Looking from the Outside In – just a girl


So I find myself looking back – strangely at what has just happened to me.

It is like I am watching a film about ‘some girl’ I used to know.  I am standing looking from the outside in, and it all feels very surreal.

The film is about a girl who used to smile like a Cheshire cat from ear to ear, and laughed and joked and messed around.  She was loud and bubbly and never liked taking life too seriously.  Always jumping in two feet first, and gladly taking on anything that was thrown her way.

Then, one day, everything changed.  Something happened to her that meant things would never quite be the same again.

So, from outside I find myself asking the question;

Did that just happen to me?

Everything at that time (so it seems) happened in a blur.  From the very moment that those words are spoken to you, the confirmation ‘you have cancer’ throws the world that you once knew to be true, upside down.

From that point onwards you only pick up on certain things, certain key words, because the rest of your mind has one million questions humming around in it – some of which are unanswerable.  It almost feels like someone is tuning an old radio in and out trying to pin point the right channel.

Yet you deal with it, you crack on – because there is no other way.  There really is no other way, especially when you have two little people who’s lives depend on you completely.  You learn the terminology, you research the subject, you weigh up the options – and you try to accept the facts.

But then – almost as soon as it all began, it is over with.  Just like that.

No more chemotherapy.

No more appointments

No more letters or research.

I have even seen my doctor for the very last time, and all of a sudden I feel completely alone.

Of course it is all ‘normal’.  Normal to feel alone – like everything has stopped – but then just because something is normal, doesn’t mean that it feels nice.

Life goes on, time moves on, and people move on.  Even if you are not quite ready to move on – life inevitably does.  I suppose you would never really be ready for it to – but then things have a funny way of working themselves out ..

The number of questions about your illness that you had gradually disappear, and in their place, new ones appear.

So now what?  What should I do now?

I had been told that it would all ‘hit’ me and that it would not be easy.  I am amused at my own naivety, and the fact that I still have not had the thoughts ‘it won’t happen to me’ knocked out of me by now.

‘Just keep going’, ‘Be Strong’, ‘One Day at Time’, those words echo in my head, all sound advice from a good friend – but yet so hard to follow.

Surrounded by family and friends – surely it is impossible to be alone?  But the feeling is there nonetheless.

It is time to put the letters away, and the file and even the books.  Tomorrow is another day and it doesn’t matter if I am ready or not.  Tomorrow is another day, and one to be cherished.

In the morning I will be woken by two, cheeky, beaming faces at the crack of dawn – and who could really ask for more?


Who My Children Really Are – A Note to the Teachers


As parents you tend to know your children inside out.  Every mannerism, every look, what makes them happy or sad and their little ways of dealing with life.

When starting nursery and school you hand part of that job over to the teachers.  You trust them with your most prized possessions and hope that they learn to see those elements that you love about your kids too – the special things that make them who they are.

Both of my children took a while to settle in to nursery and school at first.

My little boy is very sensitive and cried for the first few terms every morning when he started school.  Definitely a steep learning curve for him (and me) there was no doubt.

My little girl is a bit tougher, but she often tells me that she doesn’t talk at nursery (which is not like her) and she went for a long time barely eating any of the food they offered her, until she settled in.

I have several friends who are teachers and they had advised that I sit down with the children’s schools shortly after my diagnosis of breast cancer, and explain the situation – to ask for any support that we may have needed as a family over the coming months.

It wasn’t actually as hard as I thought, because I had already cried many a tear having had the same conversation by that point.  There was just one thing that I desperately wanted to make them see – to understand – I wanted them to know who my kids really are.

I think I was panicking in a way because I realised that there wasn’t enough time for me to explain everything that I felt I wanted to.

You see on a normal day you always have your child’s back – you just do.  You can pop into school and explain their worries, point out anything that may have been missed and generally be their ‘voice’ when they are unsure.

I realised that I was going to lose this ability and I had no idea how long for.  I was also going to spend an awful lot less time with each of my children, something over which I had no control.


So I decided to write a piece about each child (for myself) – maybe just something for me to remember the ‘snapshot’ in time;  the time that seems to have passed me by so quickly, and in such a blur over this past year…

Isla Mary

By her very definition is destined to be a gutsy girl.  Named after her great grandma – spirited to say the least.

Brave and fearless in everything she does.

Dancing, twirling, laughing and sparkling, from the moment she opens her eyes in the morning.

Her funny little mannerisms. Sucking on her two fingers when she tires or is unsure. Snuggling and purring as she drifts into sleep, holding her special blanket.

Inventing made up friends called Pickups and Rory to join in her imaginary games.

Left and right handed, so intelligent, she never misses a trick.

Tiny dainty feet that sometimes trip her up.

A perfect round belly of which she is most proud.

Beautiful blonde curls that ringlet down her back.

Loving animals of all kinds, you can see in her eyes she will always be kind to them.

A lover of arts and crafts, drawing, sticking and cutting for hours on end.

My little girl makes people work for her affection, rarely giving out kisses – but when she does it’s truly special and real…

Noah Geoffrey

A cheeky little boy who’s smile lights up a room.

Early riser, full of energy, never resting, always interested in anything new.

Giant imagination for make-believe adventures, even in his dreams.

Climbing and running are when he’s most proud, looking down at his legs to check they are moving fast enough.

Always in awe of the tallest, the fastest, the biggest, always hoping that one day he will be just like his daddy.

So sensitive and caring to those around him, and although shy and nervous at first, he will always oblige with a cuddle if needed.

Once confident he almost soars above others, and his heart bursts with pride when he does well.

Loving jokes and magic and doing tricks to make you smile – a happy hearted little boy…

Silly it seems to write it all down, to summerise your own little person – but it is harder than you’d think.

Being ill has made me stop and realise that both of our children are brimming with happiness (despite all of this).  Looking back I am glad I did manage to write down those words, because both have changed so much already over this time.

Our children challenge us everyday.

Definitely not perfect by any means – but regular, naughty, everyday kids and that is how it should be.

A Surprise A Day – keeps the doctor away


I have been given many thoughtful and lovely gifts since my diagnosis of breast cancer.

I feel it is only right to say something about them, as each and every single one has been gratefully received.  Not only that, but the thought and effort put into them have often moved me to tears.

It’s as if those close to you just know that there will be difficult times ahead and they desperately want to help you get through the darker times.

I have received many lovely boxes with ‘survival’ things inside.  One of my friends sent me a parcel containing such presents; but even more heartfelt I found to be were that of the words written on the note accompanying it;

‘If I could go through some of this for you I gladly would’ – and I know that she sincerely meant it.

Upon returning from hospital my sister gave me one of the most amazing gifts I have ever seen.  It was a large basket carrying the title;

‘Live everyday as if it’s your birthday’

Inside there were 30 smaller gifts, to be opened each day for a month.  Each parcel had a saying or positive anecdote meant to act as a reminder that there was something to smile at everyday – something to get out of bed for..

Some days the gifts were small things like snacks (nuts & cranberries), sometimes a reminder to eat breakfast (granola) or little treats (chocolates or bubblebath), sometimes things to make you smile (wonder woman knickers!) and sometimes things to help with recovery (Bio oil for scars).  There was a little sign to hang on the bathroom door and even a bell that said ‘ring for a cuddle’ which the children loved.  The final gift – was a small bottle of Prosecco, yet to be opened.  Again it was not the gift itself that meant a lot but the thought and care put into each & every one.

imageMy extremely talented friend offered to do a family photo shoot for us.  Upon visiting one weekend she brought along her professional camera and we spent ten minutes having the funniest time trying to get both kids to smile (we ended up tickling them).  The results were amazing, and once framed they will take pride of place in our hallway.  It was such a lovely weekend as I got to see her little baby boy for the first time and so I got my auntie cuddles in whilst her husband made us all a roast dinner!

On one of my ‘sofa mornings’, a day after a the first chemo session – I received a parcel of locally sourced cheese and crackers.  I could only manage cheese and crackers in hospital, and she had remembered this for the days that she knew I wouldn’t be able to eat much.  My mum absolutely loved this one and ‘helped’ me eat some for lunch.

I have been sent lots of bubble bath which has been invaluable to me.  Heat and warm baths not only save me on the days where muscle aches and tiredness take over, but also in darker times when emotions and tears seem to take over too.  A tiny bit of ‘me time’ in amongst a busy family home have truly worked wonders.

Other gifts included £1 mug (this is now my favourite), ginger biscuits to help with the nausea, an art therapy book, books to read, candles and even a fluffy teddy woodlouse which made me laugh at its sheer randomness.

My sister’s friend also sent me a book* that she found to be useful after her diagnosis of breast cancer.  I often used this as a point of reference for anything that I did not understand or that I have struggled to deal with since.

Of course there are other things too, including beautiful flowers and cards of well wishes.  Not forgetting my friend who physically walked round London with me step by step for charity [WalktheWalk].

Others have given their valuable time to do something small or to help out where they can.

My husband produced a locket to mark the end of my chemotherapy which was a complete surprise.  On the back he had the words children are the best medicine’ enscribed – and I will be adding tiny photos of the children to it very soon.

The most treasured things of all though, have been the words.

The people I spoke to right at the beginning (in somewhat of a blur) who offered words of comfort – or even those since, who have just asked the question;

‘how are you?’

There are certain people in my life who have not forgotten to check-in, people who I know have taken valuable time to talk – even when they’ve been busy.

There are even medical professionals who have gone far beyond the necessary and listened, and I include them too when I say from the bottom of my heart THANK YOU – as such kindness will never be forgotten by me.

Its funny because I always thought that I was pretty tough before all of this, and maybe I was…

*The Cancer Journey – positive steps to help yourself heal, by Katherine Jenkins

A Spoonful of Sugar – if only

It is so hard when little ones get poorly.

First the crying and the clinginess (not just holding onto your leg – but the full on monkey embrace where you are unable to move for full days and nights).

Your insistence upon medicine that they spit out, knock over, or generally bring back up (even when you are sure that it went down) and then it stains anything in sight.  The high temperatures and the general food strikes..

Even harder to deal with when you are ill yourself, or the whole family gets ‘it’.

Some kids like taking medicine, my daughter does, she is a sugar fiend (like my husband), so with her it’s an easy line.

My son however hates medicine, plasters and anything he deems to be a punishment (I think he may get this from me).

Spoonful of sugar

The thing about children is their ability to ‘bounce back’.  When they are really ill their little bodies just stop to fight it, but when they recover they run around like crazed loons – as if they’ve just discovered energy again and can’t ever remember being ill in the first place.

All of this is usually followed by drudging parents, dishevled hair and huge double bags under eyes from prolonged lack of sleep and full ‘house lock down’ (nobody goes out, no body comes in).

The thought has crossed my mind many a time that the person who invented the pink medicine deserves some sort of knighthood.

So now it is time for me to take a spoonful of my own medicine – so to speak.  Its not going to be nice, or pink or sugary.  Just as I start to feel well again and try to put chemotherapy behind me, the next part of treatment comes along in the form of hormone tablets for 5 or 10 years.

I am not happy about it, not at all.  I need to try to remember that I am very lucky – that the cancerous cells that maybe in my body are hormone receptive (they use oestrogen to feed off), and that some very clever scientist somewhere has developed a drug to block the cells from running riot and doing as they wish.

It’s just that 5 years seems a bloody long time, and 10 years even longer.

In 10 years my son will be about to take his GCSEs and my daughter will be in the full swings of high school.  My husband and I will be on the wrong side of forty – hopefully planning our early retirement and where in the world we will be travelling to next.

The key to that little scenario is that I will be hopefully part of it.

I find myself getting very angry and frustrated with breast cancer, because at times it feels like it is ongoing and it just won’t let up.  Another appointment letter through the door, another date for the calendar (that I never used to look at before this).  But I need to force myself to remember that all the treatment and medicine is given with the best intention, to get me well again – it’s just a shame it comes with all the ‘bullshit’ on the side.

The bullshit being the lasting side effects of chemo – tiredness at the age of 33 and the affectionately named ‘ice cream’ headaches which now seem to be a daily occurrence.  I’m not sure I even want to know about the hormone treatment side effects at this point, I’m sure my husband is going to love anymore hormonal ‘ups and downs’ and bloating.

I am jealous of my kids because I want to wake up tomorrow and feel better.  I want to bounce back and run around like a loon.  My husband says I’m the worst patient ever because I can’t lie down and let myself recover.

At this point I just keep thinking – you know what?  I wish it was a bloody spoonful of sugar – if it was I would ask for my spoonful to be gin & tonic flavoured..


Physiotherapy – A Simple Question

Following surgery you are offered a course of physiotherapy.

You see, when you have a mastectomy it is more than likely that some of the lymph nodes under your arm will be removed and tested (to check the cancer has not spread).  This results in numbness and loss of feeling, together with some loss of movement.

Upon my first session, the physiotherapist completely threw me when she asked a really simple question to begin with;

‘what do you like to do?’

She meant – what activities do I do daily, as this would surely have an impact on my recovery.

I genuinely could not answer the question.

There was a long awkward pause, and then I said, ‘well I have young children so I do a lot of lifting and running around’. She looked at me and seemed surprised.

Maybe I look like the kind of person who wouldn’t have children? I don’t know.  But the question played on my mind quite a lot, what do I like to do?  After careful consideration it occurred to me that I might have forgotten who I am and what I like doing.

Maybe it happens a little but when you are ill and the illness threatens to take over your everyday life?  You lose focus on the daily things that you enjoy, and concentrate on just getting through the day.

Maybe it happens a little bit when you become a mum?  Not on purpose, but in amongst the whirlwind of sleeplessness and the huge change to your life you realise that you shelved the ‘old’ you and naturally put your children first instead.

So here’s my attempt at answering the question and trying to remember – minus any past references to things I ‘used to like’ and minus any mention of child related things (quite a difficult thing as a mum).  I also thought that it might be something nice for my children to perhaps read when they are older – to show them who I am, the things I like and the things that make me, well, me.

I am Dee. I prefer my nickname, because Detrice is a very odd name that no- one has ever heard of.

I like writing, have done ever since I was little. I also like art and reading, probably because of the element of imagination involved in both.


My preferred type of art is Impressionism, Monet paints as if all of his emotions and heart are on every canvas.  I also like plain pencil sketches which take so much skill before anyone ‘fills’ them in. Escher in particular amazes me.


I love books, all types, but particularly the ones you can lose yourself in. The ones where you start reading and you get sucked into and lost, and you don’t want to stop reading because you just want to know what happens next. I can’t remember the last book I read like that, but I look forward to the first time I manage to read one again.

I love food – probably a little too much. I like drinking wine and eating pasta. I love biscuits, and cake oh and ice-cream, all probably a little too much.

I like music, all types apart from the hardcore version of dance or rock. I’ve never been very good at remembering names of bands or artists I like (much to the annoyance of my husband), but I do know what I like when I hear it. I also sing along to songs without ever really knowing the words.

I like warm weather and generally warm things. Being on holiday and the sunshine, and relaxing. I like water and paddling, but less keen on getting my hair wet.

I like laughing at sarcastic humour and other people’s mishaps (which doesn’t make me a very nice person I guess) something I share with my sisters. I also like people watching and seeing how some people react to others.

I am ticklish, but I hate anyone going near my feet, or feet in general as they creep me out.

Worst of all I like romantic films. Nothing deep and meaningful but just the good old love story that has a nice ending and that make me smile and cry at the same time.

I like things to be clean and tidy, but I have come to the conclusion that my house will never really be tidy again since having children.

I like chatting to good friends and spending time with my family, especially when they allow you to forget everyday worries and just relax and be yourself.

I would like to think that I am quite genuine and honest, but I think that only others can be the judge of that.

A Little Bit of What You Fancy Does You Good – food for thought


Another thing there seems to be a taboo on, is talking about all the natural remedies that can be used to keep the body healthy.

Now I am not a health obsessed person.  I like chocolate and wine, I don’t exercise as much as I should sometimes, and I like the odd take-away.

I do think however, that there is something in the premise that there are certain natural properties in food & drink which help your body to fight cancerous cells – or at the very least maintain a ‘status quo’.

So here are a few things that could help to keep you fit and healthy and maybe even help fight the ‘C Word’…

[Good for the body]

Green tea, horribly tasting stuff that I could never understand why anyone would want to voluntarily drink. BUT it is used by the majority of the Eastern world on a daily basis, where there seems to be a much lower occurrence of certain types of cancer.

Just a coincidence? Probably not.

I have found that flavoured green tea – lemon, cranberry even pineapple actually taste quite nice and one cup a day isn’t going to kill me.  It is also quite a nice change to have the odd herbal tea in place of the everyday cuppa believe it or not.

Lemon (& bicarbonate of soda) or so they say.  Again in my humble opinion water and lemon juice are refreshing, and apparently create a situation within your body that cancer cells do not like.

Something so simple is also renowned for helping with other annoying issues such as bloating, nausea or general irritation.

Tumeric – is a very clever spice.  Also well known especially in Eastern countries for having an anti-cancer properties.

This must be the most ancient healing method, and although not official (it kind of is) or it wouldn’t be all over the official cancer charity websites..

AND it has had clinial trials AND it can be added to pretty much anything especially amazing Indian food so it’s a ‘win win’ really.


Honey – a super healing food containing properties that are known to kill cancerous cells.  This poses me a small issue, in that I have never really liked the taste of honey – but maybe if I buy some really expensive stuff it will be a bit like buying really expensive champagne?!

Exercise – helps to control hormone levels, gets your blood pumping and let’s face it makes you feel good.

Whether it be running round after your kids in a park, swimming, dancing to the radio in the kitchen or just getting out for some fresh air, exercise is a good move.

[Good for the soul]

A Cup of Tea – just makes you smile especially when accompanied with a biscuit, and even better a chat.

Tea and Hope

Super Berries – blueberries, strawberries, blackberries contain antioxidants that protect the body from cell damage AND they taste great in smoothies or yoghurt and ice cream.

Leafy Greens – well greens just make everything better, they add colour and texture to most comfort foods – they make roast dinners better, and salads are perfect with pizza, pasta and at BBQs AND kale is actually quite nice.

Ice cream – I may have mentioned this one once or twice…

– whether it be posh Cornish, expensive movie type tubs (named by a certain Ben & Jerry) or just 80’s style plain soft scoop raspberry ripple.

If you don’t feel good, if you feel down or even if you are going through treatment for an illness, ice cream just helps – IT JUST DOES.