World Cancer Day Q&A

Hello all, happy World Cancer Day!

As a way of highlighting the fact that it is World Cancer Day I thought that I would answer a few of the questions I’m repeatedly asked about my cancer experience, so here we go…

What was the best thing that someone did / bought for you when you had cancer?

People are always asking me this because they want to know how they can help someone else.  You don’t need to wait to be asked to do something, no one is going to mind you turning up with a casserole, they will love it, but equally don’t expect to eat it with them or be messaging twice a day asking for the dish back because that just makes it stressful.  Do things without expecting anything back.

The gifts I appreciated the most were uplifting DVD’s (keyword uplifting) and microwaveable gloves and booties as your extremities can get very cold when you are having chemotherapy.

Do your children know you had cancer and how did you talk to them about the illness?

When I was diagnosed my son had just turned two years old and my daughter was three months old.  My son could see I was very sick so we always explained it in a language he would understand.  Things like, mummy has an owee and the doctor is giving her special medicine and we have always tried to encourage both kids to ask plenty of questions.

As my kids got older they’ve asked more questions which I have answered as honestly as possible so they now know that I had an illness called cancer.  They also know that the reasons we do so many Cancer Research UK campaigns is because they raise money to help people like mummy get better and I just love being able to tell them that!  My wish is that one day every parent can tell their child that they are cancer free.

It is really tough being a mum whose sick, there are no two ways about it. I actually wrote an article about coping strategies and the subject gets a whole chapter in the book because being a mum with any long-term serious illness has such a massive impact.

Was writing a book about having cancer therapeutic?

It was but it wasn’t always easy.  I remember when writing about (and reliving) the moments that I was so low I wanted to give up, I came away from my computer crying.  But at the same time, that was what I wanted, an honest account that did approach the harder emotional parts of having cancer, so I felt I had to go through that.  I think that, combined with the time that has passed, definitely helped me come to terms with what I went through.

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Wearing my Cancer Research UK Unity Band

Have you got an advice to anyone wanting to write about their cancer experience?

I think writing is a unique and amazing way to process emotions, good and bad.  Obviously you don’t have to keep a blog or write a book, it can be private thoughts just for yourself.  If you do want to publish, I think WordPress is an excellent blogging platform, it’s what I use.  If you want to write and don’t know where to start, check out a book like Let It Out by Katie Dalebout which gives prompts and different ways of looking at your illness.

What is it like for you when people donate to Cancer charities?

Ok, so the only people who ever ask me this are cancer charities but it really is an AMAZING feeling!  You feel like people are doing something very personal for you and your family – they are helping to ensure that you live.  It feels incredibly personal and incredibly moving.  I feel the same way about people who volunteer in charity shops.  Because of YOU, I was offered a type of chemotherapy that my mother, 8 years earlier, wasn’t.  The fact that people I don’t know and never will are actively doing something which helped save my life is a very unique and powerful feeling that I can’t fully articulate.

If you want to be one of those amazing people – great news – you can!  Give whatever you can to the cancer charity of your choice and know that you are doing something this World Cancer Day to literally change the life of someone with cancer!

With love & Unity! x

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7 Best Books for the New Year

I can’t believe we are already three weeks into the new year.  If you love the feeling of a fresh page that can come with a new year, why not settle down with an awesome book about new beginnings and starting over to inspire you in 2017!  Here are some of my favourite…

Unknown.jpeg1. The Woman Who Upped and Left by Fiona Gibson

One of the things I love about it is that although it is about new beginnings she doesn’t abandon her whole life to make it happen (despite the name), she discovers a new way to enjoy what she already has – although some much-needed changes are made along the way.  A book about fiding your own inner strength and making positive changes.

This book is  also wonderfully uplifting

 

 

Unknown-1.jpeg2. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

I have spoken about this book before.  It is moving and powerful and you may need some tissues at the ready.    The main theme of this book is identity and how much you identity is tied into your family and the people around you, as well as asking the question about if it is possible to ever really ‘start over’ again.

A moving book that is highly recommended.

 

 

Unknown-2.jpeg3. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

If you haven’t read the book then I am sure you have seen the movie with Julia Roberts (which I equally love).  This book is creative non-fiction and Gilbert’s personal experience of the year after her divorce.  Its honest and moving and will probably have you wanting to travel the world by the end.

Touching and inspiring novel.

 

 

images.jpeg4. The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

This is a poignant and moving novel – especially in light of the recent inauguration and possible wall building – is about people moving to the United States of America as a way to make a new life and discover their place in the world.  Themes of family, identity and what it means to be an ‘American’ wrapped in a story about different forms of love.

A novel to make you questions why people do the things they do.

 

Unknown-4.jpeg5. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Ruben

This is a great book to start the year with.  Another non-fiction book in which Ruben decides to start the year making changes to her life to make herself happier.  Ruben does a new thing every month with each chapter showing what she does that month so you can try to emulate these ideas.  In my case I didn’t follow everything but picked out the parts that I knew would work for me.

Great read to motivate yourself.

 

Unknown-5.jpeg6. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Two books by Elizabeth Gilbert on one list – outrageous!  But if you write books about making changes and positive living, I guess that’s inevitable on this type of list.  I’m such a massive fan of this book, all about living creatively which is clearly completely up my street.  You don’t have to be in a creative industry or anything, this book is more about being creative everyday and is a great place to start bringing joy and creativity into your life.

Inspiring, creative living.

 

Unknown-6.jpeg7. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Again, even if you haven’t read the book you may have seen the awesome film.  The plot is not a million miles away from Eat, Pray, Love in that its a woman trying to figure out what makes her tick after the loss of her mother and recent divorce.  Rather than travelling the world she hikes the Pacific Crest Trail in the USA, spending much time on her own to reflect and think.

Very honest and raw reflective memoir of change.

 

Please do comment below and let me know if you have read any of the books and what you think of them, and what books you would recommend that are around based around new beginnings or starting over.

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Writing Vlogs and #ProjectJoy

Is your New Years Resolution to be more creative?  To write more?

Awesome! Then you should check out this #ProjectJoy blog series all about living creatively, using writing as a tool through difficult time. Check it out and let me know what you think…

Happy Writing! x

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What’s On Your 2017 Anti-Bucket List?

If you haUnknown.jpegve been following me for a while you will probably be aware of my Anti-Bucket Lists.  If you haven’t or need reminding you can read all about it here but basically, when I was having treatment for advanced Colorectal Cancer I decided that when I got better I would flip the traditional ‘things-to-do-before-I-die-Bucket-List’ idea and came up with ‘The Anti-Bucket List’… these are things I am going to do because I’M ALIVE!

I think Anti-Bucket lists are different to New Years Resolutions because resolutions are more goals of the year like losing 3 stone (obviously this is on my list) or drink Green Juice everyday (also on my list), whereas the Anti-Bucket list are things I want to do and experience this year.

I think especially after or during something like cancer, it can be especially good to have one of two things to focus on that aren’t illness related.

A couple I have are…

  1. Take the children to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the West End
  2. Visit Harry Potter World at Letchworth Studios (this has been on there for a while, I really hope that this year will be the year!)
  3. Visit somewhere new – This has been on my list the last few years but I think this will remain on my list forever…

So what are you putting on your list?  What are you going to enjoy doing this year to celebrate being alive?  Whatever they are I hope you have fun doing them and send you lots of love for 2017!

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5 TOP TIPS FOR CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR WITH CANCER

images-1Going through Christmas and New Year when you have cancer can be a strange thing. It becomes more poignant, more emotional, more lovely, more sad, more everything… I know from first hand that heightened emotions that come from big occasions and family get-together can therefore become a little stressful and require a lot more planning. That’s why I wrote about attending any big occasion in my book, but with Christmas tomorrow (how is it here already) I thought I would share a couple of Top Tips that I found made Christmas easier…

1. THINK THE DAY THROUGH

In your mind, walk through the day so you can get your head around how the day is expected to play out. For example if you are visiting your parents for the day it may be something like:

  • It’s a two-hour drive there and I will need to take painkillers during that time so I must have some water and fruit with me in the car
  • I’ll wear something comfy in the car and change into my outfit when I get there so I need to pack my outfit
  • We aren’t eating until 4pm but I will need a snack to take medication with at lunchtime so I will take some nuts for then
  • I need to change plasters at 2pm but we will be having a pre-lunch walk then so I need to make sure I do it before we leave for our walk and take plasters with me.
  • So on…

Doing this should help take out the element of surprise and make it less nerve-racking.

FABULOUS TIP – I find it easy to remember to take medication when I am at home but when I come out of my normal routine I easily forget. Set a reminder on your phone to make sure you don’t lose track of what you need to be taking and when. 

2. YOUR HANDBAG

This will be your home away from home whilst at an event, but to save you walking around with a bag that is gong to break your shoulder, I would go for the cute little bag that holds your phone and the bits that you would normally take out with you and then a second bag for medical supplies, change of outfit, whatever it may be, that you can leave in the car / under the table for if and when you need it.

FABULOUS TIP – Take double the number of the essentials you need. If you know you will need two painkillers during the time period, take four. That way if you get caught in traffic or end up staying later than planned or anything like that, you know you’re covered. 

3. YOUR OUTFIT

If you need to change bandages or plasters, make sure they are easily accessible in what you are wearing – or that you will be able to go somewhere and change when needed.

Have your outfit completely ready to go before-hand and that means everything – tights, fascinator, coat, underwear, wig, scarf, literally the whole outfit from top to bottom, including everything that you need in your handbag. Will save you panicking on the day because you can’t find the right denier tights.

4. KNOW WHEN TO LEAVE

Don’t feel like you have to be the last one to leave. Do as much as you can and when you start to feel like it is enough, tell your host that you are starting to feel unwell and have to leave.

I found tiredness would creep up on me and suddenly I would be beyond exhausted. Once I was at that point of exhaustion, I would be knocked out for the next few days and the pain would then be difficult to stay on top of, so it was always best for me to leave before that point.

5. LET IT GO

Having said that, we all need a blow out every now and then – especially when going through something like cancer, so don’t feel bad if you do get caught up in the moment and spend the next few days paying for it, just enjoy yourself, you definitely deserve it!

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What’s Different in the UPDATED EDITION?

the_fabulous_womans_cover_for_kindleI wrote the first edition of The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer around a year and a half ago.  I received some wonderful feedback (thank you all).  I also received requests for more information about certain aspects. I realised there was still so much more to say.  Some people suggested I write a second book but I decided to update this book.  I wanted anyone to have all the information they needed, not to need to buy more than one book.  And so that is what I did, I set about writing an UPDATED EDITION of the The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer.

The UPDATED EDITION still retains the essence of the first edition, combining self-help practicalities with personal memoir but it is nearly double in length, now at 366 pages.  Each chapter includes even more information, there are additional chapters,  plenty of fabulous an inspirational quotes and even more personal memoir setions and practical, useable tips.

More fabulous women have kindly reflected on their personal experiences including, Kaz, founder of Womb Cancer Support UK.  Beth, blogger at Tumor Has It.  Emily, founder of Coach Therapy Support.  Alice, blogger at Through the Looking Glass.  Eleanor, blogger at Ballet Mum and even more lovely ladies who don’t blog about their experiences.

It also now includes expertise from specialists, such as, TEND NutritionSabrina’s Wig BoutiqueTracey Gray Mann Make-Up ArtistBibliomaniac Book BloggerEsme Winterflood LashesNicola Jane Mastectomy Bra’s and Swimwear, Shona Harding from Moving Picture Review as well as personal experiences with Cancer doctors and nurses.

The layout is improved making it easier to locate specific sections. The text is broken down into bite size chunks, boxes, italics and bullet points – ideal if you are suffering from chemo brain. There is more practical information that will be useful for friends and family, or for women with cancer to give to their friends and family.

I am so proud of this book.  I hope that women and their friends and family continue to find it useful.  As I said in a recent interview, “knowing that I have been able to use my love of writing and turn something so negative into something positive that can help others, is quite simply amazing.”

I can’t wait to hear what you think.  As always, please leave comments on Amazon, Good Reads and let anyone you think may want to know, all about it.

So much love and thanks x

Nicola’s style strikes a great balance between the chatty, informal, supportive voice of a friend as well as being clear, practical and pragmatic. It is an invaluable companion for any woman going through cancer and for any friend looking to support the fabulous woman in their life.” – Bibliomaniac

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Writing Wednesday – part 6

Hi team!

I know, I know what you have all been wondering – where is the latest Writing Wednesday vlog?! Fear not peeps.

This week’s about writing love letters to others and yourself – and a little but about my experience with cancer and Cancer Research UK. Inspiring the creativity in you and healing through writing.

I hope that you enjoy and I hope to see you next week!

Happy viewing x

Writing Wednesday – part 5

I can’t believe that I have been making Writing Wednesday Vlogs for a month.  I absolutely love doing Writing Wednesday blogs so I hope that you enjoying watching them as I do making them.

In the latest one I answer some questions you guys have sent me over the last month and talk a bit about what is coming.

I also did a Book Recommendation vlog as part of #DiverseATHON which you can check out  if you like the sound of that.

Happy Viewing! x

 

Writing Wednesday – part 4

Hi team!

Using narrative & stories as a way to be more reflective & give a level of detachment. You may give advice that you can use yourself!

It is something that I spoke about in my book but it is a fantastic tool so have a little watch and let me know what you think…

 

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Writing Wednesday – Part 3

Writing Wednesday FranceHow about some writing for pure escapism? This week we look at just that as well as looking outside yourself for inspiration and the trend that is ‘nature writing.’

As promised in the vlog below, here are some pictures that I have taken during my break in France to offer you some more inspiration for your pure escapism writing – should you need it!

Have a look and let me know what inspires you and what you would write for escapism.

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I genuinely love to hear from you so come and say hi! Nx

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