Author Archives: runnicnacrun

Sensational Brazil

Twenty years ago at the youthful age of 25, I had just returned back from what was to be the most epic challenge and adventure. A ten day charity bike ride in Brazil starting from Ouro Preto in the Minas Gerais region and finishing in Rio de Janeiro on Copacabana Beach. It was extremely hilly, beautiful, emotional, dusty, challenging, rewarding, exciting and full of some amazing people. The most fabulous trip from start to finish.

Back then I loved travel and adventure, seeing new places and experiencing different cultures. Something that it very much part of my makeup and my interests today. I knew I wanted to see as much of the world as I could. When doing my research Brazil just jumped out at me. My love of dancing especially the samba, the music, the climate, the amazing landscape and magnificent Rio all helped seal the deal.

Another key reason was I wanted to do something for charity. I chose Mencap as I was a learning support assistant at the time and I wanted to give something back to a charity that helped people with learning and physical disabilities. I did a few fundraising events, but I was also in a position that enabled me to pay for my flights, accommodation and food myself. Something that I was extremely proud of back then.

I was super toned, strong and fit and loved cycling with a passion. I had no fear. I bombed down the hills at such speed without a care in the world. I got up the mountains so quick. My legs were the best they have ever looked. I cycled with the men in the group a lot. The fact I did it without hardly any training goes to show how fit I was back then.

Cycling through Brazil is something else. One of the best countries I have had the pleasure of visiting. Cycling towards Rio and into the rainforests of Tijuca National Park was so special. It was stunning. We then cycled through the Favela. The contrast to the rainforest was extreme. Then again the vast diversity of the city presenting itself when we were met with the scenes of the business district and beyond to the Atlantic Ocean. It was mesmerising and sensational. Finishing on the beach was perfect.

Being driven to Heathrow and being all alone was strange. That was the first time I had gone overseas by myself without knowing anyone. I was on the plane by myself too. It was only when we arrived in Brazil that I was introduced to the other cyclists. It didn’t faze me. I was in my element.

So much has happened in the past twenty years. Some of it doesn’t even seem real. One thing I know for sure. I have been blessed with the most magical and wonderful life. It has been beyond my wildest dreams. So much laughter. So much happiness and joy. So many spectacular precious moments. Even with utter heartbreak has come so many opportunities and moments to be savoured and thankful for.

So as I reminisce of beautiful times gone by I hear myself think. If I could go back and speak to my 25 year old self I would tell her how much I loved her and how proud I am of her for making me who I am today. She was fearless. She was passionate. She was so adventurous. She had this free spirit. She could have taken on anything. I still am all those things but I thank my younger self for creating that mentality, determined nature and wild attitude to life in the very first place.

Feeling proud

Yesterday I completed a super-sprint triathlon and I have to say I’m feeling really bloody proud of myself. There is lots that I have accomplished and achieved in life that creates a sense of pride but this time it just seemed different.

Completing yet another physically demanding challenge. The battering my mind, body and soul has taken over the years, it still astonishes me that I am even capable of doing such sports. Or rather that I’ve got the oomph, energy, willpower and desire to want to even take part in the first place.

Yet there I was. Standing by the poolside. Excited, strong, fit, healthy, confident and mentally in such a good place. About to complete my fourth triathlon. Such a privilege and an event that is unachievable for so many. So what made yesterday so different? What triggered me into writing this?

It was a conversation I had with my father as I was walking back to the car after the event. I was talking about how others taking part would be so much faster than me. To which he said, ‘but they might not have been through what you have been through. Things could have been so different’.

Every now and again I am reminded but it was in that very moment the enormity of what I’ve been through hit me. In which case why was I comparing myself to others? Especially triathletes. That’s just crazy talk. A feeling that very swiftly left my thought process when I reminded myself that I actually think I’m awesome. I mean it too.

Yes. You did read right. I think I am awesome. There I’ve said it. A bit cocky and over-confident you might think. No-one likes a show-off you might mutter. She’s full of herself one could assume but hear me out.

I mean it. With a passion. I look in the mirror and I truly believe that I am awesome. Have I always felt like this? No. It has taken a lot of help, support, guidance and being kind to myself to get this far. We don’t like to big ourselves up. That’s the problem. Or at least so openly. For fear that folk might mock us. Yet with pride comes the sense that you have been successful or done well at something. To feel proud you know that you have done well. To be proud evokes a sensation of absolute elation. To have that generally means you have done something awesome. So why not say it? We are all awesome. In our own special ways.

I only say this because things could have been so very different. I might not be here to relish in the sheer sensation that is crowds cheering as you pass. Or crossing the finish line. Or celebrating with family and friends at the completion and sharing stories. Or uploading photos to share with those that care and love me. I could have lost my willingness to participate in events like this. I could have lost my sportiness, fitness and my strength. I could have lost my oomph altogether. The muscular injuries to my feet, ankles and legs I have had over the past year could not have healed. The operations and long-term effects of treatment I have had could have put a halt to all of this. Alas, the stubborn intrepid persevering adventurer in me wins the day.

As a result I earned myself another sparkly shiny well-deserved medal to add to my ever-growing collection and a sheer sense of pride that will last a lifetime. It’s a wonderful feeling that’s for sure.

Book recommendation

I recently finished reading this fabulous book. Given to me as a gift for my birthday, I was keen to start it as soon as I could because I’d heard great things about it. I was not disappointed.

I’ve really got back into reading. I tend to choose books that have meaning and substance. Many of which have been written by experts in their field or people that have gone through some pretty tough times. People that inspire and motivate me or people that I love due to what they represent.

‘Why has nobody told me this before’ contains exactly what it says on the tin. It really is everyday tools for life’s ups and downs. A perfect delve into those difficult times and areas that we have to navigate and power our way through on a regular basis.

The author, Dr. Julie Smith, an experienced clinical psychologist, has split this perfectly structured book into eight sections on subjects such as motivation, emotional pain, grief, fear and stress. Topics that I am extremely passionate about.

I particularly like the ‘Try this’ lists that she places at the end of each chapter. It’s a really great tool for prompts, emphasising what you have read and gets you to reflect on elements highlighted within the chapter. There is then a chapter summary at the end which I also found useful as a reminder of the key aspects.

It’s a book that everyone can relate to. It’s also a really easy read. So refreshing for a book of thus nature. It normalises everyday emotions and feelings. That we are not alone in our thoughts, concerns or worries. In some cases it spins on its head various ways to process and consider challenges we face everyday in life.

Coping mechanisms and strategies are at the heart of this gem. In the words of Dr. Smith “When we understand a little about how our minds work and we have some guideposts on how to deal with our emotions in a healthy way; we not only build our resilience but we can thrive and grow”.

One of my favourite chapters is ‘Being enough’. Again, another subject which I adore and an area I plan to write about in the future.

Back to what I love….

I vowed to myself recently that I would make a conscious decision to start focusing on my health and wellbeing again. I mean really really focus on this. I eat well and I walk the dogs constantly. I’m am active person and love seeing family and friends. I enjoy the great outdoors too. But my health and wellbeing has still sort of been neglected over the past year or so. What has made me reassess this now? Injury, random illnesses, generally feeling less energetic and the fact that I am not completely living my life how I want. I had built up my life after cancer to a place that was so fabulous where I was super fit and strong and could take on anything. I feel like I’ve gone backwards a bit. However, that’s OK. I’m not a machine. Despite thinking I am sometimes.

I have no excuse for not posting on my blog or updating my website during the past year or so. I don’t like to admit it but I allowed things going on in my old worklife along with an injury to zap my energy and ultimately take my attention away from the things I love so much. Namely my writing, my website, exercising, challenges, learning, reading and more. It is scary how things happening negatively in life can hit so hard and sometimes have really bad effects that can often take their toll. Yet we somehow come out the other side and before long we must decide which direction to take next. We have the power to make that decision. To take charge and be in control. We have to want it though.

Last year I was not only going through a rubbish time at work but I also injured my feet, ankles and shins. Along with that grieving the death of my precious nanny. The work is by the by and I’m pleased to say I was offered the most awesome opportunity at my local hospice so I am no longer in that horrible position. I won’t go into anymore detail there. My injuries and nanny have really knocked me.

I’m trying to workout how or when my injuries happened. One minute I’m running and taking part in a triathlon. The next I can’t walk without pain. Towards the end of last year it was agonising. I had to stop running. I stopped everything really. Only walking continued. It has had such a massive effect on me because since my cancer diagnosis I have used exercise as a massive part of my recovery. To have that taken away from me has been horrific at times. Thanks to two awesome ladies (one specialising in physio and one in massage) I am now on the mend. But I’ve been grieving. Grieving not only for my nanny but for my usual sporty life that I had no choice but to stop.

I’ve done a lot of thinking and soul-searching during all this time and I’ve acknowledged fully (because health always comes first) that I had to listen to the experts and to my body and wait. Wait to get better and for my body to heal. That’s me taking control. My decision. I’m empowered with being in control. By changing my job I took control. I changed my life for the better. As for my nanny, what I can control was how I deal with the trauma of losing her. I allow myself to be upset. That’s OK. I have the most wonderful memories to look back on. Treasured moments lasting a lifetime.

A friend of ours came round Saturday night and we started talking about my adventures, travels and special moments. I said how it was sad that a lot of things in my life and places I’d visited was before all this amazing technology. Some places I didn’t even take any photos. Which I find really tough. He suggested I write about it all. So I’m going to include that in my blog as well. Because it’s part of who I am and the person that I have become. That intrepid traveller and explorer is very much part of my persona. That adventurous side helped me get better and I strongly believe played a pivotal role in my recovery.

I am loving writing this post so much. Its a short, sharp, very brief blog of some of the things in life that took me away from joys. Well no longer. I love writing. I love sharing my story. I love highlighting all the amazing things I’ve done in my life. I love writing about subjects relating to my diagnosis and recovery. I love celebrating my life. Exciting times ahead.

World Mental Health Day

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
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

Breast Cancer Awareness – Childlessness

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:

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