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

10. Slip. Slop. Slap. 

My other half Damian, is Australian. His friends call him Damo. This is because Australians love abbreviation. G’day their most famous one!  Even Qantas is an abbreviation of Queensland and Northern Territory Airline Service.

A popular way to abbreviate is to add an O or A at the end of a shortened word.

  • The bottle shop (off licence) is bottlo
  • The petrol station is Servo
  • The afternoon is Arvo
  • Macdonalds is Macca
  • Devastated is Devo
  • Definitely is Defo
  • Garbage man or truck is Garbo
  • Avocado is an Avo
  • Even the nation itself Australia is Straya

Ok I could go on… but you get the idea.

So when I met my Aussie when I was 23, I was at times totally lost by the lingo.

I vividly remember sending him a text, that my friend Becka and I, spent ages over, and Damo responded ‘no worries’, and nothing else. Nowadays this is a well known and used phrase in the U.K, but back in 2002 it was unheard of (and texting was new too)! Becka and I must have discussed what this could possibly mean for a good 30 minutes!

As Damo turned 40 last weekend, I have been reminiscing of times gone by. How lucky I was to meet my lovely husband. He drives me mad at times, but more often, makes me giggle, shares my love of travel, food, music and fashion. Loves to Spa with me and drink wine with me. Cuddles me even though ‘it’s not his thing’.

Being with someone from a similar, but at the same time, very different culture, has made me a more open and understanding person. There is not one way of living, talking, barbecuing ( I mean that really is chalk and cheese) etc. There are different ways of seeing and doing things, and different is good!

Aussies are a nation of what you see is what you get. They also love rules (not as laid back as u think). There are rules for everything. I got many parking tickets when I first moved there, until Damo took me out on a ‘parking course’ so I could learn the ‘rules’

As we enjoy the sun shining and the summer season in full swing; regattas, flower shows, racing and tennis. Their brilliantly simple and refreshing sun safe message is on my mind. It is a great example of how their way of talking and doing things is just what you need at times. Sun safe  in Oz is SLIP.SLOP.SLAP

A marketing campaign used since 1981 to battle skin cancer, a massive problem in Australia. The sun, with no ozone layer to battle through, beats down on you. You have to avoid its unforgivable rays. However you also have to get on with life, so you make sure you stay safe in the sun


The above was the original campaign, and as with everything it has evolved over time, with seek and slide now added to the campaign.


Everyone in Australia knows this advice and everyone sticks to it. They are proud of how far they have come to understand and respect their sun. It’s keeping them safe and now skin cancer is more common in the UK than it is in Australia.
Respecting and protecting your body does make a difference.

Now we just need a SLIP.SLOP.SLAP for Bowel Cancer. Slightly more tricky for obvious reasons. However if we could figure it out, we could beat this cancer, as early detection = curable disease.

Enjoy the sunshine everyone, and make sure you slip, slop, slap, seek and slide xx

After reading this post a friend of mine, born in Yorkshire, but now a fully fledge Aussie Sheila, sent me this link. Had to add. Australian Gold! 🤣🤣

https://www.buzzfeed.com/jennaguillaume/what-about-meme



9. Small steps produce big gains

Behavioural economics is being used more and more these days. It is based on the understanding that decision making is emotional not rational. It’s made up of a series of techniques, to shape our behaviour, one of them is called chunking. We see chunking messages via marketing every day; ‘Buy one, get one free’, ‘Sale, 1 day only’. We also do it ourselves, one example is how we chunk our phone number, it’s not one long number 0203214756, we break it up 020 321 4756.

The Step up for 30 campaign works brilliantly within this thinking. It grabs you emotionally, and ‘chunks’ the task into small and manageable wins. Why wouldn’t you sign up?!? Very clever Bowel Cancer U.K. 😀

I decided to sign up around 2 weeks after having Sid removed. I felt vulnerable at the time. I didn’t know what Sid was, and the time I would find out was looming. I was scared , worried, and overall a bit down. I was also still pretty sore after losing 39 centimetres of stuff; 2/3rds of my colon, my appendix and a little bit of my small intestine.

When I saw the post about #stepupfor30 on Twitter and Facebook, I thought, I can do that! Even if I feel awful I can walk slowly round the block for 30 minutes. It gave me something to think about and aim for, at a time when that was exactly what I needed.

By the first of June, I was healing well (8 weeks post op) and feeling good, mentally and physically. 21 days into #stepupfor30, I feel even better. That is saying something as I am into round 3 of chemo, it is cumulative, and I am experiencing more side effects as time goes on.

However, every day, I have my focus of 30. It’s something totally achievable,  and because of this, it is making me stronger, physically and mentally. I am doing something good and worthwhile, for Bowel Cancer U.K. and for myself.

The best thing about this though is how much quality time the challenge has given me. Bike rides with Sam, river walks with  Oliver, gym sessions with Vicky and family walks with Damian and the kids. The most funny one, doing yoga with Oliver!

These were our moves

Step up for 30 has also helped me realise that I should approach my cancer journey in the same way. It is not one big scary presence in my life that is overwhelming, it is a series of steps that I follow. Breaking it down into manageable tasks. It’s not 6 months of chemo, it’s 8 chunks. It’s not 5 years of worry about whether I will be cancer free and a good statistic, it’s a series of  checks to keep me healthy and get me into recovery.

As setup up for 30 ends, I will still keep up being active. Greg Whyte came into my work to do an inspirational talk recently. He talked about how it isn’t about being sporty, it’s just about moving. Not everyone is sporty but everyone can do excersie. Doing a little bit of something that you enjoy, as often as you can. I think of these words now and know that following this advice, will make me feel better, even on days that are tough.

It is so easy to not take care of yourself, to put you and your health last, when life is so busy. But small steps really do produce big gains. I am so glad this challenge came along when it did and taught me this.

Thank you to everyone who supported me in this challenge. It has been a really positive experience, made all the more motivating by your generous sponsorship. Make sure you take time for excercise, it makes you feel good and let’s you spend time with people you love. X

https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/

https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/stepupfor30/

#nevertooyoung

#never2young

https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk

8. My unexpected theme tune to cancer 

In my last post I said that I want to shout ‘it’s ok, it’s not a death sentence’

What I should have said is that I want to shout; It’s ok, I am telling myself it is not a death sentence. 

This is because the fear of cancer comes from the uncertainty of it. No one knows who will and won’t get cancer. 

Then who, of those that do, will be the lucky ones that survive? 

Each person has their own cancer journey, meaning that there are no definite answers or outcomes. That means no real control, and that is scary. 

It’s a disease with odds, but you can’t choose the odds. You just find yourself in the race. Some fall as you stride ahead, then you fall back as others pass you. The end point keeps changing and the route is full of daunting jumps. 

You are gambling. Yes you can read the form and pick a strategy you hope will fit that form, but there is no certain outcome. 

This is why focusing on the positive is so important. Sometimes though, that is tough, and you need to help yourself, with this mental battle, by having happy triggers. 

For me, my happy trigger, has come from two very unlikely sources. The soundtracks, of the children movies, Trolls and Moana. 

Now, like every parent, going to the cinema is a time to have a good snooze. With the soundtrack, normally very quickly, starting to do my head in, after the 25th time it has been requested to be played at home. 

However, this time, I am loving turning up these soundtracks and dancing around our house and garden with the boys. 

​​For generations children have learned through song and rhyme. While in the past it was for disease and safety… ring a ring a roses and londons burning spring to mind. I think the songs used in today’s movies have important messages too. For us Gilmour’s this is the one we sing the loudest right now.. 

GET BACK UP AGAIN by Anna Kendrick

Looking up at a sunny sky, so shiny and blue, and there’s a butterfly, well, isn’t that a super fantastic sign. It’s gonna be a fantastic day, such marvelousness it’s gonna bring. Gotta pocket full of songs that I’m gonna sing, And I’m ready to take on anything.
Hooray!

Some super fun surprise around each corner. Just riding on a rainbow, I’m gonna be okay. Hey!

I’m not giving up today, There’s nothing getting in my way, And if you knock knock me over, I will get back up again.

Oh!

If something goes a little wrong. Well you can go ahead and bring it on, ‘Cause if you knock knock me over, I will get back up again. 

It’s a lovely happy tune, that tells my boys, in a gentle way, that life is hard sometimes, but you will be ok, as long as you don’t use your energy feeling sorry for yourself. Instead put it all into getting back up again and getting the most out of life. 

Some other of our favourites .. go on, take 10mins to listen to the tunes, and enjoy ALL the emotions the music makes you feel xxx 

Shake your bum ones

Bare necessities, jungle book: 

Hakuma matata, lion king: 

Shiny, Moana

Happy, despicable me

Classics that remind me of my childhood

Let’s go fly a kite: 

Few of my favourite things: 

Some slightly slower, calm down ones

Pure imagination:     

Somewhere out there: 

And finally the one that I used to sing to mine when they were babies to get them to sleep….

Baby mine;     

I am sure you have your own list, don’t forget to play them, when you need them x 

7. Inspirational

Round 1 of chemo went well, and I am on day 2 of round 2, and feeling the Chemo fog descend. My oncologist said I was ‘definitely a glass half full girl’ as I told her all was well, and I was loving not having to take Sam to his swimming lessons (thanks grandma and grandad for taking this one on!) 

It’s also half term, a time of happy and proud moments, sitting alongside moments of great frustration and despair. Yes I am spending time with my children!

Right now, I am in my sisters garden, as Oliver plays with blaze the monster machine and Sam plays football with his cousins. Resting before I begin my month of excercise to raise money for Bowel Cancer UK. The step up for 30 campaign begins on June 1st for 1 month and you do 30 minutes of excercise a day for 30 days. My sister and I have had a few practise gym sessions last week, which were slightly hilarious, and I am now ready! Kicking off the challenge with Barre Concept tomorrow. 

So far I have raised £1,200, and so I will definitely be making sure I complete this challenge. So many people have kindly donated their hard earned cash to a wonderful charity and I will not let them down. 

I wanted to do this, because when people find out that I am going through chemo, or that I have had surgery to remove my bowel cancer, people react with great sadness. Some try to hide it, others look very shocked, some have cried, some have written lovely messages. Universally it is greeted with a muted sadness. (We r British after all!) While I totally understand this reaction, as cancer is a scary word to all, I do sometimes want to shout, it’s ok, it’s not a death sentence. I have found people hug me hard when I leave a place, like they will not see me again. It makes me realise how much fear and how much misunderstanding there is about this disease; and I include myself in this. For this reason I want to raise money for Bowel Cancer UK, so understanding and not fear can sit alongside cancer. That this big killer, can be tamed. Caught early this is a curable disease. 

It is this that brings me to the title of my latest post. Inspiration. 

Thanks to you all for reading my blog. Many of you have told me I am amazing, so strong, INSPIRING.

These are wonderfully comforting words, that I greatly appreciate. However when people say it to me, I do feel a bit of a fraud, as I don’t think I am. 

Why? There are two reasons.

1. I don’t see myself as that ill. (Yes the chemo makes me feel a bit meh, but it could be worse). Right now I have no cancer in any of my organs and if I had a ct scan tomorrow, no cancer will show up, as there isn’t any there. No, we can’t guarantee that there isn’t cancer cells in my system, waiting to settle and grow, but I am having chemo to make it really hard for them to do so. Yes maybe the cancer will return, but keeping the wise words of Winnie the Pooh front of mind, we can’t worry about what the future brings, if we do everything we can in the present to give us the best chance of a future.

‘What day is it?” Said Pooh

 “It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.

 “My favorite day,” said Pooh

2. 


I am not strong or inspiring, I have made a choice to see the positive in my situation, and I am getting on with it. It is not strength of character that has driven this, but lack of choice. I feel overwhelmed at times, and anxious. Tearful after tender moments I share with the boys, that suddenly feel more significant. 


Although there are moments of overwhelming sadness, there are MORE MOMENTS of  feeling so alive. So lucky to have the life I have, my family, my friends, my job, my home (you get the idea). Cancer gives you a massive kick up the arse, to remind you that life is a privilege, not to be taken for granted. 

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Anna-Gilmour

https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/

Thanks for reading xx 

6. Find your HAPPY

I love a bit of social media, I can loose an hour clicking into Instagram and Pinterest. I also love to research things.

In an attempt to not do Dr Google and cancer survival rates, I have gone full throttle into food (which I love) and understand what is best to eat to help me look after my immune system, as best I can, while on chemo.

I don’t actually need to do this. I don’t buy into diets or particular ways of eating, like paleo and clean eating. I think that everything is fine, in moderation, and to consume as much colour as you can through the day. So while I will immerse myself in many theories, ideas and recipes, their role will be to reassure me rather than make me change my behaviour. Although, saying that, I am thinking about how to eat more tumeric and ginger 😊

Consuming colour once again, is so exciting. I was on my beige buffet before Sid was removed, and even with my semi colon, and my chemo treatment, the amount of colour that is now back on my plate is making me smile. I am not getting tummy pain, cramps, the runs, bloating. I am eating, then feeling fine, amazing.

While some people will love a quinoa salad and have cold egg and spinach pots from Pret and follow deliciously Ella. I am always going to be a girl that looks at the pret egg pot and then buys the almond croissant with a capaccino. Pick pasta and pizza at pizza express and not the salad, and have a pudding even though I am really full. We are lucky to live in a place, where there is so much food variety and choice. As food is such an expression of who we are, and how we feel.

So today, what I need is a large heaped dessert spoon of Nutella straight from the biggest pot you can buy. It’s going to make me feel great.

Find your happy.

 

5. Chemo explained through Star Wars 

Sam, my eldest, asks a lot of questions. It is what you do when you are 6. So when he asks, I try to answer as honestly as I can.

Why did it happen? Just a bit unlucky. These things happen, and can’t always be 100% explained.

Will it come back? It could come back. To make sure it has to really fight to come back, mummy is going to take a drug to make it really really hard for it to do so

Can you catch it? No, you can’t. Some cancers can run in family’s, but the Doctors have looked at Sid and he is not one that runs in family’s.

Should I be worried? It’s ok to be worried as long as you tell mummy when you are, so we can talk about it. However mummy is not worried, so you shouldn’t be either.

How do the drugs work? (Hmmmmmm ok this one I have made up somewhat!) They go into your blood and kill off any left over cancer.

What happens on the drugs? I will feel a bit poorly, and I will be tired. I need to be careful not to catch anything, like a cold, as your immune system is very low

What’s an immune system? (You can see how this honesty thing, when you are not 100% sure yourself, can get you into a very long conversation with a 6 year old) Well your blood is made up of red and white blood cells. Red carry oxygen round your body and white kill off bugs and illness and keep you healthy. Chemo kills cancer but also your white blood cells, so you can get sick a lot easier and when you do, your body can’t fight off the bug very easily, so you have to be careful.

At this point Sam goes ‘Can I watch TV now?’ (Thank god I think) Yes of course 🙂

3 days later, we are walking to school. Sam has obviously been processing the above conversation, and brings up chemo.

Sam: Mummy, you know those drugs you are on?

Me: Yes

Sam: It’s like star wars. You see, you had the dark side in your body, Sid. He was like the Death Star. The doctors are the goodies and they killed the Death Star and now Sid is gone. But, mummy, the dark side has a big army, so when the Death Star was destroyed, not everyone was on it at the time, so some baddies were left around. So the doctors now need to use the force, that’s Chemo, to find the baddies that are left and kill them all, keep you safe and win the war. 

Me: Love you Sam x

4. Chemo begins 

Dr Nicola, my oncologist is just lovely. An aura of calm and control resonates from her, and she makes me feel relaxed and calm. She clearly explains what Sid was, and why I need chemo, talks me through what chemo I will get and how it will be administered. 

Side effects sound nasty, will bury my head in the sand about them until they hit me, as they may not. Secretly say ‘whoop’ in my head when she says swimming pools are a no go, 6 months of not having to take the boys to swimming lessons is a massive positive to chemo!

Any questions she asks? my husband says, yes, Anna is useless with tablets, how is she going to swallow them. Everyone laughs, and I am assured they are dissolvable. 

I was weighed, measured and my blood was taken. Chemo was booked to start this week.

Which means  today is the day I started Chemo. Once again grateful that I am on the happy side of cancer. Getting to do my chemo at home. With tablets. 

However still scared. Anxiety levels are high. It’s the unknown. How will I react? Such a long list of dreaded side effects. Time will tell how exactly I will be effected. 
So focusing on the positive, right now, the sun is shining, my dad is here to help me with the boys, who are playing on the trampoline in the garden and I am off to the pub tonight with some girlfriends.

Life goes on.  

4. Sid has left the building!

27th March: I learned I had cancer

27th April I learned all the cancer had been removed. Sid has gone.

(Oliver was my doctor at home!)

66 lymph nodes were harvested, none were cancerous. It’s a great day, only 1 month on.
I need chemo, blood vessels tested positive. We need to make sure Sid doesn’t have any cousins ready to make an appearance. However this is a good news day. I was expecting to need chemo, my results are still better than expected, and I am feeling lucky, elated, happy.

(Smiles it’s good news!!)

My surgeon said about 7 times at our meeting, u look amazing / u look so good / can’t believe how good u look, 3.5 weeks after major major surgery… and then he turned to my husband and said, u don’t look great though are u all right? It must have been tough for you? I didn’t mention I had applied bronzer that morning, and the glow wasn’t 100% natural!

(The reality was I was still needing to rest a lot. It was ok though I had company 😍)

I may have got a little over confident though. As the meeting came to a close I said, thank you so much to my surgeon, and said will we see each other again? He replied, Anna you are going to see me every 6 months for 5 years. Oh right, I said, well see u soon…

Maybe too positive then!

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger though right? I feel stronger than I did last month. I feel I have a body that is going to be able to fight what is thrown at it. I have learned a lot about cancer, and about myself. This has strengthened me.
There is no definitive ‘cancer is gone’ moment. Not for 5 years anyway. I am going to need to learn to live with this uncertainty, and I will.

Why do I feel this way? Because I spent the last month hoping my meeting would go like this, and I learned that hope beats all other emotions. Fear, anger, panic, devastation, grief, they can’t beat hope. On the darkest of days its hope that pulls you back up to breath (along with your loved ones). Knowing I have this in my arsenal makes me feel if a cousin of Sid rears its ugly head in the next 5 years, I will have hope with me, driving me forward and keeping me going.
I love hope. I feel I have undervalued this emotion for far to long!!

3. WOW. Surgery. Shit.

Do not recommend.

Although 4 days later, I went home, so actually it wasn’t that bad, it also saved my life, so of course I do really recommend it!

It’s just, when you are going through it, WOW.

During my hospital stay, I felt smelly and stale and not myself, no matter how much nice smelly shower gel I put on or how long I cleaned my teeth.

Being ill, it’s so humiliating and humbling and takes u to a dark space. My sister would remind me that ‘this isn’t you, it’s just a moment that will pass’. Damian, my husband, did not leave my side, once I came out of recovery. Staff said nothing. Just found him a bed. So I felt like crap, but I also felt loved.

I did make it home for Olivers 4th birthday, and we had a wonderful party in the garden, with the sun shining, and our family and friends all there to make sure it was special and mummy’s frailness not quite so obvious.

Sam, my eldest cried a few times. He misses ‘mummy’s big cuddles’ and is worried ‘sid will come back’ while Oliver is young enough to be oblivious.

However the sad moments were fleeting. Sam loved telling everyone about mummy’s operation and her ‘gross’ scar, asking if people wanted to see it – luckily everyone politely declined! He also thinks that while I am sick, I am lucky as I don’t have to go to work, and if I want him to stay home too, he doesn’t mind!
That is not to say it was not an emotionally wobbly time. I cried a lot, but I laughed along to Michael McIntyre autobiography too (on Audio book). Its an extreme experience, extreme highs and feelings of strength and extreme low’s and fear.

Giardia sent us all in the wrong direction, and when we did look at alternatives we all went down the IBD route, as that is in my family. It was just unlucky that I got both Giardia and Cancer, what are the odds of that happening? According to my Doctor, who almost fell off his chair when he heard my diagnosis, said I am a once in a career case. So the odds are very low.

It is 2 weeks till we know what Sid is and how devastating he has been. I hope he is the nicest cancer u can ever have. Not Mr Evil himself.

In the meantime, heal, ask for help, enjoy all my family around me, and my friends helping me. Spend time with my boisterous beautiful boys and watch some box sets with my lovely hubby. And Hope. Hope that we have caught it in time. Hope that I am a Bowel Cancer success story.