Sunday, 1 September 2019

Running, Writing, Sleeping and Retreating

It starts today! No emailing, no social media, no screens (unless it’s *directly* related to that small matter of the full manuscript of my second novel going to its first Beta readers in eight tiny days’ time – that’s ok, right?!?) after 8pm and for the entire month of September.

I keep thinking this is a bad month for me to be switching off. I have a gaggle of birthdays, not least several ending in '0', a wedding, a hen night, a Great North Run, our very own Welly Wanging event (more to come on that one) and the nest emptying again after a quite precious three months of having a noisy house once more.  

But I also have a heap of preparation to do to get ready for teaching again in October, including my exciting new venture into writing retreatsediting contracts, the inevitable stack of revisions to be made to that book following its first read outside of my study walls (did I mention it’s going to my fabulous readers in eight tiny days’ time…?) not to mention the other to-do’s of the loosely called ‘Day Job’. 

If I’m going to be able to participate as fully as I hope in the above antics, and still go to bed the same day I got up, then I have to commit to the big Switch Off for Scroll Free September; September is exactly the right month to be Scroll Free, Screen Free after dark.

So I should probably put it out there now, that if you see me hanging around on social media after dusk, you have every right to ignore me, indeed you must.

And it’s not too late to join me, click here to find out more!

One last thing before I set my Do Not Disturb on my phone for 8pm (It’s already set for 10pm except, ahem, I override it oh, probably every other night) if you have emerged from the summer with any spare pennies lying around, could I ask you to consider the Haven as a fabulously necessary but non-government funded charity to take them off your hands? 
My daughter, not what you’d call the biggest fan of running, and I are embarking on the Great North Run on Sunday 8th and this link should explain why this is quite a big deal for me these days, for both physical and emotional reasons.

On a lighter note, I’m excited about introducing my daughter to the happy sounds and atmosphere of the wonderful supporters who line every step of the Great North Run route, not least the top quality buskers, the stirring steel bands and the home owners who buy in shed loads of oranges to hand out to needy runners as they trudge past because, well, just because they want to support the endeavour. There’s so much anger and disappointment in the country at the moment and events like these just remind me that beyond the rubbish of everyday trials and stresses, I fervently believe that human beings are really excruciatingly nice.

If you are able to sponsor me, please click here for the fundraising page for the Haven cancer charity.

Meanwhile, have a fabulous September and do let me know if you’re Scroll Free, too. 

We can be together in spirit, albeit not online.


Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Switching Off September


So here’s the plan I mentioned here. I can’t guarantee it will add years to our lives, but then, I can’t say it won’t, either.
What if we all decided to switch off our technology at the same time? What if we all had a pact: a realistic deadline where we stopped sending emails etc.at say, 8pm? And to make it easier, we stopped looking at them at 8pm, too. The whole correspondence shebang could start again next morning, of course. We could continue using travel time to answer and send emails perhaps, but with the frisson of excitement that after say, 12 hours of frenzied activity on the networks, it would all then stop. Freeze.
Ok, I realise in this global economy that one woman’s 8pm is another man’s breakfast but we have to start somewhere, huh?
I know it’s only a dream. Some people wouldn’t like it, and it wouldn’t work if everybody didn’t sign up, I suppose. But perhaps if there was a significant groundswell, those who didn’t like the idea might, nonetheless, be open to the concept and accepting of the fact that fewer emails would be landing at night. Hey, they might even start to enjoy it, too.

Enter: Scroll Free September!
#ScrollFreeSeptember, the brainchild of the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) is about to enter its second year of encouraging people to take a month off social media, or rather, to do less of it. 
The key is to sign up to the option that is most relevant to you, and then sit back and enjoy a time rich September, musing how much calmer life would be if we could keep up this healthier relationship with our phones going forward. I’ve signed up to Night Owl, no surprise there, but have added in my own, ‘Correspondence Curfew’. In short, my Scroll Free September commitment is: Scroll and Email Free Evenings, and I can't wait.   
Day light hours? I’m going to reply to all correspondence as quickly as possible whilst employing a monumental effort not to begin my missive with being sorry for the delay. I shall respond with friendliness and professionalism but I will not, I repeat, not apologise. You see, by apologising, we’re implying we’ve done something wrong. But looking after our health, and not putting (albeit unintentional) burden on other people’s health, is a good thing and should be rejoiced. What I’m hoping is that people will lower their expectations of me.  And in turn, I will lower my expectations of them.
We’ll still love each other.
In fact, maybe we’ll love each other just a tiny bit more now we’re liberated of brain fog and showered in sleep. Will you join me? Will you endeavour to be less responsive, to keep people waiting and smile while you do it? Will you vow not to apologise for a tardy response to communication?  
Oh, this is the most rebellious I've been for a long time.
Perhaps you’re streets ahead of me on this one, already living long and uninterrupted evenings, the phone switched off way more often than it's on? If so, I'd love to hear from you. Tell me how you do it! And how it’s received?
Or maybe late night to-do list ticking is not your particular tipple, but scrolling - and in bed (please, no. Just no!) - is something you know you do but with that slightly nauseous feeling of discomfort I spoke of in my first post. There’s a place for you in Scroll Free September, too😊 More info here.
I think Scroll Free September is a wonderful concept. It focuses much of its attention on the potential benefits to young people – and I know my children are on Instagram until late at night and try as I might, they show no signs of stopping – but I think all ages are guilty of an unhealthy dependence on our phones. 

I’m not preaching. I’m guilty. I just want to live a long and healthy life and I want other people to be alive to do that with me.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Trying to Sleep

I was writing a review of the fantastically fascinating, engaging and entertaining (I liked this book) Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker and realised that as I typed, I had that sludgy, slightly nauseous feeling of discomfort, commonly known as: someone is trying to tell me something.

I’m pushing it on that old sleep thing again. 

Again.

Maybe a sequel to Tea & Chemo should be the trials and tribulations of getting enough sleep? Although I fear the book would be very short and very repetitive, here's the blurb: she wants to sleep, she knows she should sleep but she finds it so very difficult to go to bed. And repeat.

The bottom line is, I want it all, but I just can’t squeeze it all in. And the truth is that when I skimp on the sleep, I can.

When I examine my work, it’s the wealth of correspondence which weighs me down. I am always in debt and never, ever get to the bottom of my RSVPs before the next deluge soaks my day.

I remember the headline a year ago about paying employees for correspondence outside of office hours because researchers had discovered that people were spending their travel time to and from work, and more time once they’d got through their own front door, catching up on emails.

No sh** Sherlock.

How many of us have a love/hate relationship with our phone? True, it makes me smile when a message comes in. It's useful always having my camera with me and iPlayer and books on Audible streamed into my hearing aids have accompanied me on many a hot-foot to an appointment. But what started out for all of us as a great use of time as the train transported us to our destination flying through emails, reports, links and 'pre-reading' for tomorrow's meeting just a few short hours away -  has only lengthened our working day. And I don’t like that part one single bit.

Worse, when in the news yesterday we hear that a group of MPs are urging the government to look into the effect of hands-free phoning on our driving, there’s an instant backlash of people saying they can’t manage their job without using the phone in the car. The fact is, we can’t work from the next life, either, and more’s the sobering point, work would seem much less of a priority if we were coping with having killed or injured somebody because we lost concentration at the wheel. 

Nonetheless, the truth is that in the world we live in, some jobs wouldn’t be viable without people being able to communicate from behind the wheel. End of. We have built a society which relies on people working at work, before work, after work and travelling to and from work. And unless this is forced to unilaterally shift, I can’t see that this state of affairs is going to change for the better any time soon, as we continue careering forward in this ever increasingly techno future.

The problem is the speed of it all, isn’t it. I remember the good old days of freelance copywriting, when I had to tootle off to the post office three days before my deadline, with a floppy disk and a hard copy of the writing in question, all packed up ready to trundle off to the destination of my assignment. For the following week, while I awaited its delivery and the typed letter in return, I could Do Something Else.

These days, ticking off the to-do list doesn’t shorten it, does it? Because once we respond, the reply comes back, and quickly, generally, because we’re all caught in the same trap: get it done before it builds up! And so the circle continues. If we are to break the circle, it is going to have to be a conscious decision to snap it.

And what if we did snap it?

I have a plan. A real plan. And it starts in September. It’s not just a plan for me but one for everybody. We have to sign up emotionally and physically, but it’s free.

Join me?

More information in my next post 😊

Meanwhile, here’s that review. If you routinely go to bed after midnight and wake only a few small hours later, you need to read this book


Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Give It Some Welly

I’ve been very quiet of late. I’ve either been fastened to my desk in a writing/ editing/ teaching frenzy or struck down by a parade of menieres attacks which stop me so firmly in my tracks, I’m left having to unstick my feet, heave myself back into my chair and type like a second world war typing school graduate (I’m reading the fabulous,  Dear Mrs Bird, at the moment, which is where that image came from) to try to crawl back to where I’d been before the debilitating vertigo struck. Before I’d been practically carried out of the café at Waitrose by the person with whom I’d been having the meeting before it struck, that is, with the help of three members of staff, as well as the store manager and health and safety officer greeting me at the exit because these things have to be documented. Still, the bijoux crew of touchingly compassionate helpers waved me off me with a rather beautiful and very expensive bouquet of flowers which went a long way to erasing the humiliation of a shop full of customers thinking I’d had ten-too-many by 3pm. I’m afraid this has been the general picture of my life since the beginning of the year and my blog and social media have taken a hit.


However, I had the most perfect of motivating, energising blogging tonics last week when I was asked if I’d attend the Yorkshire Cancer Research’s Give It Some Welly event in Leeds town centre. This was to mark the 10-day countdown to Yorkshire Day on 1 August, a highly appropriate occasion to launch Give It Some WellyYorkshire Cancer Research’s (YCR) first ever region wide fundraising campaign.


I was more than happy to help in my small way, and very excited to throw miniature wellies at a target with Adil Rashid, the Yorkshire and England World Cup cricketing hero because yes, it’s not widely known, but I am a massive cricket fan. Of course I am. My Dad used to take me to Trent Bridge in the Derek Randall days when he would come out early on to the pitch and show off his fielding brilliance and his equally legendary sense of humour. What’s not to love!

I also got to meet another legend from my childhood: Harry Gration, a thoroughly down to earth, non-super-starry superstar who was as excited as I was to meet Adil Rashid and as interested as I was in Yorkshire Cancer Research’s campaign.

But then it got a bit more serious. I was shocked, really shocked to hear that Yorkshire has one of the highest incidence and mortality rates in the country. It slapped me around the face a bit, I’ll be honest. It made me even more grateful to be one of the lucky ones who survived an, ‘it’s very fast growing’ cancer. It was the type of breast cancer that had it been thirty years ago, I’d have been relying far too heavily on a welly-load of luck to have survived. Pre the wonder drug of Herceptin (Trastuzumab) which has been available on the NHS only since 2006, all the cards would have been in cancer’s hands.

Herceptin and the myriad of new drugs and pioneering treatments which have raised the odds of cancer survival significantly over the past few decades, are the result of research. Without research, they wouldn’t exist. And without funding, there is no research. If we want survival rates to keep on improving, research will need funding. And that is one of the aims of the Give It Some Welly campaign.

Awareness of the importance of taking up screening opportunities is another tool in the armoury to bring down cancer deaths. Take-up is disappointingly low in many parts of the region and yet it could alert us to a cancer forming way before a lump might have forced us to the doctor’s. Whilst early detection won’t stop us getting cancer, it might stop us dying from it. Generally, the earlier cancer is caught, the higher the chance of survival. As somebody who’s gone through cancer treatment and the mental turmoil of dicing with death, trust me, if I receive a letter to attend or make an appointment for screening, it’s done before it’s even made it to my to-do list.

This isn’t a competition, but the thing is, if higher survival rates are achievable elsewhere in the country, then of course they’re achievable here. YCR needs to raise 10 million pounds every year for the next ten to reach its £100 million target. Fundraising starts on Thursday 1 August and Yorkshire peeps, it needs us!

The wonderful thing about this campaign is that it’s so easy and cheap, if not, free, to take part. Anything goes, however loosely themed around a welly you want to make your fundraising event: decorate your wellies, arrange flowers in them, wear them to work or don’t wear them to work (if you’re a farmer) wang them, convert them, build a tower out of them, it really doesn’t matter.

I have to say, my heart is in wanging them but I think I’m going to struggle to sort my wellies out before 1 August. However, if you see me and hopefully a small but perfectly formed crowd in a field in our North Yorkshire village some time in August, hopelessly (in my case – discus and shot never were my forte) tossing wellies in a vague direction and cheering and laughing hysterically, it might just be part of the campaign. Come and join us! And/or why not set up your own fundraiser?? You can find all the information you need, here. 

Happy welly wanging!

And don’t forget, please donate when you can, and attend those screening appointments. You know it makes sense 😊

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Dealing with Pain


Back in those terrifyingly warm days in February, I asked for your advice regarding pain remedies and what you found to work in your own pain management.

I was cheating preparing for a talk on pain management from the ‘customer’ angle and suspected that there was a lot I didn’t know. The talk was to take place in March as part of the 2019 Yorkshire Cancer Research conference: Let’s Talk About Cancer.

I say, ‘was’. Alas, due – thankfully – to nothing to do with cancer, but the return of Ménières disease which I thought I’d booted into touch in those heady days of my thirties, I had to cancel my talk. The disease isn’t very pleasant but isn’t life threatening and I find the unpredictably of the attacks of vertigo and sickness it brings, as painful as the attacks themselves because I am forced to become unreliable. I can’t commit to public events knowing that I might be crawling along the floor, or sitting bolt upright staring at the wall with a bowl under my chin, when an audience is waiting for me to speak - or worse, as I'm speaking. Can you imagine!
The good news is that the very lovely, understanding people at Yorkshire Cancer Research (YCR) quickly managed to fill my slot and I have heard from many sources that the conference was a massive success.

Meanwhile, I thought the least I could do would be to cobble together the responses you kind people had bothered to send via the blog, FaceBook and Twitter and post them here. Some I’d forgotten about, and others were new to me, so I hope that this might serve as useful resource if you sadly find yourself in need of something bigger and more enduring than a paracetamol – not that I’m dissing the lonely paracetamol, you understand, paracetamol has saved the day for me on many occasions. I have to say this because I have this slightly disturbing imagination which throws my mind headlong into the family medical box and sees a box of paracetamol sombre, rejected and wondering why on earth it bothers.

I know, it’s a worry.

Before we really start, I’d like to add a note of positivity for anybody with the misfortune to have been recently diagnosed with Menieres disease. It isn’t curable (although does tend to peter out, hopefully never to return) but is often treatable. I am now on a fairly innocuous medication that hasn’t stopped the attacks but has made them much less severe and less frequent. I’m hoping that with continued tweaking I will have enough control over the disease going forward to return to normal life including full attendance at public and social gatherings 😊

And this means that I secretly hope that I will manage to attend the next YCR conference and be able to babble on about pain management without incident, not least because I’d already prepared the talk before I’d cancelled – typical!

Obviously the below isn’t an exhaustive list (and please do let me know your additions) but it is the word - summarised or as a direct quote - from the ground, from the coal face, of making pain slightly easier to bear. Even though there is a bias towards cancer in the responses, much will be relevant whatever the cause of discomfort.

Acupuncture: for mental well-being, aches and pains and hot sweats, and other complementary and alternative therapies.

Distractions: anything with friends and family; colouring, crafting, reading and writing (for mild pain – I knew it was bad when I couldn’t blot out the pain well enough to read or write) and oh, so many other hobbies.

Endorphins: warm, soapy baths (lots of people mentioned hot baths!); Epsom salt baths (with the added bonus of nice, soft skin afterwards) singing and playing instruments; walking, running, swimming and other (gentle) exercising; just being outside - preferably in the sun; dancing on the spot to alleviate restless legs (but it also made me laugh); being active.

Heat pads and hot compresses to soothe sore and tired limbs and muscles, can also help with restless legs.

Infrared sauna: ‘it’s like a sauna that you sit in, but there is no heat. You are baked in infrared light. It heats the blood rather than the skin and improves circulation.'

Mindfulness, meditation and other cognitive therapies.

Reflexology: for general aches and pains and mental well-being.

Reiki: ‘as a Reiki therapist, I’ve helped treat many people undergoing cancer treatments. On a superficial level, it helps to calm their minds from what is such an emotional part of their lives, but does also provide (on many occasions) pain relief as well.’

Soft Toothbrush (!): this had to go in as my pitifully sore mouth is a strong memory of my chemo days. For the ulcers there are stronger topical medicines available on prescription so do visit your doctor, and if the idea of navigating the sores as you clean your teeth is terrifying, try a really soft toothbrush soaked first in hot water. 

Stretching: particularly after Aqua Fit, a hot bath and general exercise.

Steroid cream: for pain in the veins. Also, please note: ‘…I went back to good old fashioned nature - pure aromatherapy lavender oil and hot compresses- working a treat- I'd say take the drugs for sure but don't forget about the healing powers of nature and a good old fashioned positive mental attitude.’

One last thought on pain management.
As a daughter of a nurse, I knew that I’d have to collapse in a heap on the floor and be unable to answer what day of the week it was before I’d be granted a day off school sick. I think this is why I spent my early adulthood with the box of paracetamol – there I go again – being out of date before I opened it, and drinking my body weight in water before I’d even approach the medical box.

But since cancer and a few operations over the years, I've had to retrain my psyche on this. I've had it explained that pain stresses the body with the result that it doesn't function and thus recover as quickly as it might if it were in less pain. I’ve decided that alongside natural boosts of our endorphins, medicines can be our friend and some of the medications to combat the side effects of cancer treatments can be the best buddy ever. Whatever your strategy: medicine, holistic, alternative or a combination, be kind to yourself and use it! Life is too short to stoically suffer in silence...


I wish you a happy and pain-free or pain-eased week 😙

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Deaf for a Day

You know those moments in life where you have a chance exchange with someone which is not particularly remarkable in isolation, but nonetheless makes you smile and brightens your day? I have a lot of these when I manage to walk away from my pc and jump back into the real world.

However, this telephone exchange with a booking agent the other day was not one of those moments. No, this one left a mark in my brain for all the wrong reasons. And had it not given me an idea of how to change the world – hey, reach for the stars and you might land on the moon - it would be unremarkable; something that happens all too frequently I’m afraid, and requires nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders and a brisk brush off so that it doesn’t lend a dark shadow to the day.   

I *may* have mentioned previously that I am the one in six in this country who struggles with poor hearing. I’ve written about it specifically here and here. Sometimes my mishears are amusing and sometimes they pass with nobody, least of all me, registering. I am fortunate to be surrounded by sensitive friends and family who do their best to make things easier for me and I am also incredibly lucky to be the owner of the very latest in hearing aid technology which is the difference between me working and, to be frank, leaving the house or not. But I would be lying if I said that hearing loss is easy, disingenuous if I pretended it didn’t pervade all aspects of spoken communication with the outside world. 

When people aren’t impatient with my ‘pardons?’ and when they don’t jump from a gentle comment to a megaphone shout which I can hear, boy can I hear, but still can’t make sense of the sounds (because a shout, I’ve learnt, distorts the sound even more) that makes me very happy.


In this phone call the person on the other end of the line broke all the rules of communication with the one in six who is hard of hearing. She was irritated. I may not be able to hear every word but even without the eye rolling and screwed up face, I can hear irritation. She had no time in her busy day to repeat everything three times. Couldn’t I just concentrate a little harder because then I’d be able to hear, surely? Simple.

If only.

I do try to be a grown-up about this. I realise I should go-out-and-get-myself-a-real-problem if I’m going to allow a phone call with a stranger to ruin my day. I try to pull up my big girl pants and sweat the big stuff instead, but when this kind of exchange happens once too often, in a moment when you’re struggling to remain upbeat about the weight you carry when you struggle to hear and thus communicate, sometimes those big girl pants feel very heavy indeed.

I ranted to my friends. That helped. Then I had an idea and it won’t leave me alone. I’d like to share it with you. And maybe you’re a teacher or a parent, you work in education or are simply interested in making people’s days a little brighter, and might join me in pushing this idea as far as I can.

I have some sympathy for people who don’t know how to sensitively communicate with people who can’t hear. Some sympathy. There is a part of me which thinks that if people have respect for others, and are happy to hop into their shoes when necessary, they would endeavour to hide their irritation for this disability. That seems the human thing to do. Indeed, I remember a relative constantly shouting at my terrifically sweet grandma who had developed age-related hearing loss and I ached for her.  Even as a child I understood that it wasn’t her fault and, particularly as a child, I could imagine how unpleasant it was to be shouted at, so I don’t think the concept is a particularly tricky one.

However, the nuances of improved communication with the hard of hearing do tend to come as a result of experience. My family know not to attempt to communicate with me from another room. They don’t cover their mouths with their hands as they speak. They try to rephrase a sentence rather than repeat it verbatim because they’ve learnt that a different word may be easier to hear, and they discretely help me when they can ‘just tell’ that I’ve lost the thread of a big conversation. They have learnt this from experience.

I know to speak more slowly as opposed to loudly to give people that split second longer to match the lip shapes to the sound they’ve heard. And I know that there are homophene groups, (sounds which do not sound the same but look the same on the lips) and so signing the first letter of the troublesome word might help a lipreader make sense of it. I know that context is everything so if somebody really isn’t managing the conversation, it’s probably best to stop, explain the context and start again. Life and attendance at lipreading classes has taught me this, so it isn’t fair to expect people with normal hearing who aren’t in regular contact with those with hearing loss, to know this.

But they could.

Were you lucky enough to attend one of those primary schools where pupils spent the day blindfolded to experience a quick snapshot of life for people who can’t see well? People talk about the experience way beyond their school days, referring to how effective it was in raising awareness of disability at a wonderfully impressionable age. I don’t know if this is still practised, but I do hope it is. It’s true isn’t it that some of our most vivid memories, our deepest beliefs and ethics come from innovative teaching, fun activities and unusual initiatives experienced when we were under ten years of age.

So, how about a ‘Deaf for a Day’ initiative in schools? No expensive technology would be necessary, I’m sure simple headphones could be used to block out or distort sound for a few hours. If we wanted to make it truly authentic, we could even pipe some tinnitus sounds, screeches and whooshes into ears at random moments, just to upset the train of thought, right when the pupils thought they were managing pretty well using mannerisms and context to stay in the moment. Cruel, I know 😜.


It could be fun! It is staggering how much we can pick up from the unconscious clues people give off when they speak: the music and the dance, the ‘unsaid’ and I think that alone could be informative and entertaining. Like broken feet (and knees, and a smashed up forearm) and losing our voice however, I’m sure the novelty would quickly wear off. I’d give it, oh, thirty minutes of not knowing what everyone else was laughing at, not knowing what page the teacher was talking about, not understanding the next instruction so having to watch to see what somebody else did first and hope they were doing it right before attempting to copy.

And who’s to say that this discomfort, this frustration, this feeling of melancholy about a world that was going on without us, wouldn’t stay with these children into adulthood? So when the pupil became the assistant behind the counter, the waiter taking the order, the chair of a meeting, they would instinctively keep their hands away from their mouth and look their customer or colleague straight in the eye. With this experience in their formative years, they would hopefully refrain from grimacing, answering in clipped (unintelligible) tones, or talking to you as if English wasn’t your first language and boy, were you struggling to learn. On the end of the phone they might rephrase if the conversation was clearly not going well and spell difficult words using the phonetic alphabet. But most of all, most importantly of all, they would sympathise and do everything in their power to help you communicate, to avoid making you feel stupid and that you were an irritant, in fact, they’d treat you with the same respect they’d treat any other person whose faculties were all intact.

What do you think? Can we make it happen? Shall we try?

I’d like to add that there are many people who instinctively carry out my communication wish list already. To those, I say thank you, this is such a big deal to those of us with hearing loss. Please help me spread the word that people who can’t hear have feelings too. In fact, we rather rely on them.      

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Ah, that's better!

Or it will be, if you help me J

So, I am honoured to have been asked to speak at the Let's Talk About Cancer conference, taking place on 14th March at the Magna Centre in Rotherham. My 15 minute slot is about coping with pain, the patient's perspective.

Now, whilst I know that bowlfuls of sweet white sauce and dancing on the spot worked wonderfully for me when my mouth was full of ulcers and my limbs felt like I'd been picked up and deposited in Luther, where the baddies didn't believe me and used their special vice-like contraption to squeeze and squeeze until I admitted defeat, I realise that my experience may be different from others. I also recognise that we all have our own ways of dealing with these things and that there are probably hundreds of different methods out there for getting through the bad days of cancer pain and the side effects of treatment.

I'd therefore like to ask if you would tell me about them. And I will steal them and pass them off as my own during my talk. Seriously now, dealing with pain is a big deal and in my fifteen minutes, I'd like to mention as many ways and means of dealing with it as possible. Here's hoping this will be useful to at least some of the audience.

If you, or someone you know, found anything from a medication to a holistic treatment or simply a regime that worked as effective pain relief for you, please would you let me know so I can add it to the list? I promise I will credit my blog readers on the day!

Meanwhile if you, or anyone you know, have been touched by cancer and happen to live in the Yorkshire region, places are still available at the Let's Talk About Cancer event. Tickets are free but limited so you will need to register. For more information and to secure your place, click here.
  
And if you do attend, please come and say hello! Most of the day I'll be in the exhibition area with a pile of books, otherwise you'll find me facilitating a group session, or fretting about my imminent arrival on stage…  

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Flold

I’ve just had flu. I knew it was flu because I'd had it in my twenties and it was characterised by the same lead being poured into all my limbs, even my fingers, and particularly my head, over a matter of minutes only to realise that if the house was burning down, I’d have to pray the hubbie was up to a fireman’s lift because I couldn’t move my body, not an inch.

The first time it happened I remember my mum peering at me through the living room window as I sat stock still on the sofa on a fiery hot summer’s day in the long university holidays, sporting the entire home’s stock of blankets. She was wondering why I hadn’t answered the door, used her key instead, took one look at me, asked me to put my chin on my chest and when I could, said, in her indomitable matter-of-fact nurse’s voice: 

Oh, that’s ok, I thought it might be meningitis. It’s just flu.

Just flu? I said, goodness! This was worse than flu!

Flu’s bad, she said, people call a bad cold, flu. But flu is flu, a bad cold is a bad cold.

I remember thinking they needed a better name for a bad cold. Because a bad cold can feel really, really horrible can’t it? But a cold can be anything from a sniffle to confining you to your bed and preventing you from work, so when it’s a bad cold we feel the need to call it something else so that we at least get some sympathy - AKA hot water bottle, Lemsip and a pass out on the dishes – and our manager doesn’t think we’re being pathetic, worse, skiving. For what it’s worth, I do believe the RIGHT thing to do is to stay away from work when you have a bad cold because nobody, but nobody wants to catch your cold so it’s kinder to the rest of us, and you’ll get better quicker, if you give yourself some TLC. Ok? You’re allowed.

How about colflu, flucol, flueyold or, flold. Yes! If you have a ‘flold’ then you are allowed to go to bed without putting on the washing before you go, your team will understand that you didn’t respond to that email and your boss will absolutely insist you don’t set foot anywhere near the office. Sorted.

This post isn’t a veiled appeal for sympathy by the way. I am currently in that post poorly-ness wave of euphoria, where it was almost worth feeling so bad, to feel so good in comparison. Almost. No, it reminded me of one of my questions I have running around my brain that never gets answered: where do these words start? You know, words like ‘peng’ and ‘sick’, or,‘dordy’ (threw in a Newark one there – I’m happy to say that my memory of being 14, and my diary corroborates, was that most things in life were, ‘dordy’) and even, ‘cool’ – that came from someone, somewhere, sometime. 

It’s the words that already have a meaning which bears no resemblance to what the speaker would like them to mean, that I wonder about. Who is the first person to say them and how do they end up being global? I mean, I understand it in the practical sense, a la internet et al, but how does one teen say something’s ‘peng’ in a little country village in deepest darkest Sussex for example, only for it to end up on the lips of a rapper in America? How did one person decide that using a word which described something pretty gross such as ‘sick’ would be a great way to describe something being ‘great’, and then manage to convince everyone else to feel the same?

I realise some of this is generated through the influence of idolised celebrity, but celebs aren’t getting up in the morning and thinking: Hmmm. What new word could I come up with today that, within weeks, will be universally understood by everyone under twenty?

Are they?

Well, maybe it’s our turn to make a mark on the Oxford English Dictionary. What word do you think should exist, but doesn’t…yet? Maybe it's a word only your family knows, or one you misspoke as a child but that makes so much more sense your way...

Meanwhile, my sympathies if you have had the misfortune to develop a cold, flold or flu this winter, and I hope that we all manage to beat off the gremlins going forward.

Stay well, folks!

Monday, 26 November 2018

Ask Me Anything (but I'm not an expert)

I am being described as a Cancer Expert which is a little embarrassing as I'm not sure I'm really anything close to an expert in anything, bar perhaps optimum washing machine temperatures for non-biological powders or coming up with the most compelling excuses to go out for a run when really I should be 'cracking on regardless' (the brain is so much more effective after exercise, I can plan a new writing exercise as I run, I'm nicer to everyone when I get some fresh air so it's a win-win - do you see what I mean?) 


However, I would admit that as 
my Five Year Cancerversary approaches in December, I have picked up quite a lot from the real coalface of living with cancer - not only from my own experience, but also from the extra research for Tea & Chemo and simply meeting so many wonderful people who have also had the misfortune to frequent Cancerville. Indeed, it's one of the many silver linings of cancer which I have spoken of before both here, in a post from the 'early days' and more recently, here: Tour de Friends 

And so it is that I find myself hugely honoured to be hosting the Live Better With's first Ask Me Anything (AMA) online Q and A event @ 7pm on Tuesday 4 December. 

A taste of Tea & Chemo at the launch of the
Live Better With store at Guys Hospital
And whilst Cancer Expert may be a bit of a stretch, what I have learnt since I first stepped into this new world is much more comforting than I ever could have envisaged in those terrifying first days after diagnosis. If I can lend a little of that to the discussion, then I'll be happy.

Questions can be posted now, right up to and during the event. Just click this link or enter via the website using the Forums & Info tab and then the drop down option of Community Forums.

You will have to register first with the site to take part and you can do this, here.

Please let me know if you've signed up and I'll look out for you 😊


A little about Live Better With:

With fellow writer, Lucy O'Donnell
Live Better With started life as an online retail company in 2015, focusing on useful and original gifts that might help and comfort people living with cancer, as well as their carers and loved ones. Following on from their online success, their physical shop, the Live Better With Boutique at Browns, was launched in November 2017, taking pride of place in Guy's Hospital Cancer Centre in London.

Through their FaceBook site and their own online community forums, Live Better With also provide a safe place for people to discuss anything and everything to do with dealing with cancer and its treatments. From there, the first AMA events have been launched and they can be found here in Discussions along with other cancer related topics.  




Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Tour de Friends!

Deeply embedded in the world of Cancerville can be a whole heap of beautiful experiences, sprinkled with oodles of silver linings and unexpected relationships. Surprising, I know. But maybe that is good to know if you, or a loved one, have recently been diagnosed with what is also a horrible, spiteful, nasty little b**ger.

Why so? You may ask. What can possibly be good about having your mortality thrust so very cruelly and dramatically in front of your eyes? Love, that's what. I hear time and time again of people who've navigated the thorny path with the love of those close to them and have met great friends through the shared experience of having cancer, or caring for someone who has cancer. And I am a firm believer that positive relationships and our health are the only two things we really need in life to be happy. Yes, we need money as well to survive, but survival is a slightly different thing to what I'm talking about today, so please forgive me for parking that one just for now.

...with apologies to Steve, I'm not great at selfies
Louise Brownley is one of those people I never would have met if it wasn't for our cancer diagnosis. I am so sad to say that she has recently discovered she has secondary cancer and, well, it's not easy. Not that it's stopped Louise in her tracks, you understand, despite struggling with new treatments and the constant barrage of hospital appointments, not to mention holding down her full-time job, she is throwing herself into an enormous fundraising campaign. She, her equally adorable hubbie, and their team of firefighters and police officers will be cycling the 146 mile, rather hilly coast to coast from Whitehaven to Sunderland next year and they'd like to raise £5000 for Cancer Research.

You can read more about the Tour de Friends, their training and their trials and tribulations, here.

I have a post on the site too, with some questions I've never been asked before on everything from defining moments, to trainers and kettles (and a grass ring) to my new strategy of 'denial'.

I have only previously asked for sponsorship once via a blog post: Put on the Spot. It was fantastically successful and I was enormously grateful for, and touched by, all the donations. That said, I recognise there are so many demands on our funds and it's not fair to be constantly asking for people's support. But I hope you'll forgive me for asking you this time, and on behalf of this very special lady, whether you could spare a few pennies here.  


If you do feel able to sponsor Louise and the Tour de Friends riders, please let me know in the comments (or privately here if you prefer) I'll put your name in the hat and one winner will receive a signed copy of their choice of Tea & Chemo or Glass Houses. And if you're sick to death of those, I'll give you a big hug instead😉

Monday, 5 November 2018

Stuck in a Book

I'm not really here. 
I'm really here... 


...and much as I lament the distinct lack of blogging over the past few weeks, my stiff word with myself has been somewhat successful. The latest draft of the novel had an enormously out of shape middle and only two hours of strict writing a day - that isn't all I do, by the way, although, imagine, she says, drifting away for a few moments to the top of a fluffy cloud, the number nine fluffy cloud, with pen, paper, and tea on tap and not even a hint of a spreadsheet or PowerPoint and especially no slightly grimy bathroom as distraction - has managed to shrink and tighten it to a more acceptable shape for its first appearance in public. But there's still work to be done. We're not talking six-pack yet, more of a slight bulge where you could imagine there might be a six-pack lurking underneath. Meanwhile, my ever patient first beta readers await their copy of This Remarkable of Days and I feel the least I can do is get it to them before the first Christmas cards are dolefully staring upwards, expecting to be written.

And thus, I'm even more grateful to be appearing on the Greenacres Writers' 'A Conversation ...' this week. This fabulously successful and busy reader and writers' site was set up in 2009 by a group of writers based in Finchley and features book reviews and interviews with a whole host of fabulous writers, a whole heap more interesting than me. The questions were intriguing, thought-provoking and made me smile and I just hope I've done them justice. You can read the interview here.


Meanwhile, any ideas of what you'd take up to your Cloud Nine? I'd love to know!