongruous as hell.
In the doorway of a warehouse
On the crinkled, edges of Croydon
a fish out of water, metaphorically speaking,
seven and a half feet
(And, please look away now if you are vegan – )
deceased and stuffed.
Now, I’m not suggesting the sight of a stuffed polar bear on the streets of Croydon, or in fact any suburban town gives me any pleasure at all. But, I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t, just for a sliver of time, make me smile at the unexpected absurdity of this urban arctic vision.
Whatever journey we are on, if we remember to look out of the windows with an open mind, and an open heart we may see the unexpected, we may experience the unimagined, we may taste the impossible, and we might live in the wisdom that life has a way of showing us a little breath of magic, a glimmer, a chuckle.
Don’t close your eyes, for the beauty is all around, in nature, in friends, loved ones, strangers, and in polar bears.
Two buzzards circling
I spread my wings,
And now we are three.
The LW ladies were absolutely lovely. Not at all intimidating, nor indeed remotely loose, but genuinely warm and friendly. In fact everyone was. I was bowled over by their generosity. In make up, Jenni McAlpine and I played the “have we met before?” game, decided that we probably had somewhere in our past, and chatted on from there about mutual friends and colleagues. Emmerdale and Corrie have always been quite closely entwined. Linda Lusardi, also ex Emmerdale, never looks a day older, with her lovely daughter, also stopped to say hello.
I am no stranger to TV interviews, but where in the past, I may have been required to discourse on my character’s trials, tribulations and traumas, no problem, just switch on professional mode, sell the storyline etc etc this is unchartered territory. No script. No character to hide behind. My life on display. Raw. Naked.
I wouldn’t have chosen it. So I ask myself, why expose this personal challenging episode so publicly? Why hang my washing out for all to see? Especially as privacy is something so sacred to me. In answer, I suppose that I hope by not hiding away, by shining a spotlight on the elephant in the room, we can change our thinking about cancer or “terminal” illness. Both individually and collectively. As patient, as treatment provider, as a society.
During such a fearful, stressful and uncertain time, one has to navigate a sea of confusion and contradiction. Even when surrounded by loving friends and family, it can feel like being afloat, alone in the dark. The isolation can be deafening.
The truth is that there are already many of us in that boat, trying to stay afloat, like Noah, on the look out for land. Each day I receive dozens of stories of people’s journeys. All of us hoping for the dove to return with a branch in its beak.We are all searching for that beacon of light that says help is here, you are safe. Reaching out in the dark, and hoping that someone will hold our hand. And guide us to where the light shines a little brighter.
The almighty swell of positive feedback following my appearance on Loose Women truly took my breath away. (Hmmm, maybe I should stop saying that, the irony has only just occurred to me!) I don’t think I can express enough times my immense gratitude for the support, love and prayers I have received.( I am just sorry I can’t reply to everyone all the time) And if people found the discussion helpful I am grateful for the opportunity to be a voice piece for the many, many people who are living with cancer today. And I honour the many many people who are far braver and have endured far more than me. The people facing their journey alone. The family, loved ones and carers of those who have cancer. And the amazing dedicated people who treat us and tend us and want to give us life.
My own experience is showing me how vital it is to participate as fully as possible on the journey of your own healing. To be informed, to research, to challenge and question and, if need be, to dare to say “no”. To shrug off the mantle of “victim”, step into one’s power. To be prepared to make radical changes to lifestyle and thinking. When cancer moves in it is your body trying to alert you to the fact that somehow, something has come out of balance. It necessitates change :physically, emotionally, spiritually. And knowing that can either be daunting or a challenge and a gift. Getting a diagnosis of cancer is like saying “Ok, the chips are down, gloves off, sleeves rolled up, now what are you going to do about that?” Sometimes our inner warrior comes to our defence and gives us the strength to face the challenges, and sometimes a sinkhole of despair opens up beneath our feet and engulfs us. Which feeling wins, depends on which one you feed. I’m going to ensure my warrior is well fed and watered. I’m going to need her.
It also occurs to me, that when faced with the reality of one’s mortality, there’s nothing to do but try to exceed our expectation of ourselves. We hide too long from being our true brave and beautiful selves caught up in the distractions and duties and mundanities of modern life. So it’s time to love as much as you can, to live full and big, to dare, to say YES, To quest towards healing , to nourish and nurture yourself, to give yourself permission to receive, to be prepared to fail from time to time, to honour the pain and grief and anger and fear, and to know that not being OK is OK too.
And I just wanted to say . .
You’re doing amazing.
We are all amazing.
And in the darkness we reach , grab hold and keep one another afloat.
Thank you for keeping my head above water.
Om shanti. Peace.