Martlets’ outpatient Ann-Marie has found our online wellbeing groups of real benefit during the pandemic. She tells us about taking part in Zoom video sessions, and shares some of the writing she produced in the ‘life writing’ group.
In September of 2020, I was diagnosed with stage four bone cancer. It had metastasised from my breast cancer 15 years ago. My doctor got me in touch with Martlets and they set me up with some counselling. It was so helpful as I was in quite an emotional state. I was also able to have some acupuncture for symptom management.
Martlets has been offering online group sessions during the pandemic for all sorts of things. They are great because I can just log on via Zoom from home. I do ‘chair yoga’ on Mondays — it’s a class that can be done seated rather than standing. On Tuesdays I’ve been doing visualisation, then mindfulness on a Wednesday, and on a Thursday it’s Tai Chi. I’m not very good at taking time out to relax, so these groups give me the focus to do that. It’s also nice to have that social contact with people.
Martlets’ ‘life-writing’ group
The group I’ve got the most out of has been ‘life-writing’. It has really given me a purpose each week. Rather than creative writing as such, it’s more of a space to write about our lives and memories. I’m amazed that now I can’t stop thinking of things to write about, even outside of the group. Other people have a more descriptive writing style, but I’m more literal and factual. That feels ok though, as we’ve realised we all have different ways of telling a story or writing about things.
The organiser gives us a couple of subject options before each session; we use the group time to write but can also write outside of that time. Each session is split into smaller groups. There are Martlets volunteers in the break-out groups who can help people form their thoughts if they need that; they will also type them up if some people can’t manage. Then we come back together, and people can share some of their writing if they want to.
Up until about 15 years ago, I hadn’t done any writing since being at school. But when I got breast cancer, I was part of a group then that encouraged writing about the experience. I even got up at the Red Rooster Cafe in Brighton and read out my poem, which was very emotional. I went on to write something for my son when he got engaged to his fiancé. Then five years ago I wrote a piece for my husband for our 25th wedding anniversary. Other than that, I hadn’t really done any more writing. What I love about the Martlets group is that it is a different kind of writing. It’s not about your health or difficult emotions, it’s mostly about uplifting things.
What I’ve written about
I’ve written about a holiday I went on with my sister in November before lockdown, and about my pets. We were also asked one week to write about something we had lost. I lost the emerald stone in my engagement ring, so I wrote about how that happened and how things came right again. I’ve included a version of my piece about the ring at the end of this blog.
We’ve also written ‘diamond poems’ which have line lengths that form the shape of a diamond. Here are two of mine:
Cherry Orange Raspberry
Melting Stirring Pouring Setting
Filled With Love
Friday tea times
Hair tied in rags
Fruit jelly thruppence
Purpose and possibility
I needed to get my head in the present and stop worrying about the future and Martlets has helped with that. With the Zoom groups, I’m doing what’s possible in the present rather than worrying too much about what’s coming later. Though I know that Martlets will support me at whatever stage I’m at. The Zoom sessions have given me something to look forward to; a purpose each day, particularly during the pandemic when we’ve all been at home.
I’ve actually been able to take part in more groups online than I would’ve done going into the hospice. With Zoom, I can just roll out of bed and turn my computer on. There’s no need to try and get into a car and drive to Martlets and back; that would sometimes be a struggle for me. It’s meant I can do groups each day without any access issues. Everyone’s just been so friendly, and it’s been a way of connecting during the pandemic.
I’d spied a beautiful antique emerald and diamond ring set in white gold while I was out window shopping. I had to have it as it was perfect. I wore it for many years until one day I looked down at my hand and the emerald was gone; I felt sick.
I cried and cried. I got down on my knees and searched, as I could back then! But it never materialised. My husband kindly said he’d buy me a new one. But I didn’t want a new one, I wanted that one. An emerald is meant to symbolise eternal love and I thought I’d broken that.
I searched for another ring that would capture my heart but found nothing. Then, a year later, at an antiques fair at Brighton Race Course, I found the ring to replace it! The emerald was set in an Art Deco design; platinum with baguette cut diamonds each side of the emerald similar to the one I’d lost.
“£500,” the man said, so I walked away but kept looking back.
My husband said, ‘do you really like it?’
‘Yes, I love it’, I said, ‘but we haven’t got £500 to buy a ring’.
It had felt like years since I had another ring on that finger, it had felt so bare. We returned to the stall, but I was still unsure about spending that sort of money. The price was dropped to £400. Was it real? How could it get reduced by £100 just like that? But we bought it.
It was the perfect fit — it sparkled, it lit up my heart. My everlasting love was back.
Later, another jeweller tested it and confirmed it was platinum. I was so chuffed I’d not been ripped off. He said it had a flaw in the Emerald so that reflected the price paid. It was the ring I’d searched so long for, so that didn’t matter to me.
I still have my old ring shank minus its emerald. I did have plans to see if I could get the diamonds made into stud earrings. I had forgotten all about that until I started writing this piece, so ill pop that on my ‘to do’ list! This year will be our 30th wedding anniversary, so the spell of everlasting love was never broken.
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