20. Hairy armpits anyone? 

Sam asked me the other day why it is ok that daddy has hairy armpits and hairy legs   and I have to shave mine.

I was a bit stumped how to answer this. In the quick moment that passed, I said “I liked to do it because it makes me feel nice. Women don’t have to do it, and not all do, but I like to.” He was happy with this response, thank god, and ran off to have some hot chocolate with his partner in crime, Oliver.

It got me thinking, how we choose to present ourselves to the world reflects who we are on the inside. E.g I like a rule, and don’t like to stand out too much, one of the physical manifestations of this is, I shave my armpits! Cancer can be so cruel that it can physically really effect you. Meaning you loose the ability to manage this! I was so lucky that I didn’t loose my hair, or loose / gain weight etc… I could still feel like me, and the reflection in the mirror didn’t change. I Could match how my outside self looks with my inside self. It would have been so much tougher if this had not been the case. A reality for so many cancer patients.


With this in mind, and as the end of my treatment comes ever closer (well the end of Capceptabine chemo anyway!) I am thinking about how Bowel Cancer a.k.a SID has changed me on the inside.

Surprisingly it has given as many positives as negatives. Let’s get the negatives out the way. Cancer is a killer, it is different for everyone, so no control or clarity on how to treat it. It is something they never tell you that you are cured from. It brings uncertainty, fear, sadness. For the lucky cancer patients, years of follow ups and treatment and possible reoccurrence, and for the unlucky cancer patients, the loss of life.

Quickly moving on to the positives. It makes you love life. It makes the sun shine brighter, the air smell fresher, the humdrum of the everyday, magical. It makes you hug everyone more often, get in contact with everyone you love, and tell them you love them. It makes you smile and laugh and appreciate your life. It makes you grateful and thankful for the life you have lived, and focus on how to be a nicer, kinder, better person if you get to stay around.

So SID literally took out a lot of my insides, but he didn’t take anything I can’t live without. His presence, I hope, has made me a kinder, more patient person who is more appreciative and thankful.

SID, I wish u hadn’t come along, but I think, you have probably done me some good. So to move forward, I will keep a few quotes in my mind to see where it takes me…. maybe to hairy armpits 🤣


19. 1 in 19

1 in 19 women and 1 in 14 men will get bowel cancer in their lifetime. I am one of them.

Over half of bowel cancer cases are diagnosed at a late stage in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

This is a pretty depressing statistics, when you are 1 of the 19, and when early stage detection is curable and later stage, often, is not. As a result of this BOWEL CANCER UK have launched a #getpersonal campaign to help address this issue.

“Through the Get Personal campaign we are determined to make real change happen for people diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer”

Bowel Cancer UK

It makes me think of my journey. How easy and simple it has been for me, because I had personalised care. I have my sister Vicky, my personal guardian angel, more accurately, my personal warrior.

Vicky has been by my side, all the way, navigating the system, that I had no understanding of. Getting me the right people at the right time and quickly. Having cancer is shit. Your cancer being bowel cancer, when your sister is the manager of The Polyposis Registry at St Mark’s, is bloody lucky!

  1. Who else knows you should ignore your GP, and tells you to go to a specialist so your cancer is identified at stage 3, not stage 4 (advanced)
  2. Vicky knew who she wanted to be my radiographer and my surgeon. Who else gets such amazing reassurance about who is looking after them?
  3. Who else has a Vicky in their hospital meetings to question and check things you don’t understand, or are too numb and in shock to think to ask?
  4. Who else has a person, who understands the treatment path chosen for you, and can reassure you it is the right one?
  5. Who else has a sister who nurses you back to health in the hospital, and when you are back at home. Making sure you feel safe when you are feeling your most vulnerable?

I tell you who else does this. Specialist Nurses. This is why we need more of them, this is why the #getpersonal campaign by BOWEL CANCER UK is so important! There are simply not enough of them.

I know this because I see how much Vicky  cares for all her patients in The Polyposis Registry, I see how heartbroken she gets, when one of her patients becomes unwell.

NHS staff want to give personal care, and work very long hours to do the best they can in a system that is complicated and under immense financial pressure. Vicky often works on her days off and also raises money for her department in her ‘spare time’, along with her team, to get more money for better patient care… while having 3 children and me to look after too! No wonder she gets stressed!

How lucky I am to have my own guardian angel and personal warrior. Thank you Vicky 😘

As a result, I think  #getpersonal is an amazing campaign, that I will support however I can. Thanks BOWEL CANCER UK for driving another great initiative forward x

http://www.stmarkshospital.nhs.uk

https://www.polyposisregistry.org.uk

#never2young

https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk

18. Just Kiss them & Be Kind 

I am sitting on my couch with Oliver. We have Tom and Jerry (or if you are my boys… Jerry and the mouse 😂😂) on TV. I am wearing a dress that is the same fabric of my couch (see below 🤣) and I am feeling pretty rough. I have a bad tummy today and lots of cramping and nausea to go with it. Sigh. But only 1 round left to go!!!! (Hopefully… scan dependant !)

I also had a not too successful school run this morning. Where I lost my temper at Sam,  he kept arguing with me till I screamed (yes one above shouting !!) DO AS U ARE TOLD AND DO NOT ANSWER ME BACK… which made him cry and me feel like the worst mother. But then again ……

When you have cancer, everyone is constantly supporting you. Whereas it’s tough being a parent. There is a lot of  judgement and you feel you are constantly being told how you should / could be doing better.

(Applicable to dads too….)

Within all this grrrrrrr, something wonderful happened 4 days ago, that makes me feel all lovely and warm and glow inside. My Nephew, Oscar, was born 😍


(Missing is mummy to Oscar… just given birth and funnily enough was happy to get dressed in peace while we all gushed over Oscar..)

Holding him for the first time, in all his wrinkly, perfect, newborn gorgeousness, reminded me, that they days can be (sooooooooo) long (don’t even get me started on the nights!) and the years far too short. That it was 4.5 and nearly 7 years since my babies were this small. That while it does seem a while ago, it also seems like yesterday. That my babies are actually boys, and only on loan to me for such a short time.


All of the above has put me into a reflective mood about parenting.

Firstly, what is the most important thing I need to try and get through to my children as their parent? I hope I get them to understand how important it is to be kind, loving, honest and true, so that these things will come to them too.

And that they need to try there best, and try again when they fail. So that they can be happy and deal with what life brings their way.

Secondly, for us parents. Why are we all doubting ourselves so much? We are all, just simply, trying our best, to bring up our children to be their best. We need a little less judgment and opinion and a little more kindness. As it is not what we say, but what we do, that is how our children will learn.

So sorry Sam that mummy screamed, I should have kept it at stern 😂.

To my brother and sister in law, who will be inundated with advice and opinions about what is best for Oscar….if in any doubt, follow what mum said to me when both mine were born… Just kiss them and be kind. 😘



Spike Milligan

#never2young

https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk

17. Missing a beat

Before Sam arrived and life changed as we knew it, I had a miscarriage at 12 weeks. I started to bleed and experience a lot of pain. They scanned me, and told me they were very sorry but there was no heartbeat and I was starting to miscarry.

The doctor told me that we were not to worry, that it was very common and normal. I told him, not common or normal to me. To me, it was a lost baby, one that was already much loved and wanted.


I fell pregnant with Sam, before the due date of baby 1. This means that I have conflicting feelings about the miscarriage. It’s a loss, but at the same time, I wouldn’t have Sam and Oliver if that pregnancy had resulted in a baby. So it was also not meant to be. Our family is Damian, myself, Sam and Oliver, and is just as it should be.

Sad things happen. At the time of these events, it is very raw. Panic, fear, sadness, can seem all consuming.


As I start round 7, I find that the rawness of how I felt back in April is a memory now. I have moved on from shock and fear and moved into resilience and acceptance.

I mentioned chunking in a previous blog, and it’s importance has been highlighted again, as I review how my feelings, and my outlook, has changed from the beginning of all this, to now.

In 6 weeks, chemo will be over and it will be scan time. I need to focus on getting the chemo done with, rather than let scanxiety start to build within me. It is bubbling away inside me and I need to keep a lid on it.

I can’t let my mind start to mull over the fact that I won’t be deemed cancer free for 5 years, and at any time, it could rear it’s horrible head, as an uglier, more evil  METASTATIC cancer. Even the word is horrible isn’t it! So I need to keep it in nice manageable chunks to keep me calm.

I also need to keep, at the front of my mind, how cancer has made me make the most of now.

(Like dancing the night away at Damo’s 40th party on Friday…)

Oliver starting school this week has also reminded me of this, and taught me something too.  My heart missed a beat as I walked away from him knowing that now he had a little world I was not in control of, or central in.

He was so excited about his next step of growing into a big boy. He didn’t stop to think it may be scary or overwhelming. I need to use a bit of Oliver joy, and take the next step in my cancer journey with as much hope and positivity as my little boy showed on his first day at school.

It reminded me that while I may be old I need to look at things, sometimes, like a child does. With awareness but without judgement.

Life can be really scary and hard at times. However if we  break it down into manageable steps and try and approach life with as much positivity as we can scrape together, I think we will be amazed at what we can get through and what we can achieve.

X

#never2young

https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk

16. In sickness and in health

I met my husband 15 years ago this Christmas, quite randomly, in Brixton academy.

Today is our 8th wedding anniversary.

We have done so much together, and as it was a random hook up, we have met so many wonderful people through each other and also lived across the world from our native homes.  (Damian more than me, it has to be said, but no one I know loves London more than him!). Being together has given us more than each other, it has made both our lives richer. Lucky we met!

The vow, in sickness and in health, has been tested this year. He has been right by my side through this whole crappy cancer diagnosis.

  • He has washed me when I couldn’t wash myself. It made me sob my heart out that he had to do it. He held my hand while I cried and the shower washed over me and told me it was ok, although it so wasn’t.
  • He has slept by my side, not leaving me alone, while I was scared and vulnerable in the hospital.
  • He has held me while I cry, sob, am grumpy and afraid.
  • He has made me laugh when I needed it.
  • He has been both mummy and daddy when mummy has not been feeling very well.
  • He has not shown his heart was breaking too, even though I knew it was.

Quite frankly he has nailed it!

It is tough to be the carer, everyone worries about me, and he has to be the calm, happy, coping one. It’s tough. He has done amazingly x

Thank u Damian for loving me in sickness and in health. I really hope I get to grow old with you xx (although sam and Oliver would say we already are old 😂😂

From this ….

To this ❤️💙💙

One day we will get a family shot where we are all smiling, or looking normal at least 😂😂


…. so close with this one.. until Sam’s last minute glasses moment!!

https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk

15. You will, always be here, won’t you mummy?

That was the question my son, Sam, asked me at 2am this morning. He woke up thirsty and wanted a drink. Normally he would get it himself, but we are away in Rye, and he was disoriented. He is more clingy to me these days. There is worry in his voice when he doesn’t know where I am. He cuddles me and grips my hand. Wants to sit next to me, or on me, as often as he can. (Oliver blissfully unaware. It’s wonderful!)


Yes Sam, mummy will always be with you, was my answer.

Physically I may not, but my love for him, will be. So I didn’t feel it was a lie. (It is important to point out here, I don’t find it hard to answer because I may die of cancer, but because no one knows for certain, do they?)

Cancer makes you realise your need to live in the present. In some ways, cancer is a gift to make you live. To appreciate. To build memories. To tell the people you love, that you love them.

41,000 children lose a parent every year in the U.K. It’s a staggering and heart breaking number. It’s been on my mind this week, with the 20 year anniversary of Diana’s death. The impact it had on her sons lives. How they miss her still. How irreplaceable a parent is.

I am 38 and I have needed my mum more than ever this year. I needed her as a child, obviously, but I have needed her as an adult too. When I became a mother, it was my mum that watched out for me. Would come to my house and see the washing overflowing, or notice I was a exhausted and send me to bed while she cared for my baby, and so much more. When I went back to work, she has looked after the boys one day a week for me, despite working full time as a nurse herself. So they were in childcare one day less and I could feel less guilt. My mother is a constant, positive, calming, loving presence in my life. Not having a mum, even at 38 is unthinkable!


(Mum and I, 3 days before I got diagnosed with cancer, celebrating Mother’s Day)

When Sam was 11 weeks old, Damian lost his dad. It was an unbearable time for Damian. A newborn child in the U.K. and a dying father in Australia. He was literally torn in two. Losing his father when he became a father, has left a massive hole for Damian. He talks about all the questions he would have asked his dad about being a dad. Of the positive and loving presence he would have been for our boys. Of the wish he has, that Grandad Ian could have held them both, just once.


(Damo with his sister Melissa, mum and  dad, as a teenager!)

We never know when a loved one may no longer be with us, or how long any of us have (terror attacks remind us all of that far to often.) What we do know, for certain,  is how much people mean to us. We shouldn’t let the daily grind mean we don’t make memories. See those you love as often as you can. Tell them you love them.

As Winnie the Pooh said ……

#never2young

https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk

14. 3 score years and 10. 

One night, years ago, I was lying in bed with my husband (then boyfriend) in our Sydney pad (that we rented… oh how I wished we owned it 😂) and we had a conversation that went like this:

Me: Damian, I can’t get to sleep

Damian: try

Me: (ignoring Damo) I can’t get to sleep because I am worried about how much I am worrying.  

Damian: hysterical laughter! Which made me giggle too. When calm he answers me and gives me a cuddle ‘only u magoo (what he calls me) would say that, and it has to be the most ridiculous thing you have ever said to me.’

He then rolled over and went to sleep…. 

I am a person that likes a good worry. I am always fine when it comes down to it but I like a good worry beforehand. But I never worried about my health. I just worried about the silly everyday stuff.

I also love a good quote, which, if you have been reading my blog, you would know. I have two favourite people I like to get quotes from. Winnie the Pooh, and Mark Twain. 

Mark Twain was a wise fellow. He even has a quote that sums up the above story well.

I have spent my life worrying about things that never happened and now something has happened I have spent little time worrying about it! This is because when you are in the eye of a storm you just get on with it. 

I know that I am not going to change my personality, I am still going to worry about things. However this shitty cancer has shown me I am pretty strong when I need to be, and that is a really nice thing to have learned about myself. 

It has also taught me something else. I have learned from this cancer that it is a personal battle, and this has lead me to realise what a lovely little bubble I live in, and that I should be doing more for others. What legacy will I leave for the boys? What good will I leave behind? What have I given back for my life? Right now, to be honest, not a lot. 

So it’s time now, to focus on beyond my own little world and  focus on the bigger world and see, what, in my own small way, I can do to make it a better place. We can’t all rely on ‘3 score years and 10’ as my grandad used to say. We need to make the most of now. We need to leave a positive imprint. 

I learned this as over the past 5 months, since my cancer diagnosis, so much has happened around the world. There is drought and famine in Africa, Venezuela is on the brink of civil war, Syria and the refugee crisis continues, there is cholera and starvation in Yemen. Korea and the USA are at nuclear loggerheads, and then 4 European terror attacks… sadly I could go on…the world is a mess! Compared to far too many people, I am cruising along quite nicely, even with cancer!

So that is what I am going to fill my head with through round 6. Instead of worrying about the small stuff. What am I going to do to make sure I leave a positive imprint. 

So roll on round 6… I am ready for u. This is because in the big scheme of things, I am still ok, lucky and happy, even on chemo, and so many people (too many) are going through unimaginable hardship and heartbreak.

I will leave you with my favourite Mark Twain quotes that I think are pretty cool. The last one I tried to read to my boys the other day and they were like ‘what u on mummy 😂😂😂😂 ‘ 



13. Love, live, laugh

I am, to be honest, quite vain. I like to look nice, I like nice clothes and wearing makeup and I like to keep an ok figure. 

After having my children someone told me, it’s good to have stretch marks because they show you are a mum. I remember thinking… ‘I don’t need stretch marks to show I am a Mum, I have two boys constantly clinging to me’ (which I secretly love)


Now stretch marks are not really the issue, due to my lovely central scar, and my 5 little scars that go round it in a nice circle from my abdominal (laprarscopic) surgery to remove sid.

However my scar has changed me. When my surgeon saw me 3.5 weeks post surgery, he said ‘it’s a bit messy, sorry, you can always have a small surgery to sort that out’ 

I knew I was never going to do that. I realised that now I actually don’t mind my wrinkles, my thicker waist, my ageing hands. As now I want to get old. I want to get to 40… 50… 60! And beyond. 

I have just finished round 5 of chemo. My hands and feet are dry and sore, I go to the toilet a lot 🙄🙄 and I am tired… my poor body is a bit battered. However it is my body, my only one, and I am happy in it. 

I see my gorgeous perfect niece be bombarded by half naked women and make up ads and scary books about girls with isssues or girls in the ‘in crowd’ and it makes me sad. She doesn’t need any of the silly beauty products or the naff advice.


She needs to be happy in herself, to live, love and laugh, as we all do. Even men seem to be preened and more looks focused these days.. something I noticed after watching one love island episode (it wasn’t for me). The men were so made up.. and I thought goodness what is happening. Looks and clothes are becoming more important than who you are inside. It seems so vacuous. Sam is known for his lovely hair, but I hope, as he gets older, he gets to be known for something more than that… 

I have some major scars and stretch marks and cellulite. I have wrinkly hands and laughter lines and a forehead that has more lines that I feel is necessary. However, my body is part of my life story. It’s shaped by my life experiences, both the good and the bad. It shows I have lived, laughed and loved. It shows I have a story and hopefully a future. How could I not love it for that. 

Also I realise this body of mine needs some tlc. Excersise and good food, but not for looks. I need to care for it, do everything I can to keep it healthy, to listen to it more and not take it for granted!  


So next time you look in the mirror, don’t worry about all the imperfections, smile at the wonderful memories these imperfections bring to you. Know you have loved, lived and laughed. 

… and take care of your amazing body


12. It takes a village…….

I cuddled my eldest son, Sam, till he slept the other day. We did Eskimo kisses and snuggles, and slowly he went to sleep. His breathing deepened and his little arm, so tightly gripping mine, slowly softened. Then I cried.

Luckily, while he isn’t the best at going to sleep, once he is, nothing wakes him. So it is safe to cry. I didn’t mean too, but sadness can be sudden, overwhelming, and too strong to stop.

Pre cancer Anna, was not particularily sentimental. Cancer Anna is. Why has this happened? Time. The realisation that it goes fast, that your life journey, just increases in speed. You can’t slow it down, or hold onto a moment. The crying started because of feeling sentimental.

It’s ok though, I feel better for my cry. I actually feel really good. This is because while having my cry I started thinking about how many amazing women are in my life, and how amazing everyone has been, and how lucky I am.

There is a proverb that says ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ and I wholeheartedly believe in this saying. I am lucky that I have my family and friends, and I live in an area of strong community, where my children will get this experience.

The real strength in this proverb though, I believe, comes from women coming together. Women can be hard on each other, and each other’s worse critics. However they are also your strongest supporters. They come together and not let someone fall. Offer their help and time, and if you ask for help, they will be there, no questions asked.


I have always been independent, and am reluctant to even ask for help from my parents, so it is really hard for me to ask for help from friends. But WOW, how amazing are women, when we come together, we do great things.

My mum protects me through my life, loving me, without question. My school/uni friends, grew up with me, see me less as we live further apart, but we are connected, no matter what. My girl friends from Australia, constantly in contact, checking in on me, sending me cards and gifts and wishing they were closer to give me a hug. My NCT friends ‘practically our family mummy’ Sam said the other day. School mums, the newest crowd, and the ones picking up most of the slack for me, as they are helping me manage school logistics. You have ALL BEEN AMAZING.

This cancer sucks. However the careing and loving nature of women, coming together to support me, wishing me on, wanting me to get better, has been uplifting and a massive help. Every message, every visit, every meal, every book, every voucher, every helping hand has meant so much. It helps me stay positive and happy. When women come together, its a powerful thing.

So thank you, to you all, you make a difference.

Girl power x

#nevertooyoung



11. Girl Interrupted 

When my grandma died, even in her overwhelming grief of loosing her mother, my mum comforted me, with words I have already used in my blog.

It is okay to be sad, as otherwise how would you know when you are happy.

I have said this phrase to myself  quite a few times over my life. That is because that is life isn’t it? It’s ups and downs, twists and turns. If you don’t expect it to be tough at times, then you are heading for a serious shock!

Today I am sad. I don’t feel like me. I also know it will pass, and I will probably be smiley Anna again tomorrow.

It’s been a crazy 3.5 months. Diagnosis, operation, healing, chemo…. chemo…. more chemo…. not even half way through chemo! It dawned on me recently that cancer, whether I want it to or not, is going to have an impact on my life, and my families life, permanently!

That doesn’t mean that I think it will have a permanent negative impact. As I am a firm believer that your life is a series of your choices. You need to be responsible for your own happiness, and take ownership of stuff when it goes wrong, whatever that is, so you can deal with it, and move on.

While cancer is a scary and unwelcome beast, that I am hoping to beat, in a fight I never wanted to have. I am determined cancer will have some positive impact, if not for me, for my boys.

This is because cancer is here, in me, with me, and is now part of my life, and we must learn to live with each other.

I don’t like it, it has interrupted my happy little life and ‘Life Plan’. It has forced me to press the pause button when I just want to be on play. But here it is, and I won’t let it sit over my head like a dark cloud. It may be fighting with me, but I will not let it darken my boys sunny secure little world.

​While cancer is tough, crap, unwanted, frustrating and scary, it is also thought provoking. It has made me realise that you don’t pause and take a step back to review your life very often. How often in life do you get to sit back (albeit in a chemo fog) and think, review, process.

If there isn’t a tomorrow, would you be proud of the person you where? What would you change? How could you make life better, not just for you, but for the world too?

So, while, without a doubt, I am a Girl Interrupted. It doesn’t get me down, for longer than the odd day. This is because I keep the important perspective, that actually, I am still a very fortunate person. I have a happy life that is full of love, family, friendship, financial security. So many people do not have this. So many people have it so much tougher than me.

So I have decided to stop being scared of what might go wrong, get worse, kill me! And instead be excited about what could go right, and how lucky I am to have lived the life I have, and be able, right now, to continue to enjoy it. After all, life is not,I lived till 80. Life is happiness and fulfillment for however long you are around for.

As a result, being a girl interrupted, is actually a good thing in many ways, and this cancels out all the bad. That is because being sad about having cancer, has made me realise how very happy, I actually am.

  

X