Laura, the ultimate Boobette queen

I have been hmming and awing on how to start this blog…how to start writing my personal tribute to the queen of the boobettes, the ultimate fundraising super hero, cancer ass kicking bad ass, all round superwoman and the queen of hearts Laura Weatherall-Plane, who sadly passed away after living with breast cancer for 8 years.

I first met Laura at my very first Boobette met up in London, I had just recently joined the Boobettes, after having been through my own breast cancer hell in 2012 at the age of 31. Looking at Laura, I did not know that she was dealing with secondary breast cancer…she radiated an air of happiness and confidence that I could only aspire to have at that time. I hadn’t taken my breast cancer diagnosis very well, and had struggled with finding positivity in life. Meeting Laura was a major turn for me, as I was inspired by her attitude to life, when she could have easily been bitter an upset about the unfairness of this diagnosis, she choose to look at what she could do, not at what she couldn’t, she concentrated on living her life to the full, not allowing cancer to dictate it, and spoil her party.

Since then, when I have felt a little down and depressed, I have often thought of Laura, and her attitude towards life, she was, is, my constant reminder to say yes, a reminder that boundaries are set in our mind and that worrying what might or might not happen tomorrow is useless, as it stops you from enjoying today.

When I think of Laura, I think of her as the poster Boobette, as one of my friends called her. She is the girly that used her story to endlessly campaign for CoppaFeel! to educate young people to know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, and her involvent in CoppaFeel helped people to find their cancer at the earliest stage, including her own cousin. She is testimony that the Boobette program works in preventing late diagnosis, and helps in potentially saving lives.

When I think of Laura, I think of the fundraising hero, who raised thousands of pounds all in the name of boobs, and inspiring hundreds of people to join her in this effort. Laura is the girl that despite having secondary breast cancer in her spine and ribs, ran numerous half marathons, cycled the Cornish hills and trekked not only Macu Pico but also the Icelandic fords, together with her amazing husband, raising over 30000 pounds. She is the girl that proved that boundaries that limit you are just in your mind. Hell, if you can run a half marathon days after receiving a blood transfusion, tell me what you can’t do.

When I think of Laura, I think of our last conversation on Facebook, I had just accepted a job in Chad (where the hell is that?) and I couldn’t join the Plymouth Half because of this. Laura, the gem she was, was very exited for me taking this chance, saying it definitely would be an adventure…and I should take is chance. When you think of it, one of the reasons for me going to the middle of no where was because, why not, take a chance, enjoy life, you don’t know where it will take you. As Laura’s husband said, Laura believed in saying yes, until you can’t …

Laura taught all of us that life is about living, it’s about giving, life is about not giving up, not giving into the difficulties life throws at you,  but most of all life is about loving…with the biggest love story being her and her amazing husband Jon! Laura you will continue to shine on! 

Laura you the shining star that will continue to guide me, remind me to live my life to the full, and, to find something to love EVERY SINGLE DAY!

13 years

Waking up on the 26th April 2004, I was stressed, I needed to hand in my final dissertation- so much work had gone into this…so much depended on this…until the late hours I had worked on this with my best friend at university, Roy… I remember him saying- you deserve to do well! We said our good byes in front of his house. I went to bed.

On the 26th April 2004, I was walking up the hill towards the Middle Eastern Department, to hand in my freshly printed dissertation, when my phone went of… a number I didn’t know- Roy’s house mates on the phone telling me to come to the house as soon as possible. I didn’t think much of it at that time, focused only on getting up the hill, to hand in this dissertation. It was raining. Not even at the department, my phone went of again- I ignored it. Then again, this time I answered…Rhyan, you need to come to the house… the thoughts that were going through my head, either they are taking the piss, or Roy has committed suicide! Who.would.think.that.

So after handing in my dissertation, with a huge sense of relief, I walked towards home, two minutes away from Roy’s house. It was still raining. Grey, wet, Durham. Again my phone went of, I realised, something was going on…so I started quickening my steps. Half way up the hill, I was greeted by Roy’s house mates. We are sorry to tell you- Roy has committed suicide! Rain, tears, everything streaming down my face, me feeling empty, like I was in a bad dream…nothing made sense, nothing!

Why had he not talked to me? 

So many things that I wished I had said. Not said. Done. Not done! 

Regrett, guilt, grieve! 

I was the last person to see him alive, it’s as if he wanted to make sure that I handed in the best possible dissertation. It was his lasting legacy- his good bye!

13 years on, it still hurts. Not as deep, not as hard…but it still hurts.

13 years on, and I am reminded that I owe it to Roy to be the best version of me. I owe it to him, myself, to find joy in the little things. 

Roy, I, miss you! 

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Its a new day, it’s a new life…

So we are now half way through the first month of 2017! 2017…where has time gone? 

I started writing this blog in 2013, as a way to digest, and reflect on my cancer diagnosis, or rather, on my life post cancer treatment…back then everything was still quite raw, reading through my blog, I can see how I have moved further and further away from being the girl that had cancer…but no matter what happens, I know deep down that it is this cancer diagnosis that has given me the kick up my arse to look for the good things in life- so I might no longer be the girl that talks tits all the time…but I am the girl that says yes to life, because she had a brush with death!

That said, I feel it is time to appreciate 2016! 

2016 was the year of doing new things for me, the year of change! When I was visiting my sister Christmas 2015 I had vowed to find leave my job by August 2016! I felt 5 years at the same company was enough, and desperately wanted to move abroad again, and start working in the hospitality sector again…and guess what- I did it!

But before we get to that, August 2016, there was still a lot in between going on…

For one thing, there was the running! Whilst I was not aiming to beat any records, run a bizillion races in 2016, I ran a lot, this time round just for myself. Running was no longer just about showing cancer who is the boss, but more about feeling free, and enjoying the moment.


Just before leaving the UK, I did do one last charity run, with my old company, my lasting legacy at TP Orthodontics will be the 3 Leeds10ks that were run, inspiring my fellow colleagues to done on their running shoes 🙂 I still get messages and pictures from some of them, showing of their new found love for running… This year I was particularly proud of those that ran the Leeds10k with me, as I had already left my job, and did not early expect anyone to honour their commitment…So big massiv thank you to everyone who made this happen!


As I am sat here in Chad, I have to say, I do miss my team boobs outfit, and I definitely miss my giant boob…I know I told my friends that I would not be doing anymore charity races…but as I look at this picture, I do feel a very real urg to start training for “one last fundraising event”…and dust of my team boobs shirt and blow up the balloons to stuff that boob…keep your eyes open 😉 


2016 was also a great year for travelling…after having been to Turkey, China and Brazil, all in the space of three months in 2015, I had vowed to continue to visit at least one new country each year. So when my parents expressed their interest in spending Easter with me, I suggested that we should travel to Poland. I had never been there before, and it was a fairly affordable and easy place to get too. Poland, really blew my mind, the Baltic coast there is AMAZING! Long sandy beaches,where you can walk for miles and miles, allowing you to get rid of all those cob webs. The north east of Poland is also still fairly traditional, and rural, giving you the space to step down a gear, and slow down to enjoy life a little more. I will be back.


As I said 2016 was the year of trying new things…including hiking through the Alps with one of my close friends…although, the trek we did the one time should not be called hiking…but rather scrambling/climbing! I am not the greatest fan of heights, and I am also known for being slightly clumsy…so when my friend suggested we should hike up the Hohenstaufen, which she described as a challenging HIKE, I said Yes…hiking I can do… What it turned out to be was more than hiking…with moments where, I as a novice scrambler did not know where to put my feet…which resulted in my friend coining one of the best phrases ever…”hug the mountain as if you wants to f#%ck it” But honestly I am so grateful to my friend for taking me up there- allowing me to prove to myself that no matter how scary something is, you can do it!


And then of course 2016 was about the silverlining, the silverlining of breast cancer that came in the form of volunteering at some pretty cool, and when I say pretty cool events, I mean, mind-bogglingly cool, cool events. Two other Boobettes and me, got to volunteer at a CoppaFeel! fundraising event that had been organised by the sister of one of the Snow Patrol members…but nobody had told us this until the day…I had just said yes to volunteering at this event, as I love CoppaFeel! and tend to say yes to each and to everything they throw my way. It turned out to be one the most amazing nights of my life, I was stood 2 meters away from the stage, at a private Snow Patrol gig, and moreover, I got to meet Courtney Cox, Monica from Friends- not too forget helping at an event that helped to raise thousands of pounds for a charity that is so close to my heart.


And then there was the new job in 2016, back to hospitality, July 23rd 2016! In a new country, a country that hitherto I had hardly heard about…Chad…I only knew that they had a former president that had been in th news for crimes against humanity…but back to the new job. In July 2016, I started back again with the Hilton, in November 2015, I stayed at the Hilton in Istanbul, and my mind was set for me to get back, I wanted to restart my career, which had been put on hold due to breast cancer…so now here I am, working in one of the most difficult countries in the world, but enjoying the challenge- as I know that adversity grows you more, then when you are working within your comfort zone. Everyday has its challenges, but the idea is to rise to these challenges, and not let them overwhelme you. 


2016 was the year where I got to meet someone who I now consider a close friend, a girl who just like me has lived abroad most her life, a girl that I envy for her ability to speak bizillion foreign languages, a girl that was so kind to listen to me beg her to take me to the East of Chad, as I was desperate to get to know the country, and see more than just my golden cage.

Thanks to Amanda, I got to go to Bitkine and Mongo, and I got to meet some of the kindest people I have met in a long time. Amanda works for IAS, an NGO that drills wells in areas where people are struggling to find water. They also have self help groups for women in and around Bitkine, which we visited. Meeting these women was humbling, despite all the hardship and adversities they face, they laughed, smiled and were genuinely happy and excited to see us. These ladies could teach a lot of us some very important lessons…life is not about the things you own, life cannot be measured by material things…life is about sharing it with people you love, and making memories.

Whilst 2016 was a great year, it also had its down sides…one in particular, that hit me hard! We, the Boobettes, a group of young women that all share one thing, they were either diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age, or where affected by it in another way, and use our stories to spread the CoppaFeel! message of the importance of getting to know your boobs and the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, we lost one of our brightest stars.  Alex, who is now shining down on us, wishing us on, reminding us to enjoy life, to take it day by day, and remember that we define what we are, not the circumstances that we find ourselves in. As much as cancer has taken a back step in my life, moments like these make it all so real again! Nothing in life is certain, and that’s why we can’t take anything for granted, bust must strive to step out of comfort zone, ignore the perceived boundaries, say yes to life and make sure that we LIVE.


Here is to a brilliant 2017!

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Lost for words

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer over 4 years ago, at the age of 31, I suddenly became aware of my own mortality, the possibility of being diagnosed with secondary breast cancer hovered over my head like a black cloud. Being part of an elite club, young women, who were diagnosed with breast cancer, I know a number of kick ass girls that have had this secondary diagnosis…and have died- but somehow this always was people that I had not met personally, even though they were friends of friends…and it never really felt real.

Last Sunday, I woke up to the news that one of the amazing Boobettes, had been admitted into hospice, as her treatment for secondary breast cancer was no longer working…Alex was diagnosed after me, and I remember having a Twitter conversation with her, sharing our thoughts on the fear of reucurence and secondaries. Both of us were diagnosed with the same kind of breast cancer, Hormone positive, Her2 negative breast cancer, mine was slightly larger, her’s had affected 3 lymph nodes, mine 2. Both of us had Grade 3, i.e. fast growing breast cancer…Both of us had never really checked our boobs, and both of us had been misdiagnosed initially, because of our age. Now- I am sat here at the Hilton in Chad, she is in a hospice now…how is that fair?????

I am pissed of with the world at the moment, pissed of that this amazing young women is going to be taken away from the world so soon! 

I finally got meet Alex this year at the CoppaFeel! thank you party in March, and she was so full of life, she lit up the room with her amazing smile and her zest for life! She epitomised the girl that was living with cancer, rather than fighting it, enjoying every moment, making sure to savour life to the maximum! Being friends with her on Facebook and Twitter, I never heard her grumble about her situation.  Over the last couple of years, instead on dwelling on how unfair the situation was, she was heavily involved with various charities, trying to raise awareness of breast cancer, in order to ensure that others would not have to go through the same thing as her. Instead of having cancer define her life, she defined it herself!

Sunday morning I woke up, looked at my Facebook feed, and started to cry…cancer is a bastard…and I hate what it is doing to my friends!

Alex, you are a shining star, you are the girl that reminds me to live every moment, to find the beauty in the small things, and I am sending you all the love in the world!

To all my friends, please check your boobs, because knowing them could save your your life!

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When life catches up with you

3 months ago I stepped into a plane, nothing unusual with that really… Nothing unusual either with stepping into a plane to start a new job…what is slightly unusual, at least for most, is the country that I decided to move to…Chad…where the hell is Chad most of you will be thinking…well- before moving here I didn’t know either…

Finally 4 years after my breast cancer diagnosis, I had got to the point wher I felt that my life no longer had to be on hold…I had done a lot over the lasts 4 years, but always within the safety net of my old job, a job that I didn’t really like, but one that I was very good at…living in a city that I had gotten used to, and just as I left, had actually grown to love. Life had kinda got back to normal, no longer was I constantly fearing that my breast cancer would come back, or worse  spread.

For the last 4 years I had been volunteering for CoppaFeel!, raising awareness for this amazing charity, raising awareness of breast cancer with young adults, raising money for them, by running…a lot! talking boobs at festivals and trekking the Great Wall of China…all of this gave me purpose, was an integral part of my identity, and helped me to turn this turd of situation into sparkly rainbow. I cannot put into words what this charity, and the amazing people that I have met along the way for this charity mean to me…what I can say is that without them I would not be where I am now!

So after 4 years of building myself up again, regaining my confidence, and finding myself again, I accepted a job in Chad! Bye, bye safety net, hello unknown…bye, bye CoppaFeel!, boob filled conversation, hello world in which no one, well hardly anyone, knows that I had breast cancer…

It’s weird to be in a place where no one, or rather hardly anyone, knows that I had breast cancer…it feels like part of my persona is missing…breast cancer willingly or unwillingly has become part of me- and whilst it is nice to be just Rhyan, not Rhyan the girl that was diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age, I am missing the part of me that was constantly trying to raise awareness of breast cancer, the part that kicked ass and ran a ridicolous amount of races, just because she wanted to show cancer who was the boss. I miss the part that had found a common bond with total strangers, because we could relate to have being diagnosed at a young age with breast cancer. And then, on top, I sometimes feel that I am not being fully honest with everyone, that I am hiding something. Hiding something out of fear that they might judge me, or think less of me. Hey, maybe they would understand me better if they knew?

Its weird to be in an environment where no one knows what happened, and no one knows that me being here, managing to be my bubbly, smily self, is actually quite an achievement, considering what I have been through. My old work colleagues knew first hand how much I had struggled through all the breast cancer malachi, and breaking up with my ex, half way through breast cancer treatment, and my subsequent stay in psychiatric hospital. My old colleagues, and my friends in Germany and the UK knew that me having a bad day was just going to happen every now and again, even 4 years post breast cancer shit! I guess what a I am trying to say is that here everyone treats my like everyone else…not knowing why I react in certain ways…not giving me leaway for the shit that I have gone through. But maybe that’s not a bad thing, because why should I be treated any differently to anyone else, particularly in a country like Chad, where nearly everyone goes through shit.

And then maybe all of this is just another part of the journey of finding myself back to a new normal, a normal now, where I get treated like a normal person. A normal, where people don’t tilt their head remembering what I went through. A normal where only those who need to know, know what I have been through. A normal where I can draw from all my experiences from the past 4 years, and use them to my advantage, without them defining me. A normal where I can still be the kick ass person I am, without people knowing why. 

Breast cancer has forever changed my life, but maybe, at least for the time being, it is not going to dominate my life as much as it has for the last 4 years, and maybe, that’s a good thing. So here is to living in Chad, and saying yes to life!

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I’ve made it- my life is complete

I was listening to radio 1 a couple of days ago, and Tiny Temper was on to introduce a new song of his. Whilst he was on BBC1 he also mentioned that he had met Matt LeBlanc when filming for Top Gear. According to him, meeting any member of the “Friends” crew, means you have made it…

So, according to Tiny Temper, I have made it.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Manchester with CoppaFeel! I volunteered at a charity ball that was held in aid of CoppaFeel! When I first signed up to do it, I just thought, it would be a nice opportunity to help raise some money for CoppaFeel! and maybe have a bit of boogie- as I had heard that Snow Patrol would be playing at the ball. Mainly, I thought, I would have the chance to talk to some people, and encourage them to check their boobs.

As I was getting ready to drive down to Manchester, I spoke to Sophie, the Health and Education Manager at CoppaFeel, who told me that Courtney Cox was going to be at the Ball- what!?!  How surreal can life get…Courtney Cox…Monica from Friends…

So, I got to talk boobs, help with the fundraising, oh and I got to meet Courtney Cox…so I have made it in life…nothing else for me to achieve 😉


The charity ball was a hug success, Jonny Mcdaid, one of the members of Snow Patrol, whose sister too has had breast cancer, held a really emotional speech at the ball, which made me realise how difficult it must be for the family members of someone who goes through breast cancer. We only really ever see it from our point of view, and whilst it is absolutely shit to go through breast cancer and breast cancer treatment, I never realised how difficult it must be for family and friends.

Listening to Snow Patrol was amazing, I got to feel like a student again! Life s all about the silver lining!

Signing up to being a Boobette has been one of the most amazing experience in my life. I have been able to use my story to raise awareness and encourage young people to check their boobs. It also helps me to grow as a person, taught me to say yes, become more confident and has given me the opportunity to meet some amazing people and do some amazing things. I am grateful to have had the privilege to be part of this charity. I might not be active as a Boobette for much longer- but I will always remain a Boobette by heart.

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Grrr…

I had breast cancer! I was young! It was shit! I got over it!

No need for head tilts and “oh I am so sorry for you”!

Tilting heads, pitiful eyes, sorrowful words- none of them help! They just make me feel pathetic!

Rant over!

 

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Nothing is ever as it seems

This post has been a long time coming, it has been brewing for quite a long time, but every time I have wanted to sit down to write it…I just could not quite find the words.

There is nothing to worry about on the cancer side- all is good in cancerland…I think, I guess…the last blood tests I had say that I am fine- so health wise I am fine. FULLSTOP…

Otherwise I am fine too- running, a lot, travelling, quite a bit, doing my fundraising and charity work in my free time for CoppaFeel…spending time with some pretty amazing people…doing stuff at work that I really enjoy…So all good, in the hood!

And I guess that’s why its been difficult for me to sit down and write this post- from the outside everything seems perfect.

But not all is well in the state of Denmark- or in this case, in my little world…

I don’t really let others know what or how I feel- because that makes me vulnerable, and that’s not who I am…or rather that I not how I want to be seen!

I want people to see me as this strong, independent, woman, who takes everything head on, who doesn’t get phased by anything…I am the slightly annoying, loud girl. I am in your face, the one that will confidently talk to anyone, I make a tit out of myself, because, that’s what you do…I am the girl that travels the world by myself, because, I am comfortable with myself…and hey, I don’t need anyone to make me happy. I am the girl that runs be-zillion half-marathons, because, well, I want to show the world that I can! I am the girl that is a social butterfly, who has no fears of talking to strangers…

But really, that is only one side of me, because their is the other side to me, that only those those who have known me forever are allowed to normally see, the girl that is constantly questioning herself, doubting herself, worrying about what others are thinking about her…the girl that feels awkward in social situations, and feels she is constantly upsetting others, because, well she is to direct…the girl, or rather woman, that is afraid of being by herself, afraid that, people will judge her, when they realise that actually she isn’t as strong as she makes out to be! The woman that would actually like to have the balls to start a relationship again, but, because out of fear of being rejected would rather not do anything about it…

So forever there is this conflict!

This is not to say that I am unhappy, I am happy! But I am also tired, tired of feeling that I have to behave in a certain way for people to like me… Tired of not wanting to be judged. Tired of not wanting to be rejected. Tired of wanting to be liked. Tired of feeling that I have to constantly explain myself!

I know I am being a little harsh on myself, and maybe I should just treat myself, as if I was my best friend…

If my best friend was in my situation, I would probably just say, hey, its ok! Nobody is asking you to be perfect…but that is the crux, I want to be perfect! And my idea of being perfect, is being someone, who can deal with everything that is thrown at her in a positive manner. My idea of being perfect, is not letting others see that sometimes, I find it difficult to cope!

I guess what I am trying to do, is give myself permission to not be perfect, and ask those around me to forgive me for my imperfections!

 

 

 

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Snowhares

I went walking in Bavaria last weekend…although I probs would rather call it hiking- as it invovelved mountains, snow and long distances.

We walked 15 km the one day and 19 the next, if you had asked me to do this a year ago- I would have turned around and said NO!! Trekking the Great Wall of China has definitely changed my opinion on hiking- I really enjoy it nowadays.

Being outside in the fresh air, walking for a long period of time in silence most of the time, allowes me to just enjoy the moment- experience the here and now. It makes me feel free.

On the first day the weather was awful- cold, foggy and lots of snow…but it gave me the chance to take a picture with this snowhare that someone had made…

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It reminded me of a skiing holiday my sister and I had with our dad in 1994. We had gone to the Swiss Alps and it had snowed soo much over night that the roads were bloked and we could not sky for one day. My sister and I built a snowhare.

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What a coincidence that I found another snowhare 22 years on ❤❤❤

The next day we went walking along the Danube. Although the weather was marginally better- no snow or fog, it still was really cold. The original plan had been to walk all the way to the Walhalla, which is a historical sight- important in German Romatism and Nationalism. But after we had walked 9 km in the blazing wind- we decided to turn around and drive to the Walhalla…

This the view that we had from the Walhalla over the Danube.

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I think I still from the I am scarred of missing out syndrom- but hey- life is for living and there to make memories…and that’s what I did in Bavaria!

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Everyday I am shuffling

I ran the endurance life coastal run up at Bamburgh castle today- it was epic.

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I stumbled over this amazing race last year- when I was putting together my runs for CoppaFeel…last year I made the mistake of booking two subsequent races, this 10k, followed by the Bath Half….not my smartest moment

It was painfull!

This year not only had I trained better, but I also did not have the Bath Half looming, so I could run a little faster. Looking at the official results, I improved my time by 8 min- pow!
My watch says 12 minutes but I trust their timing more.

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I love this race- it’s in the most amazingly scenic area in the North East of England, in Northumberland. Running there makes me feel free!

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I think, no I am sure that I will be running this race against  next year! Let’s see what time I can get then.

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