What Do You Wish You Had Done?

Any Human Heart, Cancer & Me, Writing & Blogging

I knew my surgery for cancer was going to be extreme and dangerous and I was genuinely worried I was going to die.  I bought one of those – this is my life books to fill in so my children (who were only 2-years and 11-months at the time of my surgery) would have some of my memories should my worst fear be realised.

One of the questions was ‘what do you wish you had done?’  Quite poignant at the time, I was only 32, thinking about things I wasn’t going to get to experience was not easy, but there were three things I wished that I had done;

Gone to University to read Literature and Writing.

Travelled more.

Become an author.

It can be a strange time after cancer because everything is exactly the same, yet everything has changed.  Most women I have spoken to go through big internal changes after getting the all clear.  I have described it to people as being like a ‘shedding of the skin.’  You want to peel away the past, shake off anything that is pre-all-clear.  Obviously you don’t want to shed everything.  There were plenty of things that were lovely about my life before cancer and after… but how do you marry those two things up?

It has become a bit of a cliché that feeling that you have cancer and suddenly realise what and where you want your life to be, but I think it is a cliché for a reason.   You will never have your life put so acutely into perspective, than when you have a full on face off with your mortality.

For me, moving forwards after cancer, I knew that Purchase The Fabulous Woman's Guide Through Cancer on Kindle or in Paperback here!I did not want to answer the same question in the same way when I was 80!

So I applied to University (which I started part-time in 2013) and agreed with my husband we would try to visit more places.  I knew I wanted to help others who are affected by cancer, which led me to start my blog and fulfil an ambition of becoming an author by writing my first non-fiction book, The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer.

I often joke that most people realise they want to spend more time with their family, where as I decided I wanted to spend less time at home, but you know, whatever works!

What about you?  Any changes for any reason?  Let me know x

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International Woman’s Day

Any Human Heart, What's Happening?

Happy International Woman’s Day!  To celebrate this wonderful day I thought I would take a moment to mention just a few (there are many many more but that would take forever) of the fantastic women have made me the woman I am….

My mum and I getting ready on my wedding day.

My mum and I getting ready on my wedding day.

My Mum

Possibly predictable, I know, but she has sculpted me into the woman who I am in so many ways.  My mum’s positive attitude to life and death became even more inspirational when I had cancer.  I see so much of my mum in the way I’m raising my children and my most my strength comes from my mum (and my lovely dad, but I guess that comes on Fathers day?!)  Even 6 years after she passed away I can hear her when I question what I am doing, encouraging me to do better.

Ms Nicola Fernhead 

Ms Fernhead saved my life.  Literally.  She is the amazing surgeon at Addenbrookes hospital who oversaw every aspect of my cancer treatment and performed my twelve-hour lifesaving operation.  She stripped me down and put me back together again (physically and spiritually I think)… and added an extra bit!  To be able to identify someone who is one of the major reasons you are actually alive is a bizarre but very wonderful thing.

Polly Nobel 

I knew when I got through cancer I was going to write (and write and write) but I remembering being at a loss of where to start.  Then I found Polly Nobel’s website Polly’s Path.  A wealth of information about healthy living and being a twenty-something woman living with terminal cancer.  Although we had some differing views on life with cancer (and diagnosis), it was so inspirational and starting helping me picture what I wanted to achieve with this blog and my non-fiction writing.  I had the joy of meeting Polly in 2013 at an event and she was just as inspiring on real life.  Unfortunately Polly died last year but her legacy lives on.

The lovely Thalia Skye

The lovely Thalia Skye

Thalia Skye

My first paid writing job was from this amazing and inspirational lady, Thalia Skye, and the fantastic website that I contribute to through Coloplast, My Ostomy.  It truthfully is my dream job and I am SO grateful to Thalia for giving me the chance and teaching me so much about vlogging, social media but even better than that… Thalia has taught me so much about my own stoma!  From practicalities to realising how much I appreciate having this life saving bag and the strength to keep talking about it and raising awareness about life with a colostomy / iliostomy of how boringly normal life remains!

Dr Anna Tripp

My personal tutor at university and the woman who agreed to take punt on a thirty-something mother who was desperate to finally fulfil a dream of reading Literature and Writing at university.  It’s one of the best decision’s I have made in my life and I can’t thank her enough for seeing enough of a spark that she would take a chance on a woman with absolutely no academic level 3 qualifications.  She rocks!

My sister and my son

My sister and my son

My Sister

Where oh where would I be without my sister!  Sisters (especially one like mine) are the best thing ever.  An absolutely driving force in my life that keeps me moving forward no matter how much I want to give up and stop and who shines the brightest light in my darkest of days.  I quite simply would not be here without knowing that my sister is well and truly in my corner.  And now my kids get to enjoy having the best aunt in the world.  I love this woman!

There are plenty of other women in my life who have done more for me than words can say.  In particular my wonderful female friends and all the women in my family – they are all strong wise and wonderful.  From the little things to the massive things you have all built me into who I am and for that I am truly thankful.

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The Mature Students Guide to Starting University

Goals, Journey Back to Health, Uncategorized, What's Happening?

It seems strange that this time last year I was tentatively finding out if I would finally be able to fulfil the dream of going to University to read Literature and Writing.  Here I am going into my second year (as I’m part time this is the second part of my first year).  I love uni; learning, reading, writing, heaven!  That’s not to say there aren’t points when it’s overwhelming, tiring and difficult to balance with small children, but here are a few things I have learnt….

images-8Prepare

In my experience, the one evening I need to get my head down, will be the evening one of my children get’s ill, won’t go to bed or launches a nuclear missile – all resulting in me needing to tend to my little darlings.  So, my tip…

Do as much preparation as possible.  Try and spend your time between now and starting uni working your way through your reading list.  If possible find out which areas you will be studying in order so you can read accordingly.  Once term starts you have so much additional work, squeezing it all in can become difficult so the more reading you can do before, the better.

Read All The Information

Expect a lot of information, try and read it all and pick out the relevant parts.  Most of it is online nowadays so keep an eye on your email and for links.  As with everything there is a lot of red-tape, Uni’s have to keep tabs on all students so there is lots of singing in, swiping ID cards so get up to speed on what you need to do and get into the habit of doing it from the very beginning.

Create ‘Uni Time’

How you work is unique to you and your situation but I found it easier to have dedicated university days.  If I’m in university for lectures, then I go straight to the library and work for as long as possible staying in that ‘uni headspace’.  Otherwise you know what it’s like, you get home think you will quickly put a wash on, make a coffee butUnknown-1 whilst getting a mug out the dishwasher you quickly unload it and before you know it you are totally out of your uni headspace and need to get the kids / go to work.  Plus you aren’t constantly trying to pickup where you left off as you are already there.

Give Yourself a Chance

There are skills that come with being at university and studying.  It takes time to become good at anything, including being a student.  If like me you have been out of formal education FOREVER, it is going to take time to get into the swing of it.  Thankfully that is what the first year is all about, finding your feet, learning skills and building your confidence.

Keep Going

Sometimes the hardest thing to do but keep going, allow yourself some flexibility, suddenly you will be at the end of the year and not believe how quickly it has gone.  You will be pleased of the summer break but then find you are even more excited to get back to it and into your 2nd year in September!

Happy Studying x

The Anti-Bucket List

Cancer & Me, Journey Back to Health, The Anti-Bucket List

I think everyone is now familiar with the term Bucket List as a list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket.  When I was having treatment for advanced Colorectal Cancer  I decided that when I got better I would flip the idea and came up with The Anti-Bucket List… these were things I was going to do, not because I was going to die, but because I was going to live.  Got the idea?

I see this as different to New Years Resolutions because I consider those the be goals of the year, whereas this list is more things I want to do and experience.

Last year I only included a few things as I was still having treatment / recovering but there were;

  1. Travel to somewhere I haven’t been before / Travel for the first time with my P1010291colostomy bag – I went to Morocco.  Truly amazing experience.  I was so nervous to travel for the first time with a colostomy bag but in reality it was fine.  Just made sure I had plenty of everything (I took about 2 months worth for 3 nights) and in all different bags in case something happened, but nothing did.  No trouble flying.  Everything was cool.  Have now flown a few times, all fine.  And Morocco itself was out of this world.  It is firmly at the high end of my favourite places to go list (Mexico remains number 1).
  2. Go to University – Wasn’t easy and at times I wondered why I put it on the list but I did it.  I now go to the University of Hertfordshire reading English Literature, Philosophy & Writing and I absolutely LOVE it.  It is one of my favourite things to do on earth at the moment.
  3. Read another 3 books of my list – My list is the BBC Top 100 Reads voted by the public.  Its been really good actually, made me read loses of books I wouldn’t have otherwise, most of which I have really enjoyed.

So that was last year, but what about this year…  This is what I have so far…

  1. Go to a fancy Horse Race – by that I mean like Ascot, a traditional big race where the ladiesIMG_2621 get seriously dressed up.
  2. See a Ballet at the Royal Opera House –  I haven’t been for years.
  3. Visit Harry Potter world at Letchworth Studios – as close as I can get to the real thing.
  4. Take part in Cancer Research’s Colour Run – Have you seen how much fun this looks… has to be done.  If you want move information about it, visit www.thecolourrun.co.uk or if you want to know more about why Cancer Research means so much to me specifically you can click here!
  5. Go somewhere I haven’t been before – This doesn’t have to be abroad, there is still a lot in the UK I haven’t seen.  Quite like the idea of the outer-Heberdies… anyone have any suggestions?

So that is the Anti-Bucket list as it stands but I am looking for inspiration and things to add so please leave and comment & let me know what else I can do that will bring fun and excitement to this year I’m living.

But, most importantly, what is on your Anti-Bucket list?  I really would like to know leave a comment & tell me.

Whatever it is, hope you have fun doing it! x

Some other awesome lists to check out….

101 Things to Do When You Survive

Bucket List Publications