Monthly Archives: October 2014

Parsnip the Wonderdog



Following my diagnosis my next appointment is where I met my oncologist who went into great detail about treatment and its side effects. As always I had the superb team of Iceberg, Buggernuts and the Funny Boy by my side. As Dr Stillie described the likelihood of constipation, diarrhoea, sunburn, cystitis, menopause and fatigue (to name but a few side effects) I had a whole host of questions. In addition to this the super team each had their own valid questions.

‘How long will recovery take? Would it be advisable for Heather to go on holiday? When can she exercise?’

In true Funny Boy fashion he surprised us all by asking the oncologist:

‘What are your thoughts on Heather and I getting a puppy?’

Naturally the oncologist stumbled a bit, no doubt in shock. Iceberg and Buggernuts immediately shook their heads in disapproval and disagreement before Dr Stillie went onto remind the Funny Boy that puppies require a lot of work, sometimes carry infections and ultimately are exhausting. Therefore not ideal to have around whilst undergoing treatment. Meanwhile I simply looked at the Funny Boy in astonishment ‘Where did that question come from?’

At the time I recall counting down the days left of treatment and wishing myself a rapid recovery. It was arduous in a physical and emotional capacity. However I now feel as though the whole process has whizzed by in a very quick flash. As the immediate side affects to treatment such as nausea, diarrhoea, constipation and vomitting began to subside, I found myself struggling to look toward the future. As previously described it was an incredibly emotional time for me. Life in limbo seemed to last even longer than the treatment itself.

At the start of the final week in July I recall discussing my birthday which I was due to celebrate on the Wednesday. Since hitting my 20s I always use birthdays as a time of reflection to see how far I have come in a year and identify the goals that still need ticking off. Despite my 27th year being a pretty productive one I wasn’t in the mood to celebrate. The prospect of it being my final birthday didn’t leave me with the ‘make the most of it’ style approach you would expect. On the Monday evening of that week I was unconsolable with fear, anxiety and anger. However the Funny Boy had a trick up his sleeve. Upon hearing his plan we woke up early the following day to take a journey to Middlesbrough to collect our puppy! The first time I saw her tiny Black and Tan face it was love at first sight.

Prior to being diagnosed the Funny Boy and I had created a bucket list. Upon that list we had both identified the goal of one day having a dog together. The Funny Boy made that goal our reality. As I sit here now I have my new best friend coiled up in my lap. The superb team of Iceberg, Buggernuts and Funny Boy has a new recruit and her name is Parsnip!

Upon my journey I have attempted to give people an insight as to what cancer is like. What I haven’t done is tell you how much companionship and love this little bundle of joy has brought me. Even the disapproving duo of Iceberg and Buggernuts love Parsnip. They have seen the power she has to help me through the hard days. Don’t get me wrong – she pees for Britain and poops in the house more often than I’d care to share but she is a great source of motivation. Following treatment she was the first thing that allowed me to feel like a carer opposed to being the one who everyone else was caring for. I was responsible for feeding her, walking her & putting her to bed. My life had a new focus which was more fun, optimistic and enjoyable than cancer. Parsnip helped me look forward for the first time in months. She is a very big piece in my jigsaw puzzle and without her the picture would never be complete.



My new best friend and I






IMG_4170.JPGParsnip clearly loving her new jumper!?


I initially began writing this blog to save myself the laborious task of repetition and more importantly keep the facts straight. It is wild how quickly a single piece of information being passed on through several links can become distorted. There was no poetic license needed to compose my blogs. What you read is the truth.

I have come to depend on this safe space to be my voice. A space where I can share my experience as well as my thoughts, fears and feelings. Many people who have taken the time to read my entries have admitted they now have a better insight to what life with cancer is like.

I know life will never be the same for me. I have accepted that as of the 8th April 2014 everything has changed. Relationships, outlooks, motivations have all shifted in some way. I have always viewed life as being like a jigsaw puzzle; everyone has numerous pieces which click together to make a complete picture. Work, family, friends, hobbies, the love of a significant other! At times if ever I was down it would be because a piece was missing or something just didn’t fit quite right. Now, however it feels like I am starting my puzzle from scratch because the picture has changed completely. All my puzzle pieces are upside down and jumbled in the box. I have identified my corner pieces but the remaining 996 will take some time to piece together.

One of the pieces in my puzzle is how I am going to give something back to say thank you, to show my gratitude for being one of the lucky ones and more importantly support the people who supported me. In light of this I am in the early stages of hosting a ‘STICK IT to Cancer’ hockey festival & quiz night to raise funds for two incredible charities.
The first is Maggie’s who have provided a wealth of support to my family and I. Maggie’s have been helping me navigate my way through the emotional aftermath of cancer. They have offered advice on every puzzle piece from coping mechanisms to exercise and how to look good. They have become a new safe place out with this virtual forum.
The second charity is an easy choice for obvious reasons: Cancer Research. It’s as simple as it sounds. Without the research I wouldn’t have received the vital treatment which ultimately saved my life.
More details on the ‘STICK IT to Cancer’ hockey festival to follow in due course. Watch this space!

Another new piece, inspired by my experience, is how I can share my story so people can learn from it. The past six months has allowed me to realise how ignorant I was about cancer. Even in my initial diagnosis I remember asking ‘so, it’ll be a few tough months?’ Which was quickly corrected with ‘it’ll be a tough few years.’ Even following treatment I was of the opinion that being in remission meant I was over it, beyond it, it was behind me. But that’s simply not the case. I am still unsure how exactly I will fulfil this piece in the puzzle but I have a feeling this blog is a good starting point.

My jigsaw is far from complete but as I said I have the most important corner pieces already in place and that is my family and friends. Thank you for being so supportive, reliable and making me feel so loved!