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How are you?

How do you answer this question when you have or are living under the threat of Cancer that may return. An innocent enough question, politely requesting about your wellbeing.. But its one that I dreaded for a long time as the honest answer was not pretty and probably involved a few choice swear words:

• Cancer has changed my life completely and now I have no idea if I will ever be ‘me ‘ again?

* Feeling awful from all the surgery and medication that life currently throws at me

• Frustrated that my body makes no attempt to keep up with my mind

• Fed up that I don’t know if I will still be here in 6 months time

• Upset that I can’t run here there and everywhere with my daughter as much as I would love to and show her the world.

• Or just a general rubbish, awful, crap etc

Did I say this of course not, nobody wants to hear the truth about how you really feel and I don’t want to tell them either, I don’t want to be miserable to be around, I have always been a relatively positive person and chatty and happy to see people and talk about our lives. I still wanted people to know me as this person. However I would not lie either just be selective with the truth and developed a range of brief carefully worded phrases in response to this question as follows:

• Not too bad thanks (for ok days)

• Been better (for really bad days)

• I’ve just been to (recent holiday, day out or visit) have you been there? (full change of direction technique)

• How are you, you look really well new hair? (just don’t answer the question)

Its been 8 years today since I went in to hospital to have a stage 3, grade 3, large Breast Cancer tumour removed and 4 years since they removed a Brain tumour, with other various surgery and treatments in between. I’m feeling reflective today, where am I now? Are these disguises really necessary anymore, I know that my answers to this question are no longer necessary to hide my thoughts. I have dared on a few occasions to say ‘ok, thanks’ and even ‘good!’. I may even dare to think what I may do in the future.. maybe become a graphic designer again? best not to get too excited just yet!

Please in the future if someone you know has cancer and you are going to ask ‘How are you?’ Try ‘I saw this amazing cake this morning so I bought you one I thought you would enjoy a treat!’…

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I wanted to share this heartfelt and beautifully written blog I saw this week… Anyone who has had Cancer in their lives will appreciate every word.

Charlotte Kitley has blogged on The Huffington Post UK since 2013 and sadly passed away on Tuesday 16 September from bowel cancer. She wrote one final post that she wished to share with all of her readers. We are honoured to offer it to you here.

I’ve always been a good planner. I like lists and tick sheets, to-do notes and objectives. I’m very good at starting things, but honestly, I am also easily bored and quickly lose interest once the original excitement passes.

I haven’t had the luxury of being allowed to be bored of having cancer. It isn’t something you can just give up if you don’t fancy doing it that day. There isn’t a switch you can chose to turn off one day from the next. At least not for me. From my first day as a cancer patient, I have attended every test, scan and appointment. I have tried every treatment offered, from the standard medical therapies, to eating oiled cottage cheese, having acupuncture and juicing kale. Cancer has become our life. Holidays, haircuts and helicopter lessons have all been timed around good or bad chemo weekends. Danny and Lu, unwittingly as innocent by-standers have had their childhoods protected but also dictated by my various regimes. This is all they have ever known and, I hope, have still managed to turn out to be pretty good, well-rounded, loved and treasured children.

The innocence that we have protected them from has now had to be revealed. Following my birthday, I started to feel ‘unwell’. We ‘popped’ to hospital where the usual set of tests were carried out. Unfortunately, when combined with a recent scan, the results were nothing short of devastating. We were no longer looking at a month by month action plan with a couple of months buffer at the end. I was given days, perhaps a couple of weeks to live. I wasn’t expected to leave the hospital, but somehow, have managed to pull it out of the bag at the last moment and return home, to spend what little time I have with my darling children and loving husband.

As I write this, I am sat on the sofa, relatively pain-free and busy doing my little projects, sorting out the funeral and selling my car. We wake up every morning, grateful I can have a cuddle and kiss my babies.

As you read this, I will no longer be here. Rich will be trying to put one foot in front of the other, to get by, a day at a time, knowing I will no longer awake next to him. He will see me in the luxury of a dream, but in the harsh morning sun, the bed will be empty. He will get two cups from the cupboard, but realise there is only one coffee to make. Lucy will need someone to reach for her hairband box, but there won’t be anyone to plait her hair. Danny will have lost one of his Lego policeman, but no one will know exactly which one it is or where to look. You will look for the latest update on the blog. There won’t be one, this is the final chapter.

And so I leave a gaping, unjust, cruel and pointless hole, not just in Halliford Road, but in all the homes, thoughts and memories of other loved ones, friends and families. For that I am sorry. I would love to still be with you, laughing, eating my weird and latest miracle food, chatting rubbish ‘Charleyisms’. I have so much life I still want to live, but know I won’t have that. I want to be there for my friends as they move with their lives, see my children grow up and become old and grumpy with Rich. All these things are to be denied of me.

But, they are not to be denied of you. So, in my absence, please, please, enjoy life. Take it by both hands, grab it, shake it and believe in every second of it. Adore your children. You have literally no idea how blessed you are to shout at them in the morning to hurry up and clean their teeth.

Embrace your loved one and if they cannot embrace you back, find someone who will. Everyone deserves to love and be loved in return. Don’t settle for less. Find a job you enjoy, but don’t become a slave to it. You will not have ‘I wish I’d worked more’ on your headstone. Dance, laugh and eat with your friends. True, honest, strong friendships are an utter blessing and a choice we get to make, rather than have to share a loyalty with because there happens to be link through blood. Choose wisely then treasure them with all the love you can muster. Surround yourself with beautiful things. Life has a lot of grey and sadness – look for that rainbow and frame it. There is beauty in everything, sometimes you just have to look a little harder to see it.

So, that’s it from me. Thank you so much for the love and kindness you’ve shown in your own little ways over the last 36 years. From the mean girls in the playing fields who pushed me into the stinging nettles aged six to the bereaved husbands who in the last week have told me what their wives did to help prepare their young children and everyone in between. They and you have all, in some small way helped me become the person I have been.

Please, now use that love for me and pass it to Rich, my children, family and close friends. And when you close your curtains tonight, look out for a star, it will be me, looking down, sipping a pina colada, enjoying a box of (very expensive) chocolates.

Good night, Good bye and God bless.

Charley xx

One particular recent comment by my husband sparked by the fact that when he came home I hadn’t done the washing up has not been particularly helpful. Our house does not look perfect, it is decorated and clean, but not always tidy which with a daughter and husband frankly will never happen. The implication that somehow I should be the ‘perfect housewife’ I resent, if I was I would not have any time to be good at anything else. I like the fact that when you turn up at a house when it doesn’t look perfect and tidy its comfortable and easy to relax. Except if the parents in law are coming and then even the cat will be polished.

I haven’t even started on other subjects like being good at parenthood, as soon as you get the hang of a baby they turn into a toddler and then they go to school then hormones kick in and then exams and independence, it is impossible to be a perfect parent if you are always playing catch up. In our lives today we are a success if we have it all: career, house, kids, husband, social life, money, car, friends and so on… I haven’t met any one with the full set yet any life has its flaws. I try to get each aspect as right as I can some prove more difficult than others.

 

This rant on my blog is to say in a very random world with demands on my life constantly changing I will do my best as often as I can but some days it just isn’t happening! Perfection is a constantly changing and unobtainable goal that is impossible to achieve. We should never lose our ability to be ambitious and we should all aim for our goals in life but accept it is impossible to achieve perfection in every aspect of our lives.

So to my husband, the house is clean, often tidy not always. The washing has been done but will rarely get ironed. Your dinner is ready more days than not. Homework done. Shopping done. The cat is fed. You will not starve, freeze, have empty cupboards, dirty clothes or mismatching socks.

I will never be your perfect housewife xx

 

 

Bob Hoskins life lessons relevant to us all…

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Quite often my blog is written about my own experiences, thoughts and opinions. However sometimes you come across the words of another which touch your life and relate to your world so much you would like to also share them. Particularly the ‘life lessons’ written by the late Bob Hoskins to his daughter which she has shared on Twitter/Facebook in the last few days. I lost my mum at the age of 21 to Breast Cancer and to this day I carry her words and love with me and appreciate every bit.

My daughter is now 8 and I feel my most important job as a parent is to encourage her to become a happy, confident, independent young girl hopefully ‘lady’ but if she takes after her mother this may be an ambition too far! Trying the best that I can to set a good example, I think 80% of the time is probably a good realistic aim…

Here are a few of Bob Hoskins words that touched me,”words spoke so often to encourage, comfort and reassure”:

Laugh. There’s humour to be found everywhere, even your darkest days there’s something to have a joke about.

Be yourself. If someone doesn’t like you they’re either stupid, blind, or they’ve got bad taste. Accept who you are, you’ve got no one else to be.

Don’t worry about other people’s opinions. Everyone’s a critic, but ultimately what they say only matters if you let it.

Whatever you do, always give it a good go. Don’t be afraid of failure and disappointment.

Never, ever, ever, ever give up. Keep on punching no matter what your up against.

Love with all your heart. In the end, love is the only thing that matters.

The full text is available on HauteHoskins.com

Too often we get wrapped up in life and its worries, until events in our personal lives make us realise what is really important.. to love others, ourselves and feel loved…

 

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Finally, a recent documentary by Kris Hallenga has given us an insight into the life of a younger person with Breast Cancer. When Kris Hallenga was diagnosed with aggressive, terminal breast cancer at the age of 23, she decided to channel her fear and anger into changing the way young women, the medical profession and the rest of the planet see and treat breast cancer in young women. This film is about the sheer strength, passion and indomitable spirit of Kris Hallenga as she battles her illness and tirelessly promotes her charity CoppaFeel! – an energetic and fearless awareness-raising campaign dedicated to making sure other young women and their doctors are made more aware of the risks. ‘Dying to live’ on BBC3, next showing 2am Friday 18th April and then on iplayer shortly after.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03zf3tg

Sadly information for a younger person with Breast Cancer is very limited and you are often surrounded by women over 45 who have a very different life to someone in their 20’s. I emailed my thank you to Kris, her response is below…

Hi Angela!

How are you doing? I have read a few posts on your blog – it’s a great blog!! thanks for sharing it with me. You share many thoughts and feelings I do. 
And yes, it was really important for me to finally get the story of a young woman with breast cancer on TV, something we never see. I strongly believe it’s a completely different disease for people 40 and under, women who have not had kids, not married etc. We have completely different issues. But I am navigating my way through them all as best I can. And you seem to be doing a good job of that too.
I hope you are enjoying this sunshine. 
Big love
Kris

 

Please check out the fab charity Kris has set up reminding all young women to check your boobs!

http://coppafeel.org

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Uplifting and unforgettable special days…

At my daughters school we hold a coffee morning each term to raise money half for the PTA and half for a nominated charity. Each time we support a different charity and each one often has a personal connection to someone at the school. This morning was one of the most heartfelt that I’ve helped to host, a charity that has helped both myself and another mum, The Willow Foundation is the only UK charity supporting seriously ill 16 to 40 year olds by providing unique and positive Special Days.

Founded by former Arsenal goalkeeper and TV presenter, Bob Wilson and his wife Megs, Willow is a lasting memorial to their daughter, Anna, who died of cancer aged 31. Anna’s love of life and the enriching experiences of her own Special Days were the charity’s inspiration. Since 1999 Willow has fulfilled more than 10,000 Special Days for young adults living with life-threatening conditions such as cancer, motor neurone disease, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy and Huntington’s disease. https://www.willowfoundation.org.uk

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I gave a short speech and introduction this morning to the following clip which Charlie helped to create, at the end of this video everyone was left speechless with not a single dry eye in the house. Willow work hard creating bespoke days out for you and your family to create special lasting memories to give you a break from the hospitals and treatments that very easily take over your life. One particular comment in the video will stay with me for a long time:

“It was the day I got my family back” when Charlie’s husband replies “We hadn’t gone far..”

I would also like to share with you Charlie’s story which we printed out this morning for mums to read as its such a personal and heartfelt story, with a special comment from her daughter Hannah at the end:

Charlie’s Story

I was 37 when I was diagnosed with advanced Hodgkins lymphoma, a wife, and a mum to 3 children aged 12, 9 and 5. As a nurse I wasn’t surprised, I knew my symptoms were not good and that the results were really just confirmation. Cancer isn’t something that you think will happen to you when you’re young. You read stories, they make you sad and provoke your thought, but they aren’t part of your reality. Then it happens to you… I can’t say I asked “why me?” as I always believed if you asked that you then had to ask “why not?” but I did think “why my kids?” At that point I knew I had to fight, not just because my kids needed their mum, but also because my husband can’t cook and I didn’t want them living on cereal!

So the fight began. Scans, picc lines, bone marrow tests, 6 months of chemotherapy every other week. Not quite as scary as tv and films had me believe but not pleasant either. My wonderful husband and children watched their wife and mum become very tired and physically sick. My hair inevitably fell out which must be so very shocking and frightening for a child to see. My husband shaved his off too and my kids bravely told me to not hide behind my scarf and be proud of my bald head! They walked beside me and endured the staring… You’d be surprised at how many people stare! As my body bloated with the steroids they told me I was beautiful… I cannot actually begin to explain how difficult that is to write, nor explain how hard it is to watch the physical changes to your body. For me that was definitely the hardest part.

One day I looked at my kids and saw that their characters had changed. They were quieter more serious children. They’d had to grow up overnight. I knew then that I needed to give us all something to look forward to as a family, and so I sent in my application. My children had, unfortunately down to my own obsession, developed a liking for Take That. Their song ‘Rule the world’ had become a song with very special meaning to us. So thanks to the Willow Foundation we got tickets for the whole family to see them in concert. We had so much to celebrate. We had made remission.

The car arrived to take us which was in itself an exciting adventure for the kids! We were driven to Wembley and quickly found ourselves a spot to sit. The crowd was loud, the atmosphere amazing! It was a packed house and the rain did nothing to dampen spirits! Everyone sang, screamed and danced in the rain and it was so easy to just go with the crowd and get lost in the music and excitement. That alone is such a tonic. As valuable a medicine as the chemotherapy itself. Part way through the night I took a moment to quietly watch my precious family. They had been my rock, my reason to fight. I watched them as they danced and sang without a care in the world. It was almost like I was watching the stress and the devastation they had endured through my illness, physically disappear infront of my eyes. I was watching my family, my pre-cancer family, once more for the first time in a very long while! No money can put a price on that feeling.

I cannot ever thank the charity enough for what they have done for our family. I hope my story shows you how important these days are not just for the recipient but for the people that stand there fighting with them. It wasn’t just a day with memories made, it was so much more than that. It was closing the door, it was celebrating, it was a moment for relief and release. It was our moment.

It makes me so happy to know that more people like me, and families like mine, will be given the gift of a special day, of ‘forever memories’. What a gift that is!

Hannah:

I will never forget the completeness I felt during that whole evening. I’d finally been given a chance to breathe a sigh of relief and so had my mum. She had been given the chance to forget about everything that had happened, and just laugh and absorb that moment of happiness and security.

We were reconnected with new memories and laughter. The special day brought my family back together again; and I will never forget how much I owe the Willow Foundation.

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Breakfast will be in Bed. FAIL

I shall be supplied with flowers and a thoughtful card.TICK

All choices today are mine. TBC

I will be doing no jobs or chores.TICK

There will be no consideration towards healthy eating today. TICK

The sun must be shining. TICK

I am right all day. TBC

I shall spend a fun day with my family. PLANNED

I shall be loved all day….. OF COURSE

I wil be the most helpful and attentive wife and mother all day?

For all mums young, old, past and present HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY

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Does this really happen? Are there couples out there who have blissfully romantic and thoughtful relationships full of red roses after dealing with Cancer? I must of missed that paragraph in all those leaflets I read after appointments. Where is the leaflet about real life afterwards?

Do I look across the dinner table longingly at the husband who was very close to losing his life partner. Oh do I heck, he can be just as irritating now as he was 10 years ago when we were thinner, younger, childless with independent careers. The rubbish bin is overflowing that he refuses to empty until he has finished his beer, his shoes are abandoned in the middle of the hallway and the TV now has the News on it, whilst I dutifully cook the family dinner. Love is now a ‘pencil sharpener’ for christmas and I quote: “It had a 5 star rating on Amazon”… We have indeed become closer we are now so close we can wind each other up just knowing what irritating thing the other one is about to do with saying a word!

Do I look at life as a blessing and grab every moment with a renewed enthusiasm? No I do not I’m as down to earth and realistic as I was before Breast Cancer. Life can be irritating, frustrating and tiring, people can still be rude, ungrateful and inconsiderate. At home the Brownie promise needs to be learn’t, the spellings need practising, the bathroom needs cleaning, the fish tank needs changing and we have run out of bread. I struggle with a renewed enthusiasm for these jobs.

The one thing it has done is to make me really appreciate life exactly as it is. When your friend tells you she fell off a skateboard in Toys r us! When mid argument your husband cracks a highly inappropriate joke and its impossible to keep an angry face…There are lovely family moments together, we all laugh at the cat when she gets dizzy chasing her tail, we enjoy walks in the forest on a sunny day or summer days at the beach. We are in no way perfect we never were and never will be and I’m glad it has stayed this way.

I do now appreciate the ordinary, the average, the everyday, the fact that my marriage and family are ‘normal’ and remain the healthy mix of ups and downs it was before Cancer. Life doesn’t become a rose-tinted, stress free, and purely positive experience because you survived, life is life and I’m grateful for the funny, loving, empowering, irritating, rude, frustrating world it throws at me keeping all parts of me alive.

 

 

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Carol Jackson from EastEnders has been diagnosed with breast cancer, and viewers across the country are on tenterhooks to see how she copes with the devastating news that she has inherited a faulty BRCA gene.
http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/guest_posts/2017502-Guest-post-Ovarian-cancer-spotting-the-signs?msgid=45577112#45577112

Its not good news but I question the implication that it is ‘devastating’ news for her children. Devastating would be finding out you have ovarian cancer and there is nothing you can do, if you are unfortunate to find yourself in this position action can be taken to prevent the high risks of developing breast or ovarian cancer. Having been through the whole set of treatments in the book Carol’s story is almost identical to mine, I’m not impressed there is a gene in my family but I don’t find it devastating.

At the age of 30, 7 years ago i found out I had breast cancer, then found out I had the BRCA2 gene, as there is so much breast/ovarian cancer on my mothers side. I have lost my mum to breast cancer 15 years ago, and recently both my Nan and Aunt both died of Ovarian in their 70’s. My sister also has the gene but has not had Cancer. Both myself and my sister have had prophylactic mastectomies, it is the best thing we could do to reduce the risks from an 80% chance to lower than that of the general population.

After being treated for a Grade 3 Breast Cancer in 2006 I had a CA125 blood test and ultrasound every 3 months for 5 years to keep a watch on my ovaries until 18 months ago when I had my ovaries removed as a second preventative measure. I have to admit about being very concerned about this, but its the best thing I have ever done. I haven’t gone grey yet and I don’t feel 65! Yes I get the hot flushes but a small price to pay for piece of mind.  Do not worry about finding out you have this gene, finding it means you can take preventative measures. Breast/Ovarian is one of the few cancers that you can do this.

Carol’s story in Eastenders has been very accurate but I’m concerned that Eastenders is adding too much ‘end of your world’ to the possibility of her children having a faulty gene. Its not the greatest news in the world of course but action can be taken before cancer may be diagnosed. I miss neither my breasts or ovaries and am happy with my ‘slightly bigger than the original’ fake breasts.

Like many Cancers in our world.. and there are far too many, research, screening, diagnosis, and early detection are all key to a successful outcome. March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month. Visit http://ovarian.org.uk/about-ovarian-cancer/what-are-the-symptoms-of-ovarian-cancer/ for details about symptoms.

Ovarian Cancer Action is working to raise awareness of the need to know your family history. If 2 or more women in your family have had breast and/or ovarian cancer, ask yourself: are they on the same side of the family, your mother’s or your father’s? Are they blood related? Were they under 50 when they were diagnosed? If the answer to these 3 questions is ‘yes’, you’re eligible for screening for a faulty BRCA gene.”

If testing is something you need then please do not shy away from it, not knowing is far worse… It could potentially save your life… and prevention is always better than cure.

On a lighter note what do you call the removal of Ovaries? Oopherectomy! Not quite right for my blog name so I settled on: ovary and out!

 

 

Help! I'm a stay-at-home mum

Be inspired, fulfilled and hold your heads high, stay-at-home mums!

ovaryandout

Great highs, the depths of the lows and why at age 7 do I still have to remind my daughter to say please!

Great highs, the depths of the lows and why at age 7 do I still have to remind my daughter to say please!

anounceofmedotcom

Being a Mum of 3, clinging to a career path, squeezing in a social life, remembering how easy life used to be!

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