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Gratitude Practice 1 of 12

I decided to start my Daily Gratitude Practice on the first day of chemotherapy.

My oncologist and my psychologist had both told me that chemotherapy is, in many respects, a mind game.

People often talk about remaining positive, however I defy people to remain positive when they are deathly ill, acutely impaired, and in pain.

I came to the conclusion that you didn’t have to be happy to be grateful, and that was one of the most singularly empowering conclusions I came to.

In this blog, and some of the others, I will share some or all of the daily gratitude, just to give an insight into how my thought process was tracking.

From the beginning of each day, literally when I woke up; I would remind myself to be grateful. Throughout the day, trying to view my very limited world through eyes of gratitude, and making notes on my phone in the moment. Finally, I would then transfer those to FB when I was going to bed.

The gratitude quotes came later; whilst I was reading about gratitude, I didn’t start sharing the quotes until the second week.

But here’s one to start with.

“Sometimes we should express our gratitude for the small and simple things like the scent of the rain, the taste of your favorite food, or the sound of a loved one’s voice.”
Joseph B. Wirthlin

August 19th, 2021: First Chemo

I have a number of friends who use fb to practice daily gratitude.

The peer reviewed psych stuff that I have read supports not only gratitude practice but also the secondary act of writing it down as a more effective method of kind of bedding it down. Additionally, there’s also evidence to suggest that the sharing of gratitude benefits both the creator and the reader.

So therefore, I’m going to try to do this through chemo treatment, starting today.

Chemo cycle 1, day 1. (1)

1. I am grateful for kind, professional, and efficient medical professionals – even step of the way, I have been so damn lucky that I have had such good care.

2. I am grateful beyond belief to my housemate – for hauling their tired ass out of bed to get me to my appointment in the morning, for then coming home, picking up my phone that I forgot and bringing it back into me, for being willing to learn how to give me the injection that I need tomorrow and don’t feel capable of doing myself, for taking more time out of their day to pick me up and indulge me with a stop at a park on the way home so I could look at flowers. They aren’t not perfect, and we often frustrate the living crap out of each other, but I am at the point where I will not tolerate criticism because they have absolutely been my rock.

3. I am grateful for all the messages – Gentle Creatures, it means so much. Often this experience can seem very lonely and overwhelming, and the touch stones of support with no expectation absolutely helps me move through the days and nights with more grace, compassion, and dignity than I would otherwise be able to muster.

Mild days and flowers.

4. I am grateful for sunny Melbourne Winter days.

5. I am grateful for public gardens with flowers.. I wanted to plant bulbs and sunflowers at the new house, but I have not been physically able.. maybe for next year.

6. I am grateful for the nourishment provided by the love of friends in the form of meals and care packages – another of which arrived in the mail today.

7. I am grateful for my devotional practice – it’s not for everyone, but it is absolutely a foundation in my life.

Be kind, Gentle Creatures – soft eyes, clear vision, open heart, walk gently where you can and harness your rage mindfully when you can’t.*

*I find this mention of rage really interesting in hindsight, because there definitely is such a thing as cancer rage, but I don’t know that I dwelled on it or explained it to people.

Chemo Round One of Four, Week 1, Day 2 (2)

1. Audrey is happy to sit with me.. I don’t know if the chemo hasn’t permeated my skin yet in terms of smell, but she wouldn’t come near me until I was off the meds post surgery, so go figure! Having said that.. this lap cat version of her fine self is both new and delightful, and I am very grateful.

Modern medicine

2. My housemate did the Pegfilgastrum (Neulasta) injection* into my thigh for me.. I couldn’t do it. Kudos to those of you who manage daily injections! ⭐

*For those that are interested, Pegfilgrastim is used to prevent neutropenia (a lack of certain white blood cells) that is caused by receiving chemotherapy.

Pegfilgrastim is a form of a protein that stimulates the growth of white blood cells that help your body fight against infection. Side effects are bone / joint / muscle pain because it is active at a bone marrow level.

It has to be administered 24 hrs post chemo. Then the day before chemo, I have to have blood tests to check on all my levels.

3. I am so grateful to modern medicine, even with the fact that chemo is basically a cell poison. Even with side effects, I am grateful for the medications (I may wish to retract this in the day 4 – 7 space, which is apparently the delicate zone!). I am grateful for the surgeons who essentially removed nearly 3 kilos of tissue to ensure that I won’t get breast cancer again, and I am grateful to the surgeons that rebuilt Fabienne Breasts 2.0 (just quietly, it’s quite nice when you remove your top and all the medical professionals go “ohhh beautiful” 🤣).

5. Nurses.. oh my gosh.. nurses are amazing, I have been so lucky.

The people in my life

6. I am grateful for my housemate driving me across to get a proper fitting for a better post surgical bra – this woman is an RN and runs a business specifically for people post breast surgery. I think I will probably be using her exclusively for some time, she is passionate about what she does.

7. Sunny Melbourne Winter Days… I just love them. I didn’t walk or stretch today, although I did discover I can squat and I can get down to the floor and get up again at a push. It’s not elegant, but it’s a start!

8. Today, I noticed a definite improvement in my gait.. I have been waddling post surgery, so it’s nice to feel some improvements.. it sometimes feels like I have just been bouncing from appointment to appointment and now I am hunkering down waiting for the side effects from chemo to hit.. so it’s really nice to have a sense of improvement and progress.

9. The love and support of the tapestry of people I am so lucky to have in my life; the daily messages – not always from the same people (and it doesn’t need to be!), but the regular checkins, the conversions, and the interaction, and the engagement. It helps me feel connected and I’m really missing being able to go places and see people at the moment, so it really helps.

Social media

10. I am really grateful as well for social media – I love seeing the beauty people create, the photos of daily observations, the love, the laughter, the shared experiences. I love the flattering selfies, the food photos, the raw honesty, even the shared pain and anger.

11. The recliner.. I am so grateful for the recliner. It’s prevented my life from being a complete misery, and has saved me from a lot of pain and discomfort.

12. The gift of nourishment created with love from friends.

Chemo Round One of Four, Week One, Day Three (3)

I am grateful for milestones.

1. Last night I was able to sleep on my side, and with minimal pain / discomfort.

2. This morning I could get up out of bed with relative ease (still using the bed pole) as opposed to doing my upside down tortoise impersonation.

3. I have been able to walk up and down stairs today relatively normally without having to hold onto the ballastrades and take them carefully one step at time, leading with whichever side was the least uncomfortable.

4. I managed to strip and remake my bed all by myself this week!

5. I managed about 45 mins of very gentle stretches and about 2km in just laps around the house; it’s enough for today.

Milestones are important.

6. I am grateful for steriods (dexamethasone 4mg); two tablets in the morning for the first two mornings post chemo – their purpose is to stop swelling or at least delay it. I have obvious albeit minor swelling around my left ankle and my lower right forearm, so I need to keep an eye on that.

7. Sunny Melbourne Winter days… I had the house open, I got the blankets aired, I spent time in the sun.

8. Lorikeets or Rosellas in the gum tree for hours today… I couldn’t see them clearly enough to work out which, and we have flocks of both.. their chatter was cheerful, as were the flashes of red as they moved around.

9. I had a phone call with a friend today, and again, chats on messenger, and text messages, interactions on FB; I am so very grateful for the love and support.

Assistive devices and technology

10. I am grateful for a terrific washing machine and the fancy new deceptacon dryer… I think I have done four loads of washing and drying today. It just makes life so much easier.

11. My cat mint is coming back to life, I thought I had lost it because it wasn’t getting watered..  it was a gift from a friend and although my cats don’t dig it, it always makes me smile.

12. I am grateful to be still relatively well – I have pain, I have discomfort, I have swelling, there’s some intermittent nausea, still flushing a bit, but I’m doing ok.

13. I’m grateful for being past the point of being radioactive! My Oncology team advised me that really, for me, waste products would be radioactive for about 24 hours, and then I would be fine – I guess that would also include tears and sweat as well.

14. I’m very grateful for the oils and salves and soaps that friends have made / suggested to assist with bruising and scarring – the psychological impact of such love and care impacts deeply, and I am finding it deeply healing.

Be kind, Gentle Creatures – soft eyes, clear vision, open heart, walk gently where you can and harness your rage mindfully when you can’t.

Chemo Round One of Four, Week One, Day Four (4)

Today has been a bit rough, Gentle Creatures.

Not unexpected, as apparently day 4 – 7 is when you are at your most fragile, and I’m definitely feeling delicate!

1. I’m grateful for good drugs that are preventing the reflux, nausea, stomach pain, and diarrhoea from getting worse. I find these symptoms emotionally and mentally distressing, so it’s reassuring to have appropriate medication.

2. I’m grateful that tomorrow is Monday, and if this continues, I can contact the Oncology nurse as per the treatment plan.

Management and strategies

3. I’m grateful to have management strategies and timelines to guide me.

4. Another beautiful day, and I was well enough in the afternoon to go out into the sun and to do my stretches.

5. I’m grateful for my housemate keeping an eye on me, and doing runs to the chemist for me to keep me in antihistamines and pain relief!

6. I’m grateful for the companionship of my cats.. they are a great comfort.

7. I remain incredibly grateful for the check-ins and the gentle care that people are bathing me in; I have such amazing people in my life, I am incredibly lucky.

Be kind, Gentle Creatures – soft eyes, clear vision, open heart, walk gently where you can and harness your rage mindfully when you can’t.

Chemo Round One of Four, Week One, Day Five (5)

Healing is a matter of time, but it is also a matter of opportunity.

This was seven weeks post surgery. I didn’t have time to fully recover or heal from surgery before starting chemo. Time was of the essence, but it made my recovery much harder once I started to get so very sick.

Chemo Round One of Four, Week One, Day Six (6).

1. I’m grateful that this afternoon is better than this morning, better than yesterday, better than Sunday. Hopefully I have turned that corner, because this morning I was *miserable*.

2. I’m grateful for the friend that contactlessly delivered some home made sausage rolls.

3. The afternoon was warm enough and sunny so I was able to sit outside again; the Rosellas got close enough for me to discern that we have a flock of Eastern Rosellas and Crimson Rosellas that visit.

4. I was well enough to do nearly an hour of very gentle stretches over the course of the afternoon.

5. I am grateful for supermarket delivery; it makes life easier, and reduces my risks.

6. I am grateful for the aids I have around the house; the bed pole, the over the toilet chair, the shower chair, the additional chair in the bathroom for me to safely transfer into the bathtub that my shower is over, the stool in the kitchen so that I can rest whilst making my small meals.

7. Today I got stuck, tortoise style, on the bed – in my defence, I had just discovered that I can recline on an elbow – I haven’t been able to do that for 7 weeks!  Then I rolled on my back and got stuck because of pillows, location on bed vs location of bed pole; I am grateful my housemate was here to rescue me.

Be kind, Gentle Creatures – soft eyes, clear vision, open heart, walk gently where you can and harness your rage mindfully when you can’t.

Titilayo Tinubu Ali 

Chemo Round One of Four, Week One, Day Seven (7).

1. I am grateful for some easing of the nausea and reflux; this morning was good, yesterday afternoon was good (relatively speaking). I’m not going to rose tint this: I’m in constant pain, I’m not sleeping well, I still have loose stools, I’m fatigued, intermittently my mouth tastes soapy, my skin is so fucking dry that I am throwing everything at it, I’m bruising easily, and I have angular chellitus which is also painful*. However, I’ll take how I felt this morning and celebrate it. I may not be around the corner they speak of, but I think I can at least see it!
*note: no medical advice please, I have a whole wellness team for that.

2. Today I curled up with the heating on and just read – I’m grateful to both heating and the ability to focus long enough to actually read some very light fiction.

The recliner has been vital!

3. The recliner continues to be a fucking marvel; it has made my life so much easier over the last 7 weeks. Such an amazing and generous gift from a friend with first hand lived experience – I’m incredibly grateful. It is something I had not considered in my prep at all.

4. The afternoon sun comes in my bedroom window, diffused by some cute curtains that were a gift from a friend, and it’s a gorgeous defused glow that is gentle but bright; I am very grateful for this well lit, large bedroom (well, it would probably be the lounge room in a conventional home, but standard floor plans make no sense to me).

5. A friend has given me a frittata recipe that I can prep when I am feeling better and freeze for wobbly week (which is what I am now calling this first week post chemo).

6. The second body pillow from a friend… I already have the exact same one, and I didn’t think I would use the second one, but now I have one either side at night so I have support to sleep on either side… it’s a little thing, but it makes a difference. Being comfortable makes bad sleep more bearable.

7. A friend gave me a phone / tablet beanbag.. so that you can rest your device without having to hold it. When you have pain all through your arms, wrists, and hands, it’s a great innovation!

People that create a safe space for all the emotion.

8. I had a meltdown tonight – just feeling overwhelmed, tired, in pain.. there were tears in the kitchen, it was all too hard; my housemate just listened, asked me if they could do anything, and fed me a banana because they know that I can eat them even when nauseated, and that they are good for me. I’m very grateful that I have their support – it may only be the end of week 1 of chemo, but we have been living this since April, and I’ve been sick for longer.. and it’s really hard some days, so I am grateful for support. I’m grateful I don’t have to pretend to be coping, resilient, and positive, because seriously, I do not have the energy for that crap.

You don’t have to be happy to be grateful, Gentle Creatures.

In my opinion, gratitude practice is a strategy, like anything else – and the data suggests that it helps, and it’s cumulative, so I’ll take it.

9. I’m grateful to have some great strategies in place – they’re working, but it’s by no means a linear process.

Be kind, Gentle Creatures – soft eyes, clear vision, open heart, walk gently where you can and harness your rage mindfully when you can’t.

Underwater horse yoga became a bit of a running joke.

🌹Be kind, Gentle Creatures, tend your gardens, take time to eat the roses, and walk your boundaries.

❗Check your breasts, check your testicles.


Ensure that you are vigilant around your self-examination. Train yourself to check your breasts/testicles routinely, and monitor your bowel habits and your urine output. These are our body’s early warning signs, and we don’t have a lot of awareness of them.

Chemo brain pretty much started in the first week. My oncology Liason Nurse point blank told me – if you ever want to work again, you need to do cognitive therapy. So much therapy by the end, of all types.


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