Breast cancer lesson number 124: Happiness is ticking off those appointments!

Today, I looked down the end of the giant Zoladex needle for the last time. That means no more hospital trips, no more holes in my left side (it’s like my very own constellation down there) and, in just four weeks, NO MORE MENOPAUSAL SYMPTOMS (unless Tamoxifen decides life is just too boring without them).

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I remember the oncologist joking about it being a useful dress rehearsal for the real menopause. You can tell my oncologist is a man :-). Trust me, there is no reason why any woman would wish to experience a hot flush before being forced into having one. Before active treatment started, I had not even given the menopause a second of my attention. Now, the very thought of going through this again for an extended period makes me want to run for the hills!

As I mentioned in lesson number 78, it does seem apt that the drug designed to shut down my ovaries to protect my fertility causes sleepless nights. I already have a huge amount of sympathy for new parents – just without the dirty nappies! All I hope is that the implant has done its job (the effectiveness of the drug for use in this way is still being examined) and that the giant needles will be replaced with not-so-giant periods in due course.

As you would probably expect, this momentous occasion was the subject of today’s ‘100 happy days project’ post on Facebook (I’m already up to day 21). For those of you not on Facebook, here’s a quick rundown of the first 20. You can also read more about the project by clicking here. It really is a great way to pick out a smile from every day and I do encourage you all to have a go if you haven’t already.

Day 1
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These beautiful flowers, given to me over a cup of peppermint tea this morning, remind me of a lovely few lone-overdue hours spent with a friend. My friend said to me: ‘life is not about waiting for something big to happen. Life is all around, waiting to be lived.’ Thought it was a beautiful and apt message for the project. If I am allowed two, I have also just been sent a lovely e-card with the following quote in it: ‘You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself: “I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”’ I think it would be fair to say, I do enjoy a good quote! Hope you are finding happiness in your days!

Day 2
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I decided to go off piste at the hospital and try and vanilla yoghurt shake instead of a breakfast tea. It was so delicious and certainly something to look forward to on a trip there. I also handed out two more of my pink hearts today (one to my physio and one to the lady who gives me massages at the cancer unit). I love writing out the accompanying cards and thinking of all the different ways in which that person has touched my life. NB: I have only handed out seven so far, and have many many more to go, so don’t worry if I have seen you and not given you one. They take a while to write. If you want to read more about my pink hearts campaign, visit: http://bit.ly/1nHsc4w

Day 3
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Chemo day can be a happy day! Just two rounds to go. Ginger cookies baked for the cancer unit, experimental lemon and ginger muffins ready for sampling too and some jelly babies and lollies for mum and me! Smiling. Hope you find a small pleasure to raise a smile today! J xx

Day 4
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Back at my family home for a wedding (on chemo day 2 no less)! Have just dug out my GCSE art book to remind me why I have always wanted to work in the creative industries. It sits in my bedside table at home and I get it out every time I stay. It always raises a smile! Possessions such as this are priceless. Packed with memories. Hope you are having a happy day. J x

Day 5

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Today, the beautiful Hanne (pictured here) would have turned 33. Sadly, however, she lost her life in the Oslo bombings and I only found out about it last year while making a long overdue visit to her Facebook page. I am celebrating her birthday today because she was a real free spirit and a beautiful person who brought sunshine into the lives of the people she met. She loved life and I only wish she had lived to see more of it. The way in which I found out about her death showed me just how important it is to touch base with people outside the wonders of social media and remember the people who mean the world to me. Thank you Hanne for teaching me the importance of friendship. I hope you are still smiling, wherever you are. Much love, Jackie x

Day 6

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I have always been a bit of a winter person (scarves, hats, gloves, Christmas, mulled wine etc). But since getting a garden and discovering the joys of growing, I have really started to see the beauty in all seasons. Fresh garlic is the latest bit of produce to find its way out of the soil and into our kitchen. I can’t wait to use it.

Day 7

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What does every cancer patient fighting fatigue need? A copy of Games of Thrones, that’s what. I have been saving it up for the right moment and now (thanks Claire Sargent for the loan) that moment is here. It is so important to have something to look forward to in life – even if that something is a little on the gory side. I may be gone for some time! Hope you are having a happy day. J x

Day 8

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For me, the joy of baking lies not in eating cake fresh from the oven but in licking the bowl! Have just made a light ginger cake to try and distract myself from dizzy spells and this syrupy goodness (or not so goodness) was a real treat. J x

Day 9

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It may not look like much, but this little but of paper, which now contains the date of my last PICC line flush, has a very special place in my heart. For me, it reinforces the fact that, whatever race you are running, there will always be a finish line. And, every finish line, however small, is worth celebrating. It may be a small stage in a longer race, but it is a sign the end is in sight. When you see the finish line you know you’ve been running in the right direction all along. So, there is just one thing left to do. Keep running.

Day 10
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This is our Agapanthus, which until very recently was without a single bud (it had three last year). We discussed repotting it or planting it in a bed to make it flower, but ended up just moving it across the decking. As you can see, it now has 16 buds and they have started to come out today. When I look at this plant I think about just how important it is to give things time and be patient. Some things just take time. There’s a lot to be said for the phrase: ‘good things come to those who wait’. We won’t have to wait much longer! Have a happy day. J x

Day 11
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Thanks to a wonderful friend, I am now the proud owner of the word ‘happy’ for one whole year. This kind gesture not only makes me smile the widest of smiles, it also supports the wonderful charity I CAN, which helps children communicate. Thoughtful friends are one of life’s most precious gifts and I feel truly blessed to have so many by my side. Thank you. J x

Day 12
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Old friends, tea and ice cream. Perfect Sundays are made of this. Catching up on seven years! Great friends are like stars. You don’t always have to see them, to know they are there. Here’s to many more Sundays just like this. Hope you are having a great day. X

Day 13
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This little garden scene at Eltham Palace is a short drive from my house and it has taken two years of living in the area for me to drive out and see it. Often when we live somewhere we don’t appreciate the beauty and the little details that exist right on our doorsteps. We are never tourists in our own back yard. But why travel when you can find your own slice of happiness a few steps (or miles) away! Happy exploring! J x

Day 14
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Since being diagnosed with Breast Cancer, I have tried to make every day count and smile through this life-changing disease. Writing to help others (and myself) has been a massive part of that, so I was delighted when Breast Cancer Care asked me to become a regular blogger. Here’s my first post (just published)

http://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/news/blog/vita-bloggers/jackie
I have also spent the day being photographed for a magazine feature about smiling through cancer. Here’s me with new eyelashes, proper make-up and some cookies I baked earlier . I have never been in front of a camera in this way before, so am a bit scared about seeing the feature.
I hope, through my writing, I will be able to help more people smile through cancer. J x

Day 15

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This little car and I have been together for 15 years. She got me to my A-level exams and she is still transporting me all round the country. She may be old and undesirable but that makes her really desirable in my book (especially on London roads). I am happy today because I have managed to get a really good deal on my car insurance renewal. Another reason to love this little blue bundle of unleaded-fuelled joy. Thank you little car. J x

Day 16
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While I have embraced the wonders of the digital age (a bit), for me there is nothing quite as exciting as receiving a bit of post through the door. I have just opened this beautiful card with alliums on the front (selected because they are my favourite flower). It has brought a huge smile to my face. The words also, are beautiful. I won’t share it all, but the amazing sender writes that she (through illness) has: ‘learnt the value of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ as well as appreciating so many little things in life.’ She adds: ‘you are being given the opportunity to learn things that so many people miss as lives are so full of busyness.’ She is so right. Happiness isn’t about getting what you want. It’s about making the best of what you have and being grateful for it.

Day 17
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Strangely Justgiving has stopped sending me emails when people donate, so imagine my surprise when I logged on just now to find I had received even more support. I am so humbled by all the kindness I have experienced over the last six months and can’t thank you enough. With your message, likes, cards, hugs, donations, flowers, chocolate, paperclips and love, you have given me so much strength. The 10k is on Sunday and, for me, it is a massive milestone. When I signed up, I thought it would take every last little bit of strength to get to the start line. My medical team think I am bit bonkers wanting to run a race with dodgy hips and chemo drugs in my bloodstream, but I want to do this for everyone who has every had to hear the words ‘cancer’ and get up day after day to face the rollercoaster that is active treatment. I wanted it to be hard and I know it will be. And I want every step to matter. I will cross that finish line on Sunday thinking of you all. Kindness is the best currency there is. Thank you for making me feel like the luckiest person alive. J x As a side note, I have also just had a wonderful day with a friend and her beautiful baby. I didn’t take a piccie although it made me very happy indeed!

Day 18
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There are two things making me particularly happy today. The first is the fact that I have just put out two window boxes full of marigolds Duncan grew from seed. Last year, somebody stole one of our window boxes. At the time, it upset me, but by moving them up to the first floor, we are fighting back. This is my small way of saying to the world, sometimes you try to take things away, but I will always find a route through to happiness. The second is the fact we have just spotted a tomato growing out of the drain at the back of our garden. I think we could all learn a lot from nature. Nature doesn’t give up. It just finds a way. It’s like a weed growing through a crack in the pavement. If obstacles are put in its path, it just creates a new one. Here’s to nature! J x

Day 19

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I am delighted to report team small boobs, big smiles have all crossed the finish line. 9k jog/running an 1k walking not bad for a lady with no hair, dodgy hips and chemo in the system. Thanks so much to all those who sponsored us. Feeling so humbled due to all the support and a little bit proud. One massive finish line crossed, just a few more to go!

Day 20
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This may look like an ordinary glass of water, but it is, in fact, very special indeed. That’s not because it comes from a special spring or bottle. It is straight out of the fridge and it is the first glass of water in about four months that I can actually TASTE! The simple pleasures in life are the best! Brief respite before I lose my taste buds all over again.

May your days be as happy as they are long!

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