Being Grateful

Hello wonderful people in my life,

Oh my goodness I am now sure where the last month has disappeared to. Every time I go to write an update I really need to think hard about what I have been up to. With Summer here and just a few days away to six weeks off things have been so busy. I’m feeling ok but still trying to figure out my tiredness and finding it hard to rest even though I should be. So much happening! Glad to report that the weather in London is pretty warm and I am even sitting here typing in the evening with an open window. Not really working this week as schools are starting to close for the year so taking advantage of catching up on sleep and life admin.

The blog / update is going well and since I made it public it has had over 1000 hits in the last year and I have had 200 hits in the last couple of weeks. Pretty pleased with that. Its pretty much the update I send out to all my friends and family (nearest and dearest) so to those of you reading hello and welcome. Please share 🙂

As per usual I have my regular three weekly hospital appointment days. On Monday I had my second dose of subcutaneous Herceptin. What this involves is the drug being injected into the thigh muscle instead of being administered through the vein (intravenously) or through the portocath.  It only takes 5 minutes to administrator as intravenous takes up to 90 minutes depending how fast the machine is set. It was pretty easy but it does hurt a little in the area where it was being injected. Afterwards I feel a little bit tired but the second time was better than the first. I also had an Echocardiogram (3 monthly heart scan) and everything is looking fine and dandy.

A couple of weeks back I had to have a mammogram which came back completely clear. Yeay!!! and a CT scan. I’ve been having headaches for the past couple of months. They are the kinds of head aches that are just a niggle and not enough to need to have paracetamol. Its definitely a tension and stress related blah. The results of the CT were normal except for a cyst on my right ovary that has randomly decided to pop up. I’ve been told that it’s pretty normal and that there is no cause to be concerned but I am having to have a pelvic scan just to get a better picture of what it is. Cysts on the ovaries are fairly common but because of my current medical history doing another scan is standard practice if not for anything but piece of mind. Considering I never knew it was there and have not had any pain it reminds me that our bodies are constantly naughty and do things without our knowledge. I am not a paranoid person but there is no way that your mind doesn’t click into what the hell is that? why is it there? and what can I do to make sure it’s ‘nothing’?. So there will be another scan for that in a few weeks time.

I’ve recently sent of forms to have genetic screening done for any breast cancer related genes. So that was interesting having to ask about family history. I will have the tests in September so I guess watch this space and touch wood for no dodgy genes!

Doing volunteer work for breast cancer charity Coppafeel has helped me get invloved in some interesting projects. My first talk which was around six weeks ago was held at JCI the Junior Division of the London Chamber of Commerce.  I have since been back to JCI to attend a public speaking workshop. I had the opportunity to get up and speak and talked about my cancer journey off the cuff for around five minutes or so. It felt like a long time! I talked about the paths we have in front of us in life and how sometimes those paths are put in place to challenge us and are often scattered with a variety of different hurdles we have to work our way through, over or around. I talked about the people we have in our lives that nurture and encourage,  those that push us to make us more resilient even though it seems impossible at the time and those that make life harder than it needs to be. Most of us overcome challenges in life and reflect on the learning experience to become better individuals to benefit both ourselves and people around us.

The point I was trying to make was that everything works out in the end but sometimes you have to get off the established path to find your own way otherwise you could get stuck – and banging your head against a brick wall always gets painful eventually. Challenges again are something we can all take learning from. In my life the hardest, most interesting and unpredictable path has been my journey through breast cancer. The tone of the room changed completely when I dropped that bomb and I had people sitting in front of me completely shocked. I lost it for a little bit and got upset which was so weird because I talk about it so easily and so often. It was feeling the change of tone in the room and the reaction from people that set me off. I swear i could have cut the air with a knife. One guy sitting at the back did not remove his hands from his mouth for the rest of my speech.

I think that telling people over the phone when I was first diagnosed was a god send. Telling people to their face is literally heart breaking. To those of you that received the news this way I am sure you can resonate. I was still happy with what I had delivered considering I was not prepared at all. The feedback was so constructive so got a good warm fuzzy out of that one.

I have done more volunteer talks with Coppafeel. I spent a whole day at a school in Milton Keynes which is about 30minutes on a fast train outside of London. I did six back to back sessions with small groups of year 10 students who are around age 14 years old. I do not think I have ever had students so quiet in my presence since I have been in the UK. It is incredible how you can engage people with story that shows someone who has a completely normal life be turned on it’s head in an instant. Doing these talks – telling young people about my story, how I was effected and explaining how I got through it is something that I get so much out if it is unreal. I got so much great feedback and lovely comments. One young man said to me – “Thank you so much for coming to tell us your story. I have had family very close to me that have gone through cancer and for you to share your story really helps me understand more about cancer”. Some girls also said to me that they had previously had someone come and see them at school about being breast aware but because they did not share a story and just told them to check themselves there was not real relation to actually having to be more body conscious. A young girl said to me that hearing my  story made her think more about what can happen and she would be more aware from now on. Considering I spoke to around 100 students that day I am hoping I made an impact and have helped to spread more awareness. I was so exhausted and my throat was so sore after talking so much! I was buzzing for hours after. It is such a great feeling to know I am making some kind of difference.

At Walton High, Milton Keynes. Talking Boobs with Year 10 students. July 2014

At Walton High, Milton Keynes. Talking Boobs with Year 10 students. July 2014

I’ve started attending meetings for Toastmasters which has been really interesting. I went to an Early Bird Speakers meeting last week at 7am in Holborn which is in central London. The meeting was at the Freemasons Old England Lodge which is just stunning inside. Its all about improving your communication, leadership and public speaking skills.Its pretty fascinating and the whole meeting is very formally run with every section timed down to the last second. Its so strange to stand up and speak and there is a light box in front of you. When you start talking it isn’t on then it flicks to green. Then it goes orange. That means you need to start on your conclusion. The red light comes on and that means time is pretty much up. If you are still speaking 20 seconds after the red light a bell is dinged. Another 10 seconds and you are clapped off the stage and all the awkward turtles appear! Haha the last meeting I went too this happened to a lady who was giving one of the main speakers feedback.  So hilarious but so cruel.I had to get up and speak for two minutes, off the cuff and had to answer a question – What do you love about yourself? I laughed and started with the line “I don’t want to come across arrogant”. I basically talked about the fact that I love that I enjoy a challenge and I try my best to give everything I am presented a go. I also talked about how Kiwi’s and Aussies are resilient and change is something we all like to challenge ourselves with. That’s why we are all in London experiencing life outside of our comfort zone. I spoke for a minute which was probably not quite long enough. The feedback I got for this was to err and umm less and pause more often. I went to another one this evening actually that was a lot more laid back and relaxed. Less formal than the early morning one I attended. Again I did another two minute impromptu speech and the question posed was “What is a good habit you would like to start or a bad habit you would like to stop”. I spoke about my bad habit of selective hearing and how I’ll try and multi task buy trying to listen to a conversation and doing something else like fiddling on my phone or in the case of this story watching TV. Everyone will be having a conversation then five minutes later after the conversation has ended I’ll pipe up with the same conversation as before. Jess were you not listening like five minutes ago?! Nah. Then follows me getting stick and loosing the plot in a fit of laughter. It’s typically called conversation theft haha. This time I spoke for just over two minutes and got feedback for excellent structure. Winning.

There have been so many outings and I have had some great catch up’s with good friends in London. CoppaFeel are always putting on amazing events and Kate and I made it along to Festifeel which was a music festival day in aide of the charity. Such a great way to create awareness abd have fun all on one day! Kate, Sarah and Catherine took me out for a lovely afternoon High Tea in at The Pelham Hotel in South Kensington a couple of weeks back which was just delightful. I was in a food coma for a long time afterwards. So many delicious cakes and wonderful tea. It was great to catch up recently with Megan and Jackie who are childhood friends from home both living in London.  The last time we caught up was when Mum was over last year so we had plenty to catch up on mainly Jackie being recently engaged and Megan pregnant with her first baby so happy times and a delicious dinner in China Town not far from Leicester Square. Had a past housemate and good friend from Auckland come and stay with us in the last week of our flat. Was great to catch up with Kat and will hopefully catch up again at the end of this month before she heads back to NZ. Have also been back to London Oratory in the last couple of weeks and caught up with the Art team for Sonia’s farewell. So great to see people I have not seen since I left the school in December.

Kate and I at Festifeel. June 2014

Kate and I at Festifeel. June 2014

Delicious times with my London Lovelies - Catherine, Sarah and Kate.

Delicious times with my London Lovelies – Catherine, Sarah and Kate.

Was fascinating to attend the New Designers exhibition at the Business Centre in Angel with Jess and Sarah earlier this month. The exhibition displayed the cream of the crop from all the final year graduates from most of the design schools around the UK. Was so incredible to see and think back to when we were at uni. Haha feeling old! 7 years ago. Catherine and I manged to get ourselves into Wimbledon and see some tennis so that was a bit of a highlight especially after queuing for 6 hours last year! Great to bump into Michelle there too who I met in Australia while on a boat tour in the Whitsundays and last caught up when I was in Amsterdam – small world. Have also made it along to Shakespeare’s Globe on the Southbank of the Thames to see Julius Caesar. The atmosphere inside the Globe was incredible. Such a great part of history and yet another thing ticked of my long list of London activities.  Seven of us managed to co-ordinate and have a weekend away down in Brighton which was lovely. The weather was not really on our side but had a great time away with Sarah, Cat, Imogen, Kate, Alice, Ally and Sarah.

Finally made it to the historical Wimbledon! July, 2014

Finally made it to the historical Wimbledon! July, 2014

We moved out of our flat at the weekend and I am back to living out of a bag and will be dossing throughout the summer and have some house sitting arranged from the end of August until mid November in South London close to Clapham Common. I swear that every time I move out of a house I will never do it again but it seems like I just can’t help myself. Such a mission! Will miss our little house, our daily kitchen table deep and meaningful conversations and uncontrollable laughing fits. The shared meals especially rice paper roll nights. Thanks for being such wondrous flatmates Imogen, Catherine and James. It’s been an absolute pleasure.Looking forward to Summer and will be off to Ireland on Friday night with Ally and Michelle so looking forward to spending 9 days in what I have heard is a visually stunning country. Defiantly up for some great craic with the Irish! Will be back in London for my birthday for three days then off to Sheffield to see my dearest friend Zoe. Then onto Glasgow to spend some time with Emily and Frank as well as check out the Squash at the Commonwealth Games. Doing a tour of Scotland for 4 days heading up to the Isle of Skye then looking to enjoy a weekend in Edinburgh with Jacque while the Fringe Festival just happens to be on. As I don’t want to make anyone to jealous i’ll save the other half of my summer travels till the next update.So I have decided to give up drinking. It’s kind of strange but alcohol makes me feel a bit funky. I am guessing that because I have had so much toxic stuff through my system that my body just has no interest in it what so ever. I think that that bender Cat and I had in Prague probably didn’t help haha. Certainly feeling better for not drinking.

In the last update that I sent I was not feeling the greatest so I decided to start writing a gratitude diary. I had an interesting discussion a few weeks back with a friend of mine Zehra about gratitude and being thankful in life. Every night before I go to bed I write three awesome things that happened that day and then three reasons why I am grateful. Most of the time as a society we often focus on the bad things that happen and often forget to reflect upon the good. Even if you have a “bad” day there will be good things you can take away from the day.  It can be as little as someone saying good morning to you on the way to work, a compliment from a work colleague about the shirt you are wearing or someone making dinner for you after a long day. Being grateful for clean water out of the tap, the warmth of a day and a really good nights sleep are all small things we probably never think about but do we take them for granted? This gratitude diary has really lifted my spirits and made me feel a lot better. I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful to have all of you in my life. I am grateful to be able to share my story to make a difference in other people’s lives.

I have had some very interesting conversations with different people over my cancer journey and I am glad to say that my eyes have been opened to some interesting and incredibly inspiring things. Most of the time we are so unconscious to what is going on around us. We are all so focused on work and life that we forget about the small things that keep us balanced and ultimately keep our happiness afloat. We are so plugged into to the media I honestly think it takes over our lives in some ways. I have even recently tried switching off my mobile data during the day so I am not so exposed to it while I am meant to be focusing on my work. This also comes down to my concentration for things and why i am trying to switch off from the digital world. I try really hard not to read papers – so hard on the tube when everyone has there nose in one and it’s so hard not to read over people’s shoulder rude I know.

I’m pretty happy to report that my hair is getting longer too. Getting up to 7 months growth and it’s well over an inch in places. One thing I am not happy about are the amount of grey hairs that have decided to sprout. Before I had cancer I am adamant that I did not have any. Boo. I am not sure if I had said this before but I miss my hair and not having it has knocked my confidence. I love my new hair but I do miss my long golden mane and some days I really wish I could get satisfaction from brushing it, tying it up or running my hands through the length. Before this whole journey I used to think I wish I looked better. You always want what you can’t have but I can tell you from experience be grateful with what you have and just try to improve it the best way you can.

Coming up to 7 months growth....Grow FUR! GROW

Coming up to 7 months growth….Grow FUR! GROW

Things to look forward to…….Catching up with the lovely Haley today and later in the week with the rest of the crew. Off to the musical Once tonight for Kate’s birthday with the girls. Maybe more Earlybird Toastmasters! and this weekend I head away to Ireland. Good times.

Sending you all love and hugs….

Jess xxx