Tag Archives: #FUCancer

#MeetandMove

Cancer has been a part of my life for over 5 years now and regular followers of my blog will know how much I have relied on Maggie’s during that time. It really does make a difference to meet other people who understand what living with cancer is really like. The centres are safe places, very similar to a friend’s home opposed to the clinical setting you become so familiar with. The most important aspect is meeting others who simply ‘get it’!

At times my diagnosis has left me feeling ostricized. There are not a huge number of people who fully appreciate cancer limbo; agonising over appointments, tackling numerous side effects and struggling to maintain a social life whilst keeping the raging hormones at bay. There are even fewer people who are at a similar age and stage of life who fully understand how cancer touches every aspect of life. People who know how hard it is to be told that you’ll never have children or fulfil your career ambitions and worse.

On three occasions I have gone to events specifically for cancer survivors where participants have assumed I am either running the session or delivering a fitness class. This is probably because on all occasions I have been the youngest person in the room by at least two decades.

In September, the Funny Boy and I attended Meet and Move organised by Trekstock and hosted at the Maggie’s Centre in Edinburgh. Trekstock is a charity specifically targeting people in their 20s and 30s who are living with cancer. The event was described as being a day of wellbeing, getting active and meeting others who get it.

As eager as I am to participate in these events I always feel anxious, especially when you don’t know what to expect. We were greeted with a very warm welcome and a busy agenda. The day kicked off with a choice of yoga or circuits in the sunshine. We then regrouped in the centre to chat with the Maggie’s counsellors followed by a delicious lunch and nurtition session delivered by Kellie from Food to Glow. In the afternoon we discussed fashion with Cabi clothing and had an intro on skincare from LUSH.

It was an awesome day with lots on offer but the highlight had to be meeting the other participants. I didn’t feel like an alien anymore. Everyone knew what life with cancer is really like. We shared our journeys, compared our horror stories and even laughed at some of the shocking situations we have found ourselves in. There is nothing more validating then when you talk about what you’re going through and see people nodding because they understand. It was powerful!

The Funny Boy was the only male participant in the room but even he got a lot out of the day. He has now committed to a weekly face mask which I must say is doing wonders for his skin. And if you see him he will probably be rocking the French Tuck!

I would highly recommend Trekstock to all young adults living with cancer. For those of you based in Scotland, we have created a Facebook group for future meetings in Edinburgh. All of which include some form of physical activity. We are getting together on Saturday 30th November – please join the event or Facebook group by clicking the links below:

Trekstock Facebook Group – Join us!

Edinburgh Trekstock Meet Up – Sign up

As always, FUCANCER

Circuits in the September sunshine
Enjoying delicious & nutritious food by Kellie from Food to Glow
Funny Boy and I enjoying LUSH massage products

STAND UP TO CANCER 2019

Standing up to cancer!

The Funny Boy and I attended Scottish Power’s Stand Up To Cancer Gala Dinner on Friday night. I had the pleasure and somewhat daunting task of sharing my cancer story. It was a fantastic evening hosted by Des Clarke with hilarious entertainment from Ria Lina, Larry Dean, Jamie Macdonald and Stuart Mitchell. I would highly recommend checking them out!

The event raised over £60k towards translational cancer research! I was amazed to learn that Scottish Power has raised £26m for Cancer Research UK in 7 years.  Every corporate could learn from their example!

Raising funds and promoting cancer awareness are two of the few benefits my diagnosis has afforded me. Finding small positives is an awesome way of saying FUCANCER and it is good for the soul too. My belief is nobody has the power to change the world for everyone but everyone has the power to change the world for one person everyday. Whenever I have the opportunity to do something that makes a difference I always grab it with both hands. My project management skills transfer well into the world of fundraising and as for public speaking, well I wouldn’t say it is my forte but it is something I am working on.

We recently formed another  committee working on a once in a lifetime event raising funds in aid of Cancer Research UK. We will be revealing more details in the coming months. 

You don’t have to wear a lab coat to help beat cancer so if you’d like to STAND UP TO CANCER please visit the link below to find out how you can get involved!

STAND UP TO CANCER

#FUCANCER

Funny Boy and I at Scottish Power’s STAND UP TO CANCER Gala Dinner

Discharged!

Standing outside the Edinburgh Cancer Centre on the day I am discharged from Gynae-oncology! Note the superhero pose!

On the 8th of April 2014 I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I was given a life expectancy of 2 years.

Since then I have become a proud puppy mum to Parsnip, married the love of my life, ticked a few life goals and raise funds for Maggie’s and Cancer Research UK. None of which would be possible without my incredible medical team! I had a card made for a few of the key people who have helped me get to where I am.

On the 30th September 2019 I was discharged from gynae-oncology. I have been in remission for 5 years.  I may still have brain cancer but for now it is time to celebrate!

#FUCANCER

 

World Gratitude Day

It has come to my attention that yesterday was World Gratitude Day. Despite a very challenging year I believe I am more thankful than ever! 

My family, my friends, my medical team and Maggie’s are top of the list of who I’d like to show my appreciation for. I simply wouldn’t be where I am today without them. The reality is the list is a lot longer. I am grateful for the ingenious researchers who made my cancer treatment possible and the phenomenal NHS who I’ve become far too familiar. It’s quite apt that I am writing this blog from a hospital bed…

Unfortunately I had a seizure last night which resulted in another trip to A&E. Every trip to hospital, especially when visiting the emergency department, I feel like a drama queen wasting precious time and valuable resources. Once again I was reminded of how hardworking and caring the NHS team are. From James, the reassuring and thourough doctor who gifted me his banana as a snack, to the ever cheerful nurses who are always on hand and the super thoughtful porter who searched the wards to source me a toothbrush and toothpaste. They are simply amazing.

Following a CT scan, a good night sleep and a slight change to my medication I am happy to report that I am back home with lady Parsnip and the Funny Boy. I am not ashamed to admit that the only time I experience homesickness is whenever I am forced to stay in hospital.

With family living in Canada and a slight insight to the cost of medical treatment – I realise how much I take a funded health service for granted. Within the last 12 months alone I have required two operations, spent multiple nights in hospital and received several MRI and CT scans – the cost of which is more than tens of thousands of pounds. To put it simply, if I lived in another country I doubt I could afford to have cancer! 

So in light of World Gratitiude Day I want to show my appreciation for everyone who lifts me up but especially the NHS. You are incredible. We are so lucky to have you. Thank you!

As always FUCANCER!

Living with cancer

On Wednesday this week I finally met with my neurosurgeon to get the results of my 3-month follow up MRI scan. 

As usual he uploaded the 3D images of my brain on the monitor and began to talk through the results. My surgeon is not solely responsible for my treatment. He is part of a Multi Disciplinary Team (MDT) which includes different kinds of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals working together as part of a specialist cancer team.

The MDT are confident the surgery has led to a 90% resection of both tumours – this is good news. The bizarre reality is I now have two big holes in my brain which were previously occupied by separate Astrocytomas. The not-so-good news is there is a ‘grey patch’ at both sites which could be inflammation and scar tissue or it could be leftover tumour. Unfortunately the imaging is not advanced enough to make the distinction. The MDT discussed options and have agreed that surveillance is best so I’ll be returning in August for another scan. If either of the  ‘grey patches’ grow in size this indicates it is tumour and therefore surgery may be required

Overall, I would say this news is neither negative or positive. Yes, there is a small relief that all going well I won’t need any treatment for the next 5 months. But, beyond that who knows? I am effectively stuck in limbo.

When I was diagnosed with cervical cancer 5 years ago the life I knew pretty much vanished overnight. After ploughing through treatment I had to come to terms with a ‘new normal’ – one which included infertility, menopause, fatigue and a total loss of confidence.

Once again I am faced with the challenge of adapting to another new normal. There is not one part of my life that cancer does not impact. I can’t put into words how much it has stolen from me and I feel duty-bound to share how this really feels.

I am ANGRY.

I am FRUSTRATED.

I am SAD.

I am HEARTBROKEN.

It has been a very tough few years and the last 12 months in particular has been an epic challenge but I do believe in the saying ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!’

As always, FUCANCER


C’est la vie!

Happy FUCANCER Friday and apologies for the long pause since my last update. I would love to report that I have been sailing the Carribean, skiing in the Alps or encountering the big 5 in the Savana but I am afraid this bitesize update is quite dull. I suppose with all the drama we have had in the last 10 months (crikey – is that all? It feels much longer) I should be thankful for some peace and quiet.

In my last update I shared my frustrations and honest emotions in the aftermath of a second craniotomy. Literally 8 hours after uploading that vlog I found myself back at hospital wearing another operating gown as I prepared myself for an appendectomy! The surgery went well (Goodbye appendix!) and I was home within 48 hours but unfortunately I picked up a post-op infection which led to another week spent in hospital. On account of the infection I didn’t eat for NINE days. For those who know me well, I am sure you can easily imagine how challenging this was for me. On the bright side I did lose a stone in weight – a goal I hope for at the start of every New Year but the means in which it was achieved is something I would never recommend.

It took me another fortnight to get over the infection but I am delighted to say since then I have been exercising! Running, Bodyattack, weights and even a single session back on the hockey pitch. I have said it before and I will say it again – physical activity is the best medicine! Physically, mentally and emotionally I simply feel stronger.

So with 5 new scars (2 from the craniotomies and 3 from the appendix) I am in a stage of limbo once again. I have had my 3-month follow up scans and the plan is to meet with my surgeon again in April. That meeting will dictate the next steps. It is looking likely that I might need more surgery and following that a combination of chemo and radiotherapy. At the moment it is largely outwith my control and I have made peace with that.

There are a number of ramifications that the Funny Boy and I have had to deal with over the last few months. Those closest to us will know we were preparing to start the adoption process. Given my health we have made the difficult decision that this is something we can no longer pursue. Cervical cancer treatment left me infertile which is something I have come to accept but this realisation feels like another devastating blow. Forgive me for sounding arrogant but I know the Funny Boy and I would have been awesome parents but c’est la vie – it was not to be!

Anyway – back to the positives! I have been cleared to fly so I am looking forward to celebrating the marriage of my big bro and the lovely Katie in Canada! I am so excited to have two weeks away with my whole family! The Funny Boy and I have quite a few weddings this year which is great because it means plenty time to catch up with friends we don’t see often. We have also booked in a few extra special dates too. STICK IT TO CANCER is on track for the fourth year with the addition of two junior tournaments. Everything kicks off this Sunday for the Under 12s, June for the Under 14s and the adult tournament in July!

Before I finish I just wanted to say how much we appreciate everyone who has been in touch. The Funny Boy and I have been overwhelmed with how generous and thoughtful our friends have been over the last year. Even Parsnip has been the recipent of handmade, personalised gifts. You have made a challenging time much easier. From the bottom of our hearts – THANK YOU!

As always – #FUCANCER

I agree, Mr Crosby

This week I spent an evening helping my mum  finish decorating  the ginormous Christmas tree which now sits in her living room. Once it was finished we settled down in front of the fire and put on a firm festive favourite, White Christmas. One of the many songs sang by Bing Crosby has the line:

‘When I’m worried and I can’t sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.’

Despite seeing  this movie countless  times, including a stage adaptation, I never realised how true these words are. Counting  my  blessings is  something I find myself doing  frequently.

A number of people – friends, family even my medical team often ask me ‘How do you cope?’ It is impossible and unrealistic to expect myself to not have negative emotions: Cervical Cancer at 27 was pretty harsh. Losing my fertility, being catapulted into menopause and managing the ongoing side effects has been a challenge too. Brain cancer four years later and  discovering not one but TWO tumours  with their own set of  life-changing side effects. It is a simple reminder that life sometimes is just not fair. That being said everybody faces hardship and  I doubt anyone will walk this earth  experiencing no form of heartache. Another sad truth is regardless of how tough I think I have it there will always be someone who is worse off.

So, how do I cope?  Three steps:

1. I have to accept that at times I do feel anger, heartache and fear.  As an optimistic person these feelings  – despite being perfectly natural – are somewhat alien and something I hate to admit.

2. More importantly,  I give myself the space to feel those emotions. I allow myself time to release whatever I feel rising inside. No sugar-coating, no BS just ‘how do I feel?’  My ways of expression take various forms – sometimes it can be as simple as a lengthy rant, a solid cry or even taking the dog for a walk on my own whilst mulling things over internally.  Once again Maggie’s have been an endless source of support. I prioritise a fortnightly visit which is where I do most of my emotional ‘dumping’. But for all of this to work I have learned  I need be honest. I have also found since I have started ‘allowing myself’ the space to be sad, mad or angry , the time required gets less and less. On some days a 10-minute rant about my frustrations is all that is required,  on others a 5 minute cry will do the job. A daily dog walk without my mobile phone is  probably my favourite way to achieve this which leads me onto the third and final step.

3. I always take time to appreciate the good things in life – or as Bing Crosby put it ‘counting my blessings’.  I regularly talk to Parsnip on our walks about how lucky we are. Yes, my health may not be great but I am blessed in so many other ways. It is through these blessings that I am not just ‘coping’ with cancer but I  actually enjoy life.

So to finish here are just a few of the blessings I am thankful for…

My surgeon and the whole medical team who make me feel supported, safe and grateful for the NHS. For the Maggie’s Cancer Centre in Edinburgh, and in particular  Yvonne, who I sometimes think knows me better than I know myself.

For friends who drive for over an hour at 9pm at night with a homemade lasagne so my family are well-fed whilst I’m in hospital. The Friends who insist on picking me up before our night out because they know how tired I get and want me to save my energy so we can enjoy ourselves. Friends who  send Christmas trees in the mail and organise  group Skype chats. Friends who write me an exercise programme  because they know how much it means to me but more importantly so I can exercise safely!

The neighbours we  call friends who  turn up at our door with plates full of roast chicken dinner and are always up for a game of UNO.

The colleagues who go above and beyond to make me feel included. Who have an early Christmas lunch so I can attend before my second operation .

For our lovely postman who took the time to introduce himself and offer his support.

For my amazing family  who simply do too much for me to even begin counting.

I’ll finish with the wise words of Mr Crosby and should anyone ask me in the future how I cope I’ll remind them to do the same:

‘So if you’re worried and you can’t sleep
Count your blessings instead of sheep
And you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings’

As always, #FUCANCER

Forth Awards

I am absolutely blown away on receiving The Forth Charity Volunteer of the Year Award yesterday. However, this is a HUGE team effort and a result of all the hard work everyone puts into STICK IT TO CANCER. Thank you to the committee, event volunteers, participants and supporters. This award is for you!

Thank you to all the people who took the time to nominate me. I can’t tell you how much it means to me.Big thanks to Forth for inviting the Funny Boy and I – we had an incredible afternoon. Many thanks to Gilson Gray for sponsoring the award. Congratulations to all the winners – we heard incredible stories yesterday which goes to show that through adversity amazing things can happen. I was left feeling both inspired and motivated to do more!

BRING ON STICK IT TO CANCER 2019 – I can’t wait! For more information on next year’s event please join the Event Facebook page by clicking here or email Heather at heather@fucancer.co.uk.

As always, #FUCANCER

 

The Ultimate Show of Solidarity

Five years ago today  the Funny Boy and I had our first date. We met at the hockey club quiz during a month I renamed ‘Yestember’ where I had to say yes to any opportunity that came my way. He took his chance and asked me out. Committed to Yestember I was forced to oblige. I remember telling my friends ‘he is really funny and has a lovely smile but it’ll never go anywhere. He is too short’. Was that shallow of me? Definitely, but thankfully  l was  wrong.

It was 6 months after our meeting that I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. By any usual relationship standards we should have been contemplating our first holiday together – not negotiating the rigorous schedule of cancer treatment. I thought we were over. I told the Funny Boy I didn’t expect him to stay and I understood that this meant the end for us. ‘Who in their right mind would want to stick around for this?’ He proved me wrong again.

For those who follow my blog you will know that I refer to the Funny Boy as my  non-conventional knight in shining armour. He is my haphazard hero and last week was another fine example.

The Funny Boy was with me as I had my first full clonic-tonic seizure which led to my diagnosis in May. Since then he has barely left my side and therefore he has missed more than his fair share of nights out with the boys. Last Saturday his colleague was having a  ‘leaving do’  and coincidentally I arranged to have dinner with friends. With both of us feeling healthy we set about our separate plans.

Following my meal with the girls I returned to find the Funny Boy asleep on the sofa. He had a faint smell of beer on his breath but seemed relatively sober considering it was his first night out in over 5 months.

I prepared myself for bed when I began to feel unwell and I immediately blamed the mussels I had for dinner.

As the night went on an aggressive episode of vomit and diarrhoea ensued. It had been several  hours before I woke the Funny Boy and asked him to phone NHS 24 – a number we should  have on speed dial by now. Recognising a hospital visit was on the cards the Funny Boy felt the need to sober up. As I was draped across the en-suite  regretting my food choice the Funny Boy  drew himself a bath.

The sickness worsened resulting in a seizure and the Funny Boy  called NHS 24 again who dispatched an ambulance immediately.

By this point it was nearly 6am and despite vomiting consistently for  6 hours there was no sign of respite.The Funny Boy sat across from me in the ambulance and as I paused to take breath I realised something was wrong.

Normally the Funny Boy is the type of guy you would welcome  in an emergency. Always composed and a pragmatic thinker he never seems to panic. But on this particular journey – our third ambulance trip this year – the Funny Boy didn’t look like himself; his hands held a firm grip on his knee caps – so much so his knuckles turned white. His face held a yellowish complexion and as I looked closer his nostrils were dilating larger than usual as he took a series of long, deep breaths. His eyes were focused on a fixed point in front, he barely made eye contact with me.

’He must be REALLY worried’ I thought ‘all the stress I have put him through and this is the straw that has finally broken the camel’s back’. I broke away from my train of thought to vomit for what felt like the hundredth time.

When i turned to look at him again I noticed that he had also been armed with a cardboard bowl.

Before I had time to reach out and ask ‘Are you ok?’ The ambulance hit a speed bump which triggered the Funny Boy to projectile vomit into the bowl he held in his lap. With the blink of an eye, his bowl was full to the rim and began to spill across the ambulance floor.

The paramedic sprung into action and called to her colleague in the driving seat; ‘You’ll need to stop’ she shouted ‘the husband is being sick now’.

As quick as the ambulance came to a halt, the paramedic opened the back door to allow the Funny Boy out for some fresh air. He continued to be sick  whilst she (the poor paramedic) began to wretch. Strapped to the stretcher inside there was little I could do.

The Funny Boy and paramedic returned to the ambulance. The paramedic mopped up the Funny Boy’s sick which had sloshed all over the ambulance floor.

The embarrassment continued when we  were met with familiar faces in A&E.  As the doctors and nurses began a series of tests the Funny Boy excused himself. One of the nurses greeted  him in the waiting room ‘I remember you. You fainted the last time.. That’s  some scar you’ve got… You’re looking worse than your wife tonight’

He insists his sickness was caused by a tummy bug. I am dubious and believe the afternoon spent drinking might have had something to do with it. Or perhaps it was just the ultimate show of solidarity?? Either way between this and the Funny Boy’s spectacular fainting episode we have earned ourselves a reputation with the A&E staff at St John’s.

Fingers crossed we won’t be returning anytime soon!

#FUCANCER