Proud Auntie

Patience is a virtue. Today I’m not feeling particular virtuous. The erratic and unpredictable bowel movements are getting worse. I have had a whole week of ‘taking it easy’ which basically means no sport. Apart from a quick game of table tennis and a run around at Inverleith park I have been limiting my after work duties to recharging my batteries. On Tuesday I was back in the confines of our loo. It is on days like those where I welcome a colonoscopy! The familiar view below is one I have come to hate:

  
I can’t complain however. The frustration of not doing sport was compensated yesterday when I got to play proud Auntie. Conor and Ryan, along with their cousins, competed in their first organised sporting event: the Vale of Leven toddler fun run! Between them they have surpassed any records in the Williams’ household by being the youngest to wear a running number.

   
 

Following the fun run the spotlight was on my older brother Owain who took to compete in the Vale of Leven 10k. I must admit I had slight envy and regret for not signing up. However those feelings quickly disappeared when Owain revealed his shirt which proudly boasted a Welsh Dragon and Saltire on either sleeve with a bold #FUCancer on the back.

   
 

Proud auntie, proud sister!  

#FUCancer

“Getting cancer is like finding out Santa’s not real!”

Us Brits are notoriously known for our impeccable manners. Sometimes our polite nature holds us back from certain topics of conversation! I am very open to discussion about my experience with cancer and its ongoing side affects yet I have had to endure some perplexing, crude and at times down right merciless comments. I thought I could share these for your own amusement or a lesson on what not to say to someone with cancer.

Did you get to keep your cervix?

I’ve not been in touch because I find the whole cancer thing awkward. 

Cervical? That’s one of the good cancers. – There is NO GOOD CANCER!

My mum had cancer but it sounds like hers was a lot worse.

I’ve done loads of reading. What stage is your cancer at?

What caused your cancer?

Should you be eating that?

You shouldn’t eat sugar, sugar causes cancer… SUGAR IS KILLING YOU!

Finding out you have cancer must be like finding out Santa isn’t real. It turns your life upside down eh?

(On the topic of infertility where I am surrounded by pregnant women) It’s like when people talk about their tans. I can’t get a tan and it drives me crazy when all people want to talk about is tanning.

(In response to me struggling to think of a word) Oh my god! It’s like that chemo cabbage brain thing – your brain cells are literally dead! Haha!

(On the topic of me not being able to have kids) It’s not that big a deal.

It’s great to see you back to normal. 

You look great, considering…

You’re going on holiday? You’ve just been off work for the best part of 6 months!

I know what you’re going through because I had to get a smear once. It was a nightmare!

My brother’s girlfriend’s uncle’s son is a doctor. He wants to know the name of your cancer.

I was reading about your cancer online. Did you know….

You must feel so lucky! 

That final quote is a bit of an oxymoron because I do feel lucky to be here. Lucky to be alive. However I also feel incredibly unlucky to have been dealt a hand which forced me to sacrifice fertility. In the same breath of it being a small price to pay for survival it is equally something I will never get over. But hopefully, in time, it is something I will come to terms with. But in response to a few people above:

My inability to have kids is not like being unable to take a tan and it is a big deal! F*ck sake!

#FUCancer

Bowels Behaving Badly

Monday marked my 9 month check up. In contrast to the last one which loomed over me for weeks this appointment snuck up on my calendar – it felt as though it had come around too quick.

In the past few weeks I have returned to frequent visits on the porcelain throne which is reeking havoc on my socialising. It appears my grumpy bowels and bloating belly, although predictable following treatment, require a more thorough inspection. I am now awaiting the invitation to attend a colonoscopy and another MRI scan. I am assured there is nothing to worry about and I have great confidence in my doctor. I don’t see this as a setback. It’s merely an opportunity for peace of mind. 

That being said it is is difficult not to get anxious when you are faced with the prospect of having a camera rooting around your rear! On the whole (excuse the pun) it’ll make a change from where I am used to being poked and prodded… Giggidy!

#FUCancer

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

Race For Life

It goes without saying that Cancer Research are an incredible charity; the work they do literally saves lives.

Cancer Research are continually discovering new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. Did you know that in the 1970s, the 10-year survival rate was as low as one in four? Today, thanks to Cancer Research, half of people diagnosed will survive for 10 years or more. They are committed to ‘beating cancer sooner’ and whilst they work towards that goal they also develop evidence-based policy to inform Government decisions related to cancer and research. All of which they do without any government funding! Incredible. So given my experience with #FUCancer I wanted to share my story beyond the confines of wordpress. Today, I was invited to Cancer Research’s Race For Life at Hopetoun House to do exactly that.

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After signing up for the 5k I recruited a team of friends to unite as Team #FUCancer to run, march, skip and dance the route together. At the start of the day I was welcomed on stage by Heart FM’s Paul Harper to give a brief overview of what my family and I had endured in the past year. The crowd were very supportive but I think the warm reception was down to Parsnip being on stage. That dog loves the limelight! It was inspiring to see an army of women, children and dogs dressed in pink gathered for the same goal: beat cancer! I had the huge honour of starting the race.

As I ran around the course I found myself casting back to this time last year when I was in the midst of treatment and beginning to experience the menopause. It was tough. I have come to realise I am reminising a lot at the moment. I know they say you shouldn’t look back but I find it a huge motivator in enthusing me to move forward. So that is exactly what I did, I ran towards the finish line. I owe a huge amount to Cancer Research and today was only a small part of how I intend to show my gratitude. It was privilege to signal the start of the race and I am so proud to have been a part of it along with my friends.

#FUCancer

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Cancer Stinks!

Flatulence. It’s a fact of life.

Bum burps, trouser trumpets, crop duster, muff puff, whatever you want to call it, anal acoustics is something we all experience. As a woman this is something I probably shouldn’t confess to, and goodness knows the Iceberg will be mortified, but I have been holding onto this since treatment and I finally feel it’s time to let go. Excuse the pun!

As babies our bowel movements and sound affects amuse parents the world over. I only have to recall the sound clip my brother sent me of Conor when he was a few months old. I waited patiently as I expected to hear Conor giggle or even his first word. To no avail I was holding my phone to my ear in anticipation for the sound of Conor breaking wind. My brother was so proud! I have to admit it did make me giggle. As children we find great amusement in ‘letting one rip’. In my early teens I remember very vividly chatting to my friends on MSN only to be disturbed my oldest brother who had ran into the room with the specific aim of farting in my vicinity before running off in a fit of laughter. I didn’t find it quite so funny on this occasion. Even now, my 3 year old nephew finds the whole world of ‘pumping’ very entertaining!

Upon starting treatment I was welcomed with a whole encyclopaedia worth of side affects which were repeated to me on a daily basis. Due to the imminent nature of these I failed to compute the long lasting side affects. Apparently temperamental bowels, sporadic bloating and frequent flatulance is the fine print of cancer treatment. The Funny Boy and I had been together a modest 6 months when I was diagnosed. Until that point I was still a lady in his eyes. On the odd occasion I found myself needing to toot I would excuse myself and run the tap in the bathroom. However the combined attack of chemo and radiotherapy on my bowels would require me to run several baths a day in order to mask the tornado brewing inside. So alas, the Funny Boy and I reached that ‘over comfortable stage’ very early on. Gone were the days of leaving the room or trying to mask it with a cough; I had a bigger issue to deal with. Thankfully the Funny Boy finds trumping as humorous as my nephew. It almost brought out his competitive side. In Crocodile Dundee Fashion his response of ‘that’s not a Fart, this is a fart…’ Highlighted that this new level in our relationship would only bring us closer together!

I had assumed following treatment and its aftermath, that the need for ‘under thunder’ would surpass. Regardless of what I eat or do, however, it’s an ongoing fixture. Come Monday I will be returning to the hospital for my 9 month check up. I am back at work, enjoying my fitness training and overall, I am enjoying life. Yet, I do find myself regularly battling inexplicable booty bombs. I could be at the gym, sitting at my desk at work or simply watching TV and then an internal struggle to remain a lady arises. Although socially awkward it is a tiny detail in the fine print of survival that I can cope with. If nothing else it gives the Funny Boy and I something to laugh about!

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….I wish!!

#FUCancer

What is a Cancerversary?

What is a cancerversary?

According to my brief research online, a cancerversary is a significant date within someone’s journey with cancer. It could be diagnosis, remission or the beginning of treatment, or it could be the date of someone losing a friend or family member. It could be one date or several. The definition of a cancerversary is unique to each individual which is no surprise because everyone’s experience with cancer is different.

As I write this I am sat by the pool wearing nothing more than a bikini and factor 30 sun cream. I am on day #6 of my pre wedding getaway with the Iceberg in Corralejo. With a wedding only days away and a honeymoon directly after, it’s hard to answer: can life get much better than this? But despite the bright future ahead of me and the lavish life I am living in the here and now, I do find myself contrasting with where I was this time last year. It was on this date in 2014 that my life changed forever.

I don’t dwell about my experience with cancer but I do try to talk openly about it, welcoming questions in a bid to make people more aware and more comfortable. On a few occasions I have been told ‘It’s all behind you now, you need to focus on your future’ and although I agree with the latter part of that statement I regret to say the first part is far from the truth. There is not a day that has gone by since the 8th April 2014 where I have not thought about cancer. A day hasn’t gone by without realising the implications it has had on my life and those I care about. I struggle to put into words how my life changed, it was if the world beneath my feet ceased to exist. It stripped me of everything I prioritised and left me at point zero. Yet, as I celebrate my first cancerversary (and, yes I am celebrating) I feel grounded and stronger than I ever dreamed of being. Cancer has allowed me to detox my life. In all the cliche terms you can imagine it has given me a new perspective on love, family, friendships and work. I believe it has taught me how to live life more efficiently and, effectively, how to be happy. Now – if that is not a good enough reason to celebrate then what is!?

So for me, my first cancerversary (I have two) is marked by the date I was diagnosed. This was the date I began the marathon I didn’t sign up for, when I launched my fight for #FUCancer and when I fully began appreciating the people in my life. I doubt there ever will be a day where I am not reminded of cancer but why would I want to forget something that has already taught me so much? So happy cancerversary to me! Let’s hope I make it to the next milestone on the 27th of August which will mark a year in remission.

#FUCancer
#cancerversary

Arrow Launch

Whilst going through treatment and particularly during the aftermath in remission I found myself depending on the support provided by Maggie’s. All the staff had this unique ability to verbalise feelings and frustrations in a simple way which could be relayed to friends and family. One analogy which has stuck with me is this:

An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it’s going to launch you into something great.

Upon diagnosis I felt like life had simply stopped. In remission, it felt like I regressed into a vulnerable child. I was reliant on my parents and the funny boy. I lost my confidence. I felt useless. Hopeless with no idea where to start.

The crazy thing is, I am now entering my 7th month in remission and I don’t know where the time has gone. I feel like I am back on an upward trajectory. In the past 5 months I have secured a new job, been selected to participate in the Women in Sport Leadership Academy and I am even getting my fitness back. I have planned and delivered a boccia festival, a conference and, in two weeks, I can hopefully add a wedding to that list. What’s more I am already working towards raising the profile of cancer awareness and particularly the reality of remission which I think often gets overlooked. I am volunteering with Cancer Research who featured my story in the Sunday Mail and today I attended a photo shoot for Marie Claire who will be doing a small article in June’s issue. Life is crazy. Crazy good!

So, as always the staff at Maggie’s were right! I do believe cancer thwarted my original plan but the journey I am on now definitely feels like the right one. And dare I say it? It’s even more exciting!! 

To mark this occasion I am going to start one of the items on my bucketlist which is to take a photo everyday for 30 days! Here is a dreaded selfie of me pre-photo shoot. 

#FUCancer

#30thingsbefore30

   

#FUCANCER

My Emotional Thermometer

With my wedding day happening in a matter of weeks I find myself being overly aware of time. It has been nearly 10 months since I was diagnosed. On Wednesday I return to the hospital for my 6 month check up. My grasp of time is divided: on one hand I can’t believe this whole marathon (which is ongoing) has not even been a year in the making. I feel so much has happened in the short space of time. On the other hand it feels like time is going very slowly. I sense this has something to do with an over zealous ambition of wanting everything to be normal.

In the grand scheme of things I am doing great. I am fully into the swing of things at work with a new job  I enjoy. I have returned to my daily workouts which leaving me feeling energised. The wedding to do list is under control. I recently got selected for the Women in Sport Leadership Academy and I no longer feel completely out of control of my life.  Considering the year I have had – I would say I am doing pretty well. However I do have days where everything can change in the blink of an eye. When my emotional thermometer goes from a comfortable room temperature to breaking point in a matter of moments. When this happens I, once again, find myself feeling vulnerable, out of control and, much like the thermometer, at breaking point.

I am currently in the final stages of preparation for a conference I am hosting for work which brings its own stresses. Couple that with my impending nuptials and a 6 month check up at my oncologist then it is no surprise that the past fortnight has left my feeling a little stressed. Someone once told me the definition of stress is fear of something not getting done. Until recently I probably would have continued to believe that but not anymore. The conference and wedding bring pressure but they do not cause stress. I know that all the deadlines for the organisation and planning will be met and ultimately will result in a well orchestrated event. Stress for me is fear of the unknown. Fear of the uncontrollable. There is literally nothing within my power I can do to secure a good result on Wednesday. That is what causes me stress. However I am beginning to learn ways to control it. Exercise is a massive ali of mine and being able to talk openly helps. I doubt there is anyone who knows me who is unaware of what I have been through and the lasting effects it has brought. I know it makes some people feel uncomfortable but I have come to accept that it is their issue. Cancer, much like mental health, is a taboo subject and this is something I am keen to challenge. Furthermore, I think it is important that people around me know that although I am doing the normal things, for me life is still far from it.

For example, this week I found myself working at an event targeting children and young people in care. My infertility is a grieving process which I am still going through. As much as I loved working at the event and meeting the children and their carers, I found myself feeling emotional on the drive home. In my ‘normal life’ I knew that if the Funny Boy and I wanted to have children it would simply involve us taking our clothes off and having a good time. Now, I have no idea where to start. That makes me frustrated. What hurts even more is the prospect that the fact I have had cancer could prevent me ever being a mother. I have read horror stories online where adoption agencies have used it against people who are looking to adopt. Is it possible that Cancer could deny me ever being a mum?

I do my best to stay positive. I try to focus on the facts and ignore any negative thoughts. With the stress of my 6 month check up slowly mounting I set my attention to areas within my control. As it is the weekend, I had planned to do some training for the half marathon I am doing in March and tick a few errands off the wedding to do list. At 9am this morning I could be found in the midst of a nine mile run at the top of Arthur Seat. The sun was shining above me, Edinburgh was looking beautiful below me and I was feeling fit. As far as Saturday mornings go – this was picture perfect. I met the Funny Boy and Parsnip at Portobello beach where we stopped for a well-earned breakfast which was intended to fuel us for wedding tasks. Unfortunately the happy mood was not set to last. A phone call to our travel agents to enquire about our honeymoon led me to breaking point. Bad customer service, a broken promise and an additional uncontrollable stress led me to tears. My emotional thermometer had reached breaking point and once again, I found myself feeling unable to cope.

It may seem like an over exaggeration but this is what my new normal is like. My life is now measured in three-monthly increments. As each date draws nearer I find myself hoping, wishing and praying that all is ok. On one hand I welcome any appointment so I can breathe a sigh of relief. On the other the prospect of another three months vacant from doctors, nurses and tests is a treat because at least ignorance is bliss. Regardless this is the new norm that I am growing accustomed to. I refuse to let Cancer deny me the good things in life. It may have left me with a set of redundant ovaries and a faulty emotional thermometer but I am stronger. In light of my fascination of time I have plenty to look forward to:

2 weeks til my Hen Weekend

5 weeks til my Hen Night

6 weeks til my holiday with the Iceberg

8 weeks til I say I do….

#FUCancer

Emotional Thermometer