I came across this poem a few years ago and I loved it. There’s a lifetime of wisdom in these words he wrote in his 70’s. A few days ago I was reminded of it again and this time, I thought I’d share it in this space. Hope you like it as much as I did.
As I Began To Love Myself
by Charlie Chaplin
As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.
As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody if I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this person was me. Today I call it “RESPECT”.
As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life, and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow. Today I call it “MATURITY”.
As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm. Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE”.
As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time, and I stopped designing huge projects for the future. Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm. Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.
As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.
As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since I was wrong less of the time. Today I discovered that is “MODESTY”.
As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worrying about the future. Now, I only live for the moment, where everything is happening. Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT”.
As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick. But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally. Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART”.
We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born. Today I know “THAT IS LIFE”!
Infection is one of the risks you are exposed to when you have surgery. It’s a small risk, but unfortunately it happened to me.
Three weeks after the surgery, I was running to the hospital with an oozing wound. It was surreal. It was the worst fear coming to reality. It’s so scary even to think about it now, which makes it even harder to describe all the details.
I remember madly rushing to a taxi with my mum, heading for the emergency room at the hospital, while the wound was dripping all the time. I was pressing a piece of bandage against it to prevent it from leaking. It was coming out from a spot right next to my right ear, exactly where you could see the end of the cut mark was.
Crazy thing, I haven’t developed any serious symptoms of infection like fever for example. I was feeling well overall.
It was so disheartening when we finally arrived at the hospital. Finding myself back there again was like sticking a sharp knife in my chest. I can still remember watching my mother crying as she was talking to my son in the distance, while I was waiting for my turn to be seen by the doctor in the emergency department.
I could not bear the pain I was inflicting on them. I was trying to make believe that I am strong and fearless so they don’t worry about me as I was being admitted in the hospital again. But…
When I found myself alone, laying in that bed again, all my pain and fears started to flood in tears down my face. This time I was really afraid that something could go wrong.
I cannot forget the feeling I had when the doctor came and explained everything that was going to happen in the following hours.
He described that they will perform another surgery called a wound wash. He then added that if they find that the flap bone (the skull) was permeated (infected) by the puss, they would not risk putting that back in, and they’ll live it out.
I was shocked and asked, what do you mean? I will have no skull around that part? It is quite a big incision? Yes, he said, you would have to perform another surgery at some point in the future, to place a metal plate instead of the skull if that will be the case.
In that moment I felt like my heart was shattered into pieces and my wings were chopped off. I felt like bricks were falling from the top of the roof and I did not know where to hide. I felt defeated.
I was hitting rock bottom and found myself in the darkest place I’ve ever been in my entire life. After everyone left and was alone in that dark hospital room, a shower of hot and heavy tears of sorrow started to wash my face and neck again.
My mind was wondering, “What is happening, why am I going through this again, am I being punished or something? What did I do wrong? Haven’t we been through enough already? Can I even survive two, not to mention three potential surgeries? It’s impossible! What kind of life am I going to have after this? Or worse, what if something goes wrong? I need more time with my family. I need to tell them how much I love them one more time. Oh my heart! My son’s wedding next year.. I have to make it, I have to walk him down the isle.. ” I was devastated and broken.
It felt like I was swimming in a sea of pain. It was dark and cold and I could not find something to hang on to catch my breath for a second. I almost felt like giving up, but then I saw a small light flickering in the distance. Something in me shifted.
I realised that I was blessed beyond measures again. The wound was completely sealed all around. I had no symptoms of infection. Yet, somehow it found a tiny dot to slip out, and to let me know of what was going on inside. If that did not happen the way it did, I would have probably found out when it was going to be too late and nothing left to be done.
I saw the blessing in disguise again. That moment I knew that the same force that kept me safe and sound all this time, will keep me safe from now on as well.
And just like that in the middle of the hurricane, while I was overwhelmed and terrified of what could happen, the light somehow shown itself to me. I realised that I saw the light in the darkest place. I suddenly felt hope, faith, trust out of nowhere. I watched my fears getting smaller and smaller in the distance, and decided to surrender and take this on day by day. I fell asleep as there were no more tears left.
A voice woke me up at 5 am, in the morning of 6 November 2019. It was Ana, the same surgeon that performed the first procedure. I felt safe that she was the one who was going to operate on me. So, there I was, having the second brain surgery, just weeks away from the first one.
When I woke up, I was in a lot of pain and it was even more painful to realise that indeed the bone flap was left out. I knew in that instant that I would have to go through all of this, one more time in the future. I was feeling very weak but blessed and happy to be alive.
The next two weeks in the hospital were tough. My head was swollen out of proportions. It literally looked like and alien. It was a challenge to go to the toilet. It was hard to stand up and walk around. Just by speaking for 5 minutes, my heart would race up very quickly.
I was taking intravenous antibiotics for six weeks in total. The first week they were giving me strongest antibiotics available, so much so that my veins were on fire every time it would flow through. The weakness in my body was like nothing I have felt before and the pain of the antibiotics rushing through my veins became almost unbearable at some point.
By the end of the two weeks in the hospital my veins closed off because of the chemicals and my flesh became hard just like a piece of wood and I’m not even exaggerating. It was incredibly painful. This time my body felt it in every way.
I went home with a piccline insertion and I continued a lighter version of intravenous antibiotics until the 16th of December 2019. My mum was by my side for two months helping me to bathe and dress myself. There were moments where I could not believe what a turn my life took. Not long ago my playground was the weights room at the gym, and now I needed help with basic stuff.
There were moments when thoughts of fear would stick their head above the water and it wasn’t easy to cast them away. But I stayed focused in faith, I gave my gratitude to the universe every day, I meditated, vocalised my best healing affirmations, and took care of myself both mentally and physically the best way I knew and was able to so.
I remember repeating this one affirmation many time with my eyes closed and feeling in my heart, as I was about to fall asleep:
“I am free of all diseases, all illnesses, all infections or inflammations. I am in perfect health and all is well.“
A positive mindset and an attitude of trust and faith needs practice, just the same as a fit body needs consistent training. It does not happen over night.
Weeks went by and I got better and better. Swelling was completely gone. It was weird to feel the softness of my head and to think that my brain is just covered by skin tissue and hair.
The slow walks in nature by the river, holding my mum’s arm were filling me with fresh vibrant energy. The home made food, cooked with love and care, nourished and helped to heal my body from all the turmoil that it went through.
I felt so happy when I finished the antibiotic course and was all ready for my follow up appointment on the 16th of December 2019. I arrived at the hospital where I did blood tests and the head scan. During the scan guess what I was repeating again and again silently, while the sound of the machine was bleeping loud? Yes, you’re right! My favourite affirmation that I have just shared above.
The head scan was clean and beautiful, in the words of the doctors. The infection was completely gone, everything was looking great. That meant that I could finally get rid of that wire in my hand, the piccline insertion, which kept me from sleeping on my left side or the pleasure of enjoying a proper bath all this time.
When I left there I felt so free and happy, my soul was smiling inside my body. If I had a tail, it would probably swirl around at that time.
I was blessed to have a wonderful Christmas and new year with my family, without medication or wires coming out of my veins, just like I wished for. My gratitude for everything in my life was growing every day. For all the things big or small.
When you get close to losing your life, you realise that nothing is for granted so you look at everything with new eyes, better said, through the lense of your heart. You realise that life is too short for anything else, than spending it around people you love and letting them know how you feel every day.
I’ve spent New Year’s Eve cooking and eating pasta with my family and chatting about what a year 2019 has been for all of us. We were all looking forward to the New Year with many hopes and dreams for a better future.
But who new what 2020 was about to bring along for all of us. I still had one more surgery to go at that time, and was doing my best to keep it all together and keep the same attitude going forward. Was it easy ? No, but I did my best.
I will share all of the details in part three of this long post.
As I am writing down these details of my recent journey, I realise that it’s been exactly one month since the last surgery on the 29th of September this year.
Before I begin the story, I want to thank you for all your support during this time. It’s such a powerful thing to share and support each other during difficulties, because no one should go through anything alone. Especially through pain and suffering.
I was humbled and touched deeply by people that I have never met before, yet we connected through social media. It’s incredible to see what the power of the heart can accomplish.
What defines us as human beings is the ability to care about each other. If you see someone hurting or in need for help, you will instinctively have a response. You cannot be indifferent or say “It’s not my responsibility.”
Because just like one of my favourite gurus said
“You can’t be partially human. You are either human or you’re not”.
If you happen to see someone fighting outside on your street for example, you can’t just push a button and become indifferent. The least you can do, is to call for help, if you are afraid of getting in the middle of it.
Therefore, if you know someone is going through a hard time, you can give them a hug if you happen to be close to them. If you are miles away, you can message them or call them to say a good word of encouragement. If it’s someone you never met but you happen to see their hardship, you may be shy to message them, but you can always pray for them. There is always some action you can take if you want to, regardless of how far or close you are to someone.
To all the wonderful humans out there, I thank you for all your love and prayers and for making my journey so much easier.
Now, let me begin with sharing this story and what have unfolded over the last year.
If you haven’t read the post where I describe in detail the nine months of terrible migraines and struggles leading to the moment when I was properly diagnosed, click on the button below and it will take you to the website where I have posted the whole story. I felt I had to share it all mostly to built awareness.
Prior to these events, my life was about coaching people. I was passionate about fitness and wellness, so much so that I made a career out of it.
My daily schedule was busy, packed with classes, one to one session, seminars, studying, research, plus all the things that one does to live their dream and build a fitness business from the ground.
I started from zero when I moved from sunny Cyprus to great London six years ago, to turn my passion into reality. Everything was coming together beautifully. I was getting more clients and more ideas for future projects. I was happy living my passion and making an impact in people’s lives.
All seemed to be going so well, until one day, the 9th of October 2019 to be precise, when everything turned into a nightmare.
Yes, I have been suffering with migraines for nine months before this happened and I’ve been seeing doctors, went to the emergency twice, but I have never imagined the magnitude of what was really underneath it all. Not until I had a head scan and out of nowhere, I was diagnosed with brain tumour.
What a shock that was! The tumour was incredibly big (10 cm) they never seen anything like it, without any symptoms like seizures or paralysis. Looking back, I know that I was extremely blessed. They said I must have had it growing over 10 years. Imagine that, I could have dropped somewhere at any time. Yet I didn’t.
The scary part was that during all this time, I have travelled alone back and forth by plane and had no idea of the consequences that could unfold. Again, looking back, I realise that was very lucky the whole time.
Needless to say, that during the nine months leading to that day, whenever I was experiencing the migraines, I wasn’t able to work, move or do anything other than just lying in bed. Anything else would aggravate the pain and symptoms. I was cancelling everything on my diary for at least three days at the time.
That day in October when I was urgently admitted to the hospital, I was living a nightmare. All my dreams, my life, my work felt like sand slipping through my fingers. I felt like I was losing everything. All that, on top of the shocking diagnose. I felt like my life pulled the emergency brakes on me.
It was all so much to handle and my mind was extremely foggy, since I was experiencing memory loss and disorientation due to the brain swelling and bleeding inside my head at that time.
After a couple of days and many chemicals and needles at Kings College hospital in London, my mind began to be less foggy and I was feeling a bit stronger. Their plan was to get the brain swelling in control, before they would go ahead with the brain surgery.
I was lucky to have my family and friends constantly by my side all the time. I don’t know what would have happened if I did not have their support.
When I was alone at night in that hospital bed, still in shock of what was happening and with a broken heart, my mind was flooded with so many questions, asking for answers and someone or something to blame.
“How come they did not pick it up earlier. I can’t believe they did not see this and my life was endangered all this time. How could this be possible? I should sue them!
I thought I was healthy, doing everything right? What did I do wrong? Omg what about my clients and my friends? What about the promise I made to help them? I can’t stand to see my family suffering with me… Can I even have a normal life after this? Everything I’ve worked for is gone. It’s all over, my life is over.”
My heart was shattered into pieces and it didn’t take me long to realise that any answer or finding someone to blame, would not have changed the fact that I had this tumour and that things were the way they were at that moment in my life. There was no one to blame, there was no answer that made any sense. It was what it was.
When the tears dried out, I took a few breaths and realised that there was nowhere to hide. I had to face this situation and find the strength to accept it. I realised that the only way out of it, was going through it, and having the strength to face it.
When something unexpected happens to us, we react and become defensive, because we believe that life is there to punish us or wants to pull us back from reaching our dreams. And so, we tend to push harder and harder against the flow, only to realise that it leaves us breathless. We can’t fight nature, we can only learn to ride the waves as they come along.
The next morning, I panicked as I was looking at my phone. It was packed with hundreds of messages and miscalls.
The thought of getting back to all these people, was making me feel so anxious and sad. Most of them did not know what happened. Some of them were briefed by my sister via social media, but the majority wanted to know how I was feeling and what happened. I had to sit down and update all my clients, associates and friends of what was happening. It was one of the toughest things I had to do at that time because I was reinforcing and confirming that this was very real and it wasn’t just a nightmare.
I mean, where do you begin? Where do you find the strength to tell everyone the shocking news? How can you explain that your life has hit the pause button and you have no idea how, when or even if you will resume?
I replied to most of them, but I got exhausted at some point and my sister took over the rest. I literally handed my phone to her and she took care of it. So grateful for her strong and beautiful soul.
After 9 days in the hospital, ingesting chemicals, steroids and anti-seizure drugs plus needles piercing my veins, blood tests and scans, I was finally ready for the surgery on the 18th of October 2019.
I remember my heart beating fast as they were rolling my bed on the hospital corridors. I can also remember the surgery room, they call that theatre, it was so cold in there. I felt like I walked into a fridge. For some reason I was not afraid of dying. I looked around but there was not much to see but a TV screen with a humanoid head. I was out before they shaved a third of my hair and got me ready for the surgery.
Six or seven hours later, the whole tumour was removed completely. All went well. I woke up in the recovery room. I was in a lot of pain, had oxygen tubes down my nose, but I could speak, move and I was conscious of everything. Very weak but aware. That was a good sign. It was great to see the faces of my loved ones again, when they took me back to my room. As I found out later, they were thrilled to see me conscious, because they did not know what to expect. In some cases, brain functions can be affected.
More great news came the next day, the tumour wasn’t cancerous either. Another blessing. All motor functions, speech, and reasoning were intact. I got up and walking after three days and was ready to go home the fourth day after the surgery. It was just like magic.
I had great care from the nurses while I was there, but I could not sleep. There was always so much noise from people screaming in pain, phones ringing, nurses chatting on the corridors, plus I was woken up for the regular monitoring all the time. I could not wait to go home.
And yes, when the day arrived and my family picked me up, I felt like I was going outside for the first time. I felt so strange and beautiful. I can still remember when the sun-ray’s kissed my face after so long, I realised how much I missed nature, life and everything that comes with it.
It was great to be back home, use my own bathroom and sit on my own toilet. It’s funny to realise how we take for granted the little things like these. The first night it felt like I slept on a cloud. I will never forget it. The best sleep I ever had.
During the day in the first week, I was napping every 20 minutes. Almost like my mind could not stay awake for more than that. After the short nap, I would wake up and continue to be around the house with my family. I was not in pain anymore. I was seeing improvement and felt great considering that I had brain surgery. I felt very lucky to have my family and could see how they were happy to see me getting better and better day by day. I was still taking steroids and antiseizure medication for about a week.
Walking around the house, I noticed that it was hard to see my face in the mirror. I could not recognise myself. A part of me felt like it was having an identity crisis, and did not know who I was anymore.
But the bigger part could not believe the miracle that was happening in my life. I made it through the belly of the dragon. I was so grateful to be alive. I was so grateful that the universe speared my family from the pain that could have taken space if things would have gone wrong.
I thought I was getting better. I was so excited when the day came to remove the stitches. That was the first time I’ve actually realised how big the cut was. It was massive. The nurse removed more than 40 stitches that day. I felt happy to have passed that stage, but my excitement did not last for long. A few days after, I was facing another nightmare.
I will share all of that with you in part two of this long post.
Everyone is talking about “loving yourself just the way you are”. But, what if you’ve been struggling with excessive weight all your life. What if it’s so hard for you to look in the mirror at your juicy parts, that you can’t even imagine wearing swimming suit. What if you feel like you want to cry when your clothes feel too tight on your body. What if you can’t truly accept and love yourself because of that. What if you feel like this is taking away your joy for life.
Well, if at this point in your life and for any reason, you are struggling with the way you feel about your body, be it because of it’s size or shape, please just remember this.
The mirror does not define you. People cannot define you. Only you can define yourself.
When you start to act like you are blessed, think like you are blessed and do everything from that place, your life will start to shift.
You will realise that the shape and the size of your body cannot dim the miracle of life that is within you.
You will realise that your life and your body, is a divine gift.
Cellulite or no cellulite, muscle or not muscle, your body is your most faithful servant. It does so much for you. Stop and reflect on that for a little please.
If you can enjoy a warm bed, a refreshing shower, a cold juicy fruit on a hot summer day, witness a sunset, fall in love, or perhaps the joy of becoming a parent and hold that little human in your arms, then you must also know that you can only experience all of this, because of your body and all its inbuilt senses. Your body is intrinsically connected to all of these experiences. It is given to you, to experience the joy of life.
You experience life because you live in a body.
Take a little time every day to remember how wonderful you are and how far you have come.
Take a little time to thank your body for everything it does for you every moment of every day.
Take a little time to count your blessings.
And when you start to count your blessings every day, then you will start to be grateful for your body and for everything that it does for you. And maybe then, you can start to love yourself and appreciate your body a little bit more every day.
And later on, if you still want to make a change about the way you look, it will come from a place of love, not from self rejection. And when you can fully embrace yourself just the way you are, because of what you are, you will find true joy.
Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror not being able to recognise yourself?
It’s such an odd feeling.
After the second brain-surgery, since the skull was left out, my head was swollen out of proportion for many weeks. All the fluids and inflammation was build around the brain tissue, as my body was working on it’s healing.
It was very tough to see myself like that in fact, I didn’t want anyone to see me in that condition. Not even my own family.
It’s hard enough to see someone in a hospital bed, not to mention with a head like an elephant, in my case.
Despite of all the emotional and physical struggles, I was taking selfies every day to monitor progress. All I wanted was to get better and for the wound to heal and go back to normal.
On the left pick I was smiling because the swelling started to retract (It was much bigger than that, but I don’t want to cause trauma on social media so I’ll keep that one for myself).
On the right it’s me today smiling, because I’m slowly feeling like myself again. Back then it seemed like a far away dream.
I still have a long way to go, but for now I am grateful to be here.
No matter how hard life may seem sometimes, the sun will shine again. Trust me, a few months ago I was in the middle of a furious storm…♥️
The strength of my body to heal itself after two brain surgeries, three weeks apart from each other, it’s still a marvel to me 🙏🏻
After the second surgery when they closed the wound without the bone, my head was swollen out of proportions, because of the inflammation and fluids built up around the brain.
In the beginning I could not even walk properly or bathe myself. I was blessed enough to have my mother around and she was my rock to hold on to through this.
It took a long few months before my body slowly found its way to strength and balance again.
What a turmoil it must have gone through and what a chaos it must have put to order. That’s how amazing our bodies are. Our whole existence, the way our cells function and how everything happens for us without any conscious action on our part.
It’s “programmed” to keep us alive and restore our internal balance.
I never thought I could feel nor look normal ever again.
Sometimes I wonder, if my body wasn’t as strong and physically fit as it was at the time, would I have made it through this?
The past eight months have been a tough mental challenge too. I mean, how do you cope with such dramatic change?! Nobody is ever prepared for this.
From a super active life where fitness almost defined me, to this place where, I don’t even dare to make big long future plans.
It is certain that the choices you make about your health both physically and mentally, it’s what’s going to make the difference somewhere along the line.
In my case, I believe its a strong reason of why I am here today. I feel compelled to encourage you to invite health in your life in any way you possibly can.
I think we all find some joy when preparing our own food. To me, the smell of fresh made granola in your kitchen, it’s just one of the little things that bring pleasure in life.
I find it that, ready made granola you buy from shops, it’s sometimes too sweet and it can have a funny smell to it as well. It just doesn’t compare to the ones made at home.
Not to mention, it’s free of additives and chemicals that are usually added to increase their shelf life in the shops.
This is a very easy recipe and anyone can make it.
I hope you’re not allergic to nuts or seeds and if you are, so sorry…this is not your recipe.
If you’re going for it, please feel free to use any nuts and seeds combinations you prefer, or whatever you have available at home. Pistachios and pecans are my favourites.
You can serve it with yoghurt and fruits, milk or any dairy free alternatives. It’s so versatile.
Let me get right into it.
Oh, just one more thing before I do. It’s very important to use rolled oats and not porridge oats.
500 g rolled oats
Half cup of cashew nuts – roughly chopped
Half cup of almonds – roughly chopped
Half cup of pumpkin and sunflower seeds mix
2 spoons of ground cinnamon
2 spoons of coconut sugar – optional
3 spoons of desiccated coconut
1 ripe banana sliced
2 spoons of coconut oil
2 spoons honey
2 spoons maple syrup
200 ml warm water
1. Preheat the oven at 150C
2. Line a large/ square baking tray with parchment paper.
3. Add all the dry ingredients into a bowl. Mix well with a fork to combine evenly.
4. Place all the wet ingredients in a blender and buzz until the banana is completely blended.
5. Add the wet composition to the bowl with the dry ingredients and combine together until all oats are covered well. Use a fork or a spoon to make sure all is married well.
6. Spread the coated oats on the prepared baking tray and keep them airy. Do not press them down as we don’t want them to stick together.
7. Place them in the oven for 40 minutes at approx 150C.
8. Every 10 minutes take the tray out and air out the mixture with a fork. This is to make sure that it will evenly cook. You don’t want the mixture to be brown and dry on the top and wet or undone at the bottom. So make sure that you give all mixture a good rollover. By the end, it will all be evenly dry and golden brown. Repeat this procedure 3 or 4 times. Check my video below to see what it should look like.
9. Remove it from the oven. Feel free to serve warm, with yoghurt and fresh fruits. Let it cool completely before you transfer it to a glass jar. It keeps well in the cupboard, for up to over three weeks.
If you have any questions please drop them in the comment box below.