What’s On Your 2017 Anti-Bucket List?

Any Human Heart, The 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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Writing Wednesday – Part 3

Vlogs, Writing & Blogging

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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Writing Wednesday Vlog – Part 1

Cancer & Me, Vlogs, Writing & Blogging

Hello all,

This is something that I have been putting together for a while and I am SO pleased to finally be uploading my first Writing Wednesday Vlog.

This series is really about the joy of writing and living more creatively. Using writing to help you through trauma or negative experiences, or just for the plain fun of it!

I really hope that you enjoy this vlog and if you do please share the love.

Happy Watching x

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Sun, Sand & Septicaemia! (part one)

Cancer & Me, Health & Beauty, What's Happening?

Well that was NOT part of the plan when my family and I decided to go on a dream family holiday to Mauritius!

My husband and I worked, saved and planned for months. We were so excited to finally be going and once there, it was as close to paradise as I could have hoped. We were all having the perfect time – until…

A few days in I started to feel unwell.  There was a medical centre on site and a nurse gave me some rehydration sachets.  I did keep saying that it felt more like a bladder infection but it was considered dehydration.  I know that with a colostomy dehydration is an extreme issue, so I was furious with myself that I had become dehydrated.  But the sachets didn’t help, in fact when I tried to drink one, I instantly threw it back up again – sexy!

Back to the medical center where it was agreed – it was a bladder and possibly now a kidney infection as well but not to worry, oral antibiotics and you should feel better in a day or two.  Sorted.

Not so.  By the next day I was convulsing, vomiting and had a temperature of 40c.  The medical team sent me straight to hospital.  I can’t lie, the journey to hospital was petrifying. It was an hour and a half away. I had to go by taxi on my own because it was too far for an ambulance to come and Husband had to stay with the kids. I had no idea what to expect when I got there – a posh private clinic, or like something off an episode of panorama.  The hospital was fine, basic, but fine and the staff were really wonderful.

Arriving at hospital I was delirious and writhing in pain. The doctors wouldn’t give me any medication until they ran tests, sorted my insurance and had my passport so the next hour was pretty awful and involved a lot of tears as I played the worlds smallest violin to myself.

Quick side note: I couldn’t be admitted until my insurance was sorted and they took my passport as a guarantee of payment which I didn’t have with me, the nurse seemed to think  couldn’t be admitted (more crying/violin playing) until thankfully someone was able to come and help me be admitted without my passport.  There was security on all the doors so no one can leave and they only removed the drip and cannula once the bill has been paid.  I understand why, but I really was reminded how lucky I am to live in a country with a National Health Service.  It might not be perfect but at least you never have to fear being turned away from a hospital like I nearly was, or worry about paying the bill – that truly is amazing.  But anyway – back to the story…

I was diagnosed with a chronic bladder, kidney and blood infections – septicaemia.  It was the septicaemia that was causing the convulsing and fitting.  I had non-stop drips running for three days with antibiotics, liquid and painkillers.  Honestly I can’t explain how ill I was.

The only other time I have felt that bad was when I was having chemo and a junior doctor gave me the wrong amount of morphine and I overdosed.

Because the hospital was so far from the hotel, it wasn’t easy for my family to visit so I spent most of the three days I was in there contemplating being severely ill again. Obviously it’s not like my cancer was back but being hooked up to machines day and night, having numerous scans and tests – it all felt far too familiar and took me back to an emotionally dark place.

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Getting to sit and watch the sunset

As there was a medical centre at my hotel, my consultant (after quite a lot of negotiation) agreed to let me convalesce in the hotel with the medical team supporting me.  I couldn’t get out of bed and was on a lot of medication but who cares… I was back and with my family for the last few days of holiday.

The day I was released I saw a blog post from Consciously Healthy which seemed to sum up just how I was feeling.  The author Emma was reflecting on how after a long recovery, she stopped giving her mind, body and soul the attention it deserved, till eventually her body gave-way again.  This was exactly how  felt.  I know I didn’t have cancer again and my life is full of people and things that I love, but slowly my life had returned to crazy busy with little down time and having septicaemia made me realise it was time to have a little rethink!

I will be writing more about how and ‘if’ the rethink happened in a few days so check back or sign up for part 2…

Are there any times in your life when you have had a rethink?  Or any tips for anyone else having a rethink?  Please leave a comment and share you stories with us.

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With love XX

©

1st Birthday of The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer

Cancer & Me, Writing & Blogging

I cannot believe that my book was published a year ago today!  Happy Birthday to my book!  The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer was a labour of love and nothing compares to the getting wonderful, heartfelt messages from ladies who have been touched or helped in some way by reading it.  I have written honestly about the parts of writing a book about cancer which can be difficult in an earlier blog post but those emails and messages I get from people – knowing that I have been able to use my love of writing and turn something so negative into something positive is, quite simply, amazing.

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Over the last year I have posted a few blog posts on writing and why I wrote The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer, I think my favourite is What Do You Wish You Had Done?  It is something I try to keep in my mind, what do I wish I had done and what do I still want to do.  It can be so easy to fall into a routine and stop pushing yourself but this post reminds me that no one else is going to make amazing things in my life happen.

And I think we should all ideally not wait for a near death experience to push us into action.  We owe it to our future selves to create the life we want.

It never ceases to amaze me, just how many people are effected by cancer; how it comes round and round, time and time again, yet I also know that if I had my cancer ten-years ago, I would not have survived.  Now I am 3 years into remission and it is only getting better.  More and more of us are surviving even extreme cancer diagnosis’ and I love that my words can help others who are going through similar experiences.

Publishing this book was one of my proudest moments, along with this blog and I really want to send a heartfelt thanks to all of you who have read, commented, reviewed, been involved, anything… Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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To anyone who had or had cancer I just want to say… You are so strong, especially on the day’s that you don’t think that you are, the days that you want to give up, those are the days when you are actually the strongest because you keep going.  You are going to do things you only dreamt of before.  You are going to be even more amazing because at one point you were stripped of all and (if not now, in time) you will rebuild.  Give yourself time and be kind to yourself and let the magic of life unfold.

Happy Birthday book x

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That Dreaded Day

Cancer & Me, Journey Back to Health

There is a time in every cancer survivors year when a dreaded day (or two…) comes around.  They are of course the dreaded check-ups!

I remember the first time I had to go back for a check up, pushing back the tears as I arrived the hospital.  The familiar sights and smells… immediately I felt like I was driving back for yet another chemotherapy appointment or to get some more “it’s worse than we initially thought” type horrible news.

I have gone so far as to actively try and avoid these dreaded days but they always catch up with you, usually encouraged by husband saying “Nic, what’s happening with your appointment?”  “seriously Nic, what’s happening?”

Well I couldn’t make the last appointment so I will rebook… you know…. next month… or maybe the month after… no rush hey?!

“Actually Nic – yes, there is.  Your delaying the inevitable and if there is something wrong, the sooner you find out…”

So annoying when ‘people’ are right.

The problem is the nerves don’t start as you get to your appointment.  They probably start about a month before, when you know the appointment is coming.  It’s not like it’s consuming my every thought or anything but it’s just… there.  It’s like a star that’s about to collapse -it has a fire burning inside and the stronger it gets, the more it silently consumes itself from the inside.

So that is where I have been for the last few months.  Burning up and having check-up’s which have confirmed I am still all clear (yay).

I have also been having some internal scar tissue (that has been problematic ever since the surgery and continues to be so) treated – basically the scar tissue in my cervix is growing abnormal cells which if left could turn cancerous… seriously…  You have to love the irony – it won’t because they are all over it but still… It’s surprisingly all-consuming when these dreaded days are going on.

But I’m back, and wondering, is there anything that you would specifically like me to write about over the coming weeks?

If not I shall be left to my own devices – equally fine.

But, as I say, it has not been all bad by any means- quite the opposite in fact, so here are some photo’s from my wonderful mothers day surprise – an awesome day out with my lovelies.

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The Silent Cancer Side Effect – Fatigue

Any Human Heart, Cancer & Me

Just to be extremely clear, fatigue is not the same as being really, really, really, tired. It is more than that, and takes hold of your whole being, physically and mentally. Anyone who has had children will probably know what I am talking about, right?  But it’s permanent.

Fatigue takes a toll both physically and mentally. If you are anything like me you are completely hopeless after a bad nights sleep. With fatigue it feels like that all the time, times a million.

Even simple activities, or activities that you wouldn’t normally consider taxing like watching a movie or reading a book can suddenly feel like way to much and like it would require far too much effort.

Signs Of Having Fatigue

  • You don’t feel anymore restored or awake even when you have had a good nights sleep.
  • You feel like nothing can restore your energy.
  • You are often unable to finish tasks, even when you desperately want to achieve them.
  • The above point is usually coupled with a severe lack of concentration.
  • You may also find that you suffer with memory loss as a result.
  • Physically, the lack of energy can mean it is physically draining to undertake the simplest of physical activities.
  • There may even be loss of motor skills.

I really can’t stress enough to severity of fatigue. And, it’s beyond annoying!

You want to be up and about, trying to live a normal life but feel unable to do anything, it is infuriating! Even more annoyingly it can last for years after cancer treatment has finished.

imagesFor me, fatigue was the worst the years after I had cancer and finished my treatment. I think it was a combination of my body healing, riding itself of an unbelievable amount of chemicals and poisons and getting over the emotional side of everything that I had just been through. Hardly surprising but still unforgivably annoying.

I really wanted to make a point about the fatigue because it so easily gets overlooked. Even when you are the one with cancer, I think it is hard to identify it within yourself. Energy levels will fluctuate too much from one day to the next when you have cancer and/or fatigue that one day you will think your fine and the next day you are on the floor and I think the unpredictability of it can be equally hard.

The intensity of the fatigue will inevitably vary from person to person so just because I experienced it quite severely doesn’t mean that you (or your loved one) will, but I would keep an eye out for it and just be extra sympathetic to yourself if you aren’t able to do things as often or as quickly as you hoped.

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Bowel Cancer Awareness Month – Day 18 – Know Your Colostomy from your Ileostomy

Cancer & Me, Colosto-ME

Day 17 – My DictiOSTOMY!

This is something that is commonly confused, especially by the media, so this is basically it in my version of a dictionary – My DictiOSTOMY

STOMA

Stoma, literally translated, means ‘mouth’ or opening.  In this case referring to the opening from the colon coming through the abdomen.

COLOSTOMY

The more common, or at least the most referred too, is the colostomy.  A colostomy is formed by a stoma being made from the large intestine and brought through the abdomen wall.  A colostomy bag can then be attached to the skin to collect any waste.  A colostomy hangs on the persons left side.

ILEOSTOMY

An ileostomy is basically the same as a colostomy but it is made from the small intestine and the waste is generally still a liquid.  An ileostomy bag is then attached to the skin again to collect waste.  An ileostomy hangs on the persons right side.

OSTOMY

Keeping it general, it is referring to be both colostomy’s and ileostomy’s.

OSTOMATE

Someone who has an ostomy.

So there you have it, a little break down of the lingo so you know what we are all talking about! 🙂

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The Stupid Things People Say When You Have Cancer!

Cancer & Me

When You Find Out You Have Cancer…

I would prepare yourself for when people say (what I think) are very stupid things. The most common comment being “I knew someone who had cancer and died”, seriously, who are you helping when you say that? There is also my personal favourite, “just think positively and you’ll be fine”. Don’t get me wrong, positivity is great and positively encouraged, but cancer is a little more complicated than that. Cancer is not purely a mental test with your survival the prize. Nevertheless, people will tell you to be positive, A LOT!

You may also find that you end up consoling the person you have just told rather than the other way around. Personally didn’t mind this, I actually started becoming quite offended if people didn’t need consoling – don’t they care? Just kidding, obviously they did, presumably they were holding it together so as not to upset me – right? But seriously, I can certainly see how upsetting it could be if you are struggling with your own emotions without taking on someone else’s crushed feelings.

Generally, people love to compare your cancer to someone else they know who had cancer. Sometimes I would be told the strangest things like “at least they caught it early”, no they didn’t? Why assume that? Some people make all sorts of assumptions based on a previous experience they’ve had with someone else. This used to drive me mad and annoyingly it’s not just with diagnosis, it will be with every stage of your cancer care.

What Can You Do?

Whatever someone’s reaction, remember that most people are trying their best, they are not trying to annoy you, they are probably just at a loss for what to say and feel that they need to say something, anything. If someone does say something that offends or upsets you, remember you are in an emotionally raw place. It would be normal to take things to heart that would usually not be such a big deal to you. This is entirely natural so do not feel bad about it. If someone is comparing your cancer to someone else, you could say, there are so many variations (even within the same cancer) they really aren’t comparable. Where possible try to distance yourself from those comments and if someone is upsetting you, maybe mention that you are trying your best to handle it your way, and get them off the phone!

My Loved One Has Cancer – What Should I Be Saying?

I didn’t want to send all the non-cancer people into a spin on what they should be saying so this would be my advice…

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In my opinion, it’s best to follow the lead of the person who has cancer.  Be led by how they are feeling and their reactions.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions, I’m sure they would rather tell you than have you assume.  Ask how they are feeling, how they are reacting to the news.  Feel free to agree that it is shite and you wish there was something you could say to make it better but you know there isn’t.  Ask if there is anything you can do to help and suggest things you could do – make dinner / take the kids to school / drop a text saying, I’m at the shops can I pick anything up for you.  Feel free to make suggestions about way’s of handling ideas but leave it as a suggestion not an instruction.  If they don’t seem keen, leave it, don’t push what your friend of a friend did down their throat.

I found an influx of offers of help and well-wishes at the beginning and then it tails off (understandably) so my biggest suggestion would be to just let them know that you are still there, thinking about and loving them and ready to respond should they need you.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to dealing with cancer.  Treating someone with love and kindness will go a long way.

Nx

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The Last 36 Hours! Good Morning Britain, ITV News and World Cancer Day

Cancer & Me, Press Appearances

The last 36 hours have been unexpected, bizarre and awesome.

I knew that to coincide with World Cancer Day the lovely Cancer Research UK were going release the latest shocking statistic that 1 in 2 of us will now be effected by cancer, which I have written about here.  I also knew CRUK were going to include my name (along with others) as a possible person to talk to the press, but I had no idea just how exciting it was going to turn out to be.

Before I had cancer, although I would have loved the thought of appearing on TV, I would have probably let nerves get the better of me or the thought of it being too much trouble with getting the kids sorted etc… But since cancer I just think – when is the next time I am going to be asked to do this?  Probably never, so why not just get involved and thoroughly enjoy it and that is exactly what I did.

On Tuesday evening a film crew came and film the kids and I for a news segment on Good Morning Britain.  They asked a lot more questions than what they showed and there were a number of retakes, mainly because when you ask a 3-year-old to be quiet what they actually hear is; make as much noise as possible and keep interrupting mummy.  But they wanted ‘real-life’ and that is most definitely real life! 🙂

 

Next it was confirmed that I would be on the Good Morning Britain sofa with the beautiful Susanna Reid (who looks like a doll in real-life – so beautiful and friendly), Kate Garraway (who I now know likes her hair to be brushed with a brush, not a comb) and Dr Hilary Jones (who in real life is possibly the nicest man ever).  I was so excited.  I have seen that sofa, how many times (?) so to actually be on the show was completely surreal.

A car collected me at 5am – yes 5am – and I was taken to the ITV studios on South Bank, London.  They did my hair and make-up.  I got to meet all the presenters, who all seemed genuinely lovely.  The studio itself was amazing, smaller than I imagined and no, that is not the real view of London behind the sofa or desk, just a screen.  It was over so quickly, I didn’t feel like I got half of what I wanted to say across but that’s just the way it was and I still can’t actually believe I got to go on that sofa.

You can watch the interview by clicking on the picture below….

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After appearing on the sofa they organised a car to bring me home and I went straight to meet a friend for coffee in the same place I go nearly every day for coffee and order the exact same thing.  When I walked in the barista said “I saw you on TV, I was shouting at my husband – ‘It’s medium-vanilla-latte lady on TV'”  Hilarious.

Lastly I was asked if ITV News could come and film me and the kids again for the evening news.  Because time was of the essence not only did the reporter and cameraman come, they had a gigantic news truck come too so that they could edit and transmit the recording to get it all sorted in time for the news.  Good know’s what the neighbours much have thought.

You can watch the new segment by clicking on the picture below….

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On top of all of that I had some wonderful friends write my name on their hands as the person they are Uniting for as part of the Cancer Research #WeWillUnite campaign, so a massive thank you to them and everyone for their support with the campaign xx

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