Breast cancer changed my life in the most positive way!
I was diagnosed aged 35 with no family history of cancer of any kind. It was an instant steep learning curve but one I embraced from the start. I had always been very sporty, ate well and lived very healthy or so I thought at the time. I had always been into health and healing through non conventional ways so it was a hard decision deciding to do Chemo, getting my eggs frozen and doing Radiotherapy. I decision I would no longer personally have taken.
The doctors told me I had no time to decide and I must start treatment instantly. I now regret putting my body through the overdose of toxic chemicals as I believe like a growing number of other people that I could have healed through non conventional western ways. But in going through chemotherapy etc I can now relate to others that go through the same and help educate them in my mission that is dedicated to NonToxic Practice(TM) and prevention of Cancer.
Five years on I run Hello Love. The Home, Studio and Dojo at 62-64 Southampton Row in Holborn London. I set up with Kevin, my Cancer Wingman and partner in crime. It is also the spiritual home of my breast cancer charity the Hello Beautiful Foundation.
Prevention is key! Prevention of a re-occurrence is also so important. At Hello Love the basis of this practice takes place on 3 levels:
Mindfulness and positive emotional awareness as a means to living freely without stress and anxiety.
Organic plant-based diets that are free from animal proteins, processed sugars and genetic modifications. This extends into natural cosmetics
and finding products that have not been laced with parabens, pesticides and other chemical compounds.
Qi Gong, Sound Massage, Meditation and other holistic forms to realign the spiritual center and unify our purpose.
Over the last 5 years I followed this practice and dramatically changed my lifestyle. Its not a quick win it takes time, dedication and commitment but the rewards are immense. The way my body feels and the energy I now have is greater than I have ever experienced.
I started by throwing away all of my cosmetics. I had hundreds of pounds worth of everyday brands like Clinique and Mac make up. So many cosmetics from shampoo, toothpaste, hair dyes and nail vanish contain harmful chemicals including Parabens, Sodium Laureth Sulphate and many harmful detergents. Sadly my hospital prescribed a lot of these to me during Radiotherapy. Instead of helping to release the radiation they suggested rubbing my breasts in Petrolatum laced cream that would not allow my skin to breathe. Luckily my constant research helped me to be knowledgeable not to use what they were prescribing. I’m now starting to make my own cosmetics as nothing is as pure and healthy than knowing 100% what is going into what you use. We even use NonToxic paint at Hello Love so we are not breathing in so many chemicals on a day to day basic.
My food regime has changed gradually over the last 5 years. 3 years ago I would say I was eating super healthy and I am sure in another 3 I will think what I am eating right now isn’t that great. It’s about constant learning and growing and not stressing over anything! If one day you are dying for a cake then have it.
I only buy organic food. I make my own organic muesli on a morning and add some berries. I cut out diary due to the estrogen levels in animal products and I make my own nut milks. Bought nut milks often contain cancer causing emulsifiers and everything you make yourself is better than buying as you know 100% what is going into it. I eat a plant based diet. My plate is always full of colour. There is so much choice, variety and my taste buds are so intense after getting rid of processed foods, preservatives, sugar and meat from my diet. I also love juicing. We have an organic juice bar, tea house and vegan cafe at Hello Love and follow Gerson therapy of cold pressed juices which are full of nutrients and healing qualities.
Finally I focus on my soul. These days I work more than ever but I make sure im never stressed about it. If the train is jammed full I will wait and get on the next one or wait for the next 6 to come before I stress to squeeze on. In other words I go around as stress free as possible.
Being in the moment is key. Not worrying about the past or the future but only concentrating on the exact moment you are in. At Hello Love we offer a range of holistic practices that I practice myself. Meditation, Qi Gong, Sound massage, Gong Baths, Reflexology, Aromatherapy, yoga etc. The more I practice the more I lead a healthy lifestyle to help not only prevent a re-occurrence but help prevent so many illnesses.
I can now say I love every minute of life, the good and the bad and I love all I am learning from my cancer experience.
“I’m sorry to say Mr Blair, but you have a brain tumour. It’s the size of a large egg, and we are going to aim to operate, perhaps some radiotherapy, chemotherapy, but if theres nothing else we can do, we will just keep you comfortable.”
As my husband was given those words I felt myself sinking into the floor. The world seemed to go slowly as I looked up at his Mum, perhaps expecting to catch her, but she just looked white. I looked to Ross, he seemed shocked, but calm.
That’s Ross though and there really wasn’t anything more to say.
That was the beginning.
He had been having headaches for a few weeks, had been going through depression and mood swings, but we had a new baby and we put it down to that.
Ross’ Mum, Dionne and I drove home without him and the car was eerily silent. No words could express what we were feeling.
Pure shock and fear. Deep, deep fear.
Getting back to my house we were met with Matty, Ross’s younger brother (who had been babysitting my two girls, while we had gone into hospital) he asked if everything was OK and his Mum told him the news. We just hugged and cried. Terrified.
Matty and Dionne left to go and see his sister and for a short time I was alone.
I phoned my parents and sister and delivering the news to others made me sob. What was happening? He had gone in with headaches!
The truth is, I new it was going to be bad, I never for one second thought it would be this, but I knew something was going on, something bigger.
I phoned my agent and left her a voice message. As a TV actress I had just finished filming BBC Casualty and had booked a film. I wanted to let her know that couldn’t happen, I just wanted to tie up loose ends, be present in what was happening.
I looked around at my house and I wondered what it all meant.
What would happen with us? The girls? How would I cope with this?
Nothing seemed to make sense and there was no answers.
I am an extremely positive person and I just knew I had to focus on one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. Clear everything, seek help from those around us and be there for Ross emotionally.
We have an extremely good bunch of people around us and over the coming weeks (with Ross’ instruction) a schedule was put together and everyone took turns having the girls. We wanted to make sure they didn’t get embroiled in any of it.
Brooke was about 3 years and Texas 1, so they couldn’t really understand, but I knew they would sense something if they were around us.
Everyone chipped in, they took so much pressure off us and those that did that will always have a place in my heart. The girls nursery, lead by the owner Steph, took the girls for months, free of charge. That is the good in the world, that is humanity.
Someone from America contacted me in the early days and we spoke online. This lady had grade 3 brain cancer and she was very pragmatic about it all. She gave me the advice “This can still be your life, it will be brain cancer life now, but it doesn’t have to define you”
This stuck with me and as an advanced practitioner of The Law of Attraction and someone who knows that what you focus your mind on, you bring into your reality, I practiced what I preached.
When people tried to tell me how horrendous chemo was going to be for Ross, I said “He will be fine, we will focus on that when it’s here”
People mean well, but they often impart their own fears onto you and that just wasn’t how this was going to run. Some may see that as naive, but you’re wrong. Ross hasn’t read a single thing online, or otherwise into brain cancer, chemo, radiotherapy, brain surgery and because of this he doesn’t know what he is supposed to feel, he just feels it if it’s there.
He has been remarkable. Two brains surgeries, chemo, radio, seizures, doctors poking and prodding, having his driving licence taken off him. He has defied what people said.
He has left intense chemotherapy to go and play football, or ride his bike. He would go into chemo and say, “shall I breeze this one?” and I would, of course, tell him “yeah, do it! Why not?”
You will never hear Ross say “This is a nightmare” or “why me?”
Quite the opposite, you will hear him say “Why not me? None of us are immune, it’s just science” or “I’m bored if it now, it’s gone anyway” “They keep telling me I’ve got cancer, but I can’t feel it!”
He is never a victim, WE are not victims.
As the partner of someone going through stuff it can sometimes feel like you are watching a movie you cannot do anything about. You feel frustrated for them, want to take away any pain, but yet you are left to watch. I had to learn to let go of trying to control Ross. I wanted to tell him what to eat, what he could and couldn’t do.
I was scared, there is so much information out there (often conflicting) and I just wanted him to be OK. You have to let your loved one make decisions or you will find your relationship will shift.
It does shift naturally anyway, as the partner, or carer you take on roles you didn’t have before. Believe me, I was not chief driver in our house and I don’t relish in it now. At the beginning everything was down to me and although we have tremendous support, it felt alien.
Nearly 3 years into his diagnosis and he is currently having chemo again, you wouldn’t know there was anything going on in his body. It’s hard to imagine what we have been told is reality, so we live like it’s not.
It’s not our reality right now and we live with hope. We are very realistic people, we know its not an easy one, but we try to live in an authentic way and mix practical (doing a will and power of attorney etc) with living our normal life and hoping for the best.
It’s the letting go and the fear that stops most, but the reality is that MANY people LIVE with cancer. It isn’t free of cancer, or death. It’s upkeep, its appointments, but in-between you live.
The advice I could give to others going through this is to block out negativity, focus on your loved ones and being as normal as possible, don’t try and force new ideas onto them and find time for you.
You are useless if you go down. You have to have time out and it’s a good idea to let people know you don’t want to talk about cancer all of the time (or people REALLY will)
Remember cancer isn’t personal, it doesn’t ‘only happen to the good ones’, you don’t have to be defined by this, in fact there can be positives to come out of it.
Strengthening your bond with your loved one
Seeing the wonderful side of humanity in the nurses, doctors and others around you that offer help.
The strength that you can find within you will stay with you forever. You learn compassion and empathy for others and a deeper understanding of whats important.
I had no experience of cancer before Ross and no real understanding of the impact it has, now I know that people’s lives get shook up and rung out and I want to help.
My approach isn’t for everyone though, I’m pretty straight talking, no bullshit and will not have negative chitter chatter. Say to yourself everyday “I will work this out” and get on with you day.
I have been thoroughly changed by Ross’s cancer diagnosis and I am not the person I was 3 years ago. I have seen and learnt things that will stay with me now forever and I am very strong.
As a carer, or someone close to someone with cancer, I am on your side, I am holding your hand, I alright there with you, I know, I KNOW and you are not alone.
Sending strength and love to all.
Please come and say hello via Twitter; @hollymatthews, Instagram; @hollymatthews84, My Facebook page; I am Holly Matthews, or my YouTube; HollyMatthewsonline
Anxiety is something that touches the lives of all of us who go through a cancer journey. It begins with getting your head round a diagnosis and the anxious feelings that accompany coming to terms with impending treatment you don’t want to be having. It continues with the stress of waiting for the results of scans that show how successful your treatment has been. To me this was nothing compared to the anxiety produced by feelings emerging after I had gone into remission. Feelings that I had bottled up in order to face the situation I found myself in and to be strong for my husband, child and family. Feelings that would rise up unexpectedly when life didn’t quite go to plan.
Yet, throughout this challenging time there was one thing that was guaranteed to lift me out of this, even if only for a short time: art. Ever since I can remember there is nothing I have enjoyed more than sitting down with a pencil and a piece of paper and capturing whatever is in my head. As a child I would sit and draw what I had seen in nature. I drew so much that I became quite skilled at it. As a teenager, my love of doodling got me through some tricky years when I needed to escape from the world. I carried on as an adult, not always being able to find the time to put paintbrush or pencil to paper but enjoying every moment when I did.
And of course most recently, I used art to get me through some very tricky moments after being diagnosed with non Hodgkin lymphoma last year. I sat in my hospital bed wondering how on earth I would get my head round having to have chemotherapy in a few days’ time. A friend had thoughtfully brought me in a sketch pad and pencils and I spent many hours drawing pictures of my baby son, who I only saw at evening visiting time. It didn’t take away the difficulty of the situation, but it took me away to another place, and my anxiety lifted.
Once at home, undergoing treatment and then moving into remission, I didn’t find it so easy to make time to create artworks. Apart from looking after my own health, my son was my priority and the only real time I had for myself was when he napped. The only way round this I could find was giving myself fifteen minutes each day to draw. This was enough and slowly, as each day passed, ideas in my head for paintings came to life. At this time of day, apart from needing to sleep myself, I felt a real need to switch my mind off and art helped me to do this. To me, it has always felt like a kind of meditation. By focussing on representing what I am drawing on a page, it is almost as if I am switching off a part of my brain. Objects become shapes and curves and worries become distant memories.The act of being creative not only reduces anxiety but also makes me feel that I am moving on to a new place in my life, something so necessary after what I have been through.
Art therapy can be valuable in dealing with difficult thoughts and feelings that need to emerge. I recently attended an art therapy taster session organised by the charity Victoria’s Promise for our women’s cancer network. We were encouraged to create a picture showing what the group meant to us. Mine depicted rays of sunshine surrounded by flowers. I felt this was representative of the way the group was supporting me and the other ladies in moving forward in life positively. After looking more closely at a swirl I had drawn in the centre of the picture, I realised that it represented a cancer cell, present as a reminder of the anxiety that I was still going through as I moved forward in life. I had not expected this exercise to be so revealing in such a simple way.
I do not believe that there are people who are incapable of being creative. We all have our own ways of expressing ourselves. It is possible to learn how to draw through various techniques which involve seeing what you are drawing as a collection of lines or shapes rather than familiar objects. Many people are told when they are young that they cannot draw or produce a good piece of artwork, which leads to a feeling of inadequacy. Adult colouring books have made art accessible to everyone, however, and are especially popular, perhaps because focusing on details in a picture and choosing colours to fill in the shapes can be so relaxing and therapeutic.
In the spirit of art and creativity helping to overcome anxiety, I am planning a charity art exhibition together with SamSpaces. This will not only raise money but also awareness of the journey that cancer can take us on, whether that be during or post treatment. We are planning to exhibit work by artists whose lives have been touched by cancer, whether as a patient or as a supporter, friend or relative. A section of the exhibition will be devoted to work by those who do not consider themselves to be artists, but have expressed through art what they are going through. If you are interested in participating, please email Sam or comment here……. Watch this space for more information!
‘Mindfulness is an integrative, mind body based approach that helps people to manage their thoughts and feelings.’
Mental Health Foundation
In an effort to stay ‘mindful’ of the influx of information out there about this very topic, I have decided to get straight to the point and perhaps be a little more pro active with this particular blog!
On looking online at the mountains of research there is on mindfulness as a recovery tool, I felt totally overwhelmed, I literally didn’t know where to start, so in an effort to save you guys the same (ever so mild!) panic attack, which of course would completely defeat the point, I thought I would blog a list of the mindful apps/books and courses that one can dip in and out of but that can also genuinely aid healing and recovery, especially after cancer treatment, without requiring a trip to a monastery in deepest darkest Tibet!
I’m going to dive in with the mobile option! I have to admit that when it comes to mindfulness apps, there are a lot out there! I could write a list an arms length but the one that has totally rocked it for me and actually has me practicing for three minutes at least, every night, is Calm: Meditation techniques for stress reduction.
I love the choice of scenes that fill your screen and their matching soothing sound affects. I have been known to simply have that playing in the background while working – this lot have ‘calm’ down!
The choice of meditations are inspiring and very practical, such as nine seven day programmes on topics such as managing stress or seven days of gratitude as well as a selection of times for various individual meditations on themes including loving kindness or deep sleep. There is also a kids option too (which my nearly six year old loves, though I cant promise that she keeps still through them!) Some are guided while others are not, but I have found this app to be the most affective in keeping me in a mindful routine.
Mindfulness is a way of learning to relate directly to whatever is happening in your life, a way of taking charge of your life, of doing something for yourself
I did this eight week course four years ago and loved it. I had to commute from Surrey to Fulham but it was worth the journey, even while undergoing seven weeks of radiotherapy! It is a very thorough course, exploring all the different forms of mindful practice and the theory and study behind it all. I loved finishing every two hour class with a mindful exercise, mostly lying down under blankets and listening to Caroline Hoffman, the leader of the course, guide us through body scans.
The homework is the key to the effectiveness of the course. They say it takes thirty two days to form a new habit so you are encouraged to practice every day and are given the appropriate CD’s and reading to help you. I found the homework a real distraction while waiting for my daily radiotherapy and it helped me feel less anxious and give the exercises a really realistic framework to practice them in.
We explored mindful eating, mindful walking, sitting and even speaking. From a post cancer point of view, it was the perfect course for me at that time, as everyone there had been affected by cancer so making for a very bonding and sharing environment.
My only negative feedback of a mindful course like this was that it merely felt I had scratched the surface of mindfulness and I felt like I needed to do another course to explore some of the themes more fully.
‘I love my clients and the process of teaching mindfulness – although, in reality, there is no ‘teacher’ and we discover the ‘learning’ together.’
– Gill Johnson, Mindful Elephant
For those based more around the Surrey area, there is a fantastic mindfulness course based in Godalming called Mindful Elephant (chosen because the name was quirky and memorable!)
Gill Johnson is a mindfulness teacher and facilitator for MBSR/MBCT group courses for the general public, schools, hospitals and workplaces. After a chronic pain condition Gill found herself attracted to the work of the famous Jon Kabat-Zinn and discovered links that helped her deal with her own physical pain. She started to share them with hospital patients as a volunteer and she found the improvements so dramatic that she enrolled on a training course.
Making mindfulness accessible to everybody is something Gill feels very passionately about and she is involved in a number of other initiatives though as she admits, it is difficult to keep up with the ever evolving research that is coming out of the rapidly growing area.
NEWS FLASH! Gill is offering a •• discount •• to any Samspace readers who might like to enrol on her course starting OCTOBER 12th so if you are interested please feel free to contact Gill; www.mindfulelephant.com
Tel: 07785 921 950
‘It is a real honour to hold a safe space and offer guidance for people to explore mindfulness’
I came across Shelila and her amazing Lollipop Wellbeing a few years ago, through social media. Sheila has a huge presence on twitter and runs courses in the Manchester area and occasionally Brighton. Her tips and posts on social media are a brilliant way of continuing a mindful approach to life while not on a course or afterwards.
Sheila set up Lollipop to provide accessible support for people who want to reduce stress and improve their wellbeing when it saved her life after approaching burnout from work related stress. For those who are not local she provides as many free resources as possible via her website including audio meditations and a monthly practice plan combining ideas for mindful living.
Shelia’s main focus within her mindful teaching is around self kindness, which of course, is something we are all in a little need of! Her recent blog ‘Everyday Mindfulness’ will resonate with a lot of us; http://www.everyday-mindfulness.org/growing-fearless-mindfulness-public-speaking-and-performance-anxiety/
Sheila discovered the self kindness area of mindfulness by accident. The more she deepened her practice the more it helped her with things like anxiety, grief and self criticism. When she attended a Breathworks Mindfulness for Stress course after experiencing a lot of stress at work and in her personal life, she realised she wanted to teach because it felt like paying it forward. She is now a Breathwork associate as well as a Mindfulness teacher and as well as being a qualified personal coach working one to one with clients too, she is incredible active.
Believe it not, I was given this book my (very mindful) mum in law! I love the title!
Written by the man himself, Jon Kabat-Zinn, this explores all the ways we can include mindfulness in our lives, whether we be a beginner or professional! It maps out the ways of cultivating a more personal mindful frame of mind where we can appreciate each moment at a time and help make moments for rich and full.
Jon Kabat-Zinn is also the founding director of the renowned Stress Reduction Clinic and Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He teaches mindfulness and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in various venues around the world and has written a zillion books on it all (but this one, in my opinion, is one of the easiest reads!)
BOOK – Mindfulness; A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in A Frantic World
‘This is precisely focused to help ordinary people boost their happiness and confidence levels whilst also reducing anxiety, stress and irritability.’
Another good read, this book gives a fantastic background to all things Mindful with a focus on more mindful based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) This means that the practice is more about doing a little every day for there to be any sort of effect and they help you out with a little CD in the back of the book to guide you through setting out a new mindful routine. It is a great one to have to hand if doing any mindfulness courses.
It is specifically for people who just want to include mindful practice in their daily life for their own wellbeing rather than for depression or a specific problem and it is recommended by the UK’s very own National Institute of Clinical Excellence – in other words, it works!!
A mindfulness course may not be your thing but if getting creative is, have a go at this. Easy to find, easy to do and perfect at helping you tune into that tiny, undiscovered space that might be waiting for liberation (and a little clarity!)
There are umpteen colouring books on the market at the moment. I have seen a huge selection at supermarkets as well as bookshops such as Waterstones but whether you sit down and do it for five minutes or an hour, alone or with your child, it is a very easy and effective way of getting some space and mindful time into your day.
There is so much out there on this topic but I hope these ideas may be useful. I have to admit that I do not always find it easy to come back to my breathe and focus on the now but I have also learnt that the practice of mindfulness is exactly that, practice. It doesn’t need to be hours and hours every day but whether you prefer to find encouragement alone with an app or with a group in a class, it is definitely having a positive impact on many of us on many levels and if we can connect with that breathe on a regular basis and oxygenate our bodies and minds, healing has no limits.
“Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing.”
– Jon Kabat-Zinn
In this months guest blog, I want to introduce the lovely Jaelithe. Jaelithe runs a website MrsMojo.co.uk, helping busy mums feel less frazzled and more fabulous (Details at the bottom of the blog) We haven’t met but we have spoken over email a few months ago and I wanted to share her story and spread the word on Bowen Therapy which has helped her own recovery on a huge scale and helped her listen to her body and feel more confident and empowered.
“When you are going through hell, keep on going. Never never never give up.” Winston Churchill
I’m Jaelithe Leigh-Brown. In the last two years I’ve had a personal bereavement, a breast cancer scare, major damage to my knees – so much so that the consultant told me that I would end up in a wheelchair by the time I’m 45 – I’m 38 and this last year I’ve had pins and needles and numbness in my hands so bad that I struggled to hold a toothbrush and get my kids ready for school. The diagnosis appeared to be lupus, but fortunately I’ve just had it confirmed that I’ve got carpal tunnel syndrome.
Throughout this challenge I’ve learned a major lesson which has reshaped my life and my business. I’ve learned that I need to be kind to myself and love myself. As a coach I always taught this to women and I thought I was being kind to myself, but the constant high impact exercise and non-stop work ethic has certainly had a part in my ailments and feeling of overwhelm.
I’ve learned to listen to my body, to meditate every day, walk, cycle or do my yoga and to take time out to have fun. With this new attitude I have redesigned my online Fabulously Fit Bootcamp for women. Instead of being another health and fitness course, it now focuses on loving you.
As I listened to my body I realised I was still suffering from a car crash that I had had as a teenager. An old man had driven into the back of me, causing me to have whiplash. I’ve had a bad neck ever since and I’m sure that the symptoms in my knees and wrists are linked. My posture is always iffy and the noises my joints can make going up and downstairs are cringe-worthy.
My search for an alternative therapy while I was waiting for test results took me to our local beauty room where I asked about reflexology. I’d had this when I was pregnant with baby number one and had really enjoyed it. The therapist said to try Bowen therapy as she had suffered from muscle spasms for years, had three sessions of Bowen therapy and has never had a muscle spasm since. She warned me that it felt like nothing was happening during the session and that the day after her treatment she felt like she had been hit by a car.I made an appointment with the Bowen therapist and was lucky to get a session within two days of calling.
So what is the Bowen Technique and how can it help you? It all started in Australia with a man called Tom Bowen who wanted to be a doctor. He developed Bowen therapy and by the sixties he was treating 13,000 patients a year. The theory is that the light pressure and rolling over your muscles and connective tissue sends a message to the brain which then starts to heal the parts of the body that need to be healed. It’s just like flicking on the switch that needs to be flicked for you to get better. The Bowen Technique can work well for most joint issues or sports injuries including frozen shoulder, backache, whiplash injuries, sciatica, knee and ankle pain and hamstring injuries. It can also work for those of you suffering from migraines, asthma, hay fever and arthritis. It even works for infant colic and for bed wetting in older kids as it can encourage the stimulation of the hormones needed to help stop bed wetting. Sessions cost from £30 depending on where you are and some GPs can refer you for treatment.
According to www.thebowentechnique.com cancer patients are able to have Bowen therapy. The website states ‘there are some ideas that you shouldn’t do lymphatic work with cancer patients, but this is not borne out by evidence or by the many lymphoedema nurses and physios working with cancer patients day in day out.’ Bowen therapy can treat issues that don’t relate to cancer such as sleeping problems, back ache, mental fatigue etc. The website suggests to ‘try not to focus on the cancer, but instead what the problem is that is being presented instead. “What’s the problem?” is always the question; “cancer” is never an answer which we can realistically progress to treatment from.’
My therapist, Kerry Cassells agrees that Bowen Therapy can be beneficial for anyone with cancer as it helps to reset/reboot the nervous system, encouraging it to switch off the fight/flight nervous system and switch on the relaxing part of the nervous system (parasympathetic nervous system). Some moves can also affect the lymphatic system too. She advises to seek medical guidance to determine whether or not it’s for you.
So, how was it for me?
The day before my treatment I met up with a friend who I hadn’t seen for a few months and we chatted about what was happening in our lives. I happened to mention that I was going to have Bowen therapy and my friend admitted that she had had it after her second pregnancy as her hips and back ached as she breastfed. She described it exactly as the therapist had and said that it felt like the Bowen therapist just flicked you and waited, then flicked you and waited. She too said that the next day she felt like she had been hit by a bus and after just three sessions her aches and pains had vanished.
I was really excited to try Bowen therapy and the therapist, Kerry chatted to me about my issues and then looked at how I stood, lay down and sat, as well as the movement I had in my neck and shoulders. Then I lay on a massage table and Kerry applied a light pressure and rolling movement to each of my main acupressure points. As she did this I felt like there was a hot water bottle all over my body. She said that some people feel nothing, others feel warmth and others feel an energy around them. She laughed as she said this because she is a registered nurse and is used to science and concrete evidence for everything she does, but says it’s as if she can see the energy around people. The warmth I felt was such an amazing feeling to feel.
When it came to working on my neck and shoulders my neck was so stiff, especially on the right hand side. Kerry described it as a metal coil. She had to work on it more than in the other areas and said my body was holding on to a lot of trauma. She discovered too that my pelvis was misaligned, which probably explains part of the trouble I’ve had with my knees which has passed onto my hips and she said that my left shoulder was lower than my right, which made my head and neck hold more tension in them. Again, this would have been from the car crash I had as a teenager.
I left feeling very chilled out and the warm feeling stayed with me for most of the day. I was advised to carry on with my exercise as normal, drink lots of water and not have any other treatments for seven days.
I slept quite well that night, but when I woke up the next day it felt like I had been in a car crash all over again. It was funny, as it was all in my left side, whereas after the first crash I had it was all in my right side. I couldn’t turn my neck or head fully and my lower back hurt like mad. This lasted for a day or two and gradually I felt fine again. After that first session my pins and needles and the numbness had improved.
My second session was exactly the same. I lay down and Kerry applied a small amount of pressure and flicking to the key acupressure points of my body. Again I felt a lovely warm sensation. The following day I ached all over again, but not as bad as the day after my first session. The aches and pains gradually disappeared over the next few days and the pins and needles were nowhere near as bad as they had been. In fact, they almost disappeared.
I did want to have a final session with Kerry, but my husband’s job took us away from Scotland to Yorkshire. Had I not have had the sessions, I believe that my symptoms would have been unmanageable. I had been packing and lifting boxes on a daily basis and the numbness had got so bad I couldn’t even hold the parcel tape and scissors, never mind lift anything heavy. Thanks to the Bowen Therapy I managed to get all the packing and heavy lifting done and I stayed calm throughout the move!
With all of this in mind I have stayed committed to being healthy, happy and confident. It has been tempting to drown my sorrows in chocolate and wine, but instead I’ve thought about this experience as my body’s way of telling me that it’s not happy. I’ve continued to give it the best food that I can and have continued with my exercise program that doesn’t punish my body. I’ve stayed happy by learning to live in the moment. I’ve talked about this for years, but have never set aside time to do it properly. I’m one of those people who work through their ‘to do’ list at full pelt and then settle down about half an hour before bed to do something for me. Yesterday I had lots of work to do, but I really wanted to snuggle up on the couch and watch a film with my three young kids. They normally just get half an hour of TV each day, so they jumped at the chance. We snuggled up and watched ‘Enchanted’ and it was bliss. Yes, my jobs are still there to do, but I feel so much happier and more fulfilled for the time I had with my kids. Finally, I feel more confident as I am learning to give up my need to control everything and am trusting that things will work out fine. That’s made me more confident with my business too – I will achieve my goals at the perfect time. I also believe that the right treatment will turn up at the right time for me and so far it has. My knees are much better, my posture is getting there and my pins and needles are being managed by wrist splints at night. This belief may sound a bit ‘far out’ there, but the option of worrying and living in fear is not going to do me, my body, my family, my friends or my business any good.
I hope that by sharing this experience I have helped you in your outlook. You can feel bogged down by what’s going on in your life or by what you have to do. For the week ahead really try to live in the moment and just chill out and do something that makes you feel happy. If you feel like not doing housework for one day to have coffee with a friend, then do it. None of us know what lies around the corner, so let’s make the most of today.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Bowen therapy then check out www.bowen-technique.co.uk I’d also like to say a big thank you to Kerry who worked her magic on me. Check out her Facebook page kerrysbowenbodyworks or contact her on 07775982426.
About Jaelithe Leigh-Brown
Jaelithe helps mums like you be healthy, happy and confident that you’re doing a great job. You don’t need to be unhappy with your body, or feel pressure to lose weight or be a certain size. You don’t need to get bogged down with housework or dealing with squabbling kids. You don’t need to wish for more hours in the day to get through your ‘to do’ list and you don’t need to doubt your skills as a mum, or judge yourself every day. You don’t have to be a Supermum to be a super mum.
Jaelithe shows you how to enjoy everything being a mum entails with tips, advice and online Bootcamps that help frazzled mums become fabulous. Check out www.mrsmojo.co.uk.
My mission is to empower women to be…
·Motivated to be all that they can
·In love with the life they have
My goal for this year is to help frazzled mums who have a never-ending ‘to do’ list feel fabulous, so that you can be healthy, happy and confident, so that you can have quality ‘me time’, time with your kids and time with your partners. Get started with my FREE meal planner for busy mums. http://www.mrsmojo.co.uk/busymumsmealplanner
If you have ever considered EFT as a form of therapy, have a read of this fab guest blog by my friend and fellow survivor Emily Hodge. Emily has had an amazing experience with EFT herself and is now trained as a Life Coach, helping others after challenging times including cancer. Read here how EFT helped her and how it works.
By Emily Hodge, NLP Life Coach (MSc Health Psychology)
If you’d have told me two years ago that I’d be tapping on parts of my body to ‘release energy’ and repeating funny phrases whilst I was doing it, I’d have probably laughed in your face. If you’d have then said I’d go on to use this technique with other people in coaching sessions (where they want to!), I’d have told you to shut the front door. Yet, here I am, doing both these things.
I first found out about Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT, also known as Tapping) not when the Daily Mail reported that Lily Allen used it to quit smoking but when I was beginning to understand more about the tools and techniques that would help me recover emotionally from my cancer experience. During it, I had all the traditional works (surgeries, chemo and other drugs) and also complementary support from acupuncture, massage and reflexology to help with sleep, stress and general wellbeing.
This is no miracle healing story, I wanted and needed all the conventional drugs I could get my hands on but also knew that my mind needed holistic support. When it was all over, even a few years later, I knew I had some thinking patterns that were stuck and weren’t helping me, and wanted to venture further than the traditional coaching and therapy type support I was finding.
So when I saw a friend’s EFT video, whilst it looked a little strange, I was open to trying and engaging with it. I was particularly drawn to the idea that it combines the physical and emotional aspects of our experiences, helping us to re-programme memories and thoughts that are destructive, by using both the body and words. I also liked how, once I’d learnt the technique, I could use it independently any time I liked, unlike other talking or body therapies like acupuncture.
Finding EFT videos online and then a practitioner, I realised it was something I responded to really well. It allowed me to focus on specific parts of a memory or thoughts that were troubling me, and to pick it apart gently without ‘flooding’ into the whole event. I loved it so much, and felt so much better – for me, lighter, brighter and calmer – that I went on to train in it and use it as a tool within my coaching practice with others.
What is EFT?
EFT is a form of non-needle acupuncture deriving from a Chinese medicine background of understanding the meridian energy points in the body. Tapping along these in particular sequences is said to bring about energy shifts, resulting in difficult memories or feelings being experienced differently e.g. a reduction in anxious thoughts or a change in an experience of pain. EFT can be done with a trained practitioner and also on your own once you’ve learnt the technique. The points you tap on are shown below:
The words spoken during the tapping are as important as the tapping itself. The set-up phrase leads the topic of what will be tapped on. There are two parts to this phrase. Part 1 is an acknowledgement of the issue you’re facing. It should be as specific as possible, so rather than ‘even though I have anxiety’ being more specific is preferable, such as ‘even though I have anxiety about going back to hospital’. Part 2 is the acceptance of this feeling. This isn’t trying to make you be OK with the feeling, nor is it to cause you guilt that you don’t already. Rather, it’s a way of giving yourself kindness in acknowledging you feel this way. This is usually ‘I deeply and completely accept myself’ or ‘I accept this anyway’ or even ‘I’m OK’ – whatever feels right at the time.
The set up phrase is completed three times whilst tapping on the karate chop point (see to the EFT diagram above), to focus the session. The full tapping sequence is then completed using key words from the set up phrase. You tap on the points at the speed and strength that feels comfortable. Before we start, we also rate the intensity of the identified issue on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most intense, to understand the level before starting tapping.
What’s the outcome?
Most people report feeling differently about their issue after a few rounds of tapping and talking. It may be that the feeling or emotion sits physically somewhere different in the body, or a pain they had before feels different, or is even gone.
If you’re working with a practitioner, they would continue to ask questions and further look at the detail of the issue, doing more rounds of tapping until the intensity has changed significantly.
This isn’t about a cure – I practice EFT and use it with others not claiming that it will cure an anxiety disorder, acne, arthritis or cancer (and I personally would run a mile if someone had these claims). This is about managing thoughts and feelings that we also experience in our body, in order to feel differently and hopefully better about them.
What’s the evidence it works?
Empirical evidence supporting EFT is available but thin on the ground, which isn’t surprising – as an alternative therapy there is little incentive to fund research to test its efficacy. But the way I see it, using EFT, along with other complementary therapies, is a personal choice. If you discover something you’re interested in and benefit from it in some way, I encourage you to go with that, rather than questioning it or having it questioned by others.
Why do we think it works?
Repetition – repeating out loud the issue that’s troubling you, especially with a practitioner, takes the pressure off of it being stuck in your head and equally starts to numb the intensity of it. It may be the first time you’ve acknowledged this is an issue and that can also bring relief.
Acceptance – In being honest with ourselves that we feel something we don’t like but we’re alright anyway it bring a strength to our thinking. – there’s an element of forgiveness and understanding that we don’t often allow ourselves.
Adjusting energy – tapping on the points in sequence does produce shifts. It will be different for each person and EFT may not be for some people but it does have funny, interesting, results. I usually laugh or yawn a lot when I do my own rounds and for me that’s a sign that something is moving around. I equally might feel quite teary for a day or so and whilst I don’t want to feel sad, I know it’s moving things in my mind that needed to be released and that’s super important for me.
There are many ways to use and interpret EFT, and likewise a range of practitioners. I trained with the EFT Centre in North London which offers good online resources for different areas of EFT use and you can also find great videos from practitioners like Brad Yates. I’ve also created a video specially for SamSpaces followers as well as a written tapping sequence below, both of which cover the topic of anxiety about returning to hospital (and are slightly different from each other)
So if your interest is peaked, try it out and see how it feels. Like it? Great, find more videos that resonate with you, or feel free to get in touch with me to find out more. A cancer experience is tough enough and we should take full advantage of all the support, during and after, that we can get…err tap!…our hands on.
Watch the unique SamSpaces EFT video here!
Example EFT tapping sequence
This written sequence focuses specifically on the issue of anxiety about a scan. You can replace these words with others words that are pertinent to you at any time.
Rate the intensity of the anxiety about your scan on a scale of 0-10, with 0 being the least intense and 10 being the most. Remember this number for later.
Say the set up phrase whilst tapping on the karate chop point:
Even through I’m feeling anxious about going for my scan, I accept myself anyway
Even though I have anxiety about my scan, I accept I have it
Even though my anxiety about my scan is high, I deeply and completely accept myself anyway, and I’m OK
Tap on each of the following nine points with these phrases:
In between eyebrows point: “anxiety about my scan”
Side of the eye: “anxiety about scan”
Under eye/cheekbone – lots of anxiety about my scan
Under nose – feels high
Under bottom lip – thinking about this a lot
Sternum – distracted about my scan coming up
Under arm – don’t want to think about my scan but I am
Top of the head – anxiety about the scan
Repeat Step 3
Bring your hands to a rest and close your eyes. Take two deep breaths. Then rate the intensity of the anxiety again. Observe whether it has stayed the same, increased or decreased. If increased you may want to take further breaths and just tap around on the points without the words before checking the intensity level again. If it is the same or decreased, notice what words or thoughts came up for you in the last round and begin to use these words in a new set up phrase and tapping sequence. Continue until the number has reduced sufficiently for you. Close the session with further deep breaths.
Please note that in carrying out this technique on your own you are taking full responsibility for your own health. Thanks ☺
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and find out more at coachingemily.com