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!
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!
Yesterday was the first time in four and a half months that I have seen my mother cry. I finally heard the news we had all been dreaming of: I am in remission.
On the 8th April at approximately 3.30pm I was told I had a tumour. The following week I was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive type of cervical cancer. I am the 19th recorded case of it’s kind. I was told I had to ‘buck the trend’. The journey that has since followed has been an emotional roller coaster where I have celebrated the highest highs and endured the lowest lows.
Upon hearing my results this week I have received literally hundreds of messages from friends and family to say how happy they are for me. As you can imagine I am relieved. Upon arriving at the hospital on Wednesday I had tried to prepare myself for every possible scenario: more treatment, losing my hair, I had even began to contemplate my funeral. So here I am with the best possible outcome and how do I feel? Physically exhausted, emotionally drained and more vulnerable than ever before. It possibly sounds ungrateful but in all honesty I wouldn’t say the feeling I have right now is happiness. I simply feel angry. I feel so excluded from what I used to call my life I don’t know where to start.
Breaking the news of my diagnosis to my family and friends was one of the worst things I had to do. Trying to cushion the blow and await their reaction led me tears. It quickly highlights the ones who were there for me. Some people would say the wrong thing but the worst were those who said nothing. I heard someone excuse this with ‘I just find the whole cancer thing a bit awkward!’ —–> really?!
Two months on from completing treatment and I am still recovering. The fatigue is an ongoing fixture in everyday life which is a massive source of frustration. A large part of my social life revolved around being physically active and as the new hockey season starts I am beyond jealous to be missing out. For the first time in years I am without a team.
I am adapting to life with menopause and learning to accept what that means for the Funny Boy and I. The picture I had painted for myself has changed. When the time comes for the Funny Boy and I to start a family we will be looking into adoption. I had always imagined myself being pregnant and fantasised about everything that comes with it. Sharing the news with my friends and family, feeling a life grow inside me, watching my belly take shape and that amazing day when we get to meet mini Huffer for the first time. Pregnancy has always been a miracle to me. However the Funny Boy and I will have our own miracle one day which will be equally special – it’ll just have a different route. Losing the opportunity to be a mother is a price I have had to pay in order to save my life.
I imagine as a reader you must think I am very ungrateful and there are 10000s of people wishing they received the news I did this week. Perhaps if you had been in my shoes then you would understand. I have always said I want this blog to be an honest journal of my journey with cancer so here it is. Unfortunately the news of remission does not automatically bring back my old life. Life is different now and my perception of the world has changed. What I am grateful for are the key people who have helped me on my journey so far. You know who you are. The chapter of treatment is complete but the one ahead is focusing on how I recover and rebuild my life. For now I will just celebrate the relief:
It is officially four weeks on since I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. A lot and a little has happened in a relatively short timeframe: I have had a PET scan, a CT scan, two further planning meetings and three new tattoos. Treatment begins a week today which will be combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The most common question in response to that is ‘what about your hair?’ and I am relieved to say that my golden-locks are safe (otherwise I would be raging having spent a fortune getting my roots done!) Anyone who has ever been through this will no doubt agree that when you get a diagnosis you want treatment to begin yesterday. Waiting is frustrating. Every bodily function, every pain, every niggle you automatically think ‘It’s the cancer!’ Even the funny boy had to laugh when I claimed my hiccups were related to cancer. The prospect of treatment doesn’t scare me – don’t get me wrong; the idea of feeling nauseous, enduring sunburn and various other side affects doesn’t sound like the best fun. Saying goodbye to the prospect of motherhood has definitely been a grieving process for me. So yes, with regards to starting treatment a little has happened however I am ready to tackle this head on. I am young, fit, strong and I have an army of people supporting me!
My army of family and friends have been amazing. I have been flooded with supportive messages, inspiring words, thoughtful gifts – I love my FUC bear (http://designer-j.co.uk/). Old friends, new friends, friends of friends all going out of their way to say something. I appreciate how difficult it can be for some people. You don’t want to say the wrong thing but you don’t want to say nothing either. As I said previously this is a marathon and it is great to know you have people at the finishing line but it is even better knowing they are running it with you! My family and the funny boy have been particularly outstanding…
My mum is now known as Alma ‘Iceberg’ Williams. For those of who you have met my pocket sized mother you will understand what I mean when I say she is petite. To look at you probably wouldn’t back her in a fight, but you would be wrong! She may look small but she has the strength and power to take down the Titanic! Out of everyone she was the person I was most nervous about telling. I assumed she would cry and ask ‘why’ – I was wrong. She has helped me with every emotion and supported me through every step of the marathon so far.
Then, there is my Dad. He is a classic Dad. When it comes to ‘lady-things’ he doesn’t want to know. He doesn’t understand womens’ bits and nor does he want to. Who could blame him?! I can only imagine being told your daughter, your only daughter, has cancer is a parent’s worst nightmare. Top that by it being cervical cancer and a whole host of awkward conversations then it is definately a dad’s worst nightmare. Yet, my dad has amazed me! He has attended every appointment, listened to every consequence of treatment and held my hand through it all. My dad already had the nickname ‘Buggernuts’ – it doesn’t seem appropriate to rename him Amazeballs but that is what he is! Amazeballs!
The siblings (Owain, Gags & Angela) and the nephews (Conor and Ryan aka Ryno (apologies Ryan you will hate that name one day)) are top pacemakers too! Each showing their support in their own way. My nephews have prepared a superb pack of FU Cancer treats which are in my bag all set for next week. Angela has been an ear for me to rant and rave when needs to be. Owain and Gareth are the same which is exactly what I need them to be. They approve of the funny boy which is a major bonus too!
And then there is the funny boy! There aren’t enough words to describe him. Maybe I should keep it simple and rename him my fiancee!
Yeah, so a little and a lot has happened in the past four weeks! Treatment is still waiting to start but I am no longer free agent! After a very romantic and personalised proposal (in true funny boy fashion) I said yes! Exactly four weeks to the day and time I was getting my diagnosis I was sat in a jewellers picking my engagement ring! I am beyond elated. Marathons have their ups and downs and today is definately a high! Looks like I have a training partner for life now. Lucky, lucky me!