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Friday, April 16, 2021

Nurture With Nature

AtoZChallenge
I have come across a lot of people who get holed up in the safety of their homes when they are undergoing cancer treatment. One of the reasons is that they are scared of catching infections when exposed to outdoors and more people, the second is coping up with the changes in body like removal of cancer infected body parts, hairfall and low energy levels.
Safety of home is good, but do not deny yourself the goodness of Nature. Sunlight, flowers, fresh air, water, hills and trees fill you with a lot of good will, happiness, energy and positivity. My children enjoyed walks and very often I took them out on long walks. Even from a very young age my son could walk miles without tiring. 
All wiped out after long walk.. only my son is ready for another round

My daughter was in a pram because she was yet to walk. We would talk, joke,sing and observe everything around us during our walks. My daughter would point at something, and my son would explain it to her in detail. I don’t know what she understood, but she enjoyed it a lot and her expression said it all. 
He is an amazing brother to her always

This helped me deal with the side effects of chemotherapy and anxiety to a great extent. Those walks with my children in the evening were life saver.

Sometimes your curse becomes your boon. In the initial days of my survival, I could not afford the school bus fare for my son. So we decided to walk to school. We would go through fields and enjoy our walks a lot. We had our share of adventures, especially two encounters with snakes during these walks. Fortunately they all ended well for us with just a scare.

Due to the financial crunch I faced, I used to walk a lot if I had to get somewhere, and this helped me become more fit after my treatment. I had to carry my daughter and take care of her, for which my hand to be moved even if it hurt a little. Doctor said that was what made my hand gain all of its previous strength and kept its mobility intact after total radical mastectomy.

We spent a lot of time on our terrace as well. My daughter was 1 and son 5 when I battled cancer and this helped me a lot to recover. I had to take them out, play with them and have fun. What better way to recover than to be with children and living their life? I feel besides the treatment, it was my children and my need to be there for them with their activities that helped me heal and get stronger both physically and mentally.

We enjoyed a lot of time on the beach as well, which was our favorite picnic spot. We would just wander away on the hills whenever we felt like it. Whenever I was at the sea and looked at it, I felt so free and grounded at the same time. It is a special feeling which can be given only by nature. The vastness of the sea, or the enormity of the hills, the never ending skies always made me feel so tiny, and so were all of my problems reduced to smaller grains.

Not everyone going through cancer treatment can experience outdoor due to the challenges and health issues accompanying the course of treatment. There was a time when my WBC count went too low and I was not allowed to go out for a few weeks. I had to wait, and that was the wise thing to do at that time.

Go out there in the rain, sun, moonlight and enjoy the beauty of nature. Stop to smell the flowers - this is one of the most underrated quotes of all. Feel the water, touch the earth and talk to the trees. Nature can nurture you better than most of the expensive pills.

There cannot be a post about nature without beautiful pictures accompanying it.. so here we go!!
















Thursday, April 15, 2021

M - Mind Full to Mindful - A Meaningful Journey

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Mindfulness - sounds pretty simple, right? But since our mind is always full, it is not easy to be mindful which is allowing our mind to fully attend to what’s happening, what we are doing and the space we are moving through ‘NOW’. Not in the past, not in the future.Sounds quite easy and it would have been if not for the fact that our mind loves to wander which makes us lose touch with reality. We become obsessed with what has happened, what may happen, rather than concentrating on what is happening. Soon we are full of either fear, anger, anxiety or sadness.

The monkey chattering of our minds is not easy to silence, neither are the negative thoughts which cloud our vision. When faced with something life threatening like cancer, they become more active and louder, which can lead to confusion and chaos. The results will be seen in our behavior and responses to situations which may not be the best of choices we could have made. 



Though the term mindfulness was coined in the early 20th century, I got to know about it just before my diagnosis. I started working on it much later, after my surgery and initial doses of chemotherapy. Though I don’t believe in religion or miracles much, the outcome of mindfulness was miraculous for me. It was as though my mind underwent a cataract surgery. I was always a rational person who rationally evaluated things rather than falling emotional suggestions. Here I was just putting in effort to be aware of it more clearly, so being mindful came easily to me. 


As I was going through my chemotherapy, days started becoming more and more hectic. My sister succumbed to breast cancer when I was on my first cycle of chemotherapy and thereafter everything was just pure chaos. My family was devastated. I went through guilt and remorse for not being able to do anything much to save her life. 


My mind soon became the devil’s workshop, chattering constantly, churning out negative thoughts one after another so much that I couldn’t sleep. I started running through my days without being aware of what was happening around me. There were demands, suggestions, incomplete tasks and emotions attacking me randomly from everywhere. The biggest problem on hand being my worry of leaving behind my children in case cancer won the battle. The fear of not being there for them was not allowing me to be with them even when we were present in the same room. 


Fortunately one fine day I decided to tackle this issue. With help from my doctor, who also acted as my counselor, I decided to concentrate on now and what I can do to make life better for my children when I am there with them. That was the beginning of the journey of walking down the path of being mindful. Life became so much calm, peaceful and better after that I was quite surprised how much this little change would have such a huge impact. Later on other issues were handled in similar ways, and soon life was not so bad anymore. The pain of losing a loved one doesn’t go away, but I learned to deal with it rather than denying it. 


I used to avoid questions, feelings and emotions earlier, but I started looking up them in the eye now. I stopped forcing happiness into my thoughts, but allowed them to wander before bringing them back on the right track by logical explanations or surrendering the unknown to happen when it has to happen. I did not reject disappointment, sadness, anger, jealousy,  insecurity or fear but accepted them as what they are and allowed myself to feel them. I was only mindful of my reactions to those feelings and course of action to be taken to tackle them and not stopping them or denying them.


I stopped rushing through things I did everyday. I started talking calmly to my children as well, and believe me the effect it has on them is unbelievable even after 25 years. I will not claim that I understand being mindful like an expert, but I have practiced being in the moment and living in the now in the past 25 years. I do not take problems in loads, but sort them out one  by one. At times I fall into the old pattern of responses and react to situations in a bad way, but fortunately I am aware that I am giving into anger, fear, or insecurities when that happens which helps me to recover in a given time. I don’t attack myself mercilessly when it happens because after all I am a human being with some shortcomings. I accept my faults.  


Mindfulness is something you need not buy or get from someone paying them high fees. All humans are born with it. Being mindful is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Our ancestors must have possessed this to survive in the wild, but we lost this ability with the speed that overtook our lives. Let us go back to being calm, peaceful and show the wisdom in dealing with our lives of which we are capable of. Let us experience the miracle of being Mindful- NOW.





Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Learn to Listen to Your Body

AtoZChallenge

One of the much required skills for your good health is learning to listen to your body. Your body often sends out signals when it is in need of something, or if something is drastically off the radar, but often, engrossed in our mundane everyday tasks or faced with deadlines, we tend to ignore those completely. 

A common cold, fever, flu or many other illnesses are like the crying babies who get the milk. With their announced symptoms, we rush to take care of the illness. But then there are those dangerous or even potentially life-threatening conditions which may be dwelling inside your body without your knowledge because they have no symptoms, or the few symptoms  they show are so mild  that you will miss them unless you know how to listen to even the tiny murmurs of your body. Cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease are some of the silent monsters. 

Your body may tell you something with a lump, cramp, rash or increased tiredness, but how often do you listen to its clues or messages? We are so good at taking care of our homes, vehicles and family, but often tend to ignore our body where we have to live throughout our lives. Jim Rohn rightly said, “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live”. 

I made a mistake of ignoring an ankle ligament injury and it took me nearly two years to get back on my feet properly. After listening to the signs and taking care, I am now able to walk 3 kms at a stretch whereas two years ago I was struggling to walk even 100 steps. I needed a walker to even cover short distances. That is the punishment for ignoring the message my body was sending to me. 

When I felt a lump in my breast, I listened to my body and checked it out though my heart was denying that it could be dangerous or cancer. The  lump was as tiny as a peanut and not painful at all, so there was no way I would consider it dangerous. It looked absolutely harmless, but then it turned out to be Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (breast cancer) stage III. Timely intervention helped me survive for more than 2½ decades and I am still going strong. 


Leave alone this grave situation of facing illness, even in our everyday life, we need to listen to our body when it wants to rest, needs rejuvenation, needs a break, wants to sleep or wants to be activated. Yes, our body demands that you listen when it wants something, or else like a naughty child it will throw a tantrum. 

Many times we want our body to impress others so much that we exercise through pain, work beyond exhaustion and eat what we think is good for our body, yet at the end of it all we may feel tired, sick or bloated. Then we end up blaming our bodies for not being strong enough for tougher tasks, thin enough to meet the beauty standards, or simply not good enough. Is that the fault of your body?

You need to listen more to your body. Drink water when it says thirsty and not eat. Get enough sleep and not play on mobile late into nights. Rest in between hard work instead of pushing to meet that deadline. Keep it moving. And moreover be happy. 


Since we were young children, we were taught to ignore what our body says to achieve goals which helped us to fit in the society. Remember the days when you pushed yourself beyond your limits to score in exams?

Rayyan fighting Sleep

Body Winning Finally ... Exams!!! 


Or when you were told to wait for proper meal time when your body was crying hungry? When you had to sleep because it was sleep time when your body said “lets play”? Let us not even talk about sex drive, because that would be a book in itself, especially if I start talking about women in conservative society. 


How about unlearning those rigid rules and numbers we place on the body for it to be perfect, but rather listen to it like a good friend. It is not a crime to compromise for the needs of your body, right?


Do not confuse that influence of ads, peer pressure, or what you have come to believe your needs are to be the voices of your body. If you want to eat a particular brand of chocolate - it is not your body talking to you, it could be the ad that you watched a few hours ago.. Learn to identify the difference between your learned, influenced cravings and cues from your body which is the feeling in your core, your nature. 


Dedicate a few minutes at intervals to listen to your body. It keeps sending you messages, gut feelings, core intuitions all the time. Stop reasoning them or evaluating them logically, instead listen. Your relationship with your body is not much different from that you share with your lover. If you do not listen and respond, the body stops talking to you as well. You become accustomed to ignoring its needs, pleas and suggestions and finally it will give up on you. Let us not have that kind of a breakup. 


Let us start listening to our body with respect and live longer, laugh heartily and stay healthy.




Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Kickstart Kindness Now

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 When I was a small child, I used to admire strong and big people. They looked all powerful and I would be in awe of them. As I grew up, I realized that intelligence has more power than muscle strength and the admiration shifted to smarter people. As a teen I admired rich people, those who were professionally successful and made tons of money. But as I matured, I learned to admire people who are kind to others. 

When I went through cancer, I feared that I may not understand the pain or suffering of others. If someone would complain of a headache, would I respond with a retort that, “I am going through cancer, what big deal is a headache?”. The fear was there as I fought my battles with my own cancer, as a caregiver and a mom to a special needs child.  But fortunately, cancer made me better and not a bitter person. It triggered kindness in me. I developed empathy and felt sorry for anyone who was suffering even if it was a minor issue. 

I did my diploma in Counseling Skills after my cancer experience and started my journey as a counsellor. I would come across numerous issues, but never did I feel any issue was trivial which did not require counseling. My own challenges made me understand all the challenges others faced with a better vision and kind heart. 

Many people associate kindness with money and donations, but that is not the truth. Even animals show kindness and that is what touches us more effectively. A smile, an honest compliment, offer to hold a baby for a mom who is struggling with her purse to find something, listening to a friend,.a family member, a colleague who is having a bad day, guiding those who are knew to an experience with your knowledge, offering your place in line for an elderly person, thanking someone who is doing their job, appreciating regular service givers with a personalized compliment are just few of things you can include in the act of kindness. See, there is no need to rob a bank for you to be kind. In fact, I feel that if you are too kind to others with money, you are actually holding them back from realizing their own potential. 

It is very important that we be kind to our children, especially when they are vulnerable. They come across failures, fears, anxiety and doubts. Let us never be ruthless to them and destroy their confidence with our unkind words. The scars left by the unkind words of parent are the worst scars we carry on our souls. 

I developed kindness towards my children and my family as well. It is not just the strangers who deserve our kindness, our loved ones deserve more. 

I was not the only one being kind, people around me were kind to me as well. It was an inspiration for me, because the feeling I had towards those people who were kind to me when I went through chaos was completely awesome. Kindness brought in optimism, increased my self-esteem, I felt more energetic, calm, happy and healthy. 


There came a time when finally I realized there is another part of kindness as well, where we should be kind ourselves. That knowledge came too late, but I am glad that it came finally when it had to. Better late than never!

I had tons of responsibilities on my shoulders, when I was fighting cancer and going through chemotherapy. Taking care of my special needs daughter was topping the list. I was blaming myself for abruptly stopping breast feeding her, not being able to carry her much, and not finding a solution to her problem. I felt responsible for her condition. 

Few years later when I was carrying her to the hospital for her physiotherapy, I stumbled on a stone and had a fall. She came crashing with me on the road and her hands and legs got abrasions. Again, another bout of guilt hit me hard. I picked her up and rushed to the hospital. Her doctor had a look at her and told me to stop worrying because it was minor abrasions and she would be alright. There was nothing serious. When talking to me, he looked at my foot and was shocked to see a swelling as big as a tiny apple there. I had not seen it either. Immediately he ordered me to have an x-ray done. I was not carrying money with me other than the one for my daughter’s physiotherapy. The doctor paid for my x-ray which showed a chip on the metatarsal bone and I needed to rest my foot. He put my feet in elastic compression bandages and sent me home by paying for the taxi as well. He allowed a nurse to take care of my daughter when he was helping me out. I was speechless with his kindness. When I was leaving the hospital, he said something which changed me forever, “It is good to be kind to your child and take care of her and others in your family, but you should be caring and kind to yourself as well. You have been through a lot and you deserve some kindness yourself not from others, but from you. Come out of the guilt that you made her have a fall. It is not your fault. Be kind to yourself”. 

I learned something new that day and from then on, I have been a bit kinder and nicer to myself. I learned to forgive myself more easily. I realized that I have been doing my best for my daughter, and what happened was beyond my control. I had to stop breastfeeding her due to my cancer, I had to reduce carrying her due to my chemo and mastectomy and her condition had to be accepted and not resolved.  It brought about a feeling of great liberation, as though I was released from a prison. Kindness and compassion has great power. 


My life experiences apart, research has shown that kindness boosts our body’s natural oxytocin levels which is the feel good hormone of our brain. Oxytocin reduces inflammation which is linked to all kinds of diseases in the body, including diabetes, cancer, chronic pain, obesity, and migraines. Shouldn’t we spend a little on kindness and avoid all those expensive treatments and medicines?


Let us not wait for kindness to come to us, but let us kickstart kindness from here, now and with us.





Monday, April 12, 2021

Joyful Journey of Life

 

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Your life can be a journey of joy or struggle of sorrow based on how you handle it or to say precisely how you react to it. What happened to you cannot steal you of your happiness unless you allow it to. “Happiness is a choice, not a result. Nothing will make you happy until you choose to be happy. No person will make you happy unless you decide to be happy. Your happiness will not come to you. It can only come from you”, said the football player Ralph Marston. How true are those words.  



When I faced cancer, I decided to change my life for once and all. I knew it wouldn’t be easy because I had messed up big time professionally, I had two small children, my marital relationship was in chaos and above all I was responsible for my daughter with special needs. First I decided to evaluate myself and make a few decisions which were possible for me to accomplish even as I went through chemotherapy. ‘Now’ is the best time to start something.

The first thing I did was to forgive myself for whatever I had done in the past, before my cancer era. The second was a decision to be happy and jovial. I felt I deserved happiness and who was the better person to give it to me than ‘ME’. I had worked hard and given up a lot to make others happy, now was the time to dedicate that gift to myself. 

I assumed that happiness was not easy to find. I thought happiness was connected to achievement, praise, and the result of something good happening. But slowly I realized that it was a kind of happiness that is lost soon and also can be reversed. Something about this triggered my curiosity and I started an exercise. 

I explored more about my emotional state and what was making me unhappy. I started to write down my issues on a paper. Believe me, this was one of the best exercises I did ever in my life. 

It was simple. I would sit with a paper and pencil and write down how I felt. I was very honest with what I was writing. Then I would evaluate what made me feel that way. The answers were very shocking and related to someone else rather than me most of the time. Then I would further evaluate how to stop this, or did I really deserve to feel this way. Was this particular situation worth getting upset over, or was it beyond my control. I would ask what would be the result of my feeling crappy? When I broke it down to final stages, I realized there was no reason to be unhappy about it and I felt more happy later on. Doing this exercise, I exorcised a lot of demons and slaughtered them ruthlessly. Ahhh.. There are always those things said and done in our past that take the form of monsters and lurk in our mind to steal our happiness. We come to believe what others tell about us.. Though we are the best people to evaluate ourselves, we give that power to others. When you take back that power, you will be happy most of the time.

I am sad, angry, frustrated and upset sometimes, but I do overcome them and go back to my serenity quickly. Also, the negative emotions are my reactions to a situation and it doesn’t become the state of my mind. 

I also repeat the serenity prayer often because it helps a lot to understand the things around us and also to know that we cannot be correcting everything in the world. We should know our limits to be happy. 

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

When cancer happened, even though I believed I would overcome it, the fear of losing my life lurked in my mind. I decided to be happy and enjoy life since I was not sure how long I had to live and enjoy my life. Days turned to months, months to years and years to decades, but the rewiring that happened due to the  fear that I may not have many days left, kept me happy throughout. That is the reason  my life is a joyride rather than a monotonous struggle of survival today despite the challenges I had to face. 



Saturday, April 10, 2021

Informative Intelligence

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter I

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There are millions of forwards and youtube videos that will tell you how you can overcome cancer. Those people make cancer to be something which can be made to disappear with a magic wand, off course that magic wand is with them and it comes with a price. It is not difficult to realize that much of that information is at best inaccurate and moreover dangerously misleading, but for those who are desperate, these false claims give false hope. There are tons of these videos, websites and forward messages spreading myths about cancer cure. When the loved ones become influenced by these myths, everyday leading to treatment becomes a torment for the person fighting cancer. They are burdened to fight these myths as well.




Once you are diagnosed with cancer, everyone around you becomes an expert on the subject and the treatment plan you should undergo. I had a big challenge of stopping people from interfering with my treatment. It is easier fending off your so called well-wishers and friends than your immediate family. 

Since cancer treatment involves surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy which can have severe side-effects, the decisions are not easy either for the person going through cancer nor their loved ones. They get to hear new words which sound scary, there is anxiety about the outcome, the myth says cancer is a killer, and there is a sense of urgency pushed in.. as though in a few days time cancer may spread everywhere. Cancer treatment at times brings in huge bills, and for those who are not insured, finance becomes a big challenge as well. I agree that early diagnosis and treatment is important, but you always have time to research options, clear your doubts with your oncologist, consider the risks and benefits of your treatment  and make your informed intelligent choice. I think I made one, because here I am after 25 years, alive and kicking. 

One of the major causes of concern in cancer treatment is the removal of the body part, in my case which was breast. Isn’t there any other option? Do you have to go bald and lose your breast at the age of 29? Is allopathic treatment the only way out of this? The questions are thrown at you with good intention, but it brings in a lot of confusion about the decision you are taking. At times I had to question my decisions and intelligence. At such times I had  to stay calm and stick with the evidence based information and not by rhetoric or anecdote based projections. 

An important part of treatment is getting proper information regarding the type of cancer, not surrendering to myths and not listening to self called experts, no matter how much you love them. No amount of love a person has for you, or you have for that person will make them an expert oncologist overnight. So, get the right information from the right people.

It is absolutely OK if you feel you need a second or third opinion from a different doctor.  

There is no miraculous cure for cancer, though the internet is flooded by the videos of people who claim that they were cured of cancer with certain alternative treatments. I am not calling anyone liars, but what is the percentage of success for that particular miracle if at all what they are claiming is true? Maybe there was a success case, but how many have failed? Are there any stats for that?

I wouldn’t say that the natural world doesn’t have a cure for cancer. It may have. I have read from a research based website that the cancer drug taxol was first extracted from the bark and needles of the Pacific Yew tree. But that doesn’t mean that everyone chewing on the bark will not get cancer or that having the bark as food will cure you of the tumour. There is a procedure of extracting, purifying and combining it with other drugs  in the right doses for successfully combating cancer.

Be informed, be intelligent, be insightful and fight cancer the right way the first time you attack it. Second time, it is always going to be much harder. I wish everyone out there who is fighting cancer a successful outcome and healthy life thereafter.



Friday, April 9, 2021

Humour Helps you Heal

 #AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter H

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If I have to choose one of the traits in  me that I really appreciate, I would definitely choose my sense of humour. Not many realize how humour can release stress and lighten up a grave situation. For me, this was the key to heal. As days went by, sarcasm joined hands as well, especially when I had to deal with dumbness and insensitivity. .I don’t actually crack jokes or poke fun at people, but it is the way I look at things that makes it funny. It comes naturally and I consider this one of the greatest gifts I have received. 


Cancer is no fun, but I have had my share of jokes with cancer, especially managing prosthetics . The first joke I heard about my cancer was from my son. He was going to be 5, and we had initially decided not to tell him about my cancer. When I saw that he was terrified with the confusion of knowing something had happened, but not knowing exactly what it is, I sat him down and explained that I had a lump in my breast and I was going for a surgery to heal. He sighed in relief and said, “Oh that is it!”. Then I explained that one of my breasts will be removed and that was making me sad. He explained like a child would, “Maa that is ok. It is not like you are losing an important part of the body like eyes, hands, or legs which has a purpose. Farheena can drink milk from a bottle”. Looking at his beautiful innocent face, I laughed out loud. Suddenly the situation looked so different from the one when I started the conversation with him. The problem was still there, but how I felt about it had changed a lot. It was like a boulder had been lifted off my chest. He had reframed this negative event in a humorous light way which acted as a filter for negative thoughts which had triggered sadness, fear and frustration in me earlier. I was a different person all of sudden. Then I said to myself, “Hey why not make this a part of my life”.



One of my fondest memories of my Mom is of how she would shake like a jelly and go red in her face and laugh while trying hard not to be too loud whenever I said something funny.


 I have made people around me laugh in the weirdest situation, and the result is always the same - a lightened situation where the storm has dispersed enough to help everyone think clearly. But I am no match for Rayyan whose sense of humour is of another world.


Humour is not a solution to problems, it is just a shield to help us defend against the onslaught. Viktor Frankl aptly said, “I never would have made it if I could not have laughed. It lifted me momentarily out of this horrible situation, just enough to make it livable”. That was exactly how it was for me during my initial days of battling cancer. 


Studies have shown that in addition to working as a mental immune system, humor can actually improve our physical immune system. Laughter  improves cardiovascular health and lowers heart rates, blood pressure, and muscular tension. Keeping the research aside I know it definitely helped me heal both emotionally and physically even when life was unfair.  


Finding humor in the challenges of life can lift your spirit with laughter and help you to deal with difficult experiences in a better way. If you have a funny bone nothing can stop you from having a good laugh everyday - No matter how crappy the day is. Like Gilda Radner said, Cancer is probably the unfunniest thing in the world, but I’m a comedian, and even cancer couldn’t stop me from seeing the humor in what I went through. I can completely relate to her. 


Live to Laugh and Laugh to Live… Be Happy. That is my Mantra for survival over anything. 



Smile 

An ever smiling face
Is a very beautiful thing
It wins everyone’s grace
And makes every heart sing

Smile gives face a charm
Making it look pretty as dove
Face that is smiling and calm
Above everything else I love

Do not lose any opportunity
When you can win hearts with smile
Smile is a gift to humanity
No animal can ever smile


Ugliest is the face sour
Smiling face is fine
It is prettier than the stars
Prettier than the moon that shines.
By:
Farida Rizwan
(written:12/4/1983)

At times we do not see the miracle of the smile... the changes it brings about in people. A smile can change the world around us just like dawn. Everything seems so different after the dawn and smile. Above all it is free. Why not make use of it as much as possible?



Thursday, April 8, 2021

G - Feel Good with Gratitude

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter G

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Being grateful to what we have and appreciating our lives instead of yearning for something new in the hopes it will make us happier, or thinking that we will be satisfied only when our physical, emotional and material needs are met is a sure way to happiness. You don’t have to be a genius to feel the goodness around you and express gratitude in your heart towards those who have been nice to you during bad times. 

By expressing your gratitude, you are doing a great favor to yourself, because it fills you with happiness, positive energy and hope. To find this treasure, you just have to pause and think, and there you will sure find good things happening around you. It is there, no matter how bad the situation is, there is always a silver lining shining through the dark clouds. One favor I did to myself when I felt upset with cancer was to look for something I could be happy about amid this chaos. Surprisingly, when I started looking, I found a lot of reasons to be happy. Cancer was a monster, but it was the monster that introduced me to amazing angels in my life, who I  may never have met without it. It was also my wake up call to be happy rather than crappy. 

From the amazing doctors, counselors and new friends I met, I am amazed to realize how even though we think this is a big bad world, how many angels are waiting to help us out. I see the angels in people especially when I am with Farheena,, my daughter with special needs.

Today, I do not hesitate to reach out to anyone who needs help, because I have been helped so often. My surgeon did not even charge me his fees, but went on to help me with chemotherapy and even offered to donate blood when I needed it during my fourth cycle of chemotherapy. I needed counseling and the amazing counselors did not charge me for that either. Life has been much better with my SIS - Sisters in Survival - with whom I share a special bond, which is thicker than blood. I have shared amazing friendships with people who do not share my cancer experience because I was opening up to them due to my new outlook in life.  

When death knocked at my door, I realized the value of my life which changed everything for me. It gave me tons of reasons to be grateful for, especially for each of the days I wake up to. 

I have had a tough life, but then I have so much to feel gratitude - my amazing children which includes my daughter in law now, family, friends, students and people I have worked for. Yes, that is great that I have always had amazing bosses to work for. I never had a bad work experience which I had to regret. 

Despite my challenges, I have seen a lot of success. I am so grateful that I am independent today. Those who have been educated and had a job regularly will never understand how much this means to a person, who gave up studies and professional life and was dependent on a spouse for expenses. I do feel grateful to my whole life overall. Sometimes I end up thanking the bad times because those are the challenges that made me a better person than I was. So, I can say I am grateful to the good people and good things in my life, as well as to the negative people and bad things that happened to me. Both have contributed equally to my success and happiness. 


When I feel gratitude in my heart, it fills me with positive energy, hope and happiness. I feel so content knowing that people have been good to me when they had a choice to be neutral. Life is Good and I am grateful.


Sharing something I jotted long ago..


Photograph: Rayyan Rizwan

Even if the sky is full of dark clouds
Every dark cloud has a silver lining

Though life is full of pain
Every hot summer has a rain

For that moments of rain and silver lining
Life is worth living……………………….
By Farida Rizwan

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

F - Focused Yet Flexible

                                                        #AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter F
#AtoZChallenge

One of the things that cancer brings to everyone it has touched is -CHAOS! 

Your thoughts, emotions and relationships, all go through terrible chaotic phases. Bringing back order is not easy, but you can by focusing on one thing at a time. 


Go on prioritizing what your goal is for next month, next week, tomorrow, today, within an hour and ‘NOW’. The ‘now’ will usually require deep breaths and relaxation on priority before deciding what is to be done next. Focus on the immediate goal which will lead you towards a long term goal. Let surviving cancer and staying alive not be the focus or your goal. Let us move away from negative things to more positive things that fill our hearts with joy and enthusiasm. 


Focus is important, but considering you are fighting a tough battle, give yourself some flexibility. If you are too rigid with yourself and your goal when life is being hard on you, it is not fair. Being flexible shouldn’t be mistaken as being lazy, fickle minded, or lenient with the goals. It is about being adaptive to changes. 

For example - During treatment, you may decide to walk a certain distance everyday to regain your fitness level and stamina. But chemotherapy can be harsh and there are days when you feel you cannot do it. Your body gives in and refuses to listen to your focus or goals crap. It is then the time to forgive yourself and be flexible to change the plan for the day. Have faith in yourself to jump back when you can. There is no need to push yourself too hard either emotionally or physically. This is the time to be kind to yourself. 


One of the quotes that inspired me a great deal during my fight with cancer was “Focus on the outcome, not the obstacle”. My focus and goals had no place for the word cancer. They were shifted completely to something more alluring and positive.We get what we focus on- so we have to focus on what we want. Therefore cancer has to go out of focus. 

You may say I want to survive cancer, I want to kick cancer, I want to get rid of cancer or whatever makes you feel like a warrior, you still remain connected to cancer. Your goal and focus will have cancer attached to it. So, I felt I should completely develop a new vocabulary which had no place for the word cancer in it. I had cancer, but there was no reason that cancer should have me as well. I moved away from it….and so have I stayed with my goals and focus not connecting to it. 


I do talk about my fight with cancer, my survival and other things connected to it. This April I also celebrate my 25th year of survival and step into 26th. I cannot completely forget it because it makes sure I am reminded of its presence through the mastectomy. But then, it is not included in the inner sanctum of my mind. That is a place for my real goals and happiness.There I only focus on celebration for life I am living. That is the place where I develop Faith in my life.  Hence, I can be happy and jovial despite going through hard times. 





Tuesday, April 6, 2021

E - Enthusiasm To Enjoy Life

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter E

 

The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm. 

Aldous Huxley


Children overcome cancer easier than adults. My doctor said, “It is because of their enthusiasm to live and be happy”. Whatever you do with half heart is never done perfectly, so how can we expect life to be perfect when we live it half-heartedly, surviving through each day as though it is a burden on us. 


Fighting cancer is tough, but never let it steal your enthusiasm for life. I had lost my enthusiasm for life before cancer woke me up reminding me that “Life is too short to spend in regrets”. I picked myself up with enthusiasm after cancer, and lived life fully. My best memories mostly belong to my post cancer era. 


I learned to enjoy life. Initially I was very conscious about the food I eat, about exercising and many other healthy habits. Somehow, fighting cancer, I learned to enjoy everyday. The side effect of this change was weight gain, but despite being heavy, I was very happy and jovial with my life. 


There have been people who tell  me, “Come on, no one can be happy because they got cancer”. That is the wrong message they get from what I am saying. I was not happy because I got cancer, I learned the value of being enthusiastic and enjoying life despite going through cancer. I learned to value happiness. It slowly started to seep in through my everyday life, in every little activity I did, like you can see in the picture below.  

My enthusiasm encouraged me to take up studies and become a post-graduate, learn to swim, learn computers, learn to drive a scooter and do many things after my encounter with cancer. Today, when I look at the person I was before cancer, sometimes I cannot help myself from thanking the terrible disease for waking me up from the dullness I slipped into unknown to me. 


We all need to learn to live our lives enthusiastically, to feel the effervescence bubbling through our days. We need to look forward to tomorrow. My special needs daughter has a wonderful phrase that makes the world a lot better place to live in. She welcomes the morning with the phrase “Tomorrow has happened”... I just love hearing her say that since it fills me with positiveness.



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