June 2014 – Work – Life Balance

Sunita Behl

Our health is something that many of us often take for granted. So, this month we are very grateful to all of our contributors for sharing their inspiring and touching personal stories about how a medical condition has affected their life. We received so many fantastic articles this month that we will now be running another Health issue of GRIT later this year so, if there is any health-related subject that you would like to raise awareness of, please drop us a line.

Next month we’re talking money! What finance-related subject do you believe more women should be aware of? Have you taken a career break or gone through a divorce which impacted your finances? Do you have views on the inequality of gender pay or believe that future financial planning such as a pension or making a will are important? Please send your Money Matters article (400-700 words) to grit@womenempowered.co.uk before 20th June, 2015.

We hope to hear from you.

Our New Look GRIT!

We are re-launching our weekly GRIT articles to a monthly Grit Newsletter. GRIT is a place for the WE community to share their life experiences. Essentially it is a blog, not lifestyle; but life! We want to address the things that often don’t get spoken about but maybe should, the “GRITTY” things in life

We will be focusing on one topic each month with a number of contributors to get a varied and array of perspectives.

The day my heart stopped – By Jasmin Tucker

When good things happen, we happily embrace them with open arms – after all we deserve it! It’s only when the going gets tough that we begin to question life. I was only 30 when I was diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition. It first manifested, of all places, on a beautiful beach in Bali where I collapsed after dinner. Soon I was travelling half way across the world in air ambulances. Not quite my idea of first class travel! I was bed ridden for weeks attached to heart monitors and catheters. I feel blessed to have survived but, what did I learn?

Ignorance is bliss
At the time I was living an easy ex-pat lifestyle in Hong Kong. I was a regular gym goer, healthy eater and I never imagined anything was wrong with my health. Apparently while I was in Bali, my heart was racing at 230 beats per minute (a normal heart beats between 60-100!) Despite repeated nausea and fainting, my husband and I weren’t worried, blaming heat exhaustion or Bali belly. If I had had any idea of what was actually happening, the fear alone would’ve killed me.

Take each day as it comes
In a nutshell, an extra piece of muscle the size of a golf ball had grown on my heart. This had calcified over probably 20 years and was regularly sending the electrical circuitry of my heart into overdrive. We found out my condition only afflicts one in tens of millions of people. I tried to think positive and let any negative thoughts stay far away. I had to come out of this strong – my children were only 4 and 7 at the time. Despite the wonderful support of friends and family, especially my husband who spent many nights sleeping on the hospital floor next to me, it was impossible to stay strong all the time.

Life can be an emotional rollercoaster
Sometimes I was full of self-pity, blaming fate and asking God ‘Why me?’ In hospital, when the treatments and procedures failed, I nearly gave up hope of ever being normal again. In hind sight, if I had read all the lovely books on positivity and living life fearlessly, I would’ve come home sooner. After weeks in hospital, I was left with no other option but to have open heart surgery to remove the growth. Amazingly, I was completely unafraid. While my husband fired thousands of questions at the surgeon, I just sat there listening, perhaps blissfully ignorant about the enormity of the operation. I did have negative thoughts and think at times that I might have to manage this condition for the rest of my life – but I was never once afraid of dying. That is what saved me!

Be thankful and move on
Thankfully my operation was successful. However, it was impossible not to think that my condition may return. I became open to trying anything that could help me heal so I could live my life without fear again. I found fabulous help in Hong Kong with Yuen healers and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) practitioners. I took healing sessions for a year and they made me feel like a new person. I learned that I had to detach myself from preconceptions and trust that all will be well. Saying positive affirmations to help me stay calm has worked wonders for me. As I grew emotionally and physically stronger, I decreased my visits to the cardiologist who was surprised by my rapid progress. I believe in alternative medicine and encourage anyone to be open and never be afraid to try something new – you never know what will work for you.

Lessons I learned
Since my recovery I have changed in many ways. Before I was known for my love of shopping but now it doesn’t excite me as much as natural beauty and scenery. I have learnt not worry too much about minor aches and pains. I think twice before I complain loosely of ‘having a hard life’. I choose to spend more quality time with friends and family. I am a big fan of EFT and have taught my children to use it when they feel low or unwell. (This very useful tool has really worked wonders for my life.) I love to read books on self-healing, spirituality and try to meditate daily. My favourite read on self-healing is ‘Dying to be Me’ by Anita Moorjani – it’s her personal heart-warming story and very close to my own. In short, getting a second chance has taught me to live, enjoy and appreciate the things that really matter.

Kundalini Yoga, it has saved my life! – By Priya Sawhney, Founder and director of Yoga Paradise

My name is Priya and I am a Kundalini yoga Teacher. I have been teaching yoga to adults, children and teens for about 8 years. This is my story.

I have been practising Kundalini yoga for 15 years. Little did I know that all that I had gained from my yoga practise would one day save my life and keep me a float.

From the very beginning I felt yoga brought an instant change within me on a physical, mental and spiritual level. Physically I felt healthier, more centred and a sense of calm giving me the extra energy and time to invest in the more important things in life. As my consciousness increased through the practice of meditation, I started observing miracles on a regular basis, which strengthened my belief in the divine. It led to unwavering faith and gratitude for everything in life. Yoga unfolded the strength that was in me and gave me the awareness to recognize who I truly was ‘A Soul’.

Blessed with a beautiful family, I was able to enjoy time with my husband and two adorable daughters, whilst also sharing the gift of Yoga with others. In 2012 my eldest daughter and best friend, aged sixteen passed away. I have no doubt that without Yoga and God’s grace I would have been unable to accept the loss of my child and inevitably gone into a state of depression. However, surprisingly what could have been an unbearable period in my life was made to feel divine and blissful with a calm acceptance of god’s will. It gave me the understanding that I am not the physical body. I suffer and feel the pain when I think I am the physical body. In reality I am a soul, here to balance my Karmic accounts and evolve through new experiences.

I feel truly grateful and experience love and light because of Kundalini Yoga despite all that I have been through. I highly recommend yoga to stay healthy and above all experience inner happiness and peace.

What is Kundalini Yoga and how does it help?
Kundalini Yoga is a complete science in its self that includes a series of asanas, breathing techniques, relaxation, mantra chanting and meditation. Within each one of us lies a dormant energy that is very powerful and creative. Unfortunately, most of us are unaware or don’t know how to use it. It lies at the base of the spine and with the help of Kundalini Yoga, this creative energy can be released, balancing the chakras in the body and altering the chemicals in the brain. It gives you clarity in the mind, enabling you to achieve your highest potential that lies within.

It is the birth right of every individual to be healthy, happy and holy………. Yogi Bhajan

Priya is the founder and director of Yoga Paradise and is passionate about sharing her knowledge and experience in yoga. Experience the difference it can make for yourself. For details of classes visit www.yogaparadise.co.uk

Grab life and give it a shake! – By Trishna Bharadia, Translator, MS Ambassador & contestant on The People’s Strictly 2015, BBC1

People often say how great it is that I live my life to the full. Many have even expressed envy of the exciting and fulfilling life that I’ve created for myself. Truth be told, the real turning point for me was when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) at the young age of 28. Up until then I’d been trundling along in life, concentrating on my career but not really “living” and constantly putting things off “for another day.”

I’d always been very healthy. Until my diagnosis the worst ‘health-related’ thing to happen to me was appendicitis when I was 15. So, being told you have an incurable and degenerative neurological condition was a real game-changer.

In MS, the immune system becomes faulty and attacks healthy tissue within the brain and spinal cord, which leaves your nerves unable to work properly. The cause isn’t clear, however, there are various known risk factors, and three times as many women as men have the condition. I have a condition known as Relapsing Remitting MS. Symptoms can include mobility problems, temporary blindness, bladder/bowel problems, cognitive issues, extreme fatigue and sensory problems. Everyone with MS is different. I have no “model” to say “this will be me in five or ten years.” You live each day uncertain when your next relapse will be, how long it will last for or how it will affect you.

So, to ensure I made the most of every day, I made a “bucket list.”

Some of the things on my list were borne out of fear for the future, as I knew that it may become harder for me to do certain things if my MS progressed. For instance, I’d always wanted to try snowboarding, but had always said “next year.” So, in my 30s I packed myself off to Switzerland. I was giggled at by small kids who whizzed past me like they were born with skis on their feet! I spent four glorious days sliding down a mountain, mostly on my backside. But I did it! And while it was one of the most physically demanding things I’ve ever done, it was also the most satisfying feeling to know I had tried.

Other things on my list have included eating at a Michelin star restaurant, watching a ballet, partying at the Notting Hill Carnival, walking the red carpet and even getting my hair dip-dyed!

I have also become heavily involved in raising awareness of my condition, collaborating with several MS charities. These have led to some amazing life moments and achievements. I’ve also won various awards, including the MS Society’s Volunteer of the Year 2013 and a Sue Ryder Southern Women of Achievement Award 2015.

For more information about MS and to read my People’s Strictly story please visit http://www.mssociety.org.uk/ms-support/community-blog/2015/03/%E2%80%8Bpeoples-strictly-trishnas-story

The ‘C’ Word – By Prabha Shiyani, Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Emotional Freedom Technique practitioner

When we are young we somehow think we are invincible. We don’t expect to be diagnosed with a serious illness, that’s something that happens to ‘other people’. And I certainly didn’t expect anything like that would ever happen to me! However, just weeks before my 32nd birthday, I was facing my own mortality. Needless to say it came as a shock to both me and my nearest and dearest.

14th June 2006 was the day everything changed. This was the day I was told I had mouth cancer. My life quickly entered into a whirlwind of scans, consultant appointments and tests with major surgery scheduled within 3 weeks of diagnosis. However, amongst the chaos I felt calm and that everything was going to be ok. I don’t know where this sense of calmness came from but I decided pretty quickly that it was not my time to go and that there was so much more I wanted to achieve on this planet.

Instead of descending into a downward spiral of impending doom, I started to look for anything and everything that could help my mind and body fight this thing. I also decided to take responsibility. I identified all the habits in my life that were not working in my favour and started to change them. It’s easy to think ‘poor me’, ‘Why has this happened to me?’, but I was determined not to turn this into a pity party. I was going to take action to help myself. Throughout the whole thing, and to this day, I decided I was not going to lose my sense of humour. Some of the doctors didn’t get it and looked at me oddly. However, my main consultant and I always had a joke, even if it was through me scribbling on a piece of paper when I couldn’t speak. Love and laughter can go a long way when it comes to healing.

I filled my mind with positive things. I’d listen to meditation music, I started reading books on healing, I went to see a nutritionist and started fuelling my body with good nutrients. After the surgery there was the road to recovery which was surprisingly quick. I am positive that this is because of all the steps I was taking and all the love and prayers I was receiving from my family, friends and even from people I didn’t know (thank you Pentecostal Church of Wood Green!).

I was also fortunate that my friends and family were positive too. In fact the first thing my Dad said when I told him the news was that the biggest battle was that of the mind and to stay strong. He gave me the example of his neighbour that had been diagnosed with cancer a few years before me. The doctors had given him the sentence of one year to live (I hate it when they do that). However, he basically said ‘Who are you to decide? and developed a ‘will to live’ mindset. He lived for 10 more years!

I started to honestly assess where my life was going and I discovered that I actually wasn’t truly happy. I didn’t enjoy my job, I didn’t handle certain emotions very well and I wasn’t living my life to my fullest potential. So, I decided to change it all. I delved into personal development and nutrition and found my path.

I remember very clearly, being driven to a hospital appointment by my sister a few days before my surgery and saying to her ‘Everything happens for a reason’. Her response was ‘I fail to see the reason for this’ and you know, at the time I didn’t know the reason either. However, it was just something I felt would become apparent in time, and it did.

For me this cancer diagnosis was a gift; a universal kick up the backside and a hot poker prodding me to say ‘Oi! You’re not on the right path’. My life is now so much richer, happier and healthier. I dread to think where I would be today had I not had this experience and through it I have found my calling.

As Dr Bruce Lipton, a stem cell biologist and author of The Biology of Belief said, ‘We can control our lives by controlling our perceptions’.

Prabha Shiyani is the founder and director of Flourish Wellbeing Ltd and is passionate about helping busy women find their balance so that they can be the best, healthiest version of themselves. Find out more at www.flourishwell.co.uk

Why every day is precious – By Amina Memon C Psychol FBPsS, Professor of Psychology, Royal Holloway University of London

Five years ago I suddenly lost my husband when his heart stopped. Just as I was beginning to move forward with my life my mother, also a widow, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) earlier this year. MND progressively attacks the nerves in the brain and spinal cord causing the muscles to waste away. There is no cure. Mum has already lost the ability to use her legs and in the next few months she will stop talking, moving, eating and breathing.

I’ll never forget the day we got the diagnosis. My Mum is a sweet 80 year old Muslim lady, shielded from Western society, and can speak little English. She was pounced upon by doctors, nurses and the palliative care team, who refused to let me interpret during the consultation, whilst insisting that she make decisions about her end of life care. Instead we had to wait while a young Urdu speaking doctor was found to explain the terminal nature of the condition to my Mum.

My mother’s response was to wave the bag of medicines she has been prescribed by her GP for her various ailments saying but what about all of these? Surely you must be able to fix this? The response of the consultant was to repeat to my Mum that she was going to die. I only realized later that I was stunned into silence. It was so emotional and I felt helpless. Me, a Professor of Psychology, who should have known better, was being dictated to by a bunch of medics.

There was worse to come. The same day after I managed to get Mum home using the hospital transport service as we walked into my brother’s house where my mother resides, my Mum broke down in tears. The entire extended family demanded to know why my Mum had been told her prognosis and blamed me.

Despite all of this, there have been some positives that have come about as a result of my educational background and ability to work with the health professionals. I wrote to the hospital speaking openly about our experience. I also wrote to my local MP, GP Practice and Social Services. Since then the health professionals have bent over backwards to suggest services and support for Mum. We have a MND co-ordinator, who is always at the other end of the phone and who chases the GP, social services and occupational therapy for me. I can access MacMillan nurses and doctors, a district nurse, a physio (very hard to come by in our borough) and my Mum has weekly visits to the local hospice for complementary therapy. For some of these I’ve had to push to get interpreters in place and I’m even teaching the nurses key phrases in Urdu. A charity called the MND society have just translated their materials into Hindi for us and last month we got a grant from them to pay for a disabled access vehicle. This enabled us to take my mum on her first seaside holiday ever! There is still a long way to go as my mother needs specialized nursing care. Domiciliary care is far from satisfactory but one thing you learn when faced with such a dire situation is that every day is precious.

My sister, my niece and I are working hard to make my Mother’s last days as fun and memorable as possible. We’ve been making full use of the wheelchair the hospice provided to take her to the shops, the park, craft fairs and the beach. While she can still eat we’re letting her enjoy her samosas and she can still roll chappatis better than anyone else I know! Her energy and resilience are remarkable and it is such a pleasure to see her smile.

We just take life one day at a time.

Take care of your heart – Dr Manrina Rekhi, Cosmetic Dental Surgeon / Actress / Wife of Rishi Rich

My father suffered from his first heart attack when I was very young. He wasn’t consciously unhealthy, in fact, quite the opposite. He had lived his life believing that he had done everything to be as fit and strong as he could be. He used to lift weights and I remember thinking there wasn’t anything that my dad could not do or lift. For me he was like the wrestler Dara Singh.

I have vivid memories of my Dad picking up a 4 pint carton of full fat milk and literally downing the whole carton for strength. He would eat slabs of butter and cheese and pick up potatoes and eat them like an apple. That’s how he had been told to train in Africa so that’s what he did in London to keep himself strong for his family. Unfortunately we now know that this type of diet causes high cholesterol leading to high blood pressure and heart disease.

Many of my cousins and myself share my Dad’s passion for weight training and keeping fit. I started exercising in my spare time from the age of 16, as soon I as I was told I was old enough to do so. My cousins did the same and by 18 my male cousins were body builders and I was lean, toned and known for my love of exercise. Many people work out to look good and there is no shame in that. However I also believe part of me knew I was my Dad’s daughter and that I needed to look after my health to avoid having a heart attack at a young age (a contributing factor is also genetics).

As I grew older I became even more interested in diet and fuelling my body with the right foods. Of course I wanted to look good but I also wanted to stay healthy so I spent a lot of time reading nutritional text books to learn how to create the optimum diet. When I met my life partner, I learned that he had also suffered health problems similar to my Dad with high blood pressure. However, Rishi’s problems were not due to a ‘weightlifters’ diet but his ‘Rockstar’ lifestyle; too much drinking, eating fast food, erratic sleep patterns and a lot of caffeine.

He had already realised some dramatic changes were in order and had started making them himself. I was grateful that I already knew about nutrition and also set about introducing him to my way of life. Inevitably I took some life lessons from him and he took some from me to create a balance.

We do not live on the strict diet that I was on when I met him of no refined sugar, white carbs, fizzy drinks, processed or fast food. However, we keep in mind that they are best avoided and try to incorporate antioxidant rich, raw fruit and veg into our diet every day.

For health and fitness tips, that I come across in everyday life you visit my blog on Instagram and You Tube – HealthbyMR.