The Anti-Bucket List Continues…

Cancer & Me, Journey Back to Health

If you don’t know what my Anti-Bucket List is, you can find out exactly what I am talking about in my previous post ‘The Anti-Backet List’ but basically, the theory behind it is that people write Bucket Lists of things they would like to do before they die, I write an Anti-Bucket lists of things I would like to do because I survived.

10418189_10154241991000153_4028011133427836123_nSo 6 months in, I got the check and very big items off the Anti-Bucket List – going to a big Horse Race.  My husband bought me tickets to Royal Ascot for my birthday back in March and we finally went on Tuesday.

The event itself exceeded my expectations.  I don’t think I have ever experienced such a collective outpouring of adoration for all things British.  From standing meters away from the Queen, (THE ACTUAL QUEEN OF ENGLAND!!) and Prince Charles, Camilla, Prince Harry to singing British greats like Land of Hope and Glory, We’ll Meet Again and Hey Jude (fast becoming the second national anthem I think) around the Band Stand, accompanied by The Welsh Guard military band.  From Toff’s in top hats and tails, signet rings shining in the sun to the ordinary folk walking barefoot and swigging wine from the bottle, it literally was all there and I loved it.

Of course there was also actual horse racing going on as well which was pretty awe-inspiring to watch, those horses are just amazing.  We were in the Grandstand meaning we could go watch the horses before the race and get really close, it was awesome.  Even though hubby and I won nothing, not one penny, we had the best day and I was SO pleased that the Anti-Bucket list finally gave us the momentum to do something we have been wanting to do for years.

Most importantly, I had a deeper level of appreciation that I get to enjoy these things

This day out confirmed for me why I decided to have an Anti-Backet List and why I think everyone should have one.  Obviously money and time are always considerations but you haven’t got to go crazy, pick as many as you can realistically do and go for it.  It could just be a walk you have always wanted to do, or completing a Race for Life?

The point is it is so easy for life to get in the way.  Year after year can easily go by without doing these things.  Nothing serves are more of a reminder for this than getting a life-threatening illness but truthfully we shouldn’t let it reach that stage.  Be living the life you want to live now.

Another (slightly more random) thing that I learnt at Royal Ascot is that I am rather partial to a fascinator!  I may even wear a hat to my cousins wedding next week.

I really genuinely want to know, what one thing is on your Anti-Bucket list?  Click on comment at the top of this post and let me know.

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Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira – Book Review

To Love To Read

Just before I started reading this book, I had a conversation with a friend about the romantic notion of letters.  Letters of any sort have an enchantment that you just don’t get from emails or twitter. The thought of reading letters that were never intended to be read by the living amplifies that feeling even more.  It was that thought that made this book a must read for me and on that account it didn’t disappoint.

Love Letters to the Dead is a coming of age book that puts you right back into teen moments of uncertainty, regret and trying to figure out where you fit in the world.  As a teenager when you have no one you feel you can talk to, who better to speak to than the dead.  I didn’t realise that it was a ‘Young Adult’ book when I bought it, but I think many of the topics in the novel are still relatable.

 

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A pet-hate I have when reading is the narrator saying something along the lines of ‘if only I knew what was about to come’.  I love foreshadowing, but not when its just a statement which does happen a couple of times in Love Letters to the Dead.

I thought this book was a captivating read and would be especially enjoyed by young adults and as I mentioned, I loved the format of making the book a collection of letters.

I give this book 3.5 out of 5 x

The Bourne Diagnosis – Nicola B & the Big C

Cancer & Me

I knew that I had cancer.  I had a strong inner feeling and I knew.  I was experiencing textbook symptoms and had a basic knowledge based on a strong family history – my mother, Grandmother and Great-Grandfather all died from Bowel Cancer at ‘young’ ages.  Even so, getting diagnosed was not as easy as it should have been.

I had been getting rectal bleeding on and off, probably since 2006.  Over the years I had visited various GPs but they always said the same, that I was too young to have  Bowel Cancer, it was probably a small internal cut and if the bleeding went,  there was nothing to worry about.  The bleeding would stop so as far as the GPs were concerned, that was that.  I now know that the bleeding was probably polyps in the colon, which can bleed intermittently and it is these polyps that grow into cancerous tumours.  In hindsight this was the beginning and could have probably been dealt with in the early stages if my initial concerns and symptoms had been taken seriously.

My mum and I at my birthday, nine months before she passed away from Bowel Cancer in 2008

My mum and I at my birthday, nine months before she passed away from Bowel Cancer in 2008

During my second pregnancy in 2011 the bleeding became intolerable, even so my GP still refused to send me for tests. At my post-natal 6 week check with the GP, after ridicule for suggesting something could be seriously wrong, I pushed and pushed until finally she agreed to refer me.

The level of incompetence shown to me by GPs was staggering, I was laughed at by one doctor for even suggesting I may have cancer at my age and told by another that it was a waste of NHS money to send me for tests.  These are just a couple from a long list of examples.  People often focus on the incompetence of the GPs but before hating too much, remember this;

  • Firstly; there is no point in dwelling on that now, I’m sure they were doing their best (I do still say that through slightly gritted teeth).
  • Secondly; it is due to an outdated idea held by many GPs that Colon Cancer only affects people over 65, a misperception that must change.  Partly through raising awareness, I’m hoping speaking out will help.
  • Thirdly; for every incompetent GP I have come across I have met 100 NHS staff who are incredible and worthy of more praise than I could ever give them.
  • Lastly; I love the NHS.  When I was ill and reading blogs of the financial stress Cancer patients in the USA have, I would feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I live in the UK and had none of those worries thanks to the NHS.  I was going to be treated and did not need to worry about paying for it.  Amazing!

I was finally referred for a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy which is a camera in the rectum and as pleasant as it sounds!  Having said that, I remember thinking that it would be the worse thing in the world and now I know that there are much worse things, everything in perspective people!  Going into the hospital was awful.  I had a designated nurse to look after me who said at at the end, she would give me my results.  They gave me a mask so that I could take Gas & Air as I needed it and in we went.

I don’t really remember much after that for a while.  Apparently I took in so much Gas and Air whilst having the procedure I had to be put in a recovery for a while (what can I say, that stuff’s good).  Bearing in mind that I really was expecting cancer, I felt I had my theory confirmed when I asked the nurse what the verdict was and she said that the consultant was going to speak with me himself.  When the consultant said he wanted to speak with me in a private room and thought my husband should be present, I thought, this has to be the most obvious way to let someone know they have cancer, without telling them.  So as you can imagine, I was far from a shocked when the consultant  told me he had found a tumour and was sending it for further testing.  I asked if in his expert opinion it was cancer and he said yes. The consultant kept saying, I’m sure this comes as a massive surprise to you, I was thinking, “no…. not really”.

You never know how you are going to react in these situation but for me, all I kept thinking was, ok, at least we know where we are now and can start getting it treated, although at this point I had no idea just how ill I was (we will talk about that later).

My experience trying to get diagnosed made me realise how important it is to take responsibility for your own health. You know your body, you know if something is wrong.  Trust your instincts.  I know how scary it is to say to a doctor, I think your wrong or I wont accept that – I found it crippling getting the words out but thank God I did.  My surgeon later told me my cancer was so far spread that if I had waited even 6 months, they wouldn’t have been able to do anything. That’s a pretty scary thought!

As I mentioned, my misdiagnosis came from an outdated idea that Bowel Cancer affects the over 65.

THIS IS NOT TRUE!!!

BowelCancerUKIt can happen to anyone at any age so if you have any symptoms or concerns, do not take a chance.  Go, see, speak and don’t take no for an answer.  Trust me.  The wonderful Bowel Cancer UK are running a fantastic campaign ‘Right Test Right Time’ which is all about this exact topic.  Have a look and lets all take action together!!

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green – Book Review

To Love To Read

Oh my, where to start.  When I first started reading this book I nearly stopped when I realised immediately that the story revolves around cancer.  Only 18 months after going to war with cancer myself, not my idea of happy reading, no matter how good the story is.  But I was captivated, from the very beginning, even with a topic I actively avoid in books and films, I couldn’t put it down.

The-Fault-in-Our-Stars

 

Even in a book which seems so predictable, it surprises you.  Although cancer is the thread that holds it all together it is a book about love, family and optimism in the face of tragedy.  It is also very funny and gives a fantastic insight into the dark-humour side and dare I say ‘perks’ of cancer and into the mind of someone with cancer.  John Green captures it so well.

There is a line in the novel, “it would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you” and that sums up the book for me.  It is a privilege to cry over this book because its wrapped up in some much wonderfulness, warmth and love.

In short, I highly recommend you read this book!

4.5 out of 5