The questions you should probably ask before having Medical Procedure

As a young woman in my late 20’s I never thought that someone as young as me would get diagnosed with Breast Cancer. With the diagnosis came several medical and surgical procedures that I had no clue about. Without the time to research what was about to happen I had to think smart about the questions I needed to ask my medical team so that I was clear about what would happen to me during and after certain procedures.

It is a hard reality to grasp when you have just been told devasting news or that you need to have surgery and you are unsure how to process it let alone ask questions that could give you peace of mind. Medical professionals are busy people so naturally they give you the most important details (in a usually short amount of time) and the rest can be explained through a leaflet, a brochure or a pile of small booklets to assist in an already overwhelming situation. If you are lucky there may be a nurse sitting in with you during your consultation that can later relay information in a more clear and concise manner and offer answers to any burning questions you may have thought up.

Some of the questions I see relatively frequently on Facebook private support groups of women in a similar situation as myself include: What do I ask? What do I need to know? and how will all these things effect me?

Here are the things you can do and the questions you should probably ask before a medical procedure….

To start one piece of advice I will give is stay away from Dr Google.
There are so many varied opinions and so much information out there it is easy to get highly overwhelmed, paranoid and stressed. There will be people out there who have first hand experience and your medical team will be able to help you get in contact with them.

I think it is always smart to take someone into consultations with you that can take notes and unlike you may not be such a blubbering mess – I am speaking from experience here – thanks Wifey!

Ask if there are alternative options and ask the consultant to explain the process they will be doing and go through it fully. Ask them to break it down so you know exactly what will happen. For example, my surgeon described my boob as a round cake and drew a diagram of how he would slice it then put it back together. It was easy to understand and I felt at ease knowing what would happen. Ask them to break it down as if they were explaining it to a child.

Ask them to explain the after effects and not just immediate but long term side effects and the healing process.

Ask how long you should rest for and what you are allowed and not allowed to do and what exercises and movement activities you can do to increase mobility.

Ask how long will it take to get back to your normal activities and what ask them to explain support systems are in place to help you get back to normal e.g funded physiotherapy and condition specific rehab centers – yes they are out there!

Ask what the pain will be like afterwards and how best to treat it. Also ask if you will have nerve damage and if feeling will come back or be indefinitely effected. Ask what the wound will look like and if you will have to have drains and what scaring will be like. Asking what they will sew the wound up with and what materials they will use inside your body are also good questions to ask E.g. dissolvable stitches, wire mesh, glue etc

Ask the questions you think are the silliest, simplest and the most obvious – it is their job to reassure you make you feel at ease. Stress slows the recovery and healing time.

Ask them if there is someone you could speak to that has been through the procedure or if anyone has written about it. Blogs are super helpful, more insightful and easier to digest than articles.

Ask them to explain pathology and show you what is happening on scans and images so you can understand visually what is happening and what they will do in the operating room. They maybe able to show you videos or pictures of procedures and explain them. Yes it is better and safer than google! Your situation will be specific to you so you can’t compare to others.

Aim to ask questions in your consultation not on the day of surgery as it may overwhelm you. If you still have questions after you leave the initial consult email or call your nurse or doctor afterwards. Yes they are busy people but they will reply. Some medical professionals will not give out their contact details but if they do, use them. Speak to your GP also they will be there to support you.

If you don’t feel comfortable with the medical professional or the options they are giving you ask for a second opinion – they shouldn’t be offended and will often refer you to someone they know or work with.

Be assertive about your wants and needs. In the end it is your body and you need to trust the person is helping you fix the problem you are faced with.

The medical world should not be seen as a scary place but I know from experience it can be overwhelming especially when you need to make decisions fast. Remember that you are allowed to ask questions and you have control about the decisions that are about you. Don’t forget that.

The content of this post was derived from women who are living with and have survived Breast Cancer. The women who contributed to this post are from New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the USA. Thank you for your input ladies in helping other be more confident in their well being before having a medical procedure.

The final countdown….of my twenties

My twenties are almost at an end….

I can honestly say I am not scared of turning 30, in fact I am excited and looking forward to the start of a new decade in my life.

It is weird to look back and reflect especially over the last couple of years but too recognise that I have done some pretty epic stuff in the last 10 years and there has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears go into it.

Attending university on two separate occasions, getting through Cancer, living on the other side of the world and becoming a seasoned traveller are probably the biggest achievements. Then there are the smaller ones – making friends, connecting with incredible people who are out to make a difference, seeing love bloom, seeing the start of new life and learning so much I think have made me more aware of how important the small things really are.

Over the past month I have pondered about writing several times but wanted to be more honest about my life. Every time I started chatting to myself about how I would go about it (yes I talk to myself frequently) I felt I was being negative. Nope I was just being honest.

Just over a week ago an amazing lady and someone I have meet through networking asked me “How are you? and be honest” I responded with a “Not that great”. I almost felt a sense of relief.  Are we conditioned to answer that question with good, or ok and great? or is honesty just too much – worried you will make someone worry about you or disturb their happy day? This lead me to put hands to keys today. I don’t claim to be together and I certainly don’t feel it. I am not depressed nor am I unhappy, I just feel nothing.

Being back in New Zealand is hard and I am not the only one suffering the “London Blues”. I miss certain things – the cheap goods from Primark, the never ending amount of events and eaterys, the cheap west end shows and bless it the London Underground. Yes, I am still receiving TFL (Transport for London) updates via email even though I left in December, I guess it just reminds me of a place that seems such a distance away.

In saying all of that though being home is great. The beach, grass and trees. Smiling faces and that acknowledgement when you give way to someone in a narrow street. Customer service and the sunny, warm winter days.

I have been reading a lot and I have never been a big book worm so that has been pretty cool. I feel like I am learning so much and I am so engaged in some of the things I am reading about. I have noticed that I am almost getting lost in books which is certainly a good thing when my mind seems to race at what seems hundreds of miles an hour. I think in some ways I am still trying to slow down and get into the pace here in New Zealand. Holy shit it’s slow. I guess I feel like I am building towards the next path in my life, what that is I have no idea but I am looking forward to it whatever it may be. Patience is hard to accept and I am trying to be like cheese….good things take time…..haha.

I feel like we all have to fill a certian mold – get a good job, earn a good wage, save, save save because you’ll need it to buy an over priced Auckland property at some point. I am constantly asking what can I do, where am I headed and what is my purpose in life – I’m  not sure yet if it’s right to be doing this but happiness will lie in there someplace. If any of you reading this are in the same boat look within yourself to search for some kind of answer. Peel back the layers.

Around the time of my cancerversary I was having some tests done to find the reason to why I was having pain in my rib cage. I had had what felt like bruised ribs fr awhile and it flared up just before I went to the US in April. While it turned out to be nothing, there I was back in the process of being in hospitals having tests to ascertain if the cancer had decided to return. I had a bone scan that picked up “increased activity” so further investigation was required to check if it was nothing. After a CT scan I was given the all clear. I never like to worry anyone so I always stand by the decision not to say anything until after things have been confirmed, however I feel in this instance I can admit this was a bit of a scare. It’s hard to explain the feelings and thoughts that start running through my head when I am waiting for results, I just know that they are not good feelings but it does make me consider why my body is behaving that way and what I need to do to make things better. Health is wealth and I am looking into how I can improve wellness in my life. Being kinder to oneself is a good challenge to have.

It’s not the kind of reminder I wanted or needed but it has made me reassess a few things and there is a lot I need to work through. I think one of the key things I have done this year and might I add easily pulled off was giving up alcohol. I think this may be a forever move. Being sober is somewhat entertaining especially when one goes out on a Saturday night.

A wee bit of media cudos…..

Managed to have an awesome article in the fabulous TNT Magazine. Some what of a bible to those who have lived in London this was least to say a bit of an honor to be in. A massive thanks to Caroline Garner for sharing my story. – June 2015, Issue 1594

I seem to be getting a few follows on Twitter and just this week a website called Change this Moment have shared my story. This is a website full of people’s incredible journeys and well worth a read indeed if you are in the hunt for a bit of inspiration.

A massive thanks to the lovely Chloe Johnson and the University of Auckland for having me in their campaign Top of the Class – #myteachermoment. Pretty awesome to be involved in a campaign that acknowledges such a great profession as well as encouraging others to share their own teacher moments and how those moments made a difference to them.

I am currently enjoying the school holidays. Reading and resting. Was great to have my lovely friend Catherine who I lived with in London over from Brisbane for a visit. Was awesome to re-visit cathedral Cove, Hahei and Whitianga again. Love the Coromandel. Visited Hobbiton in Matamata and despite the rain we were incredibly impressed with this real life movie set. So facinating. So realistic! Definiatly worth a look. We had the intention of going skiing but got snow instead while seeing my family in Ohakune. Freezing cold!

One more week of school holidays left. Love holidays.

Jess x

Two years today…..

Today marks two years since I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.

I was young – only 27, on the trip of a lifetime, living in London when my dream hit the biggest road block I had ever encountered. You would have thought that life on that day turned to shit, but it didn’t and I am here to tell you why.

I look back at the last two years and think about everything I have gained from this disease and the experience of kicking it’s ass – it was never going to be easy, and it wasn’t but I am more proud of myself than I have ever been.

I have grown in ways I could never have imagined. I have met incredible, inspiring individuals and often made the decision to follow my heart more than I follow my head.

I have had so many humbling experiences and learnt so much about a world where there needs to be more celebration and love, action and happiness, change and connection – we all have the power to create great things.

We all have something to learn from each other and there is always something to teach. Self-belief is at the core of us and knowing that we can do whatever we want is a goal we all need to make and reach for. It may not be today or tomorrow or the next day but we all have so much to live for and that is a realisation I will never forget.

Wanting to live and doing just that has been the biggest achievement for me. 

I am proud to say that having Cancer never stopped me from living because I didn’t let it.

I remember the people that said to me that “Everything happens for a reason” and how I didn’t want to hear it – however now I feel like there is a certain truth to that phrase and I must use it and all it’s goodness to my advantage.

I am rich. Wealthy. Beyond words. In the bank I have friends and family that support me and go above and beyond. I have memories of places I have travelled far and wide that helped me send a stack of postcards and gather a tiny shelf full of beautiful souvenirs. I have had fascinating conversations with so many amazing humans and have so much appreciation in those who have listened to me speak and offered such kind encouraging words.

My blog had been viewed almost 8000 times since I made it public only 1 year ago. I hope that I have helped many of you understand the Breast Cancer journey and to those that reached out to my story to help their own cancer journey I hope you found something worthwhile in my words. Writing was a savior, an expression and it really helped me get through.

Money can by a lot of things but it can’t by memories, it can’t buy passion and it can’t buy inspiration. The inspiration I have gained from listening to like minded philanthropists speak, inspiration I have gained from people telling me that they have made an appointment with their GP or discussed their family medical history, inspiration I have gained from the support of all of you and your belief that I can make a difference.  Thank you for showing love and care to your self – your life and your body are precious beyond measure.

I have neglected writing for the past two months because my life has seemed confused and lost. I got back to New Zealand and I hoped I would hit the ground running – because that is what I always do. This time I guess being thrown in the deep end this time it was literally too deep.

 All my strength was used up fighting the good fight and filling up my empty fuel tank will be the job at the top of my to do list in 2015 – I’m half way through the year and the only way is up.

Self healing is what it is called. I know it’s all up hill from here. It will be a long hard road, but I defiantly know I will get there and the prize will be worth it when I reach to top.

Some awesome things are on the way.

So, here I am another year wiser and a Breast Cancer Survivor.

 I am so thankful for all of you, your love, guidance and support.

 I could not have done it with out every single one of you.

 All my love and appreciation,

 Jess x



What I have been up to in April, May and the beginning of June…..

Managed to get down to the central north island with a crew of the girls and tackle the Tongariro Crossing. On of the world’s best day hikes. Hwen I think about it my legs still hurt. 19km in 8 hours and some stairs aptly named the Devils Staircase……eeek

There has been yet another trip to the USA to attend Stupid Cancer’s Cancer Con. EPIC beyond words. I was absolutely blown away by this conference and what it had on offer. I connected with some very inspirational individuals and learn so much about other young people who have like me been through the disease. This conference was a whole different level to the one I attended in March because it dealt with all cancers in young people. Yep realized this time that it is a long way to go for the weekend!

Decided that a full time job wasn’t for me and I am back to relieving around Auckland. Doing relief will give me the flexibility I need to do cancer education.

Speaking at Jacqueline Nairn’s Pink Ribbon Brunch at Pilkington’s Shortland Street. An amazing morning full of delicious goodies and auctions all in aide of The Breast Cancer Foundation of New Zealand.

I have had my yearly checks – an ultrasound and a mammogram – both CLEAR! WHOOP!

Speaking at Live Your Legend Local Auckland’s Monthly Meet Up about “Overcoming Obstacles” and reminding others that we are all truly stronger than you think.  Amazing and incredibly humbling chats with like minded humans who want to help others and make positive change in the communities they live in.

Still not drinking……six months down!!! It’s been pretty easy actually, a lot easier than I expected.

New flat is going well and I am now living in my own room and paying rent in Grey Lynn. It’s weird being a grown up but glad to have some roots down.

I’m constantly dreaming about what will happen next in my journey, currently just letting things happen. Watch this space….


My brain is like a sponge……..

Hello wonderful people in my life,

Wow. What a week! Can’t believe that I am back in Auckland after a whirl wind trip to the USA.

A massive thank you to those of you that pledged and once I hit the $9000 target donated to my project which went over $10,000. Beyond stoked and feeling incredibly humbled and grateful for your support. I tried my best to thank everyone via email and various messaging services so if I missed you please know that your contribution is appreciated.

Target SMASHED!!!!

Target SMASHED!!!!

A massive thanks to The Breast Cancer Foundation of New Zealand for their generous grant of $1200.

Houston was wonderful. Cold, wet and rainy but wonderful. The city itself is incredibly vast and too me felt as if the buildings were apart of a giant set of lego and were stategically placed to create a concrete jungle. The motorways were huge and it felt odd driving underneath several intersecting lanes and road ways. It is certainly true that everything is bigger in Texas! Yes I saw a lot of large cowboy hats and boots. A massive thanks to Chris for having Kate and I stay in his home. One of the most amazing things that I have learnt about travelling is that the people you meet are always willing to help out where ever you are on your journey.

Managed to make it to the Rodeo which is a must do if you ever make it to Texas and they have a concert every night so we were lucky enough to see John Legend live who was amazing. They have the bull riding and the barrell racing but what I didn’t expect to see was what they call “Mutton Bustin'” which is small children holding onto a sheep for dear life! Hilarious! There are so many food outlets too. Tex Mex and BBQ in giant portions make for an entertaining people watching experience. Was cool to have a tour of the city with Chris and was yet again amazed by the size of the US supermarkets especially Whole Foods – a natural and organics store. That’s definitely something I could see us having in NZ. Always love seeing the palacial houses in the wealthiest areas of city’s I visit. So massive and extravagant some of these houses are so big I just don’t understand how people can afford them. Old money apparently. Facinating.

So the main reason I went to the USA was to attend the YSC Summit.

I'm INTERNATIONAL baby! At the YSC Summit, Hilton America's, Houston Texas USA. March 2015

At the YSC Summit, Hilton America’s, Houston Texas USA. March 2015

The YSC Summit is Young Survival Coalition’s annual conference. It brings together a multitude of organisations that all in their own way have some impact on people who are curious about, are going through or have themselves been through Breast Cancer.
The organisation itself was set up back in 1998 when three young women who felt there wasn’t enough support out there for young women with Breast Cancer – young being under the age of 35 in most cases. This event brought together 600 women and their co-survivors (family, friends, partners) to inform, support, educate, inspire and hopefully shed some light on the journey ahead and how to be supported in moving forward. YSC’s main aims are to improve services and treatment for those going through Breast Cancer and aim to increase public education, awareness and support for Breast Cancer.

With my lovely friend Kate who I met in Dublin in 2014. Kate was diagnosed with BC at age 25.

With my lovely friend Kate who I met in Dublin in 2014. Kate was diagnosed with BC at age 25.

There were several incredible exhibitors who all had amazing things to offer. My mind was blown by the amount of information and a week later I am still trying to digest what I saw and spoke to people about. I was so inspiring to meet people that are dedicating their lives to help those of us that have had a Breast Cancer diagnosis. There was information on everything including genetic testing, underwear specifically designed to support you after surgeries, nipple prosthetics (yes fake nipples), implants and many of the amazing organisations that have information and support for those going through the disease.

There were a number of seminars we were able to attend. I was lucky enough to head along to seminars regarding Fitness and Nutrition, Advocacy – Taking the reins and leading the movement and The Oncologist in You – Understanding the medical language behind your diagnosis. It was amazing to hear medical professionals who are the leaders in Breast Cancer treatment in the US speak. It is amazing to chat to those working in the field who are kind, helpful and doing their best to help those going through it.

I met a lot of incredible women who are advocates like I am trying their best to create movement’s to create change. Often though we are all met with challenge’s that see reality hit us harder than most would expect. So many of these amazing intelligent humans want to get involved within the cancer sector but can’t due to the lack of professional experience (mostly medical) and the financial burdens that come with living and life. I wish that I could do this full time because I know the benefits would outweigh anything else. Looks like I may really have to get creative. Figuring it out slowly.

Something I’d like to see more of at these kind of events is more prevention based education and how to make society more aware and bring down the risk factors that could lead to a cancer diagnosis. I am currently finding it hard to be honest about my findings and I am getting frustrated by the enormity of this disease. It is effecting so many yet society can’t identify the causes and fear stops us from truly being aware. There are so many myths flying around out there about breast cancer and young women and young people are I feel neglected in the education of the risk factors and prevention due to the fact it is less common to get the disease in the younger age groups. There is no real reason why cancer starts but those of us that do get diagnosed at a young age are often more susceptible to getting aggressive subtypes of the disease – especially in Breast Cancer.

While in Houston I was able to talk with some amazing women who are doing all they can to ensure that more people know about Metastatic Breast Cancer. It was hard for me to comprehend that these people are living with Cancer and it will in most cases end their life. The hardest thing was that one woman I spoke to had had breast cancer a couple of years back and had gone through treatment (chemo, radio, double mastectomy) and was cleared with no evidence of disease present. Then it came back full force and is treatable in a pallative capacity – meaning pain and symptom management not end of life necessarily. Being aware of your own mortality is one of the strangest feelings twisted up in this whole cancer experience. I can feel myself getting angry not because I had cancer but because I can’t stop people I care about getting it, especially people around my age. This should not be happening to our generation.

There were a few amazing speakers at the conference two of who have a lot of influence in advocacy and awareness. Both of them effected personally by cancer, one a surgeon, the other a fifth generation survivor of breast cancer.

Dr Susan Love is a surgeon, a prominent advocate of preventative Breast Cancer research and is also an author. She is one of the most respected women’s health specialists in the US. It was amazing to hear her speak about the importance of those of us who have been through the disease to keep talking about it. It was fascinating to hear about the breast cancer movements and listen to how October has literally become the month that we colour pink – but how do we move onto the next level? It seems that a plateau has been hit and there needs to be some kind of new life and momentum on awareness and prevention around the disease. Most funding for Breast Cancer Research in the US comes from the Department of Defence and this has been happening since the early 1990’s. Advocates are involved at every level of decision making and have an input on what is researched. I think the most significant thing I took out of Susan Love’s talk was that we are so focused on a cure that we are forgetting to focus on the cause – the question is how do we find out what it is and how do we stop it. Prevention is the beginning. To read more about Dr Susan Love Research Foundation follow the link –

With Dr Susan Love - author of The Breast Book. The "bible" for Breast Cancer

With Dr Susan Love – author of The Breast Book. The “bible” for Breast Cancer

Melanie Nix, a fifth generation breast cancer survivor said that she grew up around breast cancer. Her mother, grandmother and aunt all women close to her that lost their lives to the disease. The advocate for African American women was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer and a carrier of the BRCA1 gene mutation when she was a mother to two young children. I was blown away by the energy and courage of this woman and after the presentation I got a bit teary eyed when I had the chance to meet her. That does not happen to often but I was pretty overwhelmed and was so inspired by Melanie to do something more than what I am doing to save lives, provide support and get more awareness out to young people. Melanie spoke about being confident about sharing our stories and reminded us that advocacy comes in all kinds of shapes, sizes and levels – it’s about doing something that makes the movement push on, up and out to speak to the wider community. It’s about marrying a passion and a talent and changing the thinking of those around you. To read more about Melanie and her involvement in Breast Cancer advocacy check out her website

Advocate – “One who actively support or defends a cause”

Feeling pretty stoked to have made the Daily Mail! It’s always interesting seeing how other people interpret my story. I have to laugh when some of the story is embellished slightly – without my doing so in order to encourage readers to click the link. Hope you enjoyed the pictures!

So I am back in the classroom at the moment teaching Art at Glen Eden Intermediate and will be doing that for a few weeks so that will keep me going for a bit. The job market is not so great at the moment and because I am looking to work within the cancer and health sector it is proving difficult to find something that fits my professional experience. There are not many teaching roles out there either. It’s funny being back as New Zealand is so chilled out I think I was used to the efficiency in London – especially regarding work. It just does not happen here. Haha hopefully things will click into place just hoping my patience will click back in sooner rather than later. It will happen when it happens right?

I have just booked flights to attend Cancer Con which will be held in Denver, Colorado at the end of next month – so back to the USA I go, YEAY. I am really looking forward to catching up with some of the people who I met in Houston and meeting plenty more who are doing amazing things educate the public more about cancer. There will be a lot of young people at this conference – both men and women who have been through the cancer experience so it will be great to get some insight from those who have experienced different medical systems, treatments, surgeries, struggles and of course talk to them about their journey and the things they wish they knew about cancer before they were diagnosed.

Life has been a bit crazy the past few weeks. I honestly feel like I am still trying to find my feet being back in NZ. Even though I am really happy to be back I feel like there is a big hole in my life that I am not sure how to fill it. What I have realised over the past couple of days is that sometimes we need to be patient with life and let things happen. Writing down what you want or saying out loud offers your goals, ambitions and desires out to the universe – put it out there – yes Sarah thank you for the inspiration on that one. With all that I am doing I have a constant uncertianty that keeps presenting itself. Is what I am doing right? Is it really making a difference? and how am I going to make it work? in the long term. Today I meet with someone who encouraged me and gave me something really profound to think about. As we were talking she said to me – “You really need to look at all that you have done and reflect on how amazing you really are”. Don’t be afraid of owning success, be a coffee bean.

Strength comes from those around you #giveitback #ownsuccess

Strength comes from those around you #giveitback

Jess x

Excited for Houston!

Hello wonderful people in my life,

It has been almost three weeks since I last wrote and as usual a lot has happened. Exciting times! Not enough hours in the day!

There are 5 days to go! So if you are yet to make a pledge please do!
The target must be reached by midnight on Thursday 5th of March or I will not receive any of the funds.

I feel as if I am getting pulled in all kinds of different directions in order to find a routine and get settled. It is in some ways so odd being back and I find myself still in this crazy London charge mentality where I find it difficult to say no and can’t seem to slow down or stop. It’s really tough with a lot of cool exciting things going on all which are positive and leading to amazing opportunities. However, I am trying to be more mindful as I don’t want to burn out.

I’ve been back to school doing relief work which has been great. It’s been great being back at Glen Eden Intermediate and catching up with all the crew and just clicking back in to what is a great teaching environment. I am all registered and back into the New Zealand system. Looking forward to getting some more teaching hours when I get back from the USA especially in the Art room at GEIS. Excited.

I’ve been going to the Cancer Society’s Domain Lodge at Grafton for the last three Monday’s doing a Relaxation course so trying to get back into mindfulness habits which has been super helpful. Wonderful as always to see what amazing services are offered to those going through cancer treatment and their families.

I am currently involved in a pilot that gets me doing Stand Up Paddle Boarding at 7am on a Thursday morning. The programme is a rehabilitation program for women who have had breast cancer who are trying to get back to a new normal through exercise. The programme has been established by physiotherapists who are trained professionals and work with cancer patients and survivors. The PINC paddle for hope initiative is fully funded by The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation. I do the class that is run down at Westhaven Marina. At that time of the morning the sun is rising behind the city and the air is clean and fresh. It is literally the most stunning time of the day and every week I think I’ve fallen in love with Auckland a little bit more. The paddle boarding is so incredibly relaxing and not as difficult as you would think. Such great exercise and a great start to the day. I have recieved funding through the Pinc and Steel rehabilitation trust to get physiotherapy sessions. So if you know someone who has had or had breast cancer please do let them know these services are available because not enough of us are utilising them. Boys you can get behind this too there is a programme for men called “Steel”.

Was great getting home to Ohakune last weekend to see all the family and see the mountian. Stunning as always 🙂

Mount Ruapehu, Central Plateau. New Zealand. February, 2015

Mount Ruapehu, Central Plateau. New Zealand. February, 2015

This week I got flown down to Christchurch to attend the trustee meeting of a wonderful Breast Cancer support organisation – Shocking Pink. Had a great time meeting Cheryle, Kylie and Anna who like me were young women in their 20’s and 30’s when they were too diagnosed with breast cancer. Shocking Pink have an amazing private support group on facebook that really helped me get through my cancer journey because it enabled me to connect with women who were in a similar situation. A god send. These ladies are so dedicated to supporting young women going through this disease aare very supportive of my project. I can’t wait to reconnect with them when I come back from the YSC Summit which I am flying to Houston for on Thursday –

Wow I will be forever grateful…..I feel so blessed for the support in response to my project. To those of you that have pledged thank you I appreciate it so much. To those of you who keep meaning too please do! I love how what I am doing is creating so much positive energy and learning. I have the support of some amazing organisations but they are unable to support me financially. I am doing this for the young people of New Zealand to ensure that there is more awareness around breast cancer and cancer in general. With just under $2800 left to raise I hope we can make it! Thanks to those who shared the videos I have put up. Couldn’t believe the hits – over 2000 over a couple of days and the amount of pledges that came through. Mind blown 🙂

Super excited about heading away to the USA this week for the first conference. Looking forward to hitting the target too! Make a pledge!

Jess x

Fundraising is a full time job!

Hello wonderful people in my life,

This last week has been mental! The project is coming along nicely and I am really enjoying seeing the pledges increase ever so slowly but surely. The pledges are almost at the half way point so here is hoping for a few more this week. I’ve just registered for Cancer Con in Denver at the end of April but I will not be able to go if I do not hit the $9000 target – pledges only become donations when the target is reached. Looking forward to YSC Summit in just under 4 weeks in Houston.

Got to check out the Auckland Nines last weekend which was fun times with the lovely Ange. Always fun to dress up and attend sporting events. We went as Gumball Machines. Wonderful to catch up with Tash, Troy, Sarah and the Welshy crew.

Dick Smith NRL Nines, Eden park Auckland, NZ. First weekend of February, 2015

Dick Smith NRL Nines, Eden Park Auckland, NZ. First weekend of February, 2015

Fundraising is a full time job all on it’s own and I feel like I need an extra pair of typing hands to keep up with all the emailing I’m doing. Some wonderful people and organisation’s have been helping me spread the word so that’s been just awesome.

Massive thanks to these amazing people and organisations for helping me spread my message via social media and for their belief in my project.

Nigel Latta
Mike King
TNT Magazine London
Frontier Touring / Future Sound System and Kat Saunders
The Cancer Society of New Zealand
New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation
Cam Mansel
Danny Watson Afternoons on Newstalk ZB
Western Leader
NZ Society London
The New Zealand Business Women’s Network
Auckland University Faculty of Education
Shocking Pink

Articles have been published in the Western Leader and on the Auckland University Faculty Education website this past week. Big thanks to Chloe Johnson and Sarah Roberts.

Survivor keen to help Cancer Sufferers
Western Leader – Thursday 5th February, 2015

How teaching helped my Breast Cancer Journey
Auckland University Faculty of Education

Feeling pretty supported to by the wonderful organisations in New Zealand who have done so much for people with cancer. Really stoked to have the support of the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation and the Cancer Society as well as the wonderful support charity that has helped me in my journey Shocking Pink. Looking forward to working with these organisations in the future.

Being on national radio this week with Danny Watson on Newstalk ZB was a pretty big highlight. So amazing to chat to listeners calling in. Big thanks to Danny and the show’s producer Andrew for having me in. Buzzing!

Danny Watson much fun! Wednesday 4th of February, 2015

Danny Watson Afternoons…so much fun! Wednesday 4th of February, 2015

I have decided to start a public Facebook page so please start following me via the link to keep updated with what I am up to. Same with the blog. If you want to keep updated please follow my blog. Click on the link scroll down to the bottom of any page and click the green follow button.

Jess Weller Public Facebook page –
Blog –

I checked out Domain Lodge this week which is the Cancer Society center in Auckland. I’m looking forward to spending a bit more time there in the coming weeks and getting back into some mindfulness and stress reduction habits. They run a lot of workshops and seminars for people who are on the other side of treatment and obviously they support people going through treatment and offer accommodation. The library is a really lovely space a there is a lot of good information and books on all kinds of cancer. Such an amazing facility.

There are some exciting things happening this week.
Still loving the consistent weather and long may it continue, pretty happy to have a tan again!

Jess x

“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.

Jess x

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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.

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 which was all about the things you are not told when you get cancer because you have to essentially figure them out yourself.

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.

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 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.

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