I am Nicki Madrid, single mother of 2 school age children, cancer warrior times two with an avid interest in spiritual and holistic avenues. I moved to Australia in January 2008 to be with the love of my life, or so I thought. Our daughter was born in September 2010 and in May 2011 I was diagnosed with Follicular Lymphoma and underwent chemotherapy in which I lost my hair, was utterly exhausted but determined to be there for my daughter. My parents visited for 3 months to help care for my then 8 month old daughter and myself. However, I still had to go to work 2-3 days a week, working with families where the parents were sick or they had sick children, ironic really, since I couldn’t access this programme.
After my chemotherapy treatment, I tried to make some positive changes to my lifestyle. I found an interest in aromatherapy and started using less chemicals in the house, on my daughter and myself. I tried to implement healthier eating and drinking less alcohol. The thing is, I found excuses all the time of why I couldn’t do these things 100%, my main excuse is the fact that I’m human – but I did beat myself up over being so slack and lazy. I had CANCER for goodness sake, why oh why can I not just make those changes that will fix it all and EVERYTHING will be better.
My husband and I went through some difficult times and eventually I realised that we were following different paths and we split whilst I was pregnant with our son. We did attempt to make it work for a couple more years after my son was born, but when you’re not aligned, it’s a battle all the way. Therefore when my daughter was 5 and my son was 2, we moved out of the family home for good.
About a year before we moved out, I found my perfect job at the Lotus Wellbeing Centre, Wollongong. Perfect for me because sadly I love admin, but I was/am very interested in healing yourself in a holistic way and was able to surround myself with wonderful people with a wealth of knowledge that they happily imparted to me to help my healing journey and for my children too. I received a lot of encouragement, support and advice, but again, I could not commit 100% to my health and make those changes. Confession: I drink too much wine and don’t exercise enough and I certainly don’t look after my mental health – I was / am my biggest critic.
Life threw a few challenges my way, noticeably in my son’s behaviour, which was aggressive, defiant and demanding, I strangely thought this was normal (even though I worked with children for 20 years!) By the time he started school we were on the path to a diagnosis of ADHD and ODD. In December 2018 I was diagnosed with a reoccurrence of Follicular Lymphoma. Due to my son starting school in February 2019 we delayed starting treatment for a few more weeks to get him to settle into school. This time the treatment protocol was slightly different, but it meant I got to keep my hair, however, the fatigue and brain fog was the same. Also, this time, I had two children to care for and get to school and activities and the like, it was more difficult this time as my children were aware of me being sick and having to go to hospital for treatment but not fully understanding it.
What they know of cancer is that people can die from it. My daughter started to suffer tremendously with anxiety and for the first time ever, I had to walk her to her classroom and her teacher had to pry her off of me. It was heartbreaking! My son was acting up like never before and the school insisted I get him medicated. It was of course still my decision, however we did visit the paediatrician and decided that perhaps we should try it out. The change was instant and a blessing. My son even said to me that he doesn’t get into trouble so much and he’s making friends now. Heart. Break. Again! My poor children were suffering so much and we had little support around us on a daily basis. It’s hard to reach out and ask for help, especially when you don’t know what to ask for. I needed someone at home to just get the kids a snack when I was in bed, or put them to bed for me so I could sleep. Someone to pop in and swing the vacuum around. I had lovely friends who would make me meals and offer to baby sit, or come round but I couldn’t ask. Cath (the previous owner of Lotus) knew that I couldn’t continue to work, go through chemotherapy, care for my children and keep up with the bills. Cath brought the Lotus Team together with the Illawarra community and hosted a fund raiser for me at the Lotus Centre. Through the generosity of the practitioners, giving their time and knowledge away and the community donating to the fund, we raised enough money for me to survive on for the 6 months of treatment. I often wonder what would have happened to us as a family if we hadn’t received this support.
My parents came out from the UK again to help me, it was the best 6 weeks! I didn’t have to cook, shop, do laundry, clean or get the kids snacks. They were there for the kids to take them out, play with them and read stories. The children still needed mummy to do things for them, for them to know that I’m still mummy. They wanted me to take them to school, read their bedtime story or to give them their bath. I needed to do these things too. Shortly after they went home a friend in the UK used her 2 week holiday to come and visit and care for us too. It was perfect timing as I had to have a stem cell collection which meant going to the hospital for 2 days in a row early in the morning for all day. Thankfully my kids loved her! As do I.
Anyway, the treatment worked but the magic, I believe was in the knowledge of the love and support around me. After 4 treatments, I decided not to continue as I was in remission and felt that continuing with chemotherapy, I was just battering my body and causing more damage.
I said to my mum that I didn’t want to always live the conventional life, I wanted to travel with the children. My mum and dad said, why not?! Strangely, I thought it would be my parents that would tell me not to. My parents, of course, worry about their children, even if they are in their 40’s!! By now though, they realised that I’m a fighter and I will find a way and survive. They support me 100%. So I took off for 2 months in a campervan up the East Coast of Australia. We had an amazing time, snorkelling with turtles, whale watching, cave exploration, learning to surf – every couple of days we moved on to somewhere new. If only we could do this forever! I met several families that were long term travelling, one particular family are on their 3rd year travelling – living the dream!
However, my dream was back in Wollongong where I had already agreed to take over Lotus Wellbeing Centre. Back to the open arms of the “Lotus Family” who support me in every way they can. Now it’s my time to give back, to support them where I can and the community who was there in my time of need. Through the chapters of my life, cancer chapter #1, finding my perfect job, marriage failure, cancer chapter #2, challenges with my children…. I have learnt more about what holistic health actually means. Yes, I knew it meant the WHOLE being – mind, body and spirit, however, I didn’t implement them altogether. I would work on my healthy eating THEN my drinking habit THEN incorporating more exercise THEN perhaps my mental health. Who am I kidding? my mental health never got the attention it needed. I did see a psychologist when I split from my husband, but after that I didn’t have time….
So my journey has bought me to the place where I can address ALL of these needs at the SAME time, to achieve my best self. The lessons I have learnt:
Number One – I need to look after my stress levels first and foremost, how do I do that? Firstly, by finding the right kind of exercise that gets me excited and can’t wait to do it again – I have discovered that I love indoor rock climbing and windsurfing! Actually I always loved windsurfing, I used to do it 22 years ago, but it took a couple of good friends who are living their dreams, to point out that I CAN make it happen and so I did. Secondly, NOT beating myself up when I don’t eat the perfect meal or meals. Sometimes life happens and if I haven’t eaten a meal of 6 different veggies, then I shall make do and have a juice. The important thing is not to stress about it. Thirdly, if I have a glass of wine, enjoy it – don’t use it as a ‘stress’ reliever as it is NOT!
Number Two – Don’t live in the future, we’re not there yet and who knows what is going to happen. One step at a time, it’s not a race.
Number Three – You are NOT super woman, you don’t need to have all the answers and failures are part of the journey and the lesson.
Number Four – GRATITUDE and I have so much to be grateful for and so many people I am grateful of.