I was completely overwhelmed by the response to my last blog ‘5 Lessons I have learnt from Cancer – So Far’. I have received many kind messages of support and they all mean a great deal to me.
A number of people have asked me to keep them up to date with progress in my treatment, so here goes…
When I last wrote I was recovering (slowly!) from a sentinel lymph node biopsy - an operation where they removed 4 of my lymph nodes to check whether my cancer had spread. The good news from that surgery was that the cancer hadn’t spread. However, a complication meant that the mastectomy I was scheduled to have at the start of August was delayed.
I am pleased to report that, thanks to the amazing support of the breast care centre at Musgrove Park Hospital and some magical seaweed dressing, the wound from my first operation has now healed and my mastectomy went ahead on the 19th September. I am keeping my fingers crossed because I am still a little paranoid that something will go wrong, but so far it seems that the second operation was a success. I was also able to have an immediate reconstruction during the same surgery which I am extremely thankful for because it means fewer future surgeries.
Two and a half weeks post-surgery and I am feeling so much better than I had imagined I might. What can be achieved by modern healthcare is just amazing, and the power of the human body to heal itself is nothing short of miraculous.
I had my results appointment at the hospital last week and my surgeon confirmed that all the cancer had been removed with good margins. That is great news but strangely it didn’t feel like it. Naively, I didn’t really allow myself to consider the possibility that they wouldn’t have removed all the cancer, so I was focused on finding out whether or not I need to have chemotherapy. I was expecting to find out at the results appointment, but frustratingly the next steps are still not clear.
A sample of my tumour has now been sent to America for an Oncotype dx test. The test identifies how likely my cancer is to recur, and therefore whether or not the benefits of the chemotherapy will outweigh the side effects. Historically they would have given me chemotherapy anyway, but this enables them to be clear about whether it is likely to be of benefit. I would definitely rather have the test than not , it is just the further three week wait that I need to get my head around!
Since my diagnosis, my world has changed forever and I have continued to think about what this whole experience is teaching me and how it might be relevant or useful for others.
In my book ‘Retirement Compass – Financial Planning for the Life you Desire’ I wrote a lot about personal values and the importance of living a life that is aligned to what is truly important to you. My diagnosis, and the resulting emotional roller coaster, has reinforced in my mind how important this is.
In our financial planning work with clients we use the concept of the Mindful Money Tree to explore the relationship between personal values and personal finances.
A Brief Introduction to the Mindful Money Tree:
• The trunk of the Mindful Money Tree is your true identity, that intangible essence or spirit that makes you who you are.
• The tree’s branches reflect the different aspects of your life, the means by which you can realise your highest values.
• Upon the branches of the Mindful Money Tree grows the fruit. The fruit is the ultimate goal - fulfilment and it takes a different form for each of us.
• The roots of the Mindful Money Tree absorb sustenance in the form of money and other assets.
• The key thing to note is that the money is not the fruit. You will require some money to grow the fruit, and the tree will thrive in an environment of good financial planning, but a fulfilling life is the hoped for harvest, not money for money’s sake.
In my mind, the first and most fundamental part of any financial plan or transaction is understanding which of your personal values are is being supported. Identifying what your personal values are is extremely important, but it isn’t as easy as it might sound.
The Mindful Money Tree’s Branches of Being provide a useful starting point for considering your personal values:
• Vitality is about strength and energy, a life force. Without a strong life force, our attempts at fulfilment can be hampered, but with vitality on our side, our efforts can be magnified.
Q - What are your health aspirations and what actions can you take to get you closer to achieving them?
Somewhat ironically, health and fitness are among my top personal values. My exercise of choice is running but my surgeon has strictly forbidden this at the moment, so for now I have challenged myself to walk 15,000 steps a day instead. Ensuring a healthy balanced diet for me and my family is also important to me and this can take organisation, time, and often extra outlay.
• Attachments through meaningful connections with individuals and groups, whether it’s a shared perspective, a loving relationship, an emotional connection or a competitive spark, enrich and
enhance our lives.
Q – Who are the most important people in your life and do you spend sufficient quality time with them? What social or community groups do you belong to and do they challenge you in a positive way?
I have been overwhelmed by the love, support and kind wishes that I have received over the last four months from friends, family, clients and colleagues. It has re-ignited my belief in humankind and inspired me to continue trying to make a positive difference through my work and individual connections.
• Lifelong learning. learning sparks connections in our brain that develop us as individuals, enhance
our capacity and provide a sense of wellbeing and excitement. Scientific evidence is emerging that suggests keeping our brain challenged through lifelong learning, can reduce cognitive decline as we grow older.
Learning can come in many forms. From art and photography to knitting and paper craft, psychology and meditation to nutrition and exercise, and complex technology to ground-breaking neuroscience, the possibilities are endless.
As well as educating ourselves by reading, listening to or accessing information from external sources, we can develop our skills by participating in physical, mental, musical or practical activities.
Q - What skills or activities did you enjoy as a child? Are there any activities you wish you could have tried or skills you wish you could have learnt?
• Universe and environment. This branch covers both our physical environment, for example the homes we live in, as well as the extent to which we are connected with the wider environment and the planet.
When it comes to location, everybody’s happy is different. Some people prefer the solitude of the countryside, while others crave the hustle and bustle of the city.
Q – Make a list of the things that make you feel safe at home, things that you take enjoyment in and that sooth and relax you. Are there any factors that are adversely affecting your state of mind, such as nightmare neighbours or other stressors?
According to proponents of environmental psychology, spending time in nature reduces stress, improving mood and cognitive performance. A study found that those who are connected to nature tend to experience more positive emotions, vitality, and life satisfaction compared to those less connected to nature.
Q - What aspects of your life connect you with the universe? Could you be doing more to connect with nature?
• Enjoyment. Not everything has to have a serious reason behind it. I am a great believer in ensuring that sometimes we do things just for the fun of it. Research published in Canadian Medical Association Journal found that people who enjoy life live longer.
Travel and holidays are great opportunities to relax and take part in things you might otherwise not be able to fit into your schedule, but regular relaxation is an important part of your routine. For some, relaxation may come in the form of chilling out in front of the TV, sharing a drink with a friend, a spa treatment or reading a good book.
Q - What do you do for fun or enjoyment on a regular basis? What would you like to do? What are the less frequent events you look forward to?
• Significance. We have only a finite time on earth, but our legacy can last for many years to come. Knowing that we are living a life of purpose and that we will make a lasting impression, whether
socially, emotionally or financially. We can make an impression by inspiring, educating, supporting, or simply loving others, but I believe we each have a part to play in making the world a better place.
Q - What would you like your legacy to be? Who have you influenced during your lifetime? Are there ways in which you can harness your values and interests to have a greater impact on generations to come?
Think about what is important to you across each of the areas above, what adjustments you could you make to improve your lifestyle? This may well have financial implications but don’t be put off if you think something isn’t currently achievable, embrace the challenge of making it a reality!
If you are interested in exploring how you can better align your personal finances with your personal values contact us to arrange a free discovery sessions. Typically the session will last around 60-90 minutes and will enable you to:
• Share your requirements, goals and objectives with an experienced adviser
• Discover tools and frameworks that can help you uncover true meaning for your money
• Discuss our services in more detail
• Discuss any questions or concerns you might have