Denise Tam

Moments in Life


Learning to Love Me

Posted by Denise on April 20, 2013 at 1:55 AM

Snoop loved to run off and get lost in his several acre playground- sometimes getting so carried away that he would lose track of time and forget his way home or even follow someone else home. Each morning he would anxiously wait for me to open my bedroom door and greet me with his wagging tail hoping I would open the door for him to play and of course do his business.


After being declared in remission in February, it brought more anxiety than relief. Of course I was relieved to have a body without cancer cells, but I knew that my work to bring my body back to health was only beginning. I no longer would have chemo as my safety net, I was bare and vulnerable. After much thought, research and God’s guidance that led me to specific people and the opening of doors, I decided to take some time to discover more cancer therapies in Europe and to learn more about my body.

I looked forward to my two weeks in Innsbruck. There was no real agenda either than a few medical treatments. It was going to be a time of great relaxation, a time away from HK and my life there, a time to write and think - a time of healing for my body, mind and soul.


I was blessed to stay in a big home in the woods with a girl and her two dogs.We experimented with different cuisines in the kitchen, shared some lifestories (some good, some bad), took trips into town together and made sure Snoop wouldn't run away (the troublemaker that he is). But I also had time to myself to take walks in the wood, to read for pleasure, and to do specific exercises for my body. As I wrote out my reflections in my journal at the end of each day my heart always felt unsettled and I couldn't understand why. I had looked forward to the peace and quiet but as much literal peace and quiet there was in Innsbruck I couldn't find it in my heart and mind. I usually had 'more' toreflect on in HK, my days were filled with productive activities so having nothing 'significant' to reflect on in Innsbruck took some time to get used to.


It took me most of the two weeks to really understand what was happening and tofinally really be able to enjoy the pleasure of doing things for myself andonly myself. My life is so cluttered with responsibilities and relationships(both of which bring great joy to my life) that time for myself is often neglected.


Not to sound selfish, but sometimes you need to be selfish- to love yourself soyou can love others. And I guess particularly when it comes to a physical illness like cancer, you need to love yourself to get better. Some times that love would mean eating healthier, better and longer sleep, or cutting down onwork. But these are all things that take effort to do and can even turn into stress. And so loving yourself can also sometimes mean simple play time for your self. As counter cultural as this is in our modern efficient society and especially in Asia, play time for your self entails time to yourself without any goals or intentions.

Although my two weeks in Innsbruck were certainly not all filledwith play time for myself, the few hours in the day that I did have for it wereconfusing, unsettling and at times frustrating. I always felt guilty knowing there were emails to write, articles and research to read, exercises for mybody to do. But Snoop and Pongo (the other dog) taught me that it's sometimes okay to say unashamedly "this is what I need, this is what I want" Since I'm not reliant on a person to open the door to let me out to play the ownership is on myself to allow myself to play.


As I got used to the no agendas in my relaxation time I slowly began to appreciate them. I can't say I absolutely enjoy them but I know that my body and mind need them. It's something I know I will need to always keep working on, particularly in HK but at least I can now accept it.



After 5 weeks of being away, I finally returned home to Hong Kong and began my first maintenance chemo on Thursday (April 18 ). It hasn't been easy being back in this city, with the pollution, the humidity, the pace, and the demands of life but it is still nice to be back with knowledge and a reminder that loving myself begins with me no matter where I live.


For more insight into how I'm handling life in HK, please read my piece in the HuffPost - Slowing Down in a Fast Forward City

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1 Comment

Reply Richard
8:02 AM on April 21, 2013 
Thanks for sharing your journey and new insights which really are counter-cultural, yet so true!