Here are a collection of selfies I sent the Funny Boy over the last few months. They have one thing in common, they were all taken right after I completed some form of exercise. Each face could be a different emoji; Happy, tired, shock and my personal fave: Sick!
Having worked within sport development for a decade I could easily list all the benefits of an active lifestyle. That being said, when cancer strikes it is easy for exercise to drop off the ‘to do list’.
It is unlikely I will ever be an ambassador for Sweaty Betty but I do believe this shows a true picture of what exercising with cancer is really like. No make up, sweaty hairline and a white moustache – does anyone else get this when they workout? The hardest part is accepting that my body’s ability can change from day to day. On some days I will smash a HIIT session, on others it is an accomplishment to walk down the stairs.
After reviewing my collection of emojis I have realised another thing they all have in common and that is a sense of achievement. It may be cliche but it is true:
The only workout you’ll ever regret is the one you didn’t do!
As always, #FUCANCER
Cancer has been a part of my life for over 5 years now and regular followers of my blog will know how much I have relied on Maggie’s during that time. It really does make a difference to meet other people who understand what living with cancer is really like. The centres are safe places, very similar to a friend’s home opposed to the clinical setting you become so familiar with. The most important aspect is meeting others who simply ‘get it’!
At times my diagnosis has left me feeling ostricized. There are not a huge number of people who fully appreciate cancer limbo; agonising over appointments, tackling numerous side effects and struggling to maintain a social life whilst keeping the raging hormones at bay. There are even fewer people who are at a similar age and stage of life who fully understand how cancer touches every aspect of life. People who know how hard it is to be told that you’ll never have children or fulfil your career ambitions and worse.
On three occasions I have gone to events specifically for cancer survivors where participants have assumed I am either running the session or delivering a fitness class. This is probably because on all occasions I have been the youngest person in the room by at least two decades.
In September, the Funny Boy and I attended Meet and Move organised by Trekstock and hosted at the Maggie’s Centre in Edinburgh. Trekstock is a charity specifically targeting people in their 20s and 30s who are living with cancer. The event was described as being a day of wellbeing, getting active and meeting others who get it.
As eager as I am to participate in these events I always feel anxious, especially when you don’t know what to expect. We were greeted with a very warm welcome and a busy agenda. The day kicked off with a choice of yoga or circuits in the sunshine. We then regrouped in the centre to chat with the Maggie’s counsellors followed by a delicious lunch and nurtition session delivered by Kellie from Food to Glow. In the afternoon we discussed fashion with Cabi clothing and had an intro on skincare from LUSH.
It was an awesome day with lots on offer but the highlight had to be meeting the other participants. I didn’t feel like an alien anymore. Everyone knew what life with cancer is really like. We shared our journeys, compared our horror stories and even laughed at some of the shocking situations we have found ourselves in. There is nothing more validating then when you talk about what you’re going through and see people nodding because they understand. It was powerful!
The Funny Boy was the only male participant in the room but even he got a lot out of the day. He has now committed to a weekly face mask which I must say is doing wonders for his skin. And if you see him he will probably be rocking the French Tuck!
I would highly recommend Trekstock to all young adults living with cancer. For those of you based in Scotland, we have created a Facebook group for future meetings in Edinburgh. All of which include some form of physical activity. We are getting together on Saturday 30th November – please join the event or Facebook group by clicking the links below:
As always, FUCANCER
Hockey heroes and blog followers, you’ll have heard me talk about the amazing work of Maggie’s. STICK IT TO CANCER proudly continues to raise funds in aid of Maggie’s. I cannot express how much they have supported my family and I over the last 5 years. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: the care they offer is equally important as the cancer treatment itself!
Charles Jencks, husband and co-founder of Maggie’s passed away this week. We are so grateful to Maggie & Charles for everything they have done in leading the way people with cancer are supported. Our thoughts are with their family at this time.
As always, FUCANCER
Today is World Mental Health Day.
For a large part of 2019 I have found myself struggling to find the words to describe how I feel. If I was asked to narrow it down to three, they would have been failure, ashamed and empty. It took several months, a lot of support from the Funny Boy and more than one trip to my GP before I was finally able to admit something was wrong.
I am relieved to say that things have slowly started to improve but it didn’t happen overnight. Here are a few things which made the difference for me:
My doctor prescribed me with regular medication and since then I have started to see a Psychologist.
Talk, talk, talk
Being open and honest about my true feelings with friends and family has been the biggest help. It is through them I have come to fully appreciate that I am not alone and everyone experiences poor mental health. We need to break the taboo and recognise that mental health is equally important as physical!
Peace of Mind
Finding peace of mind has been a challenge. My life sometimes feels like a treadmill of appointments but learning how to fully switch off has been valuable. Personally, I find my peace when walking the dog. No phone, no music – just me, the sound of the birds and Parsnip’s little paws plodding on the path.
Physical Activity is a wonder drug!
If you could bottle all the benefits of exercise and put it on the shelf at your local shop – it would literally be sold out in seconds. Activity is so good for the body and soul. There are literally thousands of different ways to be active; sports, exercise classes, dancing and even walking! I find it incredible how something as simple as a stroll around the block can improve my mood and change the way I view the world.
Put it down on paper
On the difficult days when it feels like there are too many thoughts, I find it helps to do a brain dump. Physically writing the things that rotate in my mind can help me switch off. This really helps on the nights when I struggle to sleep.
A good friend of mine recently completed Mental Health Awareness training and shared the following video with me. I hope you find it as useful as I did.
‘Depression is sometimes referred to as the Black Dog. Just like a real dog, it needs to be embraced, understood, taught new tricks, and ultimately brought to heal.’
As always, FUCANCER
The Funny Boy and I attended Scottish Power’s Stand Up To Cancer Gala Dinner on Friday night. I had the pleasure and somewhat daunting task of sharing my cancer story. It was a fantastic evening hosted by Des Clarke with hilarious entertainment from Ria Lina, Larry Dean, Jamie Macdonald and Stuart Mitchell. I would highly recommend checking them out!
The event raised over £60k towards translational cancer research! I was amazed to learn that Scottish Power has raised £26m for Cancer Research UK in 7 years. Every corporate could learn from their example!
Raising funds and promoting cancer awareness are two of the few benefits my diagnosis has afforded me. Finding small positives is an awesome way of saying FUCANCER and it is good for the soul too. My belief is nobody has the power to change the world for everyone but everyone has the power to change the world for one person everyday. Whenever I have the opportunity to do something that makes a difference I always grab it with both hands. My project management skills transfer well into the world of fundraising and as for public speaking, well I wouldn’t say it is my forte but it is something I am working on.
We recently formed another committee working on a once in a lifetime event raising funds in aid of Cancer Research UK. We will be revealing more details in the coming months.
You don’t have to wear a lab coat to help beat cancer so if you’d like to STAND UP TO CANCER please visit the link below to find out how you can get involved!
On the 8th of April 2014 I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I was given a life expectancy of 2 years.
Since then I have become a proud puppy mum to Parsnip, married the love of my life, ticked a few life goals and raise funds for Maggie’s and Cancer Research UK. None of which would be possible without my incredible medical team! I had a card made for a few of the key people who have helped me get to where I am.
On the 30th September 2019 I was discharged from gynae-oncology. I have been in remission for 5 years. I may still have brain cancer but for now it is time to celebrate!
It has come to my attention that yesterday was World Gratitude Day. Despite a very challenging year I believe I am more thankful than ever!
My family, my friends, my medical team and Maggie’s are top of the list of who I’d like to show my appreciation for. I simply wouldn’t be where I am today without them. The reality is the list is a lot longer. I am grateful for the ingenious researchers who made my cancer treatment possible and the phenomenal NHS who I’ve become far too familiar. It’s quite apt that I am writing this blog from a hospital bed…
Unfortunately I had a seizure last night which resulted in another trip to A&E. Every trip to hospital, especially when visiting the emergency department, I feel like a drama queen wasting precious time and valuable resources. Once again I was reminded of how hardworking and caring the NHS team are. From James, the reassuring and thourough doctor who gifted me his banana as a snack, to the ever cheerful nurses who are always on hand and the super thoughtful porter who searched the wards to source me a toothbrush and toothpaste. They are simply amazing.
Following a CT scan, a good night sleep and a slight change to my medication I am happy to report that I am back home with lady Parsnip and the Funny Boy. I am not ashamed to admit that the only time I experience homesickness is whenever I am forced to stay in hospital.
With family living in Canada and a slight insight to the cost of medical treatment – I realise how much I take a funded health service for granted. Within the last 12 months alone I have required two operations, spent multiple nights in hospital and received several MRI and CT scans – the cost of which is more than tens of thousands of pounds. To put it simply, if I lived in another country I doubt I could afford to have cancer!
So in light of World Gratitiude Day I want to show my appreciation for everyone who lifts me up but especially the NHS. You are incredible. We are so lucky to have you. Thank you!
As always FUCANCER!
Cancer has been a part of my life for 5 years. In that time I have grown immune to the range of reactions people give:
“But you’re so young!”
“You must have a history of it in you’re family”
“But you’re back to normal now?”
And another common response is one of silence carried with a look of disbelief. I am an open person and frequently use my story as an opportunity to raise awareness. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t introduce myself as ‘I’m Heather and I have cancer’ but if the topic does come up in conversation I will reinforce how important it is to regularly check your boobs or balls, attend your screenings and go the GP if you do notice any changes. I do wish cancer wasn’t a part of my life but it is not something I am ashamed of. I think it is important to educate people that cancer does not discriminate which means we are all at risk. There is no history of it in my family and unfortunately life never goes back to ‘normal’.
Cancer has a huge impact on mental health and over the last few months I have really struggled. At first I thought it was just a blip – it has been a crazy year and at some point the emotions were due to catch up on me. After a gentle nudge from the Funny Boy I finally visited my GP. I explained how my mood was impacting my work, relationships and even preventing me from making simple decisions. She diagnosed me with depression and suggested I try taking an anti depressant. I left the surgery with my prescription and dismissed her diagnosis. I was stubborn and embarrassed – I had no intention of taking the medication.
Unsurprisingly my situation didn’t improve. I felt like I had failed at everything and even started questioning ‘what’s the point?’ Once again the Funny Boy intervened. We booked another appointment with my GP and planned a trip to Maggie’s. I was honest with my doctor and admitted I hadn’t started the medication. At both meetings I explained how ashamed I felt – I wasn’t prepared to accept or admit that I was depressed.
Thankfully, with the support of my GP, Maggie’s and Funny Boy I started to take the medication and see a psychologist. More importantly they gave me the courage to start talking about my mental health with my family and friends.
According to statistics 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. Or to put it another way at some point pretty much everybody will experience poor mental health in their lifetime – so why is it still a taboo?
Why did I fear telling people?
Why was I so scared of being judged?
And why, why, why do I find it easier to say i have cancer than admit I have depression?
I am definitely beginning to feel better but it hasn’t happened overnight. For me everything began to improve when I admitted there was a problem and I started being honest with my nearest and dearest. The reality is my family and friends have shown me nothing but love, support and understanding.
As always, FUCANCER!
Three months on from my last check up at the hospital and on the surface everything appears to be going well; I am back at work on a phased return and the preparations for the Junior and Adult STICK IT TO CANCER (SITC) hockey festivals are well underway. I feel like the human equivalent of the swan analogy – I may appear graceful and contained to the outside world, but below the surface I am furiously paddling.
It is no secret or surprise that cancer has a huge impact on mental well-being. I have always been open about how I felt following my diagnosis in 2014. The range of emotions included fear, anxiety, loss of confidence and in hindsight a total loss of identity. Life as I knew it was gone and I had to find a ‘new normal.’ I have worked hard over the last 5 years to ensure cancer does not define me or hold me back and during that time I have definitely grown as a result. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr ‘The Ultimate measure of man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy’.
It feels like the dust has began to settle on what has been a very demanding year and it is only now that I am adapting to the ramifications of another new normal. Despite a reduced visual field and weakness on the left side of my body, I have accepted the physical changes. It is the emotional impact that requires more tender loving care.
As a result of my seizures I had to surrender my driving license and kiss my beloved car goodbye. Making plans now includes debating if I have enough energy to endure an hour-long bus journey into the city before my day even starts. Simple things like meeting a friend for lunch and playing hockey have become a logistical conundrum. Having spent months relying on the Funny Boy and Buggernuts as chauffeur I am starting to find my independence, but it is not easy. I don’t want to be an imposition, and I struggle to ask for help which means I feel isolated.
Due to our circumstance the Funny Boy and I have lost all hope of having a little human family of our own. I am yet to fully admit how this really feels. Anger, failure and broken-hearted are the words that come to mind. I suspect it something we may never get over, but I am hopeful it is something we will come to terms with in time.
Overall, I’ve been a useless human lately. I have focused all my vigour into returning to work and preparing for Stick it to Cancer. I have skipped meals and even forgot to take my meds. I seem to have lost sight of what is important. As you can imagine a hungry Heather minus her daily dose of hormone pills is not someone you’d want to live with. As a wife I have more baggage than the average airport terminal. I am a nightmare and the Funny Boy deserves so much more.
Further treatment is inevitable. It is an overwhelming prospect and I would be lying if I said it doesn’t bother me. Quite often I think about how to prepare myself for what lies ahead but the reality is I can’t. Nobody really know what the future holds. The only thing I can do is start taking better care of myself so when the time comes I am physically, mentally and emotionally ready to fight.
So maybe I do appear calm and collected whilst deep down I fight fiercely to keep moving forward but I wouldn’t compare myelf to a swan. Most swans take a strong dislike towards Parsnip and if I can’t have human babies then I guess there is nothing to stop me from adopting another dacshund. Every cloud…
As always #FUCANCER