Tag Archives: chemotherapy

Wrestling With Adversity.

As much as I appreciate inspirational encouragement, it can also be more than a bit annoying and downright depressing when you’re dealing with a situation which isn’t going to change. When no amount of positive thinking is going to turn back the clock and undo what has happened.

“I can do anything? Hello!!!!! Who are you trying to kid? I know I’m never going to Climb Everest and I’d be lucky to climb up those stairs so don’t give me that !@#$!!”

There are some things that no amount of motivational hype are ever going to change. These take you down a very different path where you’re living or more likely, wrestling, with adversity. You’re neither winning nor losing but the two of you are engaged in an incredibly heated battle. It’s such an intense, close fight where it takes everything you’ve got just to stay put. Nobody has any idea how this battle is going to play out. Who is going to win and who is going to lose. It’s neck and neck.

This is what I call wrestling with adversity. While it is possible to overcome your struggles and setbacks, that’s not to say that it’s easy or a one way journey. It’s more a case of wresting back and forwards with your opponent. However, through this process you not only become a stronger and more strategic fighter, you also come to appreciate who or what you’re fighting for. What is most important to you and how to embrace and hang on to that despite your adverse situation.

So, ironically, that thing which all but kills us, also ultimately I believe, helps us appreciate life more in the longer run. Faced with losing our life, we see things so clearly, almost illuminated, and we know what matters. Maybe, I shouldn’t talk in the plural here and only speak for myself but read books like Tuesdays With Morrie, it soon becomes apparent that I’m not the only one who sees things this way.

So, when it comes to adversity, you end up with something of a double-edged sword. The very same thing which cuts you down and almost destroys you, seemingly slices off the dead wood and helps you live life more fully. I wouldn’t go so far as saying we’re better for our struggles because some losses are just too awful but there’s something powerful in it that we don’t always appreciate or understand.

I have been wrestling with my auto-immune disease again this week. Yet again, I was reminded about just how comprehensively this disease has moved in and taken over my body. Quite frankly, I was angry. Pissed off. Wanted to tell it to take a hike, which, of course, I can’t. I could’ve told it a hell of a lot more too. Instead, I poured that angst into my pen and carved my frustrations into the page. Catharsis…It’s such a wonderful thing. You feel so free once you’ve released all that toxic junk.

I wrote  this poem while I was on the train. It’s quite a long trip to my dentist, who is located in Kirribilli in the shadows on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and an ambitious stone’s throw from the Sydney Opera House.

Right from when I was first diagnosed, I viewed this illness as a possessive stalker. However, in this most recent poem, I pushed the analogy right over the edge describing a forced, violent marriage where there is no escape but then just as suddenly as he appears, he is gone without any explanation and no idea if or when he’s coming back.

You see, like other auto-immune diseases, dermatomyositis has flares and goes into remission and isn’t a constant. Indeed, is anything but. It’s like living on a shifting carpet and nothing is predictable.

This is true of so many medical and other issues we face. Just when we think they’re gone and problem solved, they’re back with a vengeance as if to remind us that no matter how far we run or how well we hide, there is no escape. They will be back.

However, no matter what we are going through and how unique our situation might be, we must remember that we are not alone. That while each of us has our own journey and some of us well and truly take the road not travelled, that there are overarching commonalities which bind us together. Once I realised I wasn’t alone, half of the battle was won…especially once I appreciated that just because bad things happen to us which aren’t going away, that we don’t always have to feel bad. Rather, we can still appreciate the good which survives alongside the bad and that it is just as much a matter of where we focus our gaze as what happens to us. It might be a cliche but it’s not just a matter of what happens to us but also how we respond. For one person a set back is perceived as a challenge but for someone else it’s the end of the world.

This has been a difficult place for me to reach.

I know what it’s like to fall straight down. Land in the mud and keep sinking and how hard it is to swim through that same mud, desperately trying to get back to the surface. I also know what it’s like to stop fighting and feel myself drowning but someone has always helped me get back to the top. That might be by physically bailing me out but most of the time, it was their love which saved me. Mostly, that’s been the love of my family and my friends but I’ve also been very deeply touched by the Love of A Stranger.

Perhaps, you’re still floundering around in that mud not knowing if or when you’re ever going to get out. If so, I’ll throw you a life buoy and encourage you to keep fighting. I have been there. Been cynical. Lived with a disease which stubbornly refused to give in to treatment and things weren’t looking good but 9 years since my diagnosis, I am not only still here, I am making the most of a different sort of life. Not what I’d planned but I love and am loved. While I’ve always had my writing and photography which are fantastic outlets for dealing with adversity, I now have this online blogging world I can access from home and I have become a citizen of the world.

Heart Hands red heart

If you are struggling, know that I hold your heart in my hand and wish you well. Please keep putting one foot in front of the other and even if you only change course by a few degrees, as you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you will indeed end up somewhere else. You will be in a different place.

I also encourage you to find out more about neuro-plasticity and how even changing what and how you think actually changes the very structure of your brain. This isn’t wishy-washy hype but actual science. Well-respected Canadian Psychiatrist Dr Norman Doidge addresses it in his two books: The Brain Which Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing.

Things may not be the same but please never, ever give up! Keep trying to find your way out.

Love & God Bless,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

The Masked Intruder.

You creep…
a foul, odorous gas
permeating
my each and every cell,
even creeping in between
the fibres of my bones.
Splitting my very atoms
to build your sovereign shrine
within each cell…
a nest to lay your poisonous eggs.

Catastrophization turned real,
blasted invader!
You can’t even leave
the smallest little part of me
alone.
Penetrating deep within my DNA,
you lurk beyond the microscope.
No one else can see you
but I know that you’re there.
A Machiavellian villain
purring like a cat
toying with its prey,
you enjoy my pain
and laugh.
You bastard!

What am I supposed
to call you?
How can I figure out
quite who or what you are?
You might have a name.
Be something out of a textbook.
Of course, Google knows
exactly who you are.
Yet, even they can’t explain
why you came.
Or,why you came to me.
After all,
why didn’t you go next door?
Find someone else to be
your magnificent host?
I’m not going to blame
my God of love
for all your hate…
my pain.

Yet,
the earth has turned
round and round
and I still don’t know
why you came.
I didn’t offer you tea,
let alone cake.
Yet, you stayed.
Now, you are I are bound
together as one.
I am the bride.
You are the groom.
A forced union,
I had no say in it.
No say in it at all.
I never vowed a thing.

So,
how can I break through
the chains which bind us?
Bind us together as one.
Until death do us part.
There is no divorce.
No escape.
We are fused.
Melted together.
This is forever.

Or,
So I thought.

Suddenly,
You were gone.

Your ring’s still on my finger
but your hands are no longer
wrapped around my throat,
squeezing out my very last breath
until my face turns blue, corpse-grey
while you somehow kept me alive
but only just.

Dare I ask you why you left?
Or, if you’ll return?
No. There’s no time to stop,
reflect or introspect.
I’ve changed all the locks.
Carpe diem seize the day.
I’ve finally reached
the other side of the rainbow,
basking alone in the sun
where even your shadow is gone.

I live inspite of you
but maybe even
because.

Rowena Newton
3rd February, 2016.

Written on the train to and from a dentist appointment at Kirribilli. I was fuming because it seemed that the dermatomysitis had affected my teeth. Not hugely but was playing silly buggers. Grrr!!! It set off yet another round of cannonfire.

 

Xtreme Sports

If you were in a crowded room and you had to pick the person into xtreme sports, you’d never choose this wobbly woman with the walking stick but perhaps it’s my broken wings which turns even a humble walk into an agonising fall, resulting in an X-ray and a broken foot.

Being more at home in a cafe with my cappuccino and chocolate cake swimming in luscious sauce than bungy jumping or climbing Mt Everest in anything other than the metaphorical sense, I was plucked out of my chocolate sauce and landed smack bang in an adventure camp, with Muscular Dystrophy NSW in  2012. This was the beginning of the end.

I went down this water slide twice, after almost blowing my brains out the first time down when water blasted up my nose.

I went down this water slide twice, after almost blowing my brains out the first time down when water blasted up my nose.

For me, even being away from the known and predictable at home with my mobility issues wasn’t easy but being with people who knew and understood my limitations provided me with the safety net to launch myself way beyond my comfort zone and take on what really were xtreme challenges and yet, it just felt like going with the flow at the time.

Camel Riding. This was more challenging than expected.

Camel Riding. This was more challenging than expected.

This confidence was greatly aided, too, by the unofficial MDNSW Mantra “find a way”. Just because your disability or chronic health condition might prevent you from participating in an activity in a conventional way, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Here I am riding the quad bike. Of all the activities, this one took me most out of my comfort zone.

Here I am riding the quad bike. Of all the activities, this one took me most out of my comfort zone.

Trying out the quicksand. It felt really weird gripping onto my leg and it took a bit of  assistance to get out.

Trying out the quicksand. It felt really weird gripping onto my leg and it took a bit of assistance to get out.

Sandboarding, Stockton Dunes.

Sandboarding, Stockton Dunes.

Going parasailing changed the colour of my day. It's the closest I've ever come to feeling as free as a bird.

Going parasailing changed the colour of my day. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to feeling as free as a bird.

Ready for Take Off!!

Ready for Take Off!!

A year later, I did a second adventure camp and this time, I was thrilled to have a go at surfing. This was quite a big deal riddled with challenges before you even considered trying to stand up. There was finding a wet suit big enough to fit and then managing to squeeze into it, which isn’t easy when you have muscle weakness. Then, there was carrying my board down to the beach. Actually, I did get assistance and later ended up being able to drag the thing along the beach. Not very cool but I was stoked!! Although I didn’t get anywhere near standing up, I did manage to start in a kneeling position. That was as good as it got but I was certainly living the dream!!

Not so cool...lugging my surfboard.

Not so cool…lugging my surfboard.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

From here my next big leap into the wild world of xtreme sports was skiing. This was where I was really taking myself way beyond my comfort zone!! There I was perched at the top of the Village 8, peering over the edge of what felt like an almighty precipice…a sheer cliff dropping down, down, down towards Perisher village, which looked like more than hundreds and thousands sprinkled on buttered bread. If I was ever swallowed up by my own fear, this was it and instead of gliding smoothly down the slopes, I soon fell over. Was gasping for breath. Indeed, I was consumed by pure panic. I mean just because you’re doing an xtreme sports that doesn’t mean you’re not afraid. It means you’re brave, courageous…or perhaps just a fool going where angels fear to tread.

You try wielding a paddle with a great big Border Collie in your face! Geoff said Bilbo was actually lying across him when he took Bilbo out.

You try wielding a paddle with a great big Border Collie in your face! Geoff said Bilbo was actually lying across him when he took Bilbo out.

Not content to stop there, I undertook what might have been the most xtreme sport of them all…going kayaking with two dogs on board. When I undertook all those activities with MDNSW, I had a solid, well-trained team behind me who could leap to my rescue, if necessary. Take it from me, it has been necessary… especially for the more xtreme challenge of walking along a footpath with all its inherent dangers. Anyway, when you’re trying to paddle with 35 kilos of terrified Border Collie quite literally in your face and 20 kilos of naughty Border Cavalier perched on the very edge of the kayak with her tail dangling in the water about to topple it any second, there is no safety net. We’re just going to fall. Fortunately, being an inter-tidal zone, it’s not very deep and despite the shenanigans of my fellow passengers, we managed to stay afloat. See more here: https://wordpress.com/post/35828219/6564/

However, there is another side to all these incredible achievements. You see, although I’ve been able to pull these off against all sorts of odds, I have struggled and indeed failed at times to manage the simple, every day stuff. Indeed, since I had chemo for 7 sessions over Christmas  2013-2014, my sense of time has been completely wiped out. I have no idea and now manage with the help of routines plastered on cupboard doors, alarm clocks, buzzers and indeed, multiple screw ups. It completely dumbfounds me how I can achieve the extraordinary and yet completely fail the ordinary. However, it’s unsolvable questions like this which ultimately fuel my writing and keep me off the streets.

xx Rowena

Evicting the Elephant from the Room!!

An elephant has been living in my room. It’s never had a name and it’s never shared its story but some time ago, it simply moved in and it hasn’t moved out, rudely bailing me up in my own home.

Ever since, I’ve been feeling like a teeny, weenie, terrified mouse scrunched up hiding in the corner too afraid to come out.

After all, how could a tiny, little mouse ever take on such a monstrous elephant? It wouldn’t even need weapons of mouse destruction. It could just sit on me and I’d be flatter than a pancake. I doubt you’d even find my shadow.

Obviously, confronting an elephant is a serious consideration and not something I’d file as an “irrational fear”.

However, costs are mounting and I simply can’t afford to indulge its freeloading consumption any longer. That elephant has to go and I will do whatever it takes to get it out!!

For many years now, the elephant in the room has been my auto-immune disease, which is inconveniently known as dermatomyositis. That elephant moved on now that I’m back in remission. However, as we all know, elephants are very sociable and have fantastic memories. So once you’ve entertained one elephant, word gets around and another one quickly takes its place. You don’t even need to serve peanuts.

While having your own elephant might seem amazing, they’re actually very hard work. It might be fun riding an elephant to work or using it to clean the car, water the garden and even to do a bit of heavy lifting. However, take a serious reality check. Elephants are actually seriously high maintenance!

After all, elephants not only eat and eat and eat and eat. What goes in, must come out.

Talking about what goes in, a handful of lawn mower clippings is hardly going to feed this insatiable beast. Elephants eat 250-300 pounds of food per day on average and in a zoo, a typical adult elephant eats 4-5 bales of hay and 10 – 18 pounds, or 4.5 to 8 kg, of grain. Annually, that’s more than 29,000 kg of hay and 2700 kg of feed per animal. Naturally, buying all this food puts a serious dent in your household budget.

An elephant also needs to be bathed and thery don't exactly fit inside your tub!

An elephant also needs to be bathed and thery don’t exactly fit inside your tub!

Elephants also need to drink and in a drought-ravaged country like Australia, an elephant places an enormous drain on your resources. Their daily water consumption is 25 – 50 gallons per animal, or 100 – 200 litres. Let’s hope you’re not depending on a rainwater tank! I wouldn’t like to run into a thirsty elephant on the rampage!

Obviously, just satisfying the consumption requirements of an elephant, even a metaphorical one, takes an enormous amount of effort.

However, that’s only half the story and to be perfectly honest with you, that’s the better end of the story too!

Elephant Poo.

Elephant Poo.

As I said, what goes in must come out and in the case of a herbivorous elephant…out and out and out!!!!!
An elephant defecates from 12 to 15 times a day, a daily quantity of 220 – 250 pounds. This adds up to a yearly quantity of over 85,000 pounds of manure, more than 40 tons per adult elephant. That’s a huge pile of dung in your room and can become something of a Tower of Babel rising right up to your ceiling and you really wouldn’t want to fall in!!

Yet, that’s not all that comes out either!

Elephants also produce huge amounts of methane gas. Properly equipped, a car could travel 20 miles on the amount of methane produced by one elephant in a single day. That also makes having an elephant in the room, a rather stinky proposition, well beyond the scope of even the strongest air freshners. Urgh!

So after exploring the barest minimum survival, “nothing fancy” requirements of that elephant living in your room, perhaps you, like me, can appreciate that it’s time to send that elephant packing.

No more being nice!!

Miss in hospital waiting for her endoscopy. So brave but she also loved having her own remote control TV!!

Miss in hospital waiting for her endoscopy. So brave but she also loved having her own remote control TV!!

The current elephant in our room is our daughter’s health. She is struggling to eat and is seriously under weight. She’s 9 years old and eats less than 500 calories most days when she should be eating upwards of 1,800. Most of the time, she can only eat very small amounts and then feels sick. She also complains about bread and potato getting stuck in her throat and troubles with reflux.

You can just imagine the stress that we’ve been through having a child who doesn’t eat. She’s now 9 and this has almost been going on almost since birth. Well-intentioned multitudes have told me that they’ve never seen a child starve themselves to death but our daughter has certainly pushed the boundaries. It might just be the gastro bug that’s been going round or our increased awareness, but she seems worse over the last couple of weeks and is arriving home from school looking weak and off-colour but perks up with food and will eat something. At the same time, she’s a pretty active kid so it’s hard to understand where she is getting that energy. It’s been very perplexing.

Late last year, we took matters in hand and over the last couple of weeks she’s had a barium meal test, an endoscopy and a tube into her nose to check her throat. She’s been so brave and gone through this with courage and strength but even though I’ve had these tests myself, it’s awful to watch her suffer. My heart aches for her and I just wish I could simply kiss her and make her better! Yet, I can’t and rather than being the strong rock I’m portraying, I want to cry and cry and cry. Crumble apart like sandcastle being swept away by a sea of tears. A bit melodramatic, I know, but she’s my little girl…our princess!

So for us, dealing with the elephant in the room has meant documenting what she eats and after realising how close she is to running on empty, I’ve bought her some medical food replacement drinks to at least try to bridge the gap while we seek answers.

I know I probably should’ve been looking into her calorie intake before, but I’ve been trying to keep this low key. I don’t want this thing to evolve into an eating disorder and I wasn’t sure that teaching a child who doesn’t eat about calories was a good thing. The same goes with getting on the scales. I also don’t want her feeling bad about herself or thinking that she’s faulty in some way. I would love to be thin but the more I look into how she is, the more I’m noticing that she’s becoming like a car running out of fuel. Moreover, I’m also realising that whatever the elephant in the room might be, identification, classification and treatment are beyond my capabilities.

I don’t know whether my awareness has just increased but she’s seemed worse this last week. She’s come home from school really tired and lethargic a few times. Feeling completely confused, stressed and perplexed; I didn’t even know which doctor to call or whether I should go to emergency or what. I’m trying to limit her doctor’s appointments and so I needed to pick the right doctor out of the hat. After flapping around all week and getting some good advice from the pharmacist and some food replacement drinks, I finally rang her paediatrician yesterday. I was trying to get my story out and convey some sense of urgency but didn’t need to. She gave me an appointment this very Monday. The only thing worse than having to beg and plead for an emergency appointment is being offered one. Then, you know that your worries are really something to worry about.

At the same time, I am so relieved!! Whatever we’re dealing with, we are no longer alone. Our concerns are being taken seriously and help is on its way. Our paediatrician really is excellent and I know he’ll help us navigate whatever this is and find a clear path. We are also fortunate to know two people with delayed gastric emptying, who have been very helpful and supportive. I also expect we’ll be seeing a dietician and other health professionals who’ll enlighten us.

I’m sure that now we’re starting to expose the elephant in the room and reveal it’s true identity, it’ll either take off straight away or deflate from a 4,500 kilo elephant into a mouse-sized ornament.
I sure hope so!!

Thank you to all those of you who are supporting and encouraging me through this journey with our daughter. It is much appreciated and reflects so positively on the bonds of friendship forged through blogging and even though we have never met face-to-face, that we are connected, if not becoming good friends.

Love and blessings,

Rowena xx

Sources

http://www.elephantconservation.org/stay-informed/just-for-kids/

Walking Through Martin Place: 6 Weeks After the Sydney Siege.

Yesterday, I walked through Sydney’s Martin Place for the very first time since the terrorist siege in December. It’s been 6 weeks. Experiencing something of a swirling vortex of emotion within, I felt unnerved, strange and just sad. Yet, with all the historic buildings still pretty much the same and the usual contingent of penguins in business attire, Martin Place was strangely business as usual.

Well…not quite!

“I am forever walking upon these shores,

Betwixt the sand and the foam,

The high tide will erase my food prints,

And the wind will blow away the foam,

But the sea and the shore will remain forever.”

― Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

I wasn’t there as a voyeur but as someone trying to make sense of a horror which could never make sense. I had wanted to get in there earlier to pay my respects and leave some flowers. However, with my broken foot, I couldn’t get into the city. Now, leaving flowers no longer seemed appropriate and there was no means to express a grief which runs inexplicably deep, almost as deep as the historic Tank Stream, which lies buried beneath Martin Place’s  landmark GPO where most don’t even know it still exists.

Tank Stream. Photo: courtesy Sydney Water.

Tank Stream. Photo: courtesy Sydney Water.

A lot of tears have flowed into that stream lately and it’s been bursting its subterranean banks…or should I say through the pipes. Yet, now as time  passes, those tears are ever so slowly leaking through the cracks.

Above ground, everything appears almost, almost “normal” even though it isn’t. Not yet, anyway. We’re human…not machines. You can’t just press a stopwatch and your grief instantly goes away… along with your fear or at least a little reticence. After all, it could just as easily have been you, me, someone else we know and love and we know it. We’re no longer naive. It’s no longer “over there”. As I’ve said before, Australia has lost its innocence.

After a personally draining but positive day of medical tests topped off with a filling at the dentist, why did I feel the need to go to Martin Place? I really should have been unwinding and Luna Park or even a ferry trip would have been better options.

Yet, there was something stirring and resonating in my heart…a very strong, deep sense of grief..even a sense of anguish for all those who had been taken hostage and their families but mostly for Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, who lost their lives. I needed to let that out.

I naturally feel a strong identification with Katrina Dawson, not only because she is also a Mum but because our family has been living with my tenuous health for almost 9 years and we have had some very, very anguished close calls. I have felt my children being torn away from me like having my heart ripped out of my chest and it is agonisingly painful. To know that her family is actually living that hell, that grief, makes my heart ache and there’s also anger because it didn’t have to be. Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson did not have to die that day.  This is probably some kind of survivor’s guilt. After all, it is hard to understand how I’m still here when my body has been ravaged by so much disease: my muscles, lungs, skin, bones. I doubt there’s a part of this body which isn’t being held together by safety pins. Yet, somehow I’m still breathing and even walking. Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson were fit, healthy good people who had done nothing wrong. They just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and through some absolute miracle, my kids still have their Mum.

Mister and I reading during my 7 week hospital stint in 2007 when I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis.

Mister and I reading during my 7 week hospital stint in 2007 when I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis.

The kids and I taken during my 7 week stint in hospital 2007. Mister was 3.5 and Miss was 18 months old.

The kids and I. Mister was 3.5 and Miss was 18 months old.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It doesn’t make any sense but I’m incredibly grateful and also incredibly conscious of other families who are living this grief.

I have walked through Martin Place countless times before. The clock tower still looms over the top of the historic GPO almost like the moon, even in daylight. I pass by the Cenotaph honoring those who gave their lives during a different type of war where we seemed to know the rules. None of that has changed, although some extensive renovations are underway.

Then, as I’m making my way through Martin Place, I starting thinking. Nobody knows where I am. That I’m here. I started wondering whether I should just possibly call my husband and let him know that I’m in Martin Place. If something happens, not that it’s going to happen because it can’t, nobody knows that I’m here. Lightening doesn’t strike the same place twice although all the reasons why Martin Place was hit last time, are still there. That hasn’t changed. I feel like I’m walking through a minefield and I need to report in. That something could happen and nobody would even know that I’m here. That a confession is in order. Yes, instead of catching the train straight home from the dentist at Milson’s Point, I’ve caught the train into the city, traversing the imposing span of the Sydney Harbour Bridge alighting at Wynyard  Station. Despite my broken foot, I have managed to hobble up George Street to Martin Place and even up the hill. I can already hear them saying: “What was she thinking?!!!”

I’d already had a very emotionally charged, exhausting day what with medical tests and having a tooth filled at the dentist and I still had violin ensemble ahead. Yet, I felt drawn to Martin Place, needing to pay my respects and also to try to fathom the unfathomable.

I am walking up through Martin Place, which has a bit of a hill. Up, up, up. I’m not entirely sure where the Lindt Cafe is located but my foot is now starting to tire and I’m wondering if it’s all too much. I’m slowly putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

This iconic photo known as "Dancing Man" was taken in Elizabeth Street,  Martin Place celebrating the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

This iconic photo known as “Dancing Man” was taken in Elizabeth Street, Martin Place celebrating the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

A famous photo called: “The Dancing Man” was taken in Martin Place at the end of WWII of a man jubilantly dancing in Martin Place near the corner of Elizabeth Street. This photo has come to represent joy and celebration and yet it was almost taken right at the location of the Lindt Cafe…a scene where chocolate indulgence has turned into horror and tragedy. This paradox intrigues me. No one else seems to have made this connection.

Amidst all these questions, I wonder if place has a sense of memory? Does the soil buried beneath metres of concrete also wonder why all this has happened? Why it happened here? Who knows?

Slowly but surely I am nearing the Channel 7 TV Studios, which I know from the news broadcasts, are directly opposite the Lindt Cafe. This, it turns out, was no coincidence.

St James Church, Sydney. 1836, lithograph. Robert Russell, printed by John Gardiner Austin.

St James Church, Sydney. 1836, lithograph. Robert Russell, printed by John Gardiner Austin.

This is the Lindt Cafe.  It’s located on the corner of Phillip Street, metres away from the NSW Supreme Court and the Reserve Bank. At least in Australian terms, this area is steeped in history. It is also metres away from St James Church. St James, with its simple almost austere Georgian lines, was designed by former convict Francis Greenway, consecrated in February 1824 and became a parish church in 1835.

Breakfast At Tiffany's

A Very Different Breakfast…

A block away, there’s Tiffany’s jewelery store and I can’t help but think of the movie and see Audrey Hepburn in all her elegance. Moon River  flows through my heart like a stream https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7SI7N22k_A but then there’s this dreadful discordance…a Monday morning and a hot chocolate at the Lindt Cafe…

That certainly wasn’t Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

The Lindt Cafe is empty. Indeed, it hasn’t reopened since the siege. The entrance has been boarded up and there’s a slide bolt stuck on the front. It’s sort of bolt you usually see on a side gate in your backyard, not on the front of a cafe. It looks very weird and out of place like the can opener my grandfather used to shut his garage door in later life.

Lindt Cafe, Martin Place: a close-up of the slide bolt on the front door.

Lindt Cafe, Martin Place: a close-up of the slide bolt on the front door.

The future of the Lindt Cafe is seemingly coming out of limbo. Apparently, it’s being renovated and a memorial will be set up in the new cafe. As much as I’d always wanted to go there in the past, I don’t know if I could go there. Although I’m a serious chocoholic, there are so many other places to go where there are no memories…just coffee and cake. That’s what I’m looking for. I don’t need to be a hero. I don’t need to take such chances. I don’t even need to be brave. With more than enough adventure on my own journey, I don’t need to take on fresh, unnecessary challenges.

Phillip Street, looking towards the Lindt Cafe, which is on the corner on the left hand side.

Phillip Street, looking towards the Lindt Cafe, which is on the corner on the left hand side.

That said, I can’t just stay at home either. There’s that yin and yang…the tension where carpe diem seize the day becomes rather blurry. We know the world has changed…especially after events in Paris only served the reinforce the warning yet while need to be vigilant but not afraid.

There is a difference but the challenge is to find it and to stick with it.

XX Rowena

This is the fourth post I’ve written about the siege at the Lindt Cafe, Martin Place, Sydney. Here are some links to previous posts:

During the Siege: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/terror-in-australis-the-siege-in-sydneys-martin-place/

At the end of the Siege: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/only-9-sleeps-before-christmas/

This is Our Sydney: Originally posted on kazblah: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/this-is-still-our-sydney/  

Recovering From Trauma: Petrea King https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/recovering-from-trauma-petrea-king-a-must-read/

Send Christmas Cards to Katrina Dawson’s Kids: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/lindt-cafe-siege-sydney-please-send-christmas-cards-to-katrina-dawsons-kids/

Should We Have A Happy Christmas? https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/should-we-have-a-happy-christmas/

A New Year’s Wish: Ask What You Can Do for Your World: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/a-new-years-wish-ask-what-you-can-do-for-your-world/

Old Self…New Year: Beware of the Big Bad Wolf!

If you, like me, decided NOT to make any  resolutions at all on NYE, you could also be in for a rude shock. Just because you objected, that doesn’t mean those resolutions won’t come running after you. Now, that NYE is almost a full week behind us and we’ve almost been lulled into a dream, it’s just the right time for the Big Bad Wolf to come knocking on your door when you least expect it:

“Little pig. Little pig! Let me in”.

That’s right. The Big Bad Wolf will huff, puff and blow your house down. That is, if you refuse to respond and open the door to constructive change.

I have to admit that I’d seen the Big Bad Wolf out on the horizon but thought I’d got a step ahead by taking up the One Word Challenge: http://myoneword.org/.

Love...my word for 2015.

Love…my word for 2015.

Indeed, you might have read that I have chosen “Love” as my word for 2015https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/new-year-my-one-word-for-2015-and-why-i-cant-leave-2014-behind/

“Love” seemed the only choice for me after the week of horror which took place just before Christmas. After all that hate in one week along with the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 earlier in the year, I really felt we all needed to come together in love to cleanse our world of hate.

In order to do this, we somehow needed to learn to “love our neighbour as ourselves”.

Not just our neighbour either.

We also need to treat our nearest and dearest the way we would like to be treated. Or, better still, by having the empathy to treat them the way they would like to be treated. This is so much more than a platitude. I take this word extremely seriously and see this as no warm, fuzzy, soft option. Indeed, the decision, the commitment, to love is a serious undertaking and also involves a word that I’m seriously not good at…”patience”. I failed patience a long, long time ago.

It also involves stopping, which is another concept I’m not that good at. Stop writing and being busy and spend some quality time with those I love…so easy in theory but surprisingly difficult in practice. We all lead busy lives but eventually that excuse wears thin.

With love as my over-arching word for 2015, I already knew that I had my work cut out for me. That love was a sufficient challenge, goal, personal development project for 2015.

Ha! Like so many of us who make plans and goals, these soon get dashed on the rocks. Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t given up on love. It’s just that resolutions for the New Year are slowly but surely finding me and they’re being very insistent. I don’t think I have any choice about doing any of this. It’s sink or swim time and of course, I and the rest of the family are wanting to swim. We don’t want to drown.

So once again, I’m left quoting John Lennon:

Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

So while New Year’s Eve has been and gone, we are still on school holidays in Australia and my real NYE will be the 27th January…the night before the kids go back to school. By then, I’ll have to overcome my sins of the past 12 months. I must… especially if I love my kids and I truly want them to reach their true potential. Grow up into themselves, without being stunted. I want my kids to grow up into mighty oaks or even eucalypts… not being constantly cut back and cut back into some imprisoned bonsai which never grows up to reach the sun!

Our daughter growing into a mighty eucalypt or "gum" tree.

Our daughter growing into a mighty eucalypt or “gum” tree.

Sure, I was pretty crook last year. You know my story  or can read it here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/about/.

While I can justifiably blame the chemo for screwing up my already challenged organisation, I can only blame chemo for so long before I need to act. Do something. As I said, we don’t want to sink…especially in a sea of miscellaneous paperwork and school notes. We want to swim. Be in  the race…not drown.

Improving my health is another non-negotiable this year. This really is something I can’t mess around with.

Now, I’m needing to develop the infrastructure or scaffolding to keep us on track until the chemo brain wears off. These are the sort of tedious changes that eventually get thrust upon you when there is no other choice ie when the Big Bad Wolf has all but gobbled up the sweet little pig.

So while I am also making big plans for my writing, my blog and work in 2015, I’ve also been force to accept these New Year’s nasties:

  1. Develop a detailed schedule and routine to improve organisation and arrive on time.
  2. Keep better track of upcoming events using diary, planner and wall chart.
  3. Lose 10 kilos. This will improve my breathing, reduce the worsening heartburn and improve my general health.
  4. Exercise 3 x per week. This reduces the risk of a respiratory infection…the greatest risk to my health. It will also help to keep me mobile and improve muscle strength.
  5. Declutter the house for an hour a day. I cleaned my desk up recently and I felt so much better. Need to extend those open spaces.

Despite my best intentions, this list of nasties seems to be growing too.

Of course, it goes without saying that I will still be writing, writing, writing. “Working” on my blog and even though my camera is suffering from chronic over-use, I can’t see it sitting home alone either!!

Out Taking Photos

Out Taking Photos

That said, even though I’ve taken these resolutions onboard under duress, that doesn’t mean I have to love them…even if that’s my word for 2015.

Even this ambitious little pig who is building her house out of brick, has to be prepared.

How are things looking for you in the New Year ahead? If you are struggling with it all, how about you listen to this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPtlSF4TlJE

Try

Where there is desire
There is gonna be a flame
Where there is a flame
Someone’s bound to get burned
But just because it burns
Doesn’t mean you’re gonna die
You’ve gotta get up and try, and try, and try
Gotta get up and try, and try, and try
You gotta get up and try, and try, and try
Gotta get up and try, and try, and try
Gotta get up and try, and try, and try
You gotta get up and try, and try, and try
Gotta get up and try, and try, and try
[1]

 

All the best with the best laid plans of mice and men and of course, it goes without saying, beware of the Big Bad Wolf!

xx Rowena

[1] Writer(s): Michael Busbee, Michael Ford Busbee, Benjamin West
Copyright: BMG Platinum Songs Us, Hello I Love You Music, Legitimate Efforts Music, Jam Writers Group

 

 

Happy New Year

Drawing smiley faces in sifted flour. Teaching the kids to make pizza inbetween Mummy’s chemo sessions Jan 2014.

I was still going through our photos putting a slide show together for 2014, when I revisited this smiley face our daughter drew in the freshly sifted flour.

Naturally, I love it.

Not only because it is such a wonderful expression of childhood delight in the incredibly simple but when I revisited that photo today, I remembered the context. Miss drew that smiley face in the middle of my chemo treatments last year.

You see, making pizza was the first of my “structured” efforts to teach the kids how to cook a meal. As you could appreciate, this wasn’t some sort of preparation for when they move out in 10 or 50 years time and making them self-sufficient. Rather, it was about there immediate here and now. They needed to learn how to feed our family.

Sure, you go into chemo with a positive attitude but seriously as a parent, you do need to consider the what ifs and not just leave your family in the lurch. This is what I and others call: “optimistic realism”. Like many of our cooking efforts, there was a lot of fun, humour and error in our efforts and we were cooking with somewhat “primitive” implements house minding a rather poorly equipped beach house.

Yet, both the pizza and the apple pie both turned out well in the end.

I now find this image very reassuring that our kids had fun and drew smiley faces even in the midst of what really were terrifying times for us all. It gives me a great sense of relief, even though I know we’ve all been through the ringer as well.

You can read our original cooking pizza and apple pie post here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/day-3-yeast-pizza-from-scratch-and-quirky-apple-pie/

I would love to hear any of your stories of experiencing joy during a trial!

Best wishes for the New Year!

xx Rowena