Thank you!

I wanted to say a (rather late) thank you to everyone of you who sponsored, supported and encouraged me to run the 2016 Race for Life. For me it was far more than running 10k – it was a celebration of the amazing work that Cancer Research do each and every day, a celebration of how far I’ve come in the last 12 months and a start on my journey back to fitness.

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I set myself the target of raising £250, which I never thought I’d meet but with your generosity, I raised more than double the amount £505.61. I’m beyond chuffed and your support really did help me run the course.

In both the Bournemouth and Cardiff runs, the people cheering on the side lines made me smile but having my bestie, Hayley, at my side in Cardiff made the run a breeze. She’s been by my side throughout my journey – from the surprise visit the day after my op to listening to my moans on Whatsapp. She, in more ways than one, is my biggest sponsor and cheerleader.

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Thank you to each and everyone of you for your kind donations, your words of support and your pounds. Cancer treatment is evolving faster than many of us can keep up and that’s only possible because of generous people like you.

Thank you – more than you know, Becky xxx

 

Top 5 films to watch on chemo recovery days

Everyone has days where all we feel able to do is flop in front of the TV and watch a well worn DVD. Whether you’re recovering from a recent round of chemo, generally feeling tired or could do with some cheering up, these are the DVDs I recommend for you.

Why these five? They each contain a good story line and a generous dose of laughter – exactly what you need when you’re feeling sorry for yourself and only well enough to make it to the sofa.

I know not everyone has the luxury of two hours uninterrupted sofa time, particularly if you have young children, but if you can squeeze in a ‘me party’, you absolutely should.

Here are my top 5 recommendations:

5. Julie and Julia

I wanted to be a baking blogger from the day I saw this film but never quite had the confidence to do it. Julie and Julia is an inspiring film about how doing something you love can enrich your life. It’s perfect to watch on a down day – uplifting and easy. Here’s the trailer in case you haven’t seen it already and you can buy it here.

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4. Chocolat

I know, I know, I clearly think about food far too much! But I love this film nearly as much as chocolate itself. It celebrates the wonderful things in life, however small they may seem. If you haven’t seen Chocolat, watch the trailer here and, if you like what you see, buy it here.

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3. Bridesmaids 

Even the trailer makes me laugh! This is the perfect pick-me-up. If you need a giggle, it’s pretty much guaranteed. Watch the trailer here and buy the DVD here.

bridesmaids

2. A Knight’s Tale

This is another of my favourite films. William Thatcher pretends to be a Knight to make his fortune, with the help of his friends and an unknown writer called Chaucer, who is v funny. He soon finds love and his way back home. Life takes you to unexpected places, love brings you home. If you haven’t seen the film, watch the trailer here or buy the DVD here.

a knight's tale

1. How to lose a guy in 10 days

This film was amongst a bag of DVDs my sister, Teresa, gave me to watch whilst I was having chemo and it was the one that made me laugh the most. It ended in true romantic style – I love a romance and these two were made for each other. If you haven’t seen it already, watch it. If you have seen it already, hec watch it again! Pass the popcorn

how to lose

It is worth doing nothing and having a rest

On Wednesday I had my annual check up and mammogram. Yes, it’s been 12 months since my lumpectomy and lymph node clearance. It’s been the longest yet fastest 12 months of my life. You’d think with the worst of my treatment out of the way I’d feel like my breast cancer journey is over but I’m starting to accept that that’s not quite the case, unfortunately.

I’ve recently been feeling energyless and wondering why. It’s beyond frustrating when there’s lots of things you want to do but all you feel able to do is sleep. I mentioned this in my check up and the response was: “Yes, this is what we’d expect. Don’t underestimate the drugs you’re on”.

This saddened me because I desperately want my life to get back to what it was before. It’s hard to accept that your life is not going to bounce back and that certain lifestyle changes are going to have to be made; that weekends can’t always be about adventuring, that you’re going to need even more sleep than before.

With tiredness turning to nausea I’ve decided it’s time to listen to my body and slow down. It’s not as easy as it sounds, especially when you have plans and don’t want to let people down. But despite today’s beautiful weather, I’ve decided to let my body win.

This is what my morning consisted of:

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Despite feeling pretty rubbish, I also felt guilty; “I should be past this – full of energy, using my day off wisely”. Alas, going down stairs to make a drink was the best I could muster.

As I settled back under the sheets, this blog post from Gabrielle, a yoga teacher from Melbourne, popped up on my Facebook feed. It’s a verse taken from Michael Leunig’s The Curly Pyjama Letters and its timing couldn’t have been more right. I wanted to share these words with you, in case you need to hear them too…

Dear Vasco,

In response to your question, “What is worth doing and what is worth having?” I would like to say simply this. It is worth doing nothing and having a rest. In spite of all the difficulty it may cause, you must rest Vasco – otherwise you will become restless!

I believe the world is sick with exhaustion and dying of restlessness. While it is true that periods of weariness help the spirit to grow, the prolonged ongoing state of fatigue to which our world seems to be rapidly adopting is ultimately soul destroying as well as earth destroying.

The ecology of evil flourishes and love cannot take root in this sad situation. Tiredness is one of our strongest, most noble and instructive feelings. It is an important aspect of our conscience and must be heeded or else we will not survive. When you are tired you must act upon it sensibly – you must rest like the trees and animals do.

Yet tiredness has become a matter of shame! This is a dangerous development.

Tiredness has become the most suppressed feeling in the world. Everywhere we see people overcoming their exhaustion and pushing on with intensity – cultivating the great mass mania which all around is making life so hard and ugly – so cruel and meaningless – so utterly graceless – and being congratulated for overcoming it and pushing it deep down inside themselves as if it were a virtue to do this.

And of course Vasco, you know what happens when such strong and natural feelings are denied – they turn into the most powerful and bitter poisons with dreadful consequences. We live in a world of these consequences and then wonder why we are so unhappy.

So I gently urge you Vasco, do as we do in Curly Flat – learn to curl up and rest – feel your noble tiredness – learn about it and make a generous place for it in your life and enjoyment will surely follow.

I repeat it’s worth doing nothing and having a rest.

Yours Sleepily,
Mr. Curly XXX

Rest is so under-rated in our society and we feel guilty for taking time out from the constant rush. Truth is, life and its pressures can be overwhelming at the best of times – we could all do with taking some of Mr Curly’s advice.

If you’re feeling pressure from others or from yourself to be back to the person you were before your life changed, with the same energy and abilities, remember, it’s worth having a rest. Remember to be kind to yourself. Lots of love, Becky xx

 

 

Stimulating hair growth after chemo

Like most people who have lost their hair through chemo, I couldn’t wait for it to start coming back. Being bald made me feel utterly ugly; I yearned for the first sign of regrowth for fear that it wouldn’t regrow at all.

hair growth first stages

Then, as soon as hair started to reappear I wanted it to grow thicker and fuller and quicker.

Slowly but shorly

I’m not alone either – I’ve seen lots of people asking questions on message boards and support groups about how they can encourage their hair to grow back quicker. Many people reply with shampoo recommendations, which is all very well but do they work? I have no idea but one thing I do know is: we are what we eat. Or what we put into our bodies, I should say.

Our hair didn’t fall out because of something we put onto it, it fell out because of the ‘poison’ we had running through our veins. So what we put into our blood is going to affect how best our hair grows back, far more than any shampoo can, right?

My hair started to grow back in February whilst I was having radiotherapy – slowly at first and now I’ve got a thick covering of gorgeously soft hair. I’m pretty pleased with it. Don’t get me wrong, I still feel like an ugly adolescent boy but it’s a start. And I’m pretty sure, although I can’t promise it’s the case, that my speedy regrowth is down to the pretty slick vitamin regime I’ve got going on. Oh yes, a healthy diet is far more than a good portion of fruit and veg and if we were to get all the vitamins we need via our diet alone, we’d be eating all the time (does sound appealing, doesn’t it – unfortunately chocolate and ice cream isn’t included).

So, ‘what supplements help with hair growth?’ I hear you cry. Here lies the secret:

BVitamin B The vitamin B group is called a complex – vitamin B complex. The combination of B1, B2, B3, B5 and B7 nourish the hair follicles. The B complex is found in high protein foods like fish, red meat, eggs and dark green veg. I’m taking these, which contain B1 and 2 and biotin (B7), which helps to improve the keratin structure (the protein than makes up hair, skin and nails).

Vitamin C Not only is this the saviour of the common cold, it also helps with the production of collagen which forms part of the hair structure. Get this in your diet via oranges and lemons (as well as lots of other fruit and veg) or keep your levels topped up with vitamin supplements. I’m taking these slow release tablets once a day.

EVitamin E Vitamin E helps improve the circulation of blood around the body, including to the scalp, which helps a steady supply of nutrients get to the hair follicles, boosting strong and healthy hair growth. It’s also good for your immune system, which is always a bonus when you’re building your body back up after chemo. I’m taking these but you should also eat nuts, seeds and leafy green veg to get it into your diet.

Omega 3, 6 and 9 Essential fatty acids aid skin and hair growth – they’re said to help nutrient absorption at the hair follicle by helping blood circulation and cell growth. You can get your fill of essential fatty acids via oily fish and seeds. To top that up, I’m taking a brand of oils called vertese, which came recommended by my gorgeous friend, Shiv, who’s a bit of a nutrition expert.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, it’s just this list of supplements I’m taking. If you’re taking any supplements to help boost healthy hair growth, please do tell me about them and your experience generally in the comments below.

And if you’re thinking of taking supplements to help boost your hair growth post chemo, don’t forget to ask your oncologist before you start taking them – you never know how they might interact with your medication.

Good luck with getting your healthy mane back. Don’t forget to enjoy all the styling options as you get back to your desired length. Thanks, Becky xx

PS – I’m not discounting hair grown shampoos/soaps/treatments, these products may have an influence, but how much of an effect they have, I really don’t know. Is it marketing schpeil? Are they any good? Let me know!

Top 10 tunes to get you through cancer treatment

Here are my top 10 tunes to add to your ‘get through it’ list. See it as a mix tape from me to you.

10. Fly Away Home is one of my favourite films and this song is one of the reasons why. It’s both uplifting and moving, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Mark Isham, First flight from the film Fly Away Home

9. This song does what it says on the tin – we can all be hard on ourselves and others even when we’re carrying heavy loads. This is definitely one to dance around to – forget your worries and throw some shapes!
Jess Glynne, Don’t be so hard on yourself

8. Sometimes running away from it all seems like the best option but by facing treatment head on shows how strong we are – stronger than we know.
Naughty Boy featuring Beyonce and Arrow Benjamin, Runnin’

7. This piece has a beautiful and strong cello part. Close your eyes and enjoy…
Ludovico Einaudi, Two Sunsets or Due Tramonti

6. Since moving to the sea, I’ve found myself sat on the sand watching the waves and feeling their healing energy. This song is about being thrown into the deep end and the tide creeping in.
Ellen and the Escapades, When the tide creeps in

5. I love Georgia Ruth and is one of my GR faves. During chemo, I liked to think about when ‘winter’, ie chemo, would be over and I could look back and say, ‘well that was winter’.
Georgia Ruth, Winter

4. This song makes me think of my Dan and how much he’s supported me – he’s held my hand through some hard times and I’ll always be grateful to him for letting me lean on him.
Jess Glynne, Hold my hand

3. We all need a good feel good power ballad sometimes – crank it up, girls!
Alicia Keys, Girl on fire

2. This song was originally written by the folk singer, Dafydd Iwan, about famine in Ethiopia, but recently it was re-recorded by a group of Welsh artists, including Iwan, to promote Irfon Williams’ campaign to get access to a drug that’s available on the NHS in England, in Wales. The good news is, after a long fought campaign, Irfon and his supporters were successful and the drug is now available in Wales. I love this version of the song and hope you do too.
Welsh artists, Hawl i fyw/Right to life

1. This one is for all the amazing women who have supported me through this shitty time. Thank you for being part of my sister act.
Patina Miller, Sister Act

Getting back to fitness after chemo

I’ve always enjoyed running but in the year before my breast cancer diagnosis I was running more than ever. It was a great way to get some exercise and made my commute from East London to Surrey far more tolerable. And now, living on the coast and being able to run along the beach makes exercise even better.

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Ahead of starting chemo I’d hoped to exercise throughout the treatment or on week three of each cycle, at least. But when my body was being put through its paces, chemo paces, getting to the gym or going for a run couldn’t have felt more impossible – basic tasks left me out of breath so their was no puff for running and the like.

Whilst I absolutely wasn’t capable of physical exercise, it didn’t stop me craving a run along the beach. The fact that other people having chemo were managing to exercise and, in some cases, run 10k races days after treatment made my frustration worse. In the days following chemo I was often found in a hospital bed, which goes to show how differently we all react to the drugs.

The fact that my reactions were quite severe made me even more determined to get exercising as soon as I could. The weight gain side effect of the drugs is also a huge motivation for me to get my heart pumping and muscles working hard, so much so that I signed up to two 10k races – Cancer Research’s Race for Life in Bournemouth in June and Cardiff in July – before finishing my course of chemo.

At the time of signing up, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to run them – when you get out of breath walking 10 paces, a 10k couldn’t feel like more of a challenge. I also had radiotherapy to go and wasn’t sure how I’d react. I’m now 12 days into four weeks of radio and whilst I’m still not 100% certain I’ll be running a decent 10k by June, I’m determined to give it my best.

So how do you get from zero to 10k in five months?

The eight week training plan from Women’s Running is my starting point.

I printed out the plan and joined the gym for a month to run on the treadmill. The first gym session involved running for a minute and walking for a minute for 20 minutes. The running-walking thing lasted for five minutes before I felt like my teeth were going to fall out from exertion so I walked for the remaining time. After three more gym sessions I managed the full 20 minutes of alternate walking and running – in the space of a week I’d come along way. It’s amazing how quickly the body adapts.

Running on a treadmill isn’t my idea of fun and now the weather is starting to feel spring-y, I’m back to beach running. The sun and the view really lift my spirits – I feel so lucky to have such a beautiful setting at my feet.

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With the beach calling and the sun beckoning, I’ve been on four four-ish kilmometer runs this week, which have taken about half an hour, including pauses for breath and a couple of speed walking intervals.

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My bloods are starting to get back to normal so breathlessness is less of an issue but keeping up the endurance is definitely a case of mind over matter. Whilst there’s no shame in stopping for a break, I feel like it’s my brain stopping me and not my legs. That said, it’s really important to listen to your body and taking it slow and steady is essential. That’s why I’m really proud of my ‘measly’ 4k. I’m getting into my rhythm and it’s going to get easier but I’m being sensible with my body. My next goal is to make the 5k run to Boscombe pier by the end of next week – I’ll let you know if I make it!

If you’re looking to get back to fitness after chemo, it’s worth speaking to your oncologist. My oncologist suggested starting with stair walking or getting a step for exercise if you live in a flat. Also, lots of gyms offer a free month or two for people referred by their doctor. I was really excited about this (I know, I need to get a life) but be warned, the gym may take their time in setting it up (I’m still waiting for my free membership weeks after being referred by my doc).

Good luck with your journey back to fitness and let me know how you’re getting on

Becky xx

 

Chemo skincare saviours

Chemotherapy certainly takes its toll on the body, both inside and out. It’s an invasion that doesn’t leave a single cell untouched – that’s the whole purpose really, isn’t it; to bleach out the bad cells. Unfortunately it doesn’t leave the good cells unscathed; chemo drugs target all rapidly dividing cells and as a result, they leave their calling card with hair, skin and nails too.

Today I want to talk about skin and nails. Hair is another ball game for another day.

Throughout my chemo I’ve received some fantastic skincare gifts from some truly lovely people and I wanted to share the ones that worked best for me. Here are my top five chemo skincare saviours:

My Trusty Little Sunflower cream

my trusty

Perfectly named, this cream is the business. Available in body butter, a non-perfumed moisturiser (my preference) and a lavender scent, as well as other products, it was originally designed by Salisbury District Hospital for burns victims and people having plastic surgery so you can imagine it’s pretty strong stuff.

Initially I was skeptical (my skin wasn’t instantly soft and smooth after one application) but after three or four uses I couldn’t believe the difference it made. It’s a natural cream that really moisturises and it absorbs quickly (even the body butter) so you don’t have to wait ages for it to dry before getting dressed – a big tick for me.

I’d recommend using it all over your body, focusing on particularly dry areas and your scar (I use it on my scalp too, when it’s flakey or itchy) every other day so your skin can still make it’s own natural oils.

My trusty tops the list because it’s natural, it works wonders after just a few uses and all profits go straight back into Salisbury Hospital patient care – everyone wins.

It’s not particularly cheap but it’s worth it and the online shop often has deals. A number of shops across the UK stock the cream and I’ve also seen it in my hospital pharmacy so keep an eye out for it when you’re picking up meds.

Olive oil soap

ooil

You need this in your life, ladies and gents. A friend of mine brought me a bar back from Italy and it’s working wonders. It completely got rid of the dry, itchy scalp I’d been having after just one use. I use it two or three times a week on my head and every day on my body – it really locks in the moisture. This, combined with a lathering of My Trusty is a marriage made in moisture-matrimony!

Olive Oil soap is a real hit for me. I had no expectations but was amazed how quickly it did the trick on my scalp. It’s reasonably priced, it’s natural and it works quickly. That’s my kind of skincare!

You can buy bars made in the Mediterranean easily from Holland and Barrett, the Vitamin grocer and other online sellers.

Neal’s Yard Organic Shea Nut and Rosehip lip balm

I’ve never been one for lipbalms but my gorgeous friend, Lauren, said this balm holds the answers to the questions chemo would ask of my lips and she wasn’t wrong.

I’m still guilty of neglecting my lips but when I do remember to use it, it really makes a difference. I’ve found my lips have been soft and healthy looking, despite the winter cold and irregular application.

If your lips are calling for some TLC, head to Neal’s Yard shops or buy online.

Drapoline

Ahh bottoms. First it’s boobs, then it’s bottoms…

Thanks goodness for Drapoline – it’s not just for babies you know.

Drapoline is readily available in supermarkets and pharmacies so you won’t have trouble getting your hands on a pot. It’s not exactly natural but when it does the job, I’m willing to make that compromise.

Defiant Beauty Nail Oil

nailI’ve been lucky with my nails – they haven’t turned black and they haven’t fallen out * touches wood *. I’ll be honest, I haven’t done anything to prevent this – my nails have been au natural 90% of the time and I’ve not done much with them, except occasionally use this lovely nail oil from Beauty Despite Cancer. I’m not suggested that the oil prevented any colour change or nail loss but it seems to have kept them relatively strong.

My oil came in a beautiful gift set from my work colleagues but you can buy the oil separately too.

 

These products were my skin saviours and I’d love it if they work for you too. I have naturally dry skin and different skin types will respond differently but if any of these work for you, let me know!

What potions and lotions helped your skin survive chemo? I’d love to hear your recommendations