The Reality of Getting Ill After Cancer

Cancer & Me

What do you do, when your favourite place is also your absolute worst?  When I remember having cancer I am always in one of two places.  One (as you would expect) is the hospital, the other is in bed at home.  Both were accompanied by dark emotions of fear, anxiety and discomfort — physical and mental.

Although it was more comfortable being in bed at home, it was also scarier.  The security of having medical staff, diagnostic tools and the (seriously good) painkillers nearby would be stripped away and I would feel so much more vulnerable.  I couldn’t press a little buzzer and say to someone within a matter of moments; Is this normal?  Should I be concerned?  I think something is wrong.  I had to determine those things on my own and would be constantly double guessing my own judgement.

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If you follow me on social media, you will probably know that over the last few months I have had a number of bladder infections, kidney infections and Sepsis.  The most recent being last week when I ended up in A&E — again!  Each time these illness’ have seriously knocked me for six and I have ended up back in bed for days whilst the medication does its thing. Immediately I am thrown back into a very strange headspace.

I don’t worry about it being cancer or anything like that, but being back in bed is still very triggering for me.  Those feelings of fear, anxiety and discomfort come back.  The vulnerability of taking responsibility for whether I am OK or not and the constant double guessing of myself, overwhelms me.  The ability to see an infection as just an illness being easily treated is lost as I fall headfirst down the emotional rabbit hole.

Being in bed whilst sick gets me so upset and tearful, even though logically I know I am being ridiculous.  I know I haven’t got cancer.  I know once the antibiotics kick-in I’ll be fine.  I know that unlike before, I’m not going to be stuck in bed for months on end with a complete lack of control over myself and my health.  Even so, it still triggers all of these negative emotions and connotations.

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There is a reason for this.  It is caused by the way our brains hold onto emotional memories and create shortcuts.  Once the brain associates a ‘thing’ with an ’emotion’ — in my case, being in bed sick = fear, vulnerability and very long-term, severe illness — the brain will quickly recall that emotional memory when in a similar situation.*

As horrible as my sickness recalls are, they are nowhere near as bad as they used to be.  I’m getting better at saying to myself – this is just an emotional memory, it’s not what’s happening now, but it’s not a flawless system.  Sometimes I’m so in the depth of despair, I’m not able to remind myself, but I do try and I am getting better.  Plus, as I continue to get ill and recover, my brain will start to create new shortcuts and I will have a different set of memory recalls.  It will just take time.

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I think this story serves as a reminder that cancer isn’t over and done with as soon as the doctor says, you’re all clear.  As with anything, it takes time for the emotional fall-out to settle, for your emotional resilience to build back up and for your brain to create new shortcuts.  It is also a great reminder that it is not a straight upward line from feeling shite to feeling fine all the time.  Like life, there are up’s and down’s, followed by one step forward then ten steps back, followed by a few stumbles along the way.

So if, like me, you are feeling all the things right now, logical and completely illogical, just know that you’re not alone – I’m right there with you!

Stay healthy!
Nx

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About Nicola
Nicola is the author of ‘The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer’ part memoir, part guide for people going through, or supporting someone going through cancer.  Nicola has also published creative fiction and non-fiction, and copyedits and writes for others.   Nicola also runs online  Writing Workshops throughout the year, sharing her love of reading and writing with everyone!

*You can read more about emotional memory here…

Sun, Sand & Septicaemia! (part one)

Cancer & Me, Health & Beauty, What's Happening?

Well that was NOT part of the plan when my family and I decided to go on a dream family holiday to Mauritius!

My husband and I worked, saved and planned for months. We were so excited to finally be going and once there, it was as close to paradise as I could have hoped. We were all having the perfect time – until…

A few days in I started to feel unwell.  There was a medical centre on site and a nurse gave me some rehydration sachets.  I did keep saying that it felt more like a bladder infection but it was considered dehydration.  I know that with a colostomy dehydration is an extreme issue, so I was furious with myself that I had become dehydrated.  But the sachets didn’t help, in fact when I tried to drink one, I instantly threw it back up again – sexy!

Back to the medical center where it was agreed – it was a bladder and possibly now a kidney infection as well but not to worry, oral antibiotics and you should feel better in a day or two.  Sorted.

Not so.  By the next day I was convulsing, vomiting and had a temperature of 40c.  The medical team sent me straight to hospital.  I can’t lie, the journey to hospital was petrifying. It was an hour and a half away. I had to go by taxi on my own because it was too far for an ambulance to come and Husband had to stay with the kids. I had no idea what to expect when I got there – a posh private clinic, or like something off an episode of panorama.  The hospital was fine, basic, but fine and the staff were really wonderful.

Arriving at hospital I was delirious and writhing in pain. The doctors wouldn’t give me any medication until they ran tests, sorted my insurance and had my passport so the next hour was pretty awful and involved a lot of tears as I played the worlds smallest violin to myself.

Quick side note: I couldn’t be admitted until my insurance was sorted and they took my passport as a guarantee of payment which I didn’t have with me, the nurse seemed to think  couldn’t be admitted (more crying/violin playing) until thankfully someone was able to come and help me be admitted without my passport.  There was security on all the doors so no one can leave and they only removed the drip and cannula once the bill has been paid.  I understand why, but I really was reminded how lucky I am to live in a country with a National Health Service.  It might not be perfect but at least you never have to fear being turned away from a hospital like I nearly was, or worry about paying the bill – that truly is amazing.  But anyway – back to the story…

I was diagnosed with a chronic bladder, kidney and blood infections – septicaemia.  It was the septicaemia that was causing the convulsing and fitting.  I had non-stop drips running for three days with antibiotics, liquid and painkillers.  Honestly I can’t explain how ill I was.

The only other time I have felt that bad was when I was having chemo and a junior doctor gave me the wrong amount of morphine and I overdosed.

Because the hospital was so far from the hotel, it wasn’t easy for my family to visit so I spent most of the three days I was in there contemplating being severely ill again. Obviously it’s not like my cancer was back but being hooked up to machines day and night, having numerous scans and tests – it all felt far too familiar and took me back to an emotionally dark place.

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Getting to sit and watch the sunset

As there was a medical centre at my hotel, my consultant (after quite a lot of negotiation) agreed to let me convalesce in the hotel with the medical team supporting me.  I couldn’t get out of bed and was on a lot of medication but who cares… I was back and with my family for the last few days of holiday.

The day I was released I saw a blog post from Consciously Healthy which seemed to sum up just how I was feeling.  The author Emma was reflecting on how after a long recovery, she stopped giving her mind, body and soul the attention it deserved, till eventually her body gave-way again.  This was exactly how  felt.  I know I didn’t have cancer again and my life is full of people and things that I love, but slowly my life had returned to crazy busy with little down time and having septicaemia made me realise it was time to have a little rethink!

I will be writing more about how and ‘if’ the rethink happened in a few days so check back or sign up for part 2…

Are there any times in your life when you have had a rethink?  Or any tips for anyone else having a rethink?  Please leave a comment and share you stories with us.

Come join me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

With love XX

©

#100ActiveDays – Day 12

#100ActiveDays, Health & Beauty, Journey Back to Health

Day 12 – Roller City, Roller Baby!

Today was something a little different – ROLLER SKATING!

Was awesome, went with the kids to Roller City, they have a family time so perfect.  My kids had never been but picked it up surprisingly quickly and although I haven’t roller skated in about 20 years, it came back quickly.  It was just as much fun as it was when I was 12 meaning it didn’t feel like working out, although the amount my legs are already aching, I know I did!!

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Day 9, 10 and 11 I continued with my Davina DVD which is proving to be a God send for when its harder to get out or pouring down with rain!  But I am looking for more slightly unusual things to do – mix it up a bit so leave any ideas you have in the comments box which is at the bottom of the page, thanks!

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Kiddie Friendly Green Juice – AKA Dinosaur Juice

Delicious Healthy Recipes, Family Matters, Health & Beauty

I never thought in a month of Sunday’s I would be able to get my children to drink Green Juice, they seem to have built-in aversions to any vegetables so hiding them is key for me.

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I actually can’t take all the credit for this, as the starting block came from Peppa Pig (don’t all life affirming moments when you are under 5) and the episode when they made smoothies and juices including a Dinosaur Juice. Suddenly drinking some green wasn’t so unappealing but it still had to taste good. So I upped the fruit content et voila, the kids love it, phew!

This recipe is;

  • A splash of Filtered Water
  • 2 large handfuls of Kale
  • 2 sticks of Celery
  • 10 Strawberries
  • Half a medium Pineapple

I throw everything is my amazing Blendtec (new love of my life) and 40 secs later, have this wonderful juice.

Here is the Peppa Pig episode if you think your kids could benefit from learning about Dinosaur Juice!

Happy Juicing x

 

Clean Cocoa Coconut Bites

Delicious Healthy Recipes, Family Matters, Health & Beauty, Journey Back to Health

This is based on a recipe from Honestly Healthy a fabulous cookbook full of healthy clean recipes that I can’t recommend enough.  What I love most, especially during my 100 Healthy Days and since giving up processed sugar is the snacks and desserts section.  Yes they can be clean and here is one of my favourite at the moment….

I made mine slightly differently to the recipe to keep a cupcake type vibe which I knew would be more appealing to my little fussy easters.

  • 10 fresh pitted Dates
  • 50g Cacao powder
  • 25g raw Almonds
  • 200g Coconut Flakes
  • 30g Agave syrup
  • 1 tbsp Xylitol (I actually didn’t use this as I wasn’t able to get any in time)
  • 2 tbsp Water (I used filtered)
  • I also added tiny Coconut Flakes for dusting

This recipe couldn’t be easier – Pre-heat the over to 180

Chuck the dates, cacao powder and almonds into the blender and blend until it becomes a sticky paste (I don’t have a high powered blender so this did take a while and a bit of digging it out from under the blades and restarting but that was fine).

Chuck in everything else and blend till its a touch choppy consistency.

I popped my mixture into small cupcake cases, as I’ve said I knew my kids would prefer it and I thought it would make transporting them easier.

Pop in the oven for 10 minutes.

I then sprinkled very fine coconut flakes over the top.

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Allow the bites to cool completely before eating and there you have it.  Yummy goodness to pacify any sweet tooth and no nasties.  My husband actually didn’t believe I hadn’t included any sugar they tasted so good.

Happy eating! x

Day 36 – 100 Healthy Days – Keeping Momentum High

Health & Beauty, Journey Back to Health

There is no doubt that it was easier for me to stay healthy whilst in Spain.  The heat, swimming pool and delicious salads made it easier for me to eat healthy and move more everyday.  It’s when I’m home I seem to struggle, especially with sugar and caffeine.  I just get so tired with the kids etc… so it has to be done!

photoI know I said that I wasn’t going to ‘give up’ anything but as things are going quite well and want to keep moving in the right direction I decided to give up processed sugar.  As well as wanting to be healthier I have given up sugar due to the horrible fatigue I have been feeling ever since having cancer as a way to try and help combat that.  I am on day 6 now and it is going well.  Apart from on day 4 when I accidentally had sugar in a drink I didn’t realise it was in (we will come onto hidden sugars in due course) but basically….  I have been making some ‘clean’ desserts as fab alternatives, including these delicious Cocoa Coconut Bites that are also a hit with the children – win win!

Moving wise I have taken the plunge and hired a personal trainer to make sure I keep exercising regularly and get the most out of my workouts.  I will be starting with her on Thursday so in the mean time I keep moving and getting out and about and my Davina DVD’s whenever I can.  Even when it was raining at the weekend, hubby the kids and I all got our wellies on a headed into the woods for a long country walk, heaven!

So 36 days in I would say that one thing that has been interesting is the effect I believe it is having on my children.  They are getting out and about more and their diet has definitely improved as I find healthy or clean alternatives and – if I’m honest – I don’t want to be tempted by them eating something yummy I’m not allowed so I’m not giving them things I would have on occasion before.  All in all I believe it is having a positive impact on the whole family, which is only ever good news in my eyes.

The Re-Energiser Mini One Day Detox

Delicious Healthy Recipes, Health & Beauty, Journey Back to Health

My lovely friend Nikki is a little fountain of knowledge when it comes to leading a gorgeous healthy life.  A while ago she emailed me about a Re-Energising Mini One Day Detox she was planning telling me that she decided to do the detox because she had been feeling really sluggish and tired, she had seriously low energy and just generally felt worn out and run down.  She had also been drinking way to much coffee.

Basically feeling like she needed to press the reset button – think we can all relate to that feeling without really knowing what to do.

So what Nikki was doing on her day….

Firstly she chose a quiet day, when there wouldn’t be too many temptations, and then kept to this plan…

  • Morning
    • Green tea or warm water with lemon juice
    • Coffee enima (optional but think they can be bought on the internet)
    • Green Juice
    • 20 minutes of exercise.  This can be a jog, yoga, running up and down the stairs, just get moving!
  • Lunch
    • Green tea or warm water with lemon juice
    • Green Juice
    • Eat cucumber
  • Afternoon
    • Green Juice
    • Eat some cucumber
    • Do some gentle stretches
    • Relax or do some sorting around the house etc…
  • Dinner
    • Chamomile enima
    • Green Juice
    • Herbal tea
    • A good 8 hours of sleep
  • Drink 1.5 litres of water.  Nikki boiled the water, aded a green tea bag, waited for it to cool then put it back into the bottle to sip throughout the day.

Ever since she emailed me about it I have been dying to know how she got on because I actually think this sounds like quite a cool day.  I finally caught up with her this week and she said

“I felt fantastic, I can’t explain what a difference it made.  We had family staying the week before it had been so busy and I felt so depleted but after that day, I felt so well again and just boosted.  Plus the bloating I was feeling from too much indulging on rich food was gone.  I can’t recommend it enough.”

Well that’s me sold!  This will for perfectly into my 100 Healthy Days so I have actually scheduled my detox day in my diary for 3rd August so I don’t make any other plans and am going to have a quiet Sunday with the family where I can detox and recharge.  Will let you know how I get on but if you are feeling like you need a re-charge, maybe its worth a try?  What do you think?  Any detox tips?

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100 Healthy Days – And So It Begins

Delicious Healthy Recipes, Journey Back to Health

Today is Day 2 of 100 Healthy Days.  If you have read my blog previously you will probably know that I am a total sugar addict, adore carbs and live for cheese.  Anything that your not supposed to eat on a healthy diet, I am totally and irrevocably in love with.  And its true love, the kind that lasts a lifetime.  So how do I break up with this love?  I figure its by loving myself more?!

My Green Juice - Kale, Cucumber, Avocado, Celery and Pineapple

My Green Juice – Kale, Cucumber, Avocado, Celery and Pineapple

I’m tired, I have put on weight, I had cancer which has strong links to diet.  I go through phases of eating well then eating crap then somewhere in the middle and this is what has led me to 100 Healthy Days.  I have seen the 100 Happy Days on Facebook and 100 Active Days on Twitter, there seem to be many versions of this 100 day campaign going on so I decided to make my own that would suit me.  They say it takes 30 days to make or break a habit so I am hoping after 100, it will become standard behaviour, even to a sugar-freak like me – that’s the plan anyway?!

I have found many versions of healthy eating and exercise, all with varying degrees of strictness so here is what I am going to do – I am not ‘giving up’ anything.  I know me (surprisingly) and if I do that, I will do nothing but think about what I can’t have and be eating chocolate covered ice-cream before you can say Green Juice.  This for me will all be about making better and healthier choices; for me that means;

  • Making fruit and vegetables the bulk of my diet.
  • Drinking at least 2 litres of water a day.
  • Drinking a Green Juice everyday.
  • Switching white for wholemeal grains.
  • Choosing homemade food from fresh and clean ingredients.

That sort of thing.

Book-Cover-2X8lTc1A few websites I have found valuable in deciding how to do this are Deliciously Ella and 100 Days of Real Food (you are allowed wine in this one, result) and Cookbooks wise it’s, Honestly Healthy by Natasha Corrett and Vicki Edgson and Clean and Lean Cookbook by James Duggan.

I don’t believe good health just come’s down to food, it’s exercise too.  For that my mantra will be Move More!  So even if it is just to walk somewhere locally that I would normally drive too, that will be more movement and get me my ‘Move More’ gold star for the day… Ohhh, I may actually make a sticker chart to hang next to the kids,  such a geek, I know!

Sticker charts aside.  My first day went well eating wise and today has gone well moving wise.  Tomorrow I’m hoping for a bit more of a combination of the both.  But I am pleased, all moving in the right direction.  Just knowing I have decided to do this for 100 day’s seems to have made a big difference in my dedication to what I’m doing.

Coincidently, flicking through Good Housekeeping last night I found an article about giving anything up for 100 days and the impact it can have (what are the chances) and the author was specifically referencing the website Give It 100, you can do absolutely anything as long as it’s for 100 days and the site encourages users to post a daily blog charting their progress.  They are inspirational and worth a look even if you aren’t sure about going ahead, or maybe you will be inspired to do 100 of something else.

Clean Banana Breakfast Pancakes Recipe under Delicious Healthy Recipes

Clean Banana Breakfast Pancakes
Recipe under Delicious Healthy Recipes

Needless to say I will be updating my progress intermittently throughout the next 100 day’s, don’t worry you won’t be getting daily updates, but if you don’t already you can follow this blog by popping your email address in the box to the right (on a computer, below on your phone) and clicking follow and get updates straight to your inbox.

You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter, for in the moment thoughts!

Wish me luck! Nx

Spring Health & Beauty Tip 26 – Salad in a Jar!

Delicious Healthy Recipes, Health & Beauty, Health and Beauty Tips, Journey Back to Health

Easy, healthy lunch on the move!

Spring Health & Beauty Tip 26 – Salad in a Jar!

If you are taking lunch somewhere, I think one of the most of putting things about salad is that it either required a big box, or you have to take all the bits with you to keep it fresh, the lettuce goes soggy in the dressing etc, etc….

Well not anymore!  Since hearing about this idea I’ve become a little bit obsessed by it, partly because they just look so pretty and I love a jar!

Basically you want to make sure the dressing and harder parts are at the bottom and leafy bits at the tops so they don’t mix until you are ready to eat your salad so,

Take your empty jar….

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  • Pour in your salad dressing
  • Then add hard chopped vegetables like carrots, cucumber, bell peppers etc…
  • Next you add your grains and pastas including things like chickpeas, cooked rice or pasta etc…
  • Softer vegetables such as avocado and tomotoes, or any soft fruits like strawberries or dried apricots etc… go in next
  • This is where you would add nuts like pine nuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds and any softer more absorbent grains such as quinoa, Cous Cous etc…
  • Finally, fill the rest of your jar with lovely leafy greens.

You can add meat, fish, hard boiled egg cheese etc… but just be aware that you would only want to add those on the day you are eating the salad.  But otherwise, salads can be made a few days in advance so you can do a few at a time and grab one in the morning as you rush out the door.

Do you have any delicious salad receipts?  Let me know in the comments box.

Happy eating x

Spring Health & Beauty Tip 24 – Super Smoothie

Delicious Healthy Recipes, Health & Beauty, Health and Beauty Tips

Love a Super Smoothie

Spring Health & Beauty Tip 24 – Super Smoothies

I love a smoothie.  I just love imagining my cells being flooded with goodness as I drink them.  So yummy and the fruit helps settle my sweet-tooth as well.

My real tip though is use Coconut Water in place of Milk.  Great if you want to cut down on lactose and Coconut water is fantastic and rehydrating your body naturally.  And the Coconut flavour goes great with fruit.

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My Favourite Smoothie Recipe

  • 250ml of Coconut Water
  • 10 Strawberries
  • Handful of Blueberries
  • 1 Banana
  • Tablespoon of Oats (keeps you fuller for longer)

Also, hoping the summer weather stays, you can chuck a lot of ice cubes in to make it seriously refreshing.

Happy smoothing x