Tag Archives: cancer

Proud

For the past year I have been working as a Fundraising Manager for Cancer Research UK. Having gone through treatment for cervical cancer in 2014 I was left feeling in awe of the work they do and after a lot of deliberation, I finally took the plunge and left a career in sport (my first love) to pursue one in a new-found passion – fundraising!

I recently returned to work after taking some time off following my new diagnosis. My first team meeting in over 2 months led me to the Cancer Research UK Centre in Edinburgh. When I began my role I was surprised and impressed to learn that research was happening literally yards away from where I had been receiving treatment at the Western General Hospital. As part of my induction I had a tour of the labs where I met a few of the researchers.

I don’t come from a science background. My strengths at school were PE, Sport and English – if organizing was a topic then I would have passed that with flying colours but alas chemistry, physics even biology were a challenge! The idea of meeting researchers, especially those who focus on cancer was slightly intimidating.

On my first lab tour I was amazed at how the researchers were able to breakdown a very complex process into layman’s terms. What really struck me though, was their passion! I LOVE passionate people – the topic itself isn’t so important – but when I meet someone who is dedicated and determined to a particular cause I find it very appealing. I am not shy in admitting that upon finishing the lab tour I had a crush on several of the researchers!

About 6 months ago I walked past one of the researchers whilst I was shopping with my mum. He wouldn’t have remembered or recognized me but upon seeing him I had the same reaction to the one I had when I saw Rod Stewart in Harrods: I grabbed my mum’s arm, pointed and repeatedly whispered his name! Basically the researchers, in my eyes, are total rock stars!

So, how does it feel to have cancer whilst working for a cancer charity?

In two words I feel lucky and proud!

My job has allowed me a backstage view to some of the ground breaking, life-changing, life SAVING research which is happening right now! I have met the real life superheroes who are actively bringing forward the day where we will find a cure for cancer. I have also had the honour of working with just a few of the thousands of people who support Cancer Research UK. From the Tartan Monster in Selkirk, to the phenomenal Lanark Local Committee who are celebrating their 50th year and reaching their £500k fundraising milestone to people like Pete the ‘Can Man’ who has single-handedly raised several thousand pounds through collection cans across the capital city. These volunteers have taught me the valuable lesson that you don’t have to wear a lab coat to help find a cure for cancer.

It is because of all of them – the researchers, the volunteers and my awesome colleagues that I feel lucky. I know there is a an almighty army of people who are continuing the fight everyday. Together we are stronger and I am beyond proud to say I work for Cancer Research UK.

#FUCANCER

 

A Gift

In 2016 I ran the London Marathon for Cancer Research UK. As part of my preparations I remember training on World Cancer Day and putting the following post up on Facebook:

“1 in 3 people will develop cancer in their lifetime. But the impact of cancer goes much wider. Like a pebble hitting the water the ripples spread far and wide. When an individual is diagnosed it changes life for them and their family and friends. Today is #worldcancerday and it is a #adaytounite everyone who has been touched by cancer. Grandparent, parent, sibling or other. Stand up and say #fucancer If it wasn’t for Cancer Research I wouldn’t be here today.”

Personally, the hardest part of being diagnosed for a second time is seeing the impact and strain it has upon the ones I love. Regardless of how hard they try I can see the concern in their faces. I can tell how worried they are and I know how desperately they wish this wasn’t happening to us.

Similarly, since my new diagnosis I have been reminded of how awkward cancer can be for friends and acquaintances. The reactions can range from invasive questions about diagnosis, treatment and even to query if it runs in the family (it doesn’t by the way) to complete avoidance: ‘don’t make eye contact, don’t engage in conversation, just sidestep at all costs’! On some occasions I can virtually see the panic on peoples’ faces desperately looking for an escape route as they prepare to flee. I don’t believe it is me they are running away from but most likely a fear of saying the wrong thing.

I genuinely believe most people are good at their core but we are human and that means we make mistakes. The good news is that is how we learn! So here is a valuable lesson to help everyone in this scenario – a gift from me to you…

It was during my treatment for Cervical Cancer when I was referred to the very useful article and diagram below on ‘How Not to Say the Wrong thing’.

Silk & Goodman’s Ring Theory

I find Silk and Goodman’s ‘Ring Theory’ to be a VERY useful tool and one to be shared. This theory can be applied to anyone facing a crisis or a challenge. And let’s face it we all have difficult times at some point – it’s part of life I am afraid! Likewise, the theory helps set a precedent for the family, friends and acquaintances and even includes suggestions on what to do or say.

If you have found this useful please consider sharing.

#FUCANCER

Leaving Limbo

On Wednesday I met with the specialist to review the results of my scans. Following his advice we have decided to go ahead with surgery in September which will aim to remove as much of the tumour as possible. Due to its location this comes with inherent risks which could lead to long-term impairment physically, sensory and visually. In an attempt to minimize these potential side effects the surgeon will be performing an awake craniotomy. If, like me, you are a Grey’s Anatomy fan then you will know what this entails but as the name suggests – they plan to wake me up mid-surgery. In doing so they will ask me to perform certain tasks so they are able to remove as much of the tumour as possible without impacting the surrounding areas.

As the reader I am sure you will find it a lot to digest. Major surgery… on your brain… whilst awake! Crazy hey?!

So, how do I feel? In all honestly I feel very calm. After an hour long appointment with the surgeon where myself, the Funny Boy, Iceberg and Buggernuts asked many questions I left feeling strangely at ease. This is the most relaxed I have been since having the seizure and I think it is because knowledge is power! It’s cliché but it is true! I hate life in limbo – the not knowing, impossible to plan, unable to see my future beyond the next few weeks is difficult. At least with this I now feel like I know what I am up against over the next few months.

Many of you have already been in touch asking how you can help. So here are two things I need from all my family and friends..

  1. I want to make full use of all my abilities whilst I can so over the next few weeks I want to do as many fun, active, outdoorsy things as possible. Particularly if they are things I have never tried before.  I will be using my annual leave before surgery and hopefully making some trips – so, if you have any suggestions and would like to join in please let me know.
  2. I want  NEED you all to PROMISE me that if my motivation drops or changes when I come through surgery that you will remind me of how stubborn, determined and able I really am! You have full permission to kick me up the butt!

I am not one to dwell on things, I am looking forward and I would strongly encourage you do the same too. Before I draw this entry to close and head off to play hockey, I have a secret obsession with Winston Churchill – what a man, what a life! He has a wonderful way with words so I will finish with one of his many, famous quotes:

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts!

And as always, #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

FUCancer

In the early hours of Wednesday morning I woke up to find 3 paramedics in my bedroom. The Funny Boy had called 999 because I was having a seizure. I don’t remember this clearly. Even sat in the ambulance I found myself struggling to remember what I had done the day before or even recall my boss’ name. As soon as I arrived at AnE they prepared me for a CT scan which required a cannula.

Having a cannula is a familiar process for me and one the Funny Boy has witnessed thousands of times. However, the shock of seeing me have a fit and perhaps the early hour took its toll on my poor Funny Boy – as he slowly let go of my hand and proceeded to headbutt the X Ray machine I watched him plummet to the ground. He had fainted. This was enough to send me over the edge and as I cried out for him, the nurse called out for assistance. Our bay was quickly filled with more staff and a doctor eyeing up a pretty spectacular cut above the Funny Boy’s left eye. As the Funny Boy regained consciousness the doctor said ‘I think you’ll be leaving here with a few of my sutures…’ – he was right! Before I knew it the Funny Boy was lying in a trolley next to me with four new stitches and a pretty impressive black eye!

Unfortunately my treatment wasn’t quite so simple. The CT scan identified a lesion on my brain and as a precaution the hospital staff didn’t want me to leave until I had a MRI. I was transferred to the Observation Ward whilst I waited.

Life can be pretty bizarre sometimes. For example, a fortnight ago I was stood at a Ladies Lunch in front of over 460 people sharing my experience of cancer. Within that speech I actually said ‘my life is in a pretty good place’ and that’s because it is. As a Fundraising Manager for CRUK I have a job I am very passionate about, I have recently completed my first full season back on the hockey pitch, i am feeling fitter and stronger than I have in years and to top it off I not only have the BEST collection of family and friends but an awesome sausage-shaped sidekick too.

So, to be sat here breaking the news that I have a new cancer is unexpected to say the least. On Friday the MRI confirmed I have a tumour in my brain. Thankfully, I have been allowed to return home whilst I wait for my referral to Neurology. I don’t know how I feel at the moment – more than anything I can’t believe how unlucky I am! On a lighter note, at least I look a lot better than the Funny Boy… Fingers crossed his fainting episode was a one-off!

As always #FUCANCER!

The Funny Boy after his incident with the X Ray machine in AnE

 

SITC 2017: Together, ordinary people can achieve extraordinary results

Three years ago I had just completed cancer treatment. Sat in chemotherapy, in a very comfy Lazy Boy  style chair, I had the idea of organising some form of hockey festival which could raise funds in aid of Maggie’s whilst also saying a massive #FUCANCER. Today, sat at my not-so-comfy office desk, I am in disbelief at how that idea has developed into a reality.

Yesterday marked the second STICK IT TO CANCER HOCKEY FESTIVAL. For the second year running we welcomed over 100 hockey heroes dressed as heroes and villains to unite in the fight against cancer. I am delighted to say that the event raised £2175.27 which will be going straight to the Maggie’s Cancer Centre in Edinburgh. A place very close to my heart. I don’t know if it is because I have neglected this blog for so long that my writing skills are very rusty or if it is the fact I am absolutely exhausted from an incredible 24 hours but I am struggling to find the words to share how much this event means to me. Instead I will share the video below (click where it says STICK IT TO CANCER 2017) to give you a flavour of what the day is all about and finish with these words:

“Together, ordinary people can achieve extraordinary results” – Becka Schoettle

Thanks for being a part of it…
All the teams and their supporters, friends and family who came along on the day! Edinburgh Academy & George Sutherland; Harry’s Bar & Ben Ashcroft; Luca’s at Morningside, Edinburgh Leisure; Scotch Whiskey Experience; Butterfly & Insect World; Scran & Scallie; Ryze; Cineworld; Pinkk; Stewart Brewing; Camera Obscura; Morrisons; Sincy, Batch, George & Kyle. Craig Muir. The THRIVING umpires, George & Grace. The SITC Top Team – Nicola, Christian, Amy, Jenny, Marie, Buggernuts & Iceberg. And finally, more poor husband Funny Boy for putting up with me everyday!

Bring on STICK IT TO CANCER 2018!!!

#FUCANCER
#SITC2017

STICK IT TO CANCER 2017

Continuing to thrive!

In hindsight my previous blog, although well intended could cause concern. I neither need, want or seek sympathy. The insight (or overshare) was aimed to encourage women to prioritise their health. My frustrations lie in the fact a high percentage of people are not doing this and therefore putting themselves at unnecessary risk.

Aside from the aforementioned side effects, which I am mastering daily, life continues to treat me well. Even now I am sat next to the pool with a view of Spinalonga which just so happens to be the subject of my current novel, The Island by Victoria Hislop (highly recommend it by the way). This sunny retreat comes at the end of a very busy few months and therefore not only feels deserved but essential! In my last update I was training for the Virgin Money London Marathon. It is with great pride I can share that I completed this in April and raised £4000 for Cancer Reaearch. A month after crossing the finishing line I flew to Toronto to visit my brother who I hadn’t seen since the wedding. Alongside the Funny Boy and Gags’ girlfriend, Katie, the four of us (dubbed the new Wolfpack) ticked off another item of Project 30 and enjoyed several ‘proper NYC breakfasts’ in the city that never sleeps. Whilst overseas I recieved the welcome yet unexpected news that I had been shortlisted and selected to win the Edinburgh Evening News Bravery Award. An accolade I don’t believe I am worthy of but delighted and grateful beyond words. The start of July would see the inaugural STICK IT TO CANCER hockey festival. An idea I had whilst sitting in chemo two years ago finally came to fruition after nearly 14 months of planning. Over 150 people united in various superhero outfits to say an almighty #FUCancer. The result of everyone’s efforts was a phenomenal £3700 raises for the Edinburgh Maggie’s Cancer Centre and another big tick for Project 30!

Baring in mind the Funny Boy and I moved house at the end of November by the time July came it had been a manic few months. I had promised two months of no ‘extra curricular activities’. No marathons, no fundraising, no more bonkers ideas for two months. However, this changed when I had an opportunity too good to miss. Hidden from public view and in line with Project 30 I was looking for the next step in my career. An opportunity arose and after speaking to my counsel (the ever reliable Iceberg, Buggernuts and Funny Boy) they urged me to go for it! A new job in an exciting role with fresh challenges lie ahead of me. This does mean I am extending my ban on extra curricular activities until at least Christmas. But, with my new job, hens, weddings and a reunion of the Wolfpack on the cards I doubt I’d have time to get much done anyway.

Life is great. Yes, it has its challenges but I am one of the lucky ones who continue to thrive!

#FUCancer

For FUCancer’s Sake!

Hello old friend! Apologies for the delay – I could sit and list the excuses of why I have neglected you but to put it simply: life got in the way! Several people have asked when I would get back on the FUCancer wagon and update my blog. To this I always reply ‘when I get the urge’. I must admit I didn’t think that moment would occur whilst sat on a sun drenched Cretan balcony on day 1 of a holiday which has felt long overdue.

So why the sudden need? What did I find so compelling that I allowed myself to be dragged away from the turquoise view and honeysuckle scent? The shocking news that attendance at cervical screening is at its lowest in 10 years! http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-37285353 (Yes, I admit that checking BBC news whilst on holiday is not the best way to relax and unwind) But seriously ladies? Have a word with yourselves! As someone who ALWAYS attended screening when invited I find it really difficult to understand why someone would neglect it. The fact is Cervical is one of the few cancers which can be prevented and if caught early has a high survival rate. I can only assume the reasons or excuses people use to put off a potentially life saving check up which literally takes minutes. Opposed to my ranting it would perhaps be more helpful if I gave an insight as to what life is like for me now as a cervical cancer survivor:

– Radiotherapy literally killed my ovaries which catapulted me into an early menopause. Alongside hot flushes, mood swings and difficulty maintaining a healthy weight, it also destroys your libido!
– Imagine someone kicking your lower back which after a while leaves a dull ache. That is the pain I have had on and off for the last two years since going through treatment.
– Another fun side effect of treatment is how on some days I just need to walk the dog and it feels like I’ve ran a marathon! My energy levels are unpredictable, unreliable and on occasions: unavailable!
– The menopause, the pain, the fatigue I knew I was singing up for it. The doctor makes you sign several documents to show you understand and accept that cancer treatment has devastating consequences. However, it was only recently I discovered it is now impacting my oral health. Two fillings & two extractions in the last 6 months which is largely a result of the change in my saliva. The change is a result of what? Chemotherapy and my hormone imbalance thanks to menopause.
– It is not surprising that cancer also had a negative impact on my mental health. Low confidence, panic attacks and stress have all come and gone over the past two years. Without the support of Maggie’s I dare say it is something I would still be struggling with.
– And for those who need it spelling out, the worst of these side effects is the fact I can’t have children.

So – there you have it! I would not wish my experience on my worst enemy. How many more reasons do you need to prioritise your smear? Protect yourself. For FUCancer sake – get it done!!

#FUCancer

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