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….

 

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“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

World Famous in NZ!

Hello wonderful people in my life,

Wow! This last couple of weeks have just been amazingly incredible.
So many awesome things are happening and day by day I am wishing I had more hours to get things done!

I was so happy with the article that came out three weekends ago in the Sunday Star Times in New Zealand. I never expected to get such a massive amount of space. Stoked beyond words. Loved seeing my hairless egg head on the home page on http://www.stuff.co.nz and being the lead story for a couple of hours was just fantastic. Thanks everyone for you messages of love and support as well as all the share and likes on Facebook and Twitter. http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/10663744/Around-the-world-with-Mr-Lumpy

I made the NZ papers on Labour Weekend. Stoked to get a full page spread :)

I made the NZ papers on Labour Weekend. Stoked to get a full page spread 🙂

My blog hits are on the up and it was exciting to see the stats over the last couple of weeks with both the article and Tedx. Working on getting the story more wide spread so watch this space.

My Tedx speech went really well and just wanted to say a massive thanks to Zehra, Jayesh, Kiri, Rob and Francie for their listening ears and feedback in the lead up to the event. I’m so glad that it all fell into place. 10 minutes is such a long time and it is a lot to memorise and it was a pretty big ask but I nailed it. The video will be out in a couple of weeks so will keep you all posted. The atmosphere was epic and when I spoke you could hear a pin drop. Unreal. Thanks to Megan, Gemma, Jess, Sarah and Vivienne for supporting me on the day. The other speakers were absolutely phenomenal and I got so much out of being there as well as speaking. Amazing humans.

At TedxSquareMile. Saturday 8th November, 2014. With my support crew - Gemma, Sarah, Viv and Z #amazinghumans

At TedxSquareMile. Saturday 8th November, 2014. With my support crew – Gemma, Sarah, Viv and Z #amazinghumans

Haha because I rehearsed it so much now everytime I walk to and from work or get into the shower my brain switches to “Say the speech” mode…..now there is no pressure I clearly know it by heart! Typical!

London catch ups have been great. Yum dinners with Gerda and Gemma. Brunch with Sarah, Ally, Michelle, Alyssa and Natasha. Celebrating Jackie’s upcoming wedding with some wonderful afternoon painting pottery and Spanish tapas. So delightful to see Megan and finally meet little Tristan. Was also fab this weekend to catch up with Jess and Sam who I went to fashion school with in Wellington – figured out that we have all know each other for 10 years! Time flies. Got to meet up with the lovely ladies at the NZ Business Women’s Network that is based here in London and was set up by Bronwen Horton 8 years ago. I did a talk for them at Sacred Cafe in Oxford Circus a couple of weeks back and am looking forward to the event at NZ House this week coming!

London catch up's with the uni girls. Jess and Sam. November, 2014

London catch up’s with the uni girls. Jess and Sam. November, 2014

Last week I am headed over to Dublin to attend BCY2 Breast Cancer in Young Women conference. It was really interesting to see some of the research and data that is due to come out in the next couple of months and what things are being put in place to better support young woman with breast cancer. Was very interesting to see oncologists, radiologists and surgeons debate and speak about it too. Loved it when people stood up with controversial things to say! Meet some lovely ladies from YSC Young Survival Coilition which is a NGO based in New York. Looking forward to meeting up with them again soon. Was great to be in Dublin again but alas didn’t really have time to have a decent wander and look around. Hopefully another time.

BCY2 in Dublin, Ireland. November 2014

BCY2 in Dublin, Ireland

This week I was off to Ireland again. This time to Northern Ireland to Belfast with Coppafeel to do some more Boob chat. We got to speak to a few people which was as always exciting. We were staying in the Titanic Quarter so it was pretty amazing to be surrounded by so much history and see where the great ship was made. We also got to have a look around the Titanic Museum which was awesome. The building is the height of the actual ship. Such a great exhibition to check out if you do ever make it to Belfast. Was pretty hideous weather though and I think we brought it back with us to London.

That was my hoorah with Coppafeel this week so just want to say a massive thank you to Sophie for all her hard work and dedication to those of us that are on the Boobette programme. Your support, attitude and dedication to the cause make life so fulfilling for all of us involved. Such an amazing organisation and can’t really put into words how the team have helped me with my current focus. More amazing humans!

At the Titanic Quarter on Boob business. With Sally, Diane, Meghan and Sophie. November, 2014

At the Titanic Quarter on Boob business. With Sally, Diane, Meghan and Sophie. November, 2014

Before October was up I had my last injection of Herceptin. Can’t believe how long it took to get through that. 15 months and 18 injections I am all done with that part my cancer treatment. It was glad to find out in the research for the article that was on Stuff that they are trialing Subcutaneous Herceptin in New Zealand. It is so much faster than getting it via a canulla or a port so hopefully this method is more accessible soon for women back home.

Last round of Herceptin - 31/10/14. With my amazing Chemo Nurses - Helen, Renata and Nse

Last round of Herceptin – 31/10/14. With my amazing Chemo Nurses – Helen, Renata and Nse

I am very happy to announce that my genetic test results came back clear. I am not a carrier of the BRCA breast cancer genes. Its such wonderful news however in saying that its pretty clear from my perspective that with no real family history and no genetic reasoning I still managed to get hit with the breast cancer stick. I think its really important to again highlight the fact this disease doesn’t discriminate and we all need to be more mindful and aware of what’s going on in our bodies. I’m not only referring to breast cancer either there are so many other illnesses and diseases to be mindful of. If you do however have any family history in any illness it is in some ways “better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t” ignorance is certainly not bliss with this disease so please don’t be scared and chat to your GP.

Adding to that about a month ago I found a small lump on the same side as my original cancer. Just out from my sentinel node scar there was a hard pea sized lump that was a bit itchy. When it didn’t go away after a week I ended up getting it checked out. It turned out to be what is called a sebaceous cyst – fatty tissue and the results came back inconclusive. As you can imagine I had to go through the whole process all over again which was’nt fun, but I was pushed through the system really quickly and was given peace of mind quite fast. The cyst was in the skin layers so I was’nt able to have a core biopsy rather a fine needle aspiration to get some tissue samples. this was only done due to my history as the scan did not show up anything suspicious. Even though it’s nothing my surgeon still wants to remove it as these cysts can be prone to infection especially with the amount of surgical procedures and radiation I have had in the area. So there will be one more sexy hospital gown photo in a couple of weeks haha.

Well I am now on the final countdown of my time here in London. Can’t believe in two weeks I will be leaving this city and heading back to New Zealand via the USA. London has been an amazing home to me the past 21 months and as I prepare to leave I reflect on a time that has gone so fast but has certainly been the most challenging of my life. When happiness was my best friend and the nightmare of getting cancer decided to come into my world I did not know that I would find such a bright light at the end of that dark tunnel. London in so many ways has saved my life and put me on an amazing path to change not only my own life but the lives of others. I still did what I came here for and then some, as I leave I know this is a place I will come back to – not to live, but to visit for sure – I am still planning on meeting the Queen so Buckingham Palace would be the place for that of course.

I leave London on the 2nd of December and fly to New York. Where I will catch up with my lovely Irish friend Jewels who I lived with in Auckland a few years back. looking forward to seeing as many sights as possible. Then it will be onto Washington DC to see Maria and Peter who I met back in 2011 when Leah and I did our trip to South East Asia. Then across to San Francisco before going through LA and arriving back in New Zealand on the 17th of December just in time for Xmas.

Looking forward to summer and catching up with everyone on the other side!

Jess xxx

Awesome happenings!

Hey wonderful people in my life,

Hope this mini update finds you all well.

Wanted to share some cool happenings that have been going on!

My speech for Tedx is now finalised and I am practising and listening to myself several times a day.
I have just started talking at myself in front of the mirror haha.
Slightly awkward but so good for remembering what I should be saying.

Very excited and only have two weeks until the actual talk!

I am really enjoying my new job at NHS England.
Am getting to work with some awesome people who are decision makers in the organisation so that has been great and a bit of an eye opener.
Got to see the CEO speak this afternoon so that was brilliant.
Such an awesome speech regarding the current changes within NHS England.

I have recently written a blog post for the event I am working on so please check it out. It is all about my patient experience – http://www.futureofhealth.co.uk/blogs

Here is an interview I did a couple of weeks back in lead up to my Tedx Talk. Thought you might like a listen 🙂

I also recently did a blog for Tedx. Click the link then scroll down to the 8th of October to read my post: http://www.tedxsquaremile.com/blog

In other good news my blog ‘My Travelling Life’ which is on WordPress and can be located by going to http://www.jessweller.com was recently shared on an list website called Listly.
I am currently at number 143 on this list of ‘Best Breast Cancer Blogs’ which is just awesome and my blog hits have skyrocketed this week. I have had over 2100 views in total since starting it last July and have had over 1000 hits since making it public around June this year. Spreading awareness.

In even better news…..I will be in the news in New Zealand on Sunday.
Make sure you get a copy of the Sunday Star Times and keep an eye out on http://www.stuff.co.nz because my face will be there somewhere! Please do put me on your fridge haha.

Wishing you all a happy weekend 🙂

Jess x