T*ts up

I’m not good at asking for help.  It makes me feel vulnerable.  So if I ask for something it’ll mean I’m pretty desperate. I don’t know where it came from or why I find asking for help so difficult, I am fiercely independent, to my detriment at times.

I decided to write about this ‘event’ this week because of the sheer importance of it. Boobs. More precisely, boob checking!

It was about six weeks ago when I first felt a lump, I thought it’d go, I’ve had them before. I kind of forgot about it until someone told me about a radio DJ that was dying from breast cancer, same age as me.

So I made an appointment. I had an urgent referral to the breast clinic which was the Thursday just gone. I didn’t mention it really but I didn’t hide it either, work knew, some friends knew, it didn’t feel like a big deal.

I’ve tried to work out why I refused any support or why I didn’t ask for any support to attend the appointment.

I think actually that I am a victim of my own ‘mindfulness’. Something that I have practised for the best part of 3 years, living in the moment, not worrying about the future, concentrate on now, don’t stress about what you have no control over.

I’m fine I said, It’ll be fine, I’m fine to go on my own.

The nurse calls me in and cops a feel. Normally when I have had cysts before they are fairly reassuring straight away, she made some noises that it ‘could’ be a cyst but she seemed to be investigating for a long time. We need to send you for an ultrasound and a mammogram, we may need to do a biopsy, she said. I stayed in the hospital gown. There is something extremely vulnerable about hospital gowns isn’t there? I go to a tiny room with six other women who look absolutely terrified. The statistics tell us that one of us isn’t going to get good news today. Nobody really talks, most of us look at our phones.

I’m really beginning to wish that someone was with me, I have only just realised that in the next thirty minutes my life could change, I could be told I have cancer and I am here, on my own.

Stupid.

The mammogram was done, I must be lucky, it’s my third and I don’t find them to be painful at all, though there’s nothing flattering about being semi naked having your arms up and your boobs squished into the shape of toast into what looks like two vertical petri dishes while the young glamorous nurse takes pictures of you while instructing you to ‘put your chin up’.

I then go back to the small room and what seems like a VERY long time I get called in for an ultrasound. When I have had these before it’s always been a nurse but she calls in a ‘doctor’. I am immediately alarmed. Doctor?! Hi, he says and introduces himself, I take no notice of his name, I’m wondering why he is here. A doctor!! This is huge he says, this cyst is a big one. A cyst, I say. A cyst? Does that mean I’m ok? Oh yes he says but it’s a big one! While I am engaging my brain to become relieved I’m not going to die yet he asks the nurse to ‘pass the syringe’ over and as she does he says ‘not that one – the bigger one with the large needle’…. Erm, what are you doing?? I say! Just taking the fluid out he says. Is it going to hurt? Not really, he says. I lay there as a needle is put into my boob and into the cyst and 30ml of liquid appears in the syringe. It didn’t hurt, much.

I get up and thank the staff for their amazing empathetic and professional care, I go off to work promising myself that I am going to look after my body so much better from here on in (btw 21 days off the booze!) whilst also reminding myself it’s ok to ask for help sometimes, it’s ok to ask for support, I don’t need to do everything on my own.

Our NHS are bloody brilliant aren’t they, we are so lucky, it’s not perfect and it’s so under funded but when the resources are there its amazing.

I do have one gripe though, during my appointment the nurse kept referring to ‘women nearly 50’ and ‘menopause’.   I have no idea who they are referring to!!

Anyway you females out there, check your boobs please!!!

Happy Sunday xx

 

daisy

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Rising fog.

I’ve always been a bit of an all or nothing kind of person.

At 18 when I decided to go vegetarian, I stayed vegetarian. I decided I want to be able to run at least 3 miles in one go 4 years ago so I set up a running group and now I can. I left my job I loved, working with women and for women, so I set up an online women’s group instead eight years ago so I could do ‘something’ in that community, it’s still going with 600 members. I woke up one morning in my 20s and wanted to buy a green and white Citroen 2 CV and by the weekend I had one (who knew they had colon gears?!). At 16 I decided to go to France in a lorry with a man I didn’t know to be a nanny, there was nothing my poor mum could do to stop me. At 21 I decided one day I no longer wanted to be a house owner and work in an office, I wanted to travel, six months later I was on a plane to Sydney for 12 months. Last year I decided I wanted to move to another town, two days later the house was sold, I’ve lived here in the new town for a year now. Basically once I put my mind to something I tend to get on with it.

Something else I’ve recently realised I ‘put my mind to’ is having a glass of wine or two after work. I almost never get drunk (hate the feeling!), I don’t crave a drink in the morning, I never pass out. I’m just joining the masses, being sophisticated, ending the day with a glass of vino. Right?

All fine. Until major trauma occurs. Mine being 5 years ago when I lost my lovely Tes. Only having a drink at weekends extended the weekend from Thursday to Sunday, then that extended to include a Monday (EVERYONE deserves a drink on a Monday right?), before long the ‘gap’ changed to ‘as long as the sauvignon blanc was poured after 6pm’, this was also perfectly acceptable.

It’s been about two years where I began to realise that I’d messed up my relationship with the beautiful pale yellow liquid waiting for me in the fridge. I began to begrudge nights that meant I had to drive, I fell asleep almost every night watching the TV, I woke up most nights at 3am and I have survived for the last five years on as little as 3 hours sleep most nights.

The problem is I am VERY good at being able to carry on with little sleep and I am VERY good at being able to function at a high level during the day when inside I feel crap. I think this is partly due to the fact that after losing Tes my heart is broken and I have found a way to carry on the day job with it in two pieces because there is no other choice.  So coping with little sleep is easy compared to coping with a broken heart.

ANYWAY – I have stopped drinking entirely, not sure how long for, no goals really, I just know it had become a bit too much of a habit so I’ve replaced it with hot chocolate and Hagen daaz ice cream!

Comments from other people have not been very favourable – ‘boring’ being the most common. Weird isn’t it, if you give up cigarettes everyone throws a party but if you give up one of the most addictive harmful drugs that exists you are cast aside like a leper!!!

In my first two weeks some remarkable things have happened already, firstly it wasn’t as hard as I thought. Secondly I am SLEEPING!!!!!!!!!! And I MEAN sleep. Since I lost Tes I thought I didn’t sleep well due to grief but what I hadn’t realised is …..what I was doing to dampen down the grief then led me not to sleep well. I put my head on the pillow now and I wake up six hours later and I haven’t woken up in-between!!!! I have more energy, I am much less anxious and I have more money in my pocket!

With it though my at times foggy brain coping with a hangover or just over indulgence has suddenly become shiny, clean, transparent and with it I’ve had to painfully look back at things and with it experienced an emotion that I try not to – regret. Those regrets are my own personal ‘stuff’ that I must find a way of dealing with but I realise that the biggest arguments, rows, difficulties and bad decisions I’ve made over the years have always been when I and/or others have been drinking. It hurts a lot to think of some of the bad decisions I’ve made, the effect on our lives and there’s nothing I can do really about these regrets apart from being a grown up and accepting I can’t change anything in the past.

Thank you for letting me share my thoughts with you, I struggled with whether I should write this, it’s not easy to put your life out there at times, there’s a lot that I keep to myself for fear it’s just ‘too much’ (believe it or not!) but I know that other people out there struggle with their ‘coping mechanisms’ too be it cigarettes, prescription drugs, alcohol, bad relationships, illegal drugs, eating, not eating etc. I am accessing some online support too during this latest change in my life where I’ve thrown away my safety blanket, It’s not simply that easy to just ‘give up’ for most people but perhaps whatever you want to change you can try to start with today…

Happy Sunday to you all x

Bring it on…

My Sunday morning blog x x

There’s no other way to put it but it’s been a challenging week. The most challenging in a very long time. And it coincided with me. On a detox . Fabulous. Friday night the eventful end to this already testing week was me having to evacuate the work place. I finally left thanking an amazing fire service for keeping us all safe before heading over the hills to home. Exhausted.

It can be hard to see the positives in weeks like this but they’re there. You just have to look a bit harder.

There’s all the usual brilliant constant people who are always there. Thank you xx

Then there’s the friend who knows exactly what you’re going through. There’s the person you’ve only known for a few months that you know is going to be in it for the long haul. There’s a big bear hug from your little (but tall) brother that you haven’t seen for six months. There’s the message from a complete stranger telling you the group you run for women helped her at a difficult time (that was sooo special). There’s the amazing health care we are so fortunate to have with their brilliant staff (thank you!). There’s my dogs waiting for me each night in the porch. There’s an al fresco lunch while watching the world go by which includes a jack russell strapped in as a pillion passenger on a motorbike! There’s the view from the top of a steep 2 hour walk….that I’ve never seen before. There’s the catch up with my other brother over the phone who’s many miles away and the funny stories of my nephews on their travels. There’s the giggles around the lunch table at work and happy groans when I sent around my Friday cheesy joke. You want to hear it dont you?!

What did the cow say to its child when it left for school?

Bison.

See. Group groan.

Made people smile though.

So. Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday Thursday. Friday. Saturday. You tried your best but you failed!! I’m standing up to you and I can still find good in it so there… bring it on Sunday!

Have a lovely day x x

Today soon becomes tomorrow.

Friday night we met up with my lovely friend from school days and we ventured to the new cocktail bar in town. A couple of drinks later we walked to the DJ set at the local fringe festival feeling a little bit more giggly after the gin fizz. We didn’t know what to expect so we were quite overwhelmed so see this small town venue buzzing like a mini Ibiza club inside. Everyone was dancing and happy and looked light with the music seeping into their feet. A gathering of all ages and backgrounds being together enjoying the atmosphere of space and freedom. Music does that.

The heat outside doubled in temperature inside and it wasn’t long before we took ourselves outside to cool down. As I sat down and chatted, a woman nearby caught my eye. Do I know you, she said. I had never seen her before so confidently replied that we didn’t. We chatted a bit and with great surprise to both of us it turned out her cousin was my cousin and our grandmother’s were sisters!!! It was so odd as we live near each other and yet for some reason we had never met!!! It was really quite emotional!

So that Friday brought a busy days work, a rushed journey home, a quick change of clothes, cocktails, raspberry stains on white tops, dancing while drinking out of a mini wine bottle (classy!), meaningful hugs with Tes’s adorable friend who I saw dancing right at the front (of course!) .. and emotional hugs with her parents, a last minute dash for ‘one more’ at the wine bar and a bad decision to eat chips and garlic mayo at 1am… all that on top of getting to know my new cousin…!

It made me think how amazing it is that we get up every day and have no idea what today is going to bring…. the difficult and the good and it reminded me of the importance of being mindful to try and live for today because we really don’t know what tomorrow brings.

Hope you’ve had a lovely week and have a great Sunday x

Dear Tes

I havent written to you for a while on here.

I saw this sculpture that was shared with me online by a friend … it initially took my breath away…. I’ve never seen anything that conveys what it’s like to lose you with so much honesty, passion and painful truth.

I look at it and it’s how I feel in a mirror image. A strong exterior.. but with a huge hole of grief right in the middle that spreads into every other part.

Recently I feel it most when I’m walking on my own. In the woods. I feel the leaves crunch under my trainers. I look at the height of the trees where a branch occasionally cracks under the weight of a hidden squirrel or a busy crow. I’ve learnt to fill my mind. It helps. But this is usually the quietest part of my day where I can’t always dull the ache in my stomach anymore.

I miss you and yet those words seem so weak and pathetic because of course I do. We all do.

I dont know why sometimes for days and maybe like now for weeks the cloud hovers. It’s not pelting down large rain drops or particularly black. It’s just above my heart making it harder to find anything really interesting or worth bothering with. It’d be so easy to get under the duvet and stay there but I don’t. I have always feared what would happen if i did. I wouldn’t. I couldn’t.

I was asked this week how I’d coped after losing you. I answered in a rather convoluted way because there’s no quick answer. As usual I feel guilty as i speak. For just being able to say that I found a way.

I finish the question by saying I never wanted to survive your loss by just.. surviving. There’s little point in that. I’m living. It’s bloody hard at times but I’m living. There’ll never be a day that I wish you weren’t living it with me too.

Love you Tes. In my thoughts and my heart. Every second.

Mum x

Love to you all too this Sunday x

(Sculpture – Melancholy, Albert Gyorgy, Geneva)

Stand up

On the radio yesterday, as expected, the conversation turned to Trump. Politicians refusing to stand up to him mainly. Politicians skirting around his cruel policies that create a thunderous division in our world. Not one person dared to stand up to him. They swerved around his kids in cages, his lack of knowledge, his patriarchal hold over women’s rights and his treatment of minorities. Nobody mentions the fact over twenty women have accused him of sexual assault. Everyone is perfectly and nauseatingly respectful.

Face to face it can be difficult to stand up and be the person who disagrees. People often find it easy to fire off an ambiguous Facebook post aimed at ‘somebody’ and behind the wall of pseudonyms Twitter users find power in their anonymity to stand up to everyone.

The point is… we need to find a way of standing up for ourselves and most definitley for others, not in secret but with confidence. If something doesn’t affect us directly it doesn’t mean we should become bystander and say nothing. I faced some third hand homophobic comments about me this week. It really hurt me but then it also made me angry which after a day or so turned into this blog because I want to ask you that you don’t become that politician that turns a blind eye to discrimination. Of anyone.

Be you dad, uncle , mum, sister, friend, colleague… don’t be a bystander to words and actions that hurt. The world surely would and could be a happier place if all of us decent and reasonable people stood up to the minority that want to tear us apart.

Peace and love!

Happy Sunday x x

Hiraeth

I’m in Greece, on Skiathos Island in a small village. An absolute beaut of a place, the weather is even warmer than back home but we don’t have to do much while we are here bar sip a Gin Fizz cocktail, swim in the empty pool, decide which lounger we’re going to reside on for that day and apply a good measure of sun cream.

When we are working, we dream of this. We dream of doing nothing, we dream of relaxing of not having to get up, of getting away from the chores and the stress of daily life. We can’t wait to get away from the 9 – 5 drill, hang up the iron, no more emptying the dishwasher or doing the weekly shop.

Skiathos is absolutely stunning, I will definitely return to the village just outside that thankfully feels very Greek. The villas where we have been luckily enough to find ourselves have no more than nine or so apartments, vines of grapes hang from the roof of the foyer and colourful plants surround the pool. The locals are very friendly. On more than one occasion I tried to pay for something (the magnet that I clumsily dropped on the floor and broke), the use of a toilet in a cafe that I hadn’t bought a drink from only to be firmly told NO but that I could use the facilities anyway. If I went to the local supermarket the cashier rounded it down. A woman served us and dropped a cocktail all over poor S, quickly putting another together she refused to take payment at the end. It just seems so very very friendly and it didn’t feel like it was because we were tourists on holiday and therefore had some money to spend, it seemed for no gain other than being friendly, being nice, it felt like it’s an attribute deep within their culture.

The sea water was just cool enough and it was so clear you could see the grains at the bottom where your feet melted into the sand. Tiny fish swam by. Yachts adorned the turquoise water and speed boats gathered waves as they moved away from the Island. We found a cove between rocks with nobody on it, a few metres wide with two worn sun loungers where we took our shoes off and paddled with the sunshine pouring on to our pale skin.

We treated ourselves one night visiting the restaurant that had been recommended on our way here by the guide on our bus, it’s hard to describe the place as anything less than a piece of paradise. The sky blue decor of wooden tables perched on a brow overlooking the still sea, boats rested in the distance, almost nothing moved as we ate our delicious food and drank some fabulous wine. The waiters were attentive but not overly, the bill arrived in a tiny treasure chest and we were provided with a chocolate ice cream dessert to share, just because.

I managed to sneak a bit of left over chicken (not mine!) as after a few cocktails the night before I had promised one of the dogs that frequented our path home that I would indeed bring him some chicken the next evening. As a vegetarian I wasn’t entirely sure how this was going to happen but luckily one person at our table couldn’t quite finish their dish. The dog in question duly was waiting, his scrunched up face clearly was used to this routine as was the three cats that appeared and the rather nervous smaller tan dog. Tan dog was frightened of the cats, the cats were quite happily pawing at my hands to get to the chicken, scrunched up dog was happy to take what was given but tan dog kept running away so we had to coax the others so we could get within a few feet of him and then throw him some food which he gladly accepted. None of the animals looked in bad health, I think they had simply become accustomed to being fed by strangers.

In the evenings we found a bar, we played cards, we played songs, we chatted, we laughed, we debated, we talked, we chose new cocktails and we met new people. We got to bed late and we got up late, we ate breakfast on the veranda, the sea was in the distance, the chickens clucked, the cockerel crowed on occasion, there was a slight breeze as we ate watermelon and bread and cheese.

So. In all this glory how did this happen? By day five it first hits me. I have a spot of Hiraeth. Hiraeth – there is no equivalent to the word in English but it basically is the Welsh word meaning – a longing for home. I missed my son, now too grown up to want to come abroad with his mum. I missed my dogs that were being pampered and loved by a friend who seems to have understood them like I do so I knew they were looked after but I MISSED them so much! I missed my home! Oddly when I’m away from home my hiraeth for Tes also grows, it’s something about being away from where I feel she is I guess. But I miss her being here too, I imagine her at the pool as a 20 year old, I imagine her drinking cocktails with me and it makes me feel so bloody very sad that she isn’t. I miss home. My brain has finally relaxed for the first time in months. I miss what’s missing. I end up texting my brother worrying that there is something wrong with me!! Five days away and I miss home!! I’ve been away for 12 months as a youngster travelling, what’s wrong with me? He assures me that this is perfectly normal and that he ‘always misses Wales’ when he’s away.

Of course.

I am again then just so proud of my Welsh heritage, of my home. There’s nothing like it. Of course I’m going to miss it!!

It is something to be so grateful for. Coming away to a beautiful exotic Island of colour, friendliness, calm and beauty yet still missing my home, my tiny part of Wales. In many ways, how lucky am I!

Hope you are enjoying your Sunday wherever you are today XX

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