“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

Advertisements

Summer Days. It’s good to be home!

Hello wonderful people in my life,

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Week 1 of 52….

Hope this latest update finds you all well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunlight. What is this amazing phenomenon?!

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

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

This year my resolutions are:

To give up alcohol for 2015.

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

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

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

Jess x

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 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