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How keeping it local has opened my eyes to the world

5 Jul 2021

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This week’s blog is from Karin, a Wigwam member, sharing some of her cancer journey.

We had just completed a 9 mile training run for Stroud Half, when I got my first shielding letter. Stay at home. Stay local. Don’t meet anyone. Look out the window. Only exercise once a day. I was in shock. We all were. Covid 19 had just tipped the world on its head. I was now in a C bubble within a C bubble. A double bubble! Life was never going to be the same again.
My mind was set. I went out everyday with my dogs. My saviours. Hand gel and mask at the ready. We found many new tracks, trails, fields and footpaths to explore locally. Nature is a wonderful thing and thankfully so was the weather! I appreciated my surroundings now more than ever. I kept taking photos. My passion. My one heartbreak was not being able to travel to Wales to see my family. I started to ring my Mam everyday.
The shock when I was first diagnosed with cancer was similar. My first routine mammogram initiated a call back and after a 2nd appointment, biopsies, further scans, more appointments and tests, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, which had metastasised to my pelvis and lower spine. It’s treatable not curable they said. Terminal cancer. Me. I was speechless. Numb. Scared. Sad. Waves of disbelief, despair and anger consumed me. All emotions. No emotion.

Going to Oncology was a thing of horror. I felt like an alien. I don’t belong here. I’m not ill. I thought everyone was looking at me and thinking I was a nurse not a patient. Why do I feel so well? I asked all the specialists. Because you are, was everyone’s reply! My partner reminded me that life is terminal, so I just get on with living.

I am forever grateful to my Wigwam group (photo above) for keeping it real and being there as a crutch and sounding board, as well as a fountain of helpful and useful knowledge and know how, feeding me with positivity, support networks, sources of information, sharing stories, plant based recipes, laughs, revelations, sadness, grief and a shoulder to cry on. These lovely people have become my friends.
In the last year I have become a Road Rep for my local community support network. I’ve really enjoyed helping neighbours and friends with amazing initiatives like the Freezer of Love and Reboot.
Our Five Valleys Wombles group was set up after my friend & I came across lots of rubbish left on the Common. We work closely with the local council, community groups and individuals to litter pick on our daily walks, record and collate what’s collected, report overflowing litter & dog poo bins to the council and flytipping. The results have been amazing. It’s great to know that every small bag filled is making a difference.
It’s been 2 years since my diagnosis and I have continued to feel well. Really well. I’m probably healthier & fitter now than I’ve even been, which must be an oxymoron (my English Teacher taught me that). I keep telling the Oncology Team that if I didn’t know, I wouldn’t know. Sometimes I think they gave me someone else’s scan results! Since treatment started my results have been NED activity and my last scan, in the words of my Oncologist, ‘it’s wonderful news, you’re in remission!’ My integrative approach is working for me.
I have continued to work, run and attend my regular exercise classes with Love Life Ladies, the creator is also a cancer thriver. An amazing, inspiring woman. Kettlebells, GRIIT, Rebound, Combat and Bootcamp have all helped my mental as well as my physical health keep in check, when lockdowns have enforced a different way of living. Zoom has become second nature.
I have learned so much but have so much more to learn. I have grown up and also become a child. I want to live. I have so much more life to live. Everyday. Make the most. Be grateful. Give. Be at peace. Be calm. Be kind. Have fun. Love. Laugh. Live 🧡 Karin 1.7.2021

Photos by Karin