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!!
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?
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…
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.
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
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!
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.
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!
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!
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…
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!
Today’s blog is written by one of my nearest and dearest friends. I met Brando through work three years ago. He was the type of colleague you look at and think ‘Wow! I want to be like him. How does he do it all?’ Little did I know that my inspiring colleague would soon become one of my best friends! There is a popular quote which advises ‘Surround yourself with those who are going to lift you higher’ and Brando is testament to that. He has literally stood by me through life’s biggest highs and it’s darkest lows – and on all occasions has successfully managed to make me giggle. Here is Brando’s experience of FUCancer.
7 things you learn when your best friend gets cancer
The day you find out your best friend has cancer is not one that you forget very easily. Having logged a ‘working from home day’, I was still in bed when the call came. Heather hadn’t been feeling great, alongside spouts of grumpiness (which had we’d all put down to the usual ‘hangry’). I still remember the tone in Heather’s voice as she spoke the words ‘I have cancer’. It was formal, shocked and not how I knew my friend to talk. I know it was because the pain of saying the words was hard and the only way she could say them. To this day I am so proud that she was the one to tell me and found the strength to utter those awful word.
This blog comes after the first, of many, Cancerverseries where everyone can’t help in celebrating the amazing achievements of Mrs Heather Duff, Funnyboy and Parsnip the Wanderdug. When Heather asked me to write this blog my instant thoughts were to write something, akin to an obituary, which told the World Wide Web how amazing my friend is, how amazing a women she is and an inspiration to those around her. I quickly scraped that idea and instead I want to share things I’ve learnt over the last year, some of them our secrets, some of them our coping mechanisms, and some of them purely hilarious (well to me anyway). So these are my lessons….
The world doesn’t fall away
When I first got that news from Heather, I thought I would feel a sense of loss and grief as if the floor was going to fall away. In fact, the opposite happened. The future warped and changed, the landscape looked different, but there was still a future and that was all that would be acceptable. Discussions about the future, fuelled by gin and prosecco, continue including adopting Jamaican babies, inspiring the world as TED speakers, weddings, houses and micro pigs (soon to become micro dogs). You may read this an think me naïve, but not once did I think there was any future without Heather, in fact the Big C meant that a new future was coming and it was going to be epiC!
People you count as family doubles…
For those regular to the blog you will know Heather talks a lot about her family, so it will be unsurprising that they are awesome! What I never realised when that phone call came through was how much I would fall absolutely in love with them all. From the brothers who gave me abuse from the first time they met me to Buggernuts who stayed up drinking at the wedding until he gave himself carpet burns from a wooden floor. Also, receiving the wrath of Iceberg when she found out I was moving to London and we had snuck Parsnip into the wedding – only joking Alma 🙂 !!
You become more thoughtful than you ever thought possible
Now without drawing out gender stereotypes with this one, as a man, I thought that talking about someone else’s vagina would be considerably difficult, not to mention the emotional hurricane that came around it. For me the moment I realised that I had changed and became more thoughtful was following the initial all clear, or Day Zero, and for 181 days after I kept a note of a word, a phrase or a prayer. I realised that writing down that positive thought, or wish, or inspirational line helped me to untie the knot in my stomach worrying that the big C was going to come back. For 181 days, between day 0 and the first six month scan, I captured those positive thoughts sending them out to the universe. Following the all clear I wrapped them individually in a box to send to Heather, it was her turn to write for six months, I’m pretty sure she hasn’t been keeping them up but that box got me through the first six months and Heather knows where that box is if she ever needs it.
Frozen or any other Disney film become essential viewing
‘Do you want to build a snowman?’ had always been code for checking in and making contact. After April, Frozen came with its own deflate button. Often when together or apart the song lyrics to ‘Let it go’ or the snowman song would bring a smile! I was found too many times singing in my terrible voice through whatsapp to try and make Heather smile, I’m sure it worked half the time.
Singing becomes a therapeutic tool to manage the rage!
Singing in the car with the music turned up to top volume is one of the most therapeutic things anyone can do, even better with your bestie! Wither that is 8am in the morning to get ready for the day, screaming ‘Let it Go’ down the road or distressing the pre-wedding jitters to ‘time of your life’ (with the local coos and family giving us some strange looks).
Mutual Hatred for bell-ends…
Any best friend knows that there are unwritten rules relating to loyalty, protectiveness, and fiercely standing up for them. Sometimes this fires up out of nowhere, sometimes its deep and long seeded, or it’s a brutal dragon then causes smoke from the nose. So bell-ends of various forms from the mutes, to the awkwards, to the downright idiotic will forever be on a naughty list (Santa told me)
You can’t say no to some crazy crazy ideas
Now I’m a big big advocate of the C card, allowing anyone going through what Heather went through the ability to drop the C word and get whatever they wanted some good things, some frivolous like free cake to important things like a decent parking spot. However, I never imagined that the C card would include me getting drawn into some crazy adventures. These have included a Made in Chelsea inspired appearance on a proposal video, including optional boxer sniffing, getting Heather to the actual proposal venue, with Brando induced hangover (sorry Gordon), and walking a sausage dog down the aisle! If this is some of the crazy stuff that’s happened in just the last year I can wait for what’s coming!
But the final and only important thing I learnt was that Mrs Heather Duff is an unbelievable individual, whose character cannot be measured by us mere mortals. The things that she will achieve are going to change the world!
I launched my blog with the title ‘The marathon I didn’t sign up for…’ and although I am not quite at the end (yet) it hasn’t stopped me looking for the next challenge! This week I found out I was successful in getting a spot for the London Marathon! I am delighted to be joining the team of runners who are participating on behalf of Cancer Research UK.