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To Thrive

I am not quite sure where the time has gone but according to my calendar it is only 5 weeks until the London Marathon.

This will be my second marathon. The challenge seems far more imposing on this occasion largely due to the fact my body is still acclimatizing to the changes post cancer treatment. Unbelievable to think here I am – 1 year, 6 months, 3 weeks and 4 days in remission – and I still get pelvic pain, I still get the waves of fatigue and for about a month now I have returned to the symptoms of menopause. It appears my Hormone Replacement Therapy is no longer doing the job it is supposed. Cue hot flushes, achy joints, fluctuating moods and poor memory. Although according to the Funny Boy my fluctuating moods is nothing new!(RUDE!) As many women will agree, menopause is uncomfortable on a physical and emotional level. Personally I find it very socially awkward too! In a meeting surrounded by colleagues or partners there is nothing more embarrassing when you begin to feel the wave of heat tingle in your toes before it rises through your body. It courses through like an unstoppable force until it reaches the tell-tale point – the face. A red glow descends itself from the visible chest, neck and like an almighty crescendo ends in a beady brow and sweaty lip. The horrid sensation lasts the perfect amount of time for two things to happen: First you feel the urgent need to strip all unnecessary layers. Failure to do so, could lead to spontaneous combustion (or so the sensation dictates)! And secondly, the visible impact remains with enough time for the people you are with to look at you curiously or worse still, point out the red looking rash which crawls up your neck! I have never been so keen to welcome Spring.  Until the doctors can sort out my HRT tights have been banished, light layers adopted and for the foreseeable future I’ll be residing next to any form of desktop fan or open window!

The impact of this on training has led to some light headed runs. The kind where you start to see bright dots dance in front of your eyes like a cloud of flies. As ever though, this – the early onset of menopause – is a small price to pay to be here today. I am constantly reminded how lucky I am and with the news of two of my best mates getting engaged then there really isn’t a better time to be alive and kicking! Whilst out running recently I began to think about one of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou:

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.

At the end of the run I said to myself I am not entering the London Marathon as a Cancer Survivor. I am entering the race as a cancer thriver! So if you fancy supporting a cancer thriver please head to my Just Giving page by clicking here. Thank you!

#FUCancer

'I'm still hot...'
‘I’m still hot…’

Project 30: Funny Family Home

Three years, two months and twenty eight days ago I moved to Edinburgh. Within that time I have experienced some of life’s greatest highs and challenging lows: The loss of two family members, infertility and cancer (not to mention all the incessant drama that follows). But, in that time I have been blessed through making a whole new posse of people I am proud to call my friends. I have had two jobs which I not only enjoy but has taught me an incredible amount and shown me where I want to go next. I met a funny boy who brought a funny dog into our lives. He is now my funny husband which means we are now a funny family. All of which has happened in the last two years! Crazy to think where a whole month of saying yes can lead… 😉 So, today my Funny Family and I waved goodbye to our Edinburgh address and ventured into West Lothian. We are officially residents of Winchburgh Village! In doing so, I have successfully ticked off another item of Project 30! Huge thank you to all our friends and family in helping us get here (especially Gary & Kerry) You’re all welcome anytime…

#FUCancer

   

I love receiving post. Arriving at your new home with a card waiting for you from one of your oldest and closest friends has got to be the best yet! Even better than receiving a letter from Shout magazine saying we were getting a makeover… cheers!


  

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
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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

Happy #FUCancerversary – where’s the moet?!

As I spent my birthday fighting flu I have no shame in admitting that today I intend to fully celebrate my 1 year cancerversary. For those of you who have followed my journey you will be aware I have two cancerversaries; the 8th of April which is the date I was diagnosed and the 27th August is the date I found out I was in remission. Both dates are etched in my memory and will forever hold an importance in my life.

As with any anniversary, I find myself reflecting on where I was this time last year. The 24 hours which surrounded the appointment itself could be described as a tornado of emotions. The night before I was due to get the results, my family had cleverly orchestrated a sleepover for me and my two year old nephew. Wether this was to keep me distracted or simply exhaust me so I had no option of sleep I am still uncertain! Either way the hours passed quickly and I don’t recall struggling to sleep that night! On the day I recall sitting in the room with my Onocologist and Nurse whilst the Funny Boy, Iceberg and Buggernuts literally stood behind me in anticipation. Upon hearing the words ‘there is no sign of cancer’ I had to ask for clarity: Am i hearing this right? The cancer is gone? It was simply too good to be true! Upon receiving the confirmation I needed I simply thought ‘How lucky am I?’

Elated and relieved, the four of us left the appointment hand in hand and as we exited the building the sun was shining down. I stood in the hospital car park making the important phone calls to the family and friends who were eagerly waiting on the other end of the line. On that day, nobody allowed their phone to ring more than once! Aside from announcing my engagement to the Funny Boy, it was the best phone call I have ever had to make!

Upon returning home the four of us put on our best dressed outfits and headed out for dinner. Even the Iceberg joined us for a glass of champagne. It was the only time in all my life I had heard her admit to ‘feeling squiffy’ after half a glass of Moet!

Following our meal and several glasses of champagne I was suitably exhausted. The adrenalin had worn off and it was time to go to bed. I had gone to bed feeling like an athlete at the end of the marathon. I had come to the end of the race, the job was done and it was now time to relax and bask in the glory. However, when I woke the following day it was a very different story.

When the doctor told me there was no sign of cancer – I assumed that meant the cancer was gone. The marathon I didn’t sign up for was done! I imagined that magically my old life would return: Back to work, back to hockey, back to socialising, back to me. I could not have been more wrong. Physically and mentally I was not the same person. And as much as I wanted, wished or even prayed for my old lifestyle to return this was something that was never going to happen. The realisation of this began to hit me. Everything was different.

So here I am 12 months on and how do I feel?

I don’t think the marathon is done but I have come to the realisation that perhaps it never will be. I will never get back to being the old me but it does present an excellent opportunity to continually strive in being a better me!  Admittedly I do have my days of exhaustion and some of my ongoing appointments are not the most enjoyable (I have a new found appreciation for sedatives! My colonoscopy is a blur) which can bring me down. However I simply have to think of what I have achieved in the past year:

  • Returned to work full time and got a new job!
  • Married the Funny Boy and had an epic adventure in Thailand
  • Graduated the Women’s Sport Leadership Academy
  • Successfully began Project 30

Here is to my first of (hopefully) many cancerversaries! Cheers!!

#FUCancer

Happy Cancerversary #FUCancer
Happy Cancerversary #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

 

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

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

 

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WSLA 2015 – Phenomenal Women!

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It’s good to stretch yourself…

 

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The power of a growth mindset!

Buggernuts

Finding out someone you care about has cancer is awful. When you discover it is your child, I can only imagine it is every parent’s worst nightmare.

In my home we call my dad Buggernuts. Believe it or not this is a term of endearment. For as long as I can remember my dad has had this name bestowed upon him and as often as I refer to him with this title he responds by calling me ‘Buggalugs’. There is no rhyme or reason for it. Unlike my mum and I who talk about the big things, the little things and everything in between, my dad and I have a very different relationship. I tend to tease him about his fluctuating weight, horrendous collection of ties and his ‘not so secret’ eating habits. (sorry Buggernuts, but your scrunched up Mars bar wrappers are easily found if you leave them everywhere you go) He likes to tease me also. Knowing I’m very competitive he takes great pleasure in beating me at most racquet sports. Furthermore he has been known to abuse my gullible tendencies: did you know that Johnny Wilkinson was the son of the lead singer of Shwaddy waddy?

Our relationship was a great one because I avoided the big ‘girly’ things which made him uncomfortable and he was simply there for everything else.

I must admit when cancer arrived I did initially think: will Buggernuts even know what a cervix is? And if not, will I have to tell him? Yikes!

For a relationship built on avoiding the big girly stuff this was not going to be easy. However Buggernuts, being the hero that he is stood by my side from day one! Within the first few weeks I was attending appointments where the chat was largely focused on my treatment. On one occasion my oncologist started explaining the side affects on the elasticity of my vagina. She continued ‘We’ll give you a dilator and show you how to use it!’ Buggernuts coped with this very well! Apart from a quick shift in his seat he managed to maintain conversation without so much as a shiver.

As treatment commenced and side affects followed it wasn’t long until I suffered from unrelenting cystisis. At this point the Funny Boy, Iceberg and Buggernuts took turns at keeping me company. I was never alone. Buggernuts never asked me exactly what was causing me pain but he did offer me pain killers, cranberry juice and a hot water bottle. Even now, I doubt he understands what cystisis is but the word itself sounds pretty evil!

Towards the end of treatment I was required to be in hospital overnight. At this point Buggernuts had developed a new coping mechanism: narcolepsy! Whilst waiting for radiotherapy alongside the other patients (the majority of whom were at least 4 decades older) my dad could often be found drifting into a slumber only to be woken by an aggressive snort as he began to snore! A similar situation occurred as he waited with Funny Boy and Iceberg for me to come out of surgery. The best time was when he bought me doughnuts. I found myself having regular cravings for random food. On this occasion I had a hankering for a maple glazed doughnut. As dependable as always Buggernuts arrived with Krispy Kreme aplenty. As soon as he plated them up and sat down to watch Cash in the Attic he fell asleep mid-munch. Crumbs on his belly and frosting in his beard!

As earlier indicated, Buggernuts and I have a relationship built on teasing and avoiding the big stuff. In the past year we got thrust into a world where dilators, menopause and cancer became regular points of conversation. We have even graduated to the point where he can now joke about me getting a prescription for Ann Summers! I know it’s not been easy for him, for any of us, but I just wanted to show him my appreciation: thank you for never asking me what a bloody cervix is!

#FUCancer


Mid treatment carrying the Queens Baton Relay with Buggernuts supporting me along the route!


An emotional day for Buggernuts!

Classic Buggernuts #classicdad