The Void…The Space Between Tests and Results

This was originally written on the October 5, 2016 in my not so consistent blog. This is the last of the old posts. The rest will be in order from the past to the present so I can share my journey towards feeling more whole.

Me and my not so little man now!

We are all so very unique, our experiences are all so very unique. Every blog, I want to stress that this is a reflection of MY EXPERIENCE, no one else will feel exactly as I did, as I will not feel what others are feeling. In sharing I am hoping that some readers might be able to connect with my experiences and it give some level of support. It was really comforting to identify with others stories and insights when I was going through the really tough times. Sometimes, it was a bit of a distraction focusing on someone else’s story, sometimes a bittersweet giggle, as I found the humour in their words, I have learnt that when I am scared and sad, I tend to turn to humour to detract from the enormity of what I am really feeling.

Part of me wants to jump to the ‘good stuff’ the practical tips and tools which I believe will really help others. However, I also want to reflect my journey honestly. In this first diagnosis I wasn’t such a cool customer as the last! A few goes at sitting waiting for a diagnosis actually helped me be more yogic! For me, my experience with cancer, taught me to be more authentic, more honest with myself, to see my fears, and also to experience the feeling that I might die sooner rather than later. Which we all may think about, but a cancer diagnosis magnifies it and puts in right in front of your face.

Here the journey begins….I was pregnant when I found a thickening in my right boob, not a lump, a thick area. I left it as it didn’t seem to be growing it was just there and pregnant boobies can do all sorts of things! Life at the point of birth got a bit traumatic. I hadn’t had an operation ever before Fins birth, then over a few months, I ended up having three! The birth of my little boy ended up in an emergency c section and me losing three litres of blood. It was touch and go for both of us, but all was well in the end. Then a few months later I had emergency surgery for adhesions, then a few months later my first breast cancer surgery.

So, eventually I went to the doctor with a little list, as I am very British and don’t like wasting the doctors time!!! More efficient to sort a few things out all in one go.
The doctor was confident it was a cyst but referred me to the breast institute to be safe. So I went alone, as I had a follow up appointment for my last surgery the same morning and I believed it would just be a cyst to be left or drained.

I entered the institute quite relaxed and happy, not worried about getting my boobs out, as after having two babies, you kind of get over all that! I left the institute temporarily broken. I can honestly say those were the worst moments of my life and I was alone.
I had a mammogram, and was immediately referred for an ultrasound and had biopsies on my lymph nodes and the breast. I could see on the screen a little ball of white cells which were completely different to all the other cells around them. I knew then. I could see it. I am also very good at reading faces and sensing the change in energy in the very lovely doctors and nurses looking after me. The fact that my lymph nodes looked suspect for me tipped me over the edge as once mobile there is a greater likelihood of terminal cancer.

My world literally disintegrated. The mind when it loses control is a dangerous place, and when you’ve just seen that, I was completely in the mind, in the land of ‘what ifs’! I managed to learn to control this over time, with many traumatic experiences, which I will tell you about over the space of blogs.

In the land of what if’s, you see yourself dying very, slowly, and painfully. You see your children having to say to others, I don’t have a mum anymore, she died of cancer. You see yourself looking down on them from above, wanting to hug them when they are sad, or when they doubt themselves not being able to hold them, pick them up, tell them how amazing they are, and just generally being there for them. That hurts, that causes pain and suffering, even now as I am typing, these feelings cause physical sensations, they still hurt, my eyes are teary and my throat feels lumpy. Maybe a bit more healing for me to do there.

I wanted life to go on, I wanted to keep taking Isabelle to school, and luckily it was summer so I could wear my sunglasses! At home I often used to sit and hold Finley who was 6 months old, sometimes if I wanted to cry just sitting holding him was such a comfort. And my beautiful Ali dog, no longer with us used to be amazing she just looked at me and sat right next to me, she helped me a lot her calm and ever loving energy. What I didn’t want to do was talk about it or see people. I needed a place of quiet, calm and not having others people’s feelings around me. My husband was my rock, I want to say now how amazing he has been, and I know it can’t have been easy watching me go through all this.
Seeing other people’s reactions and sympathy was not easy for me, it reminded me of the shit I was in! So I asked for space, some people gave it me, some didn’t! Some people, and I understand this, wanted to feel like they were doing something, like they were there for me.

Here’s something I learnt, that wanting to be there for someone is for yourself, that’s your head stuff, you can’t make it better, you can be there for someone if asked. So if someone is suffering I now say, I am here for you, whatever you need, and if I see them I ask, “what do you need today?”. They might need to laugh, cry, swear, kick box, get steaming drunk or talk. We are all different. In yoga we accept that everything, every moment changes around us, each second we are a second older, a cell has died, a cell has regenerated, a thought has come and gone, an emotion arises, then it subsides. Each time we get to the yoga mat the experience is different, so each day in this horrible void, when we have lost control of our lives and thoughts we need something different. So be that for your loved ones. Don’t think about how you want to feel needed, how you want to comfort someone, that’s your stuff, that’s for your benefit, it might be the last thing they need. Think purely about them and ask them, what do you need today?

I love a bit of positivity! However, in the void, we don’t know that it will be okay. Sometimes I just wanted someone to say to me, it’s a pretty crap situation you’ve found yourself in, I’m here for you. I didn’t need to hear “it will be okay”, “your strong”. I just wanted to scream that it’s okay for them to say that, they don’t know that it’s going to be okay. I was living in the future and I was living in fear. You can’t reason with that!

I am strong, and I am proud of being strong, but sometimes I wanted to crumple up in a ball, stick my fingers up at the world and scream how I was so bloody tired of having to be strong, I wanted to just moan about the ironing pile or the state of the weather.
I totally withdrew for a few days, then as I started to get out and about everyone looked so normal…how could they just carry on as normal? Didn’t they know my world had been turned upside down? I have realised that’s my coping strategy, is to go to pot for a bit, then get on with it! I spend either a few hours after an argument, or a few days in this case in my head going through it, then take a very deep breath put it aside and try and focus on the present. In the void that was tricky until I got the diagnosis.

I have also realised that I like to have a plan, I don’t like the unknown! That is why the void is such a difficult place for my mind! It causes suffering, pain, discontent.

I hadn’t read any of Patanjalis yoga sutras at that time. However, I think it will be good to bring it in now. This text has sutras/threads, short verses of knowledge and insights about yoga and how to achieve a yogic mind and way of life. Patanjali is the author, and dating’s of the text is not definitive, however an approximate age is 400 AD/CE. I will not theorise or analyse the texts, there are many teachers and scholars who do an amazing job of that! I am just going to relate it to my life. How amazing that a text written so long ago can be so relevant to me today. Just like the yogic system; still so relevant today. I believe the more yogis in the world, the more peaceful and united the world will be…I’m digressing, back to the sutras.
Chapter 1 Verse 1: Now the teaching of yoga begins
Chapter 1 Verse 2: The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is yoga. ……
My translation: yoga is about controlling that crazy mind that is jumping from thought to thought, that is hurting you right now, that is causing you to suffer. In time I hope my blog will give you insights into how I managed to do this, remember the double exhale from last time, keep going with that for now.

I will leave it there, just a little footnote to thank my amazing teachers who have been very prevalent through parts of my journey, I am eternally grateful for their teachings they have helped me so much without probably realising it.

Carolyn Clarke
Andrea Kwiatkowski

I use the Yoga Sutras translated by Alistair Shearer and Sri Swami Satchidanada.
A massive thank you to Gillian Gee for all she passed on in the teacher training to us all and her support x

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