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
In the blog below, Freddie will tell her amazing story of how she overcame immense grief after her father died of cancer, through tapping into her creative passion for design, namely out of climbing rope!
Samspaces is so excited to announce a collaboration with Freddie and we now have our own bracelet (picture above!) It was important to me to create something visible to represent Samspaces and emphasise an awareness for After Cancer support and highlight this profile and the importance of patient to patient solidarity within our community. To me, the threads represent all the many threads of recovery and healing all wrapped around a strong piece of climbing rope representing the strength, courage and resilience of the person wearing it, all in the healing blue colour of the Samspaces logo. The charms speak for themselves but are a reminder that if we believe in ourselves we will always succeed and we are always being looked after.
If you would like to purchase one of these gorgeous bracelets, they are priced at £11.99 plus P&P. Just send me an email on email@example.com with your wrist size and address and I will get back to you with more details. Over to Fred……….
When asked where the inspiration for my business came from, it put a smile on my face and brought a tear to my eye. My story is a simple one, inspiration came from tragedy.
On February 26th 2015 I lost my wonderful dad to Cancer. Like so many of you out there this disease invaded my life and changed it forever, this is the story of how I used my grief to change my life in a positive way and create what I hope to be a lasting legacy.
Maybe I should start at the beginning, and introduce myself? Hello, I am Freddie, and I am the owner of a small fledgling business called Hanging by a Fred, yes I am ‘the’ Fred and here is the biggest surprise for many…I am actually a woman!
Before February 2015, I was simply a loving daughter caring for her wonderful dad whilst that disease took hold and ravaged his body in 6 short months. It may have changed his appearance but it never dulled his spirit, and I am grateful to have been there every minute to share each precious moment til the last.
My dad was a climber, a lifelong, committed, dedicated and rather talented climber and mountaineer. I grew up watching him and his passion for this sport, but never quite brave enough to join him until sadly it was too late. It was his life blood, his true love and his source of happiness. Climbing embodied everything about him, he even requested his favourite mug (which said ‘I’d rather be climbing’) and book (of routes in Northumberland, where we live) be on his coffin, and be cremated with him.
After he died, I suffered a deep period of grief. I had already suffered a great loss and was trying to deal with that, then I lost my dad, my friend, my confident. I had been so strong for so long, trying to look after my mum and sort out all of the legalities…the aftermath, I lost myself. I felt so alone and utterly bereft. The grief took hold, and I became a shell of my former self. Friends said I had ‘lost my sparkle’ and even looked ‘dead in the eyes’.
Writing these words, remembering this time, the tears aren’t far away, but there is also catharsis. I want to share my story, as I want you to know you are not alone in how you feel, what you are going through, and that, although it does not feel like it right now, there is light at the end of the tunnel and you WILL be ok.
The idea for HBAF came to me in June 2015, as moments of inspiration often do, through a random conversation with a friend about wool. We were trying to organise a relaxing day of craft to get me out of the house and back into society, in a calming and relaxing environment. Unfortunately, after a few years of unemployment, I could not afford the course fee. Not a problem! She had wool, and I had…well I had rope, climbing rope, and lots of it! We never did have that craft day, but by the end of the week I had put together a PowerPoint presentation with ideas, competition assessment, sources of equipment, materials needed, outlets for sales and much more. I took this to my unemployment advisor, who referred me to the Pinetree Trust, who support new business start-ups and those who have experienced particular difficulties. Paul Redpath came into my life, saw my ideas and the few products I had made and the information I had gathered, straight away he loved the unique idea and my journey really began.
My idea was to upcycle retired climbing rope into the beautiful and useful ‘for him, for her and for the home’ to quote my business strap line. I make real statement jewellery, woven rope mats, coiled rope bowls, mug cosies, pet accessories and so much more.
I knew Christmas was looming, with that the crucial period of the all-important Christmas market season, so working on my business plan and start-up loan began in earnest. The details of this work aren’t important, but the fact that this idea gave me renewed focus and purpose in life, that I found my drive and ambition again, that my sparkle began to return, that is what is important here. I was, I am sure, making my dad proud. I was honouring his memory, creating a new life and building a future, and every day he was at the heart of it. What better way to deal with loss and grief?
Today I am five months in to my new adventure, I am steadily booked at a variety of arts and crafts markets through to 2017, I have just had a photoshoot on Hadrian’s Wall for my forthcoming website, and I am supplying an ever growing range of galleries and shops with my unique products…not a bad start!
I have met and worked with amazing people, and made wonderful connections. I can’t lie, it is incredibly hard work and not everything works as well as I would like, but I love it. I am happy again. I have direction, and more importantly I have dreams for the future. Losing my dad has, in actual fact, given me life again.
I don’t know what the future holds for me, or my business, but I know that there is one, and as long as I don’t give up it will be a bright and sparkly one. That is essentially my message to you all, never give up! Never surrender! Thank you for taking the time to read my little story, and good luck to you all. Xx
‘Most people walk through the world in a trance of disempowerment. Our work is to transform that into a trance of empowerment’
– Dr Milton H Erikson
Over the next few weeks I want to post some blogs about four areas of wellbeing that have been a huge influence on me during my cancer journey over the last eight or so years; hypnotherapy, mindfulness, meditation and NLP.
All three of these therapies have so many benefits but I wanted to break them down so we can get a better understanding of what they all do in their own space. When someone asked me what the differences were the other day, I started stuttering and feeling like a total fraud, realising I actually didn’t have a defined answer, so I decided to do a little homework!
If the word hypnotherapy conjures up images of a line of chairs on a stage with seven or so innocent members of a studio audience desperately wanting to grab their moment of fame while being hypnotised to do weird and embarrassing things that they wont remember when they ‘are back in the room’ at the click of a finger, then think again!
Having met Nicky Anstey a few years ago, for a reason totally unrelated to my wellbeing, our paths recently crossed again when I found out she was doing a new Stress Reduction course in my area. Any course name that mentions the word ‘stress’ usually lures me in like a magnet and since I seem to be able to sniff out a relaxation course from a mile away post cancer, I thought this would be the perfect thing to compliment the mindfulness course I have done (blog coming soon) as well as my sporadic meditation practice and growing knowledge of mind based therapies.
Nicky is very knowledgeable about this area and her expertise and background are commendable. I have been fascinated in hypnotherapy and how it can help our wellbeing; through weightloss, smoking, improved confidence, assertiveness, relaxing and generally being able to switch off and give ourselves permission for Me Time. To be able to work in a smaller group environment and have a class every other week was way more convenient than other courses I had considered, so I signed up with a friend.
Nicky trained as a registered nutritionist in 1997 but felt she wanted to expand her practice by studying hypnotherapy and NLP as there was little point giving clients advice on what diet to follow if there were not in the right mindset to follow it.
‘Once the root cause of the problem is worked on and removed we will stop self sabotaging ourselves and can achieve any goal we set of ourselves, in a relaxed, happy and balanced way.’
– Nicky Anstey
Hypnotherapy is a process where we can remove the emotional rubbish and limiting beliefs that manifest over our lifetimes that tend to throw us off course. If guided properly we can set new positive beliefs and values that are in line with our goals to be and feel the best we can. As soon as I read the course description I realised quickly that this would be a course that would include homework. As with many cognitive behavioural courses, we are encouraged to practice daily as according to some sources it takes sixty six days to form a new habit. Society today is a stress pressure cooker and it is manifesting itself through disease, bad mental health, physical breakdowns and poor wellbeing.
‘I believe any ways to help the mind stay resilient and strong is key in life as they pressures and stresses of life are ever increasing.’
– Nicky Anstey
The first word scribbled in my notebook on the first day of the course is ‘Tools!’ This was exactly why I was there, to find new tools for dealing with stress. My tool box is ever growing and they don’t always work at the right time but I don’t think you can ever too many! I am not going to make out that I am some high flying career hungry working mum who is juggling everything and the kitchen sink, but I am naturally a very anxious person and the irony is that I struggle more with the everyday stresses than the big scary ones. Weird right?! Like some new twenty-first century robot, I needed new programming!
The first session introduced the cause and effect equation and I started to feel empowered straight away. Just recognising that I could take control of these situations and ‘buttons’ that were sending me into overdrive, was a gem in itself and I have gradually become more aware of introducing my own filters and strategies to overcome those knee jerk reactions of panic, fear and negativity that so often circle overhead like vultures, ready to dive for the kill!
Throughout the course I loved learning about how our minds actually worked. I am no biologist but learning ways of tapping into my unconscious mind and starting to build an interactive link between the conscious and the unconscious, is gradually opening up pathways and a totally different type of healing process for me.
I have to admit though that my favourite part of the course was the last fifteen minutes of each class! We would all lie down or sit, and Nicky would perform an exercise of hypnotherapy, talking us through a visualisation to deeply relax and generally emphasise how important Me Time was. I found these minutes precious. I could lie there and listen to Nicky’s soft, slow voice and drift off, letting her words sink deep into my subconscious while sniffing a gorgeous aromatherapy scent on a tissue placed nearby.
I enjoyed the course so much that when it was over I met with Nicky to ask her about putting together a specific meditation for Samspaces and I am so excited to be able to share a link to it below. Many of you are familiar with my focus on recovery and healing after cancer treatment and this was a wonderful way of collaborating to bring together my fears, anxieties and worries that I had felt (and still do feel) during this period post treatment, with Nicky’s skill and professional tools to create a therapy to help at this vulnerable and sometimes lonely time.
(Click on the Moving On box, then go to Membership details, log in with Username; Movingon and password; Movingon)
Hypnotherapy is a very powerful tool in stress reduction and has been a huge stepping stone in my developing a more mindful lifestyle. It sounds mad but sometimes I am even grateful to cancer, for simply making me more aware of all these mind based therapies, as they have definitely changed my life! I might not have started a life long habit of tuning my mind out every day and being Mrs So Relaxed I Might Fall Over, but even if just for five minutes three times a week, I have started a life long habit of trying! If I can follow a visualisation where i am guided and I can focus on a voice that is calm and talks me through deep breathing, I am away with the hypno-fairies!!!
Being in a group environment and sharing stories, while learning so much about how our memories and experiences have trained and shaped our minds, forming habits that may not be so helpful to us now, is so empowering. Nothing is right or wrong. It is hugely personal and can be massively beneficial for some and maybe only moderately for others. It does take time and it does need to be worked at, but to have started exploring these areas of the mind, has been like opening a window for me and letting in a beautiful breeze that lifts and calms the soul.
I am no runner! The image of me running in any shape or form is not worth thinking about but I know what a good exercise and headspace it is for so many people. I wanted to put the spot light on this form of exercise and in my third guest blog for Samspaces, Jo Taylor of ABC Diagnosis, tells me in a Q&A style why running has been such a focus for her wellbeing during cancer treatment and what she loves about it.
1. What do you love about running and why?
I love the freedom running gives you, to walk out of your home and run. No monthly payments and no ties to times of classes. You can do it whenever you want to suit your life. Getting out in the fresh air, summer, winter, even in the rain can be exhilarating.
2. How long have you been running and how did you discover it?
I started running 6 months after my son was born 11 years ago with my sister in law to help loose the baby weight and was regularly running 8 miles. I stopped when I was pregnant with my daughter and was planning to go back to running after 4 months, but was then diagnosed with primary breast cancer when she was 5 months old so all plans went on hold for a good year.
3 Do you think that having goals for this particular exercise is important and if so why? What goals have you had?
The only goals I have is to try to run 2 or 3 runs a week, usually 5/6 miles a time (I also cycle once a week too) I’m not competitive. I’d love to run a 1/2 or full marathon but it’s not a big goal. Knowing I can run every week at the level I run with secondary breast cancer is a huge achievement. Many cant even do exercise let alone run at the level I run so I know I’m lucky. I’m on new drugs which give a good remission (I’m currently in remission) but I know things can change with my diagnosis. I exercise to keep my fitness up in case of these changes so I’m in the best possible physical state to deal with this.
4. Why do you think running is good for people having cancer treatment or for those patients moving forward with life after a diagnosis?
It helps physically and mentally through the treatment. It helps you to loose weight if you have put some on due to chemo and tablets. I blamed the tamoxifen for excess weight. I just needed to up my running, which I did, and it worked. I think diet and exercise is very important for anyone whether they have cancer or not. It is the only thing that you can control and help yourself with with a diagnosis. It does give people a focus and as I said it doesn’t have to cost much. You have to find what’s right for you.
5. What do you think are the disadvantages to running?
It can be hard on the knees and joints especially if you are on drugs for cancer and it is easy not to be motivated if you run alone. It’s good to join a group or get out with friends. Like any exercise you have to commit yourself and results don’t happen overnight but you will run a mile, then two, then three and before you know it able to do a 5K and maybe a 10K!
6. How important do you think exercise is during cancer treatment generally and why?
I think exercise is massively important like I said for the reasons of mental and physical wellbeing. Also there are reports that it can help to increase the benefits of chemotherapy and I do think that it helps to get the toxins out of your body quicker. Exercise is very important – lots of studies show this in cancer patients. Macmillan call it a ‘wonder drug’ and promote it in their ‘move it’ campaign.
ABC Diagnosis supports primary and secondary breast cancer patients make informed choices with information and up to date news on treatments, breast surgeries, consultants, hospital and useful links.
Mirror Mirror On The Wall, who is the fairest of them all?
In our pursuit of ‘fairness’, skin care is another theme dominating social media feeds. New brands are constantly emerging, ranging in price, general success at achieving youth full, as well as healthy skin, minus evil toxins and promising plump, line free, spot and blemish free complexions. To be ‘fair’ we now not only need to be eating clean but exercising to stay lean and polish it naturally on the outside too!
Having had cancer I have gradually become more and more conscious of changing my own skin care. This has been a very slow process for practicality and cost reasons. I am a sucker for packaging, Ill be honest, but I want to know for sure that these pretty labels are doing me good as well as looking good!
‘The term natural doesn’t mean much because in the food, skin care, and cosmetics industries, the term is not adequately regulated or quantifiable.‘ – www.mindbodygreen.com
I want to know that I can buy ‘safe’ products without having to scour the aisles at the local health food shop or get a latin dictionary to decipher the ingredient list. So is being the ‘fairest’ of them all simply a way of making the art of scooping out and using the entire coconut sustainable or are we fools to believe that any of these ‘toxin free’ products are actually safe and making a difference?
With recent articles about much loved products such as ‘Johnson’s & Johnson’s’ containing harmful ingredients, we are becoming more savvy and pro active; reading labels, shopping around and demanding transparency. Words such as Parabems, aluminium and sodium laurel sulphate are being thrown around like daggers and the ingredient lists on our bathroom products are a total minefield. Due to stress, higher rates of disease and illness and research indicating that some ingredients can contribute to certain cancers through oestrogen disruption, we are not just aware of what we are putting in our bodies, but what we are putting on them too.
I am no beauty journalist (so please bear with me if this sounds like an article from Marie Claire!) nor do I have a science friendly brain but after being pro active for my own wellbeing and not happy with foraging for wild nettles and mashing another avocado, I have embraced experimenting with different skincare products and wanted to share some of the brands that I have come to know. Defiant Beauty
Jennifer Young was approached a few years ago to develop a skin care range for the cancer patients at her local hospital. Jennifer took on the challenge and developed this incredible range of products that are suitable for everyone! While on one of Jennifer’s workshops last year, she told me something that has shaped my choice of skin care ever since.
‘Creams are a mix of oil and water and as oil and water don’t mix, lots of ingredients have to be added in order to turn oil and water into a cream…..Oils and balms can be very simple formulations and, as they don’t contain water, they are a more intensive experience. A little goes a long way.’
– Jennifer Young, Defiant Beauty
I now, personally prefer to stick to oils and balms rather than creams as I feel they are more pure. Jennifer has worked hard to make a range of products that are truly natural and do what they say on the bottle, but you don’t need to have been unwell to appreciate the care and quality.
The toner smells amazing, locking in lots of hydration and the hand balm is magic and a top present for anyone having treatment as the skin becomes so dry. This balm is easily absorbed and the skin oil is another favourite. It was primarily made to rub on scalps after hair loss. The scalp becomes so sensitive when having chemo and this is soothing, helping nourish the follicles making it less sore and irritated. I bought it way after my hair grew back and have been using it as a body oil too!
Defiant Beauty is now training beauticians in specialist treatments with these products.
‘Therapists are taught that cancer is contraindicated for their treatments (except reflexology and reiki). Using my biologists brain I couldn’t work out why and did the research – there was no evidence to support this, it was based on fear. I knew that those going through treatment for cancer wanted therapies and that therapies would benefit them. I knew therapists wanted to work with those going through treamtent and it was time to change things.’
– Jennifer Young
Jennifer worked with insurers and a lot of experts to create routines and now offers a Post Graduate Diploma in Oncology therapies. These are the first accredited one day qualifications. I had a treatment a few months ago at the Hale Clinic in London and my skin looked amazing afterwards. It was one of the most relaxing treatments I have had, probably because I knew the products well, trusted Jennifer and her training and was intrigued how they were used professionally. I had an hours facial and my skin felt soft and looked radiant, even without make up!!! My hat is off to Jennifer and how she has created not only an incredible range of products but has demystified the area of oncology massage/facials with a short and concise course helping therapists help others in this situation.
Back in January 2015, I was honoured to be involved in Jennifer’s new book ‘Recognise Yourself’. This is a bible for anyone going through or affected by cancer treatment. The information on how to look after your nails, skin, hair and body is the perfect balance of research and patients experiences and is full of feel good information for the days you are feeling less than fair!
Defiant Beauty toner £20.00
Defiant Beauty hand balm £17.50
Skin Oil £17.50
‘Recognise Yourself’ Book; http://www.amazon.co.uk/Recognise-Yourself-maintaining-chemotherapy-radiotherapy/dp/1905367597/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1459712971&sr=8-1&keywords=recognise+yourself
More information on training with the Defiant Beauty range can be found on;
The granny of natural skin care, Neals Yard have dominated the organic skin care market for over thirty years after opening in 1981 in Covent Garden. In the 80’s, Neals Yard were one of the first to encourage us to buy products without synthetic chemicals.
‘We believe in nature, honesty and transparency, and your right to know what goes into the products you buy’.
– Neals yard.com
They are so much more than a skin care range and now offer courses in aromatherapy, nutrition and wellbeing and are involved in several environmental campaigns.
The rose balm has now become a staple. Particularly good for the colder months it gives a rich and deeper cleanse and smells amazing. My skin feels nourished and hydrated and in addition, it can be used as a face mask and works as a gentle exfoliator too if you use a flannel to wipe it off. It is more expensive than other cleansers but in my view, money well spent!
Evening Cleansing; Rose balm (winter) £38
I have never been a soap fan but was intrigued to know more about Ruth’s homemade products after seeing them on social media. Ruth and I have been in touch ever since and I am thrilled to see her business flourishing. After going through breast cancer herself, she wanted to take control of what she could use on her skin.
‘Many regular skincare products include synthetic chemicals that are known to interfere with our hormone systems and lead to increased levels of oestrogen….The majority of soap sold on the high street is not soap at all but chemical detergents, or a mixture of detergents and soap. Most contain sodium laurel sulphate (SLS) which is a cheap foaming agent and also a known skin irritant.’
– Ruth Romano
Ruth makes her soaps from scratch with natural oils and butters. Ruth finds the creative process so relaxing she thinks of it as a meditation. She now runs courses encouraging others to have a go and wants to share the satisfaction of creating a bar of soap with the enjoyment of being able to use it, knowing exactly what it had been made with. She also makes gorgeous lip balms. I absolutely love these products and they are the perfect size to travel with too. Once opened the soap can just be popped in a little container or wrapped back up in their wrapper and put in a little bag. I especially love the Cedarwood and Pine soap.
Soaps £5.00 per soap
Maggie’s bespoke range of oils for cleansing, moisturising and exfoliating are unique but as an acupuncturist she has a passion for working with women to make a totally unique skincare range and treatment designed to help with all sorts of skin conditions. She has taught me not just how to nourish my face but how to massage it too, so invigorating and energising the facial muscles and pressure points, helping me relieve pressure on my sinus’s and ease congestion and puffiness around my eyes;
‘I work with a talent aromatherapist and we find synergy between my chinese medicine diagnosis and her encyclopaedic knowledge of aromatherapy and decades of experience.’
– Maggie Brown
My appointment with Maggie was wonderful and my whole evening skin care routine has changed! What stands out about this range is that it is totally bespoke. Maggie gave me a heavenly treatment after chatting about my current skin care routine and what products I currently use. She then put together a stunning package for me, with a diagram on how to massage my face with the products she suggested as well as explaining why they were better for me. I now use the Yin oil every evening after cleansing and the smell helps me drift off into a lovely snooze!
Yin1 treatment oil £33.00
This balm is absolutely beautiful. Anything that has rose in it, is a winner for me (can you tell?!) It smells blissful and doubles as a brilliant hand cream. When Natalie became pregnant she wanted to use products without any synthetic chemicals;
‘Our bodies will absorb what we apply to them and, on average, women apply 168 chemicals to their skin every day with little knowledge of the damaging impact such substances can have‘ – Natalie Bond
Natalie started making her own beauty products with natural oils and butters that were gentle and sourced sustainably so being kind to us and the planet. I have found her products in pop up shops and online. Her brand is doing so well and her instagram feed is buzzing! I adore this balm and use it as a night cream in the really cold months or when I need a boost and my skin wakes up feeling super soft.
Rose and Geranium balm £15.50
Arbonne is a Swiss brand that is becoming very popular. The products are based on botanical research and inspired by nature. Arbonne were one of the first to go green in 1980 with no animal testing, paragons, mineral oil and nasties and their ingredient policy is totally transparent. I have a wonderful Arbonne rep who had skin cancer herself a few years ago;
‘I believe in Arbonne products because they reduce toxic load on our bodies and preserve the environment by using sustainable ingredients.’
– Sally Ann North
I am a bit precious about my hair (don’t ask!) and I cant go anywhere without my straighteners (Im working on it!) but I was keen to try a new shampoo with less chemicals and Sally Ann suggested one of the Arbonne range. The Daily Shampoo feels rich and though my hair is a little flyaway, it feels clean, healthy and shiny and there is no residue like some others I have tried. I have recently tried the pure vibrance conditioner too and it smells gorgeous.
I have also used Arbonne’s children’s suncream. Their ABC Baby Care range is fantastic and I used the SPF 30 on my five year old and it didn’t bother her sensitive skin at all and absorbed brilliantly. If I ever have another bubs, I will be using this range! You are encouraged to use quite a large amount of the suncream and though I like to use an SPF 50 as my daughter is very fair and she is prone to exzma, she didn’t bat an eyelid when this went on! It is less chalky than some other natural suncreams I have used and is non perfumed too.
Pai is a popular brand on the market at the moment and with a focus on sensitive and allergy prone skin, they were the first company to list all their ingredients in plain english giving a huge thumbs up for transparancy.
‘Unlike many brands on the market, which commission factories to both formulate and manufacture their products, we have our own in-house R&D lab and manufacturing facility’.
I stumbled across the rose hip oil when my skin was playing up post surgery and has been an amazing skin care product for me ever since. I have been really interested in the healing qualities of rose hip and I used this as a night treatment on my face for a while (a bottle lasts a while) I have to say it felt softer and looked much brighter. I have also used it on scaring and it definitely helps the healing and elasticity. One snag is that I have also noticed that a slight orange residue has been left on my pillows but I have also seen a difference in applying this oil after a good scrub as it absorbs more effectively.
Rosehip Bioregenerate oil £22
It is clear from the sheer amount of choice that skin care is becoming as important to our wellbeing as nutrition and exercise. The products above only scrape the surface. I haven’t touched on deodorants, make up or toothpaste, let alone scrubs and masks but I will be posting more blogs about skincare, as it is clear what an important area this is. Through our pursuit of ‘fairness’ we now want clean living inside and outside. Supermarkets, for one, are now making these products more accessible. Being able to click on a product and have it in our basket immediately is more convenient and appealing to a younger market. With the help of bright photography, packaging and smells to rival a perfume factory, these brands have tapped into what the consumer today needs as well as wants. Transparency equals trust and as a society we want to understand what it says on the bottle.
The biggest downside is price. A lot of these brands are more draining on the wallet but aside from using totally natural products like beeswax and coconut oil, which has always been a favourite (I do use it as a hair treatment, body moisturiser, skin balm and bath oil too occasionally) we want products that are going to make us feel glamorous and feminine. For those going through treatment we also want to hold onto as much normality as we can and rather than having to go to ‘special’ shops, we can now access these products with minimal fuss and delay.
Skin care is a hugely personal thing. Whether it be mashing an avocado onto our faces and resting with cucumber on our eyes or maxing out the credit card on aromatherapy products our pursuit of ‘fairness’ is something we are taking very seriously. My experience has dictated my awareness of staying healthy inside and outside, and if that is the highest price to pay, wouldn’t you agree that choosing products with the highest quality ingredients, as one of the many pro active steps we can take to help our wellbeing, is totally ‘fair’ enough?