A quick update, a week after liver transplant surgery


Life on 10N is Very touch and go right now. Each day there are new emergencies and something physical, emotional and/or mental to overcome. I had apparently a very complicated surgery due to my own arterial connections into the liver, and while I arrived outside of surgery strong at first, within 2 days problems unknown in origin started to appear, and the team are still searching for answers. This means that in I’m not getting much sleep and very tired, though still trying to progress forward with building strength, understanding more than ever this is an important and time consuming time. Thanks for all your love, strength and concern. I’m sure I will be back on my feet soon.
With tremendous gratitude and love, Lizzie

Show time.


When I got the call from the transplant team four months ago, going through the motions of getting prepared for the hospital and prepped for surgery felt dramatic; real, important and life changing. When the operation didn’t go through I was frustrated, but expected I would get another call soon. Afterall, the first call came after only one month of being on the list.

Tonight when the phone rang, I felt very different from the first time around. My bag was already packed, and over the last few weeks it was beginning to sink in that the life I have been leading over the past months would not be sustainable for too much longer. My thought began to turn daily towards getting the call. After I had a brief conversation with the transplant coordinator, my first thought turned to my son; who should be at the hospital with me, who should stay behind to ensure Louis understands what is happening? I have been speaking about “the operation” to him and he understands the situation, but the most important thing for me is that he is well nurtured while I am absent.

Since it is a heart beating donor (that’s all I know so far), I won’t know if the surgery is a go until around 6am, when they take the potential donor off life support and open them up to assess the quality of the organ. If it is good, I will be taken to theatre around 8am.

I have been thinking of this other being for months, wondering if they have had to suffer, if they had any idea of their imminent death or how heroic they would become, to save the life of another being. No words could describe this type of gratitude and sorrow for the loss of another being’s life that may in the end, spare mine.

Being back on the liver ward reminds me of the passing of time, as the registrars (the young doctors who do most of the ground work) have all moved on to different hospitals and I’m meeting a new team. It also reminds me of all the various states of well and unwell the ward has supported me through, and that this time tomorrow, if all goes well, I maybe in a large amount of pain in a different ward, the intensive care unit.

Whatever happens, I feel ready and able to manage the next stage of this process called life. I feel so extremely blessed that I have had several months of wellness to create stability for my son after a challenging first part of the year, and blessed to have such incredible, holy beings surrounding me providing me with grace, keeping me well nourished with love.

If this liver doesn’t work out to be “the one”, there will be another. It is out of my hands and in the fate of the universe, a force of which I have complete faith and unshakable devotion. Things have a way of working out.

If it does go through, and at 8am later today I am wheeled into the theatre for this gigantic surgery, it will be the beginning of a whole new life for me. One that may take some time and attention to cultivate, but in the wider scope of things, has the potential to be far greater a life, far more beautiful and precious, than I ever could have imagined. Watch this space.

Time.


Time, beyond being a measuring tool to make appointments which deem us too early or too late, confounds my cortical mind.

It has been nearly seven months since I was placed on the Liver Transplant list, in need of an ‘urgent’ intervention to keep the rest of my body alive while my liver was failing me. During that time I have been better and worse and in and out of the hospital, until finally the doctors and myself have found a stop-gap measure through medications that seem to work. As many of you know, I’m now on a continual dose of changing antibiotics and digestive aids until I get the life-changing call. Since May when I was called in for a possible transplant, I have been, and remain, at the top of the list for an average-sized B-blood group liver. In fact, in mid-July, my doctor said that statistically it would be a matter of weeks; yet the hours, days and months tick past and I’m surprised every day that I’ve continued to work and live with relative ease out of the hospital, without yet getting the call. I would be lying if I were to say that it has been a mental snooze fest.

Continuing to live with my mobile phone by my side, aware of the risks, challenges and uncertainties that lie ahead post-surgery, it feels almost surreal to be planning for events that are several months away as if I may still be waiting for the call. Stranger still is the idea that I may have had the surgery and be rehabilitating by the time these dates for given events come around.

Of course, if I would decide not to plan anything at all, the wonder and joy of living would escape me. There have been wonderful, magical moments during this time of waiting for my liver. I have seen beloved friends and family who have taken their precious time to visit me and keep my spirit uplifted.  I’ve traveled back in time and walked the Jurassic Coast in with my husband and son. There have been the  countless delicious yoga classes I’ve been so lucky to attend with incredible teachers, and the amazing students who have given me so much strength and positivity by continuing to show up to my classes week after week. I have seen some incredible exhibitions, concerts, dance and theatre, and perhaps most importantly, have been by my husband’s side to observe our son transforming from a toddler to a little boy.

As I now focus my efforts towards learning about the post-surgery treatment, I’m also doing my best to complete the phase 2 work of the Rolfing training. I continue to have faith that time will be on my side, and provide me with what I need, when I need it to go on in this lifetime not hanging on and waiting, but letting go and living.

My daily reminder to self:
Bow humbly to the powers of the universe. Let go and swim in its ocean of mystery.

Anticipation


Yoga chitta vritti nirodhah (Patanjali 1.2)
The state of yoga ceases the fluctuations of the mind (when you are in a state of yoga, all misconceptions that can exist in the mutable aspect of human beings disappear)

When the rare occasion allows for a game of chess, I often observe my mind wandering into the future while awaiting the other player’s next move. I speculate about the pieces in play and the subsequent moves that could unfold, assessing which moves would be more profitable and which would weaken my, or the opposing player’s position. This is how I lose sight of the task at hand, to take the king (and consequently end up losing the game).

In life as in chess. At any one time there are an infinite array of people and actions, and as these two forces come together, events unfold. It is impossible to plan for how and when the big moments in life will play out, and this wreaks havoc on the human mind, clinging onto power and control to prove our existence is worthwhile. Some people spend a lifetime assessing, speculating and planning for the future, some becoming so preoccupied with this task that the present moment is missed. As John Lennon so eloquently put it, “life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans”.

It has been my experience that the majority of us use this obsession with the future or past as an escape from living in the present moment. The present moment can be an uncomfortable place, after all; the place where ideas transform into action, where hearts are opened and merged (or broken), where birth and death intersect with the human body and spirit, where limitless possibilities are zeroed in on to create a single reality. Despite the fear involved with living in the present, Buddhist teachers and spiritual guides maintain that the present moment is the only moment that lacks nothing; according to Thich Naht Hanh, it is a moment that is perfect. Eckart Tolle has made a living writing not one, but several books that maintain that no other moment exists, except in the human mind.

The mind, so clever and deceiving, pulls us again and again away from this perfect moment to remind us of our transient existence, and also of our ego; our individual ability to control, manipulate and manage our vulnerabilities.

My own experiences have allowed me to witness the present moment where everything does actually feel complete and wonderful, and also the state when the speculating, wandering mind assesses my own life chess game in play. My current version of taking the king entails making it successfully through a high risk organ transplant surgery, and my strategy is to stay well physically and mentally. After months and months of experimentation with various diets and medications, my doctor has arrived at the decision to keep me on interchanging antibiotics. This coupled with a high calorie, high nutrition diet and daily yoga practice helps me to be strong and resilient in body and mind. Mentally, along side the yoga and meditation practice, I have decided to go on living my life to the best of my ability, and consider myself an extraordinarily blessed woman who loves my family, friends and work. I am extra lucky to have a honest doctor who communicates with me as a partner rather than as a superior, and who has let me know that there is no one in front of me on the list in my blood group or size. When my mind starts to wander about all the various possibilities, speculating about when, where, who and how, I bring myself back to my end game and my strategy and I can more readily return to the present moment where truly, every thing is as it should be. If only chess were so easy.

Are you busy doing, or busy being?


Stop-to-Smell-the-roses

There is more to life than increasing its speed.
–Mahatma Gandhi

It never ceases to amaze me how people spend their time. Whether its watching tv, working, or engaged in a hobby, most people fill their time to the upper limits and either complain or boast about how busy their lives are. I know only too well how easy it is to fall into the trap of taking too much on, but I also see a pattern in many people who are extremely busy, becoming frazzled rather than enjoying the ride. So the question is: are most people busy doing, or are they busy being? Is the time being filled with rich encounter or with the activity of chasing one’s tail?

For the most part, people don’t seem to mind being busy. In fact, there is a tendency to thrive in this state. When someone is engaged with a passion it is natural to want to spend one’s time cultivating it, learning about it, and spending more time doing ‘it’, whatever the ‘it’ may be. In some instances the ‘it’ can also make one feel important, valued and successful, and at the same time act as an escape from other aspects of life that are perhaps being avoided.

The downside of busy-ness is that it occupies one’s time, so there is simply less time available for other pursuits. Often without realizing it, very busy people begin to stop taking time for themselves, and distance themselves from important life events or even from friends and family. Time slips away, and so do the moments that bring meaning to one’s life. The over-extension is felt by others, and when we neglect those important to us, there are repercussions, and sometimes this means the weakening of a relationship or the loss of a friend.

The other side of general busy-ness is the relationship with control. When one is overly busy, there appears to be a correlation with the need to reign in other areas of life. It can be an exhausting cycle, running to the finish line of every chaotic day only to come home with a need to control the environment, or one’s administration, or fitness regime. It is ultimately not sustainable, and there are other ways of living.

Like most things, the first step is becoming aware. There is a great freedom to awareness. It affords the space to ask, how does it feel to turn down work or an invitation to an engagement? Is it possible to let go of the reigns over one or several of the things where the tendency is to control?

I’m not an expert in balancing a diary to avoid becoming overly busy, nor am I devoid of any control issues. I have been a busy person for much of my life, and know what it means to seek control in certain areas when other parts of are uncontrollable. My passion for yoga, philosophy and bodywork, and my commitment to my son and husband at times have had me wondering how to fit it all in. After all, there are only so many hours in the day.

Being in and out of the hospital since December 2012 has changed how I perceive time and also control in my life. When I am in the hospital as I was last week, I become unwell so suddenly that normal life comes to a screeching halt. I’m admitted into a boundaried and controlled environment, with little to do except contemplate life, read, and look forward to seeing the cherished, busy friends who manage to take time out for a visit. I think about things I want for my son as he grows into a little boy, I think about how amazingly grateful I am to be here on earth at all, to witness the suffering around me in the hospital and to do be able to do something for someone who is worse off than I am. It doesn’t take much, usually they are right next to you, or in my case, in the bed next to me, and too ill to do many of the things I can still manage on my own, like getting up to fetch fresh water or bathing.

When I come out of the hospital, there is always a period of a day or two where I feel very frustrated and unsettled. On the one hand I feel this tidal wave of relief to be free, yet on the other, I feel a lack of control in my life and surroundings with an urge to tend to all the things that have been left hanging since my hospital stay. I want to hop right back into my old life, but I realize that everything can’t be done all at once and there is an ‘easing back in’ process that has to happen. It’s at this point I find the space to meditate or to practice yoga, and come back to what is really important. I remember that I’m not in a normal functioning body, to ease up on myself; I remember that my son needs me. I take the time to value my family and friends, especially my husband who is there to support me (it’s amazing, he is ALWAYS there ready to help out). I remember how it felt to be busy in my old life, running from appointment to appointment, not having time to give all of myself to any one situation (I find there is a preoccupation that goes along with being busy). And then I remember how precious each moment is. The list of things ‘to do’ diminishes into something manageable, and slowly I move into the life I know in my current transient state outside of the hospital. In the back of my mind I know the in and out hospital pattern will continue until I receive the transplant, and this makes everything all the more precious. I realize how important it is to move slowly, to take the time to smell the roses and be mindful of each step. The pleasure of life exists in the smallest details of an experience; this is what is remembered. At the end of the day, busy-ness becomes nothing but a blur.

Nobody sees a flower, really, it is so small it takes time; we haven’t time, and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.
–Georgia O’Keefe

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