“How Cancer gave me Purpose” – My Tedx Talk explained

Originally posted on Jess Weller / My Travelling Life:

Hello wonderful people in my life,

This is the script for my Tedx Talk titled “How Cancer gave me Purpose”.

Each section comes with an image which has it’s own story, hense why I am here to do what I do best – explain and tell you the story.

The video editing was not as good as I would have expected so it is important for me to explain the imagery so that you can better connect with the message of my talk. Enjoy.

The Best

A year and a half ago I was 27 and I was on the adventure of a lifetime.

I was living in London and I had a permanent smile glued to my face.

I was so excited to be starting a new chapter and had recently moved to the UK from New Zealand.

I had just taken my first trip into Europe and several…

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Bonkers

2014 is over and what a year it has been!

It was bonkers!!

Not only did I find my new normal, which involves tons of boob chat, raising money for CoppaFeel! but I also found some of my old normal again, I started travelling loads again, saw loads of my friends and regained my independence!

2014 was the start of me volunteering as a Boobette for CoppaFeel! Being a Boobette means I get to talk to young people at schools, universities and work places, to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, get them to know the importance of checking their boobs, encourage them to start checking them regurlarly and moreover get them to know what normal feels like. Because if they do not kow what normal feels like than they do not know what not normal feels like. Maybe most importantly we also try to empower them, so that if they feel something is not right, they will go to GPs and have things get checked out. We Boobettes use our stories, so that young people can relate to them. I wish I had a someone like me talk to me! I can’t wait to resume my Boobette duties very soon.

2014 was also the start, and definitely not the end, of me running for CoppaFeel! and raising over 1200 pounds for this amazing charity. I used to run when I was at University…I was actually member of the Durham University Cross Country Club, but after finishing University, I kinda let it slip…because…well, work just got the better of me.
I am not the worlds best runner, and definitely not the fastest, nor is it my favourite sport, but running does give me a sense of control, which cancer had taken away from me. And running in aid of CoppaFeel! means that I can raise awareness of the charity, you definitely get noticed when running as a giant boob, and moreover, I can help to raise vital funds for this brilliant charity.
Yes, so running, its going to continue this year, this rear I am going to be running 12 races in 12 months to raise at least 5000 pounds, to help CoppaFeel! spread their message of “knowing your boobs could save your life!”. Rhyan is racing for racks! Please follow my story over on tumblr http://racingforracks.tumblr.com/.

Back to 2014…

In 2014 I also got to go to a Festival, no 2 Festivals…both times boob related. I am 33 and I love festivals…I love the freedom of just being you at a festival! I can be my little exited Rhyan that runs around like a crazy 16 year old.
The first festival I went to was Festifeel, CoppaFeel!’s own festival which is curated by Fearn Cotton, so you get to see loads of cool, up and coming bands. It was a lovely day, sunny- which is a treat in the UK, I managed to get to park my car for free right in front of the venue- yay!!! There was loads of lovely CoppaFeel! people, a lot of fellow Boobettes- its always nice to meet up with them and have a little chat. Festifeel is amazeballs, and 2014 Rizzle Kicks headlined it, and I soo am going to see them again…!!!
The other festival I went to was Leeds Festival. I went there together with CoppaFeel! who every year tour the UK festival scene as part of their boob tour with their amazing Boob Cube. The idea behind this is to talk to as many festival goers as possible, making them aware of the sign and symptoms of breast cancer and signing them up to the brilliant “boob checking” reminder text service. The campaign in 2014 was all about #whatnormalfeelslike. We were asking young people to describe their boobs, how they felt like, rather than what size they were. Ultimately if you are not comfortable with your boobs, if you do not feel what they normally feel like, how are you going to know what not normal feel likes… FYI My boobs are wonky, new boob is like a rugby ball and my old boob, well that’s peachy…so go one check yours and tell your boyfriend, girlfriend, sister, mom what they feel like! Leeds Festival was a blast, the weather was crap- how can it be just as warm in August as it was in early December! but the lovely CoppaFeel! crowed meant that this really didn’t mater, and hey wellies and winter coat is all you need when watching “The Arctic Monkeys”… I really hope I get to do this again in 2015.

So 2014 was also about me re-establishing my old normal! I had lost my identity throughout this cancer journey…I no longer knew who I really was, apart from a breast cancer patient…and my 3 month stay in the Psychiatric hospital made me realise that this…

I started to travel again! I love traveling…I live to travel! I travelled in England, Scottland, Germany, Egypt and Turkey :-). Yayyy…I got to go to places where I had never been, including Fort William in Scottland- did I mention I love!! Scotland. I think its the wild open landscapes that you have there, all fairly untouched. Whilst I am a city girl…I really do like to just get away from everything and just let my soul wander…as you say in German…”Die Seele baumeln lassen”. I also went back to Egypt…I had not been to Egypt for 4 years. In 2010 I had left Egypt very abruptly after splitting up with a nasty piece of crap, who had beaten me up! So, as most people might understand, I kinda did not really wanna go back there- trauma!!! However, somehow I mentioned to one of my bestest friends that I was thinking of going there for a holiday, and he and one of his mates ended up booking a holiday to go diving there…and as I always wanted learn to dive. So of to Egypt I went, got my diving certificate, and after getting back to the UK, I booked my next trip to Egypt with a stop over in Istanbul! Going to Istanbul for a day has inspired me to go back to Turkey this year. My plan is to travel from Ankara, via Cappadocia to Daca…

Friends, I saw my friends, loads of them…I hardly spent any time in my flat in Leeds (maybe I should just leave a bag of clothes at one of my collegues, pay her 100 quid a month and save the rest…but that wont work). Everyone needs to spend time with their friends, it is just a shame that mine live all over the place! Whilst most people have a set group of friends that live close by, I have to drive for at least 4 hours to see my best friends, or jump into a plane. I only have one very close friend here in Leeds! One thing I have realised with this breast cancer malachy, is that I find it hard to relate to my friends who have had kids…I wont have kids in the foreseeable future…maybe never…to say I don’t mind is wrong…but I have accepted it. I cannot talk to my friends about kiddy, baby related stuff…but I think it would be nice to just talk to my friends about other things… Just as I had to find my identity again after breast cancer, some of my friends might need to find their identity after having had kids…

Independence, I definitely regained my independence…but more than that, I have learnt to like my own company. Prior to breast cancer I really hated being on my own, and throughout my chemotherapy I literally could not be in a room by myself, because I would start running up the wall! Now, I don’t mind spending time by myself…because this means I can do what I want!

So all in all 2014 was a great year!!! Now lets hope 2015 is just as good! It started with a bang- and not a good one, one involving lots of metal and me having to deal with insurance companies…but lets not dwell on being pissed of…and concentrate on living!

A happy 2015!!

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Happy New Year

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The Boobtatstic Boobettes

Wow, your hair! It’s really long! Yours too- is that how you finally want it?
Talking about hair, A normal conversation between to normal girls- one would think… But actually this was the chit chat between me and another girl that had had breast cancer during in 2012. We had this conversation during our last Boobette meeting in between breaks. And yes it was a normal conversation but only normal to us. Just as chatting about the side effects of tamoxifen versus letrozole and zoladex, during lunch came as natural to us, as talking about comparing diving in the Galapagos isles with diving in the Red Sea.
I love these girls!
Whilst I love all my friends, it is only with this bunch of boobtaatic Boobettes that I don’t feel like I am an outsider. Other girls my age talk about buying a house, having kids and getting married. With the Boobettes I can share my deepest fears, I can talk about reconstruction, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and the side effects without fearing that they don’t understand.
So this post is a thank you, a thank you to all the Boobettes! I won’t be grateful to cancer, but I will be grateful for having met these girls! And I will definitely be grateful to CoppaFeel! For allowing me to be part of this inspiring charity and allowing me to use my sucky diagnosis to hopefully inspire young people to get into the habit of checking their boobs!

Always look on the bright side of life

So today I finally had my follow up with my lovely breast surgeon at Leeds St James Hospital. It is exactly two years ago that I was carted into theater and said good bye to my right tit- and hello to the work of art that is the reconstruction boob. Really, Dr A did an amazing job- the scar is barely visible…

Driving into the car park at the Bexley wing I could feel myself tense up- I hadn’t been here for 6 months…and boy I had not missed this place.

Back to the new boob- whilst, yes Dr A did an amazing job ensuring I did not wake up tittless, which I was adamant I wouldn’t- it is precisely this that has led me back to the Breast Clinic. As my cancer rather large, originally at least 5cm and it had spread to 2 Lymphnodes- the team at St James felt that radiation therapy was necessary. This is the problem- implants and radiotherapy don’t like each other…basically there is a high chance of the implant hardening and shrinking. As I didn’t want to a) wake up without a boob b) have a second operation or c) create anymore scars on my body, an immediate implants was the only choice…and I choose to take that risk (hey the odds can’t always be against me?!!!)

Haha…guess what- my implant has hardened! Not that much that much that it needs to be removed…but enough that Dr A felt that we should try lypofilling… Basically what the plan is, is to remove fat- through liposuction around my waist, clarify it, and inject it around my new boob. Sounds ok doesn’t it- free lypo…not necessarily a trade of I would choose- but hey now I might as well…

So after convincing Dr A that we would try and do this lypo under local anaesthetic, instead if a general anaesthetic…well how painfully can this  be- I will be having my first fat transfer beginning of January 😀. Yay- I am actually looking forward to this procedure- after having lost my boob…now I get to loose some inches of my waist- if that’s not good thing 😉. As I said- always look on the bright side of life!

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Open your eyes!

If this journey has taught me one thing, then that is to appreciate everyday things.

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I suppose sometimes all it takes is to open your eyes- and even the most ordinary thing can seem extra ordinary! 🍂🍁🍄

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Instead of us all racing around, trying to get the newest gadget, fly to the most exotic locations, sometimes we should just stand back and appreciate the things that are around us.

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Beeee Happyyyy

I saw this in front of a shop in the corn exchange…a good slogan me thinks:

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1 Day in Istanbul

Sun, Sea and relaxing

So yesterday I flew to Sharm El Sheikh- again…twice in one year…that’s a bit excessive you may think…or she must have an Egyptian boyfriend.
Excessive it may be, but I needed to get out of dreary old Europe and go somewhere where there was guaranteed sun shine, the possibility of diving and somewhere that relatively cheap. Sharm El Sheikh ticks those boxes. On the note of a boyfriend- a big fat NO, never again! I am sure there might, possibly, very unlikely be some nice Egyptian men out there- but I am sure they can find other nice European girls…
This time I decided to fly to Sharm via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines, as my last experience flying charter was a rather traumatic experience. Not nobly was the flight delayed by over two hours both ways, but I just don’t see why I need to cue in a cattle market, pay extra for everything (including a blanket to keep me warm when the air craft air conditioning is working overtime)- and in the end pay just as much as if I had flown with a national carrier…
This meant I arrived in Sharm at 4 in the morning, when I then had to haggle with the taxi driver over is over priced taxi fair (how can a journey of 19 min cost just as much as a journey of two hours?) But hey, they need to make some money too..
I did have a very pleasant surprise when I walked into The Pirates Bar at the Hilton Fayrouz to pick up as spot of lunch. I bumped into two of my old colleagues who now work there- and as a result I now am allowed to use the beach at Hilton Fayrouz- for free…which is rather fortunate as they charge for day use…and it is the nicest beach in Naama Bey.

Lack of sleep is catching up on me- and I have arranged to be picked up at 7.3o am tomorrow for my first dive…so I guess I am going to have an early night!

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