Another thing Penny Brohn taught me was to treasure life and the small things, such as some of the treasured moments with my children, ones that are not repeated, stages of life. Whereas before, it was just trying to get through the age and stage. Other things like seeing a full moon and the stars help me pause. For me, diagnosis helped me put things into perspective, as opposed to it being scary. It helped me realise that this isn’t a dress rehearsal, so make the most of life and accept myself for what I am, and to learn from mistakes.
Before Penny Brohn, I used to go to the gym very regularly and started t’ai chi about a year before my diagnosis. After diagnosis, I was scared of exercising for fear that it might throw me back into a fatigue cycle. Penny Brohn taught me that exercise was good. It is about building it in around my fatigue. I found that by starting off with a small amount of exercise, I could build on it over time, to the point where I could jog on a treadmill and I’ve never done this in my life. So, going from walking, fast walking and then jogging on a treadmill was a big breakthrough. Rediscovering exercise was empowering. It massively boosted my confidence. Even if you haven’t done exercise or much exercise before, you can start slow with a small amount, build it up and trust the process. I say just hang in there and you’ll see the benefits over time.
I’ve also benefited from Penny Brohn’s Healthy Eating Plate. It gives you tips and suggested ratios to eat certain foods. I revisited what I was eating. The main difference now is that I’m very aware of what I’m eating. It doesn’t mean that I only eat ‘healthy foods’, I have an occasional treat. I’ve also got more control over what I eat and when shopping I buy more fresh food and enjoy it more. I’m more aware of what I’m giving my family, especially my children. They can still have sweet treats, but it’s definitely balanced with healthy options and encouraging them to try new foods.
I’ve attended one of Penny Brohn’s healthy cooking demos, which has been really insightful, in terms of looking at recipes and meals. The charity’s vast nutritional knowledge helps you choose well and they show how items, such as a humble onion, can benefit you. It’s great that they cover starters, mains and desserts, so you have a full menu.
I’d say Penny Brohn’s impact on me is multifaceted. From food, the emotional side, physical side and even just being in the wonderful grounds, it’s like a haven, a very safe place, calm and relaxed. Even if there’s no sessions going on, it’s just nice to walk around the tranquil garden, a perfect retreat.