Eat, Sleep, Grieve, Repeat: Naomi Matthams

by Naomi Matthams


My name is Naomi, and I lost my mum to ovarian cancer in January 2014, five years after being diagnosed with the cruel disease. My mum was only 64 when she died and left behind my dad, brother, and me, as well as a wider family and lots of very good friends.

Since my mum died, I have had two beautiful daughters with my husband, changed jobs a few times, extended our home and watched countless series of The Great British Bake Off and Strictly Come Dancing, all of which I’d love to have shared with her.

I also found out in 2015 that I inherited the same BRCA 2 genetic alteration that my mum had, giving me an increased risk of both breast and ovarian cancer. I am now at a point in my life where I’m deciding how best to manage and ultimately reduce, my risk so that I can be around for my family for as long as possible.

As a person I am naturally contemplative and spend a significant amount of time in my own thoughts, which is what led me to write. I concluded that some of the thoughts and scenarios I mull over may well resonate with others who have lost a mother or loved one, or who are facing some of the tough decisions about their own body like I am.

I don’t think I’ve ever consciously thought about the connection between self-reflection and my mental health. Perhaps I’ve always felt I had good mental health or a strong sense of who I am and what makes me tick. That said, after my mum died, I made the decision to see a counsellor, and have always been a big advocate of talking about how I feel in that type of environment.  I feel more comfortable talking to someone who I know is there wholeheartedly to listen to me, understand me and guide me. That’s quite a tall order for your family and friends, who undoubtedly have their own challenges and priorities in life. That’s not to undermine the support I did get from my friends and family, but just to say I always felt conscious about burdening those closest to me, so would often avoid exposing those innermost feelings.

As a result, all those feelings, all the reflections I had about myself, stayed inside, discussed in the counsellor’s room, but confined to those walls and the walls of my mind. In recent months I have felt the need to let things out. Whether it was the birth of my second child or just the passing of time, I’m not too sure, but the words were ready to come out.

Most mornings I walked with my youngest while she napped. I covered quite a few miles as she snoozed, often just thinking. Thinking, thinking, thinking, and writing words in my head. For a while, I didn’t know what to do with them, and then I started to get them down on paper. It was so liberating, almost celebratory, to finally articulate how I feel and commit them to the page. It almost felt cleansing to see the words — they were real!

It then occurred to me that maybe some of the things I feel would mean something to others, perhaps even mirror some aspects of their feelings. Could sharing my feelings help others to feel seen and heard, in the same way it had done with me? I wanted to find out, but I was so nervous that sharing my words might not resonate. It took one friend of mine to say, “just get it out there”, to give me the confidence to do it. And here we are.

Writing is a very powerful tool for self-healing and self-reflection. Even if it’s just writing one word or a whole essay. Let it flow!

My aim is to share my story, create space and enable others to feel safe to share their own story and talk about the person they’ve lost and connect with those who have a shared experience.

For more information about Isabelle, you can check out her website.


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