Lending A Helping Hand

What would it take to change the world? There is so much pain and suffering around us, it can be overwhelming at times. How can I make a difference? What can I do to help? I don’t have all the answers but one thing I have discovered is to use what I have in my hand. Writing is something I love doing and by using this gift, I have been able to share my story and in turn, help others.

My infertility journey opened up a whole new life mission, to help hurting people, not only those who had suffered the way I had, but anyone who needed encouragement to press through hard times and live a life of passion and purpose. During those days of heartbreak and learning, I self-published a book, which was a compilation of some of the emails, journal entries and poems I wrote during the first five years of my infertility journey. I thought having a memoir like this would be the closing chapter on the journey but it proved to be just the start of something that I could never have dreamed of.

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I was asked to speak at church and put in contact with people needing help and support. I was interviewed for several magazines and newspapers and my humble book circulated around the neighbourhood and I eventually printed 100, then another 100 and today I collected a fresh batch, hot off the press. Suddenly the interest has sparked again and I feel blessed to be able to keep using my gift to meet the needs of those around me.

I enjoy baking muffins and this is another way I show love to others.

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Maybe you are good at cooking and can bless someone with a meal. Is your phone in your hand? Why not use your free weekend minutes to call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while? Perhaps the remote is in your hand, ready for the soccer later today. Why not invite someone over, who lives alone and would appreciate the company.

What can you do for those in your corner of the world? What is in your hand?

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Comrades Marathon 2018

“Most of us have enough areas in our lives where we have to meet others’ expectations. Let your running be about your own hopes and dreams.” – Meb Keflezighi 

This year I ran my 6th Comrades Marathon and every time I am humbled by the physically demanding, emotional rollercoaster I am about to embark on. The Comrades family is a community where running transcends all our differences, which is one of the many things I love about it.

It is called The Ultimate Human Race for a reason and this year’s campaign theme “Asikiki” means “No Turning Back” and I took it to heart. Despite being out injured for 3 months, I was determined to still start the race and give it my all. Yes, it did hurt but somehow that was also one of the best feelings in the world, which will only make sense to a runner. There were tough times, tears and doubts but also plenty joy, healing and happiness. 

I am humbled to have been able to cross the finish line, in a personal best time, with a smile on my face and a grateful heart. The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start. There are many stories to share between crossing the start line and finish line (a lot happened out there on the road in those 10 hours) but I am still overwhelmed and taking a good physical and mental break from it all, so I will leave that for another time.

Thank you again for the encouragement and support on this journey. Through the hard times and the best times, I value having my family and friends by my side. 

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No Turning Back – ASIJIKI

 

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To The Novices

As novices, the Comrades Marathon is something you are yet to embrace,

And I’m sure you have learned a lot about nutrition, tapering and pace.

It is an experience you’ll never forget and will require you to give your all.

The determination and commitment you show will leave your family in awe.

I’m about to run my 6th Comrades but felt like a novice with the previous five.

It never loses its unique appeal and is a race that makes me feel alive!

Running became my outlet, to help overcome personal heartache and despair,

And it is healing to be able to run every week, with people who truly care

I used to know only a handful of athletes running this Ultimate Human Race,

Now at every turn and up every hill, I’m able to recognize a familiar face.

You too will make many new friends and even strangers will cheer as you run by,

Trust me, at times you will wave and smile and then suddenly just want to cry!

By now you have conquered a marathon or two and done the club long run,

Hopefully you remember the lessons this taught you but also had some fun.

In January you didn’t know how you’d do it, but it has worked out well,

Juggling work, family and training, despite the struggle, it all seemed to gel.

Remember these last few days must involve lots of recovery and rest,

To ensure that come Sunday, 10 June, you can do your very best.

Soon you will be entering Moses Mabida Stadium, to cross that finish line.

And believe me, you will be back next year, to do it a second time!

Hot Off The Press

This week I had the honour of sharing my story in our local newspaper:

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Place of pain motivates Comrades runner 

Westville resident, Debbie Ivins, is preparing for her sixth Comrades Marathon this year and hopes to inspire others through her passion for sport. The runner supports the #IMoveMe campaign, which encourages the community to get moving and living a healthy lifestyle.

For Ivins, her passion for sport grew from a place of pain.

“I have battled infertility for many years and suffered several miscarriages, which caused extreme heartache and depression. It has been a long, hard process, but I do my best to maintain a good attitude and enjoy my life. From a place of pain I found a love of sport, which started with running and I have now completed five Comrades Marathons,” she said.

Sport became a way to uplift and empower herself, said the athlete.

“When I am running or training in the gym, I feel strong and empowered and it helps me be the best version of myself, both physically and mentally. I am passionate about encouraging others and do my best to use my story, combined with my love for sport, as a platform to inspire others.” she added.

Ivins has competed as a body-builder previously and has chosen to shift her focus back to running this year. For Ivins, training should be balanced and rest time should be incorporated.”

Generally training, I run five days a week, always have one complete rest day and on the other day, incorporate a gym routine with strength training to support my running.” said the athlete.

Being an athlete is a part of a lifestyle that includes healthy eating, said Ivins.

“Keeping active and eating healthy is a lifestyle for me, however with Comrades, especially with the longer training runs, it is important to make sure you fuel your body correctly and learn what works for you. I am famous for my love of peanut butter and it is always a part of my daily routine. Oats and peanut butter is my favourite meal before a run,” she said.

Sharing from her experience running the Comrades, Ivins advised first time runners to pace themselves. “My best advice for the day is to hold yourself back and go slowly, especially the first half. You can always make up time later. Don’t get caught up going too fast at the start. Also, never stop. Keep moving forward. Walking is fine and beneficial too.” said Ivins.

 

Share Your Story

“I can shake off everything as I write, my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” – Anne Frank

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I had the opportunity to meet new people this week and realized, once again, that we all have a story in us that has to come out. I want to encourage you to use your story as a platform to inspire others and don’t be ashamed.

Extract from my book, ‘Whole Pieces’:

It has been humbling to look back and I can see how much I have matured, not only in my writing style but also in my relationship with God, the way I deal with my circumstances, as well as my attitude towards my situation. Communicating this way became a great source of comfort to me and from what I was told, it added to the lives of those who read the emails too. I know God worked in many ways through this correspondence and I pray He continues to do so through this book.

Most of the material I have read on infertility has been written by people who now have their ‘bundle of joy’. A baby. I used to find it hard to relate to them, thinking that of course they can write about “staying strong” and “keeping the faith” when they aren’t waiting anymore! Not that it makes them unqualified to address this tender topic. Maybe I simply got emotional because they were where I wanted to be.

I haven’t got perfect patience or answers but I have learnt a few things, which I pray will help you too. Like how important it is to appreciate and respect a waiting period in your life. God doesn’t owe me a baby or an explanation, He simply wants me to keep trusting Him. Have faith in His perfect timing. Rest in Him. Be kind to yourself too and don’t forget to enjoy each day.

Embrace where you are now!

Love Debbie

How To Help A Hurting Friend

This month I celebrated with a friend who gave birth to her first child and a few days later grieved with another friend, who lost her baby through miscarriage. I went from happy to sad, having to work my way through the dark despair I felt for her and fight the pain and flash-backs of my own journey. I thought it was worth re-posting this blog I wrote a year ago, as the question about how to support a friend who is hurting, popped up again and it is important to keep the conversation going.

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I was asked by someone today to please give them advice on how to support a family member who is struggling with infertility. As always, I am honoured that others still come to me for help and yet every time I panic. What do I say? Every situation is different and I remember my journey was incredibly hard in the beginning and nobody could say the right thing.

This question comes up often and I have explored it over the years but I thought it was worth writing about again, immediately, not only for this family who are feeling desperate but perhaps in between the lines you can find chunks of helpful information to comfort someone you know who is also hurting, regardless of the circumstances.

Struggling with infertility is not easy because everywhere you turn, you are reminded of the hole in your heart. You are surrounded by babies, prams and pregnant bellies in the shops, at work, at church and it hurts. It makes you want to withdraw from society and at the same time, this makes it hard for your loved ones to know what to do.

As I said in the beginning, every person is different, so it is impossible to give a blanket answer here. Being a good friend to an infertile is not easy. The situation may change from one day to the next and you have to be prepared for that. Sometimes no matter what you try, you will never get it right but a huge first step is to let them know that you acknowledge how hard it is for them.

A good friend never judges. Show them empathy.

Also educate yourself about their situation (this will help avoid offering pointless advice) and don’t try cheer them up by minimizing their pain (“Want kids? You can borrow mine for the weekend!”)

NEVER SAY ‘JUST RELAX.’ (Would you tell someone who can’t see to just relax? No!) Relaxing will not change the medical diagnosis causing infertility.

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I’m a hardcore vet at this now and have gone through the intense pain of the dark years and while it is unbelievably hard, it is no longer all-consuming. However, everyone moves through stages at their own pace. It can vary from a friend who is at the early stages and is still full of hope and optimism, to the one that is heavily involved in treatment and is carrying great pain (although may not show it). When your loved one is in the dark stage and everything has the power to hurt them it is often best to offer friendship and support from a distance.

It usually has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the situation they find themselves in, as they struggle to cope with their reality. Let them know that you are here for them if they want to talk or cry or scream! But also let them know that if they don’t want to do any of those things, it is okay. You will wait and be there when they are ready. That’s the best advice I can give. If in doubt, ask them. If they don’t want to talk about it, respect that and don’t push.

I hope this helps someone who needs to hear it today.

Thank you to all my friends who have stuck it out with me.

 

Flawsome Friday

I haven’t written a post for a while. My running injury has zapped a lot of my energy emotionally and there hasn’t been much left to give. I am sitting here now having a short break at the end of the day, so thought to write down some thoughts to share, instead of simply pondering them inside my head in private.

I’ve been reminded again this week how many people outwardly seem to have it all together, yet deep down inside you can tell something isn’t right. On the outside, everything is fine, but behind closed doors, they are in serious trouble. Often these people appear confident and secure and pretend to be whoever they think others will admire. Yet they are insecure and like most of us, have deep-rooted fears of rejection.

The fear of rejection exists when we base our self-worth on other people’s opinions of us and often those that hurt us, have poor self-image themselves. I don’t want to get into a heavy topic for a Friday afternoon as we head into the weekend, so instead let me remind you that you are ‘flawsome’ (an individual who embraces their flaws and knows they are awesome.)

We are all doing the best we can, so don’t waste your time comparing yourself to others who seem to have it all together. I promise you, nobody is perfect and we are all under construction! You may still have areas to overcome, but you need to have an image of a champion on the inside and know you are a victor not a victim.

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Stretch For The Stars

“When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.”

It has been a long 6 weeks – I haven’t run at all. Not even a little cheat sprint to my car or down the passage at home. Nothing! (Except for that one day, when a monkey came into the kitchen and I ran after him to try salvage my bananas!)

I am proud of how far I have come from my early days as a runner, when I would prod and poke my injury spot constantly to “test it” and run through pain instead of being wise enough to stop immediately. I have matured mentally, but also physically (a nice way of saying I am getting older now) and my body may never be the same again. This is difficult to accept but one thing is certain, my determination has not waned and I love running enough to keep fighting the odds to overcome the obstacles again and again.

This week I am allowed back on the road, starting with a 500m jog, followed by a 500m walk, repeated 5 times. This adds up to just over 2kms of running, which is daunting when I have a 90km run coming up in 90 days! I have had to let go of disappointments, like missing my favourite marathon, and keep a positive attitude to prevent me from not pressing forward anymore.

It is so easy to allow these setbacks to deter us and I’ve been fighting daily to not give up and see this as an opportunity for a fresh start. You always have a choice; these hurdles can destroy you or strengthen you. We need to let go of what lies behind and not let disappointment control our lives.  Stretch your faith once again. Every day I am doing my best to keep my passion stirred up and keep my dreams alive. If I can do it, so can you!

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Half-Time Sports Thoughts

Local sports fans are spoilt for choice today. It is day three of the cricket test between South Africa and England, the Sharks are playing rugby here in Durban too and then tonight, the match our household is most excited about – Liverpool versus Newcastle United. My favourite activity is running of course but I love most sports and marrying someone who watches everything (golf, soccer, rugby, cricket…) I have become quite good at knowing who is sitting where, on any log, at any given time!

Playing a sport requires practice and preparation, which will equip the team to move with confidence and believe in themselves. The professionals make it look easy but we don’t realize they all had a great deal to learn before reaching the level that we see them at today. In my own life, I have learnt that most things are harder than you thought they would be and take longer to produce results than you ever imagined you could endure. Its seems most people want instant gratification and are not willing to work for what they hope to achieve. Opportunities rarely drop into your lap. You need to work aggressively for your dreams and be a lifetime learner.

I have come a long way, both in my running successes and my personal triumphs over difficult circumstances, but it has taken a long time and many years of preparation prior to each stage of progress. I have many big dreams in my heart that I believe I am supposed to do but sometimes it is easy to get discouraged when nothing seems to happen. However, I believe that every experience in my life is preparing me for things I have in my future and I do my best to learn from them.

Small beginnings are sometimes all that we can handle at the time and it is better to slow down and learn from every day, while enjoying the journey. Press past the judgement and criticism of others, try new things and see what works and what fits right in your own heart. Have the courage to start!

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A Defining Decade

This is one of those posts where the heart takes over and you have to write quickly, before the head has too much time to think, analyse and object. It is a little before 5am and we have no electricity, so I’m sitting on the couch, using a torch for light, as I scribble on my notepad (I still love writing the old-fashioned way, with a pen and paper) and will type it out later. Maybe.

This February marks ten years since I did my last IVF cycle. I have no idea why this thought came to my mind this morning but perhaps it’s because I have had the privilege of meeting several new people recently and it’s interesting to observe how they judge you on the chapter of your life they are walking in on. Of course, I understand this is normal and I often do the same. We forget that everyone has a history that has shaped them into the person you see standing in front of you today.

February 2008 was a watershed moment for me. I had to let go of a dream and choose how I was going to live the rest of my life. Was I going to be bitter or better? Most people who have met me in the last few years, know me as a runner. I am described as a positive person. Always smiling and inspiring. This is humbling and I am grateful to be able to use my past pain for purpose to encourage others. However, I am like everyone else, flawed and vulnerable and have days filled with tears and tantrums too!

Real life is usually messy and sometimes my past catches up with me and I feel anything but strong. Right now, I am doing my best to find that silver lining in the middle of yet another storm and I need to keep reminding myself where I have come from and what I have already overcome. Ten years ago, I was in a foetal position on the bathroom floor, sobbing. I had bad stomach cramps and was bleeding. It was another miscarriage and I honestly didn’t know if I had the will to carry on. I had been there before, literally watching the lives of my unborn children slip away from me and I was helpless once again. Three years before this, another tragedy struck when I lost my dad to depression. I battled to comprehend how someone could feel that level of desperation and pain, until that moment in the bathroom when I experienced it for myself. That day God gave me peace about my Dad’s passing and I understood.

I have left out chunks of what I wrote this morning, as I don’t want to get too graphic and would rather leave some boundaries in place. However, I still believe you need to risk exposure to allow for change to happen in your life and being open about my struggles has allowed me to move forward. I often wonder what my dad would think if he knew that the shy, quiet, academic child he left behind, was now a confident, sporty woman who has completed five Comrades Marathons and has a heart full of goals for the future. I hope he’d be proud.

It’s easy to stay silent and try fit in with the crowd but I dare you to let your true self show up this week. If you are struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help and drop the mask, even if it means risking criticism and uncertainty. Our world is rife with perfectionism and needs the real you to stand up. If you do that, you will give someone else the courage to follow.

We are all doing the best we can. Like I said last week, everyone needs compassion. Let’s be kind to ourselves and each other.

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