Monday, January 02, 2017

NYE resolutions and all that!

Some January's I'm full of great sounding New Year's resolutions. Usually they fall by the wayside, but occasionally some do resonate through the year. I saw a blog post by the wonderful opera singer Joyce DiDonato about her suggested resolutions for 2017, and they did speak to me ... particularly the one about Practicing (singing, music) with Purpose. So I think I'm going to appropriate a couple of hers and see how they pan out! (Of course that one would fit it well with other parts of my life too!)

I also saw a videoclip on Facebook - an interview with the amazing English pianist James Rhodes, about his new book 'How to Play the Piano'. From what I understand, this book is about learning (or re-learning) to play the piano, and to play one Bach piece in 6 weeks! (It does involve serious commitment to daily practice etc!!) And he quoted an email he'd got from someone who'd recently retired, saying that doing this - immersing himself in music, learning to play an instrument etc, had made it the best time of his life. I could say the same for my life (brain surgery notwithstanding!), but of course I do know there are other reasons besides music for this!

And joy oh joy, I'm allowed to drive again from the 13th January. Which means I'll be able to go back to my yoga class in Byron (or Suffolk Park as it is now, even further away!) However ...

I know I posted somewhere about re-starting my yoga practice a week or two after I got home from hospital.  But then I got hit by all these totally unexpected bouts of total exhaustion ... yes, 'unexpected' despite the many warnings I'd had about this, especially if I tried to do too much! Like spend weeks driving (being driven) to and from Lismore for rehearsals etc etc!! I thought I was fine at the time but I think I was just running on adrenaline!!

Anyway, my yoga practice disappeared down a black hole, and I've really only started again a week ago. The first day I practiced again I couldn't even touch my fingertips to the floor! And I still haven't got to the end of the standing poses even though I'm leaving a few poses out. I can at least touch my knuckles to the floor now so I guess that's some kind of progress!!

I really should have learnt this lesson from previous times! Not a good idea to stop practicing for more than a few days, specially when your body isn't that young any more!! Ah well, another life lesson in not being attached to wherever my yoga practice may have been ...


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Monday, December 05, 2016

Wonderful weekend of music-making

Well, this weekend (the Handel's Messiah extravaganza in Lismore) has been both exhausting and uplifting/energising at the same time! I was a bit concerned about how I was going to cope with 2 long days (9.45am to 5.00pm + 1 hour's drive each way each day !) of singing and waiting around. But - it was wonderful! Probably a combination of the wonderful energising effect of singing, and the fact that I am definitely getting better! I did collapse into bed pretty early on both evenings but felt wonderful again the following morning .....

Handel's Messiah concert at Lismore with Richard Gill

And our guest conductor, the wonderful Richard Gill ... what can one say about someone like him?! So completely full of energy and love for the music ... But not in any rarified way! He had us in stitches with comments/stories about how it was NOT a democracy! What the conductor (him!) wanted was the way it was going to happen! But also, how people like us (choirs and orchestra) choosing to come together to perform music was what made communities happen / come together. Feel like I learnt so much over those 2 days ... hopefully I'll retain some of that!


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Friday, November 18, 2016

Another update (No 3)

Another week, another update on my health! I think this past week has been a case of one step backwards, two steps forward ... at the end of last week I had a couple of days when I was really really tired. Collapsed on the sofa all day, no thought of doing any yoga, finding myself falling asleep around 7pm (!!) in front of the tv...

But things started to get better over the weekend, and I haven't actually felt anything like as tired since then. Of course, when I re-started yoga earlier this week I did have to start from the beginning again ... Surya Namaskar B is still hard (energy-wise) - and I think I'm just now back at the stage I'd got to ... in other words, 3 x Surya Namaskar As and 2 x Surya Namaskar Bs ... Its going to be very interesting to see what happens when I get to some of the poses that I used to find challenging - eg UHP (balancing!!), and Marichyasana C - will I still be able to bind that I wonder?! Well, hopefully I'll find that out in the next couple of weeks!!

Next week is my last 2 rehab sessions in Tweed Heads - I definitely think they have helped me a lot. And then the following Saturday afternoon I'm having an Alexander Technique treatment which should be really interesting.

And the singing, the choir practice (of The Messiah) goes on, filling a lot of my day, happily. Today a friend is coming round in the morning bringing coffee and cake (!), and we may do some singing too ...


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Thursday, November 10, 2016

US election, and Recovery update no. 2

Well, against all expectations, it's happened again!! To be honest I do remember thinking that if I'd got it so wrong after the Brexit vote then who was to say I wouldn't get it wrong again about the US presidency!! And although it did feel it was (way past) time there was a woman in the White House, I really did not like Hillary Clinton. Far too close to the 'establishment' and big end of town. Far too much of a sense of entitlement ...

And I have to say - my sense of dismay is much much less than after the UK Brexit vote! Maybe I'm a bit numb about it all, but ... No doubt many many horrors to come but we'll just have to wait and see!

Went off to rehab again this morning - I'm halfway through the program now. I am still pretty (very!) tired after I've been, and indeed also after I've been out doing a bit of shopping etc. but yesterday I remembered something an osteopath friend said to me. That after having a brain operation it would take at least a month before I stopped being very tired ... apparently a fairly common side-effect of such operations. But that this would definitely come to an end! So I was very pleased when I remembered that conversation!

The other great thing that has happened is that I've finally 'tapered off' the steroids I was on, and last night I slept for 8 hours!! Woohoo!!

My Thursday chauffeur, Beth and I went out for a nice Thai lunch in Tweed Heads after the rehab was finished. Then I came home and really collapsed on the sofa again - totally exhausted! Another friend (my other main chauffeur, Victor) had been going to come round to watch something from timelesstoday.com this evening but I had to put it off for a day or two!!

My wonderful singing teacher Ian, came round early this morning for a singing lesson. My voice is getting stronger again - hopefully it will soon be back to where it was before the operation. I've just started learning a new song by Gluck - O Del Mio Dolce Ardor ...

And I have also started my yoga practice again! I'm managing to do it every other day at the moment ..The first day I did 3 sun salute As. The next time I added in 1 sun salute B which nearly wiped me out! And yesterday I did 3 x sun salute As and 2 x sun salute Bs! Slowly slowly I will build it back up ...

Friday, November 04, 2016

My recovery update (1!)

Well it's Friday and I've been home from hospital since Tuesday of last week. I'm still taking steroids each day (as well as anti-epileptic medication) but am slowly tapering the steroids according to a program. I will stop taking the steroids next week - which will be a big relief! I'm still having problems sleeping although it's not nearly as bad as it was when I was on higher doses!

And this week I started 4 weeks of physio / speech therapy up in Tweed Heads. Twice a week (Monday and Thursday) for 3 hours each time ... so far I've been pretty tired after each of those sessions, but it should get better! On Monday I went with my friend Victor, who just went and hung around in a local bookshop for the 3 hours. On Thursday I got a lift up with Victor, but then an old work friend, Beth Cavallari who lives in Murwillumbah came and picked me up from Tweed Heads and brought me home - after going out for lunch! That was great, and she's going to actually do the whole pickup / drop off for the rest of the (3) Thursdays.

However, like I said, I was pretty tired after all that - came home and collapsed on the sofa for the rest of the afternoon!

I'm also hoping to re-start my yoga practice in the next day or two. Probably just start with some sun salutes, and then gradually build it up. I won't be able to go back to class in Byron for another 2-3 months (ie. until I can drive again)

But anyway - right now life is sweet. I am very content pottering around at home and in the garden, and being taken out shopping or to appointments occasionally. No doubt as my strength returns I'll get a bit fed up, but that too shall pass!

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Back to Hospital!

I've kept quiet about this for ages - years in fact! I just didn't want to embark on another tale of woe and thought if I kept quiet about it then it might just go away ... (big fat chance!!)  But - well let me just tell the story, and there is a happy ending though a big hiccup on the way!

So, some years ago I was changing specialists for the bronchiectasis (and don't even go there!!). The new specialist wanted to do lots of CT scans, not just of my lungs, but why not my sinuses too. And then he discovered a "benign brain tumour"!! A meningioma!!! Well, this was just too too much! When my biggest fear (pre-cancer anyway) was that if I had a headache for more than 3 days I probably had a brain tumour!! Arghhhhhhhh ...

But eventually with the help of a neurosurgeon, Dr David Walker, I accepted it and ultimately came to annual MRIs and reviews for a few years.

But all good things come to an end! This year when I had my MRI and review he told me that was in fact growing slowly, and I should really get it taken out within the next year. Cue more tears! That was in April I think and again I ultimately accepted it. But I decided to delay it till this month as a) an overseas friend was visiting in September, and b) I wouldn't be able to drive for 3 months!!

So, cut to the hospital. Oh, wait. When Dr Walker was telling me about the operation he also listed the risks ... which because of my bronchiectasis, included having a coughing fit, in turn leading to a stroke or epileptic fit!

So anyway, the op took place on the 13th October. It went fine and I was recovering well in the ICU when sometime in the afternoon / evening I started coughing. And then I started having strokes! I was rushed into CT scan and there was some bleeding / bruising on the brain. Several subsequent Scans revealed no further progression but I definitely had some aphasia (speech problems) ... Over the weekend I made a bit of progress, but it wasn't until I was able to get out of ICU to the ward (bit of a logjam) and had some much-needed rest that I really started to make progress!

And now it's the following Wednesday. I've been out of hospital for a couple of days, home since yesterday. I have a friend staying overnight for 2-3 nights, and I'm so happy! I know there's still rehab work to do on my speech but I'm completely confident I can make a full recovery!

Phew - that wasn't so bad! Always good to get it out there, eventually!!

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Thursday, September 08, 2016

Yoga 'movement'

Don't know that it's right to look at my yoga practice in terms of progress, (or lack of!) But I'm not going to beat myself up too much for being quietly pleased at visible signs of - shall we say 'movement'!! A few months ago I posted on Facebook about my delight when Christian crossed my ankles in supta kurmasana - a cross-legged turtle you could say! And lately I've been thinking I should try and do this myself - but it seemed quite impossible to actually lift one leg up and do that. Then last week I was shown how to do it - and of course it's so much easier than I'd imagined! I still can't actually bind my hands behind my back - can't even reach them yet! But I do believe that will come!

Then the other pose I get assisted in a lot - Marichyasana C ... Just this week I am suddenly able to bind myself on the second side! The first side is months, years away yet, but ... It is quite a thrill !!

Onto other things ...Winter (such as it was!) is turning to spring now. I've been planting some shrubs in the front where some of the palm trees once were .. And the veggie garden is just flourishing - an oversupply of broccoli at the moment! The tyranny of the garden as a friend's father used to say (happily!)

Rehearsals for the performance of The Messiah in December are going well. I do know it quite well having sung it 4-5 times in Brisbane with the Bach Choir, but am finding out how much I leant on the other choir members there who had sung it every year for many years. Now there is pretty much no one to 'lean on' and others are wanting support from me! So I am seeing all the bits where I need to do extra work!! But it will be wonderful I'm absolutely sure!


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