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How do we change our own behaviours?

Leading to my cancer diagnosis – when I say leading I mean a whole year previous to my cancer treatment, I was:
👎Exhausted beyond I had ever been – even when I was breastfeeding my kids, I wasn’t as exhausted
👎My hair was falling like crazy and it was very thin
👎Iron deficient
👎Not present with my family as I would like to be (irritable, short tempered etc)
👎For the first time in my life I had irregular bowel movements
👎Taking vitamins hoping to get my energy back
👎Having terrible sleep
👎Stressed out to the bone at work and about life in general
👎Questioning why wasn’t my body able to operate like when I was younger – by the way I was only 38 years so not that old right?😁
👎Getting constant coughs and cold
👎Getting recurrent cold sores

But instead of listening to these signs (and many more), I was sitting on Number 1. No, not me

As I thought to myself…
🤔I think I might have IBS – easy way out right, something that it didn’t sound very serious….
🤦‍♀️I will NEVER have anything serious, especially CANCER – no joke I never allowed myself to google cancer symptoms because I never thought I would be a candidate for it
🤷‍♀️I have always had great health (this is a complete lie I somehow told myself:
o As a kid, I was extremely allergic to dust, mould, etc and I spent most of my childhood sneezing…I took conventional medication and homeopathy medication but it never worked,
o As a young adult, I developed asthma and couldn’t go to anybody’s house who had a cat as I would stop breathing within 1 hour,
o I had an ectopic pregnancy before my first child and almost died in the process. Ended up loosing a fallopian tube,
o I had gestation diabetes with my second child.

So good health huh??? Not so sure about it…

So I kept pushing myself, my body until my body said STOP….ENOUGH IS ENOUGH…

I had an emergency surgery that removed my tumour in the bowel and one month later, I had to start chemotherapy. I had to have 12 cycles…

The chemotherapy I had is called 5FU….the people who believe in natural healing etc called this chemotherapy
“5 feet under”….
needless to say I was in for one hell of a ride….

I went from sitting at…

NUMBER 1. NO, NOT ME…. to

NUMBER 2. WELL MAYBE?…..to

NUMBER 3. SO OK, WHAT DO I DO NOW?

In a matter of 2 weeks….as the harsh reality of having between 70-90% survival hit me on the face….

Jumping from

NUMBER 3. SO, OK, WHAT DO I DO NOW?….to

NUMBER 4. OK, LET’S DO THIS!

Happened in another 2 weeks then I started my journey to changing everything about my life….

I became obsessed about health, about creating a health body and mind, about surviving…

I read books, listened to everything I could find on body, mind, body and mind connection and slowly I would apply things to my daily routine.

ONE TINY SHIFT AT A TIME

These tiny shifts compounded into MASSIVE IMPACT on my health today…

and I am now sitting at

NUMBER 5. IT’S POSSIBLE!

Deep inside, I have this dream that I can empower people to change their habits:

✅before that daring diagnosis
✅before they get really sick
✅before they become dependant on medication and doctors
✅before they loose what they are taking for granted.

As I spoke to my GP about my dream (I love my GP by the way), she explained to me the 5 stages of behaviour changes that she learned at med school.

She told me when people are at NUMBER 1, there is no point in talking to them about it as they don’t want to listen.

Think about last time you told someone that stop smoking was a good idea huh?

It turns out that until we are ready to do something about it, we don’t do anything about it.

As simple as that…

So I started thinking about what could I have said to myself in that year before my diagnosis that could have helped me to change…

What could I have said to myself that it would have made me wake up?

And this is what I came up with:

😮It is not normal to feel exhausted all the time….
🙄Something else must be going on for you to have a continuous iron deficiency even though you are taking iron supplements and eating red meat 3 times per week…
🙄It is not ok for you to be stressed all the time about work and life…
🙁Sleep is really important for our overall health and if you are not sleeping well, you need to find out why…
😩It is not normal to be catching every cough and cold and getting recurrent cold sores…
🙄Vitamins are not magic pills unless you work on your finding out the root cause, they are not going to solve your problems…
😏If your bowel is not working properly, you need to find out why as your bowel is your second brain…

This is my message to you today….

if you are feeling something is not right and you have to make changes but don’t know where to start…

If you have tried making changes but couldn’t…

I am not going to say, your story will end up like mine…

What I will say is…

YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR STORY FROM NOW ON…

ONE TINY SHIFT AT A TIME….

that will compound into MASSIVE IMPACT.

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How can we let go our old ways of living?

I mean let go of our lives before COVID-19, because let’s face it, life won’t be the same, will it?

But when I say that, I don’t mean life will be better or worst…life will be different.

Maybe people will be more inclined to work from home more often so they don’t have to commute to work for hours…some kids might prefer to be homeschooled and might ask their parents if they can actually do that, people might not return to their previous roles because they may realise that their hearts are not in it anymore and they might get the courage to change careers…

People might just hold on to the simplicity of life, to things that really matter, to what really make them happy as they allowed themselves to stop…

I am now home schooling my kids, I mean since last Thursday and I have been feeling a happy sense of peace with being just a mum. I have never felt happy for just being a mum. I have always worked because being independent has always been really important to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still trying to work on my business like writing this email right now…but I have been happy for the first time for being a mum, just a mum as my main priority has shifted to look after my kids 24/7.

I have been feeling grateful for the kids I have as they are amazing kids…I have been feeling grateful to cook for them and look after them for the whole day…secretively enjoying being their teacher too.

I feel as if the world has stopped around me, all the pressure to do more, to achieve more, to being more has stooped because now rich or poor, successful or unsuccessful people, young or old…we are all confined into our own homes trying to do our best to juggle everything.

So my initial question was “how can we let go of life before COVID-19?”

I remembered when a friend asked me after my cancer treatment: “so now that your treatment is finished, do you feel you are back to normal?”

I said to her: “It is not that simple. I can’t forget what I have been through”

So she then asked me: “Is it kind of part of you now?”

Then I said: ” It is like having a child. You can’t live life in the same way after you have a child, can you?”

She then said: “Do you mean it is part of you?”

I said “Yes it is part of me.”

For me, cancer was a positive and transformative experience that changed me for the better physically, mentally and spiritually. I took cancer as an opportunity I guess… to change.

And big part of my healing process was acceptance, not fighting cancer.

I feel we are in a similar cross road now. By accepting our new normal, we allow ourselves to focus on what we can control which is today and now. Easily said than done I know but we are all facing these challenge together and I feel the quicker we let go of our lives before COVID-19, the quicker we can get on with our new normal by adapting and adjusting what we need to in our personal and professional lives from now on. 

I hope you are staying safe and well.

Don’t forget to keep looking after yourselves by eating healthily, exercising daily and meditating if you can. I suppose if not now, when? 

PS: I have recorded a new podcast: “How can we let go of control?” and I would love you to listen to. – https://apple.co/2UWIrU1

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What cancer taught me about uncertainty…

We are living through some uncertain times…we are living through what we never thought we would have to experience….

In a world where we feel we are in control at a touch of our fingers…we are loosing control each day…we are waiting for the government to tell us what to do next, we are not sure how our financial situation will be affected, we are not sure if our local supermarket will have enough food for us to buy…we are lost and all we want is to feel safe again…like before the coronavirus.

But the coronavirus is not going to go away overnight…

This situation brings me back to when the rug got pulled from under my feet.

At 38 years, I was told, I had between 70-90% chance of survival.

As I write this, it pains my heart just thinking about these numbers…all of a sudden I had not only lost my sense of security…

But I was scared, fearful and powerless…

Then I had to face the world…and tell people I had Stage 3 Bowel cancer and that I was going to have 12 sessions of chemotherapy.

Most people’s faces gave me even less hope than the actual prognosis given to me.

My GP then told me that I needed to avoid crowds… I needed to stay at home and away from people as much as possible as my immune system was going to be down.

I had a slim hope my immune system was going to be stronger than most as I was young, righht?

Little I knew that as soon as I started chemotherapy, that became my new reality…my immune system became very weak.

I had many delays during treatment because my immune system wasn’t recovering…

Until one day I ended up in emergency with 0.01 neutrophils (these are the white cells that fight any infection/bacteria/virus you may have)…

Well I had none…

Two bags of blood and one bag of iron later, my body slowly started to recover and one week later I was able to go home.

I was then left by myself at home to pick up the pieces of what was left of me…

I knew I needed to focus on building up myself again…my physical and mental health if I wanted to survive.

I needed to accept my new reality, adapt and change to survive.

Slowly I switched my focus to changing my diet, doing exercise, meditation and listening to anything I could to feed my mind with positive things, with knowledge that was going to help me.

I stopped thinking about tomorrow because I had learned that I couldn’t predict my tomorrow…things could change quite quickly and all I could do was to focus on the NOW.

I feel the world is now at a similar place…we have all lost our sense of security and we are finding difficult to navigate through this new reality.

We are listening to some informative news but we are getting bombarded with a lot of negativity too.

It is challenging to move away from it…

I would like to invite you to think about the things you can control right now…focus on what you can control…tap into your inner strength (we all have one, trust me)…

You could focus on something as simple as reducing the time you spend watching the news…or increasing the time you meditate…or take up on reading again.

Little things can make a big difference in how we live, in who we are, in who we become through this…

I have also learned that nothing is permanent…I had some pretty shitty days but they too passed and the coronavirus shall pass too…

Stay safe and healthy,

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Emotional healing – Part 1

I can’t believe it is already March – I thought I would celebrate this month by talking about my emotional healing journey…🔥

Ya know….when I speak to cancer patients at my volunteer job at the hospital, and in all the books I have read about cancer patient stories…I see a lot of suffering…not only physical but mental and spiritual too.

I have met quite a few people at the hospital that when I introduce myself and start talking to them, they tell me..

I am fine actually…I don’t need a chat…😕

I respect their wishes obviously but I leave their rooms thinking

“What the heck??You have cancer, don’t tell me you are alright? This is hard core stuff….” and this comes from someone who have been there.

We live in a world where we have to be strong all the time….being vulnerable is challenging…and I am talking about being vulnerable for real…right when you are in the middle of the mess.

When I was told I had Stage 3 Bowel cancer, I was in a bed after my 5 hours emergency surgery…

I had woken up from the surgery and was still groggy.

My husband was next to me…thanks God…I remember it was already dark outside…

The doctor who performed my surgery came in and said:

“Hey, the surgery went well. I took the tumour out. I had a good look around your internal organs and they all look good.”

So I asked him: “Any chance the tumour could be benign?”

He then said: “I am sorry…it is not…it is cancer and it is probably Stage 3 and you will need 12 sessions of chemotherapy”

I then remembering saying: “But I have 2 kids”….

The rest is a blur…

After that….I remember thinking “God, is this your way to shake me? I understand now you want my attention, you want me to listen..but are you serious?…Cancer?”

I came home for 4 weeks to recover before I was supposed to start chemotherapy.

I spent 2 weeks in a really dark place…

I planned my funeral every night…I held my tears every night before saying good night to my kids. I wailed and howled before bed in my husband arms saying: “I really want to see my kids grow up”😭

I begged God to let me live one more year, 2 more years, 3 more years…and I played videos in my mind about what it would happen with my kids at different ages if I died.😢

I know right? Horrendous….

I just couldn’t see past that…cancer meant death to me…I didn’t know anyone close enough that had been through it…

My husband’s aunty was here from the UK which was a blessing.

In the previous year, she had met her partner who was diagnosed with throat cancer shortly after they met, so she knew the beast…she kept saying to me…

”It will be ok. You will be ok”

One day my husband took the kids to the beach with his aunty and I stayed at home by myself.

I remembered feeling deeply sad not only because I had cancer…

but because I had been holding on to so much anger in my life…

I had run my body to the ground…

I didn’t look after myself….

I jeopardised my own health for my constant seeking to being a high achiever…

I had let stress take over my life…

I took my health for granted…

.I didn’t let my guard down…

I had always expected of myself to be strong…

I didn’t spend enough time appreciating life…

I hadn’t laugh enough…

I hadn’t lived enough and now I was scared…and I was hanging to my life by a thread….🤦🏼‍♀️

So I put some sad music on…and I cried….

I felt I was letting all the sadness go….

I felt I was opening up my heart…letting the guard down…

I felt it was the start of my healing….

After this episode, it was if I was ready to face whatever was in front of me….

my deep desire to survive kicked in big time…I wanted more out of this life….

I wanted to be a mum to my kids…and the most beautiful thing happened…all of sudden I wanted to survive for me…for Angelica… for myself..

.I acknowledge my inner self again….and that was just the beginning….

I write this from the bottom of my heart as I feel we keep so much hurt inside us…

We all have our own stories but ya know what I have learned is true healing starts on our hearts, on our souls.

We need to acknowledge and accept the call to heal ourselves….

Wherever you are in your life, take the time today to think…

What pain do you hold on to inside my heart?

Who are you angry with?

Why?

Can you face a past issue?

Who has hurt you?

Can you forgive them? 

The list goes on…and all I am doing is invite you to acknowledge what you have been holding on to…

you don’t have to forgive and forget and make friends with everyone that hurt in the past.

Today is about acknowledging…nothing else.

If you want to know more, follow my blog…sign up to my newsletter… because I would love to share with you what happened next…

[To be contd.]

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What is clean eating for you?

Since I have been on my eating healthy journey, I have read many books, listened to many podcast, watched youtube videos, movies…you name it. There is a ton of information out there and a lot of controversial information too.

What I came to believe is each person needs to find their own truth within the midst of the confusion. There are some commonalities in all of the books I read and everything I watched indeed but what it is challenging for most people are the labels that come with it. Is this a vegetarian diet? Vegan? Paleo? Keto?

I remember when I was told I had bowel cancer, one of my lovely friends asked me what the doctors had advised me to eat.

Truth is, after my bowel resection, I was told to go home and take it easy.

No dietary information was given and before my chemotherapy started, I attended an information session about bowel cancer treatment.

I was told I needed to stay clear from deli foods and if I needed to choose a fast food chain, it would be better to stick to MC Donald’s as supposed to Subway???

With all due respect, I don’t think fast food was a common denominator in all the books I read about nutrition and cancer.

Anyway my lovely friend then told me, she had checked with one of her nutritionist friends and my best approach was to go vegan., sugar free and gluten free. Yes that is right…You have Stage 3 Bowel Cancer and by the way, you need to start eating a vegan diet to help your body to heal and to stay cancer free.

This is the message I got from her message. I then asked myself: “Are you serious? Now I have Bowel cancer and I need to go vegan???

I devoured books on nutrition and started eating as clean as could. I would read one book and make one change at a time. Slowly I cut out sugar, processed meat, red meat… I reduce my dairy intake, white meat intake and the only gluten I ate (and eat) was our home made bread from organic stone ground wholemeal flour.

For me it was about getting my body back into balance, clear all the shit out, detoxifying from anything that didn’t come from nature, supporting my body through cancer treatment.

I made changes slowly and mostly was about becoming aware, understanding the information and applying the change into my life once I understood the reasons behind it and felt comfortable with it.

I made sure my husband and the kids were on board. Whatever I ate, they ate. I needed to look after their health too. My kids are now on the genetic bowel cancer spectrum and would need to get checked 10 years before I was diagnosed which means for them getting checked at 28 years old.

Now you are asking yourself? I have heard this many times…don’t tell me you cut sugar…don’t tell me you don’t eat dairy anymore…don’t tell me you don’t eat meat…and please don’t tell me you are vegan????

I actually did all of the above and mostly I eat a 90-95% vegan diet.

Unfortunately in the process of becoming 100% vegan for 3 months, my B12 vitamin dived down to “not normal” levels so I started introducing some animal protein again because my choices were either take a supplement (which is not natural either) or eat the food.

I still don’t eat red meat or chicken but I introduced a very limited amount of dairy, fish and eggs (once per week of one of them) as well as taking B12 supplements. My last checked showed my B12 is within normal ranges so I will keep my formula as it is. This is still a trial process for me.

For the ones who don’t know, vitamin B12 is a pretty important one. It is needed to ensure proper functioning and health of nerve tissue, brain function and red blood cells. So no we can’t do without it.

I am not a doctor, a dietitian, a health professional or anyone that pretends to know everything. I am someone who is focussing on improving my health. I monitor how I feel as supposed to just making dietary changes. At the end of the day, I think we all know that our bodies are pretty unique and complex in its own right and sometimes what it works for one person, might not work for another.

But back to clean eating, for me this was a game changer. For someone who ate “reasonably healthy” – meaning we always cooked from scratch at home – before bowel cancer (if you were looking from the outside), I changed my eating habits drastically.

I feel eating clean is eating foods that are alive, things that grew on the ground, things that were not made in a factory, things that don’t have a list of ingredients that are longer than a book, things that I understand where it comes from. Yes that is vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds.

Now you are asking yourself: this is too confusing…too hard…I am not even going to go there.

And my argument is why are we not treating our bodies as a temple? Why are we not focussing in buying the best fuel to our bodies? Why is everything related to eating healthy so hard to all of us? What can we do to make it simpler? Is it a matter of giving value to it? I mean to our health….

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Have you thought about emotional healing?

I spent this week listening to a “Global Cancer Symposium” online organised by Nathan Crane.

Still not sure how I came across him and or the Symposium but it has been amazing. There were 4 or 5 speakers daily for about 7 days and I think now you can buy the access if you like – www.globalcancersymposium.com

There were some amazing speakers talking about all the good things that are happening in the cancer world.

I was amazed by how much they spent talking about emotional healing as well as spirituality and spiritual healing.

Most of speakers have been in contact with cancer patients and cancer survivors stories from all around the world and mental healing kept coming up over and over again.

I then started thinking about my own cancer journey, specifically the emotional healing piece.

When I heard the words “You have cancer”, I knew it was about that. I felt deep down in my gut actually where exactly my cancer was that I needed to heal my inner world.

I hadn’t spoken to my family in years. I held so much anger and resentment inside me, that made me sick.

This is not a “poor me” statement or “why did I get cancer” statement at all.

Cancer has shown me that everybody goes through shit times in life and I wasn’t the only one.

Cancer showed me that I needed to change the way I look at things.

I needed to change me, not others, not what it had happened, not what it is happening neither what it will happen.

It is challenging though especially when it comes to family… but again I was committed because I knew this was the only path for healing. I was still desperately looking for ways to heal my body, mind and soul.

I am not going to say go and forget everybody in the world that upset you as I have healed all my wounds and forgave everyone. I am not going to say I live a perfect life now because that would be a lie.

What I would say though is be open to work on yourself, on your inner self.

I have certainly move forward, I opened my wounds up, I faced them even though it was painful and I was scared… I did it (my psychologist held my hand through it and still does it) and I am determined to keep working on it.

What about you? Have you thought about emotional healing or even what it is happening with your emotions, your inner world?

In a world that is moving far too fast, we are forgetting that our emotional state needs self care too.

I invite you to ask yourself if you are giving your emotional being enough attention or the attention it needs?

And if not why?

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Are you cured?

I went to my GP last week to get my little girl checked. After everything we went through last year, I am not sure she has got over mummy loosing her hair (she still askes me when my hair is going to grow long) and mummy not being well.

Valentina was 4 when I got diagnosed with Stage 3 Bowel Cancer, she is now 5. We read her books and explained that mummy was going to get strong medicine to make mummy better.

We were open about my treatment and kept everything at her level of maturity so she could understand everything that was going on. We would always ask her if she had any questions.

She is a very inquisitive girl and recently she has been asking my husband lots of questions about death (when are you and mummy going to die? Where are you going to go when you die? I don’t like that I don’t know when you and mummy are going to die) so I thought maybe we should take her to see a psychologist.

When I spoke to my GP – who is amazing by the way – about it, she asked me “Have you told Valentina you are cured?”

That statement took me by surprise. My GP told me “Right now your prognostic is really good and as far as I am concerned, you are cured unless somebody else told you otherwise”.

And no, nobody had told me that I wasn’t cured.

I then realised that we hadn’t told the kids these words :”Mummy is cured”, “The treatment worked and mummy is fine now.”

I left my GP office and realised that even I didn’t believe I was cured. Cancer is such a frightening word that it is hard to let go of that little voice inside you “what if?”, “What if the cancer comes back?”, “When could the cancer come back?”, “Will I have a cancer recurrence?”…

Living life after cancer is a daily challenge and I am constantly reminding myself that it is not all about cancer anymore…you can live a life after cancer…you are looking after yourself not because you had cancer but because you love yourself… you eat healthily not because you are scared the cancer can come back but because you want to eat a healing diet and the list goes on….

If you have gone through cancer treatment and you are ok now, have you told yourself you are cured? Have you told your love ones, you are cancer free now?