Eight : For Everyone I Ever Lost 1/2

I normally write to Ma at this time of year, and I will, but January always brings with it the spectre of loss, and this year I wanted to unpack it a bit.

I used to hate with a passion the term ’sorry for your loss’. This was in the early days of grief when actually, looking back, I just needed to be angry and didn’t know where to put that.

I’d get confused between loss and lost, and lost seemed so accusatory. I’d feel stabbed every time any one made a comment however sincere, I felt blamed. Neither she, nor I had wandered off in the supermarket. In fact, I had tried to stick ever so close, especially in those last precious weeks.

It felt backward too, if anyone had lost anyone she had lost us. We were still right where we had always been and she had left. Ah the muddle of illogical grief.

But really, she wasn’t lost, she hadn’t passed (don’t EVEN get me started on the stupidity of PASSED). My Mama had died. SHE’D DIED. Why did we need to pussyfoot around this? I needed people to be completely frank about it, which nobody seemed willing to do.

As you can tell, I was angry.

Anger, it has taken me an awfully long time to learn, is often times mis-spent pain. Grief was a new type of pain that I couldn’t understand or quite let in. It takes a special kind of confusion to take the words of kindness and find exasperation; truth is nothing anyone can say can really help when someone we love dies. I still pause before I say, “I’m sorry for your loss”, to someone else, in case I can find a more personal way to express myself.

I’ve calmed down a bit since those heady, raw days. I still wish that death, and the discussion of death in a frank, yet gentle way was more prevalent in society. It would help so much in the whole grief bubble and perhaps enable us to find the right words to say.

Do you know what else I’ve learnt about grief? Or Loss (I’m trying to reclaim it), sometimes the hardest grief is when the person your are grieving isn’t lost to the earth at all, just simply lost to you. The ache of knowing they’re out there but they have no need in their world for you. Ooof. That is sometimes harder than a death could be; at least I can look back now and know mama didn’t leave willingly.

I don’t take losses well. I still have heart pangs over a necklace left in a hotel in San Fransisco – one of a kind. I’ve mourned that necklace; every now and again I think of it, and hope it’s gone on to have a whole new story, that it is LOVED. I lost that necklace nine years ago, it’s inanimate object. So can you imagine what I’m like with an actual person?

We all have people who have been in our lives and aren’t anymore. Sometimes that is our ‘fault’, sometimes theirs; sometimes nobody was at fault at all, but they’re still no longer there. Some, you never even see again, and some, you might see all the time. The pain of small talk, where once opened hearted, free flowing dialogue was, can cut just as deeply as an absence.

When I think of my people, the ones who are lost to me. No matter the story behind the separation, I’ve started to hope for them an amazing, adventure filled, technicolour life. What I am trying to realise is that every loss is a lesson. Would I have thanked myself or anyone else, for pointing that out in the first heart sad days of grief – for mum or any of the others? No. I would of wished of them a chair to the face.

Now, there seems no other way of living with the pain, shame, and regret. It all needs to have a meaning and the only meaning I can control is what I learn. Does that mean I don’t repeat the same mistakes? Well, I’m not sure, but maybe with every one I get a little smarter, so give me another eight years and lets see how we’re doing.


Seven, f*&K ing Seven.

Hey Ma,

7 years. HUH. Well, I’m just going to dive right in here – this year I find myself jealous of the people who still have mothers (or those who had mothers for longer). Those who can go to tea or talk on the phone, who can give the advice, hold the baby or approve the dress. I am fathered, parented, loved but I worry I have forgotten what it is like to be mothered. Perhaps that is the 7 year itch of grief.

It is easier to recognise when you are sad, than when you are happy, did you ever notice that? Why do you think it is? Are we generally a melancholic breed? OR is it just January, that makes it feel that way?

It still catches me off guard. The Sad. Earlier this week I had a client who was wearing the perfume that you used to wear. I’ve avoided it for years, thinking it might be a trigger to a wave of something, some emotion, I would not be able stop. I didn’t notice at first, an itch you can’t reach, an ear worm you can’t place, and then a little bolt of shock. So I chose to let myself remember.

I chose to. I don’t always. Sometimes I don’t let you in. I feel guilty about that, but I’m not at the point where I can guarantee I’ll feel uplifted and I’ve got things to do. I’m sorry. I worry that is why I’m forgetting.

I like to think I’ve gotten better at recognising the happy though, generally speaking. To take a breath and, for want of a better word, to honour it. To turn my face to the sun and take a breath and be grateful for the feeling. Whenever I feel grateful, I think of you. Gratitude is your greatest gift to me and it’s so circular.

I see a lot of people now, different people, practically strangers. It’s been a busy year. The good mama juju I asked for last year  (along with the juju of all my friends and loved ones) came through in spades. Getting a business up and running – it doesn’t give you much time to think, or write or breathe. There is always something to do. I got overwhelmed before Christmas. I have noticed since my own brush with cancer, I feel easily overwhelmed and I am very protective of myself. I hedgehog, metaphorically speaking – internally I drop into a ball and scream to the world to stop. It never does. I’m not sure how you’d mother me through that. Generally speaking, we are a deep breath and carry on family. You had what is politely known as ‘a lot of grit.’ That’s hard to live up to.

Anyway, I see a lot a people now, grief has many faces, so many guises. It affects the body too, I didn’t realise that. Muscles remember.

The human body is a wonderful thing, but it can fail in a lot of stupendous ways, not just cancer. Which at first I found shocking. Cancer is all I knew about failure. The millions of tiny processes a body has to perform, of which  we aren’t even aware – they can fail, go off kilter, they just go rogue.

Is it weird that I find that comforting? It’s weird, I know it is. But very few bodies function as the manufacturer (or evolution) intended. We are all walking around with a dodgy chip, or a wonky bolt,  a chemical malfunction. Very often all three. Yet here we all are, living life the best we can. Walking, working, loving the best we can – getting massages even.

I have been told that I have walked with death much closer than most my age, this past decade I guess, perhaps thats why I find bodies so infinitely fascinating. I do you know, find every body fascinating. Like coming back to an area, somehow familiar, but with only a very old map. It’s the same but different. If I’m very lucky I can get those muscles to tell me their secrets, give up a little of the sadness they remember.

I remember washing you, the last morning you were here. I remember every freckle, and scar. Those massive clavicle dips, you would tease, you kept pepper in. At least, I think, I remember it all.

I’m not sure I’ll have children myself. Yet, for an hour at a time, I get to mother another human’s body, to comfort it. Not necessarily their mind but the rest of them. I coax it, nudge it, soothe it, so I guess something of the mothering has stuck.

Skin and muscles and tissue and blood and bone. The substance of life. So beautiful, and I get to work with it every day.

I love you. I remember what I need to, sometimes that’s just snatches on a whiff of perfume. Sometimes that’s all we get.

I hope the stars are fine this year.


ps. Whatever you do don’t watch the news – the world has gone crazy, don’t worry, the good people are working on it.



Yesterday I had a meltdown, a massive, massive, meltdown. I sobbed for a loooong time. In fact, I think A will think twice about going on holiday without me again, it was as though I’d saved it all up for his return, which is a shame because he had a great time and I’m very pleased he could go.

I was just overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed on a UK level, a global level and a personal level too. It all seemed too much, I had reached saturation point, my heart felt too full and my head too confused.

Tomorrow I open the doors to Loop Massage Studio for the first time and the massive change I’ve made will be completed. From the moment I got the key and stepped into the space there’s been a voice in my head. A voice that says “no going back now”. When we lay the floor, “no going back now”, when we painted the walls, “no going back now”, when the plumbing and electrics went in “no going back now”…. you get the picture. Sometimes it’s an excited voice, sometimes apprehensive and sometimes it’s a very freaked out voice indeed.

Sunday is the 2nd anniversary of when A & I got married. There’s a lot of opening weekend celebrations happening and I don’t think I’ll get a moment to write him a blog post like last year but these two up events are linked or looped (if you’d allow me).

For those who don’t know A. – A. is a whirlwind powerhouse of energy, creativity and stubbornness. If he sets himself a task, he’s going to complete it and it will be the best thing ever. It’s a quiet and sometimes not so quiet drive that is 98% awe-inpiring and 2% a little overwhelming. Seriously, what he can achieve in a day is breathtaking to a procrastinating scaredy cat such as myself. It is an honour and a joy to hold his hand in this lifetime (and run to keep up).

- On a side note, it means the days when he stops and we just be are some of my favourites, a relaxed A is a thing of delight. -

A. was the powerhouse behind Loop, we walked by some empty shipping containers with a sign on them saying ‘for rent’ and he said “you should have a massage studio in one of them”, in 3 days it was a done deal. A leaps without looking in the best possible ways; having been burned a little bit, I’m a toe in the shallows woman myself.

Sometimes I’ve no idea what he’s doing with me. Our skill set and personality types are poles apart. I can make the man laugh though and he likes how I write. I like to think we compliment each other, and bring out the best. He helps to make me bolder and I, I think I bring a kindness to procedures.

We have been building this crazy dream project together since last September. I have had so many wobbles, I have learnt so much, I have had to braver than I ever thought I could be and learnt to be tougher. I now know what parts of a decoration project I care about and also that I will never, ever have strong opinions on sinks (apart from the fact and I know this makes me sound like a total ditz that the first time I put the water on in the cargo box it blow my mind shhhhh don’t tell anyone).

All this time if A has had doubts he’s had to keep them pinned inside because he knows if he wobbles, I wobble. All this time he has been there holding my hand and every night before we go to sleep he whispers “I believe in you” and it makes me feel unstoppable because the person I know who is truly unstoppable believes that of me too.

Every year we go on an adventure, sometimes not the best kind of adventure, sometimes they are wild and sometimes the change your life. They are life lessons, everyone and that’s what’s exciting.

I couldn’t be more proud of this dude. I can’t say I couldn’t love him more because I love him more each day.

He believes in me, I believe in me,  together we are unstoppable.

A huge thank you to everyone who has been so supportive of my next adventure.

Adventures are important, especially now, in light of Manchester. People, horrendous, violent, destructive people, want to stop us, to scare us away from adventures. But the truth is adventures are what teaches us to be brave, to show empathy, to understand different cultures and not be afraid of what isn’t the same as us. How to rise above a tiny, and it is a tiny, deluded minority of individuals who will never know what real love and compassion is. Adventure boldly, prove them unimportant.


Be You

Be yourself, everyone else is already taken – Oscar Wilde

So, about 2 weeks ago I wrote this blog post and I guess I must of captured a feeling or something because it went wild, it actually crashed little blog for a while (thanks to Rob for getting us back up and running and for not complaining about the midnight wakeup call). It was a weird feeling to have something I wrote quite so ‘out there’, weird good not weird bad but I did get a little shy.

I also felt like a fraud. I wrote that piece in 30 minutes, I didn’t really even check it as I was supposed to be making dinner at the time and A. was due home. I even thought about taking it down, it felt too raw, too exposing – and this coming from the girl who documented her cancer and writes regularly about death! Luckily I kinda forgot about it, I often do that, once I’ve got the writing out, I’m more free to live my life. And now I can tick gone viral off the bucket list (not that it was on there in the first place, not that I have a bucket list, I have ten).

What it led to was a lot of lovely things being said – some by people who I’d never met, so I wanted to thank everyone – I doubt little blog will ever actually reach all those people but thank you very much anyway, it certainly made my last week in theatre a lot more bearable.

I also got asked a lot about what I’m up to next and that is a slightly longer story.

When I was little I never had a very clear imagine of what I wanted to be when I grew up. I could never quite picture myself as the stockbroker, brain surgeon or CEO. I wanted to be the person who was indispensable to them, I wanted to be their helper, their carer, the one they relied on. I wanted to be the “girl-friday’ and that embarrassed me; and based on absolutely NO evidence, I was also pretty sure it would embarrass my parents. All the words I had for what I wanted to be had lowly conatations, and given the care and cost my parents were putting in to giving me an exciting future I felt guilty, really, for not wanting ‘more’, I didn’t ‘want it all’, I wasn’t about to forge my path as a leader of the universe. I felt like a failure because my ‘all’ looked quite different from what we are always being fed is ‘successful’.

I didn’t want the spotlight, I didn’t want to be a power-player, I incorrectly thought that I had no ambition and that was something I should hide. I was wrong, I had/have ambitions they just looked slightly different.

Finding Stage Management was a relief, not only did it mean I now had a plan, that I could be the facilitator, the helper that I always thought I should be but because I also had Manager in the title I needn’t be embrassed.

And then I grew up, actually I got sick, and I stopped caring quite so much about what others might think. The new mantra was ‘fuck it, just be you’.

I no longer believe that it matters what people feel about my career path. It should never of mattered what people felt about it.

What matters, for any of us, is that you are striving to pay your rent, pay your taxes, feed yourself, and hopefully give a little to people who need it more. As long as you aren’t hurting yourself or others; how you get there is frankly nobody else’s concern.

I finally looked around and realised it takes all sorts to make up this crazy community we call a planet. Truth be told many be are so busy worrying about how they look to others and if they’re doing the right job – they probably don’t even care what I’m doing. If everyone was a CEO or stockbroker or brain surgeon the world would be a very dull place. As long as I am giving it everything, being the best that I can be, then that’s enough. If others want to be proud of me, I’m also cool with that.

So, I’ve retrained as a Massage Therapist and I’m starting my own business. I can incorporate all the parts of me, the helper, the admin lover (I LOVED playing post office and library as a kid) and the person who fears they’ll get bored of a desk job… This move feel right, scary but right. I may not be changing world with a ripple that can be felt around the world; but I hope, I hope I can make a small difference the people of Bristol!

LOOP Massage is in it’s fledging stages. It has a home, in a cargo container at Wapping Wharf. It very nearly has a start date – March 2017, I’m coming for ya! It has me, who is nervous, excited, buzzing and probably every other emotion you care to name as well.

I’ll need supporters too (actually it has a fair few already, I’m very grateful but I’d love a larger community), you can check out my new website here.


Hear, Hear

Momentous events are occurring round pollygoshville; for starters I have my fringe back which is a bigger deal than you might think. Hair takes a gosh darn long time to grow and in ways I can’t fully form the words around yet, it has impacted on how I’ve viewed myself.

For ages now, I’ve known to the outside eye you’d probably never guess what I was doing 2 years ago. I am thankful that I look well, even though it makes the inside wounds harder to spot.

It’s not about looking unwell or well anymore, it’s a matter of looking like me. It really doesn’t matter if I look like me to you or if you think my hair is cool or even that it suits me better short. In fact, I get a little irritated with the compliments because those things are besides the point – it wasn’t my choice, it just was what it was.

Imagine being forced to wear your least favourite colour all day, everyday, doesn’t matter if the cut is impeccable or the style is very ‘now’, you didn’t choose it and choice in life is everything. Shallow? probably. Human? Hell, yes.

Does it make sense to say that it’s taken until I’ve got my fringe back to be able to understand how unlike myself I’ve been feeling? Well, it’s back now and it’s another baby step into feeling more in control again.

Another step towards control is, I’m getting a hearing aid. When the possibility of such a thing was raised the first time, I was thirteen, had braces, and didn’t want another thing to make me feel awkward or different. This time around I’m trying to embrace it.

So yeah, I’m deaf, I’m deaf in my left ear, not profoundly deaf – I’m in the moderate to severe camp (woo)

I don’t talk about it. Mainly because I like to think it doesn’t effect me much (it does) and also because in the last 36 years I’ve yet to find a cool way to bring it up.

If you don’t do it soon after meeting someone and (for some dumb reason) I always think that’s a strange thing to do, talking about it later is even more awkward. I get a little stuck because I sometimes forget and as I can normally think of about 200 more interesting things to talk about it often goes unsaid.

Plus what with the cancer thing, I sometimes feel like a properly faulty toy and that, for what ever reason embarrasses me. So much so, that I’ll do pretty much anything not to tell people about it.

So if you know me and have ever wondered why I sometimes just smile and laugh when you’re telling me something profound – it’s because at least 100 times a day I mishear or don’t hear something and I’ve misevaluated your facial expressions. Sorry about that.

I’ve got ways of coping, I’ll just walk on the right side of the street, pick the quieter restaurant, I will stay quiet in conversations until I’ve figured out the bits I’ve missed. Lately though these mechanisms have been feeling kinda limiting.

So, I’m getting fitted for a hearing aid. I’m fed up of being limited, of feeling frustrated or making people cry when they’ve told me their pet has died and I heard something completely other, something possibly incredibly rude. Plus I saw Finding Dory recently and it brought home the fact that I should probably not feel so apologetic to be different.

Here are some weird facts about being deaf:

1) My parents found out I was deaf when everyone got tested in school and my lipreading ability was pretty darn impressive. I still rely on lip reading; it’s an incredibly useful skill when watching awards ceremonies, sporting events, when trying to figure out how a meeting is going at work or when you are at the same party as your arch nemesis (not that I have one obvs).

2) Round tables are not my friend. I like to stick myself in a corner. If I’m out with you and you feel your being moved about like a sheep dog herds sheep, it’s because I’m working really hard not telling you I’m deaf.

3) I hate pubs, I’m a more sociable person than I feel I am able to be in a pub. It’s unlikely that I’ll choose to socialise in a pub, I’m not that fond of parties either. I feel a lot more stupid than I actually am in these environments, like I’m a smiley, vapid person with no actual views on anything. When really I’m just having a hard time hearing everything.

4) There’s a small percentage of people who think it’s hilarious to answer “what?” when I tell them I’m deaf. To that small percent, I say this; while I might laugh a long when you do it, I am secretly judging you as being an insensitive douche. It takes courage to admit a failing and as I’ve said, I don’t do so easily. Don’t be a dick about it. It’s also not an original joke, if you think it is, you really are deluding yourself. Plus just because I’m not profoundly deaf, doesn’t give you permission to laugh at a disability. Unless you are the type of knob who kicks people’s crutches away or trips-up the visually impaired – either way I’m judging you, unfavourably.

5) It gets more difficult for me to hear when I’m tired. I have to work harder than ever to understand, and if I’m tired I’m more likely to take a punt and answer the question I think you asked, so hilarity can ensue.

red toes

Do These Genes Look Good on Me?

Sometimes Facebook tells me when it’s been a while since I blogged. It actually says “it’s been a while since your audience has heard from you”. It’s been saying that a lot lately, I’m slightly tickled about having an audience.

Well, little blog it has been a while. I wanted so much not to just bleat on about cancer, to move forward. I thought I wouldn’t write until I had something else to say again but cancer still skulks about in my shadows (the spectre not the physical form, thankfully). It’s hanging about a little closer at the moment.

So, I feel fairly certain I should write, it helps and I’ve learnt you shouldn’t spurn help just because it will hurt your pride. Yoga and meditation have been helping, I am a rubbish but diligent mediator, a bad case of jumping monkey mind. It’s just time for the big guns….

In many ways I’m a creature of habit, the Eskimos may have over 300 words for snow, I’ve about the same when it comes to describing the exact hue of a red nail polish. I’ve almost enough to ombre my nails (9). A. doesn’t think a 10th is really a necessary purchase, he’s wrong. And if there really are 50 shades of Grey, I’ve at least a third of them hanging in sweatshirt-form in my closet.

Does this bother me? I hadn’t really considered it not until recently. A. is the same, Oxford Blue Shirts (each slightly different) and I’d forgotten how much we teased my Papa about his 4 different pairs of the same shoe, each worn slightly differently. Forgotten, until I was visiting his house recently, laundry day as it happened, and there they were; Navy is my Papa’s colour, tonally different but sweatshirts just the same.

It amused me and gladdened my heart his habits are my habits, peas in a pod. Then I wondered if it went deeper – skin and bone and blood and cells and DNA deep.

You see folks I’m being genetically tested, BRCA 1 & 2. I’ve been waiting a while, it’s called the “Angelina Jolie Affect”, a lot more people are aware (hurrah) but that means the longer the wait. That’s not a bad thing, you can push it out of your mind mostly, so far back that the alarm bell is more like a fairy bell tinkle but the nearer results day comes the more like a klaxon it sounds.

Nothing will change but perhaps something will shift. They’ll be decisions to be made again but I’ve made tough decisions before, there will be more statistics and I hate statistics but the threat is not imminent. I’m still cancer free. So what does knowing or not knowing actually achieve? Why does it seem to matter so deeply to me? Why have the darn test in the first place?

Well, for me, I’ve already had cancer, my risk of return is higher than the average bear, so why not know. I’m a forewarned is forearmed kinda gal.

I can then choose to cut off my breasts and remove my ovaries. It’s extreme but it lowers my risk of return to civilian levels again, and maybe I get some respite from the bloomin’ hot flushes from Tamoxifen – so they’re big pluses. It would mean MRI’s every year, which is not my favourite thing but I’d feel more secure having an MRI than a mammogram (my tumour was undetectable on the mammogram). Apart from the higher rate of return and the (shall we say) full on surgery it’s not too bad.

Truth be told, I always assumed it was probably genetic, there’s a lot of cancer in my family. A lot, a lot. But what if it’s not? what if it’s fluke? With my families track record, this would blow my mind. What have I done to cause it, what have I not done? No one to blame but yourself and your cells and you make those. No wonky Gene defence, nowhere to hide. If it was fluke then Karma, luck, and a higher being is out the window because I’ve had my share of pain (and yes, life doesn’t work that way and yes, people suffer more than I have, much much more but not knowing and waiting make me selfish). Minds Will Be Blown.

I keep my toes painted red and I slip on my grey sweatshirt armour because it’s simple and I love simple. Simple on the outside because what lies beneath, way way down, DNA down, well that’s just too complicated for now.


Marriage: The first 2.5 months (longest I’ve ever been married)

Having now been married for a grand total of two and a half months, I’ve decided this fully entitles me to write a post about what I’ve learned being a wife (!). It will be long and exhaustive to represent the many, many hours of married life I have under my belt. So here are the Top Five things I’ve gathered so far….

1) When I was younger I often read Erich Segal’s novel Love Story – mainly because it was pretty short and our copy had a wonderfully 70′s pop art image on the front. It had all sorts of wonderful elements to it – college life, young marriage, hidden illness and death – oh the delightful tragical-ness of it all. It also tried to teach me that being in love, means never having to say you’re sorry.

Well, 2 months of marriage has taught me that this is bullshit. While I can see the romance of that sentiment, you absolutely need to say you’re sorry. Speaking from experience, we tend to be far more ghastly, far more vicious, to those we love best; as opposed to work-colleagues or strangers. Yet, we are quicker to apologise to those types, never mind that they aren’t going to cook us dinner, dry our tears or split the bills (well not often anyway). Far more prudent to apologise to a spouse, who, let’s face it can turn the life-support machines off. I have a fear that the consequences of not saying sorry for bad behaviour or misdeeds can ripple down the ages and I want lots of ages.

So apologise and mean it when you ought. The making up is rather fun.

2) Compromise is not a mythical and far away kingdom. It’s more like the name of the next street over, you actually have to walk up and down it regularly, especially if you’re popping to the shops.

I learnt more about this when we were planning our little celebration recently. The celebration started life not having anything to do marriage, it was about growing hair etc. I had secret Pinterest boards and fantasies about flower crowns, it helped brighten the vegetative post chemo days.

Then we eloped and boom the party had another meaning too. Which meant another human (who I’d just promised to share everything with) suddenly started having opinions! I mean WTF?!? It took me a little while to get used to this new state of affairs. Obviously I was gracious and accommodating at every turn, it definitely was not when I learnt the importance of an apology.

However, at some point, when my version of events was not entirely tallying up to A’s version. I realised how lucky I was to have such a hands-on and interested partner. It would have been awful if he cared not a jot, simply grunting in response to the hundred paper cranes I folded.

3) Apparently married couples who hobby together stay together. I can testify to that – even when A and I split up, we still co-managed our allotment (which probably was an indication that we weren’t entirely done yet). The was often a lot of angry digging or weeding but neither of us backed away.

You always have something to talk about with shared hobbies but what I’m learning the other side of “I do” is; that having separate hobbies can be jolly useful too. While I’m sure A wishes I was more interested in bikes or space and while I sometimes wish I’d never pointed out to A. that he swims like a frog. The time and space away from each other means we are ever so pleased to see the other upon our return. Plus, as we don’t have a TV it gives us more topics to talk about…

4) That song from Guys and Dolls is wrong, you can’t “marry a man today and change his ways tomorrow”. Thankfully I figured this out pre-wedding. The fundamentals of a person cannot and will not change. You marry them and their inability to navigate (me) or their need to hit an inanimate object which has some how wronged them, e.g. the chair they stubbed their toe on (A).

It is far, far better to try to find these quirks endearing or, in a pinch, ignore them all together. But seriously folks, you picked the strawberry, if you really wanted the apple, pick the apple because flambé, bake or liquidise – that strawberry ain’t never going to be an apple. You and your fruit will end up rotten, and mouldy probably with incredibly low self-esteem, for reasons of poor fruit choice. (I’m writing this on a fast day and clearly have food on the brain)

5) There’s a scene in When Harry met Sally where Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby’s characters have been listening to the angst of their dating friends. Carrie turns to Bruno and says “promise me, I never have to be out there again”. The best bit about marriage thus far? Being legally bound to my best friend, who also happens to be really rather yummy. It’s awesome. I recommend it to anyone. While I don’t think it has entirely changed our relationship or how we feel about each other. The safety of never having to be “out there” – be that dating or job-hunting or a hospital waiting room – alone is liberating. But please pick someone as opposed to anyone.

Now A. is nearly home from work and I’m going to have to put all of the above into action because I nearly burnt down the flat today (electric stove vs. plastic chopping board). So perhaps number 6 on the list will be that you can’t divorce someone for being scatty. A is a subscriber to little blog so I’m hoping he’ll read this, shake his head and thank his lucky stars he loves a scatty woman or shake his head and realise that he loves me despite of my culinary pyrotechnics.



We had a little celebration. Actually that’s underselling it as we had a lot to celebrate! It was overwhelming, in the best way, to be surrounded by all the people adore the most. We gave speeches, I’d not managed until the day to read mine without crying but I just about got through it. Dad and A gave lovely speeches, I definitely blubbed through them. It was a lovely, lovely day and not one I’ll forget. Below is the speech I gave, it’s just one big thank you, which is why I wanted the party in the first place! It’s a thank you now, to everyone who has ever read this little blog.

Well, these speeches seemed like a good idea at the beginning of this week, I was pretty smug, truth be told, I thought my love of writing, would make this easy. What I’ve been learning however, is that it’s actually very difficult to convey precisely what I want to, when faced with a room full of people I think the world of.

In many ways the message behind this speech is pretty simple, 10 seconds would suffice. It’s to say thank you. Thank you for coming today, thank you for helping us celebrate. But that’s too simple and I can’t let you all off the hook that easily….

This party started life as a bit of an idle daydream, enabled by Pinterest. I had to spend a great deal of time inside last summer, watching the world go by, not feeling as though I could participate. It became very important to throw a party so I could wear flowers in my hair (because I’d once again have hair) and so that I could see everyone I loved, in one room at one time. While I was ill, I was overwhelmed by just how many amazing people I had in my life – kind, generous and supportive people. It helped me count my considerable blessings to know I was so cared for. So this party became more than about flower crowns, it became about finding a way to tell all you lovely folk how grateful I have been for your support. So the first toast is to all of you and it is just a really big thank you. To everyone!

I’d also like to say a huge thank you to our families, for everything they do for us. Thank you for not freaking out when we rang you and told you we’d sneaked off and got married. It was to hardest secret for us to keep but because you have always been so supportive, we knew you’d be nothing but happy for us. I feel very lucky to have been born into the family I was and I feel very privilege to have joined the wonderful family I have.

I can’t let this moment pass without mentioning my mother. She was the one who taught me to count my blessings and what grace in the face of illness is all about. She told me not to marry until I was at least 30 and to marry a practical man. I didn’t always listened to my Mother but in this instance, I did. Hers is the face always missing from the party and the face I will always miss the most. Though I’m not too sure how cool she’d have been with an elopement…. but thank you Mama for marrying the best man you could, so I knew what to look for, for your fierce love and for all the advice, whether I listened or not.

There are two people in this room, who deserve so much more thanks than I would ever be able to extend here. And another of my blessings is they are now both legally obliged to LOVE ME, how lucky am I?! So I turn my attention to My father and to my A.

When you are in trouble there are no better hands to be holding yours, than those attached to these two humans.

The owner of the hand who has been holding mine the longest is an incredible human being. Words really do fail me when trying to express what I owe him and how grateful I am to have him. He is the kindest, calmest, smartest human I know and I really lucked out that I get to call him Pa. No matter what I have thrown at him, figuratively and (I’m sure as a teenager, literally) he has never dropped the ball. He has supported me, encouraged me and supplied me with a lot of cake. I have always known he was a super hero, but he really excelled himself last year, he was with me at every appointment, he listened to the anger and the fear, he took my grumpiness of the chin and made an impossible situation seem possible. When I was little he was the best guide a girl could have but I think I am most grateful that I get to know him as an adult, he’s the best friend a woman could have.

I always thought it would be impossible to find his equal, and here I have to count yet more blessings because I did.

While writing this speech, trying to come up with anecdotes, it became apparent that A and I are not conventionally romantic – one year we were only reminded that it was our anniversary when A’s mum, rang to ask if we were off somewhere nice for dinner – we were in Asda at the time, discussing cheese.

Neither one of us can remember the exact date we agreed to get married, suffice to say there was no big proposal. We decide together, one evening while Andy was chopping kale.

So far so not very Rom-Com.

No, our style of romance is a little different, it’s the work A puts into our allotment because it’s where we like to hang out together, it’s the fact that he’s my biggest cheerleader when I’m ready to throw in the towel, the thousands of nicknames he’s given me, the dances he does around the flat to make me smile, it’s the fact that he was the only one who could make me laugh during chemo, it was shaving my head and convincing me I was still lovely and it’s because he always remembered who I was and would be again, when all I could see was the sick, bald person in the mirror.

So no, we are not Rom-Com fans, we don’t fit that image. In truth, and here’s an another little known fact for you, A and I love incredibly bad blockbusters. The more implausible and poorly written the better. Which is why, so far this summer, we have watched people parched in a desert, shaken by earthquakes and chased by genetically modified dinosaurs. During one of these classic films, distracted from the razor sharp dialogue and nuanced plot, a question popped into my head – would I survive this situation? It was a question almost as quickly answered. Yes, because I’m a badass but also because the person who’d be standing next to me is awesome, he’s interested and interesting, he’s challenging, funny, gives the best hugs and most importantly in a blockbuster situation – he can do anything, he could even tame a velociraptor, I’m pretty sure. Together we are a fantastic team, he’s my best friend and when he is beside me, I am sure and I am certain, even when things go bump in the night

So Hollywood can keep it’s rom-coms and it’s blockbusters because Andy and I have faced our own monsters and natural disasters and we managed to make our own kind of romance out of that.

The thing that bugs me most about the movies, is that you get the happy ending but you never find out what happens next. So, I thought i’d finish with a verse from the poet and writer, who’s books lined my childhood walls;
Shel Silverstein

There are no happy endings.
Endings are the saddest part,
So just give me a happy middle
And a very happy start.



To spare my blushes, I’d like to think, that you haven’t really lived until you’ve found yourself bawling your eyes out in the Japanese Wing of the V&A. Goodness only knows what the other visitors thought. Perhaps that I was communing deeply with the pottery in front of me. Having strangers think that I am so wonderfully deep, that the sight of a beautiful pot can move me to tears is what soothes the humiliation of crying in public.

I love museums; love their dusky, musky smells, love the near silent revelry of those within. I find it amazing how quiet, a huge, booming building can be.

I love the V&A best of all. I love it especially on a week day. I love discovering some new wing or tiny artefact. The last time I visited (before the tears), I came across a carpet so precious that it could only be lit for 10 mins every hour! What was more remarkable, that there was people waiting to view it, a wait of 20 minutes.

I adore the V&A as a building, as a monument to love, ostensibly. I adore what it means to A. and I, the hours we’ve spent wandering its great halls. I like the gift shop, and the tea room and the amount of dust that dances its way across the beams of sunshine; from the windows that look out into the garden in the middle.

All of this and none of it was tickling my brain, that Tuesday, while I was idly contemplating the Japanese ceramics. I was feeling a deep joy to be back, when “blam!” the fear got me.

I didn’t see him sneaking in, he must have been tailing me all morning, following in the shadows, sniffing about where he’s not wanted. This particular fear is a peculiar one, he’s reasonably new to me.

You know that feeling when you are so happy you think your heart my burst or your head explode? This fear must be attracted to the pheromones that sort of joy creates and just at the point of bursting or explosion, he comes along with his big, icy hands and clamps them firmly upon you. All the time he’s whispering that you are so stupid to be happy or joyous and even though the sun is shining the storm clouds aren’t far behind; don’t you know something will happen soon to make it so you’ll never feel happy again? Not only will you never feel it again, you will be so robbed as to never even remember what happy felt like. Joy will be lost to you.

But remarkably what the fear was whispering, scary as it was, was not what I was crying about. What left me wailing in front of the pots (and tourists of many nationalities) that day was the sudden realisation that my reaction to feeling ‘dance a jig’ happy was to be scared of what was going to happen to ruin it. I wept that day because I was so sad, that my experiences, could leave me so, so fearful of joy. I cried so much I had to go and have a cup of tea in the William Morris tea room. Later, when I got to work, I cried all over again.

I’ve been absent from little blog for a while, not because I’ve spent the last few months weeping and wailing. I’ve been pretty tired, exhausted might be a better word. The concentration I’ve needed to expend at work has left me little energy for much else. The longer I was working the more difficult it was to do much more.

I had no real problem with this, I wanted to go back to work quickly after Chemo finished and since then spotty dogs and star-crossed lovers have occupied my brain. Strategically, I figured taking time of in the dreary winter months would be a waste. I doubted I could recover mentally or physically while getting blue in the February gloom. So I worked and worked and saved and saved, deciding to have a sabbatical in the spring/summer. Like the rest of creation, I would reawaken with the sunshine.

This plan worked for the most part. I was too busy to contemplate the enormity of the last year and my complex feelings towards it all. It was enough to try to kick-start my sluggish brain and more sluggish body. But glitches began to surface, you can ignore the wilderness between your ears, you can work until you are too tired to think too deeply but your mind will find a way. You might find yourself unable to stop crying because watching a ‘Juliet’ with a similar hair cut to you, trying to work up the courage stab herself, will remind you of you before each Chemo session. Or you may cry because you are sad for yourself, in the Japanese Wing of the V&A, on a Tuesday, when all you were feeling was happy. It could be any number of things I suppose, I find them almost daily at the moment.

Yet, I’m grateful for the tears. I didn’t cry that much after mum died. I’d get a strange pain and drying in my throat, then I’d clamp down and carry on in my peculiar numb way. This didn’t work out all that well for me. The more I thought of tears as a sign of weakness and controlling them as a sort of strength, the sicker and sicker I got. I am relieved at how easily the tears come these days, they don’t last that long if you just let them fall, then you can hunt out a hug and blow them a kiss goodbye for an hour or a day. Healing, they seem healing to me.

It would be helpful, mind you, if I could be suddenly multi-lingual, just so I can explain in any number of languages that I’m ok really and that perhaps those onlookers might like to see the carpet that is lit for only 10 minutes on the hour instead ….


Update 1

Well Hello There!

I was going to write this update in the a numbers breakdown style, a la Bridget Jones; Nos. of Times Sick, Teaspoons of Apple Sauce Consumed, Pills Popped, Hours Slept etc….


Good sense prevailed however, so I shall just say after a a week and a half at my darling Papa’s home, I am back at the flat! I was  even on my lovely, lovely allotment yesterday.


It’s good to be back. Though I cannot ever thank my Pa enough for taking care of me and answering my every Princess whim. He now passes the torch to A – an altogether tougher task master (but that’s necessary too).


For many reasons, simply not that interesting to go into, it makes sense for all of us to manage my weeks this way (though these things are changeable and so am I!).


For those who want to keep up, this in my 3 Week Cycle:


Week 1 Chemo Week: Apologies if I go undercover this week, no texts, emails,          phone calls answered etc…


Week 2 Immune System Failure: I try not to hug, kiss or in anyway touch people but am out and about, Available for tea / coffee at home, occasional outings, Sorry No Children.


Week 3 Normal Service Resumed: I’m back baby! Please hit me up with fabulous invites and leisurely coffee times – no really, please do. I may rabbit on at you like a hyperactive child – I am giddy on life! A and P will be pleased for you to take me off their hands for a bit….

Of course this is Chemo so all the above is ‘Subject to Change”  – Boring!


I also wanted to mention, I’m probably not going to write much, or at all, about the nitty gritty of my Chemo. Not yet anyway, I’m not being coy, I just want to do so in a more timely and responsible fashion. 


Little Blog is above all a personal record for me and my loved ones, I will therefore have to find away for telling “My Life with Chemo” story but should anyone stumble here looking for guidance or reassurance, I simply don’t want to scare them. Buy me a Non-alcoholic drink and I’ll happily spill my guts in person…  


Everyone reacts differently, everyone will have their own way through. It may be, I get others on here to write about their time too, highlight those differences. If anyone wants to or knows of anyone who may want to share, please contact me.


Thank you to everyone for their support through this first round. 


Week 1 starts again on : 2nd July 2014