Tag Archives: cancer

Buckaroo to Boxing

By the time I was born my home was already outnumbered by men. With two older brothers and a rock steady dad I have been blessed (haunted) with three strong male role models my whole life. A couple of months ago my brother Gareth shared his journey with #FUCancer. This week Buggernuts takes the spotlight. And for those who are not familiar with who or what a ‘Buggernuts’ is – he is my one and only dad:

Descending from Welsh and Cornish stock, it would be safe to say  that my pedigree is Celtic in nature. This can mean I am volatile, slightly self-deprecating and hugely sentimental to the point of being maudlin. The sense of hiraeth – understood by so many Welshmen – is especially emphasised in those of us who are deemed to be ex-pats, so much so it can be over-powering. Crying, therefore, comes naturally to me even at my exalted age. There is no rhyme or reason when the throat will tighten and the tears roll; obvious times like the birth of a child or grandchild, the death of a close family member or friend are balanced by witnessing an unheralded act of kindness, a display of sportsmanship, the last night of a school show or the end of something really meaningful can all cause me to swallow hard, develop a lump in  the throat and the eyes to redden. Indeed as I write this I have just returned from accompanying my three-year old grandson…well, nearly four……to  his first rugby international, passing over the family baton as it were. I have had a very fortunate life – a loving wife, three great kids, two marvellous grandsons and an extended family of which I am inordinately proud. My family share my love of sport. My two sons and I chat on a level playing field about rugby and cricket and rugby and football and rugby and athletics and also rugby. We have been involved in the sport at various levels over a considerable passage of time. I also have a daughter!

Heather and I have a close relationship built around polar opposites; if I say white she will answer black; if I say yes she will say no and if I suggest in she will respond with out. You get the picture. We are also very competitive and the ten days we spent together in Fuerteventura were metaphorically quite bloody. Tennis, table tennis, pool, putting, paddle boarding were all undertaken with a bitter edge with no quarter asked or given. However there is also a trust and an understanding which exists between us. Needless to say I am extremely proud of her, even more so as, competition notwithstanding, she frequently asks for my thoughts, views, opinions and ideas on the important matters in her life. She will listen and appreciate my honesty and candour regardless of whether they conflict with hers or not. I am comfortable pointing out flaws and pitfalls in her projects knowing that they will not be taken as criticism but as a helpful and constructive insight. However, Heather has made me cry! I cried when she told me of her selection to play hockey for Scotland at age group level; I cried when I saw her take the field against Ireland. I cried when I saw her in her wedding dress (what father wouldn’t!) and I cried making THAT speech which, as dads we all hope to make one day but strangely, in our heart of hearts, don’t really want to. If friends and family are to be believed I cried throughout that day as I had at Owains’s wedding some years earlier.

I did not cry at Heather’s diagnosis. Heather was obviously shaken but she was also strong, matter of fact, committed, driven and was challenging me to be the same. As Angela has said Heather was making it easier for all of us. Tears were not what was wanted, I had a role to play, admittedly a subordinate one made up of driving, carrying, hurrying up and waiting. It is a role all father’s play but in this case the focus was sharper, more intense. Sometimes I wasn’t very good, to the point where Heather implored my wife not to leave me alone with her; other times I was great like the day I supported her carrying the Queen’s Baton around Leith. Curiously these two days are separated by twenty-four hours! But I didn’t cry! Heather gave me the inner strength to face the situation head on. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
I did cry when I first heard she was in remission and will continue so to do. In the meantime I will do my damnedest to beat her at everything I can – from Scrabble to skittles, tiddly winks to tennis, Buckaroo to boxing. Heather wouldn’t expect anything less!

Competitive Buggernuts Buggernuts loves doughnuts Buggernuts or David Attenborough

Dream Big!

It has been an exciting week for #FUCancer…

Over the past 18 months I was thrust into a world where cancer has been a daily topic of conversation. I have a new found respect for the wonders of science, the importance of early screening and long term effects of treatment. I have learnt about the numerous charities which work tirelessly to not only deliver the above but strive to support everyone affected by cancer. Their amazing efforts has inspired me to ask myself: What can I do?

My time spent at WSLA reminded me to dream big and go beyond my comfort zone. This week marks the first step of making my #FUCancer dream a reality after I was selected for the Social Innovator Incubator Award from the Melting Pot. I am beyond grateful for this huge opportunity which will help me develop and explore my vision for #FUCancer and ultimately help a lot of people! I currently feel super inspired and excited for what lies ahead…

Dream it!
Believe it!
Achieve it!

#FUCancer

Dream BIG!
Dream BIG!

Project 30: Get a selfie with a celebrity


What better way to celebrate my 1st cancerversary than by ticking an item off Project 30. Here is how it happened:

Please note the following video contains bad language

In addition to an unforgettable experience Adam bought me a bottle of wine to say congratulations! Not only is he a brilliant comedian but a wonderfully kind and generous guy.

#FUCancer

Cancerversary Gifts

#FUCancer on the Radio

On Thursday this week I had the huge pleasure of speaking with Shereen Nanjiani about my journey with #FUCancer and Project 30. This was a great opportunity to raise awareness of how difficult life is in remission. I was overwhelmed to receive so many supportive messages, in particular from men and women who had been through a similar experience. In case you missed it please check out the link below:

#FUCancer on the Radio

Next on the Project 30 Calender is ‘bag a Munro’ which I plan on doing next weekend with my besties! Fingers crossed the weather improves!

#FUCancer

 

The day I said ‘I do’

Today is my birthday. Despite overcoming the tail end of flu and being riddled with guilt for missing another event I organised through work, it has been a great day: the Funny Boy and Parsnip woke me with breakfast in bed and array of generous gifts.

As today marks my 29th birthday I am now on a tight schedule to complete Project 30. In all honesty I had hoped to have ticked a few more off the list by now but I am confident (and excited) to see where it takes me. Here is an update of how it is going so far:

1. Take in the Northern Lights
2. Ride a Motorbike
3. Plan an A to Z Roadtrip i.e. Visit Anstruther, go to the Beach, play Cricket
4. Complete the 30 day photo challenge Check
5. Learn a new skill: juggling In progress
6. Try scuba diving
7. Appear on TV
8. Enjoy an authentic breakfast in New York City
9. Watch Sunrise & Sunset in the same spot
10. Get a tattoo with my Mum Check
11. Fundraise for Maggie’s and Cancer Research UK Ongoing
12. Complete another Marathon
13. Plan a camping holiday with the Funny Boy and Parsnip
14. Get something I have written published
15. Plant a tree and visit it from time to time
16. Write 30 letters to 30 people
17. Scare myself by jumping out of a plane aka skydive!
18. Try a new sport (suggestions welcome)  Try THIRTY new sports
19. Send a message in a bottle
20. Say “I do” in front of my friends and family Check – see below!
21. Buy my first home
22. Read Shakespeare In Progress
23. Meet an exotic animal in it’s natural habitat Check 
24. Host a fancy dress themed party
25. Get a selfie with a celebrity
26. Go on a family holiday
27. Travel First Class
28. Bag a Munro
29. Complete another hockey season
30. Make a Project 30 Scrapbook

As I look back on my 28th year I have a accrued a number of highlights including an awesome hen party, unfortgettable honeymoon and attending WSLA but the number one has to be the day I said ‘I do’. Here is a snapshot of the best day of my life… so far!!

I look forward to the adventures, lessons and memories that lie ahead… Bring on 29!

#FUCancer and today #FUFlu

NUVU Photography
NUVU Photography

 

Minging

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog at 2am but the badly behaved bowels are back and to make matters worse I am choked with the cold. I’m feeling suitably tired and the weather isn’t helping. It’s July and today I wore a jumper, jacket, boots and woolly hat to walk the dog. In the words of a true weegie ‘the weather is minging’ and my mood isn’t much better.

Everyone has low weeks. It appears this would be my turn for one. It would be very easy for me to use this space to rave about Project 30 and share the reflections I have been gifted through this process but it would be dishonest of me to not share moments like today. Days where I simply feel overwhelmed, angry and out of control. I have an internal battle where my head is saying ‘you should be over this by now! Get yourself together’ and my heart is saying ‘I just want to cry’. I feel compromised and allow myself to shed a tear. A tear for the life I once knew. A tear for the babies I’ll never have. A tear for feeling misunderstood.

Being a huge TED fan I often turn to their creative productions for inspiration. This 3 minute video is my current favourite. I urge you to take the time to listen and think. If you find yourself having a low week then consider the message in Stacey’s video.

The Best Gift I Ever Survived

#FUCANCER

Minging

Project 30: Get a tattoo

Prior to starting treatment I had to get three small tattoos around my pelvis. This was so the radiotherapy team were able to target the radiation accurately. The tattoos are nothing bigger than the dot of a bic pen. They could easily be mistaken for a few dark freckles. At the time Iceberg and I joked about getting a tattoo. We made a pact. Here I am 15 months later and true to our word, the Iceberg and I have got our first ‘proper’ tattoo. Technically you could say it’s my fourth but I don’t think the NHS freebies count!

If I was ever asked to describe my family I would use the words competitive, weird and loyal. It goes without saying that a family who has a heavy interest in sport is going to be competitive. Some of the biggest arguments Buggernuts and I have ever had have been caused by an innocent game of tennis. Individually we all have our weird traits. The Iceberg has a spoon in her handbag at all times. The reason being it can prevent static on clothes whilst serving its original purpose. The Funny Boy has an incredible gift for locking himself out of the flat and breaking back in. It’s a talert he shows off regularly. I, myself, have more weird traits than anyone: whenever I am alone with Parsnip I have a sing and selfie marathon. The products of which often circulate whatsapp. But for a weird and competitive bunch my family are powerfully loyal. We are a pack and we support each other as one would expect.

When life puts you in tough situations, don't say 'why me'. Just say 'try me'
When life puts you in tough situations, don’t say ‘why me’. Just say ‘try me’

The picture above is one my brother sent me mid treatment. The clear message of ‘Don’t ask why me – instead say TRY ME!’ Is one I have constantly referred to. I am not a huge believer in astrology, that being said I can’t resist reading my horoscope. I am a Leo  which is represented with a lion mascot. Lions are a common symbol found across different cultures and religions. The majority of these use the lion to represent the following characteristics: courage, strength, loyalty and leadership. One of my favourite lines is:

“the lion wins the prize for most relentless fighter in the face of life challenges.”

My mum is the most incredible person I know. She is strong, brave and forever putting her family needs before her own. She is a true lioness. So, if anyone asks me what my tattoo represents? I’ll tell them my lioness is my mum. It represents my pack, my family who I am immensely proud of. And finally, my lioness is a reminder: when life puts me in tough situations simply say ‘Try Me!’ I am a fighter.

#FUCancer

Lioness

 

 

Project 30: 30 Sports Before 30

Today I am really excited! Not only is it my first ever VLOG (video blog) but I have began working towards one of the tasks on Project 30!

I have loved sport my whole life yet as I have grown older I find myself shying away from trying new ones. The reason for this? Honestly? It is a fear of being bad at something. A fear of people looking at me and laughing. Thank goodness the 8 year old me never had those fears otherwise my life would have taken a totally different course. I have no doubt that my active lifestyle has supported me in overcoming cancer and moving forward which is why I dedicated item 18 of Project 30 to try a new sport. In hindsight that was a little tame. The past year has taught me that life is way too short and that you should NEVER let the fear of looking stupid or other people judging you prevent you from doing something you love. I work in sport, I promote sport, I love sport – it is high time I stop preaching and start doing! So number 18 on the list has been revised. Instead I have set myself the challenge of trying 30 new sports! Over the course of the next 13 months I am looking to try, play and compete in as many sports as possible.

I was hugely inspired by the #thisgirlcan campaign and was pleased to be involved in the BBC’s Get Inspired #thisgirlcantoo promotional video. It is off the back of this I have chosen to include 30 sports before 30. In doing so I hope to generate interest so I can raise awareness of the two fantastic charities: Maggie’s and Cancer Research which all in all works towards me saying #FUCancer!

This is where I need you to share my story and get involved!
I have twelve months and I am looking for suggestions and invitations to try new sports. Each sport will have a dedicated post with corresponding videos – my GoPro will be getting put to good use! I am prepared to try anything and everything so please spread the word and do not hesitate to get in touch if there is something you think I should try.

#FUCancer

Project 30: 30sports before 30
Project 30: 30sports before 30

Untold Truths

Ola from sunny Jandia! As I relish my R&R time I have been making good use of my surroundings to tick off more items of Project 30. Whilst #FUCancer is in full flow off the west coast of Africa I have asked my big brother to take the spotlight and share some untold truths about cancer from his perspective.

There is no good time to be told that someone in your family is suffering from Cancer.

I had just travelled overnight from Toronto via Dublin to Glasgow when I was told. My trip was specifically planned to meet my newest nephew Ryan who had been born just a couple of weeks prior. Mexcitement at meeting the “Ryno,” abruptly dissolved however when, within hours of me landing on Scottish soil, my little sister sat next to me and said she had been diagnosed with cervical cancer a few days before.
I was only home for a week on that trip – it remains a blur. I remember moments of sheer joy whilst holding the new baby and a paralyzing fear that my entire world was about to change for the worse and there was nothing I could do about it.

This blog post however, is to describe how Cancer has affected me personally. I live 3,000 miles away from my family and only visit once or twice a year. In effect, I will be giving you an insight into my own personal long distance relationship with the worst of all C-words.

Fear
Absolutely terrified. News like that doesn’t set in quickly – for a long time I was in the “just a bad dream,” phase. When I really accepted things a fear held me that just made everything else around feel numb. I felt isolated and knew on my journey back that I would have to, in turn, tell my own support network how my trip home had gone. Long story short I was afraid my sister would die, soon. I didn’t know when I would be coming back to Scotland again, or why.

Guilt
I left home in 2008 – after 7 years here it’s safe to call Toronto home. I have always felt the full support of my family and friends in my move and have never felt guilty.
Until Heather received her diagnosis. Guilt at not being there for her or for my family is obvious but I still feel worse about how lucky I was to travel 3,000 miles away from it all.
I had calendars of chemo/radio/bracytherapy programmed into my Outlook telling me where she was and what she was going through. These daily reminders helped but I was lucky to be so far away. Lucky to have the distractions. Guilt therefore gripped me daily. I wish I could have been there more and wish I could have shouldered some of the burden my family took on.

Anger
I’m an analytical person. I like to know why things happen and what makes them happen – it’s an approach I think helps me personally at work or coaching rugby. As such I wanted to learn about the various stages Heather would go through and what was involved in each therapy.
I wasn’t going to ask her – she had enough on her plate. I turned to asking my parents – frequently asking what was involved, how long things took and all the intricacies of what medically was happening. Mum and Dad were quite dismissive to my questions, instead telling me to ask Gordon (my now brother in law) who I had met once – about 5 seconds before hearing about Heather’s diagnosis for this information.
The combination of being told no by my parents and the prospect of a stranger (sorry Gordon) telling me things about my sister made me angry.
Looking back I fully understand Mum and Dad’s lack of willingness to continue discussing what was an all consuming subject was even more. My anger was selfish – brought on by the aforementioned guilt. I was unable to see past my own pain and appreciate how my parents, much closer to cancer, would need to cope in their own way too.

Finding my Place
People frequently ask me here how hard it must be living away from my family. It’s obviously tough – not being able to just pop home every now and then, spending $1000 to travel home for Xmas etc.
I have always said the hardest part of living here is the time difference. I’m 5 hours behind here so Facetime/Skype calls home (in order to catch my early to bed mother or infant nephews who are apparently on the same sleep pattern) is restricted to weekend mornings – a major frustration.
One thing cancer did do was find a use for my 5 hour time difference. Readers of Heather’s blog will be familiar with her (all too graphic) descriptions of how the body reacts to drugs and treatments. During the summer of 2014 my sister was plagued by insomnia which I was oddly fond of because she was able to message me at whenever she wanted safe in the knowledge that I too was awake and responsive.
These small chats were crucial to me coping with cancer. I felt like I had a part to play (albeit microscopic in size) in helping my sister through her ordeal. Sound selfish? Yup – but regardless a key part to my personal coping with cancer in my life.

Reflection
It’s been 15 months since I met Ryan Williams – and so 15 months since Heather was diagnosed. Looking back has been a strange and dizzying process for me because in many ways the distance really softened the whole experience. I am thankful for a lot of things – chiefly that my sister is on the right tracks to full recovery. I am thankful for my family who have done everything (and continue to do more) in their power to help Heather through such a miserable time. No amount of superlatives can describe the strength my family displayed in the last year – something which makes me smile from ear to ear with pride.
I am lucky in Canada. I have a support network of friends who would drop everything to help me if I needed it. For these people I am immensely thankful.

Moving Forward
In recent months I have watched Heather get married (to that stranger), travel round the world on her honeymoon, appear in numerous publications and lay the FUCancer Foundations. She’s inspiration in human form – not letting “I can’t,” fall in to her vocabulary instead choosing to use “I can’t yet.”
Life has changed in the wake of cancer entering my life. Heather has evolved into a role model for anyone dealing with a challenging situation, big or small. She is just getting started though.

I think Cancer’s about to get F’d.
#FUCancer

Hotdogs in Toronto! FUCancer in the Canaries

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

With a conscious effort to adopt and apply the growth positive mindset to all aspects of my life this week saw me return to not one but two sports I have lost touch with.

As promised I made a pledge to dust off my hockey stick and ditch the negative attitude. On Wednesday night I joined my friends, old and new, to play in my first hockey game since the arrival of my cellular traitor. Over the course of the day I could feel myself getting nervous. I had butterflies in my stomach,  sweaty palms  (not conducive to grasping a stick for 70 minutes!) and an internal battle in my mind. Over the past year I have desperately wanted to return to hockey but the fear of my body collapsing into a heap of exhaustion, anxiety of how poor my skills will be  in addition to the prospect of people laughing at me has simply prevented me from returning to the pitch. Inspired by WSLA I have grown determined to overcome this. In the build up to the evening I just told myself ‘the hardest part of any journey is the first step’.

How did it go? It’s safe to say I have a long way to go to get my fitness to where it was. Plus the FIH have introduced a couple of rules I need to get my head around but it was nowhere near as bad as I was expecting it to be. In the simplest of terms: it was fun!

The following morning, feeling very stiff, my friends invited me to go swimming. On most occasions when I am invited to go swimming it  involves a hot tub, sauna and a couple of lengths of granny style breastroke. This was not one of those invitations. These friends of mine are excellent swimmers: one swam competitively at Univeristy and the other (a qualified swim teacher) is training for a triathlon. Internally I found myself saying ‘I can’t!’ Listing off 100 reasons why I shouldn’t: I’ve not swam properly in over a decade, these guys are good, I am a poor swimmer and even worse, I’d need to be seen in a swim suit! Then I looked at the pictures I have printed out and stuck on a wall at work:

 

Turning 'I can't' into 'I can't YET'
Turning ‘I can’t’ into ‘I can’t YET’

It forced me to re-evaluate. I turned the ‘I can’t.’ Into a ‘I can’t yet…’ This resulted in me being in the pool at 6.50am the following day. Again, I was nervous, I had butterflies but thankfully nobody could tell I had sweaty palms. How did it go? I got cramp within the first four lengths and I struggled to control my breathing but at the end of the session I had swam over 1600m. Not bad for someone who has barely done a full length since being at school! To put it simply: I had fun!

To most people this may appear like a really straightforward thing and perhaps it is but the power of a growth mindset not only supports you in achieving goals but it also opens opportunities you never knew existed. Playing hockey and being in the pool has led me to wonder what other exciting prospects I have missed out on purely because I focused on the ‘I can’t’ opposed to the ‘I can’t yet…’ This realisation is leading me to explore endeavours beyond sport and work. I am currently working on something very exciting  which I’ve previously avoided because I was afraid of failing. It’s going to take a lot of time, hard work and effort but I believe it’ll be worth it. Watch this space!

As I draw this entry to a close I share with you the words I have saved as the background on my mobile. Its time to ask yourself:

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

#FUCancer