Tag Archives: treatment

Catching the Palm Beach Ferry – the Perfect Antedote for a Rough Week.

Last week might not have been the worst of times but it certainly wasn’t the best of times either.

No matter how medical tests pan out, they still put you through an emotional and organisational wringer. Moreover, I won’t even mention what we all could have accomplished if we hadn’t spent an eternity on hold… waiting. That just adds stress on top of stress because you can’t help thinking about what else you could be doing if you weren’t still waiting. After all, didn’t you know? Life’s a beach!

So far the test results are encouraging but we are waiting for the final results. Make that still waiting!!

Anyway, whenever you are going through a trial, you have to do the whole ying and yang thing and somehow balance up the good and the bad. You need to look after your mental health as much as your physical health…even when someone you love is seriously ill.

Ettalong Beach

Ettalong Beach

So after a rough week, we needed a great weekend. The kids were already been booked into scout and cub camps and were looking forward to extreme fun as well as pushing their physical limits.Geoff and I were off to Palm Beach together until fate intervened. Miss needed a taxi and so Geoff stayed home. I did reconsider Palm Beach but I really needed a break and we all know what the home front’s like. It’s a constant battle against an insatiable, demanding beast which is constantly sucking you dry. So as much as I hate to admit it, I took off on the Palm Beach Ferry looking forward to drifting off into a blissful state of suspended animation in Palm Beach and I wasn’t looking back.

Ettalong Wharf looking towards Booker Bay

Ettalong Wharf looking towards Booker Bay

Meanwhile, on the way to the ferry, Geoff’s short straw was cut even shorter when his mobile rang and he was off to work for a few hours. What have I mentioned about Mrs Murphy’s Law?

So there I was at Ettalong Wharf about to set off on my own private adventure, which, as it turned, it wasn’t going to be all rest and recuperation, after all.

What I love about traveling or going out solo is that you can meet an amazing cast of characters you’d never meet otherwise. When you’re with the family or group, while it’s fabulous to enjoy each others’ company and do things together, you also become insular. Immersed on your own private island. But Rowie was out of her chrysalis and my wings were just about dry. This repressed social butterfly was about to take off!!

Boarding the ferry.

Boarding the ferry.

Before even boarding the ferry, I met a wonderful group of 20 somethings who made me their  Paddington Bear.  I didn’t even need to lure them with marmalade. You see, with my broken foot back in the boot again and staggering along with my walking stick and my bag, I didn’t even need a sign saying: “Please take care of this bear”. It was pretty obvious I could use a hand. My new-found friends chivalrously carried my suitcase onto the ferry and even invited me to sit with them in the crew section, among the privileged few, which I might add, did not include the buck’s party wandering around the ferry wearing green aprons. Suddenly, I was part of a mobile party and it was such FUN!!!! Surrounded by a kaleidoscope of outfits, fake and real tans and short skirts. Actually, make that short short or some instances, even short short short. It was time to  Party!!!!

Traveling in style with my absolutely fabulous ferry friend, Emma. Happy Birthday!

Traveling in style with my absolutely fabulous ferry friend, Emma. Happy Birthday!

Fun and compassion…such a wonderful mix.When you’re having a bit of a rough trot, you don’t want all doom, gloom or even too much sympathy. There’s no better therapy than a laugh and experiencing an unexpected, spontaneous act of human kindness and the hand of friendship, especially from strangers from the distant galaxy of youth. It was just what the doctor ordered!

After all, don’t you sometimes get sick of being a grown up and I didn’t realise the Palm Beach Ferry could also be a time-machine.

Heaven!

Heaven!

But my new found friends, weren’t just about partying, looking good and having fun. They were such caring, compassionate and thoughtful people who really touched my heart. They had time for me. Included me.They even carried my bag to the bus stop, which also involved a lot of trust on my part as well. That’s gives an insight into the bond we’d forged on a very short ferry ride. I know this meeting wasn’t a random thing. That it was destiny. Meant to be. Serendipity.

At this point, we parted ways as I waited for the bus but the party continued. Another gaggle of twenty somethings were spilling over the footpath and onto the road. Putting my “mum hat” back on again, I felt like shepherding them off the road and back onto the footpath, although I said nothing. I don’t think you needed any testing apparatus to know they’d had more than a few drinks and I could sense the Palm Beach locals would be eying off this unruly mob thinking “@#$% Coasties!!” However, at least these characters knew how to have a good time and as long as they stayed off the road, they weren’t hurting anyone.They were all heading off to Newport Arms, which is abut a 15 minute bus ride from Palm Beach. The Newport Arms is one of Sydney’s most popular hotels or pubs and is quite legendary.

A disapproving Mrs Mangel from the hit drama series, Neighbours.

A disapproving Mrs Mangel from the hit drama series, Neighbours.

The bus pulled up and I sat opposite an elderly lady who was already sporting a few frowns and other disparaging expressions. If you ever used to watch Neighbours going way back to the beginning, there was Mrs Mangel and this woman was a white-haired impersonation a she sat in her seat so stiff and almost frozen,  The party revelers, including the bucks party, also clamber on board. By now, they were under the weather, rowdy and rambunctious. No sooner than the bus starts moving and the bucks start belting out iconic Cold Chisel songs, providing live, on bus entertainment. I loved it. Soaked up every minute of it. Great memories.

Cold Chisel: Cheap Wine & A Three Day Growth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFKxbr4_-Vc

Jimmy Barnes: Working Class Man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQl8_u-JKew

However, to say “Mrs Mangel” was looking “Uncomfortable” would be such an understatement. Evidently, she found the echoing sounds of fun and jovial happiness. as torturous as fingernails scratching down a chalk board. I could sense the pain in every cell in her body. It was etched across her face and she’s so incredibly uncomfortable. She yearned to get out of here. Get those louts off the bus so she could return to civilisation. She was really suffering in serious pain and looking across to me for some kind of understanding or even salvation. I haven’t made it to the hairdresser for awhile so the grey is showing but being more mature doesn’t make me a wowser. That said, I shouldn’t judge. I often struggle with loud noises myself but juxtaposed against everyone else on the bus, who were squeezing the fun out of life, it really looked like she’d swallowed a bag of sour lemons.

This reminded me of something an elderly friend once told me. She said that her husband had “decided to get old”. At the time, that struck me as odd. After all, he was in his late 80s and a returned serviceman, At that grand age, he was old. However, I am coming to realise that there is a difference between getting old and feeling old. Feeling old is a choice.My grandmother said much the same thing. That she’d look in the mirror and she didn’t know the old woman staring back at her. Quite remarkable really. At least, I used to think so until I started looking in the mirror and started seeing glimpses of photos I’d seen of my great grandmother looking back at me when I still feel 25 on the inside and I suspect I will feel forever young: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQi8wEHMm5Y

I was barely on the bus and I was off, leaving the party behind as I headed for a weekend of silence, solitude and serenity alone at Palm Beach. Almost immediately, despite the animated screams from the kids playing in the pool next door (this time it was my turn to feel somewhat tortured), I fell into a deep, comatose sleep and began to dream.

Sunset, Pittwater, Palm Beach.

Sunset, Pittwater, Palm Beach.

When I finally woke up and the sun had all but set, I realised that the screaming had finally stopped. I’m not talking about the kids screaming in the pool but the screaming in my heart and in my head. I had only been vaguely conscious of the scream before but now that it had stopped, I could hear it so clearly and feel its pain. Yes, I’ve been screaming, silently, unconsciously screaming for some time but it was only now that it had stopped that I could ironically hear myself. The touch of human kindness on the ferry had released me. Set me free. Probably not forever, it was only intermission but it brought relief.

Now, I could feel myself slowly starting to stretch back into my full height, gaining strength and being able to stretch my wings enough to fly, instead of being curled up into a self-protective ball so I could just survive.

It was then I remembered a childhood song, which Google (my not so secret best friend) reminded me came from Romper Room: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIRu8-5Nyek

Bend and stretch

reach for the sky

There goes Jupiter,

There goes Mars

Stand on tippy toes

Oh so high!”

I would love to hear how the love and compassion of a stranger has touched you. Please share!

Love & Blessings,

Rowena

Brain Plasticity & Saving Two Australians on Indonesia’s Death Row

Frankly my dear, I do give a damn!!

When it comes to fighting for justice, I will personally stand up and be counted, even when the case is rather controversial. After all. it’s easy to have compassion for someone you love. It’s much more challenging when someone has a few prickles…or a past. Yet, sometimes our journey takes us down that road and we are forced to argue the points backwards and forwards inside our heads until we can make sense of it all and hopefully judgement turns to love.

I don’t know if the imminent execution of two convicted Australian drug smugglers in Indonesia has made International news. However, as citizens of the world, this case affects each and every one of us who believe in the sanctity and importance of justice and the capacity for humanity to change and redeem itself.

We are all called to stand up and fight.

The case I am referring to is the imminent execution of two convicted Australian drug smugglers in Indonesia: Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, who were part of the notorious Bali Nine. Since their conviction, these men have completely turned their lives around and deserve a second chance. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be punished. Just that they don’t deserve to die.

Portrait of Andrew Chan by Myuran Sukumaran.

 

My justification for clemency lies in the science of brain plasticity or neuroplasticity. If you know anything at all about brain plasticity, you will know and understand that these men have changed the very physical structures of their brains through rehabilitation and are no longer who they were. That they are, indeed, very different men. After all, if you have a different brain, how can you possibly be the same?

Victorian Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry , summed  this up well when he addressed the Melbourne vigil held on 18th February, 2014. Lasry had been involved in the case of Van Nguyen, the Melbourne man who was executed for drug trafficking in Singapore in 2005. Lasry said that he has visited Chan and Sukumaran in jail in Bali several times and was in no doubt the pair had redeemed themselves.

“The reality is that if Indonesia go ahead and execute these two men, they’ll be killing an artist and a church pastor,” he said.

“The drug traffickers have gone. The drug traffickers left in 2005. “4.

About Brain Plasticity

Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity “refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behaviour, environment, neural processes, thinking, emotions, as well as changes resulting from bodily injury.[1] Neuroplasticity has replaced the formerly-held position that the brain is a physiologically static organ, and explores how – and in which ways – the brain changes throughout life.[1]

In The Brain Which Changes Itself, Norman Doidge M.D. a psychiatrist and researcher set out to investigate neuroplasticity. “He writes that the brain can change itself. It is a plastic, living organ that can actually change its own structure and function, even into old age. Arguably the most important breakthrough in neuroscience since scientists first sketched out the brain’s basic anatomy, this revolutionary discovery, called neuroplasticity, promises to overthrow the centuries-old notion that the brain is fixed and unchanging. The brain is not, as was thought, like a machine, or “hardwired” like a computer. Neuroplasticity not only gives hope to those with mental limitations, or what was thought to be incurable brain damage, but expands our understanding of the healthy brain and the resilience of human nature”. http://www.normandoidge.com/?page_id=1259

This brain plasticity isn’t just something for the laboratory or people experiencing chronic medical conditions or disability. It affects us all and is a more “scientific” explanation for what we have always known: “Use it or lose it!!”

To get an idea of how brain plasticity works, picture an old fashioned telephone exchange with all those cables plugged in. Our brain is built of these cables. So for example if we keep getting angry, those anger pathways will keep getting bigger and bigger just like exercising a muscle. Moreover, the bigger these pathways become, the angrier we will become unless we take action.

Conversely, each and every time we appease our anger and breathe deep, count to three whatever it takes, those neuropathways shrink and actually disappear. These are actual, physical changes in the structure of our brains. The brain map is different.

I have experienced these changes myself after undergoing brain surgery to treat hydrocephalus. I have experienced many changes but probably the most surprising is that I can actually play the violin and I now play in an ensemble. That takes some pretty complex brain and physical developments, which I never thought possible. I only took the violin up to help my daughter.

My argument is that through rehabilitation, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran have demonstrated that through such brain plasticity, they are no longer the men they were.

Therefore, as an exceptional case and while not dismissing the severity of their crime, these new men deserve a compassionate response…jail not execution!

This quote from US President John F. Kennedy sums it up well:

“The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were.”

Background to the Bali Nine

Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were the ring leaders of a group of Australian drug traffickers known as “The Bali Nine”. On 17 April 2005, the Bali Nine were arrested for planning to smuggle 8.3 kg (18 lb) of heroin valued at about A$4 million from Indonesia to Australia. These men were no angels and heroin, as we know, is a hard core drug which destroys lives. Authorities must do whatever it takes to get heroin off the streets. While people do dispute the death penalty, they are not advocating a more relaxed after to stopping the trade of heroin.

Going back to the time of their arrest, I didn’t have any sympathy for the Bali 9. Due to the very publicised case of alleged drug trafficker, Australian Shapelle Corby, the severity of Indonesia’s drug laws had been front page news for some time. I might not agree with the death penalty but Indonesia’s tough anti-drug laws most definitely weren’t a secret.

Australian Shapelle Corby had been arrested in Indonesia on 8 October 2004 when she was found to have 4.2 kg (9.3 lb) of cannabis in a double plastic vacuum-sealed bag in her unlocked bodyboard bag. Corby was convicted on 27 May 2005 and sentenced to 20 years in prison by the Denpasar District Court and imprisoned in Kerobokan Prison. To this day, Shapelle maintains her innocence and there have been numerous theories about how the cannabis got into her body board bag. Her case became a “cause celeb” and during that media frenzy, the severity of Indonesia’s drug laws was made very, very clear.

From where I was sitting in front of the TV, you’d have to be a complete idiot or have a serious death wish to even consider smuggling drugs in or out of Indonesia. I know people talked about making their luggage more secure after Shapelle’s arrest. Indeed, I’d even be checking the paperwork on my prescriptions before heading to Indonesia…especially given the amount of pills I take in a week. They could easily be perceived as trafficking quantities!

Those were the sorts of precautions your average Australian traveler was taking when the Bali 9 were arrested. Nobody wanted to be another Shapelle Corby and we were leaving absolutely nothing to chance. The consequences were just too great.

Given the historical context, the Bali 9 did come across as a bunch of idiots who had earned themselves what’s known as the Darwin Award: http://www.darwinawards.com/ After all, they didn’t need to be Einstein or have some kind of mystical crystal ball to know what they were getting themselves into. They just needed to turn on their TV. Shapelle Corby’s face was everywhere. Remember: Shapelle Corby was arrested on the 8th October 2004 and on the 27 May 2005 she was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The Bali Nine was arrested On 17 April 2005, the Bali Nine were arrested right in the middle of Shapelle’s trial. You do have to wonder what they were thinking and if they were even thinking at all and certainly you would never expect these men to amount to anything much at all!!

That was then. This is now.

Self-Portrait by Myuran Sukumaran

Self-Portrait by Myuran Sukumaran

Fast-forwarding nine years, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan are changed men and are inspiring other prisoners and leading exemplary lives. These are not the same men who were convicted back in 2006. Their names might be the same and they are older versions of themselves but in terms of their soul, spirit, character and no doubt even the neurofibres in their brains, they are not who they were. Therefore, executing these men would be a great travesty of justice.

Victorian Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry has long campaigned against the death penalty and was involved in the case of Van Nguyen, the Melbourne man who was executed for drug trafficking in Singapore in 2005.

 

Julie Bishop, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs  outlined how much the men had changed when she addressed Federal Parliament on 12th February, 2014:

“Both men are deeply, sincerely remorseful for their actions. Both men have made extraordinary efforts to rehabilitate.

Andrew and Myuran are the model of what penal systems the world over long to achieve.

Successive Governors of Kerobokan Prison in Bali – whose prison has given Andrew and Myuran the opportunity to reflect and change – have testified to their remarkable transformation.

A decade on from their crimes, Andrew and Myuran are changed men. They are deeply committed to a new path.

Both men are paying their debt to society. With dedication and unwavering commitment, they are improving and enriching the lives of their fellow prisoners.

Andrew has completed a theology degree in prison. As a pastor, he now provides religious counselling and guidance to fellow inmates. On the day he received the President’s rejection of his clemency application, Andrew’s Australian lawyer Julian McMahon said he was nowhere to be found, for even at this moment of undeniable personal anguish, Andrew had taken time out to comfort a fellow inmate who was seriously ill.

Myuran – referred to by many as the ‘gentle giant’ – has nearly completed a fine arts degree in jail. He has had the opportunity to become an accomplished artist; his raw talent recognised and fostered by his friend and mentor, renowned artist Ben Quilty.

In prison, Andrew and Myuran sought permission from prison authorities and began an array of courses to benefit fellow inmates, and to prepare them for their return to society.

They have led extensive and varied arts, cultural and vocational courses. Some of their courses are aimed directly at drug addicts, equipping them with the skills to beat their addiction, saving their lives and giving them real prospects in the future.

Andrew and Myuran have raised money for fellow inmates’ medical procedures; for victims of Typhoon Haiyan; for Indonesia National Day festivities.

Indeed, such is the profound effect of Andrew and Myuran’s inspiring humility and service, their fellow prisoners have come forward to lend support, even offering to take their place in execution to President Widodo…

Their remarkable rehabilitation, and the circumstances of their arrest, has prompted five successive Australian Prime Ministers to make representations in their name. [2]

What Brain Plasticity Means For Chan & Sukumaran. Why Spare These Men?

If somebody completely turns their life around and becomes an entirely new and different person on the inside, should they still be judged and sentenced to death because of crimes they committed in the past? Although they have the same name and DNA, they are a different person and things become very problematic.

Would justice truly be served and can we as a global community just stand back in good conscience and do nothing to spare these men? Or, do we both as a society and as individuals need to do whatever it takes to prevent such a tragic and unjust loss of life?

The answer is a resounding “yes”!! After all, two wrongs have never made a right!!

Although I have never met these men and I certainly don’t support the use or sale of such drugs, there is such resounding evidence that these men have significantly and are now dramatically improving the lives of those around them as well, rehabilitating and educating other prisoners much more effectively than other methods.

“Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek, whose husband was charged and convicted of a similar crime to Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, spoke out in Parliament saying: “criminals can be redeemed – my husband is proof.”

She adds that the laws which underpin the executing these men is the basic “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” law that has influenced the Old Testament and earlier legal codes in countries around the world. But that’s 3,700 years ago. We’ve moved on a great deal from an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-12/plibersek-these-men-deserve-restorative-justice-not-execution/6088334.

I also thought it was interesting that at last night’s vigil, emotional statements were read from the pair, which acknowledged their original stupidity,  saying that  the “compassion and kindness from people forgiving our stupidity” has made them feel “truly blessed” 4″

Their Last Words

Andrew Chan: “Thoughts from the Edge

“Thank you Jesus that you give me the strength and courage that I need to stand strong and to trust in you when the waters arise.”

“I thank you Jesus that you never give up on me and that your faithfulness is what helps me striving forward. I thank you for all the family and friends you surround me with in life and how your love pours out from them.”

“The Lord is revealing to me through this scripture is about how he’ll fight the battles for us and that we won’t be defeated if he goes ahead of us… The truth is God is remind us that when all seems helpless and you feel as though the enemies army surrounds you, God is telling us to stand still, take up our battle stance but do not move.[3]

Myuran Sukumaran – Thoughts from the edge

“When you are young you think money is the only way to get happiness … after being here for eight years you realize it is not.”

“After being in prison for eight years I only realized when it comes when it comes to drugs nobody gets rich – there are a few people – most get caught and end up in places like this and that’s the lesson.”

“I want to become a better person and I want to help everybody else become a better person as well. It is like a vehicle for everybody to travel in to better themselves.”

Last Words or a New Beginning…

Time is running out and I don’t know what any of us can do at this late hour. I understand that over 30,000 Australians have written to the Indonesian Attorney General pleading for mercy and many many people have spoken publically. Last night, a vigil was being held in Sydney to pray for the men and their families and this was just one of many. I can sense a collective heartache if these efforts fail and these two young men are put to death.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are in my heartfelt prayers.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.

*Please reblog this post and spread the word. It now looks like the lives of these men rest on divine intervention and people power.

As the saying goes: “Never give up”!!!

Love & Blessings,

Rowena

[1] · Pascual-Leone A., Amedi A., Fregni F., Merabet L. B. (2005). “The plastic human brain cortex”. Annual Review of Neuroscience 28: 377–401. doi:10.1146/annurev.neuro.27.070203.144216.

[2] Parliamentary motion: Chan and Sukumaran, Address to House of Representatives Speech, E&OE, Parliament House, Canberra,12 February 2015.

[3] http://www.news.com.au/national/six-living-former-prime-ministers-make-united-final-plea-for-doomed-bali-nine-duo/story-fncynjr2-1227222259664

4) www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-18/vigils-held-for-bali-nine-pair-facing-execution/6143978

Paintings: http://www.news.com.au/world/asia/bali-nine-member-myuran-sukumaran-paintings-in-melbourne/story-fnh81fz8-1227049488225

I apologise  for any breaches of copyright regarding the images used in this post. I am merely trying to support their cause.

Poem- Walking on Water

2.00PM

Thursday.

It’s etched in my diary

in bright, red ink-

as if I’d ever forget!

 

It’s almost business as usual.

Just another appointment.

Yet, this one’s different.

Things have changed.

Now, I’m somehow tangled up,

caught in the twilight zone,

dangling down by my ankle.

Still walking…

Still smiling…

only upside down!

 

1.45PM…

I walk.

 

Almost there.

Early…

when I’d rather be late.

Calm and yet a pebble

ricochets across my pond

and its ripples spread.

Something gruesomely terrifying

is out to get me.

Gobble me up in one gulp

But it hasn’t quite found me yet.

I swim just beyond its jaws

and I am free.

 

I walk.

 

Paintings smile at me

from white walls

Clean but not sanitised.

Rainbow curtains promise hope.

So many hearts

trying to turn

these dreadful things around.

They warm my soul.

Hold me tight

in the very arms of love. 

 

I walk.

 

Cannulas,

needles.

treatments…

I know.

But this is chemo.

I picture the worst.

Hope for the best

But have no idea

where this journey will end.

I just want to get better.

 

But what makes me well

will also make me sick.

This toxic plonk

they strangely deem a cure

is hardly organic.

I’m very particular

about what I pour

inside my veins

and this breaks all the rules.

 

2.00 o’clock

Time has stopped.

Bang!

This is it.

There’s nowhere to run.

 

I used to be afraid

of the dentist.

 

An angel appears…

almost an apparition:

“Rowena!”

“Robyn!”

My nurse is with me.

She smiles a smile

which calms all fear.

It really is business as usual,

after all.

Now I know

everything really is

going to be alright…

at least for now.

 

A stranger makes me

a cup of tea

and I lean back to read.

Chemo begins

but there is no change.

No sudden explosion or tremor

spread throughout my veins.

Not even a ripple in the pond.

The sea is calm.

 

I am walking on water.

 

Rowena