Thursday, 12 June 2014

Meditation - dealing with cancer

This blog is unusual as it isn't about beads.  It is a bit of my back history... and a bit about my current situation.  I've written this blog for Womb Cancer Support UK, who are interested in people who use meditation to cope with cancer.

Womb cancer and endometrial cancer are massively ignored in the media - it's the fourth most common cancer in women in the UK - yet it is overlooked. 

I was diagnosed with early stage 1 endometrial cancer last year in April.  I was 33 at the time, and it was a complete shock.  I’d noticed a dramatic change in my periods, and was in a fair bit of pain, so I went to see my GP.  She referred me to the hospital for an ultrasound, which showed a thickening of the lining of my womb.  I then went on to have a diagnostic hysteroscopy – a camera being put into my womb through my cervix; which showed a growth, which looked like a typical polyp (according to the doctor).  I had the poly removed; but to my horror it was full of pre-cancerous cells and some stage one cancer cells.

My consultant decided the best way to treat it was hormone treatment – which was very difficult, as it put me in a medically induced menopause.  Following the treatment, I had another hysteroscopy and biopsy, which showed abnormalities and pre-cancerous cells; which was devastating.  I felt like the sky was coming in.  I got the results the day before my 34th birthday.

Even though my husband and I had only been married for five months at the time of the second biopsy, and would dearly have loved to have children, we decided that having a hysterectomy would be the best course of action. My consultant agreed that it was a reasonable course of action, and I had a total hysterectomy (removal of womb and cervix only – I still have my ovaries) on 19th May this year.

As part of my recovery plan, I’ve taken up mindfulness meditation.  A friend of mine is a practitioner of mindfulness meditation, and she took me through the basics, and I found it to be very calming and relaxing.  Knowing that my recovery would be a long, slow, probably painful process, I thought that it would be a good thing to take up. 

Mindfulness is all about experiencing what is happening at the moment – how you feel, what is going on around you etc.  It helps you to stop worrying about the future, focussing on the past, and is very stilling and grounding.  I have been using the audio tracks available on the internet, and found them to be very helpful.  The tracks I listen to are from the UCLC Mindfulness Awareness Research Centre (  There are different tracks for different circumstances, basic breathing meditation, full meditation tracks, mindfulness for dealing with difficulties (which is very useful for helping deal with pain) and my personal favourite – a body scan to prepare you for sleep.

After major surgery, it is very important to be kind to yourself, and mindfulness helps a lot with that.  Insomnia is common, so being able to relax and unwind to help with sleep is invaluable.  Although it’s very early days for me, I know I will carry on with practicing mindfulness, meditating and giving myself the time and kindness required to recover fully.  

Monday, 9 June 2014

Competitive Art

It's the time of year for The Battle of the Beadsmith... and also the winners of Bead Dreams have been announced.  It makes me think about the idea of competitive beading, and competitive art in general.  

Art is defined as "the expression or application of human creative skill or imagination typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power".

No-where in that definition does it mention quality, judgement of one piece of work as being 'better' than another or classification of championship.  I've never really understood art competitions, and the idea of entering one seems odd to me.  Who are the judges to say that my work is better than someone else's or vice versa?  How do you even begin to critique such different pieces of art?

In the summer last year, I started a beading challenge run by Stitchncraft, my local(ish) bead shop.  It's a four-seasons challenge, so a piece of beadwork has to be made for each season - and specific beads and colour-schemes are provided which have to be included in each season.  The summer piece has to be a necklace, autumn is a bracelet, winter is a sculptural piece and spring is a free choice.  

I can't show you the progress I've made on any of these pieces, as judging is supposed to be anonymous, sorry about that.  I feel very odd beading, knowing that I am going to be judged on what I do, and that I am in effect 'competing' against my friends. I just don't know how I feel about that.  

I would love to know what your thoughts are about beading competitions, and other art competitions, how you feel about competing against your friends and how you deal with the disappointment or elation of the results.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Feeling the Love

I have always thought that beaders are wonderful people.  Since discovering beading in 2007, and making friends with other beaders on facebook I have made some wonderful friends.
I've gone on holiday with people I've only met online, and come away with friends who will be close to me and have a special place in my heart for life.
This last year has been tough, and the support that I've been given by all of my friends, particularly my beading friends has been invaluable.

Yesterday, I received the most amazing gift in the post from a group of friends, showing me their support and love for me.  It has completely blown me away.  Twenty ladies have spent their time, money and creativity to make this beautiful piece of art... some of whom I've never met!  The fact that they care enough to contribute to this is just staggering.

So, here it is... the beautiful picture, showing people's love - for me! 

I've put the names of the beaders next to the hearts they've made - a couple of people have contributed two hearts.

To name check the wonderful people who contributed to this... because they deserve to have their talent shown off, and their kindness and generosity shouted from the rooftops.
In no particular order:

Michelle Knight, Lynda Harrison-Twells, Jenny Argyle, Nicole Stanley, Gemma Andrews, Lorraine Imasogie, Nancy Dale, Vickie Christian, Carol Paris, Ruth Duck, Karen Jones, Elise Freedman, Shirley Campbell, Clair Rigby, Dawnn Harris, Donna Sanders, Julie Cowan, Sarah Tucker, Barbara Pearson, Mary Marshall and Ann MacLeod Crisp.

There are so many wonderful people out there and I am very blessed to have these beautiful ladies in my life.  Every day that goes by, I thank God for them and their friendship.

This is a gift that I will keep for ever.  One of those special things that comes along once in a lifetime, and it means the world to me.