Saturday, 29 March 2014

The seals of Kaikoura

Found on the east coast of New Zealand's South Island, the small township of Kaikoura is a pretty special place.  Not only is it a landscape where sea and mountains meet, it also posesses unique access to whales, dolphins and other marine life.  Due to very deep oceans just off the coast, animals such as sperm whales, which are usually found far away from land, come to feed. 
But when I spent a few days in Kaikoura, I didn't go and swim with Dolphins or spot giant mammals from a boat. I took pictures of Seals. A lot of pictures.

I just think seals are awesome.  In the water, lazing in the sun, from pup to bull, it doesn't matter.

I think they are so cool I even payed to swim with them.  Taken out on a boat to where the inquisitive adolescents live, I spent hours watching, dancing and playing with these amazing creatures.  There is also nothing so cute as over twenty seal pups playing under a waterfall.

I think they are by far my favourite New Zealand Mammal.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The lump in my breast

I’ve been contemplating this post for a while.  Half a dozen times I’ve started writing about the lump in my breast and then drawn a blank. So please bear with me if my writing is a little disjointed and much personal than normal. But I want to be honest, which isn’t always the most beautiful word out there.

It was just a slight touch, a quick sweep of my hand across my breast plate.  That is how I found my lump; in the kitchen, cooking up dinner for Me and Zim.  By the time he got home from work I was already a nervous wreck.  'It’s probably nothing' he told me, but I didn't sleep all night.

The next day I went to the Doctors. 'It’s probably nothing but you'll need to run some tests in Christchurch' they said. It would be over a week until I'd be leaving Queenstown and heading up north.    That’s when my imagination really went into overdrive.  You see, my brain has this coping mechanism, where it goes through all the bad scenarios I can think of. That way, perhaps I'll be a bit more prepared; maybe the worst news won't be such a blow.

Visions of Cancer were everywhere. Coincidently, 'breast cancer awareness month' had just started. Pink ribbons were being sold on every street, Cancer was discussed on every TV channel and I was even confronted by a giant pink bra in Wanaka. On a couple of occasions, I did internet searches on breast cancer treatment, survival rates and even wig options.Yeah. I did that.
 All the time I kept asking myself the same question: What if its cancer?

Of all the things that entered my head, one answer panicked me the most.  If I was sick, I'd have to go back to England - very quickly.  It wasn’t the idea of the U.K, with its kick ass sense of humor and endless cups of tea that frightened me. I love England – it’s the country that raised me, where the majority of my family live and has un-confusing clothes sizes.  It was because it’s a country where Zim, my partner, wouldn’t be able to go with me, at least straight away.  In England he would be the foreigner and have no legal right to work.  The idea of going through something terrible was bad enough, but to loss him too was just too much.  Later, in the middle of sleepless nights the really wild and crazy thoughts seeped in. I thought of painful chemo, losing my hair, becoming infertile and dying before my time.  I prayed to a higher power out of sheer desperation.  For the first time in years, I was petrified.  This wasn’t supposed to happen to me. Cancer happened to other people; Friends of friends and the aged.

It was this event that was the catalyst for my lack of blogging.  All my excitement and enthusiasm for our impeding trip across the south island and our adventure to the wilderness went out the window.  How could I talk about plans that might not happen?  I could only thing about my lump and couldn’t really say much until the biopsy was back.  It was only after we left Queenstown that I began to relax and find some peace.  Even with the giant bra attack in Wanaka, the change of scenery helped me unwind.

When we reached Christchurch, the apocalyptic setting of rubble and damage did little to calm my nerves, but getting the ultrasound and biopsy out the way did. I realized I was doing everything right and whatever the results said I could make it work.
Just before my job in Fiordland was set to begin, the results were in. The lump was benign - the most beautiful word is the world.  No cancerous cells were detected. I was free to stay in New Zealand.
In turned out my breast lump was not a story of cancer. It was one of over-reaction and wild speculation.  I learnt that breast lumps aren’t always Cancer, they are just there, which by the way media NO ONE HAS EVER TOLD ME. Do an awareness week about that some time.  With the news I felt shame. A dear friend just lost a parent to cancer and here I was, just getting my knickers in a twist over the idea of the disease. 

On the whole, however, I felt so thankful to the universe; for my freedom and the ability to stay on my chosen path. I’m was thankful for having a loving family, that even though I was thousands of miles away, gave me so much support.   And I knew, from my over the top worrying, that what I’m doing right now is what I want.  I’m not drifting aimlessly; I’m experiencing and exploring this planet in my own sweet time.
It’s not hard to see that my anguish awaiting the test results was pretty much self-inflicted, but the whole ordeal has, in some ways, changed me. I’ve spent the last six months putting those changes to the test.  I don't want to just exist, I want to live. I want to take part in the world around me and do the things I always said I would.  I want to look after my body, treat it with the respect it deserves.  But most importantly, I want to fill my life and those around me with happiness and love.

So here's to following happiness, with my lumpy boob in tow.

Helen x

Image from here

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