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.

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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NZ is where MY heart is

Hello wonderful people in my life,

I am sure every time I write an update I am amazed at how fast the time has passed since the last one. This last month is no exception and as usual I have managed to cram a lot in!

Hope you are all well and wherever you may be in the world looking forward to the festive season.

The aftermath of my Tedx talk was pretty amazing and like all of you I am on the edge of my seat waiting for the video to be released. I am not sure what exactly is going on and why it is taking so long but I know it will be released soon so will post it up as soon as I have the links. Such an amazing experience and still buzzing from being on such an awesome platform to deliver such an important message. Pretty excited to see what other speaking opportunities come from my talk once it is released.

Surgery went well and results came back all clear. I had the cyst removed on Thursday 27th of November and the results came back clear. It was so odd having surgery and being awake in the room I never get to see because I always get put to sleep before I go through those “double doors”. Such an interesting experience to be awake!

Had to get a cyst removed, almost fell off the bed! November, 2014

Had to get a cyst removed, almost fell off the bed! November, 2014

Leaving London was something I was rather anxious about. I guess because it was in so many ways my haven, the place I felt looked after and safe. I knew where to go and who to see if I needed to and I was always taken seriously. It was like leaving opened me up to uncertainty and that worried me. I think too when you have been in a place that has looked after you so well it’s hard to leave. London defiantly has a part of my heart and I know that one day I will be back there for a visit.

It was so great to have my leaving drinks at Be At One – an awesome cocktail bar and say goodbye to everyone that came along and made my London experience what it was. Thanks to those of you who were able to come along.

With Charlotte, Sarah and JT. Last weekend in London. November, 2014

With Charlotte, Sarah and JT. Last weekend in London. November, 2014

The day before I left I spent some time at London Oratory and was able to see my students who I taught last year. It was really nice to see them all and I think they were pretty happy to see me. So nice to say goodbye after having to leave them this time last year.

Working with NHS England was a fantastic experience. Such a wonderful group of people. The event Future of Health went really well and it was amazing to be around people who have experienced long term health conditions and want to make a change for those in the same predicament in the future. There are a lot of fantastic things happening in the UK in regards to patient centered care and improving systems of care for people like myself who may need on going support and medical attention. It was great the last weekend I was in London to be involved with Macmillian’s Capital C programme that had around 40 cancer sufferers and survivors of all ages come together to discuss how cancer services in London could be improved for the future. Macmillian is the biggest cancer support charity in the UK so this was something great to be involved in and the start of something really great for the people in that city. Macmilllian is trying to focus resources on regional access rather than doing more things that cover the whole of the UK / nationwide.

Discussing how to better improve cancer services in London. November, 2014

Discussing how to better improve cancer services in London. November, 2014

Thanks so much to Matt and Megan for having me stay with them in what was also their last couple of weeks in London. Was so wonderful to spend time with friends from home and meet their gorgeous boy Tristan. Super cute!

New York was the first stop on my journey back to New Zealand where I stayed with my Irish lovely Jewels in Brooklyn. I lived with Jewels in Auckland back in 2009 so we go way back! Did plenty of sightseeing and ticked off Wall Street and the Stock Exchange, took the Staten Island Ferry and checked out Lady Liberty and had great views of Manhattan from the ferry. Made it to the Broadway Show Avenue Q which was hilarious, keen to see it again one day as I was asleep a good portion of the second half! The time difference killed me! The World Trade Centre Memorial was beautiful and the Freedom Tower is a poignant example of strength and resilience of the American people. Brooklyn Bridge at night was incredible and the lights of Manhattan were stunning. Walking down 5th Avenue was pretty surreal as I have seen it in movies so much. So iconic! Was pretty cool to wander though Central Park too – it is so huge! After meeting the team of YSC – Young Survival Coalition in Dublin at the Breast Cancer in Young Women Conference I was able to visit there offices in New York. Was great to see Megan and meet up with some other members of their team. I feel like it’s really important for me to make connections with other organisations in different countries so Kiwi’s can benefit from the information that is out there about Breast Cancer. Awesome to reconnect with Kathryn (a fellow Breast cancer survivor) after also meeting in Dublin. New York in the rain and missioning it around China Town and SOHO to find souvenirs, thanks for your help!

Checking out NYC gems. December, 2014

Checking out NYC gems. December, 2014

On the Brooklyn Bridge with the lights of Manhattan behind us. December, 2014

With Jewels on the Brooklyn Bridge with the lights of Manhattan behind us. December, 2014

Took a trip out to New Jersey to catch up with Rowan and Linda who I house and dog sat for in Sydney on my way to the UK so it seemed fitting to see them on my way back. Was great to catch up with them and meet there little boy Peter. Was cool to see surburban America and even got to see some awesome houses covered in Xmas lights.

Washington DC can be explained as a giant museum. So much history and plenty to see and do. Was wonderful to see Maria and Peter who I travelled South East Asia with at Xmas and New Years 2011/2012. The monuments and memorials were so majestic and amazing, so much history. The Lincoln Memorial and the World War Two Memorial were incredible. Really enjoyed the views from a top the Washington Monument and even got to see the Pentagon – yes total highlight thank you X Men and Men In Black for that. The White House is beautiful but i was under whelmed by it’s size. Very small! Looks gigantic on TV! Haha. When I was leaving DC it was starting to snow so I think I left at the right time. Was a bit worried however as a giant storm happened to be brewing on the west coast of the US and lots of flights were cancelled. Got there in the end though!

Amazing views of Washington DC from atop the Washington Monument. Lincoln and WW2 Memorials. December, 2014

Amazing views of Washington DC from atop the Washington Monument. Lincoln and WW2 Memorials. December, 2014

Checking out the Lincoln Memorial with my wonderful hosts Maria and Peter. December, 2014

Checking out the Lincoln Memorial with my wonderful hosts Maria and Peter. December, 2014

San Francisco was the best place to end my two year overseas experience. The rain happened to clear and I got three great days of fabulous weather. It is such an easy city to wander around and there is so much to see and do. Chinatown is amazing and has so many shops, did wish I had a bigger bag to bring everyone back a waving cat. Alcatraz was interesting and the audio guide tour of the Cell Block was fascinating. If you ever get the opportunity to go it is a great experience and everything is well preserved and looked after. The views of the city from the ferry of the city and the rest of the bay are beautiful. Didn’t get enough time at Muir Woods – the Redwood forest that is home to some rather tall trees and Saulsilito due to issues with the company that was running the tour I was on but would defiantly recommend going there if you were to ever visit San Fransisco. The Golden Gate Bridge was epic and feels as if it holds the tow sides of the bay together. Height Ashbury is a very eclectic area much like Camden Town in London and the old victorian houses are absolutely stunning the famous Painted Ladies no exception. Even made it out to the University of California campus at Berkeley. The campus is really traditional and so well looked after and even though we only got to see it at night the study halls were full of students studying for their final exams. You could hear a pin drop. Was so wonderful to catch up with with RJ who is a good friend of Elle and Rob’s who is a San Fran local and drove me around the city at night. Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner, wandering around Pier 39 and seeing the famous seals, driving down Lombard street the world’s crookedest street and checking out the Palace of Fine Art’s. It was great to hang out with a fellow Kiwi Maxine on the last day of my OE. So thanks to Maxine for showing me around. Such an awesome day. It is really important for me to speak to and meet people from organisation’s that are promoting awareness and advocating for Breast Cancer. I was lucky enough to meet up with Shaney Jo Darden from Keep A Breast, an awareness charity based in LA. We caught up for breakfast the day I left San Fran. It is always amazing to meet passionate people who want to make a difference and Shaney has been doing it for the past 15 years. Inspired!

Stunning views! December, 2014

Stunning views! December, 2014

The flight home was pretty straightforward. Flew from San Fran to LA, then LA to Nadi, Fiji then to Auckland. Was interesting getting home to pouring rain and grey skies! Felt like I was still in London. Was so great getting straight back into things. I didn’t realise I was truly at home until I drove into the city last Thursday. It’s so nice to know where you are going, see people that you have not seen for two years and things just click back into place like you last saw each other yesterday. I think the one thing I was most worried about leaving London was that I was going back into the unknown. London was like a safe haven and a security blanket. I knew where I had to go, what to do if something happened and that I would be taken seriously very quickly if something was wrong. I think I was incredibly fourtunate and lucky to have had the care and support I had in London and it was all down to the people who were in my medical team. So amazing to know such remarkable healthcare professionals. Thank you so much Dr Peng Tan, Vivienne Maidens, Dr Tim Crook, Dr Ros Crooks, Lucy Mavriano and my wonderful chemo nurses Nse, Pat, Renata and Helen. So blessed. I went to the doctor the day after I got home so waiting to be referred to an oncologist here in Auckland in order to get into the NZ system. It is so good to be back! Thanks also to everyone who I have seen since I arrived home, all those who came to my welcome home get together and a massive thanks to Maya, Violet and Jules for picking me up from the airport and having me to stay with them while I get my life back in order. Can’t believe it is two years since I left New Zealand, it is like I have lived a life time in such a short amount of time. It has just gone a year since I completed chemo and I just had my first haircut in 16 months. Pretty glad to be back to blonde. I think I fully took my hair for granted and the feeling of someone washing your hair and the clean feeling of “new fur”. So good. Can’t believe how fast a year has gone. Very glad to be in a warmer climate with hair on my head!

Welcome home dinner with Debbie, Bridget, Zoe and Claire. December, 2014

Welcome home dinner with Debbie, Bridget, Zoe and Claire. December, 2014

Rocking the chemo curls and mullet. 1 year of growth. December 20th, 2014

Rocking the chemo curls and mullet. 1 year of growth. December 20th, 2014

First haircut in 16 months. Back to the blonde! December, 2014

First haircut in 16 months. Back to the blonde! December, 2014

Oh New Zealand how I have missed you. Fresh air, stunning scenery, amazing tasting food, no limescale in my cup of tea, people saying hello on the street and drivers who acknowledge you with a friendly wave when you give way. We have such a slice of paradise here in this beautiful country and not being here for two years has made me really realise how lucky we are.

Heading home for Xmas down to the batch at Turakina so looking forward to seeing the family and spending a bit of time with no reception. New Years will be fun and will be great to see hang out with some of the lovelies from London – Haley, Heather, Katrina and really looking forward to seeing Kate (Wifey) after her gigantic trip through Canada, Central and South America which started back in September.

I am really looking forward to the new year. I think 2015 has some amazing things lined up for me so can’t wait to see what is in store for me. There are a couple of things in the pipeline but I am going to keep them on the down low until the new year so watch this space! More trips and more life saving and boob work is coming! Pumped.

On that note I best stop typing. I am trying to be as brief as possible and hopefully from now on life will be a bit calmer in regards to travel and sightseeing so I will have a bit less to write about. I am really looking forward to having more rest in my life and taking things a bit more quietly. Glad to be home and can’t wait to catch up with those of you in New Zealand or those of you soon to visit.

Wow what a year. Wishing you all a very Merry Xmas and a wonderful New Year. Remember to look after each other and show gratitude to those around you. This time of year for me is about showing appreciation to the people who mean the most to you in life. It doesn’t take much to have an attitude of gratitude and it can really spark a light in someone you really care for.

Thank you all so much for your kind words of support, love and advice throughout this year. I feel so rich to have you all in my world. Be well and sending you all my love for the festive season and best wishes for the year to come, I know it is going to be the best yet.

Love you all,

Jess x

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 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.

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… 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 –

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:

In other good news my blog ‘My Travelling Life’ which is on WordPress and can be located by going to 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 because my face will be there somewhere! Please do put me on your fridge haha.

Wishing you all a happy weekend 🙂

Jess x

So many opportunities!

Hello wonderful people in my life,

How does this time of month come around so quickly?! How did I manage to do so much in such a small amount of time?! How busy are the next couple of months going to be?! CRAZY!
It is getting cold quite rapidly here in London and it’s been really rainy. I pulled my beanie out this week! Brrrrrrr!
September came and went. Kate left me and is going through Canada, the USA and Central / South America before heading back to NZ. I got to cast a special vote in the NZ Elections my first visit to the NZ embassy here in London.

See you in NZ Wifey! x

See you in NZ Wifey! x

Off to NZ House in London to vote in this years elections

Off to NZ House in London to vote in this years elections

The afterglow of traveling over summer lasted ages. I think it was due to the fact I discovered my fitness was coming back and my fuel tank was filling back up. It’s also been great that I’ve been house-sitting and without the financial pressure of paying rent I have been able to rest a lot and work less. I think since the beginning of September I have worked five and a half days. I just don’t want to be a teacher right now. Not here in London anyway. Looking back at this year it would be a fair observation to say that I have struggled with fatigue. I think I had more energy going through treatment and at the moment it is a case of taking it day by day and not running my energy stores to far down. Getting there slowly.

A couple of months back I sent my CV out to about 10 cancer charities to see if I could get any kind of paid work or some kind of volunteering. Most of them replied and it was cool to get offered more volunteer based work about London. What eventually came out of it though was a role with NHS England. So I have a two month contract that takes me right up to the end of my visa. I am working on an event called Future of Health which aims to better support people with long term conditions. My role involves liaising with patients with long term conditions to get them involved and be the connection between them and the conference team. I have just done a blog for this site to so if you want a read do click the blog tab –

I have been doing a lot more volunteer work for Coppafeel! and that’s been so enjoyable. Helped out at an event a couple of weekends ago that was about a campaign called What Normal Feels Like. We had a pop up shop in Brick Lane / Shoreditch that was set up as a gallery. The campaign was a team effort between photographer Rankin and Coppafeel in which healthy bare breasts were for the first time ever displayed on billboards around the UK. When we talk about our boobs we don’t think about how they feel, we talk about the size and shape so this campaign was all about getting us better acquainted with a different vocabulary when we do have boob chat and thinking more about the way they feel the big question being what does normal feel like for you? Talking to people on the street was interesting and like any thing not many people want to stop to listen to what you have to say. I think I definitely changed the thinking in some people and that was why I was there. Thanks to Sarah and Bridget for popping in!

With Sarah and Bridget at #whatnormalfeelslike popup in Bricklane. London, September 2014.

With Sarah and Bridget at #whatnormalfeelslikepopup in Bricklane. London, September 2014.

One young lady walked passed when it was pretty quiet. She was on her phone and when she spoke to me I noticed she was from New Zealand – strong accent. We had a quick chat about visa’s and she was also on a two year to work live and travel. I told her about the campaign and when I didn’t spark much interest I asked if she was in a hurry she answered yes. I asked her how old she was. 27. Last year I was 27 when I had been here for four months like you living the dream and I was diagnosed with breast cancer. With every new person I tell there is a different reaction but the most of those who listen take something away and I know I have made them really think about their bodies. That young lady said “You just made me stop and think”. It was a moment of appreciation when tears began to well in her eyes and she said I have to give you a hug. I nearly lost it too because I know I had brought breast awareness to the forefront of her mind. It’s such a soul satisfaction to pass on the knowledge I have about this disease. Looking forward to a few more talks in the coming weeks and heading to Belfast, Ireland to do some talks as Coppafeel! is expanding and making their move to the Emerald Isle. Looking forward to be apart of that!

As most of you are probably aware I have been asked to do a TED Talk. TED (Technology, Education and Design) is a platform for public speaking and sharing ideas. TED’s slogan “Ideas worth spreading” is something many inspiring people aim to do and with a massive internet following and many talks having millions of views its a huge once in a life time opportunity to have been offered. I think we all have a story to share and when I talk about my experience in regards to breast cancer awareness I know one day I am going to save someone’s life and that gives me a powerful sence of purpose. I know I may have already done this several times. Looking after your boobs is certainly an idea worth spreading. Check put my recent blog post for my talk on the TEDx website – – you may need to scroll down a bit. I also have a profile on the website too it you are yet to check it out! For those of you unable to attend the talk will be posted online so I will make sure I keep you all updated as to when it is released.

I still can’t believe we did it! Almost two weeks ago Sarah, Kirsten, Emily and myself did the Cancer Research UK Shine Marathon Walk in aide of research for Breast Cancer and we even managed to do the whole walk wearing giant boob costumes! It took us a very long 11 hours! We started at 10:15pm on Saturday night and finished around 9am on Sunday morning. I don’t think I have ever done something so difficult in my life. 42km or 26.6miles is a really long way. I feel like I had literally walked my feet off by the time we crossed the finish line. The last couple of hours we walked past so many people limping, walking in jandals/flip flops and their socks. The finish line was basically a room filled with broken humans. By the time we managed to get home it was straight into a cold water bath, shower and then into bed in which we passed out and fell into a 7 hour coma. Upon reflection it was a mammoth feat to achieve and it was a lot of fun. Would I do it again? Probably not and still do not understand how people run that distance?! Ridiculous. Big thanks to the girls for doing it with me!!! Always wonderful to see Emily who came down from Glasgow and Kristen who travelled from Cambridge. My fundraising page is currently still open if you wish to support an amazing cause please do donate!

At the start line! Shine Marathon. London, September, 2014

At the start line! Shine Marathon. London, September, 2014

At the half way point...the realisation that you have to walk the amount you just walked again. Pain! With Emily, Sarah and Kirsten. September, 2014

At the half way point…the realisation that you have to walk the amount you just walked again. Pain! With Emily, Sarah and Kirsten. September, 2014

Nap time and still at least 2 hours from the finish line. MORE PAIN. Shine Marathon, London, September 2014

Nap time and still at least 2 hours from the finish line. MORE PAIN. Shine Marathon, London, September 2014

Last week I had my fifth and final surgery in my cancer journey (hopefully the last one) to remove my Portocath. It was another easy straightforward procedure and apart from feeling a bit drunk from the anesthetic afterwards I have been feeling pretty well. Here is a pic of me and my magician surgeon Mr Tan. Glad that its out but I do have to admit that I am glad I had it in for my treatment. Just before I went into theater I had four medical professionals trying to find veins in my arms so that I could be put to sleep. My veins seems to run away when they know needles are going to be involved. Going through that with chemo and Herceptin would have been horrfic. Only one round of Herceptin left then I am all done. Hard to believe that I started this journey almost 18 months ago. I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel. So surreal.

This surgical magician did four of the five surgeries i have had since I started my cancer journey.

This surgical magician did four of the five surgeries I have had since I started my cancer journey.

Got to have a silly photo in my hospital gown! Port Surgery October, 2014

Got to have a silly photo in my hospital gown! Port Surgery October, 2014

It’s been great catching up with people who are visiting London. April and Andy were over from NZ and we had a great time lunching at Shepherds Bush, wandering through Hyde Park then stuffing our faces with ice cream at the Fortnum and Mason parlour. Such an amazing London institution and a must see if you are ever in town. So close to Buckingham Palace. Had a lovely rainy Saturday morning catch up with Kyle and Jess at Borough Market. Awesome catch up’s with Ed in London too. Trying to tick off some more musicals! Saw a show called Forbidden Broadway which is basically a spoof of all the musicals that feature on the West End / Broadway. Defiantly worth a look if you have seen a lot of musicals! Gave the Book of Morman lottery a go but to no avail. Wonderful to see Lauren who I met in Rome for brunch today and looking forward to seeing Rob tonight. I love being popular! and LOVE London catch up’s!

Love my London catch up's. With Andy and April in Hyde Park. September, 2014

Love my London catch up’s. With Andy and April in Hyde Park. September, 2014

So October will be a busy month leading up to an even busier month in November. With the BCY2 Breast cancer in Young Women Conference in Dublin, my TED Talk, I am off to Belfast to do talks with Coppafeel! All in between working and hospital appointments. Fun and exciting times are ahead.

Hope this finds you all well,

Jess xxx