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.
I 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.
One of the first people I spoke to on receiving my breast cancer news was my friend Clare. Clare is a ball of energy, always positive and vibrant. She drove up to see me immediately, and boosted my spirits, not only giving me the confidence that I would get through this, but also talked to me about changes I needed to make in my life. Her Mum Catriona sadly lost her husband to cancer, and has since become and expert on alternative medicine, and the importance of diet. She is just like her daughter, full of energy, and a real inspiration.
Catriona sent me lots of information on supporting the body, one of which was Oxygen drops. The theory behind it is that in our industrialised societies, our bodies are receiving less and less oxygen, which is making it harder for the cells to repair themselves thus creating illnesses such as cancer. As I already live in the countryside, I decided not to take them, but it did reinforce the importance of exercise during this period.
During chemo I felt pretty dreadful most of the time, but I was by no means bed-bound, just lacking in energy, coupled with rather dark thoughts, as the chemo coursed through my body. One of the other side effects, especially towards the end was little pains in my thighs and hip area. I forced myself to go out walking every day, or on my bicycle if the weather wasn’t too grim. I was especially buoyed on by my sister, who always has lots of energy, and if she wasn’t with me, I would still make sure I took the dog out, for thirty minutes or so. Not only did it take the pains away in my thighs, but for the first time I consciously breathed in the oxygen into my lungs, and I really felt its benefits. I would return home with colour in my face, a little more tired, but less depressed that I had been staying in the house.
I’m also bringing meditation into my daily routine, being conscious of my breath, in order to reduce my stress levels as well as clear my head. I’d neglected this in my pre-cancer life, and think it’s important going forward. I’d also read quite a lot about breathing into my belly – this is where your emotions are stored so breathing in (four counts in, six counts out) is a really good way of relaxing.
I don’t want to sound like Mr Motivator, as at the time it was really hard, and still is, but on reflection, I am really glad I managed to do it, most days at least, and I think it’s helping my body to recover now as I go through radiotherapy – physically and mentally.