Tag Archives: inspire

7 things you learn when your best friend gets cancer

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….

  1. 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!

  1. 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 🙂 !!

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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).

  1. 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)

  1. 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!

Things you learn when your best friend gets cancer
FullSizeRender IMG_8254

Inspiring. Empowering. Life-changing.

Inspiring. Empowering. Life-changing. I have just arrived home from an incredible five days.

It is literally a year to the day that I had my final session of bracytherapy which signalled the end of my treatment for cervical cancer. Although it was the end of treatment, which thankfully led to me being in remission, it did not lead to the end of life with cancer. Menopause, chronic fatigue coupled with a grounding reality of how precious life is made me vulnerable. I began doubting my body which led me to doubt myself. My confidence was gone.

One of my first line managers often reminded me to ‘go beyond my comfort zone’. He said it is only when we leave our comfort zone we truly develop. This mantra has been hugely influential over the past year when I have been struggling to find the confidence in day-to-day situations as a result of cancer. Yet, through harnessing this I have managed to return to work. I was successful in getting a new job. And as of yesterday I became a graduate of the Women’s Sport Leadership Academy. A title only 80 women from across the globe can boast. As quoted by the facilitators WSLA is designed to develop tomorrow’s leaders of sport. It is an international network of women sport leaders with the aim of increasing the confidence and competence of women working in sport in a range of leadership behaviours.

So, at the start of the week I flew to University of Chichester campus in Bognor Regis. This in itself was daunting. As I recently shared, my side effects are ongoing and although I have travelled since diagnosis (ah! Beautiful Thailand!) this was the first time I have flown solo without the support of a friend or family member who knows my situation. Prior to arriving at WSLA I was able to learn about the other participants who shared their biographies online. This provided an insight to the range of backgrounds and calibre of the people I would be spending the next five days with. These women were/are incredible. I was beyond impressed. I was overwhelmed.

The schedule that followed consisted of a range of themes, workshops, group tasks and more. By the end of day one I found myself realising that these women and I shared more than an interest in sport. We all had a passion to be the best we could be. I found myself thinking about what my old line manager had said about moving beyond my comfort zone. Although I found myself feeling stretched and challenged I always felt safe. The beauty of WSLA is that everyone is there for the same reason. There is no option of failure just the opportunity to learn. And that is exactly what I did. I could spend days writing about the lessons I have come away with and I would love to divulge how I plan to implement these but for now I want to highlight the key message I intend to apply in all aspects of my life: The importance of a growth mindset!

I am no sociologist and I am not going to attempt to portray myself as an expert in this but I do whole-heartedly believe in this theory. For the past year I have forced myself to go beyond my comfort zone with a philosophy of ‘I had cancer. Can it really be as bad or as scary as that!?’ Nerves at speaking at a conference, fear of rock climbing or even as simple as speaking to a stranger – I have employed the theory of just do it. Little did I know that this is an example of the Growth Mindset. Yet, in my personal life I have found myself avoiding hockey. I am scared of returning to a game I once loved. Why? Because I don’t want to look bad. I don’t want people to compare me with how I used to play before cancer. I know I won’t be as good as I once was. This is an example of a Fixed Mindset. This week is the first time I have had the opportunity to evaluate my mindset and how it has allowed me to achieve great things (WSLA, new job, speak at Race For Life) and yet in other departments it has completely held me back. At the end of the week we were encouraged to make personal pledges. As a result I have promised myself to return to hockey. This may appear like a simple task but for me it is much more. I know this will mean leaving my comfort zone but I owe it to myself to get back to the game I love. I will never know how good I can be or how much I will enjoy myself if I don’t even try.

In front of me I am now facing my personal development plan with a set of goals and areas for improvement. Of course these involve much bigger goals than playing hockey. Establish ‘FUCANCER’ as a charity for one and sit on a board is another but I have a renewed focus for what I hope to achieve and in true Growth Mindset fashion will remind myself that ‘failure is not an option, just merely an opportunity to learn’. The participants, facilitators and support staff involved in WSLA created a unique environment that embodied this. I feel so honoured and privileged to have been a part of it. Thank you to those who shared the week with me. It has been inspiring, empowering and as I sit feeling more confident than ever – it has been life changing!  

#FUCancer

 

DSC_0128

 

WSLA 2015 – Phenomenal Women!

Comfort-Zone-Image-2

It’s good to stretch yourself…

 

Growth-v-Fixed

 

The power of a growth mindset!