Back to Work – slow and steady..


So before the last session of chemo is even underway, the ‘return to work’ thing begins to creep into my thoughts..

I have mixed feelings about my return – mainly because my mind jumps from one thing to another so quickly nowadays that concentration is sure to be an issue.

My bosses (the 3 amigos) are the most lovely, understanding and genuine people you could ever wish to meet.  I am so lucky that I work for them – and luckier still that they are not only my employers, but that over time they have become my friends as well.

I have been given all the time and space I need to figure my way through the ‘bullshit’, ever since my initial diagnosis of breast cancer.  It has most definitely been an emotional roller-coaster, but on my good days I have felt comfortable enough to be able to pop into work for a cuppa and a chat – which in itself is priceless.

Nevertheless even with all the understanding and kindness, my anxiety levels are rising the day before my return.  There are so many questions I keep asking myself – will everyone stare at me? will everything be different? will I even be able to do it? 

The loss of memory mixed with the lack of concentration is a reality for me nowadays and one I am going to have to work through step by step.  Lists and the use of calendars are going to be a necessity – and lots of them – also perhaps even the revision of prior knowledge.  Silly things like having the courage to make a phone call suddenly become a hurdle to master.  As a young person it is extremely frustrating to have to work through things that used to come so naturally to me.

The fatigue (tiredness in it’s purest form) will also take it’s toll.  I am mindful of hitting the proverbial ‘brick wall’, because once that happens it takes some coming back from.  Even having the kids for a few hours after school is turning into an art form (over use of Disney and bribery have become much more frequent nowadays).

As a mum, it’s not the job itself that tends to be stressful but the juggling of the work – home life scenario.  Before all of this happened to me, that part of my life went at one hundred miles an hour – something I know now, before I even begin that I won’t be able to keep up with this time.

I am looking forward to the normality of work.  The routine.  The reason to get out of bed.  The conversation with friends. The feeling of being productive & achieving something for me.  Listening to other people’s lives however small the tales, just to perhaps find that bit of real life again.

Many months ago just after my diagnosis I asked my boss to tell the rest of my colleagues the news on my behalf, as I just couldn’t face it.

I did go into work for the few weeks before my surgery and because I felt normal I carried on as normal.  I remember the first time I walked into the office.  The dreaded ‘C Word’ threatened to fill yet another room and the sense of relief was evident (especially from the boys) when everyone realised that I was still smiling and offering to make tea.

After everything that has happened, this time around I think things will be different, very different – because I am a different person to who I was six months ago (much though I would love to pretend this is not so).

I’ve lost my health and my stubbornness – or some of it.  I have had my will and determination bashed out of me – and the girl who never cried at anything, now cries at the drop of a hat.  Most likely I will still laugh off the tears though, so the boys in the office may just have to treat me as some sort of ‘teary roulette’.

I know that I am lucky to be able to try to get a little bit of normal back, and I know that many people in my situation are not so lucky.  You start to treasure every ounce of normal that you can get your hands on and I have been given that gift by the 3 amigos.

So I am doing it,  I am going back, and I know that if I take little steps I might just even bloody manage it.


Thank Goodness for Mums – Chemotherapy Days (part 2)


Apparently my husband thinks that I am the worst patient ever.  I think this somewhat annoying trait (for those trying to care for you) I may have inherited from my mother.

You see, my sisters and I seem to have this inbuilt determination to just keep going  (probably the best thing my mum has ever given to me) – and so stopping for chemotherapy is not something that sits well with me really…

Having said that, you have to know when you have met your match and I can honestly say that I have met my match with this one – well and truly.  I even considered not writing a ‘Chemotherapy part 2’ because I am struggling and that is putting it mildly.

BUT I did say in the beginning that I would write a true and honest account of breast cancer so here it is – warts and all.

Chemo session # 4

On the morning of my fourth chemo dose, my little boy announced that he didn’t want me to go.  This unexpectedly jolted me, because up until this point he had not made such an outright statement about the general goings on.

The truth was that I didn’t want to go to hospital either – even less now that he had said that.  So I said it to him; I told him the truth – I didn’t want to go, but that daddy would take me and have me home for teatime, I just needed a quick dose of my medicine that’s all.  He seemed satisfied with the answer and a cuddle, but I know deep down that he will have worried about this a lot in his little head because that’s just the way he is.

This was also the M.O.T morning with the oncologist where they check that your body is coping with the chemotherapy drugs (well as much as could be expected).  It was only a quick review, but I took the opportunity to mention the bruising on my ribs something I had been worrying about.  She said straight out that it was probably not the cancer, and just a posture thing.  This was upsetting for me because she also (as well as my husband) had said outloud what I was thinking, just like that – the stark reality of secondary cancer.

I realised then, at that point, that it was never going to get any easier when the professionals tell it to you how it is (no sugar coating from here on in).

We also briefly discussed my blackened veins that were now struggling to stay open due to the chemo drugs harming them – she suggested using my other arm as an input (something I was trying to avoid as that is my weaker side following surgery).

The fourth chemo dose was ok – sort of, I mean my veins protested more – they had definitely decided chemo wasn’t their thing, but other than that it was the same drill.

Chemo session # 5

By the next chemo dose my children’s behaviour was starting to go down the pan.  They were being kindly looked after by my mum and sister, and treated and placated – and they are doing so well, but they need more time with their mummy.  You see, I say no (a lot less frequently nowadays) however I do say no, and mean it when I do.

My daughter made a bold statement that she wanted not just one, but three ‘sleep overs’ at grandma’s house on the morning of my fifth session.  I am glad and relieved that she feels this way about being away from home at the young age of 3.  However, after the first night she whispered to my mum that she wanted to come home again – and of course she did.  She ran straight upstairs to my bedroom and lay her little head next to mine, gave me a smile, snuggled into me and fell asleep on our bed.

Chemo session # 6

I am unsure of what to say about this one, other than it hurt.  Not physically but emotionally.  Ridiculously I had forgotten a bit about how it really feels during and afterwards.

Again I somehow managed not to actually throw up – and I agreed with my chemo nurse in my pre- assessment that I have had it fairly easy with the side effects of treatment overall (although it doesn’t feel like it).

All I will say is this – I missed my babies.  I missed them so much it hurt my heart, and I had only just seen them in the morning when I managed the school/ nursery drop off.  They are only away for a day or two over treatment so I have no idea where all the emotion came from?  It is a very strong feeling that only another mum would understand.

The only thing that got me through this one were the very kind words of a friend just telling me about something normal (something other than cancer) as the ‘C word’ was all consuming that day.

I am very lucky that my children are being looked after by my mum (who can do the job better than me) because I knew this time – that the last chemotherapy session was going to take more than a day or two to recover from.

Summer Holidays – back to basics


The Summer holidays are seven weeks long for schools. SEVEN weeks.  That is an awfully long time from a child’s point of view and an even longer from a parent’s point of view.

This year I cannot wait.

I am really looking forward to spending time with both of my children.  I want to see what they’ve learned over the past year – usually you realise in surprise at the little things that they say or do.

I want to see what they can learn, things I can show them for the first time and in-turn learn from myself.  Could these few weeks be the first time they ride a bike on their own? learn to swim? or even tie their own laces?

There are so many things that you begin to take for granted as the daily grind of life takes over – school – work – busy weekends.  Since my breastcancer diagnosis I am mindful of how fast time passes us by…

So this Summer I have decided to go ‘back to basics’.  No trendy Summer camps or expensive holidays abroad, because non of that really matters.  Children don’t care how much you spend on them – £100 might as well be £10.  All they care about is having fun and preferably with you.

This year I am replacing all of the ‘trendy’ things with all of the lovely things that we used to enjoy as children (my generation) all of the little things that my special memories are made of.

Making dens with blankets and chairs (not expensive trendy tipis), and filling them with cushions and teddy bears and dolls.

Walks around a local beauty spot (not a huge country park & manor) but just a plain old lake, with some ducks to feed and some grass to run on and even some trees to climb.


Picnics in the park (not a theme park). Just soggy sandwiches, a few biscuits, crisps and fruit to be eaten on a park bench, or on a blanket, or even on the way home if it rains.

Drawing things (not Hobbycraft style arts & crafts) but paper, felt tip pens and a bit of imagination.  Actually thinking about it my daughter won’t let me get away with ‘no glue’ but I can always try!

Swimming at the local pool or even paddling at the seaside (if you are brave enough to stand the cold British waters).

Reading new books or even going through existing ones that nobody has looked at for a while. The old favourites can be read over and over.

Surprises – any surprises, my kids love surprises.  An impromptu trip to a local sweetshop, toyshop or even a load of old boxes from the supermarket can mean hours of fun.

Meeting up with friends.  An attempt to prevent the inevitable bickering and tiring of sibling company.  It will happen, it is bound to happen, and maybe I will keep a little bit of my own sanity by letting the kids play with their friends that they won’t see everyday.

A Rainy Day stash.  My mum used to have one of these – usually includes Lego or random toys never seen before, colouring books etc*.  A modern version of this probably includes the iPad, chocolate & Disney movies.

*You may note that I have tried to avoid things that end up driving you mad as a parent, things that begin with the best intention, but that spiral into a house of chaos – paints, baking or play dough.  I wouldn’t say never to be used – but maybe just stick a warning on these things [resort to at your own peril]

We will be going away for a week to the seaside and also a visit back to where we used to live.  I am looking forward to the break and the thought of getting a much needed change of scenery.

These breaks will inevitably include car journeys where my husband tries to ‘keep calm’ on the roads and the children eat every snack available in the first half an hour, and then put the question “Are we there yet?” on repeat.

All of the classic family time is time that I will try never to take for granted again, because all of the non-perfect times* also make up memories.

The non- perfect times are usually the golden moments that you look back upon and laugh at in years to come.  These are the things that are so special because they belong to your family and your family only.

*Getting lost, emergency toilet breaks, being caught in a sudden downpour, arguing over boardgames, dropped icecreams, food strops…

My Best Friend’s Wedding – a treasured day


I love my kids, I do but there has to be times when you take advantage of a ‘childless’ weekend and go back to being, well an adult again.

Finally the day had arrived of my best friend’s wedding, so we packed the kids off to grandma’s and headed off to celebrate our friend’s big day.

It was just what was needed to take my mind off the coming week of treatment.

The wedding had been planned for months.  It was on the calendar – the invite pride of place on the fridge and the dress I had bought myself (pre weight gain) had been hanging on the back of our bedroom door for months as a reminder of something to look forward to.

I had ashamedly missed the hen do, a thing I would never even consider normally – but unfortunately it followed a week of treatment and I just knew that my body just wouldn’t handle it (even with the promise of endless amounts of Prosecco).

Luckily the wedding itself fell at the end of my ‘good week’ before the final chemo session, so all things being equal I should have been on top form.

Having said that, there are many things that are tough to handle when going through the recovery of breast cancer, and anxiety is one of them.

In truth, as the week progressed leading up to the wedding I became more and more anxious about actually going out ‘publicly’.  The thought of questions or looks or even hugs (threatening to turn me into an emotional wreck) all became a little overwhelming.  I was determined to ignore these ever- growing feelings though, and even more determined to celebrate my friend’s day.

The ceremony itself was beautiful.

Held in a nearby church, our friends were glowing with happiness.  Afterwards we all made our way to the reception which was held in a Tipi – very original and unique.  As we walked towards the tent my nerves faded as we were greeted with the sound of music, laughter and such a relaxed atmosphere.  Old friends greeted us with smiles and hugs and the sunshine came out from behind the grey clouds.


We all sat on the hay bales outside the tent and chatted through the afternoon.  The husbands became more and more rowdy, and the photos recorded all of the typical wedding shenanigans you would expect.  At one stage the need to say ‘sod it’ and grab a large glass of white wine was getting stronger (the need to be finally normal again) – but I also knew my limits on that day.  I was happy to just be a part of it all.

Going to weddings and not drinking are very different experiences to alcohol fuelled ones there’s no doubt – but you also get to notice more of the important parts of the day too.

That day was about two people and two people only.  They smiled and danced and kissed and they were truly in love.  It reminded me of our wedding day and the happiness we shared together all those years ago with the same friends.

As the evening set in and the dancing got underway it was time for us to leave.  My husband had fallen asleep in a corner somewhere (a normal occurence for those who know us) and so we said our goodbyes to our hosts and made our way home.

It was a perfect day, and in the end even the tears in the eyes of my friends upon us leaving didn’t upset me as much as I’d thought they would.

Driving home I realised that it was days like that which would make me stronger.

I had a tough week of treatment ahead, but that day was exactly what I needed to help me focus on the life that I could have again – a life beyond breast cancer.


One In A Million – a privilege

Once in a lifetime you meet somebody so special that they change who you are as a person.

Once in a lifetime you meet someone who seizes life with both hands and twirls it around as if they are dancing with it.

Once in a lifetime you meet someone so brave and full of courage that it makes you feel as if you can be brave and courageous too.

I met that person, sometime ago it seems – but it has only been very recently that I have realised how rare it is to know somebody like this.

It was my sister who came to me one day and told me that one of her dearest friends had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Both myself and my younger sister have always been looked after by our elder sister’s friends, and the news really struck me.  So much so, that I began checking myself that little bit more often..

Over the following months I observed her positive attitude, determination, strength and the sheer willpower in awe.

Diagnosed with not only breast cancer but also aplastic anaemia (AA – a rare blood disorder where your bone marrow fails to produce essential blood cells) both of which meant regular trips to hospital – sometimes daily to receive treatment over a long period.

Yet despite all of these challenges there was never a grumble or complaint, or negative word – but instead a strong focus on her little girl, her family, exercise and health.

She Did

So naturally when the request came, asking if we would join in a charity walk for breast cancer (Walk the Walk 2015) around London with her – there was no hesitation in our response.

The following months before the walk resulted in my own diagnosis of breast cancer, and all the things that it brought.  Even then my sister’s friend guided me through, holding my hand using her own experience.

Of course the day of the walk came around too quickly – but I can honestly say that it was one of the most memorable things that I have ever done & achieved, alongside both my sisters, family and good friends.

The atmosphere on the night was buzzing and electric – overwhelming at times because of the adrenaline and nerves.  Donning our specially made bras as ‘Team Brabarella’ – we set off on a 15 mile walk around London at midnight.

My friend’s sisters volunteered at the start giving people information, and there were also volunteers all the way around the course who constantly offered words of support throughout the night.  Even members of the public cheered the crowds on.

The girls we walked with contributed massively to helping us complete the course – in particular a hilarious sprint to the toilet by my friend who was convinced she wouldn’t make it, and a giant bag of Maltesers purchased for ‘energy’ purposes.

All in all it was fantastic thing to be a part of, and one we will never forget I’m sure.

As we neared the end of the walk, the sun was rising and we were too tired for words – each and every single one of us had almost reached our limit, but we carried on with the hope of making our sponsors proud of us and somehow making a difference.

So we did it, all of us, as a team. We bloody did it – Walk the Walk 2015.


There were thousands of people who completed that walk that night, and thousands more who have supported those fighting breast cancer.  No one person is greater than the other, all with a story to tell – but to me one person stands out from the crowd, just that little bit.

Once in a lifetime somebody does something so inspiring that your head is turned, you almost stop still in wonder.

I had never fully understood what is meant when people say that somebody is ‘beautiful from the inside out’, but now I do.

My sister is extremely lucky to have such a friend, as am I.  A true inspiration and one in a million.

Sarah you are my hero (and to many more than just me).


One Step Forward – Two Steps Back

So you carry on because there is no other way, and a rare weekend comes along where nothing is planned just a few precious days with your family.

I randomly search ‘things to do on a bank holiday’ and find that it is the anniversary of the Railway Children on a well known Steam Train route near us.  I suggest it to my husband as a nice day out for the kids and he raises an eyebrow (I suspect thwarting his plans to watch the football later on) but he agrees so we pack a bag, sort the kids out and head off.

We tell the kids that we are going on surprise day out to try to build the excitement and they guess all the way there (cute).  Once there we buy tickets & some treats to keep them occupied for the trip – real train whistles (in hindsight this was a mistake, as there were actual train spotters there who were clearly not used to rowdy children) and also notebooks, pencils and little flags for them to wave on the platforms.


The kids were so excited they couldn’t sit down, they loved riding the steam train and looking out the window to see the Railway Children actors waving their hankies on the platform as we chuffed passed.

We stopped at each station waiting for the next train to come along for us to catch and we took part in all the little activities along the way.  It even started raining and it didn’t matter – not one bit, because British weather never stops good fun.  Even my husband learned something new that day about a classic English story book.  A small miracle in itself!


Although it may not seem much to other people, this small day of fun, a little bit of ‘normal’ and excitement means the world to you when you are trying to forget about the ‘C Word’.

You see, you start to crave the times where you don’t think about cancer from the moment you wake up to the moment you close your eyes at night – just hoping that it won’t take over your whole day.

Then the wobble came – out of nowhere really on the way home…

As we all piled back into the car, the news on the radio told of a celebrity’s wife losing her battle to breast cancer.  She was only 34, leaving her three beautiful children behind.  My heart sank.

We didn’t speak in the car on the way home, but when we got home my husband could tell that I was visibly shaken.  He went to hug me, and I flinched as he caught the bruising on my ribs. ‘Best get that checked’ he noted, ‘Don’t want you leaving me’.  ‘What to look after our little monsters?!’ I joked, as the wails from the playroom indicated it was teatime once again.

There it was – my husband had said exactly what I was too scared to say out loud, he said what I was already thinking. The very real threat of secondary breast cancer (breast cancer cells reoccurring).

The second wobble came later & as it turns out less upsetting.  It was the viewing of a new drama called the ‘C Word’.  Still shaky from earlier I declined my husband’s suggestion to watch the programme straight away – although we did record it.  I had to think long and hard as to whether I felt too raw mid treatment, to watch Lisa Lynch’s personal battle with the breast cancer she aptly describes as ‘bullshit’.

When I did finally watch it, I watched it on my own at first.  I cried – I can’t pretend I didn’t, but that brave girl was inspirational and at times funny in telling her personal battle with breast cancer.  So inspirational in fact that she finally gave me the nudge I needed to write some of my own thoughts down, mainly because I agreed with most of the things she said.

So yes, I have realised that I probably will always have the worries of secondary breast cancer, and yes it will probably always hang over my shoulder.  Yet after reading Lisa’s heartfelt story I found it again, my spirit and my last little bit of courage to share my story too.