A Travel and Lifestyle Blog
I started a tradition with my blog from the first year I began writing it. I like having a glance back over the year. My yearly reflection on life is something that I have always done in my “off-line” life, so it feels natural to do it on the blog. I think it is important to sit beside the year that is slowly fading out. Thank it for its lessons and blessings. I think it is good to have a little quiet G&T with it, and say goodbye.
Usually, on the blog I do it in a “Roses and Thorns” style post, (you can read 2017 and 2018 if you’re curious) but I am doing it differently this year. I have decided to just take a little reflective look back over the year on our travels, our lives and of course, my blog! I have written three smaller, bite size posts as I know not everyone is interested in all areas of my life! So this post is my yearly reflection on life in general. You can see the Blog reflections post just here.
Let’s get the bad bit out of the way first though right……?
As we reflect on the past year, and look towards the new,
Hold onto what is good, release or learn to live in harmony with, what is bad,
It really is that simple….
Ohhh life. You have tested us to our very limits this year. At times, I have felt pulled to the very edge of where I think my endurance ends. But then, somehow, I found some fight again. I didn’t want this post to be about cancer. I did not want to give it the air time. But, it has been our reality hasn’t it. So let us get it out of the way….
Being told that Nik’s cancer had returned this year, was in some ways, worse than the original diagnoses. When we were told the first time, 2.5 years ago, we were in shock. You sit in that Doctor’s office and they reel off the statistics of survival. They tell you that bowel cancer is one of the cancers that people can survive. They tell you that you are young, and fit, so have the absolute best chance. You soak up all the positive stuff they are saying as part of your survival strategy. Nodding furiously. You cling on to the words to stop you free falling into the cavern of panic. The europhia of then being told that the following surgery, six months of chemo and medication had worked, is like no other. We felt ecstatic. Life could go on.
Life went on. We felt like we had been given a second chance
So, to then be told just three short months later that cancer had not in fact been beaten, floored us. We were already pretty depleted on the mental strength front during the first battle! Nik’s new tumours had been missed on his scan at the end of his chemo. They were in a different place, and tiny at the time, so had been missed.
Twelve weeks after that, we learnt that the combined double chemo they had immediately put him on, was not working. His cancer was incredibly aggressive. The most aggressive you can get and in fact, his tumours had grown. It meant that the huge operation that he needed, his only hope of survival, would likely be refused again. They had needed the tumours to shrink for him to have the go ahead for the operation.
Our fears were being realised.
Nik was losing his battle. His options were becoming incredibly limited, almost non-existent. The Doctor was apologising to us. I could see the sympathy in his eyes as he said the words. His direct eye contact making sure we understood what he was telling us. Words like “plan to extend life” and “spread to organs” were floating on the air. I heard them coming out of the Doctors mouth, but left them hanging in the air. We were not ready to let them settle on us just yet. They were too scary to even think about allowing past our front line. We needed to get air back in our lungs before we could let the words infiltrate us.
You must embrace fear and pain,
It is the fuel you will burn on your journey
Thinking of that day even now makes me feel like someone is sitting on my chest. The sheer panic. The ice cold feeling of a fear like no other. Everything blurred in that room as the tears flowed from my own eyes. I felt myself go weak. I collapsed against Nik, clinging to him as if gripping him tight would stop the words we were being told. I was croaking out words like Why? Where? How? Half asking questions – How do we tell our Boys? What can we do? Is there a mistake? My questions pleading with the Universe to offer me a tiny little bit of hope to hold onto when we left that room. Nik was as ever, trying to be strong for me! Always, trying to be the pillar for his family. He was stroking my hair. Whispering to me to be strong.
It was honestly, the worst day, and then weekend of our lives.
But, it was not long until warrior mode kicked back in. I woke on that Monday and strength and determination flooded me. I was in no way ready to give up. It was my job now to get something tangible and positive to give to Nik. It was time for me to fight. For Nik, for my boys.
I got busy.
I phoned cancer charities. I called specialists in Nik’s cancer. I begged. I pleaded with any of them to meet us. I was convinced that if we could humanise ourselves to the specialist that I know was Nik’s only hope, then we had a chance. I wanted them to meet Nik, see him as a person and not just an NHS number. Nik’s oncologist also sought answers from his end. Friends were sending me reports they had read. Family suggesting people to contact. We were calling our army back to the trenches, asking them to stand beside us in battle again.
Well, we got our miracle. A life line was offered in the form of pioneering surgery, (its called The Mother of all Surgeries), that was Nik’s ONLY hope of beating his rare form of this disease.
So, September this year saw Nik move into Basingstoke hospital for a month, and undergo the amazing 10 hour operation. It was as successful as it could have been. Nik recovered so very well. He was determined to get well. His Surgeon was tentatively happy with how it all went. Another re-start for the Hawkins! Yayyyyyyy!
We know that cancer could return, we have learnt to live side by side with that fear. We will not however, let it rob us of any more time. We will live fiercely, determinedly. We will adventure more. Live a life full of gratitude and positivity. No looking over our shoulder. Forwards only. Strong and positive. Nik now has the absolute best chance to kick its arse for good, and we know I believe in miracles……..
So, thats that bit out of the way!
On a purely personal level, this year has been a huge one of growth for me. I have had to adjust my sails a lot to cope with choppy seas. My meditation practise has deepened as I needed to quiet my mind more than ever. Retreating into myself many times to find the strength and answers I knew were there. I will always be grateful I found meditation 16 years ago!
Meditation. The place where I find the quiet to let strength and answers filter through
A crushing loneliness overcame me at times this year. An unexpected side affect that supporting a partner through cancer can bring. We, and the people around us, directed our strength at Nik. He was the one that needed it. I became very good at putting a smile on my face and answering the “and how are you doing” questions with a souless “I’m doing fine”. I felt that any other answer would be selfish. How could I admit to my own fears and fragility? After all, it was Nik that had cancer, not me. It became a pretty lonely place. I have had to dip into reserves of strength that I did not know I had. However, this has reaffirmed to me how strong I am.
Another lesson I have had to acknowledge, is that some relationships will be left in 2019. Their part in my story done. I have become much more precious about who and what I give my time and energy too since cancer infiltrated our lives. There has been no falling out’s or drama’s. Just a shift in energies that mean our vibe’s just don’t align together anymore. I still love and respect them, but we are just not lining up at the moment. If they are meant to be in my life, that energy will shift again and we will be brought back into each other’s space. I thank them for their part in my journey and wish them nothing but love.
I learnt a very big lesson this year about myself. As strong as I am, this year has shown me that I am not an Island! I actually do need people. I have always felt that I have to be strong at all times. I hate to show any weakness or vulnerability. Hate to be seen as anything other than a tough cookie! In part, I know it is how I protect my fragile heart. I keep my defences high. I know I try to cope with everything by myself. I hate to need anyone or leave myself open to being let down. I have become expert at assuring people all is well, smiling, making them feel I am doing just fine, even when I am desperately trying to glue the parts of my shattered soul back together.
One of my closest friends saw through me this year however. She somehow knew that actually, at one point, I was barely clinging on. She told me, in no uncertain terms, that admitting that I needed some reassurance, a little support myself, was not me being weak. It was me being human. She told me I have to let people that love me, prop me up a little if I need it. She has been my friend for a long time, so has the right to be a little harsh with me! It was a great lesson for me. It was also incredibly freeing. It is exhausting being strong for everyone all the time. I can cope with a lot, but I am not invincible and I realise there is no shame in needing support occasionally!
Despite the bad bits this year, there was a hell of a lot of good! I will still end this year saying 2019 was testing, but a good year. Obviously Nik getting his op was the top spot in my good things list! But some other fabulous things were;
My youngest son getting his longed for start in his chosen career. He secured a job as a junior broker in London and is loving it! My eldest also completed his first year in his engineering apprenticeship. Despite the stress and upset those boys have endured this year, Cally still managed to finish the year top of his class. I am so proud of them. They ave shown amazing resilience and strength.
My little blog getting chosen as a favourite blog by the Travel editor of Blogosphere Magazine. Travel editor Binny picked her top travel blogs for 2019, and I was one of them chosen in the December issue. Such a huge credit to be featured in this amazing Industry magazine, alongside bloggers I greatly admire. I cried my eyes out when I was told
I also got offered an opportunity to write a monthly column for Essex Life Magazine. To say I was blown away would be an understatement. I burst into tears when I saw it in Tesco last week. The column is a new introduction they have brought in for me to write. It is on sustainability and eco issues, and starts from January 2020. I am honoured, overwhelmed and so so proud.
We have also managed to get out on our travels again this year. I will sum up the travel in another post, but from thinking we would probably struggle to go anywhere, we did alright!
Budapest was just one of the places our travels took us to this year
Friendships and Family. I am so grateful and humbled by those I am lucky enough to have in my small circle. The love and support shown to us has been like a comfort blanket. Wrapping around us when we needed it. I also feel I made new, little sapling friendships this year. These came about via my blog, and I’m excited to nourish them to see how they grow.
I have also re-found my love of books this year. My mind has been so distracted the last couple of years, I have really struggled to read. I HATED that as books have always been my escapism. I missed them. Thankfully, I am back immersing myself in books and loving it. Feel free to tell me any recommendations you think I might enjoy!
So thats it! My yearly reflection on life! I could go on and on with the good bits. How lucky am I to be able to say that? I know this post is long enough though, so lets leave it there! I have lots to tell you about the blog and my vision for it, as well as exciting travel plans. Those posts will be coming up soon!
All that is left for me to say is thank you for being here. You may not know it, but at times, it has been your comments, support and messages that have kept me from sinking. I appreciate you for reading. For caring. I wish each and every one of you the best that the next decade has to offer! Above all I wish you Happiness. Inner peace. Contentment.
We are coming to get you 2020!