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I have to admit I shouldn’t really complain right now (although I probably still will)… I’m writing this post from a sofa over looking a lovely Moroccan garden, a pool and with a couple of peacocks and a tortoise thrown in for good measure.

garden

I decided to write this after reading the heading of a blog by Helen Bliss…

So You’re Cancer-Free Now, Right?”

I’ve popped the link to Helen’s full blog at the end, check it out, she’s one inspirational lady.

After my amazing news in March (clear pet scan) I have had to address some annoying treatment related side effects. It feels so ungrateful to moan about the relatively small issues caused by my rarely performed surgery and potentially life saving/extending drugs…. BUT SERIOUSLY F.F.S!!!!

Lymphedema – A chronic and sometimes debilitating condition in which excess fluid called lymph collects in tissues and causes swelling (edema) in them. Symptoms of lymphedema include swelling in one or more extremities, often caused by damage to the lymphatic system during surgery or illness.

Having experienced this less than pleasant condition temporarily during recovery from my sternectomy I was fully aware of what was happening to my precious pointy finger… it was getting fat. I’d not banged it, strained it and as far as I could tell I had no nail or infection issues… it was just getting fat!! The panic set in, is sausage finger permanent? Will it spread all over? Will I balloon Violet Beauregaurde style and eventually pop???

violet

After a few unexpected (and obviously terrifying) scans to assess that the cause was indeed damage to my lymphatic system from past surgeries, we got on with treating my fat finger… well it turns out my original fat right arm issue had also flared up too, along with said fat finger, the result of this news is a pair of sexy compression garments, one for my left had and one for my right arm. The garments are beige, this enables the medical professionals, especially those that don’t have to wear them, to try to hoodwink you into believing that they are barely noticeable, personally I feel like I have mannequin limbs and I am uncontrollably compelled to do very bad robot impressions for some reason…. somebody please stop me!!

If anyone reading this uses these delightful garments, check this site out… I’m soooo ordering me some of these!!

http://www.pebbleuk.com

 hand

So now I’m gloved up and doing what I can to rid myself of my excess lymph fluid, and all I have to do is wait and see, just what we all want to hear when discussing a chronic and potentially debilitating condition, we can move on to shitty side effect number 2.

AI induced alopecia (hair loss) – A possible side effect from AI drugs, those that inhibit estrogen production, often used in the treatment of hormone positive breast cancer.

This one really drags outside, and kicks the living crap out of any smidgen of self-esteem left over after the hormone related weight gain and stupid mannequin arms. As I am on 2 drugs that can cause hairloss/thinning in women, 2!!!, I had no chance really. My hair grew back OK after my 2nd bout with chemo, not as thick but OK. I have been on the meds for 4 years now but it didn’t happen immediately, maybe 2 years in it became apparent, I saw a photo of the back of my head taken at a friend’s party and I was totally distraught to see such a clear view of pale scalp around my crown… Sexy!!!

bald spots

I know, I know…. It’s not too bad, you’ve seen worse, you can barely even tell….. Well it’s not your head peeping out through your barnet is it???

It has got progressively worse since then with some extra thinning at the front, it is essentially like male pattern baldness but on a woman, a scruffy woman who often goes out in her PJ’s, hardly knows how to use a hair dryer and thought until recently that contouring was a civil engineering term. The art of styling hair to cover balding areas is not coming easily, special products, brushes and techniques, all a mystery…. and before anyone says “Now you know what men go through”… although I have the upmost sympathy for balding men it’s not the friggin’ same!!!

In my attempts to disguise the issue I have done/used/worn……

polaroids sheet

*Caffeine shampoo – nice but not sure it helped.

*Posh and very expensive shampoo – no effect.

*The Nioxin system – has helped a bit.

*Dry shampoo – helps to boof up whilst styling.

*Got2b Glued hair spray – helps cover ups in non-windy, rainy or roasting hot conditions.

*Superdrug’s Instant Colour Hairspray and Colour Fix ranges – these are my current friends, there’s one in the bathroom and one in my bag.

*Hats and scarfs – check out youtube for scarf tying tutorials.

My latest endeavor to rescue my ever-decreasing locks was a trip to Lucinda Ellery in Hammersmith. They are a company started by a lady (Lucida Ellery) with similar hair issues to myself who wanted to provide a system of extensions to thicken your do without damaging the new and existing hair, one that looks natural, with low maintenance and that is comfortable to wear. I can see by the testimonials that they have had many happy customers, and a dear friend found their system of real benefit whilst having treatment for cancer. So I attended my free consultation, excited and curious what they could do for me with my very short-cropped hair.

Already completely out of my comfort zone, I could probably count the times I’ve been to a proper hair-salon on my fingers and toes, I am greeted by a smiley, pretty women and ushered toward a waiting room with a purple/crystal/sequin vibe. The lovely girl that talked me through the process was very professional, but for me lacked the humour and maybe years on this planet to really connect with my issues, and me, fuck I’m old… I left feeling that I’d been taken through a spiel, sales patter but with a touch of arrogance…

“If you don’t like it no refunds, you can put it down to experience ”

Honest I suppose, when making such a large financial and emotional investment. I think maybe I was just overwhelmed by the purple sparkles and glamorous ladies departing the salon looking like they were about to take their seat at the Captains table on the QE2. Personally, if my opinion counted for anything, I’d suggest a less stylized (sparkly) environment, not all ladies with thinning hair want to spend 7hrs in a sequined purple paradise, and although I was assured that the natural look was an option, some before and after images to prove this fact would be magic.

I’ve not ruled out the Lucida Ellery system totally, but for the meantime I think I’ve popped it on the back-burner.

Hot Flushes – For some women, hot flushes and night sweats are infrequent and manageable. But for others, they can be intense and interfere with quality of life. Women experience these symptoms due to an imbalance in their hormone levels.

Crap side effect no. 3…. Only need to be brief on this matter really, it’s fairly self-explanatory. The on-going drugs cause menopausal flushes, for me it starts with a wave of anxiety, closely followed by a wave of heat from the waist up, then sweat and tomato face, superseded by my thinning mop sticking to my head and face like I just got out of a shower, finishing up with a damp, cold sensation, sexy. All that’s left to say on this matter is that it can happen anywhere and more often than not it’ll happen just when you could do without it!!

Top tip…. Acupuncture helps!!

There are many more…. dry skin, eyes, and throat…. well, dry everything!!!…. The stubborn weight, the tiredness, the aches and pains and don’t forget the forgetfulness, oh and of course the unremitting capability to moan!!

As women I think we all feel a certain pressure to look and feel good at all times. It’s repeatedly shoved down our throats in magazines, social media and on T.V. that feeling sexy is being sexy…. Nobody will love you if you don’t love yourself!!!… I’m still working out how exactly to feel sexy whilst contending with the issues in this post, but one day I will become a 40 something, slightly overweight, balding, sweaty, mannequin armed lady who feels sexy from the inside out!!!!

 

http://www.pebbleuk.com

http://www.lucindaellery.com

https://www.nioxin.com/en-EN

http://www.schwarzkopf.com/skus/en/home/brands/styling/got2b.html

http://www.superdrug.com/Superdrug/Superdrug-Roots-Concealer-Spray-Dark-Brown-75ml/p/504015

http://www.superdrug.com/Superdrug/Superdrug-Colour-Hairspray—Black/p/718436?singleResultSearchPage=true

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/helen-bliss/so-youre-cancerfree-now-r_b_16064566.html

 

 

 

 

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42 square

I used to hate birthdays, I hated the thought of getting older, I was never comfortable with getting fussed over or being the centre of attention, I disliked the pressure of organizing something that everyone else would enjoy, desperately trying to avoid a repeat of The Great Birthday Catastrophe of 2001 when I dragged 12 of my nearest and dearest to the Tate Britain, what was I thinking???… I hated the thought of some big countdown style clock ticking off the years of my life, having to consider a serious career, buying a house, having kids, wrinkles, arthritis, grey hair, the menopause, and then after all that grown up bollocks, slowly rotting away in some grotty care home run by granny beaters and smelling of piss… did I mention that I hated the thought of getting older?!!!

clock ready

I’m not one of those cancer heroes that say, “It’s the best thing that ever happened to me” or “It’s made me a far better person” or “If I could turn back time I wouldn’t change a thing”…. Personally I could have well done without nearly 8 years of cutting, poisoning, poking and prodding, not to mention the plethora of crappy side effects from the ongoing meds, but that said, cancer has taught me to enjoy my birthdays, to treat getting older as a the privilege that it is, and to embrace a little “All about me” time!!

This coming birthday is a bit special for me, “Why 42?” you ask… let me explain. I was still reeling from my initial breast cancer diagnosis in 2009 and it was a Sunday morning, I was perusing the papers and came across an article written by Gloria Hunniford about her daughter Caron Keating. Caron was a Blue Peter presenter in the late 80’s and therefor a huge part of my childhood. An intrepid and strong woman who travelled the world, abseiled down buildings and swam with sharks, and all that whilst being so very pretty too. What a woman.

bp

“One day Mum, I want to be just like Caron off Blue Peter”

Little did I know back then that I would be like Caron one day, just not in a way I’d have ever wished for.

The article stated that Caron had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997, at the same age that I was. She went through both conventional and alternative treatments, and visited specialist clinics in Australia and Switzerland for yet more therapy. Caron sadly passed away in 2004 aged 41, leaving a husband and 2 children as well as her famous Mum, Gloria.

I don’t think that I’m naturally pessimistic, maybe I was just susceptible to looking on the bleak side due to the barrage of shit that had just been thrown in my direction, but Caron’s 7 year survival rang some kind of alarm bell in my head, my heart sank and from that moment onwards I was convinced this was the pattern I too would follow, I’d die at 41 just like Caron, I had only 7 years of life left to live.

I would wake up regularly at night in a cold sweat thinking about it (actually it was usually a hot sweat, damn hormone drugs), I’d listen the positives I was given by my Oncologist, surgeon and nurses, smile and nod but dismiss them internally thinking that it didn’t even matter what they did, I’d be dead by 41 anyway. I found it hard to look forward to life past that point, any plans my friends and family would make that might involve me being over 41 I’d cheerfully go along with, but deep inside I knew I wouldn’t be able to make them.

As the months and years past and the only physical cancery stuff I had to do was keep taking the pills (Tamoxifen) and attend my 6 monthly check ups, it became a little easier to stop with the Caron Keating 7 year curse shit, to tell myself that I was an individual with a different prognosis, we are all different and that if I wasn’t careful all my negative thoughts would create a some kind of self fulfilling prophecy… to go get some counselling and move the fuck on.

It was early 2013, shortly after celebrating 3 years with no cancer, I got cancer. This time metastatic disease (A cancer or tumor which has spread from the primary site of origin, where it started, into different area(s) of the body)… in my case a small tumor nestled away neatly in my sternum bone… this is not good, I now fell into the “incurable” bracket. When I fill in DWP forms it’s incurable, travel insurance, incurable, GP’s, incurable, other patients, incurable, people I haven’t seen in a while… incurable!

sternum

This is it, the beginning of the end, it’s happening, I knew it would, I was right all along, all that I have to look forward to now is the slow decline from fit and well to sick, pale, nauseous, thin, weak…

Well, it’s 4 years since that happened, and I’m very much still here, a bit wonky but here. I know I’ll never not be monitored, poked, prodded and scanned, I’ll never be off medication of some sort or another, I am now, and forever will be dealing with this cancer crap in one way, shape or form, but what I am is 42, and for my 42nd birthday I got the best gift someone like me could ever wish for, a PET/CT scan result showing “No Evidence of Disease”.

“Happy Birthday Me”

loons

Next to you – by Gloria Hunniford

http://www.caronkeating.org

https://www.macmillan.org.uk

http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-britain

https://www.breastcancercare.org.uk

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“….The search continues” bit on my blog header page is not supposed to suggest that I’m a miserable old boot, or that I don’t find any joy in my life as it is right now, because I do, I consider myself to be a very lucky girl, there’s wishful thinking for you, …woman?…lady?… female..?… fuck it, a lucky human!!!

human

It refers to dealing with the whole middle age and breast cancer bollocks, the many ups and downs I’ve had, self-help techniques and outside-help techniques that I use or have attempted to use over the last few years. Sometimes my life just feels like a continuing mission to achieve my ultimate goal, not wealth, not fame, not power, not the unachievable constant happiness we often foolishly seek … but contentment, the simple joy that feeling at peace with yourself brings.

One of the key words that comes up time and time again in my many “outside-help” activities… counselling, yoga therapy, hypnosis, physio appointments and doc’s visits, is balance. If it were possible to take a word and put it on the ground and jump up and down on it until it was smooched into an unrecognizable pulp then this one would be the first to get it. Is balance ever achievable, can we ever get to a point in our own life where we feel that we do all that we can to be the best possible us, to look after our physical bodies with the respect they deserve, to sufficiently attend to our mental health, to treat all those around us with love, consideration and compassion? How do we let go of what we perceive to be others expectations of how hard we should work, how much money we should earn, how much time we should spend with our kids, family, friends, exercising or cleaning? Can we ever really come to terms with the fact that we may never be a Rock-star or superstar DJ, may never write an international best seller or be forever remembered by future generations for our outstanding contribution to science?… Is this just pressure from todays media madness to live the most amazing Instagram worthy life, or the age old self imposed burden of keeping up with the Jones’s, or even some desperate longing to leave your mark on this world and render yourself immortal?

So in the search for the illusive “balance” it seems that the pressure to do so can, if incorrectly sought out, cause a whole heap of unbalance… what I often refer to as a wobble, or on my less balanced days… a shit storm!

Firstly I’m usually hard on myself for being lazy, antisocial, drunk, not exercising or eating an entire packet of biscuits, then I’m hard on myself for being hard on myself as I’ve been told being hard on yourself is not helpful, and then I’ll probably be hard on myself for not getting my shit together enough so I can justify not being so hard on myself… do you see my problem?

bang-head-here

I first became aware that the emotional bit of me could majorly malfunction when I decided I was fat. I was around 23ish and had piled on a few pounds, probably due to an office job that involved a load of sitting on my arse, cakes, biscuits and long pub lunches. I decided enough was enough and started the Atkins diet… 3 months later, after getting a tad carried away, I ended up just under 8st (well skinny for me) and signed off work with fatigue. It was at about this time that my much-adored long-term boyfriend decided that as he was now the newly appointed front man with a band that he might want a little “me” time. Whilst weak from excessive fad dieting, it seemed getting dumped tipped the apparently delicate balance and I had my first experience with anti-depressants.

pills

Eventually life got back on track, I started eating something apart from cocktail sausages, my boyfriend saw the error of his ways and I got off the pills.

Round 2 came about 18 months later, I’d split with the boyfriend, moved out of the family home, Mum was on her second bout of cancer treatment, Dad had developed a heart condition, I’d just started a new job and was living off Shreddies, white wine and roll ups… not entirely unexpected huh!

shreddies

Round 3 has been a whole other level, recovery from treatment for primary breast cancer, a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer, more chemo and a mahoosive operation, and worst of all, spending (wasting) life waiting for it to come back. I’m textbook, every ache and pain, touch of indigestion or constipation, cold, backache, toothache, toe ache, tiredness or hangover… have all definitely been cancer. After being prescribed 2 different anti-depressants, 2???!!?, and feeling so guilty and ashamed of my self pitying behaviour that I had to run home to my Dad for a month to withdraw from morphine and cry, I began on my mission.

And my discoveries so far are…

Yoga is great medicine for the mind and body, as long as you haul your backside to a class and don’t just buy a mat and some colourful leggings.

Meditation is really hard but life changing when it clicks… just shut any pets out of the room, they don’t help!

With the right counsellor talking therapy is magic.

Hypnotherapy is relaxing, personally I’m not sure if it did anything else, but it was a pleasant experience.

Eating well makes you feel better and quite smug.

Addressing health concerns as they come up is best all round, denial is a head fuck at best and at worst, well you don’t want to know…

Fresh air and exercise helps loads (and I really hate exercise).

Being creative can help stop that monkey brain running rings around you.

Family and friends make it easier to live in the moment, as do Dave, Rita and Moog!!

dave-rita-moog

 

 Joy?…. It’s a work in progress, and I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one on the mission, good luck with all yours x

wip

https://www.thefmlystore.com (for fab jumpers and stuff…and there’s a blog too)

http://www.theyogaroot.com (for a little bit of me time)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Neither the Hubby or I are massive sun worshippers but as long as a brolly is available then plonk us by a pool, or even better a reasonably unpolluted looking stretch of beach and we are happy as pigs in shit.

It was late summer and the Hubby had been getting increasingly stressed with work and showing some definite signs of needing some well deserved holibobs!!!

We spent a rainy Sunday afternoon scouring Trip Advisor for the perfect location at the perfect price. A beach front spot with a pool, a plethora of good value restaurants and bars to choose from, yet quiet and peaceful…. a short, easy journey with guaranteed good weather at the end of September… Formentera it is!!

formentera-pic

It seems that it is rare to find a package holiday these days that is not “All-Inclusive”… I’d only been on one of these type of holidays before. The Great Mexican Adventure of 2011… two weeks, 12 friends aged from 26 to 40, no kids, a 24hr bar and what after a few tequilas (on tap) seemed like a challenge to eat, and more importantly drink your monies worth, even if it damn near kills you.

bottles

We were the epitome of Brits on the piss… at one point a few days in, the Hubby and I had been having a siesta in our room when we decided to go find the others. As we strolled across the perfectly manicured lawns there was a stream of unhappy looking families and couples heading in the opposite direction muttering and mumbling angrily in various different languages. As we neared the pool area our search was over, we just had to follow the noise, “Found them!!”… Turns out the rest of our party were doing exactly that, partying, and had taken over the whole sunken pool bar… it took some serious catching up but somehow Hubby and I managed, if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em!!!

mexico

What turned out to be the perfect environment for 12 twats on tour to stumble about drunkenly and get herded by the well practiced staff into areas where we’d cause the least disruption to the other guests… the all-inclusive didn’t hold much interest for us as a couple. Without the company of 10 of our nearest and dearest we wondered if it could all feel a bit like Groundhog Day?

We arrived on the tour operators’ bus still bemused by the early start, 3am ffs!! .. We checked in, dumped the bags and hit the buffet…. It was like a particularly competitive episode of supermarket sweep, people from all corners of the world coming together to hurriedly stuff as much cheese, bread, paella and set yogurt (why?) down their necks before someone noticed they’d eaten enough for 3 bodybuilders and a grizzly bear. I think Attenborough needs to do a documentary on the feeding habits of the all-inclusive holidaymaker.

buffet

(To be read in your best Sir David Attenborough voice)

First we observe the alpha males of the heard, the aggressive way they puff out their chests to intimidate potential challengers to their prey, normally found wearing brightly coloured and heavily branded t-shirts or vests that allow them to display large and more often than not, shit tribal tattoos so’s to render any potential challengers fearful of approaching the meat grill.

The meeker of the males can be found hovering just out of the alpha’s sights, heads darting quickly from side to side attempting to assess the steak/pork chop/chicken breast situation, trying to see what the more dominant males may have left them to pick the bones of.

Next we spy the geriatric males, easy to spot in their beige short and shirt co-ords with the telltale sock/sandal combo. Found circling the feeding stations attentively for what seems an age whilst clutching empty plates, these are the unlikely looking experts of the all-inclusive buffet. We observe, from a safe distance, that they appear to be awaiting freshly cooked offerings, pouncing on the unsuspecting kitchen staff as they carry the trays of pizza, pancakes and bacon to slide under the heat lamps, no cold chips for the wise elders.

The females are a far more complex bunch; the chief aggressors also appear to be the elders, covered in floaty, sheer leopard/tiger/zebra print tunics. These matriarchs of the buffet zone move with surprising swiftness and agility considering their more advanced years and usually hunt alone. These, of any of the all-inclusive holiday makers, are to be treated with the most trepidation, if just the slightest hesitation at the pastry counter trying to decide between a chocolate croissant and a cinnamon swirl is observed, then one of these animal-print clad bullies will swoop in, before you can say “Buenos Dias” you’ll be rendered tong-less and pastry-less.

The beautiful birds of paradise of the buffet are to be admired by all as they delicately totter between counters wearing 5in stiletto mules. Usually found in a shade of walnut brown or occasionally a hue of tangerine, and although it’s the middle of the day (and about 90 degrees) are dressed, made-up and have hair do’s that would take the majority of human females to a formal event or a night down the Sugar Hut. Despite their faces showing very little emotion or movement they are an altogether more polite specimen at the buffet stations, just as long as you are not competing for the last stick of celery or glass of Cava, in this instance I’d suggest steel toe capped footwear as those 5in heels are poised for use without a second thought.

The lady sight-seers are the next to arrive at the buffet station, normally sporting a navy or tan Bermuda short with a breathable polo shirt in a pale light-reflective colour, sturdy brown leather shoe/sandal hybrids and always clutching a large half filled backpack and map, these also display admirable skills in the way of the buffet. From our hide amongst the laid up tables and jars of condiments we can see that the lady sight-seer is confidently approaching the counters and acquiring a good square meal, usually eggs for protein, wholemeal bread for some slow release carbs, coffee and juice, however I also notice an unusual behaviour trait. I observe shifting glances from side to side, almost skulking around by the fruit station, then to our shock the lady sight-seer is witnessed smuggling as many apples, pears, bananas etc. as possible into her conveniently positioned backpack.

Finally behold the all-inclusive couples. They fall into two main categories both of which are made glaringly obvious by their individual body language. Firstly the honeymooners, believed to be in the early stages of courtship these couples find it particularly difficult to stray from each other’s sides, holding hands in the queue for the coffee machine, and as if to reiterate the pairing to guard from feasible suitors, the back and neck stroke often occurs. This excessively tactile behaviour continues whilst roaming the food counters but is also accompanied by a giggle or a nuzzle as the male chooses offerings from the salad cart and places them on the females plate, in my experience I advise sitting at a table a good distance away from this pair, it is entirely possible to feel a lack of appetite when in close proximity.

The second couple strides into the buffet area, the female normally a few steps in front, head held high, the male trailing behind displaying an altogether more submissive stance. The female chooses the couple’s table by slamming down an oversized pair of sunglasses and approaching the coffee machine purposefully, the male heads for the cooked food station in a subdued manner. When the couple return to the table to devour the fruits of their labor eye contact is barely made and a simple “Con o sin aqua?”… is the only verbal communication made during the sitting… Awkward!!!

…. And don’t even get me started on the sun-lounger reserving phenomenon or the nightly entertainment!!!

The all-inclusive hotel is a people watchers paradise where you can study an abundance of human behaviour and relationships all from behind the safety of some large mirrored shades, but never forget…. you too are the interesting (or not) subject of another holidaymakers inquiring mind.

dan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m an only child and although I like to think that I mix well with others (I’m no social butterfly but can just about cope at a party) in all other ways I live up to the stereotype… a spoilt rotten daddies girl who has been known to sulk (and throw stuff) on occasion when things don’t go my way. I didn’t grow up surrounded by siblings or cousins; there were no other children in my immediate family. I had a couple of dolls but I was more of a stuffed animal kind of girl; I just wanted fluffy puppies, kittens and a squirrel, my all-time favourite.

squirral

I was 18 when a close friend’s brother and his partner had a baby, this was the first time I’d had any real interaction with a child, and although I liked the idea of cute baby clothes and teeny weeny Nike trainers, the actual baby thing didn’t induce the kind of emotional response it seemed to provoke in the other girls. Next was Jessica, the same good friends baby sister. I spent more time with Jess and got to know her better, it helped that she was the snuggliest tot ever, she’d giggle and cuddle and never cry (on me)… much as I loved her, and still do now she’s 17 and a beautiful young woman who’ll still give me a good hug, I still didn’t feel that need for one of my own.

me & jess

I think I just assumed that a sprog or two would be part of my future; it’s just the done thing isn’t it? Meet a man, buy a house, have a baby, become a Mum… Textbook!!

 

My alternative way:

 -Rent flat with friend after 9-year relationship ends.

-Spend best part of a year drinking too much and crying.

-Meet the man I’ll go on to marry.

-Spend 3 years having the best time.

-Buy a house and continue having the best time.

-Have the first grown up baby talk.

-Get diagnosed with breast cancer.

-Get well after a year of treatment.

-Discuss a Tamoxifen break to try for a baby.

-Get breast cancer again, in my sternum bone this time.

-Recover (slowly) from another year of active treatment.

-Enter medically induced menopause…. Woo Hoo!!!

-Get married to the best Hubby ever!

After the first diagnosis we were asked to discuss whether or not we wanted to delay treatment to freeze my eggs. We decided that if the cancer had wormed its nasty little way into my lymph nodes then sod the eggs, treatment would commence immediately. Unfortunately it had done just that, so off I went, unceremoniously thrust into the world of the cancer patient, any thoughts of having kids put firmly on the back-burner.

3 years after initial diagnosis we were sat in Dr. A’s office discussing the potential benefits that having a baby might have on reducing my risk of recurrence, that my cycle had returned whilst on the Tamoxifen (joy of joys) and that coming off it for a year to try to conceive was a genuine option for us. Just 2 weeks later and I was having bone density scans, biopsies and blood tests, “Ding Ding” round two.

Although the hankering for a kid of my own has never really taken hold, having your chances dramatically reduced of it ever becoming a possibility is like having the rug pulled out from under you, then to be told the chances of it ever happening were nil if you continue with potentially life saving treatment is a further blow. It maybe a bit of the spoilt brat in me seeping out, but having our options snatched away caused some major foot stamping.

As I’m getting older more and more babies keep popping into my life, Christmas is an altogether markedly more expensive affair these days and much as I adore my friend’s children, it doesn’t alter the fact that I have a very limited tolerance level for the little monkeys. I have a totally un-kid friendly home; lots of breakables, models of toys, Snoopy’s, the alien from toy story and a giant fluffy Elmo… waving cats and porcelain skulls…. lit candles and incense burners…. an excitable boxer dog and a couple of real live cats, a recipe that instigates either the visiting kids or me to have a total meltdown. All this said, I do like the excuse to shop for toys and mini clothes, and my heart still melts when I get to be the cool Auntie for 5 minutes or get one of those smiles or hugs reserved for the fun grown ups.

moog & elmo

I was having a cuppa with a friend this week and we were catching up, I asked about some mutual friends and was saddened to hear that they had fallen out, “Why?” I asked…. Turns out that my 58 year-old, hardworking, self employed, happily married friend had been bombarded with comments such as….

-You don’t need a 4-bed house, you have no children!

– I have a 2-bedroom house and 2 children, it’s not fair!

-You have no idea how hard life is with children!

-But why wouldn’t you have children?

-You’re not really living life if you don’t have kids!

I have experienced some similar attitudes over the last few years and have often wondered how these people would react if I asked why they’d had kids?, why they’d brought more innocent children into an over populated, polluted and frankly scary war zone of a world when there are so many unwanted in care?… why if they couldn’t afford to provide for said children in the way that they’d like, did they continue procreating?… and precisely how having a shag and getting knocked up makes you the all seeing oracle on life, my life?

Surely it’s being a loving, supportive parent that deserves admiration, remaining consistent and providing as much of a stable upbringing as possible no matter what’s happening in your own world?… And why oh why do some parents seem to complain endlessly about how difficult life is being a Mum or Dad, I don’t mind the odd “I’ve had a rough week? … or “ I’ve had no sleep”… or “Little Quentin has used the wallpaper as a colouring book” … I’m not a totally heartless bitch, but I don’t remember anyone ever saying that having kids was a piece of piss, a breeze or a walk in the park. I believe having children is not a right, or a necessity for a full and meaningful life, but a privilege and a momentous undertaking. An undertaking that unless you have been living under a rock for the last 30 years, should have been a conscious decision… and should an accident occur during legal, consenting sex, then some level of acceptance of responsibility is needed.

new sex

Not all of us women without children made a considered decision, some had it made for us. Not all of us feel incomplete without kids, but some will feel a sense of sadness, some more than others will take pleasure and comfort from the company of the offspring of friends and family, others may find it emotionally challenging and some will simply find their patience challenged at the assumption that the entire world should hold/adore/coo over your precious mini human gift.

Mums of the world, please remember that in the way that we without sprogs respect you all for your brave choice to create a life, spend 9 months expanding, give birth (ouch) and then raise a hopefully happy and well-rounded human being, that in most cases, is just what you signed up for, pushchairs, nappies, sleepless nights, tantrums, car-seats, holidays to Pontins, or Centre Parks if your lucky, less money, less time, no social life and enough puke and crap to sink a battleship, this was never a secret, and for remaining sane-ish, I salute you…. Just remember some of us are very comfortable with our decisions not to add to the population, so don’t judge… Some of us are fragile and don’t need to listen to hour-long rants on the hardships of parenthood or how your life, only now that you are a Mother, has meaning.

Things not to say at parties/weddings etc.

-How many do you have?

-Don’t you want kids?

-Ahhhh what a shame, just not met the right man/woman?

-At least you get to go on expensive holidays.

-We can’t imagine life without a family!

-You think you’re tired, you don’t know what tired is…

-It’s a Mum thing!

-It’s what we were put on the earth to do.

-Tick-Tock!

-But who will take care of you when you’re old?

 

….. To the last one I always reply “If I’m lucky enough to get old, then it’ll probably be the same nursing home staff being paid to take care of you”

care home

 

 

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What is it I’m looking for?… What am I missing?… What did I take for granted that I’ve lost somewhere along the way?

ENTHUSIASM 1

That unbridled passion for a thing, event, person or activity. That feeling you get when you’re with friends discussing an upcoming holiday, gig or party. When you can’t wait to share your ideas or thoughts on either your own or a friends new venture, relationship or travels. I miss looking forward to planning the party and the party itself and not even considering the aftermath, to visiting the off-license without that sinking feeling of apprehension for the morning after, and just hopping in the car and heading off on an adventure unconcerned about the tyre-pressures, fuel prices and traffic reports.

EXCITMENT

Not being able to sleep a wink because the following day is just going to be the best ever!!!… Butterflies in your stomach that are just that, butterflies, not chronic anxiety or indigestion. I remember not being able to keep still because I was so fired up, I would tap, jiggle and hop on the spot to find an outlet for the pent up energy, giggle and laugh for no other reason apart from pure unadulterated excitement. I yearn for the days when a party was the highlight of my week and not something that at best, I hope to see the people I love and get mildly smashed so I can forget some of life’s shit bits, and at worst, try my very best to avoid attending altogether so I can stay home and watch the Special Victims Unit triple bill in bed.

complacency

Mmmmmmm…. to be carefree again, to do that ever more elusive “living in the moment” thing. To jump in the car at midnight and head to a field in Hampshire somewhere because a friend of a friend reckons there’s a party going on. Not to feel the need to carry plasters, headache pills and a miniature sewing kit, among other stuff, around in a giant back-breaking handbag that Mary Poppins would be proud of, in case of a nuclear attack or a broken zip. If only I could really let loose and enjoy the picnic knowing I’d forgotten the hummus dip for the carrots, or relax whilst boarding a plane without concerning myself with medication supplies and compression sleeves to control potential flare ups of lymphedema (a complication of cancer treatment)… If only the smuggling of duty-free boxes of wine on board for secret under the seat mid-flight drinkies was my single source of unease.

simple 1

Get up, get dressed and go out…..

Get up, get paid, go shopping and go out….

Get up, go out, get drunk and eat a kebab…

Run out of money, borrow a £10 off Dad and go out…

FREEDOM 1

The days when the biggest worry was your parents finding out you smoke, that you came in 3hrs past curfew or that you’d neglected to mention that Sophie, Steve and Jim were staying over and would be smoking weed in your bedroom until 4am. Mortgages were for other people, bank loans and credit cards were for worrying about another day, caring for the dog, cats or kids was not even a part of the equation, booking a 2 week holiday and staying on another week because it’s fun, packing your job in because its shit and the manager’s a wanker… and not getting constant reminders to attend the local GP’s surgery for smear tests, mammograms or a 40+ health check.

Can I get it all back or has that ship sailed?… What can I replace these feelings with?… How do I get my kicks as a grown up?

GRATITUDE 

To be grateful nearly every day just for waking up, for still having my eyesight, my body in fairly decent working order, bar a few battle scars, aches and pains… to have the man I love alongside me and supporting me everyday, to own my beautiful home, well, for the mortgage company to allow me to live in my beautiful home whilst slowly paying off the interest … to have the best friends a girl could ask for and a family, both new, adopted and the originals in my corner whatever I seem to get up to.

security 1

The comfort taken in knowing that the people in my life are there because they care about me, and not what I can do for them… that they accept the occasionally neurotic behavior, the fact that my phone is constantly at the bottom of my giant handbag on silent, and my apparently legendary stubbornness. The home that wraps me up in a warm hug each time I walk in through the front door, a bolt-hole without which I have no idea how I’d have coped over the last few years… the place I’ve been through some of the best and worst moments of my life so far, the place that my animals are waiting to greet me whatever my mood. The Husband that puts up with a menopausal, infertile 40 something woman with a newly acquired stone or two and who’s idea of a good day out is a trip to Ikea to purchase soft furnishings we don’t need, and a good night out would usually involve ice-cream and the promise that we don’t have to stay too long.

CONFIDENCE 2

Not giving a flying fuck what the general public think about the fact that I have gone out in jogging bottoms, socks and sandals, what colour/style my hair is or that I was singing at the top of my voice in the car with the window open… that I talk to my animals, listen to chat radio and Joni Mitchell. I’m not saying that I don’t have the odd melt-down when getting ready to go out, on the rare occasion that I do, normally relating to weight gain and ill-fitting clothes, but most are short lived due to the refreshing realization that nobody gives a shit, and that after the first glass of wine neither will I. No longer feeling that I need to justify myself or my actions to anyone, I am what I am, cock-ups and triumphs alike.

new booze

See confidence.

pills

From the pills that have helped to take the edge off the anxiety and aid a good nights sleep, to the ones that are hopefully helping to keep me alive… love it or loath it, and believe me I do both, credit where credits due, at times it’s been a life-saver 😉

I’m confused, how about you?

 

 

 

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Festival season is well and truly underway and there are soooooo many to choose from these days. When I started my festival-going career it was either Reading or Glastonbury, and it seemed to me that you made your choice depending on whether you were a rocker or a hippie. I’m lucky enough to be based not a million miles away from either site so over the years have visited both as I consider myself to be a bit of a hippie with a penchant for a wanky guitar solo. As the popularity and variety of festivals has increased I’ve taken in a few of the others too.

My first though, and I think will forever be the best, was Reading 1992.

line-up

There were 3 girls, 2 boys, 2 cars, one worn out tape copy of Nevermind and a brand new copy of Blood Sugar Sex Magic, and enough fags to keep us going for weeks, let alone a couple of days. These were the days when you could park up near the festival and wander in and out without a full body search or needing to show 5 different wristbands, ID and a ticket. What little sleep we had was in the cars and we all moved around as a pack, no mobile phones in those days. (I feel so old)

It was a proper bog, there were music lovers playing naked in the dirty puddles, and the band Mudhoney even stropped off stage as mud was hurled at them, really what did they expect?? …. We saw The Beastie Boys, L7, Nick Cave, and finally Nirvana do a set that some call the best to have ever been played at Reading, and we were right there at the front… sleep deprived, caked in mud, soaking wet and happy as pigs in shit!!!…. Oh how things have changed.

My first Glastonbury was a turn up late and climb the fence affair… so you can probably work out that it was some time ago, to sneak in now you’d need to be airlifted in during the early hours with a full set of wrist bands and a back story worthy of a Russian secret agent, but although tickets are hard to come by and incredibly expensive, it’s the most amazing festival and everyone should try do it at least once in their lifetime, although I retired my Glasto wellies the year this happened!!!

boat

Next was V festival, after Glastonbury’s wood whittling workshops and watching the sun rise over the mystical stone circle, V was a corporate slap in the face. From the Virgin logoed bog roll to the JJB sponsored dance tent it was an altogether cleaner and tidier experience. I queued politely at the bar for a Budweiser (the sponsor) clutching tickets I’d had to purchase from a separate kiosk, and then had to approach yet another kiosk to get a soft drink, Virgin Cola obviously, all the time watching some of my fellow female festival goers tottering around the field in their sky-scraper heels and mini skirts with full faces of slap and deadly looking manicures. Bewildered I was!!… Chilling out watching a great band with some of your favourite people in the sunshine or dancing like crazy person under the stars with thousands of like-minded folks is good whatever the location… I just felt personally that V didn’t have that festival vibe.

sun

After a few too many cold, wet and muddy festival weekends we decided to travel to the sunshine of Benicassim in Spain, camping on dry land, beach close-by, showers and no trench foot, luxury we thought. The Spanish have it down to a fine art, short beer queues, better than average street food, massive outdoor shower blocks and a great line-up, one bit of advice for those of us not used to the heat, do not camp!! The festival runs from 7pm until 7am limiting sleeping time to during the full heat of the day. With temperatures hitting 30c+ our pop up tent served only as a green house, the small amount of sleep we did get was either in the recovery position on the beach coated in factor 50, or on a wooden bench in the shower block. So summing up, we gave the festie in the sun a big thumbs up, just treat yourself to a nearby apartment with air conditioning, it’d be worth every penny.

sunshine

I thought after frequenting some of the festival giants that I’d try a smaller event. Friends of friends were putting on the Re-Cydrate the West festival, and said friends were playing there too. We drove down a tiny track along the edge of a field on the Welsh border, as we looked down we saw it, what looked like Windlesham village fete with a few tents next to some parked cars… Hmmmmm, this was not what we’d had in mind.

Turns out we all had the best weekend, not only was it in the most beautiful location surrounded by an un-spoilt forest and fresh water lakes but you never lost your friends. You didn’t have to go to the loo in pairs or wait until everyone else got cold to go back to the tent for a jumper, you could store stuff in the car instead of filling your tent with crap you didn’t need anyway, and one of our crew even became the talk of the festival due to some monumental snoring, you know who you are!… I am now a small festie convert, right people, right location, a huge variety of ciders and some top tunes, can’t beat it… especially as you get a bit older, and don’t want to walk 20 miles a day up hill and the need to be close to a porta-loo at all times becomes a priority.

cider 1

This same little festival also welcomed me the following year, while I was going through chemotherapy. I’d had 1 session and was still reeling from the news that I had Breast Cancer. My Oncologist begrudgingly gave me permission on the basis that I had access to proper washing facilities, phone service and there were medical facilities on site, I thought it was hopeless. The hubby called the organizers and they were amazing, I was given special permission to rent a room in the little hotel on the grounds that some of the festival staff were staying in, I had a 4 poster bed, en-suite bathroom and a special wrist band, perfect. I got to enjoy the weekend with my friends after all, and not feel like fucking cancer had taken fun from me along with my energy levels and apparent tolerance to cider… We even got fake married  🙂 . This little festival deserves the success it’s had and this year welcomes 50,000 visitors to it’s newly named Boomtown Fair.

cider 2

At 37 the mind was optimistically willing but the body was becoming a bit less happy to play ball. Tamoxifen wasn’t always kind to my joints and the thought of a 3-day hike, late nights, hangovers and a slowly deflating airbed in a damp tent was starting to lose its appeal. I still love live music, fresh air, my friends, dancing and beer so Dan and I scoured the long list of festivals now available to us and stumble across Wilderness.

This is what I call a posh festival, it’s in the grounds of a mansion house near Oxford, you can swim in a fresh water lake, take a boat ride, join the crazy people out for a group morning run, do a yoga class, learn to crochet, visit a spa, and dine at a Michelin star pop up restaurant. We set up under an ancient oak tree and had our own private little camp, there was a short walk to the eco-loo’s and main festival site, eggs benedict for breakfast, stone baked pizza for lunch and Goan fish curry for dinner. The campsite was quiet, well it would have been if it wasn’t for my lot, and I actually went home having seen the bands I wanted too and not feeling like I needed a holiday to recover… I think as I get older and should feel the need for a night or two under canvas (Nylon) listening to some music then these posh festivals will be my first choice, they get nick named “middle-class” festivals… I think “middle-aged” is more appropriate.

wilderness us

So that’s my take on festivals as a teenager and then as a nearly 40 something. An evolution from considering it a badge of honor to have barely slept and drunk my body weight in beer, to making sure I have packed a first aid kit, earplugs and my book. I reckon with today’s variety and choice that there’s a festival out there for us all… if it ever stops sodding raining!!!!!!

cloud

http://www.readingfestival.com

http://www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk

http://www.vfestival.com

http://fiberfib.com/en/cartel.php

http://www.boomtownfair.co.uk

https://www.wildernessfestival.com