Tag Archives: illness

Thoughts on Chronic Illness

Daughter fall asleep waiting her mother in hospital

Recently a friend told me that she might have cancer.

Two lumps had appeared, one small, one big. The doctor immediately sent her for a biopsy. The cells were abnormal and treatment is needed.

The doctor was worried because she used to be a heavy smoker and overweight, two known risk factors.

She said the worse part was the torment of not knowing.

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Once she has a diagnosis, she can plan, but for now she has to wait, thoughts churning around about the future.

We discussed how she could manage it and even speculated as to what the result might be. I tried to reassure her, but there isn’t much I can say or do, other than telling her that I will be there for her, no matter what. She was experiencing an emotional storm of frustration, anger, sorrow and fear. She is a strong woman both mentally and physically, but nothing can prepare you for the shock of being told you have a long-term illness.

My friend is courageously dealing with an uncertain future. She said that her illness had helped her gain more focus and she will now attack her bucket list with a renewed vigour.

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In times of difficulty we need the courage to draw on our inner resources and access support networks. We may need to evaluate our perspective. In Buddhist philosophy, adversity is seen as the best teacher, a chance to learn from experience and emerge a stronger, wiser person.

So what have I learnt from the experience of my friends?

Firstly, the importance of living in the moment.

No one has a crystal ball. If we speculate about the future we only create fear and worry. This destabilises us and prevents us from being fully present to support friends in need. Everything is easier if we take a moment, slow down and just float on the river of life, wherever it takes us. Not accepting our reality is like trying to swim against the current; it wastes our energy and is futile.

Secondly, I need to be grateful.

We spend so much time focussing on what we do not have. We are constantly unhappy with the present and want more. We forget just how lucky we are. There is so much suffering in the world and, whilst we all experience peaks and troughs, somehow we escape the worst of it.

I would like you to take a moment to be grateful.

Be thankful for all the people in your life who guide and support you, your cheerleaders. Be thankful that you have mental and/or physical good health. But most of all, be thankful for the love and kindness of family and friends. Against all odds, love conquers all.

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Filed under Advice, Life of Lydia, Uncategorized

Hunger Day

As I write this there’s a constant feeling of hunger in the background…today I haven’t eaten anything since dawn.

It all started after doing a 10K charity run for Cancer Research. I wasn’t going to do another charity event this year, after raising £187 for a Multiple Sclerosis rehab centre.

But then my friend’s dad, who has myeloma (bone marrow cancer) asked me to do a 10K. The money goes towards research he is participating in at Hammersmith Hospital in London. If you would like to help me out with a donation our link is here. 

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I asked some Muslim colleagues to help out and they said they’d sponsor me double if I did a day of Ramadan with them. Fasting has lots of health benefits, among them lowering cholesterol, levels of stress hormones in the blood and boosting brain cell production. So I thought it’s only a day, I’ll give it a go.

I’d never fasted before except two days when I was eight and travelling and got ill from the flight food. We’d gone to New Zealand on a non-stop 36-hour flight and if I wasn’t suffering from food-poisoning it was travel-sickness. We stopped in Abu Dhabi and I remember we were told not to eat anything at the airport as it was Ramadan, but I was so ill I didn’t want to. I remembered the hungry eyes of the turbaned wrinkled man sitting on the tiled bench there.

The closest I’ve come to not eating in more recent times was the 5:2 diet, which I followed for a few weeks (two days of eating 400 calories), but then I could drink as much water as I wanted. I had been inspired by Mike Mosley and lost 2kg. I was doing it to improve memory and alertness. I didn’t notice a change in either, but maybe I didn’t try it for long enough.

Ramadan is really strict. No water, no food and because it’s summer, you have to do that for 18 and a half hours.

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The only time I haven’t appreciated the sun

I thought that it started at sunrise, so I excitedly got up and finished my toast and cereal breakfast for 4.40am for sunrise at 4.41am. I was reminded of the days of midnight feasts. I thought eating that close to the time was really smooth until I went to work and was told that they stop eating two hours earlier for morning prayers. This is intense.

The hardest part was at lunch. I was acutely aware of people eating, so I spent my time checking out local takeaways planning dinner (I’d be too weak to cook and I needed to have something to look forward to). I also normally snack at 10am, so I got hunger pains then. As I have IBS I was also belching and burping quite a bit at work which was really embarrassing.

After about 1pm, the hunger feeling faded to background noise and was easier to deal with. By the end of the day I was getting quite distracted. Seeing food or hearing about it did not make me hungry, the smell did. It was like part of my brain was disassociating itself for self-protection.

I felt weak and a little like I was floating when I walked. But apart from a slight ache in the belly I was fine. I had expected to have a drier mouth.

I wouldn’t do it again unless I had a similar charity deal. I’d rather appreciate those who have less than myself by enjoying what I do have.

It’s getting harder as it gets later. I started counting down the hours at 6pm.

Now I can’t wait to break this horrendous hunger with a buy-one-get-one-free pizza deal. Veggie and fish of course so I don’t eat non-Halal meat…

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Filed under Food, Life of Lydia

Bug Buses

After the 10k on Sunday my legs were achy for the next two days, so I took the bus.

Public transport really bugs me and this week it did quite literally. On Tuesday morning a wasp was diving at the passengers and then angrily hurling itself against the window. It then sought comfort in the blonde’s hair in front of me. The young lady didn’t realise at first and then jerked away instinctively. KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

She hit it with the buttoned sleeve of her jacket. There was silence and it disappeared. She looked around for it for a while and then, satisfied it was out of sight, put it out of mind.

As did I. But then I thought “what if it’s crawled between the seats?”. I patted my wide trouser legs. Since I’d lost weight I’d had to secure them with a belt and they were quite roomy. I felt a sudden sharp pain just below my right knee. Rolling the trouser leg up I realised I’d been attacked and pulled out the sting. Ironically on the bus the day before, I had been reading about a guy who stung himself with various wasps and bees and then rated the pain. This felt like more than a 3/5. I patted my rolled-up trouser leg and couldn’t feel anything. For the next 10 minutes or so I squeezed the spot as fire ran through my blood. Some commuters looked, but no one asked if I was alright. I suddenly realised I may have rolled the damn thing up in my trousers. On unrolling it dropped out, dazed.

Having endured enough for one journey, and not wanting to spend another five minutes in the company of this vicious creature I staggered off and limped to work, unable to bend my leg. When I got there everyone crowded around and marvelled at the red golf-ball sized lump. I took two antihistamines, which luckily I had in my handbag, then soaked a couple of kitchen towels in vinegar and secured them to the area with sellotape. I replaced this throughout the day, ensuring the dressing was always damp. I then took two more antihistamines at lunch time. They don’t suit everyone though – a blogger I follow had a reaction to them, so always read the leaflet first.

People asked after my “wooden leg” and told me to “buzz off”. The next day it was fine, but I still had to take the bus as the weather was horrendous, with rain lashing down and thick fog. 

On Wednesday I felt so tired I felt jet-lagged. My throat was a little tender, so I drank honey and lemon in hot water. It was lovely, really soothing and antibacterial. On Friday I woke up at 5am as I was breathing out of one nostril. The infection had gone into my chest and I sounded like Darth Vader’s wife. My body was fighting for sleep but I had to get through the day.

It has been a long week catching bugs of both varieties. On Friday I had an unidentified insect crawling across my paper and a fly buzzed in my face at work, reminding me it was home time.

I commute on a bus packed with snotty school kids. They are then replaced by sneezing students and parents.

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As I’ve previously noted, public transport is great for strengthening the immune system, although as viruses constantly mutate there’s always something new around.

After doing an Olbas and tea tree oil steam inhalation this morning I feel less congested. I haven’t got a temperature which means it’s nothing to worry about. If I did it would mean my body was still trying to kill infection. I’m just expelling the aftermath of a white blood cell battle. But this weekend I have to clean the house for my parents. It’s going to be a wheeze…

Not only do I sound like Darth Vader, this person shows how you can get the look too. Just use a black towel for optimum results.

Not only do I sound like Darth Vader, this person shows how you can get the look too. Just use a black towel and dim the lights.

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Filed under Advice, Life of Lydia, Work

The Scourge of Sitting

Today at work I felt my legs buzzing after 11 hours of being sedentary. This is caused by electrical activity in the leg muscles shutting off, according to this worrying infographic.

A fellow blogger’s post gives tips on getting more exercise out of lazy habits such as watching TV.  The shocking statistics in the infographic revealed that sitting for 8 or more hours a day makes you more than 40% likely to die within 15 years compared to someone that sits less than three. There was also an alarming article on the subject in today’s Metro, which reported that earlier this year a study found sitting just four hours a day increases risk of heart disease and cancer, and this bore no relation to the amount of exercise done around this time. I always take the stairs at work but most people take the lift. I have managed to persuade some colleagues to follow me and when they struggle I remind them of the benefits. I make herbal tea instead of drinking from a bottle. It requires me to get up regularly and go to the kitchen. But I need to do more.gov worker

I want to cycle into work. I also enjoy going for a run afterwards, but research shows that exercise has no impact on the statistics, it is the reduced time sitting that will. I feel so much better after a workout. When I come home and do nothing my body is so sluggish, weak and achy. That is how I feel today, as I have done such long shifts this week that I do not have time to anything when I come home.

A picture at my favourite gym, PureGym! I will join once the weather gets worse.

A picture at my favourite gym, PureGym! I will join once the weather gets worse.

I try not to do cardio after 7, as studies have shown that exercising in the evening interferes with sleep due to the adrenaline, something I experienced lying awake with a pounding heart, 2 hours after returning from a 20 mile cycle.

For more tips on increasing activity in the workplace, check out this post.

Unfortunately the printer and floor’s lunch station are right next to my desk. Next week I’ll get the bike out…

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Filed under Life of Lydia, Uncategorized, Work