My journey back to wholeness after stage 4 cancer
Fi Munro - Author of Love, Light and Mermaid Tales
In January 2016, Fi Munro was diagnosed with Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer. At the time of her diagnosis Fi was told her cancer was inoperable and terminal. Refusing to accept her prognosis, Fi dedicated her time to researching her condition and embarked on a holistic journey that would change her emotionally, spiritually, physically and spreading awareness of Ovarian Cancer through her random acts of kindness envelopes.
Incredibly, only 12 weeks after starting this healing process, Fi’s cancer had significantly reduced and she was approved for surgery and underwent a gruelling 12-hour procedure to remove five of her organs, partially remove a further four organs and create a colostomy. Fi’s new lifestyle helped her to recover quickly from her surgery and subsequent treatment and just seven months after her original terminal diagnosis, Fi was in remission.
Fi has written all about her journey in her blog and book, Love, Light and Mermaid Tales.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us at the Bladder and Bowel Community…
Tell us about your new book Love, Light and Mermaid Tales. What prompted you make the move from blogger to author?
My new book is about my journey back to wholeness through stage four cancer. It’s kind of a self help book meets memoir. When I was diagnosed I was only 30. On the one hand I was being told that I had incurable cancer, but on the other hand I was still a young woman with many hopes and dreams. Whilst being realistic about my diagnosis I still wanted to live out my days as best as I could and with as much joy and positivity as possible.
When I started to look online for other people with a late stage diagnosis who shared my positivity I found myself alone. Everyone who was blogging about cancer had an early stage diagnosis – of course they were positive, they were curable!
So I began writing my story in unfiltered blog posts about the highs and lows of my treatment and living with late stage cancer. Before I knew it I was receiving messages from other late stage warriors from around the world. I had found my tribe! My blog now has over 115k followers* and I share daily updates on my Facebook and Instagram. I’d always wanted to write a book and living with stage four cancer has taught me that it really is now or never so, with the encouragement of my blog followers, I decided to go for it. I still can’t believe it’s out there in the world now. It always feels such an honour and a blessing when people get in touch to say that they have read it and what it means to them.
After your diagnosis, how did you make the decision that a holistic approach was the route that you would follow? What was the first change that you made?
Personally I think the only way to heal is by taking a holistic approach to health. However, it is important to note the difference between healing and curing (I talk about this in my book too). Healing is to let the gifts of cancer filter into your life and begin to recognise the joy that life can bring. It is to look at every aspect of your health, be it environmental, physical, emotional or spiritual, and see what you can do to improve things. Curing, on the other hand, is to remove cancer completely. Whilst, of course, this would always be wonderful, my fear is that so many late stage warriors spend all of their time seeking to be cured whilst not healing themselves and their lives in a holistic manner.
With this in mind I looked at every aspect of my life in a bid to heal. In doing so I worked through many emotional traumas, removed all chemicals from my home and environment, embraced yoga and meditation and even quit my high stress job (to name a few). The first change I made was to get myself a rescue dog. He was 13 years old and together we started our daily walks. Before long both of us were reaping the benefits and together we would walk 2-3 miles a day. To this day I believe that if it hadn’t been for him I wouldn’t be here. He changed my life and taught me the valuable lesson of slowing down and taking a moment to just stop and breathe. He passed away in December last year but I still do our walk every day.
People usually ask me what I think is the most important change you can make when taking a holistic approach. The answer is simple, have fun, laugh and don’t take anything too seriously. Above all, trust your instinct. We are all unique and there is no one size fits all approach to health. We just need to listen to what our bodies are telling us.
Your journey has seen you gift ‘random acts of kindness’ as a way to spread awareness of Ovarian Cancer. Tell us how this came about and what prompts you to hand out an envelope?
Following my operation my loved ones raised £500 for me to treat myself. However, I made the decision to use the money to do random acts of kindness for complete strangers. I didn’t want to profit from my diagnosis and the idea of sharing the love and kindness given to me filled me with so much more happiness than spending it on something ever could.
So since then I’ve been handing out envelopes with either a £5, £10 or £20 note inside alongside a card listing the top four symptoms of Ovarian Cancer.
The impact has been incredible! The first two ladies I gave an envelope to went on to do a bungee jump for Macmillan and raised a whopping £4000. Amazing eh?
I never plan when I am going to hand out an envelope. It’s kind of an instinct thing. Something about someone will catch my eye and I’ll just know that I am meant to give them one. It always touches my heart when they get in touch afterwards and let me know the impact or what they did with the money. I chose one man recently because he reminded me of my late Grandad. I wrote a blog post about it and the recipient saw it. He now hands out his own envelopes and signs them ‘Love Grandad’. It’s this kind of magic and love that assures me that we live I a truly wonderful world, despite what the media might portray.
For me it is a wonderful gift that I am able to do this and connect with strangers in this magical way because of my diagnosis.
Yoga has played a big part of your journey, you even managed to complete your Teacher Training during your cancer treatment! Yoga can be used to relieve symptoms of many conditions including for those who may suffer from bladder and bowel issues. Do you have any tips for someone who might want to start a practice to help their condition?
Yoga has been life changing for me. Following surgery I was told that it would be at least 6 months before I could walk up stairs. Well I thought to myself, screw that. So, deciding to chase a dream, I applied for a 12 month course to become a yoga instructor. Just 3 months post surgery I began the course and I qualified this year. I now have my own yoga business and teach children from age 3 years as well as adults. The best advice I could possible give is to just listen to your body. Don’t become restricted by the box that your medical condition places you in. You are wonderful and unique and you, and only you, get to decide what you are capable of. Find yourself an instructor and be honest with them about your conditions and they will support your practice – failing that just drop me a message. I’d love to hear from you!
You’ve recently embarked on a raw food diet, how are you finding this? Many people with an ostomy are nervous of a mainly vegetarian/vegan/raw diet in case of experiencing a blockage. Have you found that your diet has caused you any issues with your colostomy?
I am a huge foodie and I love food. In 2010 I was diagnosed with a gluten allergy and then last year chemotherapy left me with a lactose intolerance which prompted me to become vegan. As a result I have become very apt at making food from scratch that is specific to my requirements. I decided recently that I wanted to try shaking my diet up a bit by embracing a raw food approach. To clarify, this isn’t about losing weight or curing cancer, instead it is about providing myself with as many nutrients as possible to help ensure my continued health.
There is a common misconception that a raw diet is just all salads, but I’ve been making raw soups, raw (sugar free) cakes, raw curries and so much more! It is incredible the amount of recipes for ‘uncooking’ that are out there. So far I’ve not had any issues and, in fact, I feel better than I have done in years. All I would say is to make sure that if you do decide to go raw that you keep did rated to help your body cope with the additional fibre.
Ovarian Cancer has been described as the silent killer. What are the symptoms that we should be looking out for?
The easiest way to remember is to ‘think teal’.
T – toilet habit changes
E – energy levels dropping
A – abdominal pain/swelling
L – loss of appetite
Women with two or more of these symptoms for two or more weeks should visit their GP and request screening.
It’s important to note that smear tests DO NOT test for ovarian cancer.