Today is World Mental Health Day. A day to bring this to the forefront of our thoughts and give it the attention it so rightly deserves. So many people go through suffering with their mental health. Myself included. A few things I’ve learnt along the way which helped me massively with coping with tough times.
You can’t control everything, so why try? Focus on the things you can control It’s ok to be emotional It’s ok to cry Ir’s ok to know that things are crap and not ok It’s ok not to be happy all the time It’s ok to feel lost Find solace in things that give you pleasure Give attention to the things that calm you Keep moving Rest Hug Kiss Put yourself first Listen to those around you Listen to music, read a book, start baking Absorb the great outdoors Dance in the rain Stare at the stars Treasure the things that make you smile and laugh Get crafty or arty or sporty or active Savour everyone that loves you Seek advice and support Everyone’s experience is different Try not to struggle in silence But know that sometimes silence is needed and that’s ok too Keep talking ❤
I’ve written and posted about this before but thought it worthy of being shared again. I have have been sharing some posts this month on the subject of breast cancer and awareness of the subject. Some of which is the side to breast cancer that noone sees or maybe aware of. Today is my childlessness.
My invisible loss and the deep pain and grief that is now very much part of my makeup. The concept of grief fascinates me. I’ve read a lot about it over recent years and so I now have a more well-rounded appreciation of the depth and many different layers that it encompasses. The most important thing I have read over and over is that grief is not just about death. It’s about loss too. We all go through some form of grief. That tortuous, dark, gut wrenching feeling of pain. It’s so much more varied and not just about dealing with death and the bereavement process. Grief is an absolute arse but we must all deal with it in our own way.
One of the things that came out of my diagnosis and subsequent treatment mixed with my age was the concept of childlessness. I will elaborate on this now. Childlessness is my invisible loss. You can’t see my loss. I haven’t lost something that was there and living or in existence. I am grieving for something that has never been. It’s such a weird feeling to have. That feeling of grieving for a life and future lost rather than something that was here. The grief of having such a profound natural entity taken away from you can be agonising. Every morning I wake up with this feeling going through my mind. Unimaginable sadness of what my life could have been.
There’s no rules to how to deal with grief. There’s not a one size fits all approach. There’s no time constraints or cut-off dates that must be met before you’ve had your quota. I know because I grieve a lot. About different things. Some days it hurts so bad I feel I can’t move. Some days it is too much and the anger and disappointment is raw. However, some days where grief is there its like a butterfly flying past. Making its presence known but in a fleeting fashion. A momentary thought process.
Again, there are no rules to my grief. Sometimes the exact same event can have totally different effects on me from one year to the next. There are days when the pain and the battering on my energy can be unprecedented because other things come into play too. Life and the craziness that this brings, means that sometimes grief can’t be put up on a pedestal. It can’t take centre stage. It needs to be controlled. Which means sometimes it is suppressed. Which I don’t believe is healthy. But needs must. I like the days when I can just be. If I need to cry I will. If I want to be quiet I can be. If I need to be alone I can be.
There will always be times throughout the year which make dealing with an invisible loss and grief in general hard. But luckily for me I know how to look after myself. I know the warning signs. I know that grief can visit but it doesn’t define me. It’s taken time to get to this point. I can be happy but sad at the same time. I allow myself to cry silently when a trigger appears in front of me. I allow myself to feel regret and sorrow for not having children when I was younger. I allow myself to wallow in self-pity if need be.
If grief is getting the better of me I try to seek solace in something that will make me laugh, smile or be happy. I go to adventure, activity and doing things in order to cope. I go to serene and peaceful places, to be at one with nature. I put it into context and allow it to be. I focus on what I do have in my life especially my step-daughter and doggies. I am very lucky but the grief can still be so painful.
Allowing me to be as I am means I am strong and powerful as a result. I try to find the balance so that grief of my invisible loss can have a place in my world. And it is just there as part of me.
❤ There are lots of wonderful support resources out there for this area. Here’s a few:
Where did the name @runnicnacrun come from? It’s kind of obvious really but it’s the meaning behind it that resonates. Well it all started ten years ago when I took part in the 2011 London Marathon.
When I was young my parents and brothers called me Nic Nac Noos. Mixed with loving Forest Gump #runforestrun and the fact I have always loved running too. The name was a no brainer.
Fast forward ten years little did I know that there was to be even more meaning behind the name. I used running and many other activities to get me through my cancer diagnosis. It was crucial to me. It played such a leading role in the events and fundraising that was to be part of my therapy.
I have always loved running. When I was young I was super fast. Very fast in fact. Running was in the family so it was second nature. Mixed with a competitive streak I was hard to catch. I really was like Forest Gump. I could have ran all day.
As an adult running has always been there. Sometimes intense for training and volumes of events and sometimes more casual. But it remains a staple throughout my life. And I am so grateful for that. I am so proud that I have kept it going after all these years.
Running is not always easy for me. It can be really demanding and impossible at times. Or it can be hard work. It can be painful. On the flip side it can be easier and nicer and seem less of a chore. I always set out with the aim of enjoying it. But sometimes that doesn’t happen.
Either way the end goal is the same. To feel the satisfaction and euphoria of completing a run is out of this world. Just amazing. Whatever the speed or the distance. Whether I complete what I had set out to achieve and have to amend. Whether it didn’t go to plan. It’s all awesome. All movement is absolutely blimin awesome.
Ultimately I love the challenge of running. I love how it makes me feel. I love that I was able to run through so much physical and mental torture. I love the fact that I haven’t given up. I love looking forward to my next event, next challenge, next leisurely run and where my running will take me next.
I also love as I have got older knowing when to stop. When to take a break. When to rest my precious body and mind to reset ready for the next installment.
@runnicnacrun isn’t just about running. It’s an ethos. To keep at it. Perserver. Be resilient. Even when hurdles are placed in the way I keep going. I may not be as fast as what I used to be but my life is still filled with the magic that my younger self had. A life filled with so much adventure and living life to the max every single day.
Every morning I wake up and my first thought it “Yes. Another day”. Another day to make of it what I want. Another day of my beautiful life. Another day to enjoy.
Every morning this thought, is more often than not, swiftly followed by a whistle stop tour of my brain thinking of how far I’ve come and what I’ve achieved.
And what I still want to achieve. It’s exciting to think of the possibilities.
However, sometimes the mind and body can play tricks into thinking that I can’t do or achieve. The inner spirit of passion and positivity rises like Phoenix from the flames when this thought process kicks in. Self-doubt being swiftly kicked to the kirb. And quite rightly so.
I’ll never quit trying. And I’ll never quit wanting to live the life I aspire to live and live life to the ultimate max. I have to remember, always, that I can do and I can achieve.
It’s that heart-warming feeling of desire, the fire in the soul of being driven, the adventurous side of me wanting to play, the competitive side saying “do not quit”.
A bit of self-reflection is always good for the soul. I love looking back and seeing how far I’ve come. How much I’ve grown. The colourful array of accomplishments and achievements. The suffering I’ve had to endure alongside this. The pain. And how I got through it all. It’s not easy at all. All this makes me super proud.
What we can do when we put our minds to it. Every day I wake up and think “Yes. Another day”❤
Out on a run today with my husband cycling alongside me. My heart beating fast. Absorbing the stunning countryside. Taking in all nature’s beauty. It’s times like these that always highlight to me how I should always count my lucky stars. I always know how lucky I am. And I will never ever forget……
How lucky I am to be able to run How lucky I am to live where I do How lucky I am to have an awesome husband How lucky I am to be fit, strong and healthy How lucky I am to be surrounded by love How lucky I am to be empowered to be me How lucky I am to lead a fabulous life How lucky I am to know right from wrong How lucky I am to experience being in love How lucky I am to have survived cancer How lucky I am to be alive
As I gazed down the hospital bed, a sense of trepidation came flooding over me. What was I about to see? As the surgeon peeled back the thick bandage, I was soon presented with one of my surgery wounds. The bandage was removed, and I was there, looking down at my unrecognisable leg. I let out a painful cry like never before. My leg that had seen me dance for years. The leg that had seen me win so many races. The same leg that had travelled the world. The leg that had taken me on so many adventures. My beautiful, slim, toned, powerful left leg all bloodied and battered. A massive bright red line from my hip to my knee of a deep wound. It looked so brutal from my angle. Drains hanging out. Looking down my leg from the hospital bed was a vision that has stayed in my mind since. It will never leave.
My sporty athletic leg cut into. Scarred forever. It looked so scary. So raw. So shocking. I was utterly heartbroken. But it needed to be. That was the first time I had seen the result of an intrinsic operation that my surgeon had performed. The surgeon that had painstakingly given me his precious professional time in helping me. In making me better. I loved this man. So why was I crying at his marvellous work of magnificent beauty. I had gotten through another major operation and all was well. I was making good progress. There was so much to be grateful for.
I had got used to seeing scars on my body by that time. In fact, I love my scars. Every single one. They are a part of me, representing something so powerful. That I survived cancer. But nothing prepares you for seeing a fresh new wound where once your skin was unscathed. Even more so if you really liked that body part. I quite liked my legs.
When I had gotten over the shock of seeing my ruby red limb my tears swiftly turned to smiles. My surgeon did not want to see me cry. Especially as the operation had been such a massive success. I was healing well. My partial mastectomy was healing nicely too. The plastic surgery had been an almighty triumph. I knew this. He knew this. He was so gentle and kind that day. And I knew this man needed my gratitude as well as dealing with my pain. My leg was needed to help my breast. And that is exactly what it did.
It was only a few months earlier that I had been celebrating my 40th birthday. A succession of partying, nights out and vibrant times with all my loved ones. Family and friends came together, in unity to dance the night away for my big occasion. I was also celebrating getting to the end of the most mammoth charity challenge. A challenge which had seen me conquer events and activities that would push me mentally and physically for eighteen months. I was on fire. I was so strong. So fit. So healthy. Living life to the max. Looking forward to my future. Looking forward to having children. And then boom.
A reoccurrence. No-one can say this for sure, but I had a gut feeling. I knew deep down when I was referred for scanning and then biopsies that all was not good. I hoped in my heart of hearts that it was not back. With every ounce of my being, I did not want to hear negative news. But I knew they had found something. I remember crying so hard that day as the nurse held my hand. Not again. Please not again. My skin being punctured three times to claim the tissue they required. I knew. I was prepared.
The weeks that followed were horrendous. I had already had a bilateral mastectomy a few years earlier, with tissue being taken from my stomach. I had had a skin sparring mastectomy which meant the original skin was left. It was under this skin that another diagnosis was found. A DCIS in a triangle shape going from my nipple to my armpit. There were various options to help me but the one that scared me the most was that they might have to remove my right breast. I had gone through so much with my previous operation. I really did not want this to be the answer. I quite liked my boobs. And now they were going to be put through their paces again.
As the oncology and breast care team at my local hospital communicated with my surgeons at my other hospital where I had previously been treated, I dealt with this the only way I knew how. I signed up for a marathon. A running marathon that I was to do with my mother. Taking in the stunning scenery and spectacular countryside of the Suffolk coast. I knew that building up to such a big run would help me leading up to my operation. It would take my mind off things. It would keep me focused. It is with this that I was affectionately known as Marathon Girl in the hospitals.
My mum and I got to the start. It was painfully emotional. We knew we had a big job ahead. The marathon we had chosen was a tough one with the coastal winds, varying landscapes and multi terrains. We were both determined to do it. And that is exactly what we did. Despite the major operation looming and the trauma this had caused to me and my loved ones, we got round that course. A plethora of emotions whirling through our minds. It was draining. It was demanding. It was exhilarating. It was funny. It was horrific in places. It was sticking two fingers up to cancer. We crossed that finish line so exhausted but so happy. So proud.
I remember vividly saying goodbye to the leg I once knew as the anaesthetic worked its magic. My anaesthetist was the one who came up with ‘Marathon Girl’. He was a cool, quirky man who I loved chatting to. Full of charm and a wonderful presence in the room. With him on my left side and one of my surgeons on my right I fell asleep holding hands with the people who would save my breast. I was putting my life in the hands of so many other people. I trusted them and knew all would be ok but a part of me was concerned that the surgery would go well, and I would wake from my sleep. My last memory being a tear rolling down the side of my face before all went dark.
Fast forward four years and every day I look at the scar on my left leg with pride. A daily reminder that my leg played such a crucial role in my last operation. The leg that helped my breast. The scar is still of considerable size, but it has faded so much. A faint line carved into my leg with a little bump where the drain had sat. It is still numb in places and still feels strange when someone touches it. Since my last operation I have participated in a vast array of events, challenges, and activities. My legs leading me through and completing some of the most exciting adventures ever. A marathon in the garden and the Three Peaks Challenge on my stairs just goes to show how far my leg has come. How far I have come.
It is a funny feeling knowing that my breasts are made up of stomach and leg tissue and skin. I adore my body for what it has been through. Every single part of it. Every day I look down at my leg and it stirs up emotion. Of how I am eternally grateful for my precious life and for what my body continues to achieve every day. And I will always relish in the fact that, despite I do not do them all the time, that I was known as ‘Marathon Girl’.