Fistula Surgery @ the Research Institute: Part 2

Read Part 1 first

We arrived at the Garg Fistula Research Institute, attached to Dr Garg’s house, and went in to meet him and his team.

Even though I had sent them emails before, I still ran over my history and everything that they might need to know regarding the fistula surgery and everything related to it. He asked about my Crohn’s history, and because I wasn’t on any medication and didn’t have any symptoms he said that it wouldn’t affect his job.

He gave us so much time and answered all our questions. Already I was getting the feeling that this was a man I could trust, who was passionate about his work, and who really knew what he was talking about. All he treats is fistulas, fissures and piles, and he travels around the world talking to other surgeons about his research.

The following morning I was booked in for an MRI at 8.

Shankar picked Harlan and I up at the hotel. When we reached the MRI clinic it looked like a little shopfront, and we were very glad that we had Shankar with us to speak Hindi to the people at the front-desk. It was quite different to any other MRI I’ve had, but I was relaxed and I’m sure the machine was slightly wider so it felt less cramped in there.

Once the images were ready we took the CD off to the clinic for Dr. Garg to check and give us the verdict. He is concerned that most surgeons and radiologists seem to have a hard time properly reading MRIs in relation to the anal area, and so many times he has people come to him as a ‘last resort’ from top surgeons around the world where fairly simple and obvious things have been missed. I didn’t realise I would be ‘one of those’ people.

He began scrolling through the images on his computer. We could see where the seton was and all the inflammation around that area. He kept scrolling higher through the slides and talked us through, in detail, how there was actually another, previously undiscovered, abscess higher up. He explained to us that there is an internal and external sphincter muscle, with an intersphincteric space where abscesses can often form with a fistula, and mine had horse-shoed around in this area. This meant that my case was complex, and my heart sank.

I had so hoped it would be a simple fix.

Being my first day in India I suddenly wondered if I would have to stay longer than three weeks, healing away from the comfort of home. Long story short, he told us what procedures he was going to carry out on the various areas and said that with the higher complex fistula/abscess it would reduce the success rate slightly to the 80% range , but he was still confident that it wouldn’t take longer than 40 minutes to sort it out in hospital.

The colour and choice is never-ending!

That afternoon I squeezed in some market exploration with all of us, knowing that in the next few days I would be too sore to go around in the car site-seeing. I was quite nervous about the following day – my second day in India, driving to a new town, being operated on in a hospital in India, having to spend the night, and being so far from home with what was happening. I was so relieved and grateful that Harlan was with me and would be able to stay the night in the hospital alongside me.

The next morning Shankar picked us up bright and early and we had an entertaining drive to the Indus International Hospital in Derra Basi. He dropped us, wishing me well, and again, being the only Westerners, we had to use a combination of sign language and help from some very kind people who would call in others who knew some English. Needless to say, we were allowed to skip parts of the forms.

We were led to our room on the 3rd floor, overlooking dry fields, where the cows were grazing, and waited to be called in for surgery. I had begun fasting that morning and Dr Garg also told me that I couldn’t eat for 5 days after the surgery – not having a bowel motion would greatly reduce the pain. That in itself was rather daunting, especially when everyone was so excited to be surrounded by delicious Indian food!

I was in my green gown, net hat on and the nurses came to get me with a roller bed and off we went. It was quite surreal really, waving Harlan goodbye and disappearing with people I couldn’t communicate with into the depths of this hospital. Even though it’s an international hospital it is still very different from what we are used to here in a first world country, but I had been mentally prepared and had a deep sense of underlying trust in the whole process.

In a nutshell, I received a spinal block, which meant that although I couldn’t feel the surgery I felt the pressure and discomfort of being prodded and poked with my legs up in stirrups. Luckily Dr Garg had given me the green light for taking in my head phones (with guided imagery and meditation music on), which really helped. Plus a lovely, young caring anaesthetist who told me a little bit about his life. After the procedure, I was wheeled into recovery and a few minutes later began shivering. At first I let my body go with it, because I believe that body movement after trauma can help shift it through your system faster (like with dogs shaking). However it became stronger and stronger. I tried to consciously stop it every time a nurse came in because I was desperate to get back to the room to see Harlan and I didn’t want anything holding up the process.

Eventually I was taken back to our room where I was overjoyed to see Harlan.

He was very concerned about my shaking and called for our Kashmiri doctor. She checked my vitals and covered me with lots of blankets because I had gotten cold in the theatre. With rescue remedy, lots of blankets, and Harlan by my side, I eventually calmed down and was able to doze. I was not allowed to move for the next 6 hours, and it was a long drawn out, uncomfortable time. I made it of course, and then I also made it through the night on minimal pain killers.

The next morning, I had to walk about 500m – Dr Garg’s orders – and so off we went, me holding onto Harlan’s arm in my faded green gown, limping slowly next to him. We found a way to get out of the building and did laps up and down the ramps in the steamy hot morning air. I wasn’t as sore as I had expected!

Near mid-day Shankar picked us up and took us back to the clinic so that they could look at the wound and begin the dressing change process that was so vital to healing.

The procedure was as follows:

• the fistula on the outside (where the seton was) was laid open because it only touched a small part of the sphincter
• another little tract was cauterised at the opening (PERFACT procedure) – internally
• on the horse shoe abscess, he performed a TROPIS procedure by creating a cross opening, draining it, and cauterising any openings (internally)
• the ‘dressing procedure’ for my particular case was someone making sure that these wounds heal from the bottom up/inside out and don’t close prematurely, leading to the possibility of another fistula/abscess.

For the next three weeks in India we had to go morning and evening to the clinic to have the dressing changed. The first few days Harlan just watched while they explained what they were doing, and then he had to start practicing.

Dr Garg believes that there are two very important reasons why his simple procedures have such a high success rate:

a) he knows how to properly diagnose exactly what’s going on (reading MRIs) and then has a range of procedures to choose the most suitable from, and
b) he says that aftercare is at least 50% of the successful healing.

Where with other surgeries you are sent home, mostly to fend for yourself with maybe a couple of weekly check-ups, with Dr Garg you see him and his expert team twice a day for the duration of your stay in India.

If I hadn’t had Harlan with me to learn the dressing procedure, or if it had taken him longer to gain confidence, we would have had to extend our trip. Luckily for us all he picked it up quickly and confidently, and within the last week Dr Garg was happy for us to leave on our planned date. He is reluctant to let his patients go unless he is confident that your support person will carry out the dressing changes as he and his team would, for the duration of the healing process.

For the first time I felt that I was really able to trust and hand over the whole process to a true expert.

Harlan, me and Dr Garg – two of the most expert men when it comes to fistulas!

He was always kind, caring and the amount of things that we learnt while there were phenomenal (I could write a booklet just on that). My other options up until then had pretty much been – live with a seton, go onto heavy immune-suppressant drugs, and keep trying a different surgery every year or so.

During the surgery, he took two tissue samples for a PCR tuberculosis (TB) test. He told me that it is routine for him to test for this, because if it goes undetected in the tissue it can cause a recurrence of an abscess or fistula because the TB cells multiply so slowly. About 5 days after the surgery the results came back positive. Since I was born and brought up on a farm in South Africa, where a lot of the workmen and their families had active TB, it wasn’t the biggest surprise.

The treatment for TB is a 6 month course of a combination of anti-biotics.

He told us that it was very lucky that the test had showed up positive, because often it can hide in an area of the body, and unless a PCR test is done on that particular tissue you can show up as negative. The things you never knew you never knew! I went on quite a Google mission after that to see if it might tie in with any of the other health-related issues that I’d experienced in my life!

Just to backtrack, for the last 5 years, since August 2012, I hadn’t been able to sit on my bum properly because of the pain. Whenever I needed to maintain a sitting position I would either sit with my knees bent and calves underneath me or I would sit twisted and sideways so that there was no pressure on the right-hand side of my bum.

The second day after surgery when I came into Dr Garg’s office and went to kneel on the chair he asked me why I wasn’t sitting.

Because it’s too sore and there is a gaping wound that I don’t want to sit on, I replied, wondering how he could even ask such a silly question.

You need to sit, he replied. Go on, try it.

I gingerly lowered myself very slowly onto the seat and allowed a little bit of weight to bear down. It wasn’t as painful as I had expected, but I still held some of my weight off.

Your new assignment, he said to me, is to sit as often as you can. It will give you that sense of normality that you haven’t had, and it will also allow you to feel any areas that may not be healing as they’re supposed to and you can report back.

Being dropped in Delhi for our last night in India. Shankar (middle) made our trip! He was the best driver EVER and became a great friend!

And so I began sitting normally on our drive to and from the clinic. At first I couldn’t believe that with such a huge wound I was able to do this when I hadn’t been able to sit for the last five years. However, it just became easier and easier until, on our last day we drove for 5 hours, from Chandigarh to New Delhi. Half way through the trip it started to get uncomfortable, but I could handle it, whereas before I arrived I couldn’t even have even sat for 10 minutes like that!

These were the small victories.

The big victories were that the wounds, both inside and outside began to noticeably heal before we left, and now, just over 3 months after my surgery, both the internal and external wounds are about 90% healed! Harlan still attends to them twice a day and will do so until everything is 100% healed. We now completely and deeply understand why the aftercare is so vital to wholesome healing after a fistula surgery. The other great victory is that I also have more energy because my body isn’t constantly fighting infection either!

My other offers regarding fistula surgery:

So, just to summarise, the procedure I was offered by the expert here in New Zealand, was to place a seton for about 6 months to a year, to allow inflammation to reduce and then possibly look at the option of an advancement flap. Inflammation would never have fully reduced because of the undetected abscess higher up, and even if it had and 6 months later the lower tract had been healed, I still would have been in a lot of pain from the hidden abscess. When this found another way to exit my body as another fistula, the explanation would probably have been that I was just prone to them and they were ‘unfixable’.

In Australia, even If the VAAFT procedure or the collagen plug had sealed the lower tract, exactly the same thing would have happened. I still would have been in pain, and weeks or months down the line, a new tract would have formed to allow the abscess to drain and I would have believed that I was incurable.

I had also thought of going to India for a kshara sutra treatment (before I found the Garg Fistula Research Centre), and had I done that, it would have at first seemed like a success and just like all the other options it wouldn’t have stuck.

Luckily for me I didn’t take the New Zealand option…

Enjoying the relatively cooler temperatures on a day trip up into the foothills of the Himalayas on our last few days.

…and the Australian option didn’t work, otherwise it might have taken me another year to get to India where I was able to find such amazing, expert, wholesome, caring treatment. I will be forever grateful to India, Dr Garg and his decision to keep learning more and more about treating fistulas, his amazing team, and all the growth and stretching I have done to get to the point where I never gave up and was ready to open myself up to fully trusting, even when it sounded like a ‘mad idea’ to others.

So many things led me to this place in my journey – EFT, learning to love myself more deeply and whole-heartedly (and all that encompasses), the incredible love and support from those human angels around me, and learning to surrender, let go and trust.

If you have, or know of anyone with a fistula please share this knowledge with them because it could change their lives! And even if it helps just one person to end the pain and struggle that they are experiencing as a result, that would be AMAZING!

Fistula Treatment @ the Research Institute: Part 1

A factual recount of my trip to India for fistula treatment.

On June the 19th we flew to India to visit the Garg Fistula Research Institute in Chandigarh. I was ready. I had tried a surgeon in Australia for fistula treatment (three operations later), and the pain I had returned with in May, propelled me onto the India path.

In August 2016, for the first time in all my years of googling, I came across the Garg Fistula Research Institute in India.

Their website didn’t blow me away at first glance, but as I read more about the surgeon’s credentials, all the research papers he had written and the awards he had received, I became more excited. I made contact with the clinic via email and shortly after, we began sending each other WhatsApp messages. I asked lots of questions about what the surgery was, how long I’d have to be there, where to stay, climate and more, and they sent back suggestions and also links to various videos and research articles that Dr Garg had written.

They also sent me the name and number of someone in New Zealand who had recently been (with their permission of course), so we organised a time to talk. The man was Indian, living in Auckland, and had been over with his wife after struggling with a fistula for 2 years. He hadn’t tried any surgery yet, and Chandigarh was only a few hours from the town where his parents still lived.

I asked him hundreds of questions…

…both about being in the city and also about the procedure and the surgeon. He couldn’t speak highly enough of the surgeon and his team, and of how much they cared. I felt heartened to hear such an amazing review, but I still felt daunted about going somewhere where my tummy could get upset from the food, and also the 17-hour plane trip when a 2-hour car ride was almost too much.

However, I organised a time to talk to the surgeon on WhatsApp, and got to ask him all the questions about why and how, and also got a feeling about him. He had a lot of time for me on the phone and answered all my questions in depth. I could tell that he really knew his stuff and was passionate about always learning more. At this stage, I hadn’t had any other surgeries. He told me that so often he had people come to him as a last resort. They had tried many different surgeries and often those had made the fistula worse.

I felt excited by the idea that there might be someone out there who could help me with my fistula treatment…

…but I also felt scared about going to India. Harlan wouldn’t be able to come with me because it was the busy time in the honey season. This meant my mum would join me. I would never have gone alone, because you must have a support person to learn the dressing changes that must be carried out once you get home, otherwise you need to stay there for the 2-3 months it takes to heal.

A month or so later my tummy struggled with a ‘flare up’ and it took a while to calm it down. Obviously in that time there was no way I could go anywhere, and surgery wouldn’t have been an option while my gut was inflamed and angry.

During that time, I came across a different fistula treatment option closer to home, in Australia, and began communicating with that surgeon.

Long story short, we discussed my case and decided I would come over at the beginning of January, with the hope of him performing a VAAFT. And so just after New Year, with my tummy back to normal, I went to Brisbane with my mum. During surgery, because there was too much tissue degeneration in the area he was only able to clean out the tract and place a seton. I was in a lot of pain for weeks afterwards, but as the tissue settled, the seton made it easier for a while. Then the inflammation started up again, so I planned my return trip in the hope that the second surgery would be able to bring about a complete closure.

So off I went in April with my mum again. The surgeon decided to use a collagen plug. Within a couple of days after this operation, it became obvious that the fistula treatment had failed, and 5 days later I returned to hospital for more surgery – this time he removed the disintegrating plug and placed another seton.

The pain this time was even worse and I arrived home in NZ three weeks later in more pain than when I had left. Mentally and physically it was a rough time, and even though at first I said I would give it a month of so to settle down, my mind began drifting back to India; my ‘last resort’. I could feel my Inner Wisdom gently speaking to me. The more it went there, the more I felt in myself that I just had to do it, and do it soon. The time was right. If I waited until July, Harlan wouldn’t have been able to come with me, and I knew that I really wanted to have him with me for this part of my healing journey.

I spoke to the surgeon in India again.

Dr Garg reminded me of his three main aims with patients:

• Never create any danger to the sphincter muscle
• Minimise chance of recurrence
• Minimal pain after surgery – able to walk and carry on normally within days (big call after my recent experience in Australia)

The clinic also put me in touch with a couple from Northland, New Zealand, who had recently been over. He had been struggling with a fistula for a few years, with a number of painful seton placements, and it turns out it was a simple fistula treatment that Dr Garg approached by laying it open. It was now all healed and he had no more pain. The couple not only explained the technical details, but also gave me the western perspective of the clinic, the hospital and the city. His wife told me that, during consultation, you are not insulated and private as you would expect to be here in NZ, but that the care was the best. She also told me that even though it may not look as professional as we expect here when you go into the clinic/hospital, I should know that the staff were the best and most expert she had ever come across.

After a week or so, and talking with Harlan, we decided to go.

Rowan, Louis, Harlan and me getting ready to fly!

I was now more nervous about the 40 degrees we would be going into (in the peak of summer) than the food giving me Delhi Belly. I felt so much stronger in my body from all the different levels of nourishment I had been giving it, so that didn’t really concern me as much. Two friends also decided that they would come on a winter adventure with us. So we booked tickets and a few weeks later we were on the plane to New Delhi via China.

The flight was only bearable for my bum because there were spare seats that Harlan went to, and I could have two to myself to curl up and sleep most of the way. By this stage I was ready to do anything with the hope that the end of bottom pain might be in sight…

We arrived in New Delhi, slightly delirious from lack of sleep, and had our last 1 ½ hour internal flight up to Chandigarh. I felt so excited being in India and seeing a landscape so different from anything I had ever seen. There were SO many buildings as we taxied down the runway, and so much colour everywhere.

Chandigarh, a small city of only a million people, is reputed to be India’s cleanest city.

We landed around 5:30 in the evening, so the heat was manageable and walked into a rather empty airport. We were the only Westerners in sight, and as we walked out of the doors with our luggage, Dr. Garg’s driver, Shankar, came over with his sign ‘Kali Bell’.

He led us to his small Honda (he had been told that there were only two of us), and we all squeezed in, laughing about the miscommunication. During our time in India we learnt that miscommunication just happens, regularly, but despite that, everything runs in its own way! Luckily, we hadn’t brought much luggage because we knew we could buy what we needed here. Shankar pulled out, tooting as he went and we were on our way to the hotel via the Garg Fistula Research Centre for my first consultation. I could write pages and pages just on our first drive, but since this is more about the medical side of things, I’ll keep it brief.

Basically, road rules aren’t what you expect in the West. We crossed lanes and other cars were expected to slow down to let us in, there were 5 vehicles wide across 2-3 lanes, there were 5 people up on scooters, jam-packed auto-rickshaws mingled in between cars, cars stopping for dogs to cross, and the means of communication was tooting. It was absolutely amazing and I was very glad that we had a driver and weren’t trying to navigate this ourselves.

Part 2 here

India: I am ready

I step off the precipice and fall
for a moment I’m dropping
hurtling towards the hard ground

then I remember I have wings
I open them
they creak
stretch and the blood flows through them
my wings

it’s been a while
let them fly
let me fly
into the big unknown that beckons me
calls to my heart strings

and then there is vastness
openness above me
below me and all around me
I am free to journey

how did I forget my wings?
these beautiful light feathers
for soaring through the air
simply waiting for the words

I am ready.

And so I am. For another exciting chapter on this journey called life. In under two weeks I fly to India. A country that both scares me and intrigues me. A place where the Goddess Kali resides in many places. And I will meet her, even though I may not at first know it. I will feel her presence in the dirt and in the sunsets, in the poverty and in the wealth, in the rivers and in the temples dedicated to her.

I am going to the Fistula Research Centre in a city north of Delhi called Chandigarh. I am going to seek advice and treatment from a world expert in fistulas. There are not many of those around, and to be honest this colorectal surgeon, Dr Pankaj Garg, is the first such person I came across last year after 4 years of trawling the internet at regular intervals. I stumbled across his site about 8 months ago, and back then the idea of going to India with a sore bum and a tummy on the sensitive side scared the living daylights out of me. Australia seemed like a good first option. It did not pan out as expected though, so India came back onto the radar.

It is currently 40 degrees there in the height of summer and in July the monsoons arrive. However, this is the time Harlan can come with me and leave the bees to quietly and cosily winter in their sunny bush sights. Two dear friends are joining us too, and between the four of us there will be adventure.

Where there was fear and trepidation before, there is now excitement, anticipation and a feeling of adventure running through my veins.

You see I realised a few months ago that physical adventuring has been minimal through this healing journey of mine, and that I’m craving it. My soul needs it. It feeds me in ways that nothing else can. When I first got back from Australia I knew that when the pain settled we needed to explore, even if it was in tiny ways, we would do it.

And then one day last month, with the desire of healing my bum, the idea of India was reborn. It started out as a spark with only tiny flashes of light. But it very quickly grew into something more. The flight is 17 hours, which for someone who doesn’t even drive at the moment is very long! It’s hot! Some people experience Delhi Belly….

We all spent the first week almost reluctantly committing. Knowing we desired adventure, and me that and healing. However, as the days have passed, and more links and pictures have been shared between us, there has been a growing excitement and anticipation. What started out as a trip purely for healing my bum, has turned into so much more.

This time thinking about India, underneath the wildness of the idea, I feel a great sense of peace and calm. I am ready. The time is now.

It will be a pilgrimage. Me journeying to far off holy lands. Since I was named Kali, after the Hindu Goddess, I have always known that I will visit India at some point. I just hadn’t planned for it to be so soon. Lucky I’ve never been a big one for plans and so I can flow with the currents and go where I need to go at the time. I am ready. I am ready to adventure on all levels – physically, spiritually and emotionally.

I have opened my wings and my Inner Wisdom is guiding me.

I am ready.

Stay Strong: Self Love Theme for 2017

Stay Strong

Did you know that you don’t have to stay strong in the macho, suck it up way? Strong doesn’t mean you have to self-sacrifice and suck it up. You don’t need to pretend that everything is OK and just keep going and going like a machine. Did you know that you can actually be strong in a more gentle way in your core. By staying true to yourself and trusting yourself. It’s actually OK to receive what you need, to support yourself with all that you do in the world.

What does Stay Strong look like?

Staying strong is the theme for self love in 2017, created by Christine Arylo in all the beautiful work she does in the world, sharing tangible ways in which we can strengthen our self love. So what exactly does stay strong mean?

S – Speak your truth and stay connected

T – Trust yourself

R – Rest and Replenish

O – Own your power and play your part

N – Nourish your heart and soul’s desires

G – Give and Receive

How to use this to strengthen in self love

You can take these six aspects of staying strong and apply them to your own life. What areas are you already strong in? What areas are you learning to be stronger in? You’ll never have them all perfect. This is a path and a process that you get to choose every moment. 

For every one of us, throughout the year, we are going to have things that come up. Things that wobble that strength in our core; some in small ways and some in big ways. It’s called life. But if we can look at this and see where we’re already strong and keep building on that. And then look at where we are learning to be strong and nourish those parts, we develop a deeper strength in our core. 

I’ve created this video to dive into each aspect a little more.

A practice

We all need a daily practice to stay strong in our core. It doesn’t have to be 30 minutes or an hour. A daily practice can be as little as 3 minutes when you wake up in the morning. It can be looking at the poster you have created, reminding you which aspects need to be fed this month. Or it can be looking at each of the S.T.R.O.N.G aspects and checking in with yourself which one you want to focus on for that day. Remember they all work together, so when you focus on one, the others will be there to support it.

When we commit to nourishing these aspects, we strengthen in self love so that we are better able to deal with things that come our way, in gentle, more loving ways.

Your turn

Close your eyes, take a deep breath (breath is so important in checking in with ourselves) and put your hand on your heart or belly. Which of these aspects is strongest for you at the moment? Which one most needs your attention right now? What is one small act that you can write down right now, which will help you to strengthen that today? Maybe it’s I lie down for 5 minutes when I get home. Or it could be I go to the beach to reconnect. Don’t just jot it down and never look at it again. Put these somewhere where you will see them every day. Check in every day and see what needs your attention now.

My experience

For me, right now, the area that I’m strongest in is Trusting Myself. I feel my health journey has really strengthened this for me. Digging deep and listening to my Inner Wisdom on a daily basis. The area for me that needs the most nourishing is Rest & Replenish. This is often the one that I struggle to honour when I’m feeling more energetic or like I’ve got a bunch of things to get done.

So for me, I have jotted down a few ways in which I can feed this:

I take time to stop and read a book.

Lie down for 5 minutes when my body needs a rest.

Go to the beach for a top up.

What are yours?

This post is inspired by Christine Arylo, and her feminine super power salon on February the 13th, which is 75 minutes of diving deep into this topic. 

 

I Can Heal Myself – Can’t I?

Can I heal myself?

I had an epiphany of sorts today! When you hear the words “you have the power to heal yourself“, what does that mean to you? Do you feel empowered or guilty? You don’t have to look far to find those words. When you google, listen to podcasts, join summits, pick up a book, you may come across a variation on that phrase. Maybe they just jump out more at me, because I have often attached guilt to them.

I have usually interpreted those words as: I should be able to heal myself. And if I can’t then there is something inherently wrong with me. I’m doing something wrong. Eating something wrong. Thinking the wrong things. Not meditating enough, or not doing enough yoga. I think this actually says a lot more about my journey with self-blame than anything else. I’m sure there are many people who hear these words and feel inspired!

I digress. I do find them inspiring.

Because I do believe we have the power to heal ourselves in different ways, just not alone. What I realised today is that I sort of interpreted these words to mean we should be able to do it on our own. And when I realised that, it made think about how healing, in my opinion, is never in isolation. We are never the only ones who heal ourselves. There are so many people who are part of our healing journey and play vital roles – some more noticeably than others.

Take for example the blog you stumble across that tells you about clearing your meridians to kick-start you every morning. Or the magazine you pick up in a Dr’s office that has an article on self-love. How about your acupuncturist, your counsellor, or your mother? Then there’s the surgeon you choose because he really honours you in the process and makes space for your opinions. Or your friend who you have coffee with every week, and she helps you get clear on what you’re really feeling.

It may seem like a lonely journey at times.

And you may be one of those people who has interpreted these words as I have before: that you should be able to do it all on your own. However, our input is pivotal in our healing journey. Creating a team around you is vital, and it’s all part of the process. But owning your power in that journey is key. The inspirational books, podcasts, groups and forums that you’re part of, the few people in your life who you can really open up to and trust…you’re not doing it alone. You are doing it with a team that you are case manager of. You get to create that team.

power-to-heal-myselfMaybe I have a new interpretation of “you have the power to heal yourself“. I do actually believe that you have the most power in your healing journey. The power lies with you to listen to your Inner Wisdom/Guidance/Knowing, whatever you want to call it, and then do what feels right. If you keep giving the reigns to your acupuncturist, homeopath, Dr, counsellor, you’re giving away that power. When I listen to everyone else’s opinions and they drown out that voice inside of me that only speaks the loving truth, I’m giving away my power.

When you take the power back, and create a team around you that really supports all aspects of your healing, then I believe all sorts of beautiful shifts are possible.

And yes – I can heal myself.

Listening to my Inner Wisdom

The need for Inner Wisdom

On Monday, the 23rd of January, I had the perfect opportunity to practice tapping into my Inner Wisdom. This is what I’ve been studying since September. Learning tools that I can use with myself and also with others, and now here I was faced with a decision where my Inner Wisdom was key. It was just over a week after my first fistula surgery in Brisbane with Dr Naidu, and my mum (Av) and I had been staying 1 ½ hours north in Noosa with my Aunt and Uncle.

Today we were heading back down to Brisbane to go and see Dr Naidu for a follow up. Av and I had packed up all of our things at Wally and Debbie’s in preparation to fly home in a few days’ time. We didn’t quite know what we were going to do but we planned to leave on Wednesday.

Feeling pretty positive about how things were going we met with Dr Naidu. He looked at my surgery site and he made the call that he wanted to see me for another surgery that Friday. There was too much leaking and he was worried that we needed a bigger seton to help the flow. Unfortunately he was really unwell, so I couldn’t ask all the questions that I wanted to.

Av and I walked out the room in a daze. We headed towards the café, as it was lunchtime and after I rudely shouted at her in front of everyone because she was unsure of her order, we went and sat down at a table.

Lashing out

“Just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean that you can be rude to me in front of other people,” she said to me. “I know,” I replied and burst into tears. She wanted to come around from the other side of the table to comfort me, but I put my hand up. I sat looking out the window of the 5th level, looking down at the buses coming and going below me. I wondered what next? I had no idea. Where I had felt so certain that we were going home, I now felt like a boat without any rudder. I felt a mess and completely lost. “I don’t know where to next,” I said.

Av was out of her depth. I had been the one who organised everything on the trip – accommodation, car, flights, toll and so on – so without my guidance and my knowledge of technology Av felt lost. What could I say to her? At the same time I didn’t want her comfort either. I just wanted it all to be over. I couldn’t face more struggle and more decisions about my bum.

We still somehow managed a giggle at the absurdity of it all, in between tears and me morosely staring out the window.

A plan

Av eventually called Wally and Debbie. Wally laughed when she said that she had no idea what we were going to do next, and they insisted that we come back up to Noosa. I felt relieved. At least we had a plan and at least we were going to be in a beautiful home with beautiful distractions again. Right now I could do with some of those.

So without lunch, only a coffee for Av, we headed straight back onto the motorway and back up towards Noosa. It was a long journey. My mind was buzzing and I didn’t know what to do. I had spent hours uncomfortably sitting in a vehicle already and I just wanted to get out and not have to make any decisions! I knew that I was about to have to practice diving deep into my Inner Wisdom. Diving deep and figuring out what my Inner Wisdom knew was the right thing to do. I had an inkling that more surgery wasn’t for me but I had to do some diving and rolling and tumbling with the ideas to make sure that I felt solid in my decision.

It wasn’t going to matter what anyone thought. In this moment, I knew that I had to feel into my body what was right. What did my gut tell me? It wasn’t a small decision either; staring down the barrel of another general anaesthetic and more pain. This wasn’t going to be taken lightly.

Inner Wisdom practice

I was so thankful for the Inner Wisdom preparation I had been doing for the last few months. As self love students, we have had to create a daily practice of checking in with our Inner Wisdom – what she needs and wants to share with us – so that in the moments when we need her we have developed a relationship with her and find it easier to listen. We need to understand the process in order to be able to share it with others.

Now was the moment.

In the evening, on a visit to the wholefoods store I talked to Av about why I had been so thrown. What was it about our surgeon visit that shocked me the most, because really I had already said I wouldn’t be up for more surgery if the option arose. After talking it through and distilling the ideas, I realised it was that what I had had done was supposedly not enough. Bugger that!

By nightfall I knew what I needed to do. I knew my body needed a rest from more pain and I decided to move into a space of trust that what I had had done was enough and that my body could take it from here. The next day I received an email from the hospital confirming the anaesthetist for Friday, and that made me realise I hadn’t let the surgeon know that I wasn’t going ahead.

A decision is reached…

I composed a text message to him:

Dear Dr Naidu, I have decided that my body is not ready for more surgery yet, and I trust that the seton that is in there will do more than not having anything. We will fly home on Friday and I will keep you updated on progress.

A few minutes later he called.

Usually I would have had stomach flips at going against the decision of a surgeon, or fear that I was doing the wrong thing. But this time, only calm. I felt grounded and very certain in my decision. So when I spoke to him I was clear and he was very respectful that I knew my body best. I finished the telephone conversation feeling empowered and very much knowing that I had followed my truth.

I was walking on air when I left the office. What an amazing feeling!

Here I had direct proof that my daily Inner Wisdom practice was paying off!

Would you like to share an example of following your Inner Wisdom? I would so love to hear xx

Postscript: I am back home now and healing is going well – I am flowing as much as I can in trusting my body and its innate healing abilities. 

International Day of Self Love 2017

Self Love 2017

Hi lovely ones!

Today is the 10th International Day of Self Love (founded by Christine Arylo), and I recorded a quick video about this year’s theme – Staying Strong. Not in the macho way, but strong in the sense of staying true to yourself and feeling that strength in your core.

Self love is a topic very close to my heart, because it has been one of the beacon’s of light on my healing journey. And the more I dive into strengthening self love the easier my journey is becoming and I’m reaching a place of real gentleness with myself which is a treat! In the next few days I will be sharing an example of how strengthening my trust in my Inner Wisdom recently served me in an important decision.

All around the world this month people are holding virtual and in-person get togethers – in over 41 countries. I held one last night with an intimate group, but excitingly Christine Arylo is holding one online – simply go to the link Stay Strong and you too can join in!

What self love promise would you like to make to yourself for 2017?

 

So What Next?

Background to ‘what next?’

I’m tapping on my drive home from Friday’s volunteering at our local Natural Health Centre. You see my counsellor has given me the challenge of tapping for an hour a day (in chunks), on anything, and everything to see what shifts happen. Slightly daunting at first, but I’m getting into it.

So, I tap when I talk on the phone, I tap when I talk to those who know that I’m a big tapping fan and won’t think I’ve gone mad, I tap when I drive and I tap when I’m pondering what to do next or procrastinating. I also tap when I’m with a client or friend who would like tapping support, and if I haven’t built up enough time I watch EFT YouTube videos.

It’s been two weeks now and I haven’t done an hour every single day. However, I have done an hour some days, over half an hour on others, only ten on others, but the great thing is that I’ve tapped EVERY DAY. I just need to do it for another two weeks, and according to research, it will be a newly formed habit 🙂

Anyway, today’s insights

I’m staring down the barrel of potentially going to Australia next week to visit a surgeon who has trained, and now trains others, in the VAAFT method. That stands for Visually Assisted Anal Fistula Treatment. For the last four years I have google searched various cures for anal fistulas, but it was only in the last 4 months that I stumbled across this technique – designed in Italy and now used around the world, especially in India.

The reason I didn’t immediately jump on the plane, was because I was waiting for my tummy to return to normal (which it has now). And yes there is also fear holding me back. Fear of failure. Plus, when tapping with my counsellor, we found a few small tendrils of fear…of change…and of the unknown that were useful to address.

So, what next?

so-what-next-change-afootAs I tapped, driving home through the mist, I began thinking about the trip and who I would tell that I was going. Who did I feel safe sharing this with, and what was bothering me about letting others know. I heard some responses like, ‘Wow, so what next?‘ or ‘Wow, so now you can get on with your life!‘ Whether these responses would come to pass or not is irrelevant, but I realised they brought up some annoyance in me. The annoyance that people/’the world’ may presume my life has been on hold, or that I haven’t been living my life in the way I would like.

And to be fair, the annoyance probably comes from the fact that for the first 3 and a half years of this experience with a fistula, my life was often on hold. I wasn’t living my life in the way I dreamed of. I spent a lot of time waiting for this to be over so that I could get on with it…often postponing my happiness. However, the wonderful thing that I realised was that I am now at a place where my life will not drastically change when my fistula is healed! Just in the last 6 to 9 months I’ve stopped putting my life ‘on hold’. I’ve accepted my situation (mostly) and gotten on with the things that are important to me. In the last two months I have even been planning a trip to America next year, something I would never have dreamt about not long ago because of the massive flying/sitting time.

Sure, I’ll have a comfortable bum, I’ll be able to sit normally and not have to sit with my legs underneath me, and I won’t have to hassle with some daily things, details I shall spare you from. And yes, I will be able to travel…in an aeroplane…comfortably…for more than 3 hours! So in that sense things will be very different.

So what next? Will simply be an excited anticipation of what next I am dreaming of on my life path. No longer will it be the insinuation that my life is on hold as it is right now.

But this realisation really heartened me. I realised I am ready for this shift. I am ready to take the leap of faith to at least give this a go. And there is a chance that it may not heal the fistula first time around, but I’m willing to at least try now!

So what next?

I’m opening myself up to the possibilities of change and shift and new chapters…

Releasing Fear: EFT in the Bathtub

Feeling the feelings

I feel the disquiet in my being today. I’m unsettled and my mind is scattered and wandering. It’s harder to be present to the way the clouds are changing shape or the deep rich smell of the freesias every time I walk past them on the table. Even though my mind used to be 100 miles an hour, it’s quickly adjusted to the new norm of being quieter and more present. So I notice this disquiet more acutely.

In the bath

eft-bathtub-releasingI think it’s partially exhaustion. Deep exhaustion from a long and tiring health journey. The last two months of working out tummy issues. But as I step into the bath, one beeswax candle to flicker its gentle light on the water, I realise that there’s also fear. Fear and other un-namable uncomfortable feelings sitting in my solar plexus. It’s coming from the fact that I’m finding it hard right now to imagine a ‘me’ with my fistula healed. It’s been over 4 years, and I’m struggling to get the picture of what fully healed feels like. That scares me, and then the fear makes more sense.

I start tapping, letting the fears pour out and dissolve into the bath water. You see I’ve found a surgeon in Brisbane who performs the fairly successful VAAFT on fistulas. I also found a fistula research centre in Northern India where they perform a range of procedures. So I’m facing a decision between a 3 hour flight to Australia, or over 20 hours to a foreign country that people warn against ‘Delhi belly’! And right now, with my strength, energy and physical resilience sitting a little low, I choose Brisbane.

IMGs

releasing-the-fearThe problem is I hear my Inner Mean Girls (IMGs) telling me all the reasons it might not be a good idea. I hear their words streaming at me, so I give them a voice while I tap:

  • It might not work!
  • You might be the 20% who don’t have success.
  • What if you get disappointed?
  • Are you even strong enough right now?
  • At this rate you won’t be going anytime soon!
  • What if you’re making the wrong decision and India is the better option?…

I let my IMGs be heard. And I acknowledge their fears. I know why they’re there – they’re just trying to protect me from the painful feelings of disappointment. Really they have my best interests at heart, but now that I’m feeling more in tune with my Inner Wisdom I let them now they can tone their behaviour down.

Winnie

I call this one Warning Winnie. She started years ago when she didn’t want to see the disappointment that followed me getting my hopes really high, time and time again, on something that might ‘fix me’. So, to protect me from the violently emotional crashes that often followed, she starts her monologue whenever I am thinking of trying something new:

  • Oh you know the chances are slim of that working.
  • Try anyway, no harm I suppose, just keep your expectations low.
  • Remember, you’ve tried so many things, don’t let this one get your hopes up!…

Honestly, for a while, her words really served me. I needed that caution when I was throwing everything at anyone who might offer a ‘cure’. It wasn’t until I slowly figured out more of a balanced perspective, that I didn’t need her constant warnings anymore. Once I realised it was also an inside job, this whole healing journey, and that I didn’t have to keep handing over the power to others, I wasn’t desperately searching for the ‘next thing’.

I remind myself of this in the bath as I tap. That now I check in with my body when I’m faced with a decision and see how it sits before blindly pursuing it.

Finding more quiet

So yes, it is scary. Yes, there is a chance the VAAFT might not work. But in the bath I realise I’m not just going to rush into it because I’m tired of waiting. I would have done that a couple of years ago, but now I know to wait and let things unfold. I’m going to go with what my body is sharing with me. If she’s tired and needing time to go inwards, that’s what we’ll do. When she feels strong and ready to go overseas, when my tummy is back to normal, I’ll start the decision process there. I’ll follow my gut…literally. I can meet with the surgeon and decide then, no big deal I tell myself.

One. Step. At. A. Time. No need to rush (something I’ve always found hard ;)). Easier said than done! But one thing this journey has taught me is more patience.

I close my tapping round withbreathing-deeply-releasing-fear gentle reminders to myself that I will tread slowly and from a place of connection rather than fear:

  • Releasing fear at the deepest cellular level…
  • …all the way back through my past…
  • Releasing fear from my entire system
  • Knowing I can do this!
  • Peace

Then I take a deep breathe and in my mind go to my peaceful place: in the waves, diving under and over them and body surfing in the foam.

I’m ready to climb out the bath feeling lighter and calmer in my solar plexus. The gentle candle-light now catches and holds my attention and thoughts aren’t tripping over each other like they were. So I say: Here’s to following love and trust rather than fear!

 

Hormonal Imbalance – Is it getting you down?

Did you know that hormonal imbalance is at the root of so many things that feel out of balance for women (and men)? From dry, chapped lips, to internal rage, weight retention to fuzzy brain, anxiety to depression…the list goes on.

If you’re already struggling with other emotional or physical heath issues this can feel like the straw that broke the camel’s back. So, I decided to address this for all those feeling confused and wanting to cross a possible culprit off their list.

Estrogen Dominance

Estrogen dominance is so common these days, especially in women, that it’s worth knowing a little more about it. The reason is the stressful lifestyle that many of us are living, and also the increase in environmental toxins. Below are some of the potential causes (mentioned by Holly Lucille):

  • excess exposure to environmental xenoestrogens (an industrial compound found in consumer products such as detergents and skincare products)
  • use of synthetic estrogens such as the birth control pill and hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • anovulation (lack of ovulation during menstrual cycle)
  • digestion issues (which tax the estrogen-detoxification process in the liver)
  • unrelenting stress (which strains the adrenals and the thyroid)
  • unresolved emotional issues
  • poor diet
  • negative lifestyle factors such as smoking and alcohol use

Some symptoms of estrogen dominance (retrieved here)

  • Acceleration of the aging process
  • Allergies, including asthma, hives, rashes, sinus congestion
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Breast tenderness
  • Cold hands and feet as a symptom of thyroid dysfunction
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Depression with anxiety or agitationhormonal-imbalance-anxiety
  • Fat gain, especially around the abdomen, hips and thighs
  • Fatigue
  • Fibrocystic breasts
  • Foggy thinking
  • Hair Loss
  • Headaches
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Infertility
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Insomnia
  • Magnesium deficiency
  • Memory loss
  • PMS, irritability, mood swings
  • Sluggish metabolism
  • Thyroid dysfunction mimicking hypothyroidism
  • Water retention & bloating
  • Zinc deficiency

My journey with hormonal imbalance

For years my gut issues have been very connected to my menstrual cycle and I’ve heard people mention estrogen and progesterone imbalance numerous times. I’ve also experienced varying levels of PMS and fibrocystic and tender breasts. So four years ago, when I developed this fistula, I finally decided to try out saliva tests. My progesterone was very low. I began a regime with a NZ-based clinic but didn’t stick with it long enough to notice too much of a difference.

hormonal-imbalance-progesterone-ostrogenThen, at the beginning of 2015 I saw a holistic doctor in Auckland to help get me into balance. After hearing of my various symptoms, among others tests, he included a thorough hormone test on my blood test – estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, FSH, LH, testosterone. The test has to be carried out between day 19-21, which is where estrogen and progesterone levels should technically be similar. To understand more about how these hormones interact with each other, check out the chart on this page.

Sure enough my progesterone was very low and estrogen very high, and so began a more dedicated journey. Part of his solution was herbal supplements and a cream to rub on at certain times during my cycle.

Hormonal helpers

My doctor recommended the product EstroSense – a natural supplement that not only supports the liver, but also allows the body to properly metabolize estrogen and therefore over time lower estrogen levels. The reviews for it on amazon and iherb are awesome! I’ve now been taking it for about a year, with great improvements in things like PMS, sore breasts and terrible period pains.

The otherhormonal-imbalance-progesterone-cream prescription was for natural progesterone cream. At first I got that from a compounding pharmacy, but now buy this brand from iherb. You begin applying it to the soft parts of your body (inside arms, inside thighs, tummy, breasts – and you alternate each day) from Day 14 until Day 28 or the day you begin bleeding. Overtime this is meant to build up your progesterone levels, but you need to lower estrogen significantly first.

There are some amazing resources out there and tons of information on the web. When my holistic doctor left for overseas he recommended Dr Helen Smith in Auckland to carry on with. I still haven’t seen her, but believe she offers all the same thorough tests and support that he did. I believe the trick is to find a doctor who believes that you can sort your problem out from the root up, rather than masking them with plasters. So if you can find a holistic doctor in your area, you’re well on your way 🙂

Emotional help

Of course I have continued with emotional support from my counsellor, and also self support with tools like EFT, affirmations, mindfulness, moving my body in gentle ways and reducing stress in my life. I believe that all these combined are what has made me feel more peaceful and physically and emotionally stable around my cycle.

May you find peace with your health and hormones…