The last few weeks have been extremely busy, and as always filled with variety. I have attended award ceremonies and press releases, and been contacted by people around the world who want to involve me in exciting projects. It seems improvement in the world of cancer support is now beginning to pick up momentum, which is exciting to see and something I have worked for during the last few years. Technology and social media has enabled rapid progress and enabled the patient to have a more effective voice. However in recent months I have begun to find life a lot tougher personally. I am now in my eighth anniversary since diagnosis, and thankfully although my cancer still remains in remission, my body is beginning to show the signs of continual treatment. Tiredness and fatigue, are now fairly continuous, and it seems that ‘chemo brain, is beginning to have a more major impact. With a combination of all these factors, I have struggled to keep my mind in a positive place. It constantly wants to take me back to the past and my life before cancer, or rush me into the future and ask “how is this going to work out?” My team quickly recognised the issues I am facing, and I am now being treated by one of the very few integrative medicine practitioners in the UK.
It seems my major issue is that my mind is still working at the pace it was, but my body is not, and there lies the biggest cause of my frustration. I have to learn to live in the present with both my mind and body which I hadn’t realised I wasn’t really doing. But this did get me thinking, about how we are all living our lives now and the role of new technology in that. We seem to be getting so clever with what we can do now. There appears to be no end to what we can achieve, but I wonder if that means we lose the real value of things? I find as a consumer, an initial surge of excitement when I buy a new product but quickly, the next model is coming along. That was never the case a few years ago. For example, a new car used to be a thing of joy, which you saved up for, now most people have one and change them frequently.
Technology means that we can all do things we could never dream of before, but it seems we are continually looking for what we can do tomorrow, without remembering the value of what we have today. We are moving very quickly to a seven day week life style, I have heard the medical profession talk about it, so it must be happening! But that doesn’t mean for only some of us, our lives will all be involved in the change, meaning weekends, being as busy as weekdays.So what is this progress doing for the quality of our lives? Most of us have smart phones and seem to be using them to be in contact, almost as long as we are awake. They appear to have become an addiction. Real life seems to be passing us by as we try to follow what other people are doing on social media etc. Like any other thing designed to help us live more efficiently, we have become the slave instead of the master.
Our lives are full of labour saving and ‘life enhancing’ gadgets, but how is it that I don’t really feel ‘time rich’ because of them? We seem to be moving faster and faster into the future, seeking some sort of dream, where we will have everything we need to enhance our lives. A place where medical science can extend out life, beyond what nature intended. But does that place really exist? What is nirvana? Happiness is different things to different people of course. You have to believe that tomorrow will be an improvement on today, but I feel we must learn to appreciate much more what we currently have. If we don’t, we will all be filled with frustration for never being satisfied.
Who would have imagined, appreciating the present could be so complex? Many people have said that they have learned to do that, but I wonder if that is because they have experienced illness? We are now living in a society where major events are quickly forgotten during our eternal search for the next thing. I realise that I have become wrapped up in that culture too, constantly seeking new things whilst not fully appreciating what I am currently doing.
I recently did a form of ‘virtual stocktaking’ of my own life. The things that I consider valuable are things that you cannot buy, time, people experiences, etc. I have most modern conveniences of life, and I can’t really think of anything that would positively change my life, that I could buy. Bigger house, faster car, more dinners out and fancy holidays, would not in honesty make any difference to me now. In one of my recent presentations I talked about my experience of rarely having three important ingredients of life together, spare time, health, and money. Now I find myself with time and few financial issues, but unfortunately without good health they mean very little. For most of us, time is probably the most valuable commodity we have, and I urge you to find some and have a quick look at your own lives, you may be surprised by what you see!
Do you feel like you are on an eternal treadmill, or are you content with what you are doing. Do you truly value what you have, or are you looking into the past or future for satisfaction. How has cancer changed your view of life? As usual I would love to hear your views and experiences.
I couldn’t agree more with you, Chris. As a yoga teacher and complementary therapist I’ve been teaching and encouraging people to be in the present moment through mindfulness and meditation, to regularly take time to be still, to watch and enjoy the breath, to disconnect from their technology and to reconnect with the breath. We must take time every day to become aware of our body and its needs and schedule in regular nurturing and relaxation. Bring your awareness down from your busy mind and into your body and take 10 slow deep breaths,
n o w. Enjoy.
I hadn’t realised how I had become Gabriele! When I was working I only ever took one day at a time, but since I got sick I have become used to a continual regime of treatment and checking when the next appointment was. It seems that I have continued that theme with my work, and am constantly looking at what is in the future.
You are so right, my mind is eternally busy, so will be doing the deep breath thing more often!
Now I am aware of this issue in my own life, I was quite shocked how it seems to affect most people I know which is why I wrote the piece. Thanks so much for what you do for people affected by cancer Gabriele, Chris
Wow Chris that is, yet again an honest and powerful post. After my brain tumour I gradually let my mind travel back to the ‘mindless manic- ness ‘ of time filling. But on my breast cancer journey I have learnt so much about the Mind, Mindfulness, Meditation (a simple approach) and truly living in the moment. One book I would strongly recommend is Ruby Wax Its a Sane World, Taming your Mind. A fabulous, often funny, intelligent read. Ruby has taught me so much about how we can tame our mind in this frentic world you describe so well Chris. I consider myself fully Rubyised and I thank her and the breast cancer for that!
Take good care Chris
Hi Dawn, thanks for sharing your incredible experiences and I will certainly have a read of the book you refer to. Between us we have a vast pool of experience we can call on, but I know that I am certainly still learning so much. This particular stage is teaching me how my brain has been dealing with things, and how I must re-train it to ensure I find some satisfaction, but it is not easy!
Just when you feel things may be improving, yet more surprises come along.
My best to you and Mr H xx