Gamechanging: #Womenswellness Week

Posted: 13th June 2018

A Journey of Discovery.

The St Augustine’s Priory Women’s Wellness Week, taking place throughout this week, is full of some amazing activities and talks.  We were privileged to open the week by hearing talks from Augustinian parent, Mrs Ransome, who addressed both Seniors and Juniors at their Assemblies on Monday to kick start the week with a speech both inspirational and insightful.  Several of you will already know Mrs Ransome through the sewing classes she has run in an after school club here.

Here is the talk the school heard on Monday – please take a few minutes to read Mrs Ransome’s words of good humour and good advice for us all.

‘Hello everyone, this is a wonderful morning and the beginning of an exciting week.  A few of you may have joined in my sewing classes.  Today I am here for a different reason though.

I am here to Welcome in this week. It will not be a regular week, and I promise you nothing like last week!

Who knows the book ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’?

There are some fantastic creatures in this book and one of them is the caterpillar.  I love the scene where Alice meets the caterpillar. He asks Alice a very deep and thought-provoking question:

‘Who are you?’

Alice replies, ‘I hardly know, sir, just at present – at least I know who I was when I got up this morning.  But I think I must have been changed several times since then.’

Poor little Alice has been through so much already she isn’t “feeling quite herself”.  I didn’t feel quite myself a few years ago….

Back in 2012 (almost 6 years ago) I was showing my daughter how to make scrambled eggs. I felt a tingling sensation starting in the middle of my back probably a bit like Alice did when she shrank to fit into the little door.  The tingling spread from my ribs down into my left leg and up into my left arm.

Suddenly, I couldn’t feel my left leg and I fell to the ground. After a few minutes I was OK again. I was a little worried and looked up on the Internet what it could be – it was Saturday and my doctor would only be open on Monday, should I have waited?

Well no, I shouldn’t have, but I did. By Monday I had a lump on my neck and my doctor was concerned and booked me in for an X-ray. I felt fine and thought everything would be clear, but it wasn’t.  I was diagnosed with cancer. It’s a mouthful but I will tell you anyway – placental trophoblastic disease. It’s quite a rare one with only four cases a year in the UK.

Not all cancer is diagnosed in such a dramatic way, often there are symptoms that we brush off or ignore.  To be honest I wasn’t aware and didn’t notice but, thinking back, the symptoms were there!

I was too busy with everything else, putting everything else first and forgot to take care of myself.

If I have been paying attention I would have asked why I was so sweaty at night and I was way too tired all the time and then there was this niggly little cough I had developed!

Our bodies are amazing. Right!

When I go for a bike ride I don’t have to think about it much, I put my helmet on my head, hop on my bike and off I go.

I have such a close relationship with my body I think about something I want to do, and my body jumps into action. Try this…

Think about your feet…..I bet you moved them! See, you just thought about them and they are ready to go.

Sometimes my body tells me it needs things like “get some water I thirsty” or “go to bed I am tired”. Now, we can put these off for a little while but then we get grumpy.  Sometimes it’s more urgent and no matter how hard I try to ignore it, well you all know what I mean….when you gotta go, you gotta go.

Cancer taught me some important lessons about relationships. Relationships with my body, with my mind and my spirit.

Our relationship with our bodies is probably the most important one. Taking care of it physically through good nutrition, exercise and sleep.

Mentally, through learning, experiencing things and being mindful.  How we see ourselves and others and how we treat ourselves and others.

And spiritually, by being part of communities such as your school or church, charities and sports clubs.

But also having alone time (that means switching off our phones) and just being present in the moment. Looking at a beautiful flower or feeling the rain on your face.

These are things only we can do for ourselves. No-one else can take your bladder to the loo!

The second group of incredibly important relationships is with people we interact with daily.

Since you woke up this morning how many people did you interact with?

Did you greet them?

Were you kind?

Did you see your mum, dad, brothers and sisters? When you came dashing into school did you greet your teachers? And friends? What about other adults visiting the school? Did you notice them? Did you meet them with a smile?

Saying please and thank you or just giving a smile lets people know you appreciate them and it makes you feel good too. I can never thank the people who helped me enough. Not only the doctors like my Professor Seckl, whom some of you will meet when we go to the research centre next week, but also the charity that paid for the treatment that saved my life and all the people who donated to the charity.

During my journey with cancer, sometimes just like Alice I too didn’t feel like myself. I couldn’t do the things I used to do, I couldn’t go to work, or do much at home. My immune system was weak from all the treatment. I couldn’t get out into public places like shops or parks or restaurants. At one stage during a very difficult treatment I was almost like a prisoner in my room – if I went outside the smallest infection could have made me very sick.  I didn’t look like myself, steroids made me all puffed up and I lost my hair, all of it! My eyes were dull and, worst of all, I had no appetite and I love food!

This is when I came to accept that the real me is not what I do, such as being an architect or engineer or a mum or a sister. And I am not what I look like, we can all dress up or down or change the way we look, but that isn’t who we are. We are always there no matter how old or how our bodies my change, or what knowledge or experiences we gain, what we can do is be our very best selves with open hearts and kind words.

Besides, we don’t stay the same for long. We are constantly changing. I can see a few of you I have known for a few years now. When I first knew you, you were just starting school and now you are transforming from being children into young woman. This life is all about change and transformation, being part of that change and growing with it. Remember the caterpillar always transforms into a butterfly.

During this week we will go on a journey of discovery into ourselves. I can only encourage you to get to know your bodies inside and out. When you know what good looks like you will know when things aren’t right.’

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