I have found a new hobby, one that I really, really enjoy! One which is exilarting but extremely relaxing at the same time! Diving!
I came to Egypt with the aim to enjoy the sun shine, spend time with friends, and to learn to dive. Originally the plan, for me, had been to do my PADI Open Water Certificate, and then maybe do a couple of dives with my friends, and spend a lot of time at the pool and on the beach, whilst partying in the evenings. Well…I finished my Open Water, I spent some time at the pool, very little time at the beach (what beach there is in Sharm El Sheikh) and partying hardly happened. We did finish our 3 bottles of vodka, but did not enter one single night club. But what I did do was dive…and get up at ridiculous times in the morning in order to do those dives…I am so looking back to going back to work so that I can have some well deserved lie ins!!!
After finishing my Open Water, I moved straight on to my Advanced Diving Course, as I wanted to be able to dive the more challenging sites, including those in Sinai Natur Resort Ras Mohamed. Having successfully completed this, my friends and I went to Dhahab to escape Plastic Fantastic Sharm El Sheikh and enjoy the peace and quiet of Dhahab and to continue diving. Both my friends are fairly seasoned divers, with far more experience than me. So when they suggested that we should dive the Blue Hole, which starts with a massive drop of 30 m going along a massive coral reef, ending in what is known as the Blue Hole, which is lined with free divers who pull themselves down into the depths without the help of regulators and oxygen, totally crazeballs I think, I was a little worried that this might be somewhat out of my depth. However, as it was only us three, the guide was able to concentrate on me, and helped to put me at ease. Without any doubt this was the highlight of my holiday. Whilst I did not get to dive with mantas, dolphins or hammer heads, I did get to see some of the most amazing corals and dives sites the Red Sea has to offer. A definite bonus in my opinion was the lack of diving tourists as a result of the recent travel warnings for Egypt, which meant that a lot of the times we were the only divers in these amazing dive sights.
What I absolutely love about diving is the fact that you in those 40-60 minutes under water are free, floating around in a world otherwise inaccessible to you. In normal life I am a very talkative, slightly hyperactive person with slight concentration problems. Under water this all goes away, and for this period of time I am fully immersed in the underwater world and what it has to offer. Anyone wanting to learn to live in the now, to learn to appreciate the present, should definitely think about learning to dive, its definitely got a meditative feel about it to me. Floating through the water, drifting past corals my mind wasn’t occupied with anything else but concentrating on this mesmerizing world. I have never quite understood the concept of living in the now until this holiday!
So whilst we did not party a lot, we rarely manage to stay awake past 12 pm, and we did not spend a huge amount of time in our hotel, which to be honest was not the greatest anyway, and we didn’t really go to the beach, I had a whale of a time, and am already planning my next trip to the Red Sea, for my next diving holiday… This holiday was a definite F**K CANCER holiday!!
Ha, first you don’t hear from me in bloody ages, and then you get the pleasure of reading two blogs at once! Crazy!!
I have wanted to sit down and write a new blog for a while, but either I did not have enough time (working, travelling, socialising, running and volunteering for CoppaFeel! takes up a lot!!! of time), or I haven’t been able to find the right words.
Cancer has been on my mind less lately, which is a good thing. It does rear its ugly head every now and again, like when I went running on the tread mill a couple of days ago, and I suddenly felt a stinging pain in my back! I for a short moment thought, f*** the breast cancer has spread. But then I just continued with my training session and forgot about this crappy disease…although this was probably aided by my lovely, young 21 year old personal trainer, who was chatting to me about new music, ha, does he realise how old I am?!?!?
Twitter though acts as a stark reminder at how quickly things can turn, people who thought themselves in remission, suddenly find themselves faced with less and less options, when treatments and time are running out quickly rather than slowly. How do I know that this won’t be me in 2-4 years?
I guess what I have learnt to do more and more is to accept that I am ok at the moment, and that I, apart from staying as healthy as possible, I cannot really change what is going to happen in the future. With this realisation I have very much developed a sense of living, making the most of every moment I have. This I tell you can be very exhausting. Where I previously would have stayed at home for the weekend, spending my Saturday strolling around town, and lazing in bed on a Sunday, I now jump at every opportunity to do something with my friends and family. In May and June combined I will have spent merely 2 weeks in my flat, the remaining time being taken up with travelling for work and pleasure, seeing my friends, holding Boobette talks for CoppaFeel! attending a friend’s wedding and running yet another half marathon in aid of the bloody amazing CoppaFeel! And as I am looking at my calendar, July and August do not look much better.
I currently am on a plane to Egypt, well Sharm El Sheikh, anyone who knows Egypt knows that Sharm together with El Gouna is not really Egypt, but rather a touristic suburbia which allows tourist to believe they have seen some of the Middle East.
It is weird to be going back there, 5 years ago I worked there in a hotel as part of a graduate management training scheme. Soo much has happened in the last 5 years. I have had 2 boyfriends, 1 less suitable than the other, have had 4 jobs, oh and had breast cancer. Ha…I want someone else to be able to fit soo much into soo little time…
I am going to Sharm with a friend of mine and his friend. The plan is to have a relaxing holiday in the sun, them: go on diving excursion, Me: finally do my diving certificate (never managed to do it when I lived there…too busy working!!!). It’s my first holiday in 2 years, last year’s trip to Canada did not quite pan out as planned (Big THANK YOU to my brilliant cousin and his wife and my aunt for accepting me the way I was!).
If I think about it, my last holiday 2 years ago was to the Lake District, as lovely as it was (Thanks J for a lovely 31st birthday), it did not really qualify as a proper time out…4 days and changable weather… In a weird kinda way it’s the first time for me to have ever booked a package holiday, and I looking forward to relaxing! What I am not looking forward to is returning to England at 3 am in the morning on Sunday, and my quarterly oncologists meet up on Monday, how to rid yourself of relaxation!!! In the mean time I am not going to think about this and just sit back and relax!!
What do you do when you start getting involved in a charity?
You sign yourself up for some exciting fundraising, hoping to support the charity in one way or the other. This is exactly what I did when I started volunteering as a Boobette for the amazing CoppaFeel! Having always wanted to run a half marathon, and always been put off by the distance…I used to be a comfortable sub 20min 5km runner…a far throw from the 21.1 km off a half marathon, I decided to sign myself up for the most iconic half marathon in Germany, the Berlin Half Marathon.
Having set up my just giving page, collected my CoppaFeel! vest, Maren and Kriss asked whether I would want to join the Bath Half, or rather they insinuated that it would be a hoot if I also joined the Bath Hooters. Silly me thought, yeah this sounds like a great idea, Bath could be my training run for Berlin! How mental do you have to be to CHOOSE to run 2 Half Marathons in one month, with a giant Boob strapped to your back. J
Well I did it, and yes, it was exhausting, and yes there were moments, especially at Bath were I would have liked to have just stopped, rain, wind and 5 degrees do not make 21 km any more appealing. But what drove me on was that I knew that I was raising money and awareness of CoppaFeel! and this could ultimately save other young girls (and boys) from a late breast cancer diagnosis. I managed to raise over 1100 pounds! My friends from all over the world donated to CoppaFeel! because they knew how important this charity is to me!
What really drove the importance of CoppaFeel!s message Knowing your boobs could save your life home was a guy I met in the warm up area for the Berlin Half Marathon. He asked me why I was wearing this giant boob on my back, and I mentioned that I was running for CoppaFeel! He turned away and then quietly told me that his sister was in a hospice dying of breast cancer. But rather than turning away from me, he offered to run the half marathon with me, and that way acted as my pace maker, allowing me to run the Half Marathon in 2:36 minutes! And when we finished this guy took a picture of me with my boob to show to his sister.
Being a Boobette is about spreading CoppaFeel!‘s message, so we can hopefully one day live in a world where all breast cancers are caught early, where treatments are more effective, and hopefully no one has to die from this turd of a disease. If I can spread their message by running Half Marathons, I guess I have a hell of a lot more running to do!
Last Tuesday I had my first talk as a Boobette, but when I say talk, I should rather say talks, five of them to be precise, to groups of 16-20 year olds. I absolutely loved it. Not to say that I wasn’t anxious before I started, but once I began talking this anxiousness changed into excitement.
I was excited because I am privileged to volunteer for a charity that totally rocks! A charity that mirrors all the thoughts I had when I first got diagnosed. I remember thinking we must do something to educated young people about breast cancer. Coppafeel! is all about educating young people between 18-30s to get to know their boobs and thereby potentially save lives. Their message is conveyed in a fun and simple way. Breast cancer awareness does not have to be bleak and depressing, but it’s also not pink and fluffy. CoppaFeel! I think have got it just right, and I love their slogan “Knowing your boobs could save your life”.
I was excited because finally something great was comming out of this sh**ty diagnosis, I could use my experience in speaking to young people and they could hopefully identify with me. What better way to “glitter a turd” to use Kriss’s words, and use my experience to inspire young adults to get to know their boobs. Young women and men are far more likely to listen to someone their age and act upon it, than if they are spoken to by a 50 something year old. I wish I had had a Boobette talk to me about their experience.
Back to the boobtalk…So after having given the first one and receiving only positive feedback, the task ahead of me looked a bit easier. I was half way through my second talk, touching on the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, when a girl suddenly started sobbing. I stopped to see if she was ok, and she left with the organiser, to leave me continue with the talk. When I was finished with that group, the organiser told me that the girl had realised that she had two of the symptoms that we had talked about and as a result had now made an immediate appointment with her GP. We later on found out that everything was ok, the girl sent a big thank you out to me, us (the Boobettes) and CoppaFeel!, as she was grateful for having been made breast aware.
This really brought the point back home of the importance of CoppaFeel!’s message; had this girl not been to the presentation, she would not have gone to the GPs and potentially would have worried needlessly. Whilst I am ever so grateful that the outcome was negative, and that in the boob world is a positive thing, I want to still emphasise that had it been positive (read bad) she at least would have known and would have been able to deal with the situation straight away. Sticking your head in the sand, living in a world of blissful ignorance, and being ever so proper, just the English way, does not cut it in the boob world.
For me this day filled with boobchat just emphasised how important the Boobettes are in spreading CoppaFeel!’s message. So if there is one thing I would ask you to do now is…”Check your boobies” (you probably guessed, hey) … because ” Knowing your boobs could save your life”.
2013 is over! Thank fuck for that!
It was a hell of a year for me.
Last year saw me get to my very lowest- a place I didn’t think I could get back from again. It took the help of my parents, my brilliant cousin and his wife, my lovely psychiatrist and a 3 month stay in a psychosomatic clinic for me to vaguely rebuild myself.
My mental breakdown was a culmination of my breast cancer diagnosis, my boyfriend breaking up with me half way through the treatment and last but not least me being very hard on myself with my high expectations on how to deal with everything.
Saying that, last year was an extreme learning curve. I learnt to accept my fears. I learnt to be less strict on myself, and, most importantly, I learnt to put myself first. I have not become an egoist- but I have realised that trying to please everyone else, ultimately means I loose out.
Last year I also got to know some amazing people, who have all had their own problems- either mentally or with breasts cancer. These friends have become very important to me, as they understand,without judging, how I am feeling and how I am not coping.
Then again last year also showed me what an amazing bunch of friends I have. I might not see or speak to them very often, but they are their to support me. When I finally came out about my breast cancer diagnosis, they all rallied behind me to support my Half-Marathon in aid of CoppaFeel!. A special thank you to the amazing Trojans!!!
So whilst 2013 really did push me to my limits- it also taught me some invaluable lessons. But really I could have done without the crap leading up to it.
If 2014 is to be jugded by the amazing New Year’s Eve party my best friend the Dutchie organized, then I should be fine. We welcomed 2014 with a big bang!! And I am really looking forward to this year- I have charity work lined up as a Boobette, going to run 2 Half-Marathons in March in aid of CoppaFeel! and habe got some travelling lined up. I’ll keep you updated on the progress.
This Saturday I met an amazing goup of women, strong, resilliant, brave and extremely coragues. We were all from different backgrounds, most of us British, some of us from abroad, but what linked us together was that we all had been affected by breast cancer at a young age.This group of young women forms part of CoppaFeel!’s Boobettes.
CoppaFeel!’s Boobette campaign is about getting young women that were affected by breast cancer to visit schools and work places and by using their stories, get people to think differently about their lives and bodies. The main aim is to educate them about the importance of getting to know their boobs now and making it a life-long habit.
For the first time since my diagnosis I felt kinda normal. Normal because I did not have to explain myself to anyone, and everybody understood what I had been through, because they had been through similar. I could speak about my experience without feeling that I was beeing judged on how I had dealt with my diagnosis. Moreover I did not feel uncomfortable when talking about my breast cancer experience.
When I speak to my ‘normal’ friends, those that have not been affected by breast cancer I always feel that I have to explain myself, that I have to live up to their expectations on how I should be handling my situation. And moreover, most of my friends would rather avoid talking about any of the negativeness I experienced, be it breast cancer or depression.
I suposse I can not expect my friends to know what I went through, because unless you have been affected yourself you cannot know how it feels. However, what I have learnt is that I should not allow others to judge me, unless they have had any first hand experience. And those that have been dealt the breast cancer card would never judge.
GO, GO, GO! That’s what it has been like since I arrived back in England.
Having arrived in London last Saturday, I bussed up to lovely Leeds on Sunday, started work on Monday, and was back down to London Wednesday morning and am going back to Leeds as I am writing this – on Thursday…My carbon footprint ain’t looking to good at the moment.
No rest for the wicked, isn’t that what they say…
My current life style is in a stark contrast to what my life had been like the last couple of months, whilst I was at my folks. There I would get up at 10 ish, have a leisurely breakfast at around 12 and go for the walk with the hounds at 2 and that was me pretty much done for the day. In the beginning being a lady of leisure was great, but lately it had been driving me insane
…insane in the membrane, insane in the brain- sorry I am easily side tracked.
To be honest I find it easier being overly busy, as I then do not have too much time to think, as that dear readers is the real problem. When left to my own devices, not occupied by much, my thoughts quickly turn to darker, more morose corners. I feel like all life is being sucked out, just like the dementors in Harry Potter. Its not that I want to occupy myself with negativity, but given my situation it sometimes is very easy to get sucked up into the depressing side of life.
Then again, being superwoman, running from one place to the other, existing on a liquid diet of coffee and coke, the diet version, I’d like to add, means I am exhausted 24/7 as I have nooo time for myself. When I was in the psychosomatic clinic, I realised that I had not pursued one single hobby in the last 8 years, as I had always been preoccupied with work.
So I suppose what I need to find is a middle ground. Find a way of keeping myself busy, allowing myself to enjoy the moment, and giving myself a break every now and again. But not being so quiet that one might think I am catatonic.
I am one of the world’s most effective procrastinators!
I can procrastinate for hours and hours, until it’s five minutes before midnight and I really need to do something.
As I mentioned in my last post, I am going to start work again, next week by the way. As I am now in Germany, and my work’s office is in England, I have to get ready. That’s not a big thing, you probably think, pack some clothes, and of you go. But its exactly that, packing my bags, which I find difficult…. The root of this goes back to my childhood; my friends, and those who have looked at my ‘About me’ page, will know that I have lived in numerous countries, and packing bags, boxes, cars, vans and containers has always been something of a regular event.
I think I am mentally scarred!!! The moment I see a bag that needs packing, I stumble over it, and head for the door….
Packing, has always meant, saying good bye to the known, getting ready for the unknown, saying bye to good friends, having to meet strangers. I have moved so many times in my life that it is hard to keep track of the exact number. As soon as I have managed to get some roots in one place, I am yanked right out of it ..and the packing starts again.
This time I am not heading out into the unknown, I am going back to my previous job, into a city that I have lived in for nearly 2 years (that f.y.i. is a long time with my track record), a country that I spent nearly 8 years of my life in. So it really should not be that dam difficult to pack those bags.
But alas it is.
When I last moved over to Germany, from England, I left a broken relationship behind, something that has laid quite heavily on me. Whilst I am over this relationship (I think), it still feels weird to be going back to the city that had become our home. So, it might not be the fear of the unknown which is holding me back, but rather the knowledge that life has changed, as long as I was at home with my parents that change was not quite that apparent to me.
With this realisation in mind, I am going to make myself another cup of coffee, and maybe pack my bags…tomorrow.
I am a control freak!
I like to know what is going on in my life.
A distinct change since my last post in which I mentioned that I’m “in limbo” having to learn to go with the flow.
No more! I want control back of my life, and as you know, I never go with the flow.
Whilst cancer has taught me that I cannot predict what is going to happen in the future, it has also taught me that I can influence what happens today.
And right now, I am OK. Right now, I am in the process of going back to work, fundraising for the amazing charity CoppaFeel! and training for a half marathon. To take the metaphor from my last post, work, fundraising for CoppaFeel! and training for the Berlin half marathon are the crutches that keep me from falling into the abyss of the unknown!
Soo, yes, I am going to go back to work. That, for me at least, is really exciting. When I got diagnosed in August last year, I was originally determined to continue working despite going through chemotherapy. This plan only worked for the first month or so. I suppose the diagnosis had not hit home yet, or maybe I was just pretending that everything was OK.
Well, one month into chemotherapy and I just felt scared. I was desperately trying to forget that I had breast cancer; I didn’t want to think about what could happen to me. Death. I realised I might have to face sooner than planned. With my mental state going down hill, I was less and less able to work. It was not until March this year though that I finally decided to get written off sick for a more considerable amount of time.
To be honest, it was the best decision ever. Instead of unsuccessfully trying to straddle working and getting better, I could fully concentrate on myself. And concentrate on myself I did, I spent a good 3 months in a Psychosomatic Clinic, dealing with my then manifest depression and learning to accept my diagnosis.
So, 3 months of psychological intervention followed by 3 months of recuperating at my parents has prepared me to go back to work - and I am really looking forward to it! My work has been extremely supportive, I could not ask for a more understanding, supportive employer!
More on that in a new post though ;-)
In the meantime work is going to provide me with some stability and also a sense of belonging, which I have not had over the last half year.
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