Bath Time

If you have a bath, the chances are you don’t use it very much.  Most of us are in a hurry and so jumping in the shower seems much more efficient.  But going through cancer treatment is a time when you need to focus on your wellbeing 100 percent.  Before the chemo started I wanted to be able to use the bath as a refuge, somewhere to relax and unwind – something which I’d forgotten how to do.  Bathing in the water is really good for the body and the mind – I needed its restorative powers as I went through what was going to be a really challenging time.

pexels-photo-105934.jpegI knew I was going to have zero energy after my chemo started, so I made sure I cleaned the bathroom, and set it up as a little bathing retreat.  My friend Clare bought me a little headrest pillow, I got the tap fixed (the thermostat had been broken for about four years) and I made sure the fluffiest towels were at my disposal.

The bath become a place to relax after each hospital visit to literally clean out the toxins mentally and physically.  Before getting into the bath, I would use a dry skin brush on my body, to help flush out the nasty chemicals and to improve my skin.

When you have a cancer diagnosis you need to be very careful about which bathing products you use, as you don’t want anything which contains harmful chemicals.  I used natural soap to clean my face, and that was it – skin has a tendency to dry with chemo, so it’s best to guard whatever natural skin oils you have, not strip them away.  I used to put Epsom Salts in the bath, which are are great detoxifier help after each chemo session to flush out the chemicals in my body.  Epsom Salts are from England, but any natural bathing salts will probably have the same effect.  They also have the added benefit of softening your skin – as the chemo progressed, I had an itchy rash on my head, where the  hair had fallen out, and also on my body, particularly on my arms.  Before cancer, I would regularly put moisturiser on my body after having a bath, but during the treatment I wanted to keep all my pores open without any blockages, so using these salts really helped to keep my skin soft.

I also put a little Bluetooth speaker in my bathroom to listen to music and guided meditations.  Spotify have lots of meditations, including Deepak Chopra’s. They help you to relax, think more positively, and help with sleeping, which was becoming a real problem for me.  Part of the meditation also includes breathing exercises, so you’re really oxygenating your body too which helps with the healing process.

This is just a little something to help to get you through a really awful process.  I’d forgotten to take care of myself, and the simple pleasure of lying in a bath really helps you to relax, and also clean you out your mind, body and soul.

Teen Spirit

It was very hard for me to come to terms with having chemotherapy, it seemed so counterintuitive that something which killed healthy cells in my body was going to cure me.  Finally I managed to process it, by imagining it being a factory reset of the body – cleaning it out and rebuilding it post-treatment.  I wanted to remember a time when I felt vital, strong, relaxed and happy, in order to revive these feelings in my body, and to help the healing process. Looking back, it was my teenage years and early twenties when I felt joyous and hopeful, as I had not suffered any major shocks, I had very little stress, and life felt full of possibilities.  I had put a series of photos on my desk of my loved ones, and I included a picture of myself, at the age of 19, laughing, suntanned, and with sparkling eyes – it seemed to be a good image to focus on.

pexels-photo-761963.jpegI was also conscious of the fact that I had stopped listening to music so much.  I used to love dancing, and I had fantastic recall of lyrics.  My music collection had disappeared due to the transfer from vinyl, cassettes, CDS and now downloads.  Then my stepson Jamie got me set up on Spotify.  As soon as a band or singer from my youth, popped into my head I would search for it, and then sing along in the car (especially during my long journeys to and from hospital).  It immediately made me feel uplifted and would usually connect me to a happy memory or feeling.

Exploring this further, I thought about my clothes, and how I had neglected my appearance in recent years – being more practical than fun.  I didn’t go crazy, but if something caught my eye, I didn’t immediately search for reasons why I shouldn’t buy it, but instead, thought ‘why not’.  This was especially useful when I had lost my hair, and was not looking my best, I actually started to take more pride in my appearance – wearing make-up and maybe a cool pair of shoes, or something sparkly.  It really helped and it’s something I’m going to continue doing.

Smell is also meant to be the most important sense for evoking memories.  After starting chemo I read an article in a magazine with Juliette Binoche, who said her favourite perfume was Anaïs Anaïs by Cacharel.  This is the perfume I always wore when I was a teenager, so a couple of weeks later when I happened to see it in a duty free shop, I put a little on my wrist to remember its smell.  I was immediately transported back to my youthful self, and so I now spray a little on my inner wrist each morning to get me through the day!

Another thing, I felt was lacking in my life, was laughter, real belly laughter when you feel completely alive.  It was winter, and I was going to be spending a lot of time in the house, so I found comedies online from my youth, such as Alan Partridge and current stand-ups, such as Ricky Gervais.  There is something incredible about really laughing, it completely lifts you out of your current state and your body feels so relaxed afterwards – teeming with positive happy cells!

I also stopped focussing so much on the news and world events.  In the run up to my diagnosis, there had been frequent terrorist attacks, Brexit and the inauguration of Donald Trump.  I needed to feel that life was worth living, and so just stopped tuning in so much to the bad stuff.  It’s not that I don’t care, but if I can’t do anything to change what’s happening, I feel powerless – in reality I can only try and change the environment around me, and by constantly watching the news, it was a huge distraction from what really mattered.

Oddly enough, after instinctively trying to tap in to my inner teenager, I read something similar in Deepak Chopra’s The Healing Self: Supercharge Your Immune System.  He describes an experiment by Harvard professor Ellen Langer, who put seventy year old men in a sort of time capsule – wearing the clothes from their youth, and listening to music from the same period – recreating that environment actually made them healthier and more youthful on a physical level.

Later on in the book, Deepak Chopra suggests ways to cope with a delayed flight, in terms of reducing your stress levels.  As I’d downloaded the book in the airport, whilst facing a three hour delay – I thought ‘yes, I’m on the right track.’