Thursday, 19 January 2023

The basics

Someone recently asked me if there is one thing that I recommend to all of my clients to support good health. This is an interesting question because if we consider that there are 8 billion people, with trillions of possible genetic variations, in a wide variety of environments, making each of us unique then it is clear that there cannot be a 'one size fits all' answer. However, there are some common recommendations that I make for wellness, and these are in essence the basis of my workshops.

All bodies have evolved to survive. To thrive. To heal. Our internal systems work tirelessly to anabolise and catabolise: simple biological processes which synthesise and break down molecules in an effort to create cellular energy. The molecules that we breathe, eat, drink and put on our skin are processed, metabolised and detoxified in an elegant cycle. Certain things slow the efficiency of these processes. I would largely break these down into: 

  • Poor diet (low nutrient status)
  • Lack of exercise (low oxygen status)
  • Inability to manage stress (including lack of purpose, passion and joy)
  • Environmental toxins (including pharmaceutical and recreational drugs)

So, going back to the original question, how can we broadly support health? 


Good health is undeniably reliant on a strong and diverse microbiome - an internal ecosystem made up of trillions of microbes. Each area of the body has its own subset of beneficial bacteria which work for us, digesting food, balancing cholesterol, regulating irons levels, synthesising vitamins, moderating tissue pH, manufacturing hormones and more. These microbes respond to the body's internal terrain. When we feed them, they thrive, therefore we thrive. They love fibre, so eating an unprocessed diet rich in seasonal vegetables and local fruit, plus nuts, seeds and pulses is beneficial. 

Beyond the microbiome, a rainbow coloured diet provides us with a multitude of vitamins, minerals and nutraceuticals - compounds which support all body functions. This is unsurprising when you consider that we have evolved alongside our food sources. For example berries are rich in polyphenols which can modulate the intestinal microbiota, support heart health, improve hormonal detoxification and more. Apply this nature-magic to a broad spectrum of wholefoods and you have a natural medicine cabinet on your plate, but without negative side effects. 

Hydration is crucial for good health since our cells require water to communicate, transport nutrients and detoxify. In the west particularly, we have been intoxicated by energy drinks, sugary smoothies, tea and coffee: anything but pure water. Consistent hydration brings clarity and energy, but for this to occur many of us need to relearn the thirst response. An easy tip is to set an hourly alarm throughout the day, drinking 8oz of clean water each time it goes off. Observe how you feel after a week - are headaches diminished? Do you feel less bloated? Are you sleeping better? I recommend getting a good filter to avoid common toxins; fluoride, chlorine, hormones, pharmaceuticals and microbes. I love my Aquasana whole house water filter, but Berkey countertop filters are also great for purifying drinking water. Adding a pinch of sea salt, the juice of half a lemon and 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar to the first glass of water on waking delivers electrolytes, expediting cellular hydration.


An oxygenated body is a healthy body. A daily exercise practice which increases heart rate and leaves you out of breath for 25 minutes will oxygenate the cells, move blood and lymph and improve heart health. Ideally some resistance training is strengthening for bones, particularly as we age. I recommend exercising in nature, since sunshine supports the production of endorphins, those happy hormones which help us to cope with stress. We have evolved within the natural biome - it feeds us in invisible ways from beneficial negative ions to commensal (helpful) bacteria. 


When supporting clients with cancer or other chronic illnesses, I often start by asking if there is joy and purpose. Why do you want to live? This simple question is fundamental to healing, particularly from diseases which have the potential to highlight our mortality. When we sink into joy, laugh freely, allow love and follow passions, the body heals. If we examine this from a chemical perspective we see that joy is the antidote to stress. Happiness hormones lower inflammation and counter the production of those stress hormones which would seek to keep us alive short term, but in doing so impair digestion, immune response and hormone balance.  Become aware of your stress triggers and the language you use around them. Managing stress can be as simple as starting a daily mindful breathing practice; concentrating on inhaling deeply through the nose into the diaphragm and slowly exhaling through the mouth.


When it comes to environmental toxins the best thing we can do is reduce burden. Read labels and avoid known toxins in beauty products: phthalates, parabens and BPA to name a few. Choose natural products without aluminium or microplastics. Think about your exposure to chemicals in the home and garden; paint fumes, cleaning and gardening products. Choose paints with low VOCs (volatile organic compounds) like Little Greene's water based products. 

With regards to pharmaceuticals I certainly never recommend stopping cold turkey, but it IS important to look at root cause: why have you been prescribed long-term medication and how could this be impacting your overall health? PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) for example lower hydrochloric acid in the gut which can have far-reaching negative downstream effects. Addressing ill-health by looking at root cause often means that we can reduce or even stop taking pharmaceuticals.

Directly supporting the liver, our main organ of detoxification, is wise. Reducing sugar is one of the first things I regularly recommend since refined sugar consumption over time leads to fatty liver, diminishing this vital organ's ability to detoxify the body from chemicals, hormones, heavy metals, histamine, alcohol and drugs. 

Beyond these things, I believe that the fastest route to health is to become reacquainted with your own body. As children we learn to respond to a full bladder or bowel; we understand when we are hungry or need to sleep. As adults we have not learned to interpret more subtle cues which indicate a physical need. We often seek the dopamine hit of caffeine or sugar rather than honestly acknowledging the body's requests for nutrients or rest.

Re-learning the language of the body is a beautiful thing, and all you need to do is tune in and trust yourself: how do you feel when you eat gluten, dairy, or sugar? How about after alcohol or stimulants? Do you have cravings? What is your body asking for, and why? Do you notice changes in the way your body odour? Do you know how to rest and stop? Reconnecting with the body brings an ability to support the physical alongside the mental and emotional aspects of living. 

If this information feels overwhelming, naturopaths, nutritional therapists or functional doctors can guide you in this re-learning and responding to the signs and symptoms from your unique body.

Tuesday, 4 October 2022

Healing the cycle.

It's fantastic that it is menopause awareness month. We absolutely should be talking about the discomfort that many of us experience at this time of life. However, I strongly feel that the discussion needs to be extended to include painful periods, particularly for teens. 

Let's go back to where I believe it all began for me. I had horrific periods. I was 15 when I started to menstruate and suffered monthly until I was misguidedly put on the pill at around 16 years of age. I would pass out in pain, blue lipped, tightly gripped. At a loss as to how to help me, my Mum, as was normal, put her faith in our family doctor. Trained in Western allopathic practice, he sought not the root cause of this abnormal pain, but instead snuffed out the symptoms which were screaming of imbalance with pharmaceuticals in the form of the contraceptive pill.

The pill can be helpful in improving period pain because it thins the womb lining and reduces the levels of inflammatory prostaglandins (hormone-like compounds which have many jobs, one of which is stimulating muscle contractions). This means that your body needs to work less hard to shed the womb lining - ie fewer cramps. However, the pill is problematic for many. In 1985, as is still common today, it was made of synthetic components which mimic oestrogen and progesterone. They sit on the same cell receptor sites as our own endogenous hormones, but since they do not have the same chemical structure, they are not broken down with the same efficacy, or down the same healthy pathways.Synthetic oestrogen is many times more potent than natural and can stay in the body for weeks vs the few hours that it takes to metabolise body-made hormones. This creates or exacerbates a state of oestrogen dominance, which can, when taken to it's unnatural conclusion, cause hormone sensitive cancers. These synthetic compounds also block vitamins B, C and E, zinc, selenium and magnesium; all vital in supporting the roles of detoxification, fertility, gut and immune health. And cancer prevention. The pill can negatively impact the liver (causing impeded detoxification, high cholesterol and systemic inflammation), the thyroid (oestrogen dominance can hinder the necessary conversion of thyroid hormones in the liver, whilst encouraging too many thyroid binding proteins, preventing thyroid hormones from getting into the cell) and the brain (studies have shown that the pill can cause significant structural changes in areas of the brain associated with memory and emotional processing). Beyond this the contraceptive pill can alter the delicate microbial balance of the gut, specifically the oestrobolome: the subset of beneficial bacteria which helps to metabolise and balance our systemic oestrogen. All drugs cause some level of side effects because they interfere with the intricate communication and feedback loops in our incredible bodies. But few drugs are taken so hastily and for such a long time as the contraceptive pill.

The pill stopped my pain, sure. But at what cost? I stayed on it for around 17 years, terrified of those agonising periods which stopped my world on a monthly basis. It was only truly in childbirth that I understood how abnormal my suffering was. I cruised to 7 cm dilation, abnormally comfortable at the intensity of that pain; my periods were like mini monthly labours. 

After I had had my babies, the pain returned. Crippling pain that stopped me driving, or moving, and a flow that stopped me sitting on other people's pale sofas during my period. It was only after my cancer diagnosis, when I began to explore the role of hormones in my illness, that I understood that I had suffered from oestrogen dominance my entire life. I learned that I have slow MTHFR and COMT genes. Essentially this translates to having an increased need for bio-available B vitamins to complete certain biological functions. I break oestrogen down slowly, leading to an imbalance in the 'grow' hormone compared to it's counter 'slow' progesterone.

I firmly believe, that even with my genetic propensity to break oestrogen down slowly, I would not have experienced crippling period pain had I been born in a different era. The burden from xeno-oestrogens (prevalent in make-up, self care products and household chemicals) would have been significantly less. Magnesium levels (needed for optimal muscle contraction) would have been higher in my diet due to greater amounts available in the soil that my food was grown in. Food would have contained less refined sugar and 'bad' oils, and I would have had less exposure to plastic - a potent hormone mimicker and disruptor.

There are natural ways to reduce pain, and in my practice these are all based on removing the root cause and supporting the natural balance of the body. One of the real issues I see in practice is that painful periods are often familial - that is to say that if you suffer from pain, your mother likely suffered, and your child may also suffer, normalising the experience. And so to my message. If you are a young person experiencing debilitating monthly pain when you menstruate, or if you are the parent of a young person who suffers, know this: this is your body conversing with you in all of its wisdom. It is telling you that there is toxicity (too much of something) or deficiency (too little of what the body needs). Learn the language of your symptoms. What is the message? 

I believe, because I have seen, that it is entirely possible to experience gentle periods. Often it is simply a case of changing the diet, taking some gentle, natural supplements, supporting the liver and becoming more aware of environmental toxins. Sugar and 'bad' fats for example, increase our production of those inflammatory prostaglandins. Stress burns through our magnesium stores. If we show our children how to support and heed their bodies, there is every chance that they will sail through menopause when their time comes. 

Thursday, 7 April 2022

Naturopathic Health

I'm excited to be working as a naturopath. It feels wonderful to be able to share what I have learned over the past 12 years with others in a tangible way. I believe that healing is simpler than we may have been lead to believe. I am seeing strong patterns in the people I am working with. Unsurprisingly the gut plays a foundational role, as do diet and lifestyle. Which begs me to ask the question; do you ever feel that you are the one sabotaging your health?

This blog is a shout out to my amazing 18 year old son who was once crippled by OCD and ended up on a life support machine aged 7 because his body couldn't cope with a respiratory virus.

He has guided me in my own health journey as we have discovered his intolerances to gluten (makes him feel emotional, edgy and adrenal) and dairy (he loses his sense of smell and feels generally mucousy). He self regulates because he knows how those foods make him feel. He happily supplements with certain vitamins and minerals because they support his central nervous system, well, his whole system.

He is sensitive to drugs, clearing them slowly, so we weaned him off the steroids and asthma medication that he was given after his near-death experience, instead focusing on a varied, organic, seasonal diet, clean water and clean body products: basically a nutrient-rich, low-toxin lifestyle. Moving to the countryside helped enormously - he never suited city living. Home education saved him in other ways - he got to explore his passions and go at his own pace. We massively reduced his stress burden which is paramount in healing.

As a result he is no longer governed by OCD, recovers from colds faster than anyone I know and is a gregarious seeker of fun; an extrovert with enormous confidence. A sensitive, intelligent and wise child, he has reached adulthood intact and is fully living his potential. This could have been a very different story.

Each of us have unique genetic propensities which are directly guided by the environments we create for ourselves, both internally and externally; how we respond to stress, what we eat, what we put on and in our bodies. Each of us have a different path to health and yet so many of us unknowingly continue to live in ways that are unsustainable. What are these diet and lifestyle health obstacles? Processed foods, limited and restricted nutrient-poor diets, stress and toxic beauty products are all sabotage the body's natural balance. They make our livers work harder and they tax our guts. The downstream effect is one of toxicity and deficiency; the hallmarks of chronic disease. The body will communicate any imbalance to us. First it will whisper with pain, bloating, fatigue, dry skin and nails or insomnia. Unheard it will speak more loudly with auto-immune illnesses like allergies, hypothyroidism, kidney stones or gall bladder issues. Finally it will scream with life-threatening diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

When we learn the language of the body we are able to hear its messages and respond by supporting its immense efforts at maintaining balance. With this rebalancing comes energy and a lust for life. Health is not the absence of illness - it is about feeling vibrant, potent and happy.

Monday, 30 August 2021


What happens if we surrender to our current situation, giving ourselves permission to be and feel, unconstrained by societal expectations of succeeding, healing or even coping. What if we stop striving and permit ourselves to feel sad, overwhelmed or ill, heeding the body's call to acknowledge legitimate feelings as a means to process them.

What if we radically accept ourselves in whatever form we take in whichever moment. Even if that is old, tired or grey. What if society and economics has it wrong and we are still valid, vibrant and beautiful in all of our states, young, old, unemployed, infertile.

What if we reframe? 

Illness as an opportunity to rest and reassess lifestyle choices.

Tiredness as a call to stop.

Grief as a time to process.

Age as a blessing, one of wisdom and beauty. Wrinkles finely woven into the tapestries of the skin as visible etchings of emotions well explored: a life experienced in all of it's forms. 

What if everything is OK. All feelings are OK. Understanding that it is appropriate to feel and express anger or sorrow. And what if we teach the next generation not to swallow their pride, dry their tears and curb their anger. What if we encourage healthy expression and acknowledgement of the full range of human emotion?

These feelings serve us - and yet we have compartmentalised them into categories of acceptable and unacceptable, good and bad. If we want to suppress, succumbing to the body's internalised rage later, then this is surely the way to go. If however we are prepared to sit in the fury, the disappointment, the gut wrenching pain as well as the joy, the relief, the vibrancy, then what? We begin to process life as it happens, experience it in technicolour. Our sentient bandwidths, our capacities, grow. The lows may be lower but the highs are higher. We become blessed to feel EVERYTHING. We stop numbing, suppressing and repressing feelings which we have named as unhelpful, impolite, ugly and painful. What a gift this is to access and express the full range of emotion - of energy in motion. And we have a CHOICE. We can CHOOSE to feel but it takes courage. To sit in the uncomfortable. To weep, shake, rock, and wail. To feel humbled and brought to our knees. To face the fear of loss or abandonment. Brandon bays teaches, as do many others, that if we sit with our feelings for long enough we will come always to a place of love; a blinding, all-encompassing love which holds us and releases us from fear. Which brings faith, strength and calm. And what if we can only access this place of bliss on Earth by allowing and exploring ALL of those other emotions?

I have become acutely aware of my knee-jerk response to deny certain feelings, the overwhelm they bring, the desire to numb them out, drown them out, suppress them, shut them down, shut them up, turn to alcohol, loud music, mindless television in an effort to shhhhh, quieten, ignore these angry and hurt children that reside within and want nothing more than to be seen, heard and comforted. I am starting to sit quietly and listen. Awareness is everything and when we truly tune in, we begin to understand the damaging stories we tell ourselves when an uncomfortable emotion tears through the rolodex, pulling up filed beliefs which we have created to protect us from trauma. Quietly and without judgment I am becoming able to tell myself it's OK. It's OK to feel this way, to challenge my belief system and to let go of limiting ideas about what this emotion is teaching me. Choosing not to sink into those comfortable, subconscious grooves of association is where liberation lies. Instead, healing comes from quietly trusting, surrendering, allowing, listening, believing and loving the self unconditionally. Without doubt it is one of the most challenging life lessons I have invited. But change is coming fast; within and without. 

This form of healing is every bit as important as juicing, daily coffee enemas, healthy eating and exercise. I would go as far as to say that this is the real healing. Lately when I meditate I can actually feel my cells cleansing; my microbiome shifting; my energy field growing. It's exciting and a not a little scary - a new me, a transition, shedding old, redundant beliefs about who I am. 

We are here to experience not achieve. Let's immerse ourselves fully into the opportunity of life. 

Sunday, 8 August 2021


Many speak of the cancer person's need to please others. Gabor Mate says these are "people who don't know how to say no, people who are rigid and compulsive, perfectionistic, expecting themselves to be perfect in everything, people who don't know how to express their experience of anger in a healthy way, people who compulsively and automatically take care of others and don't think of their own needs." This resonates for me. I believe that this inability to create healthy boundaries is a self protection mechanism and comes from a place of a lack of self worth and/or self love. Even Mate says that his response to a world in which he felt unwanted was to create for himself a role of being needed. 

Our behavioural patterns are entrenched in ways which we believe will keep us safe, loved and wanted. This can mean putting the needs of others first in an attempt to feel valued. For me it translates to a lack of boundaries, co-dependance and an inability to advocate for myself. I acknowledge that this had value at some point in my life but it is time to reassess these deep and comfortable grooves which no longer serve me. There is yet a new way of being. 

Luckily my kids are adept at boundaries - lord knows where they learned this skill, but I am grateful that they are prepared to teach me. I listen in awe as they thoughtfully and gently tell me 'no'. And I am amazed that although initially the surprise of it hurts, ultimately it increases my respect and admiration for them. It excites me.

Beyond my children, the sea is my teacher. Shortly after the breakdown of my marriage I started cold water swimming. Sea swimming in early May in the UK is a revelation. As someone who has previously rejected the pebbly shores of the East Sussex coastline, hankering instead for hot white sandy beaches of Australia, Thailand, Cuba, Mexico, hell, anywhere but here, sea swimming is teaching me lessons in presence, grounding and gratitude that I didn't know I needed. The sea holds me, shocks me, rocks me. I can have no expectations of her. She will be what she is and I will love her for it. At a time when I feel far from unconditionally loved, this is a gentle reminder that we can be whatever we are and still be loveable. Regardless of whether her tides are calm or wild she embraces me, defibrillating me back into my body like nothing else. With every swim she connects me to this planet in a way that reminds me that I am home. 

My first photos of the sea after I had begun this new habit of immersion reflected my confusion. They were stark, ugly, unromantic. But slowly, slowly they are revealing that I am falling in love. My lens has changed. I am fascinated by the pebbles and their geological secrets. I am learning the vocabulary of the sea, revelling in floating in the slack, the fret and the spume. The ocean is revealing her treasure along the strand line: sharks purses, hag stones and sea glass. I am learning about the brine loving plants that inhabit the shoreline and am doing regular beach cleans in gratitude. The sea is always there, but she is not always approachable. Sometimes her ferocity would hurt me. She reminds me of my boundaries - that I am responsible for keeping myself safe. And that is the purpose of healthy boundaries. They protect us. They allow us to go as far as we feel able to. And they are ours. No-one can impose them upon us. And they must be respected.

I feel stronger, leaner and healthier for this new habit, and it has surprising health benefits. Cold water therapy, as purported by the incredible 'Ice Man' Wim Hof, can improve circulation, stimulate the immune system, reduce chronic inflammation and even help to support metabolism through an increase in brown fat, which helps to regulate thyroid hormones. I am planning to gently wean off my thyroid supplements which are expensive and unethical.

A surprisingly beautiful side effect of cold water swimming has been finding a community of women. Women who rescue me figuratively and literally. Who listen and make me laugh. Who are equally held by the sea. I am healing and growing more resilient one swim at a time - learning about boundaries is a beautiful side effect.

Friday, 30 April 2021

Depression and the end of an era

It has taken me 50 years to recognise depression. It's something that I have encountered a few times but have always misunderstood, panicking that I am falling behind, confused at the ease in which everyone else seems to be navigating life. I have mistaken depression for 'not good enough' and for envy and jealousy. Now I see clearly that it is time for me to really bring awareness to these feelings. To allow them, exam and honour them. To support myself knowing that this is not who I am, but rather a way that I am feeling right now. It seems to me, in hindsight, that in those times when I felt out of control and impotent, depression was possibly very appropriate. Because what if the purpose of depression is indeed to slow down and process where we are in life? What if depression is our higher selves calling for 'more' or 'different', alerting us to the fact that we are off course and we are ignoring that something doesn't feel right?

With my kids I am good at pressing pause to explore the 'big stuff' as it happens, be it illness, death, puberty or grief. All major experiences bring profound opportunities to grow, to become self aware and to gain access to a tool kit that will serve us throughout life. Burying feelings creates problems later on. Dealing with feelings as they arise is much more painful and uncomfortable, but builds a strong foundation of resilience and emotional intelligence. 

I find myself in exactly such a time of great opportunity as my relationship of 27 years falls away. All of my feelings of being unloved and unloveable, of abandonment and failure have come crashing down around me. I am entering a new phase of coming into my own power. Of seeing my own patterns and responses more clearly. Of being aware of the way this emotional stress is making me feel physically - I am flooded with cortisol, my pulse is electric. I feel coiled and ready to jump.I cannot continue to create such anxiety in my physical or emotional bodies. Already I am finding calm. I am trusting that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I am finding compassion, for myself and for my husband. I am processing through shaking, laughing, crying, journalling, talking, hugging and dancing. When it comes up, I allow it and I fully go there. And 'there' is often a lonely, scared and disappointed place. But what a luxury. Again I am reminded that we only have this moment. This moment is a blessing and a safe place. All is well here, now. Now is not always 'perfect'. Now is not always 'trying'. Now is whatever now is, and that is liberating. 

I have been doing this work in earnest since my cancer diagnosis, but as for so many it is the end of a marriage which brings some of the biggest challenges and the greatest growth. I am hopeful that this healing of old wounds, this melting of self doubt, will bring about my ultimate healing. Cancer developed within my marriage - not because of my relationship but because of the ways I have responded and reacted within it. I have always had a nagging sense that I would need to remove myself from this relationship to close the last page on my cancer story, but I am devoted to commitment. In a lifetime of huge lessons, this is probably one of the hardest I have faced - observing and addressing my own heartbreak, fear, loneliness and shame. Acknowledging needs unmet and my own complicity.

It is no coincidence that I have just discovered that I have a cyst on my ovary. Ovaries represent the seat of creative expression. Louise Hay speaks of ovarian cysts as the re-running of old stories that no longer serve us. In 2021, the year I dubbed 'the year of letting go' I am letting go of these old stories and beliefs - they were the traits of a person who existed yesterday. This feels like a HUGE opportunity to grow and discard. Discarding cancer, feelings of being 'not good enough' and 'too much.' I am a big believer in manifestation and so I look now at what I DO want rather than what I DON'T. I am learning to self soothe. I am watching my language around guilt and 'trying'. I am taking responsibility. I am growing up. I feel excited and broken hearted, bewildered and joyful, discarded and liberated. And sometimes I feel bitter, toxic and tired. How beautiful it is to be able to feel. 

I am realising that at times of great stress I reach for crutches - coffee, chocolate, alcohol. Drugs to numb or elevate when the feelings threaten to overwhelm. These drugs deplete magnesium, as does stress. Magnesium helps us to relax. I'm increasing my daily dose of this important mineral in malate form. Low B vitamins are implicated in depression, as we burn through our finite resources faster when stressed. B6 in the form of P5P can help to build the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and GABA. I am taking hawthorn for a broken heart and ignatia for grief. Lemon balm calms my central nervous system. I am looking at my health more holistically - my usual go to is attending to what I put IN my body, but now it's time to pull focus and healthily immerse my whole self in joy. The sea is calling as are new friends and my fledgling business. I am seeking words that resonate and am taking them deep into my soul. My soul knows the truth. I deserve happy. We all do. 

Transitions are tough, but one thing my dog taught me in my recent grief is that nothing stays the same. Even the pain and power of grief transform eventually. Maybe that hawthorn that I picked on those last walks was for this future version of me after all. 

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Yesterday I had an interesting conversation with a friend about how strange it is that we, as humans, rarely talk honestly about the big stuff, notably about the viscera, the pain, the life events that force growth. Childbirth was a revelation for me, not because of the wonder, but because of the lack of information I had about those precious weeks after having a baby, of the lengthy blood loss and the physical discomfort of a healing and changed body. When did women stop talking to each other about these most intimate and important facts?

And so on the eleventh anniversary of my cancer diagnosis I am writing about the day of my diagnosis. For anyone who has been given such news the shock is real and I remember well, two fingers over my mouth, staring at the floor, unwilling to look at the consultant, grasping mentally for hooks of comprehension. All I could summon was a lifetime of bad TV soap storylines and a sense of the whole experience from above. In the shock and the life-pause I could not understand. 

Of course the reality was a slow unfolding of the facts, culminating many weeks later in the revelation that I was going to die. Not yet, no, but at some point. I was sitting under an old and very large tree when I suddenly understood that that tree would be here when I would not. The revealing continued when I reached home. The utter incomprehension that the banister of my hundred year old home could outlive me, had outlived many. The disbelief that the tangible things that shaped my reality, the safety of my home, the inanimate objects that I had chosen to surround myself with, would, could exist beyond my lifetime. The reality of this insight about mortality was shocking and the world spewed into glorious blinding technicolour. I woke up from a deep slumber and started really living, grabbing life, knowing what there was (and still is) to lose. As Paulo Coelho says, "death is our constant companion, and it is death that gives each person's life its true meaning". 

Since the fear of death, or rather the fear of causing pain to my family, was my most pressing anxiety I addressed that first. I wrote to my parents, my husband and my children. Love letters, apology letters. Letters sent and unsent. I dealt with my fear of dying young before I got on with the business of healing. 

Eleven years later cancer waxes and wanes as my companion. There are periods where she exists in the shadows, allowing me to relinquish my status of other and to feel more 'normal'. At other times she comes and sits on my lap, encouraging me with her gentle fear to change my protocol, get a test, eat better or meditate. She reminds me to live, she will not desert me. It has taken a long time to accept this fact with grace. To allow it and keep living, to trust it and keep healing. 

I believe that processing the shock of a diagnosis and subsequent prognosis is incredibly important if we are to heal. Only two years ago did I really go there, back to that room, to examine the powerful effects that those words had had on my psyche. I 'went' with a homeopath who worked gently with me, tissues at the ready. We used EFT and it was a transformative experience. I was able to hold and comfort that younger, scared version of myself and to tell her that it is OK, it would be ok and it will yet be OK. Better than OK. That younger me had no idea of the world that was about to open up to her - the possibilities, the beauty, the new life awaiting. I remember early on hearing that 'cancer is a gift wrapped in a shitty package'. How true.