30 April 2009

living in gratitude 58 - more drawings from last week

two more favourites from last week - I am not sure if I will have internet access from the hospital.
So am uploading today.

text : and for the first time, I can feel why a person may close down to the potential of life. Too tired too depleted to take an emotional risk in life. This morning, I saw it in C's eyes when he came to visit. That look of closing down.
Did the divorce knock the wind out of you?
He didn't know the expression.
It's like something that breaks inside of you. Yes. He replied. Something definately broke. And me, in the past, I would have wanted to see him get back up + fight. But as I lay down on the sofa, the radiation + depression, still having their effect. I lay there somehow, for the first time, I felt no need to change + just be there. I thought of Lone. Broken too.

It's been knocked out of me : my courage, the fearlessness, the joy, that strength I have so depended on.

living in gratitude 57 : the ebb + flow

Haven't been able to update my blog as the grief has been overwhelming. I had no desire to communicate and had no idea what I could possibly say.

I have continually had a different friend turn up each day with a meal (and honestly, that, I believe their visits + love + smiles have kept my sanity).

AND the POSTAL-GODS have been kind to me, as EVERY DAY I have had a hand-written card in my letter box or gift (talk about perfect distribution... to get something E.A.C.H. D.A.Y.)

so each day, as I have gone to the letter box (on my way to the numerous doctor's appointments) I have had a smile sent to my heart however overwhelmed I have felt.

The gift (of receiving)

This image is dedicated to the many many gifts
(making them into a constant gift of LOVE + appreciation)
I have received in gratitude during these difficult times.

the grief...

as I have had the energy to update my blog, it is a sign that I am feeling more courageous with the journey. The courage definately took a real beating and disappeared all week. Here are a few of the drawings from the last week.

I understand why people give up the fight.

I have reached saturation, this now feels too hard,
too painful, too much, not enough support

the journey feels very human,
very painful within a spiritual being

the pain the loss

drawing copied by my surgeon's sketch when
I asked "what exactly are you taking out?"

it's all going (orange= surgery)
(the cancer is the little light blue spot)
the cancer is so small .. and so much is being taken out!

meeting after the psychiastrist at institut marie curie
she said i didn't speak about the cancer... I thought I only spoke about all the pain that it has woken up...
the pain + broken sense is there, so raw

the wave feels too huge

22 April 2009

living in gratitude 56 : the date is set

so the date is set for the hysterectomy - 4 may

photo : waiting at Institut Marie Curie for the appointment with the surgeon (talk about charasmatic human being who doesn't need to say a thing to exude confidence). I'm glad he's the one responsible for the operation which is symbolic of the beginning of my next part of my life which will be better than it's ever been.

I asked the surgeon loads of questions. It's a two hour surgery - longer than I would have thought + I'll be in hospital for 5 days + won't be able to climb my 5 flights of stairs when I get home. I told him - no morphine please - organise another form of pain relief please.

He was genuinely surprised when I told that I have been depressed after the radiotherapy. I disagreed fervently with him when he said, that post-radiotherapy was an easy process... was really surprised he was surprised.

I was really upset after the meeting - It's really difficult to the Institut Marie Curie - it really such traumatic memories for me. Felt deeply sad and exhausted all day.

text : emotional courage is where the freedom + peace lies
MY life depends ON IT

Text - this is for the rest of my life.

Text: to be afraid of your feelings ...
what a terrible way to live.

After the meeting with the surgeon, I felt like doing something that other parisiens may do (the desire to do something relatively "normal" ... something other people may do on a sunny spring day...) : sit in the spring sun on the terrace of a café in the latin quarter (Institut Marie Curie is in the neighbourhod).

It was a wonderful feeling. Two people smiled at me as they walked by. Then after 20 minutes I felt exhausted and just wanted to be at home lying down in a quiet space. So I got up and took a taxi home.

Today's meal delivery came in the afternoon from my montmartre friends : super android, 6 years old ... his mum + sister, Sidonie, 13 years old....

We ate a picnic in the park across the road, I lay down in sleeping position as the children collected spring goodies (my heart was frightfully heavy). Then I came home, slept and have been drawing all evening.

text : the deep song of rage

living with gratitude 55 : the bus, the breath, the depths

ticket of the bus I took down the hill

Yesterday was a huge day, as it was the first time to catch a bus in over a month... I didn't go far, just down the hill, but it was a big start... I had the strength to walk all way to the bus stop, get on the bus and walk to my destination... red earth centre where I am learning yoga breathing with my yoga-teacher friend Louisa (until now she visited me at home).

Yesterday, I was strong enough to do some stand-up postures + we both recognised that I was OK with the passive poses (whereas I had been fearful of them when I tried for the first time - when my body still traumatised after radiation treatment, even really passive yoga postures raised a load of fear.) It was lovely to see how my body has changed from traumatised to becoming feeling more "ok". And I was also very, very grateful to Louisa's guidance + to my body for healing and getting stronger.

The "day out adventure" exhausted me so much, I slept for 12 hours!

photo: a mini aquarium (with plastic fish which swim around) from my sister sent from australia... it makes me smile it is so silly.

I have been collecting women's stories of their experience of having a hysterectomy. Varied experiences. The emotional journey seems much greater than the surgery from what I have gathered so far. Thanks so much for those whom have contacted me. I'm still continuing to learn more, hear more, read more.

I could say that yesterday there was a big shift in my acceptance of the surgery. I see the surgeon tomorrow so he will be able to answer my querying mind.

tolerate it - you will go through the depths of despair.

A friend told me recently...

and it seems as if each day is filled of
E V E R Y emotion - from total gratitude and appreciation for the little water drop on a leaf or a blossom in the park, to the centered feeling in qi gong, or the kindness received in the letter I found in my letter box this morning to laugh on the phone from a "just a quick call, to check how you are going" (said in the silliest accent to make me giggle) to the sheer physical exhaustion at 11 in the morning, to deep sadness + pain after lunch, to a further sense of surrender / acceptance for a hysterectomy, then a visit from veronique for a massage, so relaxation + comfort to then go into 4pm + a sense of huge fustration of the present journey, then heavy heart of rage at 8pm tonight, to the walk across the road to again be thankful for all the beauty and the incredible setting red sun + tears released upon return...

My guess is that this process is possibly making me into a deeper, an even more loving , compassionate + fierce person... embracing every aspect of it.

20 April 2009

living in gratitude 54 : wanted - stories of women with hysterectomy

Today's posting is a wanted adverstisement.
I want to speak to women whom have been through a hysterectomy.

So, if you, reader know of someone who has had one, and whom would like to share their story : please pass on my email nat.latham(at)gmail.com

Mmmmmmm.... I can hear some minds humming.

Reason is that my greatest fear today is the surgery of the radical hysterectomy (which I will have mid-May).

At the moment, I am going towards the surgery full of stress + fear.
And I want to go to the surgery in peace, as it is the next part of my healing process. (The tumor has decreased. Now it needs to be removed. And my uterus + ovaries, which were fried during the radiation, go with the tumor. )

I know that the peace-towards-surgery I am searching for, will come to me in various manners (chi qong, drawing, general creativity, yoga, pujas, preparing-for-surgery book+cd, therapist, sleep, good food, walks in the park...) but I know another route will be that of knowledge.

The more I know/ understand, the more the fear will reduce. And I believe that sharing stories of the experience of having had a hysterectomy will help me learn + increase this knowledge.

text : from pain to empowerment

I was speaking to my friend Bill in Australia, who has journeyed through and cured of cancer ... Together we got the list of questions I need to ask the surgeon on Wednesday :

What should I expect on the first day after surgery, the first week + the first month?
How is pain relief going to be dealt with?
Who is responsible?
How is pain relief in recovery taken care of? (The better pain relief, the better healing)

How long does the surgery take?

How long will I be in hospital?

What are the secondary effects?

What are possible complications?

How do we lessen the possibilities of these complications?

... I expressed to Bill, my fear: "I would rather walk to the Artic on my knees than have to go through this surgery..."

Bill replied "you are doing this for the rest-of-your-life ... So the cancer won't be hanging over your head... you will be cured."

Then our conversation went onto : Work out exactly what the fear is.
And that is one I am still looking at, but to start with :

the answer for the moment is the text from this drawing:

I fear my body going into trauma AGAIN and SO SOON.
I feel like I am getting my body and mind STRONG AGAIN just to have it knocked down again by surgery.

I fear being cut open + having body parts extracted.

I fear complications.
I fear going under another aneasthetic (yes, another one... I already had 3 general aneasthetics in 3 weeks last month)

I fear the recovery period.
About feeling like I have been feeling AGAIN - having had the wind knocked out of me, feeling weak, depressed...
Concerned about post-operative pain.

One THING I do feel good about, is what Bill said, "this will be the beginning of the-rest-of-your-life...
And I know THAT is going to be so much better than my life so far... so THIS WILL BE MY CARROT dangling in front... the light at the end of the tunnel.

Photo of Sylvia creating petal-snow from my favourite cherry blossom tree in the park. She cooked ratatouille for me and we sat under the tree on Friday night and ate her family recipe of ratatouille. I am collecting the recipes of getting-nat-better.

18 April 2009

living in gratitude 53 : biennale

click on image to enlarge

It sounds ironic, actually humourous, considering what I am going through with post-radiation + how I am feeling ...

A video piece I made in China in 2004 of the pollution in Beijing, called EATING UP BEIJING is a part of the "end of the world biennale", opening next week in a huge hangar in Ushuaia (then it tours to Sao Paolo)

the video can be seen with some of my other work (Eating Up Beijing is way down the bottom of the list of vids


Bienal Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo
del Fin del Mundo

Ushuaia, Antártida, Tierra del Fuego,


17 April 2009

living in gratitude 52 : breath helping depression

Today I climbed there stairs in one go... (steadily without having to stop) and today marks that I came home from the hospital exactly 2 weeks ago (it feels like it was three months ago).

Today I recognise how much stronger I am.
(this photo is taken on the second floor where there is a chair I usually rest on).

This morning, I woke up at 5.45 am from another nightmare.
After watching a funny movie, it was only 7.30 am... still feeling low I decided to put on my friend, Dorje's QI GONG DVD and did a 20 minute QI GONG session with another 20 minute guided meditation. The experience was moving as I was able to be so focused.

Dorje sells the dvd (it is a practice which got him through a major illness when he was a teenager) on dorje.com.au It is very simple and very effective.

I remember Mitch telling me two weeks ago that I should do some yoga or QI GONG to prepare me for the surgery.

Early this afternoon an Australia friend Louisa (we studied Shiatsu under the same teacher in Kyoto) came to give me some guidance in breathing / passive yoga postures. She had come over early last week and I found the yoga passive postures very comforting, for my body felt supported rather than threatened/in danger.

I told her about the doctor's appointment yesterday at Marie Curie and how depressed I have been feeling, so we really focused again, on passive postures but this time, much more focus was on the breathing. It was a very very empowering experience because, my body felt "safe" (it was well supported by pillows or the ground) and as I focused on the breath, I felt peaceful, centred... the thought kept occuring "the breath will help me out of this depression". I had felt the connection between the nurturing nature of the breath + life, and I felt that my body can be safe.

We only did about 6 postures in an hour - which means a lot of time was just spent being with the "breathing" of each posture... (which is what Dorje's Qi Gong DVD was all about).

I took this photo while lying under this extraordinary cherry blossom tree in my park on Easter Monday. The mother and father of this little new born were hanging out with their babe under the blossoms. The sun was shining between the flowers, and the parents gazed at their little miracle with such awe. A beautiful image of rebirth.

16 April 2009

living in gratitude 51 : the tumor is diminishing

Today went for my first check-up since treatment, the doctor was "very happy" with the physical side ... she could see that the tumor has reduced (and is still reducing since it got radiated to smithereens).

She seemed happy + I cried throughout the consultation. I told her how awful I thought the treatment was, and that the post-treatment was even worse. And I asked her if we could skip out on the hysterectomy.

She said a clear "no".

I knew she would say this... but I thought it was worth a try...

We discussed the relentless fatigue + depression. She said the fatigue was a good thing for me, "to face the sadness I have to go through". She said that if I was healthier and more energetic at this stage, I'd be more likely to avoid the emotional pain I need to evacuate NOW(as I'd be able to run around + away from it, as I have done in the past).

She said that my efforts during the treatment of radiotherapy were perhaps "too good"... that I should have done more crying and getting angry during it...

I said told her I DID cry + get angry during the treatment.

She said "but the nurses said you were delightful... and you really needn't have been. Other patients cry and scream..."

"If you had seen my drawings, I wasn't going through much delight. I felt the only way I could go through that ghastly process was make an entire meditation/ prayer out of it... I really didn't feel like I had range to 'lose it'/ freak out...I did, after all, have a tube of radiation between my legs, going up through me directly to the uterus... and wasn't able to move for six days...didn't feel like it was the the best opportunity for a serious meltdown..."

changing room into my little blue hospital gown...
waiting for my appointment this morning...

She encouraged me to cry more, go through the emotions("or else you'll be dealing with a greater depression in two or three years... which will be much worse"). She suggested I see a psychiatrist to prepare me for the hysterectomy.

'But I already see a therapist twice a week regarding this cancer!'

"You need to see a psychiatrist in house...one of ours - we want you in a better space of acceptance for the hysterectomy..."

And then she went on to tell me how she understands I DO NOT WANT A HYSTERECTOMY.... (which made me cry more) ...

So all in all... good news on the tumor (which I had forgotten, as I was wiping my tears) + a load of fear regarding the next step (operation).

blood test at Institut Marie Curie - 2 days ago.

Guardian angel Elise is organising the roster of my paris based crew to come + cook each night - a triple whammy as I get to eat delicious food, have groceries done + am assured loving company each day. Here she is with a bouquet of radishes she found at the markets.

Your gifts + cards are VERY appreciated - today I came home from the doctor's appointment at Institut Marie Curie - to find that my letter box was full of hand made peruvian chocolates sent from a dear friend in sydney ... + 2 lovely cards... it put a smile on my face + made the climbing 5 flights of stairs a much easier task.