For the loved ones



It has been a while since I Iast sat down to write and although many times I have felt the urge, I have been unable to find the tranquillity and serenity to do so. This entry was inspired by watching Stand up to Cancer in television last week whilst visiting my mother in Spain.  I had somewhat managed to distance myself from the disease : finding answers, travelling, strengthening and empowering my body and mind to achieve a balance again.

The program catapaulted me back into the grim reality of the world of cancer. I say grim because some of the stories were heart wrenching and as tears welled up in my eyes …. it humbled me. I am not special, or different or unlucky…. I am just one of those millions of people out there in a somewhat chaotic world just trying to stay on the planet.

Just listening to other people share their journeys to raise awareness and funds was enlightening. I became far more aware of the suffering and difficulties that family and friends face when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer –  wanting and needing to help in some way is so important to them…. I say this because I didn’t quite understand this need for loved ones be part of the process …. the medical recovery and roller coaster of emotions that accompanies a diagnosis.

 My immediate reaction in 2008 ( first diagnosis) was to try  to show everyone how well I was coping: working throughout the gruelling chemotherapy regime; soldiering on through the radiotherapy. Why? What was I trying to prove? I answer that with a simple ‘denial’  .  Trying to maintain some kind of status quo and sense of ‘normality’.  What I didn’t realise was that this was reality….. and not allowing anyone close enough  to share my innermost thoughts was a mistake.  I didn’t have to do it alone. I can’t change the past but I can allow my friends and family closer this time.

It takes courage to fight a battle but it takes far more courage to shed the layers and let down the barriers that show our true selves – to share our feelings of despair but to grasp the hope that only the stronger people around us can bring.  


There is a light in this world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. We sometimes lose sight of this force when there is suffering, too much pain. Then suddenly, the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways

― Mother Teresa

This entry was posted on October 27, 2012. 3 Comments

Timeless time….

I feel full of gratitude to all af you that have been following my blog –  writing helped me through an incredibly dark time and allowed me to be totally honest about my feelings.  I hope that by doing this I have been able to help others in some way – those suffering with cancer or affected by it – this was my original intention.

I have had the opportunity to think a lot over the last few weeks :  unearthing the ‘real Carrina’ is an ongoing task and the endless journey is full of surprises.  Different techniques of counselling have allowed me to delicately revisit some painful times in my past and lay them to rest.  I am slowly learning to understand why people appeared to  behave in a way that hurt me, but at the same time, observe my part in the process: understanding that perhaps my expectations of certain situations/people  were marred by self- centredness and ego.

Being aware and controlling  my own thoughts  –  as if I were standing outside my body becoming an observer and listener. It is amazing how many things are indeed under our control  – an empowering experience to be able to shift negative thoughts and see the other side. This is so important when faced with emotional battles of any sort –  including cancer or other life threatening diseases.

Time is the most important gift in life: the freedom to choose how you spend it. We spend so much of our time wishing it away – projecting into the future Wanting to be somewhere else; with someone else; doing something else.  Some of us live in our pasts  – I chose to gate my previous life, lock it away and not visit it because I couldn’t deal with the emotions.  I enjoyed the self pity and being a victim choosing to wallow in my fabricated world. Yes, it is true that I have experienced many a turmoil; but life happens and you deal with it –  I am blessed to still be here and although it feels I  walk on borrowed time – I am still  luckier than many.

Today I sat in the waiting room at hospital – a new lump in my neck had appeared and I was there for a scan.  One thing was for sure – this was a cancer hospital and everyone there was in some way affected –  people who struggled to walk; a young woman in her prime; an old man with a burnt face and half a neck; a daughter bravely helping her mother  – yet  in some way there was also a feeling of peace – there was no sense of urgency or panic –  Once again I became extremely aware of the importance of living in the day.  To me this means simply being grateful for each day that we are alive, not in pain and still able to choose how we spend some of those precious moments.  We do not have the power to see into the future but we do have the power to make decisions for today….

Yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream 
― Kahlil Gibran

This entry was posted on September 17, 2012. 9 Comments

Free again…..

Since my last entry on the blog,  I haven’t thought much about the cancer. Death and negative thoughts were buried under a veil of hope and love. A glimpse of what I used to consider a ‘normal’ life returned and I have felt safe in the realm of uncertainty.

Changing my thought pattern has been a real challenge and continues to be work in progress ( like all habits, hard to break) Trapped in a wheel of self pity and self hatred for so long I feel that a weight has finally been lifted through counselling, therapy and exploring a more spiritual side of myself that I always knew existed,  but that was lost through living a shallow and superficial existence for so many years .

Although the reason for counselling has primarily been the return of the cancer… it is clear that most of my fears stem from the past. In order to heal, I have had to unwrap the neat parcels I so carefully put away for many years: parcels of doubt, sadness and insecurities .  It is a continuing steep learning curve but necessary to explore if I am to beat this disease.

It is well documented that resentments, anger  and grief can contribute to the onset of many diseases including cancer. Our minds are a powerful tool….and as I have discovered,  also an extremely dangerous one : strong convictions and beliefs can often turn into reality . Essentially, in the most simplistic form,  we are what we think.

The day arrived that I had to attend the appointment for the pathology report after the operation. For some reason, as I entered the hospital, I was not afraid: Not one negative thought crossed my mind. For the first time,  I was not projecting the outcome of the meeting or indeed how many of the 15 nodes were positive for metastatic disease. For the first time,  I felt in some  odd way at peace and protected by something greater than myself.

Results:  ONLY THE ONE large node cancerous  1/15.  –

And so…….. am I to believe that all the work I have been doing  on my thought patterns has influenced this outcome ? Or am I to believe that this is purely a scientific result and nothing more than a clinical fact?

Perhaps, it is easier to believe that the medication I have been taking stopped the cancer from spreading, but deep inside of me,  I know that it was the power of my mind that kept it contained. No, I am not losing my sanity, just waking up and beginning to understand the gift that we all possess …. the energy of thought.

I am once again free of cancer …. NED ( No Evidence of Disease) as they call it in the forums. However, I must not become complacent as the beast awaits silently a time to raise its ugly head.  I must remain vigilant: take care of my soul and enrich my life in every possible way so that it remains in the shadows.

What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: Our life is the creation of our mind.

Buddha (563 BC-483 BC) Founder of Buddhism.

In memory of …….

News that my friend’s daughter passed away after a long battle with cancer saddened me immensely yesterday. She was a young and brave warrior: now a beautiful angel free of pain and suffering. My heart goes out to her parents and family  who are left with the void but I know that  they will be celebrating her wonderful life and courage.

I ask myself if one can prepare for this eventuality – the loss of a loved one. After much soul searching I realise that there is a law of nature that makes death acceptable:  the oldest should die first as they are seen to be the weakest and the ‘survival of the fittest’ rings true in this scenario. But here this is not the case;  a young woman has been stripped of her life.

Part of me feels almost guilty to still be here battling on ….but I know this is just madness talking. It is during these times that I question the existence of a higher power or a God of any sort –  but then I look around and realise how much of life is unfair. …..Suddenly it dawns on me that I am drifiting back to old patterns of behaviour and only seeing the negative when I should be grateful for all the positive elements in my own personal life.  Unfortunately, these are the small things we take for granted each day: waking up to the light filtering through a blind;  the heat of the sun on bare skin: the sound of rain dancing on a window pane ; the touch of a loved one and the smiles of strangers.

In my personal  journey and sharing those of others with terminal illnesses, it appears that our greatest fear is not death itself, but the pain of those we leave behind. I often think about my death and indeed it is the thought of my son….. alone… that causes my eyes to well with tears.

But just for today I am here –  today I am healthy  –  using this as a trampoline , I can continue to live and love. Today I am grateful for life.

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”   Richard Bach,

This entry was posted on July 31, 2012. 3 Comments

Out of the tunnel…..

I haven’t been well enough to blog during my stay in hospital but am now back home and enjoying every minute of my recovery. The sun has reappeared from its hiding place and for me signifies the new light in my life …. that I am once again ‘technically ‘ free of cancer as they have removed not only the 3 cancerous nodes but another 12 surrounding to ensure a clear margin. It wasn’t what had been discussed, but it was what the surgeon did; When asked why, I merely got the reply that it was what they thought was best ! Well, I don’t even want to go there ……..

I tend to get on with things in a pragmatic fashion and although the stay in hospital was not without its small dramas,  all proceeded well.

As I lay in my ‘up and down’ bed pressing the various controls to find a comfortable position, I found many opportunities to reflect on different things.  I realised that whilst they say that teaching is a true vocation (one that I have enjoyed for the last 10 years )  I  believe that ‘ nurses’ are surely  angels in disguise and should be given wings. Based in a Cancer hospital, one thing became evident quite quickly  : that people around me were extremely unwell  and the thought did cross my mind that many were dying. This was a place that I really didn’t want to return to ……..

The whole experience was made bearable  due to the presence of the nurses : very special men and women  arriving  to work their shifts  Yes, they handed out the ‘drugs’ that numbed the unrelenting pain but they also dished out understanding and smiles that got me through each day and night – not an easy task.  I tried to switch of my senses and not hear the moans  of other patients  fighting the battle, but found myself often thinking of the return of the dreaded beast and an eventual painful, physical decline and  ultimate death. But there was always a face, a voice to distract  me from this downward spiral into depression and anxiety. For this I am eternally grateful to all the staff at Granard House, Royal Marsden 3rd floor.  My admiration and respect goes to all of you!

Back in the comfort of my own home,  I am learning to plan for an uncertain future and realise that nothing in life is ‘secure’ . I am adjusting to a life that won’t ever be the same but could indeed be better if I allow myself to accept this cancer as a ‘messenger’ not a disease. Of course there is a shadow that lurks in the darkness but if I follow the light, I will be okay.

And now we wait…… appointments with radiotherapist and pathology reports next week.

Happiness is like a butterfly.
The more you chase it, the more it eludes you.
But if you turn your attention to other things,
It comes and sits softly on your shoulder.
 – Henry David Thoreau

This entry was posted on July 24, 2012. 6 Comments



Sometimes it is necessary to take a step back from the  mirror…. Looking at my reflection I see a strong,  positive and self assured woman …..  but more than often my thoughts take me to very negative places where I dwell in self -pity quite contentedly and become oblivious to the world and the feelings of  others. This for me is my ‘natural state of being';  it has been since I was a small child, where I developed  the tendency to ‘isolate’ as a coping mechanism  to counteract  the feelings of  not belonging.

What we demonstrate to the outer world is not necessarily what we really feel and believe inside. I am convinced  that to assist  recovery from any  ‘cancer’ ( using whatever route we decide)  we really need to believe  that we CAN heal. It is so easy for the sub conscious to play mind games and allow seeds of doubt to grow: we research and look at statistics, we see only people that are dying from cancer and not those that are living.  It is a downward spiral.  Instead we must change our way of thinking and tend to our spiritual beings which can often be overshadowed and buried in the frenzy of modern living.

My love and prayers go to all you out there that are on a similar journey and to the loved ones that are travelling with you.




This entry was posted on July 18, 2012. 5 Comments

Decisions, decisions….

Life at the moment seems to be series of waiting rooms and doctor’s appointments to get second opinions on the best way to proceed Making important decisions has never been one of my strong points –  Perhaps this stems from ‘fear’ of making the wrong decision and being in some way judged. Anyway, I thank my son who actually ‘listens’ more attentively than I do; is certainly more rational and therefore able to look at the pros and cons of each proposed surgery/treatment.

It has been decided to operate to remove the mass of the tumour and the surrounding nodes in order to get a clear margin ( this means where there appears to be no evidence of further metastasis).  CLEAR MARGIN  – this is one area where surgical opinion differs. One surgeon wants to remove a ‘box’ area around the tumour together with the muscle : (    the other surgeon wants to remove  the whole chain of nodes down my neck and across the clavicle cutting into the muscle and removing what he deems necessary. My oncologist  convinces me that his surgeon is the best but likes ‘big’ operations  however,  he will speak to him and ‘reign’ him in a little. Excuse me, this is my neck we are talking about …. the anatomical part of my body that bears the weight of my super brain!

We have finally decided on the surgeon but  it is necessary to speak with him BEFORE the ‘cut’ and establish exactly what he intends to do. During the surgery will he stick to the plan  and remove only what has been agreed ?  Who is going to control what happens in the operating theatre ? I have been advised to write my wishes on the anesthetic form.

And so operation is scheduled for Thursday – I am feeling relieved but at the same time nervous and apprehensive for the reasons above. I am not worried about the scarring as much as the loss of muscle tissue inhibiting movement and causing ongoing pain and discomfort.  It is impossible to know how my body will react to the surgery and I have to accept this and stay as healthy as possible to aid my recovery.

This cancer is a journey but I am learning so much and finding the courage to make long awaited changes in my life. In a funny, surreal way  I feel at peace with myself for the first time.

Thank you all for your prayers and making me realise that I am not alone.  x

Using the power of decision gives you the capacity to get past any excuse to change any and every part of your life in an instant.  ~Anthony Robbins