“I’m sorry to say Mr Blair, but you have a brain tumour. It’s the size of a large egg, and we are going to aim to operate, perhaps some radiotherapy, chemotherapy, but if theres nothing else we can do, we will just keep you comfortable.”
As my husband was given those words I felt myself sinking into the floor. The world seemed to go slowly as I looked up at his Mum, perhaps expecting to catch her, but she just looked white. I looked to Ross, he seemed shocked, but calm.
That’s Ross though and there really wasn’t anything more to say.
That was the beginning.
He had been having headaches for a few weeks, had been going through depression and mood swings, but we had a new baby and we put it down to that.
Ross’ Mum, Dionne and I drove home without him and the car was eerily silent. No words could express what we were feeling.
Pure shock and fear. Deep, deep fear.
Getting back to my house we were met with Matty, Ross’s younger brother (who had been babysitting my two girls, while we had gone into hospital) he asked if everything was OK and his Mum told him the news. We just hugged and cried. Terrified.
Matty and Dionne left to go and see his sister and for a short time I was alone.
I phoned my parents and sister and delivering the news to others made me sob. What was happening? He had gone in with headaches!
The truth is, I new it was going to be bad, I never for one second thought it would be this, but I knew something was going on, something bigger.
I phoned my agent and left her a voice message. As a TV actress I had just finished filming BBC Casualty and had booked a film. I wanted to let her know that couldn’t happen, I just wanted to tie up loose ends, be present in what was happening.
I looked around at my house and I wondered what it all meant.
What would happen with us? The girls? How would I cope with this?
Nothing seemed to make sense and there was no answers.
I am an extremely positive person and I just knew I had to focus on one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. Clear everything, seek help from those around us and be there for Ross emotionally.
We have an extremely good bunch of people around us and over the coming weeks (with Ross’ instruction) a schedule was put together and everyone took turns having the girls. We wanted to make sure they didn’t get embroiled in any of it.
Brooke was about 3 years and Texas 1, so they couldn’t really understand, but I knew they would sense something if they were around us.
Everyone chipped in, they took so much pressure off us and those that did that will always have a place in my heart. The girls nursery, lead by the owner Steph, took the girls for months, free of charge. That is the good in the world, that is humanity.
Someone from America contacted me in the early days and we spoke online. This lady had grade 3 brain cancer and she was very pragmatic about it all. She gave me the advice “This can still be your life, it will be brain cancer life now, but it doesn’t have to define you”
This stuck with me and as an advanced practitioner of The Law of Attraction and someone who knows that what you focus your mind on, you bring into your reality, I practiced what I preached.
When people tried to tell me how horrendous chemo was going to be for Ross, I said “He will be fine, we will focus on that when it’s here”
People mean well, but they often impart their own fears onto you and that just wasn’t how this was going to run. Some may see that as naive, but you’re wrong. Ross hasn’t read a single thing online, or otherwise into brain cancer, chemo, radiotherapy, brain surgery and because of this he doesn’t know what he is supposed to feel, he just feels it if it’s there.
He has been remarkable. Two brains surgeries, chemo, radio, seizures, doctors poking and prodding, having his driving licence taken off him. He has defied what people said.
He has left intense chemotherapy to go and play football, or ride his bike. He would go into chemo and say, “shall I breeze this one?” and I would, of course, tell him “yeah, do it! Why not?”
You will never hear Ross say “This is a nightmare” or “why me?”
Quite the opposite, you will hear him say “Why not me? None of us are immune, it’s just science” or “I’m bored if it now, it’s gone anyway” “They keep telling me I’ve got cancer, but I can’t feel it!”
He is never a victim, WE are not victims.
As the partner of someone going through stuff it can sometimes feel like you are watching a movie you cannot do anything about. You feel frustrated for them, want to take away any pain, but yet you are left to watch. I had to learn to let go of trying to control Ross. I wanted to tell him what to eat, what he could and couldn’t do.
I was scared, there is so much information out there (often conflicting) and I just wanted him to be OK. You have to let your loved one make decisions or you will find your relationship will shift.
It does shift naturally anyway, as the partner, or carer you take on roles you didn’t have before. Believe me, I was not chief driver in our house and I don’t relish in it now. At the beginning everything was down to me and although we have tremendous support, it felt alien.
Nearly 3 years into his diagnosis and he is currently having chemo again, you wouldn’t know there was anything going on in his body. It’s hard to imagine what we have been told is reality, so we live like it’s not.
It’s not our reality right now and we live with hope. We are very realistic people, we know its not an easy one, but we try to live in an authentic way and mix practical (doing a will and power of attorney etc) with living our normal life and hoping for the best.
It’s the letting go and the fear that stops most, but the reality is that MANY people LIVE with cancer. It isn’t free of cancer, or death. It’s upkeep, its appointments, but in-between you live.
The advice I could give to others going through this is to block out negativity, focus on your loved ones and being as normal as possible, don’t try and force new ideas onto them and find time for you.
You are useless if you go down. You have to have time out and it’s a good idea to let people know you don’t want to talk about cancer all of the time (or people REALLY will)
Remember cancer isn’t personal, it doesn’t ‘only happen to the good ones’, you don’t have to be defined by this, in fact there can be positives to come out of it.
Strengthening your bond with your loved one
Seeing the wonderful side of humanity in the nurses, doctors and others around you that offer help.
The strength that you can find within you will stay with you forever. You learn compassion and empathy for others and a deeper understanding of whats important.
I had no experience of cancer before Ross and no real understanding of the impact it has, now I know that people’s lives get shook up and rung out and I want to help.
My approach isn’t for everyone though, I’m pretty straight talking, no bullshit and will not have negative chitter chatter. Say to yourself everyday “I will work this out” and get on with you day.
I have been thoroughly changed by Ross’s cancer diagnosis and I am not the person I was 3 years ago. I have seen and learnt things that will stay with me now forever and I am very strong.
As a carer, or someone close to someone with cancer, I am on your side, I am holding your hand, I alright there with you, I know, I KNOW and you are not alone.
Sending strength and love to all.
Please come and say hello via Twitter; @hollymatthews, Instagram; @hollymatthews84, My Facebook page; I am Holly Matthews, or my YouTube; HollyMatthewsonline
In this months guest blog, I want to introduce the lovely Jaelithe. Jaelithe runs a website MrsMojo.co.uk, helping busy mums feel less frazzled and more fabulous (Details at the bottom of the blog) We haven’t met but we have spoken over email a few months ago and I wanted to share her story and spread the word on Bowen Therapy which has helped her own recovery on a huge scale and helped her listen to her body and feel more confident and empowered.
“When you are going through hell, keep on going. Never never never give up.” Winston Churchill
I’m Jaelithe Leigh-Brown. In the last two years I’ve had a personal bereavement, a breast cancer scare, major damage to my knees – so much so that the consultant told me that I would end up in a wheelchair by the time I’m 45 – I’m 38 and this last year I’ve had pins and needles and numbness in my hands so bad that I struggled to hold a toothbrush and get my kids ready for school. The diagnosis appeared to be lupus, but fortunately I’ve just had it confirmed that I’ve got carpal tunnel syndrome.
Throughout this challenge I’ve learned a major lesson which has reshaped my life and my business. I’ve learned that I need to be kind to myself and love myself. As a coach I always taught this to women and I thought I was being kind to myself, but the constant high impact exercise and non-stop work ethic has certainly had a part in my ailments and feeling of overwhelm.
I’ve learned to listen to my body, to meditate every day, walk, cycle or do my yoga and to take time out to have fun. With this new attitude I have redesigned my online Fabulously Fit Bootcamp for women. Instead of being another health and fitness course, it now focuses on loving you.
As I listened to my body I realised I was still suffering from a car crash that I had had as a teenager. An old man had driven into the back of me, causing me to have whiplash. I’ve had a bad neck ever since and I’m sure that the symptoms in my knees and wrists are linked. My posture is always iffy and the noises my joints can make going up and downstairs are cringe-worthy.
My search for an alternative therapy while I was waiting for test results took me to our local beauty room where I asked about reflexology. I’d had this when I was pregnant with baby number one and had really enjoyed it. The therapist said to try Bowen therapy as she had suffered from muscle spasms for years, had three sessions of Bowen therapy and has never had a muscle spasm since. She warned me that it felt like nothing was happening during the session and that the day after her treatment she felt like she had been hit by a car.I made an appointment with the Bowen therapist and was lucky to get a session within two days of calling.
So what is the Bowen Technique and how can it help you? It all started in Australia with a man called Tom Bowen who wanted to be a doctor. He developed Bowen therapy and by the sixties he was treating 13,000 patients a year. The theory is that the light pressure and rolling over your muscles and connective tissue sends a message to the brain which then starts to heal the parts of the body that need to be healed. It’s just like flicking on the switch that needs to be flicked for you to get better. The Bowen Technique can work well for most joint issues or sports injuries including frozen shoulder, backache, whiplash injuries, sciatica, knee and ankle pain and hamstring injuries. It can also work for those of you suffering from migraines, asthma, hay fever and arthritis. It even works for infant colic and for bed wetting in older kids as it can encourage the stimulation of the hormones needed to help stop bed wetting. Sessions cost from £30 depending on where you are and some GPs can refer you for treatment.
According to www.thebowentechnique.com cancer patients are able to have Bowen therapy. The website states ‘there are some ideas that you shouldn’t do lymphatic work with cancer patients, but this is not borne out by evidence or by the many lymphoedema nurses and physios working with cancer patients day in day out.’ Bowen therapy can treat issues that don’t relate to cancer such as sleeping problems, back ache, mental fatigue etc. The website suggests to ‘try not to focus on the cancer, but instead what the problem is that is being presented instead. “What’s the problem?” is always the question; “cancer” is never an answer which we can realistically progress to treatment from.’
My therapist, Kerry Cassells agrees that Bowen Therapy can be beneficial for anyone with cancer as it helps to reset/reboot the nervous system, encouraging it to switch off the fight/flight nervous system and switch on the relaxing part of the nervous system (parasympathetic nervous system). Some moves can also affect the lymphatic system too. She advises to seek medical guidance to determine whether or not it’s for you.
So, how was it for me?
The day before my treatment I met up with a friend who I hadn’t seen for a few months and we chatted about what was happening in our lives. I happened to mention that I was going to have Bowen therapy and my friend admitted that she had had it after her second pregnancy as her hips and back ached as she breastfed. She described it exactly as the therapist had and said that it felt like the Bowen therapist just flicked you and waited, then flicked you and waited. She too said that the next day she felt like she had been hit by a bus and after just three sessions her aches and pains had vanished.
I was really excited to try Bowen therapy and the therapist, Kerry chatted to me about my issues and then looked at how I stood, lay down and sat, as well as the movement I had in my neck and shoulders. Then I lay on a massage table and Kerry applied a light pressure and rolling movement to each of my main acupressure points. As she did this I felt like there was a hot water bottle all over my body. She said that some people feel nothing, others feel warmth and others feel an energy around them. She laughed as she said this because she is a registered nurse and is used to science and concrete evidence for everything she does, but says it’s as if she can see the energy around people. The warmth I felt was such an amazing feeling to feel.
When it came to working on my neck and shoulders my neck was so stiff, especially on the right hand side. Kerry described it as a metal coil. She had to work on it more than in the other areas and said my body was holding on to a lot of trauma. She discovered too that my pelvis was misaligned, which probably explains part of the trouble I’ve had with my knees which has passed onto my hips and she said that my left shoulder was lower than my right, which made my head and neck hold more tension in them. Again, this would have been from the car crash I had as a teenager.
I left feeling very chilled out and the warm feeling stayed with me for most of the day. I was advised to carry on with my exercise as normal, drink lots of water and not have any other treatments for seven days.
I slept quite well that night, but when I woke up the next day it felt like I had been in a car crash all over again. It was funny, as it was all in my left side, whereas after the first crash I had it was all in my right side. I couldn’t turn my neck or head fully and my lower back hurt like mad. This lasted for a day or two and gradually I felt fine again. After that first session my pins and needles and the numbness had improved.
My second session was exactly the same. I lay down and Kerry applied a small amount of pressure and flicking to the key acupressure points of my body. Again I felt a lovely warm sensation. The following day I ached all over again, but not as bad as the day after my first session. The aches and pains gradually disappeared over the next few days and the pins and needles were nowhere near as bad as they had been. In fact, they almost disappeared.
I did want to have a final session with Kerry, but my husband’s job took us away from Scotland to Yorkshire. Had I not have had the sessions, I believe that my symptoms would have been unmanageable. I had been packing and lifting boxes on a daily basis and the numbness had got so bad I couldn’t even hold the parcel tape and scissors, never mind lift anything heavy. Thanks to the Bowen Therapy I managed to get all the packing and heavy lifting done and I stayed calm throughout the move!
With all of this in mind I have stayed committed to being healthy, happy and confident. It has been tempting to drown my sorrows in chocolate and wine, but instead I’ve thought about this experience as my body’s way of telling me that it’s not happy. I’ve continued to give it the best food that I can and have continued with my exercise program that doesn’t punish my body. I’ve stayed happy by learning to live in the moment. I’ve talked about this for years, but have never set aside time to do it properly. I’m one of those people who work through their ‘to do’ list at full pelt and then settle down about half an hour before bed to do something for me. Yesterday I had lots of work to do, but I really wanted to snuggle up on the couch and watch a film with my three young kids. They normally just get half an hour of TV each day, so they jumped at the chance. We snuggled up and watched ‘Enchanted’ and it was bliss. Yes, my jobs are still there to do, but I feel so much happier and more fulfilled for the time I had with my kids. Finally, I feel more confident as I am learning to give up my need to control everything and am trusting that things will work out fine. That’s made me more confident with my business too – I will achieve my goals at the perfect time. I also believe that the right treatment will turn up at the right time for me and so far it has. My knees are much better, my posture is getting there and my pins and needles are being managed by wrist splints at night. This belief may sound a bit ‘far out’ there, but the option of worrying and living in fear is not going to do me, my body, my family, my friends or my business any good.
I hope that by sharing this experience I have helped you in your outlook. You can feel bogged down by what’s going on in your life or by what you have to do. For the week ahead really try to live in the moment and just chill out and do something that makes you feel happy. If you feel like not doing housework for one day to have coffee with a friend, then do it. None of us know what lies around the corner, so let’s make the most of today.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Bowen therapy then check out www.bowen-technique.co.uk I’d also like to say a big thank you to Kerry who worked her magic on me. Check out her Facebook page kerrysbowenbodyworks or contact her on 07775982426.
About Jaelithe Leigh-Brown
Jaelithe helps mums like you be healthy, happy and confident that you’re doing a great job. You don’t need to be unhappy with your body, or feel pressure to lose weight or be a certain size. You don’t need to get bogged down with housework or dealing with squabbling kids. You don’t need to wish for more hours in the day to get through your ‘to do’ list and you don’t need to doubt your skills as a mum, or judge yourself every day. You don’t have to be a Supermum to be a super mum.
Jaelithe shows you how to enjoy everything being a mum entails with tips, advice and online Bootcamps that help frazzled mums become fabulous. Check out www.mrsmojo.co.uk.
My mission is to empower women to be…
·Motivated to be all that they can
·In love with the life they have
My goal for this year is to help frazzled mums who have a never-ending ‘to do’ list feel fabulous, so that you can be healthy, happy and confident, so that you can have quality ‘me time’, time with your kids and time with your partners. Get started with my FREE meal planner for busy mums. http://www.mrsmojo.co.uk/busymumsmealplanner
If you have ever considered EFT as a form of therapy, have a read of this fab guest blog by my friend and fellow survivor Emily Hodge. Emily has had an amazing experience with EFT herself and is now trained as a Life Coach, helping others after challenging times including cancer. Read here how EFT helped her and how it works.
By Emily Hodge, NLP Life Coach (MSc Health Psychology)
If you’d have told me two years ago that I’d be tapping on parts of my body to ‘release energy’ and repeating funny phrases whilst I was doing it, I’d have probably laughed in your face. If you’d have then said I’d go on to use this technique with other people in coaching sessions (where they want to!), I’d have told you to shut the front door. Yet, here I am, doing both these things.
I first found out about Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT, also known as Tapping) not when the Daily Mail reported that Lily Allen used it to quit smoking but when I was beginning to understand more about the tools and techniques that would help me recover emotionally from my cancer experience. During it, I had all the traditional works (surgeries, chemo and other drugs) and also complementary support from acupuncture, massage and reflexology to help with sleep, stress and general wellbeing.
This is no miracle healing story, I wanted and needed all the conventional drugs I could get my hands on but also knew that my mind needed holistic support. When it was all over, even a few years later, I knew I had some thinking patterns that were stuck and weren’t helping me, and wanted to venture further than the traditional coaching and therapy type support I was finding.
So when I saw a friend’s EFT video, whilst it looked a little strange, I was open to trying and engaging with it. I was particularly drawn to the idea that it combines the physical and emotional aspects of our experiences, helping us to re-programme memories and thoughts that are destructive, by using both the body and words. I also liked how, once I’d learnt the technique, I could use it independently any time I liked, unlike other talking or body therapies like acupuncture.
Finding EFT videos online and then a practitioner, I realised it was something I responded to really well. It allowed me to focus on specific parts of a memory or thoughts that were troubling me, and to pick it apart gently without ‘flooding’ into the whole event. I loved it so much, and felt so much better – for me, lighter, brighter and calmer – that I went on to train in it and use it as a tool within my coaching practice with others.
What is EFT?
EFT is a form of non-needle acupuncture deriving from a Chinese medicine background of understanding the meridian energy points in the body. Tapping along these in particular sequences is said to bring about energy shifts, resulting in difficult memories or feelings being experienced differently e.g. a reduction in anxious thoughts or a change in an experience of pain. EFT can be done with a trained practitioner and also on your own once you’ve learnt the technique. The points you tap on are shown below:
The words spoken during the tapping are as important as the tapping itself. The set-up phrase leads the topic of what will be tapped on. There are two parts to this phrase. Part 1 is an acknowledgement of the issue you’re facing. It should be as specific as possible, so rather than ‘even though I have anxiety’ being more specific is preferable, such as ‘even though I have anxiety about going back to hospital’. Part 2 is the acceptance of this feeling. This isn’t trying to make you be OK with the feeling, nor is it to cause you guilt that you don’t already. Rather, it’s a way of giving yourself kindness in acknowledging you feel this way. This is usually ‘I deeply and completely accept myself’ or ‘I accept this anyway’ or even ‘I’m OK’ – whatever feels right at the time.
The set up phrase is completed three times whilst tapping on the karate chop point (see to the EFT diagram above), to focus the session. The full tapping sequence is then completed using key words from the set up phrase. You tap on the points at the speed and strength that feels comfortable. Before we start, we also rate the intensity of the identified issue on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most intense, to understand the level before starting tapping.
What’s the outcome?
Most people report feeling differently about their issue after a few rounds of tapping and talking. It may be that the feeling or emotion sits physically somewhere different in the body, or a pain they had before feels different, or is even gone.
If you’re working with a practitioner, they would continue to ask questions and further look at the detail of the issue, doing more rounds of tapping until the intensity has changed significantly.
This isn’t about a cure – I practice EFT and use it with others not claiming that it will cure an anxiety disorder, acne, arthritis or cancer (and I personally would run a mile if someone had these claims). This is about managing thoughts and feelings that we also experience in our body, in order to feel differently and hopefully better about them.
What’s the evidence it works?
Empirical evidence supporting EFT is available but thin on the ground, which isn’t surprising – as an alternative therapy there is little incentive to fund research to test its efficacy. But the way I see it, using EFT, along with other complementary therapies, is a personal choice. If you discover something you’re interested in and benefit from it in some way, I encourage you to go with that, rather than questioning it or having it questioned by others.
Why do we think it works?
Repetition – repeating out loud the issue that’s troubling you, especially with a practitioner, takes the pressure off of it being stuck in your head and equally starts to numb the intensity of it. It may be the first time you’ve acknowledged this is an issue and that can also bring relief.
Acceptance – In being honest with ourselves that we feel something we don’t like but we’re alright anyway it bring a strength to our thinking. – there’s an element of forgiveness and understanding that we don’t often allow ourselves.
Adjusting energy – tapping on the points in sequence does produce shifts. It will be different for each person and EFT may not be for some people but it does have funny, interesting, results. I usually laugh or yawn a lot when I do my own rounds and for me that’s a sign that something is moving around. I equally might feel quite teary for a day or so and whilst I don’t want to feel sad, I know it’s moving things in my mind that needed to be released and that’s super important for me.
There are many ways to use and interpret EFT, and likewise a range of practitioners. I trained with the EFT Centre in North London which offers good online resources for different areas of EFT use and you can also find great videos from practitioners like Brad Yates. I’ve also created a video specially for SamSpaces followers as well as a written tapping sequence below, both of which cover the topic of anxiety about returning to hospital (and are slightly different from each other)
So if your interest is peaked, try it out and see how it feels. Like it? Great, find more videos that resonate with you, or feel free to get in touch with me to find out more. A cancer experience is tough enough and we should take full advantage of all the support, during and after, that we can get…err tap!…our hands on.
Watch the unique SamSpaces EFT video here!
Example EFT tapping sequence
This written sequence focuses specifically on the issue of anxiety about a scan. You can replace these words with others words that are pertinent to you at any time.
Rate the intensity of the anxiety about your scan on a scale of 0-10, with 0 being the least intense and 10 being the most. Remember this number for later.
Say the set up phrase whilst tapping on the karate chop point:
Even through I’m feeling anxious about going for my scan, I accept myself anyway
Even though I have anxiety about my scan, I accept I have it
Even though my anxiety about my scan is high, I deeply and completely accept myself anyway, and I’m OK
Tap on each of the following nine points with these phrases:
In between eyebrows point: “anxiety about my scan”
Side of the eye: “anxiety about scan”
Under eye/cheekbone – lots of anxiety about my scan
Under nose – feels high
Under bottom lip – thinking about this a lot
Sternum – distracted about my scan coming up
Under arm – don’t want to think about my scan but I am
Top of the head – anxiety about the scan
Repeat Step 3
Bring your hands to a rest and close your eyes. Take two deep breaths. Then rate the intensity of the anxiety again. Observe whether it has stayed the same, increased or decreased. If increased you may want to take further breaths and just tap around on the points without the words before checking the intensity level again. If it is the same or decreased, notice what words or thoughts came up for you in the last round and begin to use these words in a new set up phrase and tapping sequence. Continue until the number has reduced sufficiently for you. Close the session with further deep breaths.
Please note that in carrying out this technique on your own you are taking full responsibility for your own health. Thanks ☺
You can email me at email@example.com and find out more at coachingemily.com
In the blog below, Freddie will tell her amazing story of how she overcame immense grief after her father died of cancer, through tapping into her creative passion for design, namely out of climbing rope!
Samspaces is so excited to announce a collaboration with Freddie and we now have our own bracelet (picture above!) It was important to me to create something visible to represent Samspaces and emphasise an awareness for After Cancer support and highlight this profile and the importance of patient to patient solidarity within our community. To me, the threads represent all the many threads of recovery and healing all wrapped around a strong piece of climbing rope representing the strength, courage and resilience of the person wearing it, all in the healing blue colour of the Samspaces logo. The charms speak for themselves but are a reminder that if we believe in ourselves we will always succeed and we are always being looked after.
If you would like to purchase one of these gorgeous bracelets, they are priced at £11.99 plus P&P. Just send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org with your wrist size and address and I will get back to you with more details. Over to Fred……….
When asked where the inspiration for my business came from, it put a smile on my face and brought a tear to my eye. My story is a simple one, inspiration came from tragedy.
On February 26th 2015 I lost my wonderful dad to Cancer. Like so many of you out there this disease invaded my life and changed it forever, this is the story of how I used my grief to change my life in a positive way and create what I hope to be a lasting legacy.
Maybe I should start at the beginning, and introduce myself? Hello, I am Freddie, and I am the owner of a small fledgling business called Hanging by a Fred, yes I am ‘the’ Fred and here is the biggest surprise for many…I am actually a woman!
Before February 2015, I was simply a loving daughter caring for her wonderful dad whilst that disease took hold and ravaged his body in 6 short months. It may have changed his appearance but it never dulled his spirit, and I am grateful to have been there every minute to share each precious moment til the last.
My dad was a climber, a lifelong, committed, dedicated and rather talented climber and mountaineer. I grew up watching him and his passion for this sport, but never quite brave enough to join him until sadly it was too late. It was his life blood, his true love and his source of happiness. Climbing embodied everything about him, he even requested his favourite mug (which said ‘I’d rather be climbing’) and book (of routes in Northumberland, where we live) be on his coffin, and be cremated with him.
After he died, I suffered a deep period of grief. I had already suffered a great loss and was trying to deal with that, then I lost my dad, my friend, my confident. I had been so strong for so long, trying to look after my mum and sort out all of the legalities…the aftermath, I lost myself. I felt so alone and utterly bereft. The grief took hold, and I became a shell of my former self. Friends said I had ‘lost my sparkle’ and even looked ‘dead in the eyes’.
Writing these words, remembering this time, the tears aren’t far away, but there is also catharsis. I want to share my story, as I want you to know you are not alone in how you feel, what you are going through, and that, although it does not feel like it right now, there is light at the end of the tunnel and you WILL be ok.
The idea for HBAF came to me in June 2015, as moments of inspiration often do, through a random conversation with a friend about wool. We were trying to organise a relaxing day of craft to get me out of the house and back into society, in a calming and relaxing environment. Unfortunately, after a few years of unemployment, I could not afford the course fee. Not a problem! She had wool, and I had…well I had rope, climbing rope, and lots of it! We never did have that craft day, but by the end of the week I had put together a PowerPoint presentation with ideas, competition assessment, sources of equipment, materials needed, outlets for sales and much more. I took this to my unemployment advisor, who referred me to the Pinetree Trust, who support new business start-ups and those who have experienced particular difficulties. Paul Redpath came into my life, saw my ideas and the few products I had made and the information I had gathered, straight away he loved the unique idea and my journey really began.
My idea was to upcycle retired climbing rope into the beautiful and useful ‘for him, for her and for the home’ to quote my business strap line. I make real statement jewellery, woven rope mats, coiled rope bowls, mug cosies, pet accessories and so much more.
I knew Christmas was looming, with that the crucial period of the all-important Christmas market season, so working on my business plan and start-up loan began in earnest. The details of this work aren’t important, but the fact that this idea gave me renewed focus and purpose in life, that I found my drive and ambition again, that my sparkle began to return, that is what is important here. I was, I am sure, making my dad proud. I was honouring his memory, creating a new life and building a future, and every day he was at the heart of it. What better way to deal with loss and grief?
Today I am five months in to my new adventure, I am steadily booked at a variety of arts and crafts markets through to 2017, I have just had a photoshoot on Hadrian’s Wall for my forthcoming website, and I am supplying an ever growing range of galleries and shops with my unique products…not a bad start!
I have met and worked with amazing people, and made wonderful connections. I can’t lie, it is incredibly hard work and not everything works as well as I would like, but I love it. I am happy again. I have direction, and more importantly I have dreams for the future. Losing my dad has, in actual fact, given me life again.
I don’t know what the future holds for me, or my business, but I know that there is one, and as long as I don’t give up it will be a bright and sparkly one. That is essentially my message to you all, never give up! Never surrender! Thank you for taking the time to read my little story, and good luck to you all. Xx
I am no runner! The image of me running in any shape or form is not worth thinking about but I know what a good exercise and headspace it is for so many people. I wanted to put the spot light on this form of exercise and in my third guest blog for Samspaces, Jo Taylor of ABC Diagnosis, tells me in a Q&A style why running has been such a focus for her wellbeing during cancer treatment and what she loves about it.
1. What do you love about running and why?
I love the freedom running gives you, to walk out of your home and run. No monthly payments and no ties to times of classes. You can do it whenever you want to suit your life. Getting out in the fresh air, summer, winter, even in the rain can be exhilarating.
2. How long have you been running and how did you discover it?
I started running 6 months after my son was born 11 years ago with my sister in law to help loose the baby weight and was regularly running 8 miles. I stopped when I was pregnant with my daughter and was planning to go back to running after 4 months, but was then diagnosed with primary breast cancer when she was 5 months old so all plans went on hold for a good year.
3 Do you think that having goals for this particular exercise is important and if so why? What goals have you had?
The only goals I have is to try to run 2 or 3 runs a week, usually 5/6 miles a time (I also cycle once a week too) I’m not competitive. I’d love to run a 1/2 or full marathon but it’s not a big goal. Knowing I can run every week at the level I run with secondary breast cancer is a huge achievement. Many cant even do exercise let alone run at the level I run so I know I’m lucky. I’m on new drugs which give a good remission (I’m currently in remission) but I know things can change with my diagnosis. I exercise to keep my fitness up in case of these changes so I’m in the best possible physical state to deal with this.
4. Why do you think running is good for people having cancer treatment or for those patients moving forward with life after a diagnosis?
It helps physically and mentally through the treatment. It helps you to loose weight if you have put some on due to chemo and tablets. I blamed the tamoxifen for excess weight. I just needed to up my running, which I did, and it worked. I think diet and exercise is very important for anyone whether they have cancer or not. It is the only thing that you can control and help yourself with with a diagnosis. It does give people a focus and as I said it doesn’t have to cost much. You have to find what’s right for you.
5. What do you think are the disadvantages to running?
It can be hard on the knees and joints especially if you are on drugs for cancer and it is easy not to be motivated if you run alone. It’s good to join a group or get out with friends. Like any exercise you have to commit yourself and results don’t happen overnight but you will run a mile, then two, then three and before you know it able to do a 5K and maybe a 10K!
6. How important do you think exercise is during cancer treatment generally and why?
I think exercise is massively important like I said for the reasons of mental and physical wellbeing. Also there are reports that it can help to increase the benefits of chemotherapy and I do think that it helps to get the toxins out of your body quicker. Exercise is very important – lots of studies show this in cancer patients. Macmillan call it a ‘wonder drug’ and promote it in their ‘move it’ campaign.
ABC Diagnosis supports primary and secondary breast cancer patients make informed choices with information and up to date news on treatments, breast surgeries, consultants, hospital and useful links.
I started last year in a maze, my life had changed beyond belief. I had been made redundant after 28 happy years with the same company and had just completed my first of of six sessions of Fect-T chemotherapy after being diagnosed with grade 3 breast cancer in November 2014, something that I just couldn’t get my head around. I had it, I was being treated for it and was still in a total state of shock!!
I tried to gain a little control or routine in my life with no avail. I couldn’t concentrate on a fiction book, TV program or even a telephone conversation, it was as it my whole being was in such a shocked state that to try and loose myself in anything was an impossibility. An aunt suggested I had “chemo brain”. It was nice to have an excuse but really I just knew it was fear, hair loss,hospitals,worry and bottled emotions. Trying to put on a brave face and coping for family and friends was not helping me.
I knew I needed to do something, something completely different and also something I really really wanted to do. Before I had a chance to talk myself out of it, I had enrolled in a clay sculpture class. I went along lacking confidence, feeling mentally and physically half the person I was.
The first sculpture was to be made out of terracotta clay, I decided to make a fish shape until I heard the other ladies suggesting things like a polar bear, a deer and figures. I knew then I needed to up my game and blurted out “my dog!!”
From that moment on, I slowly and expressively created Beau, my wire haired sausage dog. Gradually, out of clay, I worked and I became so immersed in my work; my hands were occupied, my head was full of love and concentration as she began to grow, it was almost like meditation. To be completely enchansed by moulding and challenged by the clay, I was totally absorbed with it.
I can safely say that I’m now hooked; dogs, curlews and daisies have been created, but above all so has my mind. I truly feel that it helped me and is still helping me come to terms with what this last year had in store. I strongly recommend creating and moving forward goes hand in hand. It’s the sense of achievement, calming and relaxing that have been so important both in getting through and moving on.