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Don’t Stop Me Now

Surprisingly, our team didn’t take home the title of Best Dressed but we did win the Wooden Spoon!

Funny Boy here, I felt compelled to step in and write a blog because I don’t think Heather will reveal what happened last week…

It has been a very busy summer for Heather. Not satisfied with organising the annual STICK IT TO CANCER (SITC) tournament, she took on the challenge of organising 2 additional events.

In between the hockey festivals we flew to Canada to celebrate the wedding of Heather’s brother, Gareth and the lovely Katie. It was an incredible trip and we returned refreshed, if slightly jet lagged.

We arrived at 9am on Monday morning and from the moment our flight landed Heather opened her TO DO LIST for the final Stick It To Cancer tournament.

Heather works on STICK IT TO CANCER throughout the year. She has a GANTT chart, a mood board and is constantly considering new opportunities to improve the event and ultimately raise more funds. I, too had been preparing for SITC – My preparations started about 6 months ago.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with SITC, it is a fancy dress hockey festival. The tournament offers prizes for the Champions, Best Dressed and Spirit of Stick it. Determined to be a contender for Best Dressed I decided to dress as one of my all time heroes – Mr Freddie Mercury. In order for it to be convincing I knew I needed to grow a beard for the sole reason of having a real moustache. So as of January my prep began.

I knew Heather wasn’t fully on board with my new look. As Gareth’s wedding drew closer she said to me “the photos from the wedding will be around a long time, are you sure you want to look like that?”

I considered what she said, but while Heather had been making spreadsheets, recruiting volunteers, contacting donors and managing social media I had been doing my prep; pushing the follicles out of my face was hard work.

The eve of STICK IT TO CANCER arrived. Heather and I woke early with a busy schedule of moving equipment, setting up the pitches and one final shopping trip. When we finally arrived home I knew we wouldn’t be going out again. I decided it was time to kiss the beard goodbye and style my Mercury moustache. I stole Heather’s mascara and blackened my new tash and eyebrows. It’s fair to say the results were ridiculous; My hair bleached blonder than usual from my two weeks in the Canadian sun contrasting with my new matt black moustache and eyebrows.

The preparations were complete and Heather seemed happy so there was nothing left to do but relax. We snuggled up on the sofa with Parsnip and put on the TV.

All of a sudden Heather sat up and repeatedly told me she felt dizzy. She was conscious and talking but as she got up to walk her coordination was missing. She continued talking but nothing she said made sense. It t took me a good few minutes to realise that Heather was having a seizure.

So it is 11pm on the night before SITC and I had no choice but to take her to hospital.

It took Heather about an hour before she started to feel better. She couldn’t remember how she got to hospital or indeed anything in between.

As usual the staff at St John’s hospital were amazing. They spent a few hours performing various tests on Heather. As she started feeling better and began to realise what day it was Heather quickly focussed on the hockey tournament (which was due to start in a number of hours) and started pleading with the doctors to let her go. SITC is arguably one of the biggest days of the year for us, Heather was desperate to be there.

Heather has a team of amazing volunteers and a committee that help with planning the tournament, but she is responsible for a lot of what happens on the day.

I had the startling realisation that if I had to lead the event on her behalf then the only work I had done was growing a moustache. This leads me onto another point: Once again I am back at St John’s hospital in the early hours of the morning supporting Heather. This Accident and Emergency Department is now the scene of just a few of my less-than-proud moments; passing out and cracking my head open was pretty spectacular and on another occasion I vomited all over the back of an ambulance. The staff seem to remember us but thankfully on this occasion I did not faint or feel the need to be sick.

Determined to be a good husband and leave with a good reputation this time, I stuck by Heather’s side. Unfortunately the seizure left Heather unsteady on her feet so I escorted her to the toilet. Within the cubicle I glanced in the mirror and to my horror saw a slightly altered looking reflection staring back. A small peely wally bloke with very blonde hair, black eyebrows and a large black handlebar moustache.

Once again, I looked like a total muppet.

Back in the hospital bay and after completing the numerous tests the consultants agreed Heather could return home, provided she was with a responsible adult. The doctor’s tone suggested this was more of a question, rather than an acknowledgement of my presence. I then explained the reason for my strange appearance to which he replied “I did wonder what that was all about”.

We left the hospital at 3 am.

The next morning we were up at 6.30am and set off as planned. Heather insisted on going but I did make her promise that she would go straight back to hospital if she felt unwell.

Then Heather did what she always does, she threw her cape over her shoulder and flew over to East Fettes Avenue. Nobody at SITC would know that her super powers had been temporarily affected by a dose of kryptonite the night before.

Being a fancy dress tournament there were a lot of people dressed as super heroes. Little did they know a real one was selling their raffle tickets, making the day run on time, oh and raising over £10,000 for Maggie’s!

Plans for 2020 are already underway. If you would like to be part of STICK IT TO CANCER next year please follow FUCANCER to be kept updated on all the events.

#MeAndMyDogSelfie

October is #Standuptocancer month – please help us bring forward the day where we find a cure for cancer by posting a #meandmydogselfie and texting PARSNIP to 70404 to donate £5 to Stand Up To Cancer UK which funds lifesaving research.

Don’t have a dog? Cats, rabbits, lizards or even a cuddly little toy? The more the merrier! Please share with your friends – Join us and STAND UP TO CANCER!!

#FUCANCER

Two steps forward, one step back

You might think by now I would have formulated an easy way to break this news, a magic method  to avoid  the shock or  prevent  the sting but of all the things cancer  has taught me – and believe me, the list is vast – to no avail it has not equipped me with best method of letting  people know – I have a new tumour.

I am going to keep this short and simple: On review of my scans the doctors have found a new tumour located on the other side of my brain. As a result I will be returning to hospital at the start of December for another Craniotomy.

Now for the good news. The location of this tumour makes the operation more straight forward and  presents fewer risks. It won’t be an awake craniotomy which means I won’t be wrecking anymore hospital equipment.

Personally, the worst part of cancer continues to be  the stress and worry it causes the ones I love. Yesterday was a familiar feeling – a series of phone calls and conversations with my nearest and dearest as I played the role of messenger delivering more bad news. It breaks my heart but the love I feel makes me even more determined to continue saying FUCANCER!

As I prepared myself for Wednesday’s appointment and imagined every possible outcome – I was not prepared for the news of a new tumour. Of course it is a huge shock but as I left the hospital I did feel hopeful.  You might expect I would be left feeling deflated after such news, as if I am taking two steps forward, one step back  but my surgeon took the time to reassure me of the strength he has seen in me – literally and figuratively! So much so, I was half expecting him to hand me a bill for this fancy brace I supposedly damaged,  instead he presented me with the action plan and  I was armed  with my timeline for the next steps and feeling empowered with the knowledge that I am capable to tackle it head on.

As I continue to recover from my recent surgery I can feel myself getting stronger each day. My focus remains the same: Get strong: get fit and  say FUCANCER. Yes, there is a new hurdle but the finish line  hasn’t changed. Speaking of sport – it is with great delight that I have not only been given the ok to start exercising but my surgeon has actively encouraged me to return to hockey! He believes  it will be an excellent form of rehab! So next week I’ll be dusting off my stick and returning to the friendliest hockey club in Scotland’s capital!! How is that for some good news?

As always, FUCANCER

 

Mini meltdown

Well, we knew it was coming but yesterday I had my first post-op melt down.

It is now two weeks since I had my awake craniotomy and overall I am doing as well as can be expected.  In all honesty I feel absolutely exhausted and the prospect of writing a blog seemed more challenging than cathartic. I have attempted to vlog, but reviewing my efforts I think I need to focus on my speech therapy before I feel comfortable speaking in front of a camera… then again perhaps Vlogging would be a good form of  therapy? Aside from  the pretty impessive scar I am now boasting, there are a couple of major changes…

Reduced sensation

Thankfully I am able to move and control my left hand side – this was one of the biggest risks we faced so i am already feeling like a winner that I can move, walk and talk independently. However I have a numb sensation running down the length of my body. It is akin to the feeling when you receive anaesthesia  at the dentist. This does present a few challenges such as eating, speaking and a very slow response to extreme temperatures (i.e. If I am holding a scolding cup of tea my right hand is compensating for its sleepy counterpart).

I am relying on friends and loved ones to notify me if I have food on the edge of my mouth which is now  a common occurrence. Dribbling is another not so-sexy- side effect. As I sat doing my jigsaw puzzle I couldn’t understand how Parsnip’s wee head had got so wet whilst she slept on my lap -turns out her head was directly in the firing line of my saliva..

 

I regret to say my sense of taste has been butchered – food and drink don’t taste like they should which has induced a few hangry incidents.

Cognitive function

As I said at the start, overall I am doing pretty well – I am walking the dog, visiting the shops, more than capable of feeding and washing myself, but there are odd episodes where I find myself questioning what is going on. For example, whilst in the hospital; I went to the loo, locked the cubicle, sat down and took down my trousers but something didn’t seem quite right… It was then I realised I had forgotten to take down my knickers before relieving myself. Thank goodness it was only  a number one and as my mum says – my Lacey thongs don’t have much substance so it wasn’t a huge disaster. Upon returning to my bed and disposing said thong, I confided in my nurse who reassured me:

“If that is the wort thing that happens whilst you’re recovering from brain surgery i’d  say you are doing really well”

Basically  everything requires more energy and brain power which ultimately leaves me feeling fatigued. Don’t feel sorry for me though – if you want to offer sympathy to anyone, send it to the poor funny boy who is currently living with an adult toddler. Our daily conversation goes something like this…

FB:”Heather, I think  it might be Time for your nap…”

Me *Whilst sobbing* “I don’t need a nap….”

FB: ‘are you sure? You seem a little emotional…”

Me *still sobbing* “I was watching the bake off and it made me sad…Rahul bakes to meet friends…”

So, what triggered my meltdown? 

Ever since we found out about surgery I was told by pretty much every nurse and specialist;

’at some point you will be upset about your hair. It will get you, you will cry’

I assumed this would be at the unveiling of my scar. Truth be told when I first saw it – I was impressed. How did they manage to create  a huge scar whilst leaving me with most of my hair? (Another reason Mr Liaquat is a legend!) but, yes unfortunately they were right.

In celebration of Buggernuts aka my dad completing his monster March which saw him successfully complete monthly 10kfor a full year whilst raising over £1k for maggie’s Cancer Centres, we decided to go out for dinner.  Due to the wound I can only use baby shampoo which is leaving my hair feeling very greasy – combine that with the stubble around the scar i’m Not so amused by my barnet and trying to work our how to rock my new hairdo whilst out at a restaurant provoked a mini meltdown. True to form – I was quickly rescued by the Funny Boy and Iceberg, who between them adopted the YouTube link below and fashioned a silk scarf into something quite acceptable.

So, before I sign off and go for my nap – don’t worry i am not sobbing (GBBO isn’t back on until tomorrow)but  if anyone can offer some simple ways to wear a headscarf or if any fashionistas can recommend what headwear would suit my square-shaped face then please get in touch

as always #FUCANCER

 

 

 

Initial thoughts…

Since Monday morning I have had the same song from The Greatest Showman stuck on repeat at the back of my mind…

 

’I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

It is FUCANCER Friday and what a week it has been. Technically on day 4 post op and I am feeling way better than expected. First, please excuse the following update as I am sure it will be littered with grammatical and spellling errorss however I am not apologising  because the fact i am able to write this gives cause for celebration!

So, as the Funny Boy implied everything didn’t go quite as planned – On account of me literally breaking free from a 3 point 60lb brace. According to my surgeon in 20 years he has only seen this achieved 3 times and I’m the first female. Admittedly this is not a title I had hoped for. I  was really angry and disappointmed in myself when I found out – I wanted to play by the book and had rehearsed the steps in my mind in the days and hours leading up to the operation but the main thing is that my surgeon is happy if not a little amazed at my brute strength!

The days here are highlighted with visits from family, friends and my number one sidekick Parsnip. So how am I feeling? I can hear a frequent clicking in my head which I’m told is the sound of my skull knitting itself back together. Every time I hear it I have an image of the grannies from the shreddies advert working away in there.

The fantastic news is I can control my left hand side – Overall mobility is good but basic tasks like. Speaking, eating and brushing my teeth are challenging and require more brain power and concerted effort. I have reduced sensation on my left so response to temperature and my ability to grasp is slightly diminished but i am in no way complaining- for a first step I’m already higher than i expected to be. I’m very weak with a lop-sided smile and slurred speech but that will improve. Plus I have an awesome new scar! So initial thoughts from me…. the medical team here deserve the greatest gifts this earth has to offer – I have no idea how I am going to show my appreciation  to  Mr Liaquat, Sue, the many many, many nurses  and all the therapists too.  Mr Liaquat (my surgeon) is my new hero and at the next FUCancer event we will be cheering for him and his heroic team!

I feel so incredibly lucky to be alive. The reality is now hitting me – rehab will require the 3 months advised. Speech therapy has begun and I’m working my way through tongue twisters I doubt I could have achieved even before Monday but I am looking forward… Looking forward to going home  getting strong.

Thanks for all the amazing messages and huge apologies for the less than coherent replies. Reviewing my sent items proves my brain is not working at its optimum!

FUCANCER

 

 

 

 

 

Ups & Downs

I frequently nag the Funny Boy for over-indulging in Sky Movies and Box Sets. He is a big fan of America’s Next Top Model whereas I couldn’t care less. I believe I could easily live without TV but, as he regularly reminds me, I am guilty of nurturing an addiction to social media. Anyone who follows my instagram will be all too familiar with pictures of Parsnip and I dare say anyone who is a friend on Facebook and Twitter will know what SITC stands for.

For me social media is a necessary evil. It allows me to keep in touch with friends far and wide, it permits me to promote my fundraising plans and I am pretty sure it is how you (the person reading this now) has come to view my blog. It’s all promotion of some sort, and like many others I am very guilty of only portraying the bits I like. Take the most recent Festive Season for example. You’ll easily find the photo I shared of me on New Year’s Eve when I’m dressed to the nines with a full face of make up but you will struggle to find the pic of me on Christmas Day when I was fighting the flu.

When I started this blog four years ago I described it as being a ‘brutally honest insight’ to what life is like living with and beyond cancer. Granted, I didn’t think I would be dealing with a second diagnosis but the sentiment remains: I want to be honest.

It has been six weeks since I was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Although I continue to be very open with my words – I have carefully selected when to ‘vlog’. This has largely been dependant on when I have thought tentatively about what I want to share and timed to ensure I have mascara on and at least some decent lighting.

It is all too easy to share the pictures when I am on top of the mountain or kayaking with a postcard-perfect view in the background but revealing the down days that #FUCANCER brings is a challenge. I don’t need pity or sympathy, nor do I seek it. But I do want to provide insight so hopefully people can understand the emotional roller coaster cancer takes you on. More importantly, I want it to provide hope to others who are facing a challenge. Be it cancer, mental health or whatever. You are not alone.

So the vlog below is exactly what I hoped my blog would be: ‘brutally honest’! No make up, no notes, no agenda. Just exactly how I am feeling. A little scared, very vulnerable and unsure of what the future holds.

#FUCANCER

Hockey Heather is BACK!

It has been over a year since my last entry and several years since I updated this space regularly. There have been a number of developments lately which has given me the inspiration to resurrect the blog if only for a little while.

Following treatment I really struggled with pain in my pelvis and chronic fatigue. Completing the marathon in 2016 was not only a huge achievement but a big struggle. On crossing the finish line I found myself battling one infection after the other – a sign perhaps on maybe taking it on too soon. That being said I wouldn’t change it for the world. It was an incredible experience. However, it did convince that returning to hockey was impossible. The prospect of training and weekly fixtures seemed out of reach.

In Spring 2017, one year after completing the London Marathon, I noticed a change. The sluggish fatigue was beginning to subside and I found myself beginning to have more energy. Simple tasks which would assume my full effort were easier and slowly but surely I began to feel stronger! As summer rolled in and I was surrounded by my extended hockey family at STICK IT TO CANCER* I decided that this was the time – the time to dust off my stick, re-mould my mouth-guard and get back on the pitch!

Although I felt strong in body, it was now my mind which needed the encouragement. It had been nearly four years since I had played the game. Rules were different, the club I had once been a member of had a number of new faces and despite being 31 – the idea of being the new kid brought the usual anxieties! I can’t remember myself ever being that nervous going to a training session – but I knew this would be the hardest part.

To you, it may not seem like a big deal but for me this has been a huge step in my recovery! I am absolutely delighted to share that yesterday I completed my first full season back on the hockey pitch.  Rewind a couple of years I never thought this would be possible! Big shout out to the club for being so welcoming, my  team – the ESM Ladies 1s,  our coach Steve who’s one piece of advice was always  ‘Enjoy it’ and to Anna Kelner who texted me throughout the 3 years encouraging me to come back!  Thanks for everything and bring on Hockey Season 2018/19! I can’t wait – Hockey Heather is back!!

*STICK IT TO CANCER is a fun, friendly, fancy dress 7s hockey festival raising funds in aid of the Maggie’s Centre in Edinburgh. For more information please click HERE and be sure to share with your extended hockey family!

#FUCANCER

To Thrive

I am not quite sure where the time has gone but according to my calendar it is only 5 weeks until the London Marathon.

This will be my second marathon. The challenge seems far more imposing on this occasion largely due to the fact my body is still acclimatizing to the changes post cancer treatment. Unbelievable to think here I am – 1 year, 6 months, 3 weeks and 4 days in remission – and I still get pelvic pain, I still get the waves of fatigue and for about a month now I have returned to the symptoms of menopause. It appears my Hormone Replacement Therapy is no longer doing the job it is supposed. Cue hot flushes, achy joints, fluctuating moods and poor memory. Although according to the Funny Boy my fluctuating moods is nothing new!(RUDE!) As many women will agree, menopause is uncomfortable on a physical and emotional level. Personally I find it very socially awkward too! In a meeting surrounded by colleagues or partners there is nothing more embarrassing when you begin to feel the wave of heat tingle in your toes before it rises through your body. It courses through like an unstoppable force until it reaches the tell-tale point – the face. A red glow descends itself from the visible chest, neck and like an almighty crescendo ends in a beady brow and sweaty lip. The horrid sensation lasts the perfect amount of time for two things to happen: First you feel the urgent need to strip all unnecessary layers. Failure to do so, could lead to spontaneous combustion (or so the sensation dictates)! And secondly, the visible impact remains with enough time for the people you are with to look at you curiously or worse still, point out the red looking rash which crawls up your neck! I have never been so keen to welcome Spring.  Until the doctors can sort out my HRT tights have been banished, light layers adopted and for the foreseeable future I’ll be residing next to any form of desktop fan or open window!

The impact of this on training has led to some light headed runs. The kind where you start to see bright dots dance in front of your eyes like a cloud of flies. As ever though, this – the early onset of menopause – is a small price to pay to be here today. I am constantly reminded how lucky I am and with the news of two of my best mates getting engaged then there really isn’t a better time to be alive and kicking! Whilst out running recently I began to think about one of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou:

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.

At the end of the run I said to myself I am not entering the London Marathon as a Cancer Survivor. I am entering the race as a cancer thriver! So if you fancy supporting a cancer thriver please head to my Just Giving page by clicking here. Thank you!

#FUCancer

'I'm still hot...'
‘I’m still hot…’

Project 30: Funny Family Home

Three years, two months and twenty eight days ago I moved to Edinburgh. Within that time I have experienced some of life’s greatest highs and challenging lows: The loss of two family members, infertility and cancer (not to mention all the incessant drama that follows). But, in that time I have been blessed through making a whole new posse of people I am proud to call my friends. I have had two jobs which I not only enjoy but has taught me an incredible amount and shown me where I want to go next. I met a funny boy who brought a funny dog into our lives. He is now my funny husband which means we are now a funny family. All of which has happened in the last two years! Crazy to think where a whole month of saying yes can lead… 😉 So, today my Funny Family and I waved goodbye to our Edinburgh address and ventured into West Lothian. We are officially residents of Winchburgh Village! In doing so, I have successfully ticked off another item of Project 30! Huge thank you to all our friends and family in helping us get here (especially Gary & Kerry) You’re all welcome anytime…

#FUCancer

   

I love receiving post. Arriving at your new home with a card waiting for you from one of your oldest and closest friends has got to be the best yet! Even better than receiving a letter from Shout magazine saying we were getting a makeover… cheers!