My Boobs AREN’T Trying to Kill Me…

imageThe title of this post was inspired by blogger Susie who referred to her breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment as ‘my boobs are trying to kill me.

Mine thankfully aren’t, but up until about a few hours ago I wasn’t so sure. I didn’t tell many people at the time, but just before we went to Scotland I found a swelling on my left boob and near my armpit that was uncomfortable. There were no definitive lumps or bumps, but I check myself regularly enough to know that something wasn’t right. As we were going on holiday the next day there was little that could be done about it. After we got back, I immediately booked myself an appointment with the doctor, who agreed that it needed to be looked at, and she referred me to the Breast Unit. I’ve waited for two weeks (which was a good thing in one sense as it didn’t seem like the doctor felt there was an urgency needed), and this morning The Bloke and I went along to the hospital so I could get an ultrasound. Continue reading

For M

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What do you say to your oldest friend when she loses her mother?

I’m sorry.

I’m here.

Thinking of you.

Is there anything I can do for you?

I’ve searched the Internet for poems and quotes that may inspire me, but it all seems so patronising and full of cliche. I don’t want to talk about heaven, or the fact that she isn’t in pain anymore. I can’t pretend to understand how she is feeling right now.

J was a wonderful woman, and a wonderful mother. She was warm, kind and generous. She always made me, and all of M’s friends feel welcome, and we all loved her almost as a second mom. I could talk to her about anything, and did whenever I saw her. I remember her fabulous sense of humour, and how much she made me laugh. It was a privilege to know her, and I know that she’ll be hugely missed.

Love you lots x

 

My Facebook Newsfeed: A Snapshot of Life on One Page

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I went onto my Facebook newsfeed for the first time in a while today. The first few status updates were pictures of some of my friends newborn babies (there must have been something in the air – there have been seven births in the last few weeks), others were about the news that Michael Gove, the much despised Education Secretary, has been moved to another position in the cabinet (unfortunately, he’s been replaced by a woman who is quite openly against single sex marriage, but I’ll save that rant for later), and some of my teacher friends had expressed their excitement that the academic year ends at the end of this week. There were thanks for birthday messages, pictures of beautiful places they had recently visited and delicious looking food that they had eaten. One of my friends was clearly bored at work and had been sharing snippets of conversations he had been having with drunken customers, another had just bought a new car, another was discussing wedding preparations for her forthcoming wedding later this year and another had posted pictures from her wedding last weekend.

At the bottom, however, was a status from a woman, K, that I have known for almost thirty years. It included this:

“Today, I have Grade 3 breast cancer and I will begin six months chemotherapy when I return from my holiday next week… I don’t need support now but will need lots of Facebook entertainment during chemotherapy sessions. I strongly look forward to kicking cancer’s ass and coming back to raise money for the cure.”

I had to read and re-read the statement several times before it actually sank in. K is 30 years old. She was in the year below me and we were friends throughout primary and secondary school. As we both played musical instruments we also saw each other several times a week in the evenings for orchestras and bands and as we got older we would go out together. I remember when she met D, a trombone player in the same ensembles, who later became her husband. After I moved to Birmingham, we lost contact, but got back in touch through Facebook in 2007, and over the years I’ve seen her and D have three beautiful daughters. She has always been immensely popular, possessing a personality that makes somebody naturally warm to her – and has an enormous network of family and friends. K is a young, vivacious and successful family woman and I’m absolutely devastated for her and the fight that she has ahead.

Life can be so cruel.

However, K is a fighter, she always has been, and I know that she will come back from her holiday ready to kick cancer’s ass, and she’ll do so with the support of her family and the hundreds of friends that love and care for her, myself included.

I always marvel at the ability that Facebook has to show all the ups and downs that life can throw at us on just one page…

Stephen Sutton: Lemonade and £1,000,000

I wrote this post a few weeks ago, when Stephen became extremely ill…

The last few days have been tough. If I am being honest, 2014 has been tough. I’ve been handed lemon after lemon. However, when life has handed me those lemons, instead of making lemonade, I have got into a rather self-destructive rut of letting the lemons rot on the sideboard whilst blogging about my hatred of them.

Yesterday, I was attempting to distract myself from thinking about the loss of my little friend by trawling about on the internet, hoping to be inspired. I didn’t have to look very far. What I found wasn’t just inspirational, it jumped out of the screen and smacked me in the face.

ImageStephen Sutton is a 19 year old from the UK, who is dying from terminal cancer. As I write, he is in hospital and still fighting.

When Stephen was diagnosed he created a bucket list and started to blog about his life and his adventures on Facebook, including crowd surfing, sky diving, hugging random members of the public, hugging an animal bigger than himself, having his face cast… Over a short space of time he gained a large following and set up a ‘Just Giving’ charity donation page for the Teenage Cancer Trust, in the hope of raising £10,000, spending the last few months of his life fund-raising. He reached his target, and on Tuesday the total stood at £579,000.

Stephen posted a final message on his Facebook page on Tuesday.

It’s a final thumbs up from me! I’ve done well to blag things as well as I have up till now, but unfortunately I think this is just one hurdle too far.

It’s a shame the end has come so suddenly- there’s so many people I haven’t got round to properly thank or say goodbye too. Apologies for that.

There was also so many exciting projects and things I didn’t get to see out. Hopefully some will continue and if you want to carry on the fundraising please do (justgiving.com/stephen-sutton-TCT is the link to donate to).

All future updates on this page will probably be from a family member. I hopefully may have the energy to write a few tweets (@_StephensStory). I will continue fighting for as long as I can, and whatever happens next I want you all to know I am currently in a good place mentally and at ease with the situation.

That’s it from me. But life has been good. Very good.

Thank you to my mum and the rest of my family for everything. Thank you to my friends for being amazing. Thank you to my medical team for the hard work and effort they’ve continually they’ve put towards me. And thank you everyone else for sharing this wonderful journey with me.

I love you all x

Stephen had a final wish – that his charity page could reach £1,000,000. And the world listened and responded. As I write, the total stands at £1,612,000. Donations have flooded in from all over the world and thousand of pounds are being donated every minute. Comedian Jason Manford, who has supported Stephen throughout and who has spent the last few days tirelessly promoting the campaign on national and international media tweeted “He bloody did it.” Stephen’s response on Twitter was amazing:

“Wow. Just wow. Thank you all so much.”

Jason Manford has continued the fundraising, starting a #thumbsupforStephen, which has spurred the campaign on even further.

ImageAnd as an aside (which made me cry), on his bucket list at No.40 is

‘Get Tim Minchin’ to write a song for me.

Tim did just that, and emailed it across to his brother yesterday. I hope he liked it.

Stephen was handed lemons, a whole bag of them. And with them, he didn’t just make a bit of lemonade, he created gallons of it that he shared with millions of people around the world.

And if that doesn’t motivate you to get up and do something with your life, nothing will.

My love to you Stephen, you’re an inspiration to us all. Safe journey.

If you wish to donate to Stephen’s Just Giving page, simply click on this link

https://www.justgiving.com/Stephen-Sutton-TCT

You can also follow his story on Twitter @_StephensStory and see his achievements on his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/StephensStory

Edit: Stephen passed away this morning, Wednesday 14th May. He has raised nearly £3,500,000. My love and thoughts go out to his friends and family. What an inspirational young man…

 

P and D – An Inspirational Story

As a teacher there are certain students who touch your life more than you could ever possibly realise. P and D are two such students.

Both were in some of my very first classes as a newly qualified teacher. P was quite shy and socially a little awkward, but she worked hard and was a high achiever despite dealing with the fact that her mother was dying from breast cancer. D was visually impaired but was often the saving grace in many lessons because of his positive attitude and high spirits, despite finding it difficult in a mainstream school. If I’m being honest, neither of them had an easy time at school from the other students – children can be incredibly cruel. However, they never let any harsh comments or criticism affect their self-confidence and their studies.

Over the years I watched these two grow and develop into wonderful young adults. D was an enthusiastic member of my performing arts and music classes, performing several times in front of his peers. I started teaching P the piano and she discovered that she was naturally musical.

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In the year before I left the school, both had to deal with enormously cruel trials and tribulations of life. P’s mother passed away when P was just 15 years old and D was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of 16. I visited D after he had started chemotherapy and was so proud of him for his ability to look on the positive side of things. P worked hard during her exams and did very well, continuing her studies into sixth form.

Over the last few years we’ve become close. I no longer teach either of them in school but we keep in toucImageh through texts and Facebook and I still teach P the piano occasionally, workload permitting. When I left the school, I told P that I would take her out for cocktails for her 18th birthday. P and I did the Race For Life together last year while D watched, being too ill to participate. D texts me a lot to let me know how he’s doing and I was delighted to see him on TV not long ago as part of a documentary about the NHS.

Earlier this year, The Bloke and I attended D’s 18th birthday party, which was packed with his family and friends. As promised, on P’s birthday a few weeks ago I took her and D for cocktails at my favourite restaurant, where we had a great time, particularly watching D consume his entire bodyweight in chicken wings and P attempting to balance in her fabulous but ridiculously high shoes.

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They’re currently doing extremely well for themsleves. D has fought hard against his illness and is in remission. He starts college in a few weeks where he is planning to continue his performance studies and regularly holds fund-raising events to raise money for Cancer Research. P helps out at her church regularly, where her father is the vicar. She has passed her A-Levels and has been given an unconditional offer to her first choice university, where she will be studying theology. What strikes me most about both of them is how happy they are. Yes, they both have their down days, but they pick themselves back up again and make me laugh with their thoughts and musings on life.

These two young people are an inspiration. Both could easily have given up on their dreams and wallowed in self-pity. Both could have blamed everyone else for their adversities and become angry and bitter. Instead, they have grabbed life with both hands and made the absolute most of everything they possibly can.

Their stories and characters serve as superb role-models to the rest of us. On days where I am upset by things that are essentially insignificant in the big picture of life I am reminded that there are always others that are dealing with huge issues and still maintain positivity and goals.  I’m proud of them both and the fact that I’ve been able to be a little part of their journeys. I know that they’re going to continue to be wonderful members of society. They remind me why I do the job in the first place.