Archives for posts with tag: cancer

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Cancer you have tried to hold me back but my Christmas spirit won’t let you. You have taught me what is important, who do I love, who loves me? I still have my ability to love life and those in it. This time of year my Christmas spirit is alive and well…

“Christmas is the day that holds all time together.”  Alexander Smith

Christmas is nearly here and like every year it takes over my life, I will put my heart and soul into it forgetting everything else that’s going on. I have booked the pantomime tickets, the first batch of tree chocolates are on the tree, the Strictly final is a few weeks away and I have ordered my turkey! Discussions have started about what drink and treats will be left Christmas eve for father christmas and his reindeer, definitely mince pies and carrots but the drink is yet to be confirmed, milk or alcohol? The cat will eventually get bored of climbing the Christmas tree, which i will restock with the hidden packet of tree chocolates on Christmas eve! How many turkey dinners out can I chance this year so as not to be fed up with turkey on the day??

Trying to arrange to see friends in December its surprising how little time there is to go out and I already have dates now booked in for January which now seems to be the new December. My daughter has written a very detailed list on the computer for father christmas with every year the presents getting smaller and the cost larger… no more plastic toys in big boxes she has now discovered brand names.

This is a time of year I have never grown out of, Christmas is quality time to spend with your family and loved ones relaxing, watching ‘Elf’ for the 17th time, forgetting to watch the queens speech, eating food at odd times of the day and reconnecting with the sofa. I do love the build up and anticipation, the opportunity to release my inner elf… Although this one will not be sitting on the shelf. Unlike my other elf who has become a huge fan of pinterest and Facebook for inspiring all her naughty antics.

“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is to sing loud for all to hear”           Elf (film) 2003

The Christmas John Lewis ad always serves as a good reminder Christmas is about giving your time, energy, thoughts, love and compassion. A happy picture of kids in Christmas jumpers, Grandad’s asleep in the chair with their cracker hats on, family games and searching the quality streets for the toffee pennies! There is so much emphasis on happy families this time of year that it is easy to forget that it will be hard for some, families come in all shapes and sizes, there are those who will no longer be with us and our thoughts will be with them, those who are here for the first time to spoil and enjoy, those we may disagree with but our love still goes out to them and there are those less fortunate than us who may need our compassion and help.

Every year we go to the children’s nativity service on Christmas eve which reminds us it is a time that is as much about giving as it is receiving and its the time we spend together that we will remember. This year things have changed in our house, the photos will be different, my daughter knows daddy won’t be at her home on Christmas morning she will see him separately this year, I suspect double the amount of presents will go down well but still its a change that is hard to deal with for a 10 year old. Christmas is a time for creating memories, and we can still enjoy our traditions at home together even though the people change, we will still put up our tree, hang our tree chocolates, put out our stocking, leave out our mince pies and carrot and enjoy our day, we may even take a Christmas selfie…

After the turkey sandwiches, turkey curry, turkey and chips we will then clean, de-clutter, exercise more, eat better, forget about our new year’s resolutions and every day life will resume as before, if only we could treat everyday like Christmas.

17 days and counting…

Have a Merry Christmas

Lots of Love

Angela xx

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Photo: My mum and dad very very many years ago..

I have just spent a lovely weekend celebrating a school friends 40th Birthday party, catching up with my old school friends complete with our neon accessories and leg warmers for her 80’s themed night. She is the first in my school year to celebrate and there are many more to follow, mine will be in April next year…  judging by this weekends party I need to start planning as I have much to live up to. As yet I don’t feel a mid-life crisis coming, no need it seems life crisis’ find me whether I like it or not, so no need to buy the red sports car just yet, or embark on a new exciting relationship? Oops correction have already started this one!

Last week October 4th was the anniversary of our school friend who sadly lost his battle to cancer 2 years ago, so a bottle of prossecco was opened at saturday’s party in his memory and we all danced to 2 of his favourite songs on the dance floor, an emotional anniversary for us to remember and time to reflect on our own lives.

October also starts with my wedding anniversary which this year was strange as obviously it is not a date I wish to celebrate but nether less it is still a date that is remembered so does it still count as being called an anniversary? Some people and times we wish to remember and others we prefer to forget, when it comes to my marriage recent unhappy years I choose to forget but I look back at my wedding day fondly and remember that sense of optimism and excitement that I had starting out on married life. We both had every intention of growing old together and having one of those 60th wedding anniversary parties that older couples have, unfortunately we became a lot of  ‘worse’ and eventually no ‘better’ so it became time for us both to move on.

“Some lives leave a mark, others leave a stain…” Charles Saatchi

It seems we all have events in our lives that every year we choose to remember in our own way, an anniversary is very much about remembering if not necessarily celebrating, there are many dates in the year that we remember some are happy ones and some not so much. Tomorrow is October the 13th this was the day that 9 years ago I was first diagnosed with Breast Cancer, good as its 9 years but current complications make me feel uneasy about celebrating that fact, I reserve my judgement for the moment.

One particular anniversary is like a dark cloud forming around mid October time that often comes up behind me before I realise the time is when my mum was diagnosed as terminally ill with cancer and had only a few months to live. I’m not the only one to have dates in my life that test our ability to deal with the emotions they bring, however it seems I am also not alone in this year forgetting this anniversary and it almost passing me by without my recognition. This is the first time in 17 years this has happened and I feel guilty just like the husband who forgot his wedding anniversary, I have been distracted with the better things happening in my life but I am sure my mum would forgive me just the once. It seems as time passes the bad things are remembered less and overtaken by the good and happy memories, less the date she died and more the date she was born.

The Fallen Limb, by Poet Unknown:

A limb has fallen from the family tree.
I keep hearing a voice that says, “Grieve not for me.
Remember the best times, the laughter, the song.
The good life I lived while I was strong.
Continue my heritage, I’m counting on you.
Keep smiling and surely the sun will shine through...

So fondly remember those important dates as people come and go in our lives, celebrating the good memories and raising a toast to the sad ones. Spend time creating new fun memories with those around us, our years will be full of anniversaries, as time goes on even more will be added. Decisions need to made.. a party?, a holiday?, afternoon tea? spa break? expensive dinner?. I really should start saving for my 40th birthday…

Love Always

Angela xx

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This week the battle lines will be drawn, I will find out all about my enemy and plan my attack  the appointments are booked and the treatments will begin. I will do my duty and dedicate myself wholly to the cause and get back later with the missions progress….

The word ‘cancer’ has frightened a lot of people it has a bad reputation and a negative attitude. It does have a positive side though it reminds us how much we love the people around us and how important it is to be loved and happy, all the small stuff doesn’t matter, the daily stresses lose their priority and the power of a smile can turn around any situation. Watching a film on the sofa whilst the washing up sits in the sink doesn’t make me feel the slightest bit guilty. I also took the new shoes out for a gorgeous lunch on Saturday and only nearly fell over 3 times. (Not due to alcohol may I add but a lack of exposure to heels!!!)

The moments of happiness We enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them but they seize us” Ashley Montagu

It is well known that when one part of your life falls apart another will dramatically improve and this is true the rest of my life continues to skip merrily along its new path. After a weeks holiday in a caravan bonding with my daughter we have developed a new mutual respect for each other realising how much we have both grown this year and need one another. We both have feelings and emotions and it’s important we care and look out for each other, I’m probably still an annoying mum but suddenly I’m not so bad after all! Just don’t mention bedtime or the mess in her bedroom…

My ex husband has taken my news hard understandably as he also lived through this 9 years ago with me and has also realised that all the small stuff doesn’t matter anymore, most of it anyway. Potentially this wake up call that will keep us in a much more reasonable and amicable direction, it is possible to treat each other more positively and get on with the lives we chose. I’m not nieve though it’s a fine line and it wouldn’t take much to tip the balance the wrong way but time will tell if we can get it right. For now I appreciate one less stress in life.

One unexpected development in my life this year has been to meet a man who exceeds my expectations every time I see him and has shown me a level of care and affection that I had long forgotten existed. I love having a new journey to enjoy, despite all the other stuff going on we still find ourselves giggling and feeling loved which I am very thankful for.

However one not so successful part of the school holidays is my waistline!! Out for lunch, dinner, fish and chips at the seaside, picnic food, bbq’s, ice cream over the park. My daughters holiday diet of nuggets and chips has come to an end, no excuses now, Time to fill the fridge with fruit. Did someone mention a takeaway? Oh and meeting mums for lunch on Thursday, Oh dear doesn’t look like much chance of a healthy lifestyle this week either, when school starts back then but it’s my daughters birthday weekend… Oh crap my halo is well and truly slipping……

Where did I put my bike…. And that apple!

Enjoy the holidays

A xxx

At the beginning of every Year I get a feel of the direction the year will be going… This year it is a sense of change, of soul searching and a search for inner peace.

I have been fighting for 8 years now, first the breast cancer surgery then the chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy, more surgery, seizure, coma, more medication, panic attacks, anxiety and so on…. I am now feeling battle weary and am ready for a break. As dramatic as it all sounds it is what it is. Unfair but it all happens as it is supposed to, you accept it and patiently wait while you hopefully head towards recovery putting your well being in the hands of others. You don’t know the outcome and as such do not assume everything will be ok.

I have throughout assumed that my marriage would be ok I expected ups and downs and hard times  but in the past year the cancer battle has been overtaken by the realisation that we are not ok. My husband walked out 3 weeks before christmas his parting words to our daughter were “mummy and daddy are not get on”. I am writing this blog the night before I have agreed to go to a counselling session at which after a month of maybe/maybe not thoughts and experiences I have no idea which way tomorrow will go.

Is cancer to blame? Are we both battle weary? Why are we not closer after everything we have been through? Have we both been so busy keeping life going over the last eight years that for whatever reason, illness, money, time or tiredness we have taken our eyes off the prize and as such our foundations have collapsed.

Are we at the point of no return I cannot answer this for my husband. I know I have no fight left in me anymore and am not prepared to just exist together. We both agree on one thing we want to be happy, appreciated and loved, is this together? I may find out tomorrow or time will tell. For now my priority is my daughter and our health and well being.

One positive from this is finding out how many people have your best interest at heart. It is true you find out who your friends are in a crisis, true, honest, strong friendships are a blessing and should be treasured with all the love you can muster.

‘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’ Charlotte Kitley 

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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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!

 

 

January is a strange month, for some reasons it can be miserable. The worst rainfall on record, loved ones lost at this time of year, removing the Christmas decorations, its dark, cold and more trivially rubbish on telly. However this year I find myself reflective and making plans for this year, which for me marks a significant step in my recovery process.

Making plans when you’ve been ill isn’t something that sits very comfortably. Deciding to spend money on a holiday or do work on the house is something that is more carefully considered than normal. What if I’m ill with Cancer again, what if my husband can’t work because he needs to look after me and our daughter all over again? Rather than commit just yet Google has become my best friend in January, researching every project I can think of, checking prices, reading blogs, mumsnet forums and Trip Advisor on the best place for a family holiday??

I have also found myself spring cleaning the house, which judging by this neglected blog was last done in September when I sorted the kitchen cupboards. So far I’ve finally parted with all the baby stuff via ebay, the charity shops and donations to friends, cleaned the cooker, cleared out my daughters old clothes, moved the furniture around, empty my email inbox and have a very good dust and clean. I’m finding the process quite therapeutic and starting to enjoy my January, clear out the old and get ready for the new (although my husband can stay!!), arrange coffee with all the friends you ran out of time to see in December. If I’m stuck indoors I may as well get those jobs done and when the weather improves and we go out more I will be guilt free to do what I like. Not a lot happens in January so we have free weekends to sit and watch a film on a Sunday followed by a hearty Sunday roast. No diets just a post christmas sort out, more healthy food, more home cooked dinners, trying different fruits and flavours.

I’m embracing the fact that I have time to think, time to plan, time with friends and family away from all the usual pressures that seem to fill the rest of year. January is a month like no other, its the first of the year, its new, its ideas, its quiet, stress free and relaxed. Time to concentrate on the important parts of your life and look after yourself and your family without distraction…

 

 

 

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

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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!

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