“How Cancer gave me Purpose” – My Tedx Talk explained

Hello wonderful people in my life,

This is the script for my Tedx Talk titled “How Cancer gave me Purpose”.

Each section comes with an image which has it’s own story, hense why I am here to do what I do best – explain and tell you the story.

The video editing was not as good as I would have expected so it is important for me to explain the imagery so that you can better connect with the message of my talk. Enjoy.

The Best

A year and a half ago I was 27 and I was on the adventure of a lifetime.

I was living in London and I had a permanent smile glued to my face.

I was so excited to be starting a new chapter and had recently moved to the UK from New Zealand.

I had just taken my first trip into Europe and several were soon to follow. Travelling, exploring and experiencing different cultures wasn’t just an addiction for me, it was my happy place.

I was truly living my dream and I loved my life.

I was a normal Kiwi girl and as a teacher there were so many opportunities for me to share my passion for learning with those who would become my students.

I was fit, active, healthy and I had no worries. The world was my oyster.

The Best

Dream It, Wish it, Do it. The image was taken in March 2013 in Amsterdam. It was my first trip into Europe. This image was what I defined as my happy place and I keep the picture on my bedroom door to remind me of that place where I wanted to go back to. The sign I am holding became my manta along with the quote “Life is either an extraordinary adventure or nothing” – Helen Keller.

The Worst

Eight months later I was having my 7th round of chemotherapy and with one to go I was on the edge of exhaustion.

My body had been stripped of anything good by the sophisticated poisons that had been put through my system.

I was pushing myself to the limit working full time as a teacher and I was trying to live the dream I come to London for. It was a challenge I was struggling with.

I’d lost all my vanity. My golden mane long gone and the side effects of cancer treatment made me ask myself: When will I ever get back to my happy place?

I was lost, frustrated and I felt like I was in a dark tunnel with no light to be seen.

The Worst

Two weeks after Mum had left this was my 7th round of chemotherapy – Friday the 29th of November, 2013. So close to the end but so far knowing that I still had Herceptin to endure till the following October and Surgery and Radiation lay ahead. My body was exhausted and getting up in the mornings was beyond difficult. My joints and muscles were stuck and motivation at this point was the lowest.

The Why

I was diagnosed in June 2013 with an uncommon form of aggressive Breast Cancer.

Just before my period my breasts had both became painful and hard. My left breast felt like there was a hard ball of gristle trapped inside. It was a 3cm tumor.

It was a sentence that I never ever thought I would hear.” I am sorry to tell you that the test results have come back showing cancer”.

It was at stage three when I discovered it and I was informed I had saved my own life as I had caught the cancer in its early stages.

I knew something was wrong because it wasn’t normal. Now that I can look back, I am so grateful that I listened to my body.

The Why

This is what I called bad lumpy. On the 3rd of June, 2013 I went to the Whittington Hospital in North London and this was what was seen on an screen after having an ultra sound. Core needle biopsy on the spot, a 3cm growth. A week later I was given the news. Breast Cancer.

The Education

It was complete information overload. I was overwhelmed and I couldn’t comprehend what was about to happen to me.

I was on the other side of the world and the dream I was living was shattered.

Without a choice I was going to get an education about breast cancer.

My lack of knowledge was alarming.

I knew nothing about this disease and it was something that could kill me.

I discovered breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide but it’s not just women that are at risk; it’s men too with around 400 men a year diagnosed in the UK alone. I still question myself – how did I not know this?

I wrote down and I asked as many questions as I could and after every appointment I kept a reflection journal.

I found solace in writing.

I managed to find a large network of women here in the UK and in NZ that were in the same situation as me sharing their breast cancer experiences. These networks opened up a wealth of knowledge that I am so thankful for. Unfortunately though there are too many of us out there.

I was scared. But I wasn’t scared that I had cancer, I was scared that I didn’t know about it and I was even more scared that I didn’t know what it was doing to my body.

So many people I have met and spoken too are saying that they are scared of cancer too.

It’s the fear of the unknown and the lack of knowledge that fuels this fear. Cancer is not something to be afraid of but according to CRUK getting cancer is the number one fear of the British public.

The Education

The day I was diagnosed – 10th of June, 2013 I went home and a pile of information and sat on my bed and cried. I read a bit then cried, then read and when nothing went in I cried some more. The amount of information was overwhelming and I didn’t know where to start. Getting diagnosed with an illness I knew nothing about was by far the hardest learning experience I have had to go through. I had to adjust, be open minded, trust my intuition, ask questions and take one step at a time. Google was a no go zone.

The Journey

By the time cancer was out of my body my fuel tank was completely drained. I was broken.

However slowly and surely I started piecing my dream back together. I was finding my happy place again.

Laughing helped the healing process and I think in situations like these you have to learn to laugh at yourself. It truly is the best medicine.

As a teacher I still wanted to be as involved as much as I could be in my lessons.

One day I had the opportunity to take a PE lesson in gymnastics. I decided it would be a good idea to demonstrate a forwards roll. Without thinking I got down and propelled myself forwards. Of course my wig fell off and 25, 7 and 8 year olds stood before me absolutely mortified. I’ve never had a class of children so quiet! I did my best to laugh it off. The most amazing thing about that lesson was that not one of those students said anything, except one girl. Miss, why don’t you have any hair? she asked. In the most honest and appropriate way I could my reply was: “I got really sick and I lost it all”. That was a turning point in my healing process and a catalyst to uncover the unknown and break down the fear that surrounds cancer.

With so many curious people asking questions, talking about my experience was what gave me purpose.

Without realizing I was teaching people I knew and complete strangers about breast cancer.

Finding this purpose gave me so much determination to heal and I was able to harness the power of that purpose when I changed the thinking of others.

Not that long ago I met and spoke to a young lady who was a Kiwi living the travelers’ dream just like me, struggling to grab her attention. I asked her what her age was. When she replied 27, I explained to her that I was in her exact same position as her a year and a half ago. Until I got diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I watched her face change in an instant and there was a moment where we looked at each other and I felt sorrow and heartache looking at me. The words “You just really made me think” made me feel like I had passed on information that could potentially save her life. Getting a hug of gratitude and thanks from a complete stranger creates incredible soul satisfaction and makes me realize day by day I am on the right path.

The Journey

The day I was cleared of Cancer – Monday 10th of February, 2014. I had surgery on Thursday the 30th of January, 2014 and they had managed to remove the cancer with clear margins. My flatmates Imogen and Catherine religiously helped me to take photos of my hair every week to progress the change in growth. This was a completely candid shot where Imogen and I were having a laugh about something silly and the shot was captured. By far one of my favorite photos. Happiness, achievement, health.

The Climb

I never knew I could get breast cancer at such a young age.

In fact since I was diagnosed I can say that Breast Cancer should not be classed as a disease of older women.

I did not know there are as many as eight signs and symptoms to look out for. When it comes to your breasts knowing what normal looks and feels like could one day save your life.

We often don’t take on board information until someone close to us or we ourselves are directly affected by something as serious as cancer. It should not be like that.

There are so many awareness messages out there. While we probably don’t take much notice of them the breast cancer catch phrase “Early detection is your best protection” was something that popped into my head soon as I noticed pain in my breasts.

It is recommended that we should be checking our breasts once a month around the same time every month in order to notice changes. I did not check my breasts before I got Breast Cancer.

I hope one day there will be a cure for this disease but for now prevention and awareness education is our best shot at early detection and reducing the numbers of those getting diagnosed.

The Climb

I managed to document the Cancer treatment process throughout. These images show me at the beginning, end and five months out from treatment. They are all five months apart. From left to right – First round of Chemotherapy, three days after my 26th birthday – Friday 26th of July, 2013. At the end of chemotherapy in time for Xmas – Friday 20th of December, 2013 and 5 months later Friday 23rd of May, 2014. When I put these pictures together I could not believe the change. I was shocked, but I was also in awe of the capability of the human body to heal.

The Purpose

As I end this talk. It is important for me to highlight the importance of sharing our experiences in order to learn from one another. We all have a story to share and in doing so we are granted the ability to change the thinking of others.

Having Breast Cancer and the experience of it has pushed me to harness the power of purpose, which constantly enables me to inform and educate as many people as I can to prevent them from being in the same predicament as me – especially the people who are my nearest and dearest.

Hold onto what I have said and keep it as a reminder to look after yourself and those you most care about.

As a new adventure begins for me, it is up to all of you to be more aware and mindful as the prevention of Breast Cancer is literally in our hands.

The PurposeThe Purpose 2

These are images of me with my nearest and dearest before, during and after cancer treatment. Family – my mother and my cousin as well as my closest friends. These are precious moments and I know that sharing my story has not just impacted my life but theirs too – in ways that are so positive. Each and everyday I am inspired to do what I am doing for them and the rest of our society. This is what love is.

With Thanks

To all my friends and family I can’t thank you enough for all your support.
There are so many of you to thank and you all know who you are.

My Lovelies and Princesses, without you I do not dare to think how life would have been. You opened up your arms and welcomed me and stood by me in the times that were the worst. True friendship is tested in these kind of circumstances and with all of you I have never felt such unconditional love and support. You are all amazing, remember that.

Vivienne, by far my Kiwi Mum in London. Without you I would have been lost. With you I was protected and cared for and you always had my best interests at heart. Your friendship means the world to me.

To Zahra, I thank you for the opportunity of being able to do this talk. Your belief in me, my message and my purpose. To you I am forever grateful.

Why I need your Help

What motivates you to share an experience?
If my situation was the opposite would you be more likely to share it?
If I had been misdiagnosed or mistreated would that make you angry enough to tell others?
So that it would not happen again to anyone else?
We live in a world where the media is constantly negative. I no longer read or watch the news because of the bad energy it brings.

Good stories and news that have the happy ending or an inspiration within them are less likely to be shared because we are often more likely to remember the bad consequences and how it could happen to us. If it’s inconceivable we share it.
My story happens to be the making lemons out of lemonade kind of story.
It could happen to any one of you, Cancer does not discriminate. I was just lucky that I listened to my body at the right time. We need to share so there is more awareness out there and the rates of early detection are increased and the numbers of those diagnosed is reduced.

Me having Cancer was a bad thing but I turned it into something that has more positivity and happiness that I have ever experienced. I am not glad I had Cancer but I would never take back the experience. The last two years, despite being the sickest I have ever been were the best two years of my life. It has given me strength I never knew I had and a determination to live beyond the limits I have had in my life. Knowing that you have all learnt from my experience, that is what I call inspirational.

We all have a story to share. I need you to help share mine so I can help as many people as I can.

I can’t do this on my own

At this point I am asking each and everyone of you to share this with anyone you know who can help and anyone you know who may have credibility when it comes to having contacts especially in places like Twitter and Facebook. Got any celebrity contacts that may be keen to tweet my link?
I am not doing this for self promotion, I am doing this for the lives of New Zealander’s and young people who should know more about this disease.
I do not want to see young people going through this when they should be living their dream.

Please share with all those you care about and be sure to pledge to my project if my purpose touches your heart.

http://givealittle.co.nz/project/jessweller

Jess x

Please follow my blog at http://www.jessweller.com

When things start happening, life gets exciting!

Hello wonderful people in my life,

Another week going and a lot of things to share with you all.
Have been enjoying the sunshine and the beach and all the crew are gradually heading back to work while those who remain unemployed continue to beach it and catch up with all those we haven’t seen in the past couple of years.

Had an awesome weekend down in Wellington at Abby and Shaun’s wedding. Abby and I went to Fashion Design School together so was wonderful to see her walk down the aisle. Fantastic to catch up with Shelley, Dave, Mira, Ricky, Ana and Nick too on the day. The weather was awesome and it was fab to see the family – Leo and Edna, Janette and Pascal, Flynn, Casey and Brett – thanks for having me, as always so wonderful to see you all. So great to catch up with squash mates Nicky and Wayne and their darling daughter Mya and her sock monkey that I gave to her when she was born. Great to see Ged, Melissa and Lily as well – the Taylor side of the family.

In Wellington for Shaun and Abby's wedding. Jan, 2015

In Wellington for Shaun and Abby’s wedding. Jan, 2015

Fundraising seems to be going really well, but still a long ways off the target. Currently sitting just under $3000. With $6000 to go I am still hopeful that I will get there. I need your help! really need to share this through facebook and via email. If I don’t reach a wider audience then I am going to struggle to hit the target. Can you help me out? I need you 🙂

Please note that pledges only turn into donations when the goal amount is reached. To those who have pledged, thank you so much I value your support no end.

http://givealittle.co.nz/project/jessweller

I have managed to gain the support of Breast Cancer Foundation, Canteen and The Cancer Society for my project and they will be assisting my application for a grant through the Lotteries commission. There are a lot of grants out there but not many for individuals so I have spent a lot of time emailing and calling people. There are mainly no’s but there is always a yes hiding in there somewhere so trying to keep upbeat and try different ways of asking for help. It’s yet another learning experience. Pretty awesome to receive the support of three of the largest cancer charities in New Zealand.

Felt pretty cool to be back in my hometown paper (it’s been a few years) the Ruapehu Bulletin and a massive thank you to Robert Milne and the team for sharing my story.

There are a couple of articles in the pipeline so will save those for when they are out. Watch this space.

Just did one recently for http://www.papertrail.co.nz which was all about the things you are not told when you get cancer because you have to essentially figure them out yourself.

http://papertrail.co.nz/things-wish-someone-told-cancer.

Thank you Chloe for the opportunity to write for your wonderful news website.

Pretty excited to announce that my Tedx Talk has finally been released for those of you who are on Facebook if you decide to watch, do share too. Keep an eye out for the next update to read the script and see the explanations of the visuals I used.

Hope this update finds you all well,

Jess x

Back to life, Back to reality

Hello wonderful people in my life,

It’s been so delightful being back in Auckland. The consistent weather has been astounding and catching up with my nearest and dearest has been just wonderful. Its so great to be around grass, trees and close to the beach. These things seem somewhat funny to list but I think often we forget about the finer things in life that help us live and in some ways keep us grounded. Often excess is exciting and thrilling but getting back to simplicity is good for the soul. I can certainly tell the difference when I go from the city and end up at one of the east coast bays or way out west and get a quiet peaceful energy. Although I love the city vibe I think that being back here is better for my wellness and im glad im not still amongst the London charge.

It’s been a bit challenging trying to get organised and figuring out how and where to find work. I’m having to get some information from the UK so I can get police clearance to renew my teaching registration and hopefully get some relief / supply work while I try and make contacts in the health sector to find work there. A massive thanks to Maya and Violet for having my stay with them until I get on my feet.

I am so so happy about the support for my current project to travel to the USA to attend Breast Cancer conferences. Thank you so much to those of you who have pledged to my cause. It’s slow but consistent going so thank you all for your continued input and belief in me. Please do share the link via email with any contacts who you think may be able to help and share on Facebook also. Am working on getting in some of the surburban Auckland papers and the Ruapehu Bulletin soonish so do keep an eye out.

http://givealittle.co.nz/project/jessweller

My Tedx Talk is about to be released so just waiting patiently and hopefully it will be out soon. It seems the editing is taken a bit of time and now the video’s are actually being directly released by Tedx.com. Waiting waiting.

I’ve been doing a bit of research into food and diet in the last couple of weeks which has been really interesting and somewhat overwhelming. I can remember my second round of chemotherapy when a dietician came and spoke to me about what I should be putting into my system to assist the treatment as well as be healthy whilst going through it. The advise I was given was to essentially eat what I want and to take an all in moderation kind of approach.

Its really frustrating when sometimes you just want someone to tell you what to do. However with the amount of information out there from other humans recommending this and that and the cost of food its hard to come to a conclusion and you often just have to make a decision based on what is best for you. Currently working on my slight bout of food paranoia at the moment and hoping it is just a phase.

It’s been cool reading a book called Radical Remission which discusses the nine key factors in how to eliminate cancer from your system when you have a terminal diagnosis without the aide of modern medicine and the stereotypical treatment options. Reading the book has made me realise that if these nine factors can rid the body of cancer then should some of these not also be the principles we should live our lives by?

• Radically changing your diet
• Deepening your spiritual connection
• Increasing positive emotions
• Releasing suppressed emotions
• Taking herbs and vitamins
• Using intuition to help inform health decisions
• Taking control of one’s health
• Having strong reasons to live
• Receiving social support

Food for thought!

Hope this update finds you all well and if you are in New Zealand then I will look forward to seeing you soon.

Jess x

Summer Days. It’s good to be home!

Hello wonderful people in my life,

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Week 1 of 52….

Hope this latest update finds you all well.

I am about to embark on a little project that will see me attempting to write once a week for this year. The aim is to reduce the size of the posts and take a bit of pressure off myself too. I find writing to you all incredibly therapeutic so doing it more frequently and in smaller amounts seems logical.

For those of you on Facebook you would have seen that I am fundraising money to travel to the USA this year to attend Breast Cancer Conferences. I received a grant to go to Houston in March to the Young Survival Coalition Summit. The grant will cover the accommodation but not the flights so I am currently I am trying to fund this myself with the hope that I will be able to apply for some grants here in New Zealand.

To those of you who have already made pledges to my cause thank you so so much. I need you all to email the below link to as many contacts as possible and share it on Facebook so I get more pledges. I have less than 60 days to reach the $9,000 target. People who want to support my project make a pledge and only when I reach the fundraising target does the money come out of your account. After only on day there is $430 already pledged so I am feeling very blessed to have the support.

This project will allow me to travel to three conferences in the USA this year, meet with and build relationships with other breast cancer advocates and organisations as well as gather resources and information to better educate and support New Zealander’s in regards to Breast Cancer. I am putting my heart and soul into this cause but I can’t save the world on my own. I need your help.

Please share this on link Facebook if you are on there and email it to people who you think may be able to help.

http://givealittle.co.nz/project/jessweller

Its been a delight being home and the last couple of weeks have made me truly appreciate being back on NZ soil.
The weather has been great, I’ve seen my family, so many friends and I have rested a lot. Xmas with the family was very restful and I spent most of the time eating or sleeping. New years at Pukehina was awesome and what a wonderful crew of humans to celebrate a new year with. We were so lucky to have a house right on the beach. Take me back! In some ways its kind of surreal to be back as New Zealand and London are literally like chalk and cheese.

Things I am glad to have back in my life….

Driving. It had been two years since I had driven a car. So amazing to just get in the car and go. So much freedom and knowing where I am going is such a good feeling. It also doesn’t take as long to get anywhere and the friendly wave when you give way to someone, acknowledgement! Oh how it excites me! Windows down and the radio cranking = bliss.

Random conversations with strangers. It’s kind of weird but people in NZ genuinely try and converse with you. In London this rarely happened so when I got back and ventured into the shops being greeted and asked conversational questions was a shock to the system. I’m glad to have the human interaction back.
Catching up with friends. When you have been away for so long and you see people again for the first time in two years and things just click as if you never left. Its incredible to know and acknowledge that you have that special connection with other humans. Its amazing to visit your old haunts and know too that they are still as they were, beautiful.

Being close to the beach and seeing grass and trees more frequently. I missed the accessability to these things the most when I was away. New Zealand has this quietness and tranquility that is incredibly calming even in the city. Seeing the stars in the night sky has again become an exciting novelty.
Food. Even though it is incredibly expensive I can tell the difference in quality and taste. After having an illness I’ve become more cautious about what I put into my body and I feel relieved that I’ve come back knowing that the quality of food here is much better than where I was.

Sunlight. What is this amazing phenomenon?!

It’s the small things that make the biggest differences and the realisation that here in New Zealand we are incredibly lucky to have such a clean and inviting environment. So happy to be back.

New years for me always brings a new start and like many others resolutions. Over the years I’ve tried many things and failed however it has been three years since I ate KFC, Maccas and BK so I guess I do have the capability to follow something through.

This year my resolutions are:

To give up alcohol for 2015.

I figure that with the amount of poison I’ve had to pump through my system my liver could do with the break. Drinking makes me feel rather icky so I’m giving it up.

To practice daily mindfulness. I did an 8 week course in this before I left London and its really changed me a lot. It is basically guided meditation so you listen to a recording for 45 minutes a day. Without going into to much detail I feel much more relaxed and destressed, I am able to think about things more logically, there is less chatter in my head and I have been able to slow down – I don’t rush as much and if I do I feel guilty, I take my time to enjoy what I’m eating and am more mindful of what I am putting into my body. I was initially quite skeptical but if you commit to putting the time in the practice of mindfulness can change your life.

What a great start to the year! Bring it on 2015!

Jess x