Breast cancer lesson 156: You can face any bend in the road, if you have the right people holding your hand

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For the last nine months, our living room has resembled a rather niche card shop. Of course, it started with good wishes for our engagement – and what wonderful wishes they were. Then, mid-January, there was a sudden shift to post of the ‘get well’ kind. Throw in the odd teddy bear, a few Happy Easter cards in April and a steady trickle of notes and messages throughout active treatment and you’ll get the idea.

Starting each day surrounded by a wall of words has been a real boost for me. Never far from a message of encouragement, these notelets and cards have been a constant shoulder of support, a reminder of all that is good in the world and a sign that, wherever you are, you are never far from people who love you. These words have moved me deeply, made me smile, made me laugh out loud, made me cry, made me pick up the phone and get on a train (to make contact) and given me the chance to reflect on the happy memories I have already banked over the last three decades. That’s why I haven’t moved a single one (even to dust)! And, that’s why, it’s a massive step for me to even contemplate taking them down (might actually have to get out the polish).

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Apart from the genuine kindness shown by these handwritten gestures (I am a big fan of all things handwritten), the main thing that has struck me about this word-filled wall is that I have often under-estimated just how powerful a small gesture can be. For starters, I now fully appreciate the excitement of hearing the post land on the doormat. I now see how a well-written card has the power to change the course of a day. I also now realise that the cheery post-its I used to leave on colleagues’ desks, the handmade gifts I have posted, the acts of kindness I have delivered and the messages I have written over the years have really meant something to the recipients. People have written to me about events and gestures that at the time didn’t seem significant. I now know just how much those gestures meant and, having been at the receiving end of an awful lot of kindness myself, it’s not something I will ever forget.

What is so exciting about the fact I have kept the shelves stocked with well-wishers is that I now – as part of moving forward – get to take them down and re-read the lot. I imagine there will be more than a few tears as I relive all the hugs, positive vibes and amusing memories.

Of course, I won’t be recycling them. I will pack them away, so that I can one day be reminded of just how lucky I am to be alive and to have an amazing group of people with which to share my life. Until then, I know the memory of them will live on long after they have relinquished their spots on our dusty shelves. And, excitingly, I have just received a few amazing congratulations cards (like this one), which means the shelves won’t be completely bare!

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When you have one giant paper-based hug on tap, thoughts of giving back and ‘paying it forward’ are never far away. That’s why I started my pink hearts campaign and why I now have lots of reasons to seek out and spend time with the people that have shaped my life and made me who I am. So far, I have delivered more than 20 fluffy hearts and messages to special people across the country (in no order of priority) and I am excited about the packages I have left to deliver. It will a take years, but years packed with special moments sounds pretty good to me.

I have set up a pink hearts page here on my blog, because I hope that this little initiative inspires others to reach out to the people they love. The idea is simple. First, make a pink heart (I have adapted a Kirsty Allsopp design for the purpose). Next, tuck it inside an envelope with a message explaining what to do with said heart along with a personal and heartfelt note describing just what that person has done for you. Then, hand-deliver that heart to that person. The catch? Each recipient shares their address (except for hospital staff because I don’t want to appear stalkerish) so that I can a) update my address book and b) send them a little surprise gift sometime in the future to remind them of the importance of seizing the moment and looking for the beauty in each and every day. I know that the heart will fade, but I hope the message lives on forever.

It is a sad fact of life that it takes a serious illness for us to say what we mean to each other. And, this is something I want to change. I have been writing this blog because I want to use my experience to help others. If, through one illness, we all learn to say what we feel and tell those around us how important they really are, I feel I will have made a positive difference this year. If I’ve been put on this earth to spread the love, then spread the love I will.

Whether you sew a pink fluffy heart, or pick up the phone, now is the time to get in touch. Tell loved ones what it is about them that makes you smile. Tell friends how they have made a difference to your life. Tell them, because otherwise they may never know how much they mean to you.

I don’t want you to wake up one day and feel like you’ve missed the chance to make a difference. I want you to look for the good in others and celebrate it when you find it.

We, none of us, know what is around the corner. But, if cancer has taught me anything, it is that you can face any bend in the road if you have the right people holding your hand.

Thank you for everything. You know who you are!

NB: Given the volume of notes I have received, I do have a fairly good grip on the get well card market in general, so do get in touch if you’d like some recommendations.

Breast cancer lesson 154: Believe you can and you’re halfway there

What makes a great Sunday? Giant boob costumes, pink headbands, a cling-filmed rads-blasted boob, running shoes, a dose of determination and a celebratory pub lunch that’s what!

Yep, that’s right. We completed the 10k. And, with balloon-filled boobs on our backs, we did it in style.

Thinking back to yesterday’s aims, I am glad to report I finished in one piece with no missing body parts and we (by which I mean Fran, Sam and I as Duncan was up with the ‘running elite’) shaved off 12 minutes from the chemo run time. I think it’s fair to say when I pushed for the finish (I even had a bit left in the tank after three hills) imagining all of the amazing people fighting cancer on a daily basis – and all of those who have supported my fight – I couldn’t have been happier.

Thank you for believing in me, running with me and pledging drinks to help me raise money for such an amazing cause. I couldn’t have done it without you!

This is one finish line I won’t ever forget. Just one more active treatment finish line to go… tomorrow.

One sleep to go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here’s the photographic evidence:

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Breast cancer lesson 150: Ten things that will never taste the same again because of cancer

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Today I did a little dance after standing on the bathroom scales (a rare event I grant you). That’s because today, one month after the official end of chemo, I have returned to my pre-surgery weight. Thanks to jugs of water (with a squeeze of lemon), bran-based breakfasts, run/jog/walks around Greenwich Park and, yes, the odd comfort cake, I have space in my jeans once more and a great big smile on my face.

When I think back over my food choices over the last nine months, I can’t help but laugh. With my love of water, tea, fish, meat, cheese, bread, biscuits and cake, I have always been fairly predictable. Daring for me is throwing balsamic on the courgettes! Add in a fair few helpings of jelly babies, pints of lemonade and ginger biscuits thanks to chemo, however, and you could argue my diet had started to resemble that of faddy child. Not perfect timing when you consider our garden has been more productive than ever this year (although I am making up for it now by working my way through our tomatoes).

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With the chemo cravings a distant memory, I would like to be able to say order has been restored once more. But, that’s not quite true. For starters, my tastebuds are in overdrive. Everything feels like an explosion of flavour in my mouth.

Amazingly, I have even started savouring my food rather than racing the clear the plate. Whether this slow down will continue remains to be seen, but I will enjoy it (and its impact on my digestive system) as long as it lasts. It is a wonderful feeling to enjoy every mouthful and I’m convinced everything tastes better (although that might have something to do with the fact it couldn’t possibly taste worse).

Of course, when people talk about food and cancer, thoughts immediately turn to chemo – aka, the tastebud stealer. And yes, while it does make a pretty big impression on the dinner plate, it is not the only treatment and life-changing event to alter my view of certain foodstuffs.

So, here are ten things I know will never taste the same again (heightened tastebuds or not).

And, the good news is, it’s not all bad…

1) Chocolate: I have always had a weakness for chocolate and, dare I say it, the cheaper stuff usually (Dairy Milk and Twirl, with a bit of Green and Black’s vanilla chocolate thrown in). Now, every time I even look at a bit of chocolate, I am reminded of the chocolate hampers and treats that arrived in the mail to help me pile on a few pounds before surgery. That chocolate made my new boob possible and I will be forever grateful for it. I had never eaten a Hotel Chocolat chocolate before in my life. Now, I could probably describe the entire range! It was a bit dangerous creating a chocolate cupboard in the house, so while Duncan and I started to think of it as an essential nightly ritual, the new waistline wasn’t quite so sure. There is a little chocolate in the house now, but don’t tell Duncan, because he doesn’t know where it is :-).

2) Mashed potato: Oh, NHS, why is it that your mashed potato tastes so good? I never wish to eat your toast for breakfast again, but your smooth creamy mash is amazing. I appreciate the morphine may have had something to do with it!

3) Bananas: Ok, so they don’t have quite the same impact as they would on that comic book character Bananaman, but now I’ve taken up running (as an act of defiance against this dreaded disease), when I’ve eaten a banana, I feel like my legs could power on forever. Of course, I haven’t actually gone further than a 10k to test this theory, but I will always have a soft spot for this fruity fuel and its ability to get my round Greenwich Park.

4) Anything with ginger in:
I never used to understand why people got so excited about ginger. When you go in search of the ultimate ginger chemo cookie, however, this little ingredient does take on a whole new meaning! I think Delia’s ginger nut recipe is still a personal favourite, but I have enjoyed my journey through everything from gingerbread to ginger syrup cake. That doesn’t mean I’ll be stealing your ginger chocolate any time soon mum, so don’t worry.

5) Grapes: I love grapes, but I certainly won’t be freezing them again any time soon! The freezing idea was a way of eating fruit, while simultaneously trying to cool the mouth in the chemo chair to reduce that cycle’s side effects. I think it is fair to say it was as worthwhile as wearing sunglasses in a darkened room.

6) Ribena: Before cancer, I used to associate Ribena with my great aunt, who likes to drink it warm because she (shock horror) doesn’t do tea. Having been my ‘water’ for the entire chemo period, however, it is now sitting proudly in the fridge waiting to be diluted once more. It is incredibly sweet and it does remind me of the drug epirubicin, which isn’t ideal. But, if I drink it with my eyes shut, everything is ok.

7) Wine: I will never forget my first flavoursome sip of wine when my tastebuds reappeared for the last time on chemo cycle six. I was in a restaurant in Padstow and the lady serving us poured a small glass for me to try (no point buying it if I can’t taste it). It was magical. Acidic wine (the more acidic the better), was a friend on chemo. It isn’t a friend any more. I am also glad to say that red wine has been reintroduced once more. It had a bit part in my chemo story. I couldn’t taste it at all, but a glass before each blood test did help those levels (this is not a recommendation)!

8) Ice lollies: For me, ice lollies have always been a real sign of summer (my favourite being the Strawberry Mivvi, which I have avoided of late). Sadly, I think those days are gone. I did have a fruit pastille lolly in Cornwall, but it was for medicinal purposes. When you’ve craved them constantly for months as a way of shocking the tastebuds into action, they don’t quite have the same appeal. Oh well, best stick to farm ice cream and waffle cornets in future. It’s a hard life.

9) Bread: I never want to remember the peanut butter on toast chemo moment that felt like my mouth was being welded together with superglue and cardboard. Now the subtle flavours of bread are once again present in my life, however, I don’t think I will ever take them for granted again. Beautiful crusts, fluffy light rolls and floury baps, I love you all! I am thoroughly enjoying my ‘year without buying sliced bread’ challenge! 

10) Eggs: If all I had to eat for the rest of my life were eggs (with cheese of course), I would be a happy lady. That’s why I was excited when a friend recommended Nigella’s Eggs in purgatory meal. Trouble is, I love it so much, I think I ate it about 40 times during the chemo months. We are, as you can imagine, on a bit of a break right now.

In truth, nothing will ever taste the same again.

And, you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Breast cancer lesson 149: Ten things breast cancer has taught me that I never thought I’d ever need to know

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As I begin my last full week of active treatment (the end is now just a week away), I have started to reflect on the last nine months and the impact this unbelievable chapter has had on my life.

I think it is fair to say I have discovered an awful lot about myself and life in general as my body has been systematically destroyed and put back together again. I will be sharing these life lessons here over the coming months, but I thought I’d start by looking back on the things I never thought I’d ever need to know!

It’s amazing how we can move through life completely unaware of the intricacies of a certain topic or illness. Then, something changes, and we are required to become an instant expert. Back in lesson number 32 I remember describing the language of breast cancer as something not dissimilar to school. With talk of grades, stages and examinations, all I was missing was a satchel and a uniform (unless a backless gown counts)!

Beyond the booklets and the cancer glossaries, however, there are other learnings for which no amount of reading can prepare you. It’s true that I never thought I’d need to know these things, but, in a funny sort of way, I’m rather glad I do. It makes me cherish the bits of my body I still have that little bit more – and reminds me just how wonderful the human body really is.

Here’s my top ten (trust me, there are many many more). Consider this my alternative breast cancer guide!

1) Tummy fat is pretty intelligent: Top of the list has to be the fact that your tummy fat, wherever it is positioned on your body, never forgets its origins. Hard to believe unless you see it in action! I have been losing weight since the end of chemo so I am evening up a bit now! I must confess, tummy fat is a lot better looking up top.

2) Arranging an appointment to see the Orthotist is like signing up for a spy mission: I will never forget the day I got a voice message from the patient appliances department that was so cryptic (along the lines of ‘Miss Scully, we think you know why we’re calling, so please get in touch to book in a time’, I had no idea what appointment I needed to call to arrange. Starting the call with: ‘I think you want to see me, but am not entirely sure why’ is not something you do every day. I should also add, I had never before heard of an Orthotist. Such mystery all to fit me with a wig!

3) Cancer gives you tattoos: I didn’t think a serious illness would make me a rebel. Now the proud owner of three tattoos for radiotherapy alignment purposes, I am no stranger to a bit of inking. Now all I have to do is wait for my final tattoo when I get my nipple back!

4) Losing your hair downstairs makes peeing in a straight line pretty tricky: if you’ve asked me a year ago whether I would feel comfortable discussing weeing tactics at all, let alone publically, I would have laughed out loud. Now, pretty much anything goes. Try it ladies and you just tell me if don’t agree!

5) Being bald can be brilliant: getting acquainted with my bald head is one of the most liberating things I have ever experienced. While I would never wish to watch the clumps fall into the sink again, I am now pretty comfortable with my head shape and am still loving the ease with which I can get ready for the day. Silky smooth legs are also a bonus! Just wish the nose hair would return quickly.

6) Leeches may be used in breast reconstruction surgery: thankfully, these little beasties didn’t make an appearance in my cancer story, but I was slightly shocked to hear they might. Apparently they can help encourage blood flow if the new boob starts to struggle. This was a bit of oversharing on the part of the nurse prepping me gift surgery!

7) Tea can taste bad: I thought I would never see the day I would decline a cup of tea. Lose your tastebuds, however, and it’s one of the first things to go. I guess I also thought I couldn’t love tea more than I did. Getting my tastebuds back, however, has given me a whole new appreciation for the brown stuff! Rediscovering herbal teas (the smell is still a bit potent) may take a little longer.

8) A saline flush tastes like mouldy oranges – and that orange-flavoured laxative drink they give you doesn’t taste like oranges at all: it would be fair to say, I will never look at an orange the same way again. I still love them, but don’t be surprised if I run out the room if I ever smell a mouldy one again. That PICC line (which I couldn’t imagine having inside me and then couldn’t imagine having out) has a lot to answer for.

9) There are women walking around with magnets in their knickers: yes, if you see a lady attaching herself to a supermarket trolley or opening a drawer with her pants, do not fear. She is probably just fed up of the hell that is the hot flush and desperate for a solution. For the record, it didn’t work for me so no need to keep me away from filing cabinets.

10) Boobs are pretty unexciting: breasts, boobs, jugs, melons, cupcakes and mounds. This year, I have seen (and spoken about) the lot and I have to tell you, they are not all they are cracked up to be. While I will always have a soft spot for my man-made mound, I have started to see boobs less as sexy body bits and more as mundane fleshy lumps. That doesn’t mean I will be stripping off at every available opportunity.

You certainly can’t say the last nine months have been boring. I would say they’ve been anything but.

Question is, knowing what I know now, will life ever be the same again? And, would I want it to be?

Breast cancer lesson 147: Why I won’t complain about knotted hair again

One thing I really miss about having no hair is the hairdresser’s chair. I don’t miss the expense, or the fact I don’t have much glamorous chat (although I can hold my own when it comes to the latest on X Factor). I just miss the me time, the head massage while I’m having my hair washed, the ‘just-stepped-out-of-the-salon-you’ll look-like-this-for-five-minutes’ effect and the fact that, for at least 40 minutes, my image is in someone else’s hands. (I also miss the tea, the biscuit and the chance to read issues of Heat and Hello).

In truth, I have actually been to the hairdresser once since my number two back in April (although even that did not count as a proper appointment). Duncan treated me to a trip to the barbers (for him to get his haircut I hasten to add) on the way to a wedding last month. I remember chuckling to myself as I watched Duncan get his 10 minute clip, thinking that even in a barbers, I had less hair than everyone else. Thank goodness I had my hat on, so that they couldn’t see my ‘baby-like baldie’ look. Needless to say, I won’t be accompanying him again any time soon. It wasn’t much of a date :-).

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I have discovered, however, that you don’t need a hairdresser to give your head a bit of pampering. You just need a ‘New’ bar from Lush. This red soap-like bar (that actually smells a bit like Christmas due to the cinnamon content) is apparently the answer to quicker hair growth. Whether or not it actually lengthens my locks remains to be seen, but it feels lovely to get lathered up and, with 80 washes per bar, it’s a pretty cost-effective pampering activity. I have heard that there are other shampoos that can prove useful in the hair growth department, so if you have had any success with a product, do let me know. I haven’t, however, heard of one that ensures your hair doesn’t grow back grey. It is hard to tell right now, but there is a lightness to it. Am hoping for blonde – or a good cut and colour before too long.

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Of course, the shampooing has made the fluff I call hair stand to attention a little bit more, so I am sporting a bit of a chicken look today. I have been told that it is best to go au naturel and leave the hats at home to help encourage growth, so London had a good look at the fluff today.

With its ‘first-shampooing since April’ moment, Sunday was another of those mini milestone days I have been keen to celebrate. I am sure it won’t be too long before I enjoy my first hairbrushing day and even my first haircut. Life seems to be flying by at the moment and the idea that active treatment will be over in two weeks amazes me.

On the subject of haircuts, now I have fluff, my thoughts have been turning to post-chemo cuts. I feel lucky that I actually like short hair and get to experiment with all the styles I have also avoided (through fear of hating them and not being able to stick the hair back on). When you’ve hot no hair, having something to call your own is pretty exciting – although I know I have many more months of the GI Jackie look before anything resembling a style makes its way onto my head.

The style I do fancy is something resembling the look Brody’s wife opts for midway through season one of Homeland (yes, I appreciate I am miles behind). It’s a pixie with a longer bit on top (click here for a quick peak). For now, it’s just a dream staring out at me from the TV screen. I can’t wait for the day when I can call it – or something quite like it – my own! If you’ve seen something you think might suit me (here’s a quick reminder of the old Jackie look – or check out my a twitter handle, which is slightly more forgiving), please send me a link. When it comes to making a final decision, time is something I have on my side for once.

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Of course, what I am not missing is having another appointment in the diary – I have enough of those to keep me busy at the moment. It was back to the hospital today – via a wonderful lunch with an old friend I haven’t seen for about 14/15 years – for the next radiotherapy blast. Highlight of today’s speedy appointment was the moment when the technician said: ‘now, if you’d just like to lie like a big rock or something like that, this would be a lot easier.’ I know I had doughnuts for dessert, but a big rock?! Really?!

As an aside, if there is someone you haven’t contacted for a really long time, why not make September the month you get back in touch. As someone who is now saying thank you to all those who have touched my life over the last three decades, I highly recommend it. Now is the time to say what you mean and tell the people that matter just how valuable they are.

Back at home after blasting number five, there is only one thing I want to do – and that’s get the shampoo out again. Let’s hope all this washing doesn’t wash it off.

There’s one thing for certain, I won’t ever complain about knotted hair again.

 

Breast cancer lesson 142: Why it’s time to eat (well), drink (water) and be merry

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With my tastebuds now in full working order and the end of active treatment in sight, I have started to think a little less about standing on cliffs with no hair and climbing mountains (I have my brighter life list for that – click here to view) and a little more about the small adjustments I can make from now on that will help me live a healthier life.

Read the headlines and you could be forgiven for thinking that that ‘life’ now needs to be one heavy on blueberries, packed with alkaline foods and without sugar. The more I read about cancer and diet, however, the more I realise what a complex subject it is and that oversimplification of certain ideas can do more harm than good. I certainly refuse to believe I got cancer because I am partial to a bit of buttercream now and again! 

Interestingly, diet it is not something that has been tackled by my oncologist (the only thing we discussed was the importance of eating what you can tolerate on chemo to keep the calories up and not making any major adjustments to diet while undergoing treatment). In fact, the only consistent advice I have received has come from three unrelated cancer and food seminars that all point to one thing: a healthy, balanced diet (as explained by this eatwell plate, which indicates the types of foods that should be making an appearance at every meal). It is not dissimilar to advice dished out in home economics lessons of old. And, while it does advocate things like blueberries, flax seeds, brussel sprouts and quinoa (all of which I like), bread, cake and cheese are still there, holding their own (yet in a small, concentrated way).

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I am no authority on diet, but I can navigate my way through the ‘superfood’ marketing spin and a bit of basic biology to recognise that healthy eating is more about moderation than it is banning foods completely and depriving yourself of the odd treat. Breast Cancer Care produces some useful information on the subject (click here for its Healthy Eating after treatment page, which is great starting point). And, Cancer Research UK, has written a piece a clear overview debunking certain cancer myths, which is worth a look (click here for more).

The truth is, for all my talk of victoria sponges, chemo cookies and cobb loaves, I think my diet is actually ok (I am already nearly back to my pre-treatment weight for starters, which is good sign). I keep a food diary, so I can build up a realistic picture of my food intake. I cook meals from fresh that are heavy on fish and vegetables. I also think of blueberries as a bit of a treat. And, while lunch is still a bit of an Achilles heel for me (if you have any great lunch recipes, please do share), eight portions of fruit and veg a day is sometimes a bit of a push, my breakfast is many shades of beige and I’m never one to refuse a decent biscuit, I think healthy eating for me means a bit of fine tuning rather than a revolution in the kitchen! I’m after a life of quality as well as quantity (still aiming on 92). And, quality means a few of my favourite things making the menu each week.

It is fair to say, I love food (I remember planning my school life around the menus I insisted mum write up on the fridge door). Meal planning has its own designated notepad in the Scully/Sloan household and I love nothing more than spending a few hours each week pouring over cookery books. There is, however, one area for which I get a huge black mark. While I am good at eating, I am not so good at drinking (by which I mean lack of water and not excess of wine).

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I reminded of this fact at my penultimate shiatsu appointment at the Haven on Thursday (click here to find out more about the Haven’s free complementary therapy programme for breast cancer patients). My therapist stopped me while I was merrily listing out my remaining post-chemo side effects and asked: ‘Jackie, do you drink much water?’ Rather than replying straight away, I first tried to recall the recommendations for water drinking to work out how dismal my water intake actually is. I couldn’t (the European Food Safety Authority says about 1.6 litres a day for women and 2 litres a day for men), so instead I said (rather sheepishly): ‘How much should I be drinking?’ I think that comment told the therapist all she needed to know.

Thankfully, what followed wasn’t a lecture on my copious tea drinking, but rather a piece of useful advice. The therapist didn’t talk in litres or numbers of cups (she argued that the main thing was to increase intake rather than set rigid rules). She did, however, suggest I make one cup of hot water to go alongside each cup of tea that I drink (I am at the kettle anyway). It’s a small and simple adjustment, which should make a big difference. I have already started. And, I already feel like I’ve earned a few brownie points. (As an aside, people do often count tea drinking in their daily fluid intake, but given it tends to dehydrate, it feels like cheating). If you have any water drinking strategies, do share them. 

The benefits of water are well documented (everything from facilitating chemical reactions in the body to removing toxins and weight and boosting the metabolism). When I couldn’t drink it on its own on chemo, I really missed it. I like it. I am just not so good at getting enough of it (except in the days after each chemo poisoning when my mum was sat there basically feeding it to me). So, from now on, I vow to fill up my glass (and my bottle), and give my body what I give the garden: a good watering!

Let’s raise a glass to water (hot, cold, with lemon or without). May it be the liquid of life that keeps our spirits and productivity levels high – and our need for senna low.

NB: Given my latest resolution, now might be a good time to pledge me that drink to celebrate the end of active treatment! To find out more about my pledge idea and how, by pledging, you will be generating cash for charity, head to lesson number 132 (click here to read).

Cheers!

Breast cancer lesson 140: Ten things that will make breast reconstruction surgery that little bit easier

I have a confession. In lesson number 72 (click here for a quick refresher), I talked about setting my boobs free and tucking my post-surgery bra away in a drawer rather than wearing it to bed. Truth is, the boobs were free for all of about a night, before I found myself reaching for the unattractive-yet-feels-like-you’ve-got-nothing-on bra once more. I don’t need to wear it. But, I don’t feel quite right sleeping without it.

The reason I am telling you this is that I have just finished typing up my breast reconstruction surgery tips for the cancer kit list (click here to view both chemo and surgery suggestions) and I have come to realise that I am really quite attached to this beige front-fastening number. In hospital, it meant easy access (nurses could check whether my breast was still alive without moving me). At home, it remains one of the most comfortable things I own. And comfort – rather than style – is all that matters now! Life is way too short to wear wired bras that dig into your side or high heels that make your feet swell (and you look like you’re drunk when you haven’t even been drinking). The other reason I am telling you this is that I was asked not to wear it last night and this morning (as part of a secret charity mission) and I actually really missed it. Who would have thought a bra would bring me so much happiness!

As you can imagine, the front-fastening Royce bra (click here to see it in all its glory) sits at the top of my ‘ten-things-that-will-make-breast-reconstruction-surgery-that-little-bit-easier’ list. Excluding painkillers (an essential part of any surgery that involves a tummy tuck), here are a few of my favourite things:

  • A front-fastening bra: One more mention for good measure! It’s so important to get the right bra for you. I took my bra with me into surgery so it could be put on while I was asleep. Due to the swelling, it’s good to go up by one back size so the bra doesn’t feel tight (you might want to bring a few sizes just in case and the return the one you don’t use).
  • Button down nightshirts or nighties: I think surgeons and nurses alike would queue up to see you wrestle with a top that doesn’t button up in the days after surgery. When there are wounds, drains and a new boobie to inspect, it pays to make things simple. Regardless of the time of year, aim for lightweight layers rather than thermals (it can get pretty hot in hospital). I would aim to bring two nightshirts/nighties so you can change (and encouraging a friend or relative to rinse them through would be great)!
  • Big knickers: Bridget Jones would be proud! If you’re planning on laughing, coughing or moving around, big knickers or ‘magic pants’ are a huge help. They can be quite tight to get on and off, but they can make getting in and out of bed a lot easier. They’re handy in the weeks after surgery too. It’s worth bringing more pairs than you think you’ll need for your hospital stay, so you don’t run out (plus a few normal cotton pairs too in case you get too hot). I can’t say I am wearing them now, but I think fondly of our time together.
  • Drain bags: If you’ve been advised that you will have drains after surgery (they look a little bit like sports bottles attached to a tube), it is really handy to bring a bag (for example, a natural shopping bag) that you can slip over your shoulder. This frees up your hands if you need to steady yourself while walking. People do make and gift fabric drain bags too, so it’s worth asking your breast reconstruction nurse if there are any available. Same goes for an easy-to-carry wash bag! If you’re feeling crafty, click here for a drain bag pattern (you will need to scroll down a bit).
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  • Anti-bacterial gel and wet wipes: The bathroom can seem like a long way away if you’ve had DIEP surgery. These will help you cut a few corners in the early days!
  • External power pack: Keeping in contact with friends and family is a great way to make those hospital days go faster. If you’re worried about keeping things charged up (or taking lots of chargers), you could consider buying an external power pack. These can be charged up before you’re admitted and will power your phone many times over without needing to be recharged. They also come with lots of different connectors so you can power many devices. Fewer wires mean a lot less hassle.
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  • Adbo binder/corset: Not one you can bring with you, but worth requesting if you are finding the tummy tuck tight after surgery. I wore mine for six weeks and it was such a support when it came to moving around and laughing. The binder/big pants combo is amazing!
  • Breast pillow: Sleeping on your operated side may not be possible for a while after surgery. That’s when breast pillows can provide real support – not to mention much-needed protection should you share a bed. Some people use breastfeeding cushions, but there are specific breast surgery products, such as TenderCush pillows, that are great for easing discomfort. You might also want to change sides of the bed temporarily to protect your operated side even further. Setting this up before surgery means you can just sink into bed on your return home rather than rearranging your belongings.
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  • Post-surgery caddy: There is nothing worse than getting comfy to find your book is out of reach and your lip balm is in the other room! Setting up a tray or bag of essentials next to your chair is a great way to make sure you have all the essentials close to hand.
  • Cream: Once your wounds have sealed, you will be encouraged to massage them with cream to help things recover even further. I love Moo Goo’s Udder Cream. It smells wonderful and is highly recommended as a repair cream. You are also surrounded by cow puns, which makes this both creamy and amusing!
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You can read the full list in the cancer kit list section. And, if you’re interested in reading more about the breast reconstruction days, why not head to the ‘breast reconstruction’ category (I am excited I have now categorised all my blog posts for easy reference).

If you’re preparing for surgery, then I wish you all the best and hope that these tips will help the days in hospital fly by.

And, if you’re not, then please do one thing for me and make sure you have a comfy bra (not just a sexy, lacy one that makes your bits spill out). There is no strong evidence to suggest wearing an ill-fitting bra will give you breast cancer. But I am a great believer that happy people are comfortable people. And, I want you all to be happy.

And, if you’re a man, you might just want to pass this advice on. I am not sure you need a bra (or big knickers for that matter).

Breast cancer lesson 139: Success belongs to those who enjoy the process

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It takes more than a bit of peripheral neuropathy and sleep deprivation to prevent me from making a dent in my ever-growing Brighter Life list (click here to read more).

Over the last month alone, I have applied to the Wimbledon ballot for the first time (it is pretty much all paper-based, involving SAEs and form filling, which makes me smile), made crumpets (and ate quite a few given you have to really make a batch at any one time to make it worthwhile), walked around the Olympic Park with my mum and dad (it is bigger than I’d imagined) and stood on a cliff with no hair. In short, I have made good progress.

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Buoyed by the increasing number of photos filling up my list page (I post one as evidence I have completed it – and as a nice reminder), I decided to spend the weekend tackling a biggie. And, by biggie, I mean baking for Test Match Special at The Oval.

Now, for those of you with no interest in – or knowledge of – the game of cricket, the above paragraph will mean very little. Basically Test Match Special is a radio show and, dare I say, a great British institution. It is famed not just for its commentary and analysis, but for the fact it attracts bakers from all across the country, keen to flex their muscles and sift a bit of flour. And, for the last few years, reminded of the fun I used to have as a child helping my mum prepare cricket teas for the local club, I was determined to be one of them.

Unable to find any baking rules online, I decided the best strategy would be to bake first (to show commitment) and then email/tweet across my bake to get some delivery instructions. I planned a cricket ball-themed cake (with 261 sugar balls), spent seven hours in the kitchen baking and borrowed even Duncan’s cricket ball to do a bit of sugar stitching. I spelled out TMS in cricket balls. As challenges go, it was a labour of love.

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So what happened to this red and green sugar-fuelled vanilla-soaked sponge? Well, the tweet worked and lovely Aggers (one of the main commentators) replied to say: ‘@Jackie8 Wow! Fantastic. See stewards entrance of OCS stand at Vauxhall stand – and demand to deliver personally.’ I had celebrity endorsement and a route to the media centre. Duncan was then packaged off with the heavy cake in a giant plastic container and a little notelet to make the drop.

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Sadly, the one thing I didn’t fully appreciate (wrapped up as I was in kgs of buttercream) was the fact that while the BBC were game, the security guards at the ground weren’t. Duncan tried three different stewards and they were either too stretched or too suspicious (apparently we could have baked anything into that cake) to let him (or the cake through). By the time I tweeted Aggers again to try and get some backing, India were all out before tea and it was all over. I should really admire the security teams for their diligence. But all I kept thinking was, how did the little five-year-old boy get through the day before? Obviously, Duncan doesn’t look like a hardcore baker!

The fact Duncan returned home with the heavy cake (I do feel so sorry for him that he carried it around all day) would normally have made me very sad indeed. And, yes, I had a little cry for all the effort. But, once I reflected on the whole experience, I quickly came back to my positive self. Firstly, I enjoyed the process. I now know how to make 261 sugar cricket balls (a skill not to be sniffed at) and I simply love being in the kitchen. And, secondly, while it may not have made it to its planned destination, you can’t take away the fact Aggers liked it (even if the security guards thought it was a sugary-disguised attempt to bring down TMS) and it certainly scooped up a few smiles along the way. I see it as a tick on the list, even though I may feel compelled to revisit the goal next year.

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The reason I am blogging about this is not because I am obsessed with cake or TMS (or feeling slightly guilty because I ate a slice that must have been about 600 calories in one hit). I am writing this because it reminded me that the key to happiness is not necessarily the outcome (although it is good to have goals), but rather enjoying the journey towards that outcome. If we live in the present and take what we can from each moment, then we can be happy regardless of what happens next. And, if we can find happiness in ourselves (without looking for it in others), we will enjoy a more contented life.

This, in many ways, is how I have approached active treatment. I don’t feel brave or strong. I just face each day and look for the opportunity to smile through it. A few days ago somebody asked me if I’d always been funny. I laughed and explained I didn’t think I was particularly funny, but that any attempt at humour was just my way of tackling the challenges I face. I would rather find humour in a hospital gown that doesn’t do up right or an appointment where I have to take my top off (again!) than reflect on the fact that the reason I am experiencing these things is because cancer tried to cut my life short. If I can ‘enjoy the process’ every day and ‘be present’, I never have to worry about how many days I have left (hopefully lots and lots).

I am glad to report that Duncan, the neighbours (well, I have heard them moving around) and I are all still standing so it obviously wasn’t poisoned (Duncan’s team should be polishing off the rest today). The notelet is in the recycling, but here is a copy of the letter I hoped TMS would receive (there was even a charity mention too).

Hi Aggers and the TMS team,

I hope you are having a lovely day.

At the beginning of the year when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32, I set up a ‘Brighter Life List’ on my blog (amusingly entitled ‘Small boobs, big smiles’) to help me smile through active treatment and encourage me to tick off the things I have always wanted to do, but have never found the time. Number 43 on this list (no order of priority) is to bake a cake for TMS and that’s why I am writing to you today.

Coming from a cricketing family, cricket has always played a part in my life. From serving up tea and cake to the players at our local club and cycling round the boundary as a child to following my brother across the country (a left hand opener) as he played for Wiltshire, a summer weekend without a few overs in it wasn’t really a weekend at all. Even Christmas in our household just wasn’t Christmas without my brother and dad pouring over a copy of Wisden. Interestingly, my dad (a wonderful, yet humble man) once bowled out Viv Richards when he was playing for Lansdown so he could qualify for Somerset!

My mum’s cricket teas were legendary and that is how I learned how to bake. So, wanting to bake for TMS is a natural next step for me.

To celebrate the end of chemotherapy, I have baked you a cake covered in cricket balls.

When I discovered my lump, I nearly didn’t go to the doctors because of my age. Now, I am determined to help charities, such as CoppaFeel, spread the message about early detection, so that more men and women can be treated successfully for breast cancer. I would be so grateful if you could mention the charity and ask that everyone check their boobs (men and women). Who knows? You might just save a life.

Thank you for satisfying my need for a bit of cricketing humour and keeping me smiling while I fight this challenging illness.

Let’s hope this is one delivery that’s not unplayable!

Thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

Jackie Scully

I will try again. If, by any chance, you know anyone at the BBC or know how I might guarantee the drop next time, please do send me a message!

As for me, I am more determined than ever to continue with my list and live my dreams. And, I hope that, in so doing, I may encourage you to live some too!

Next up? Making a ferment.

Breast cancer lesson 138: The ten things no chemo patient should be without

When diagnosis day came along and put a spanner in my plans for the new year, I made an extra resolution. And, it’s one I’d like to think I’ve kept. As soon as I walked out of that consulting room (well, maybe a bit later after I’d had a good cry), I decided that if I was going to go through the pain of active treatment, I would use it as a way to help others. From the beginning, I haven’t been in search of pity or sympathy (although I have learned that if you hug for about six seconds first thing it can change the course of a day). I have been in search of tips to brighten my journey – and the journeys of those who face cancer treatment in the future.

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I love a good kit list (reminds me of preparing for camp as a child), so it has been a real joy to work on one over the last few months. I have poured over charity booklets (Breast Cancer Care and Macmillan being the most comprehensive), I have quizzed patients wearing lovely hats in hospital waiting rooms, I have Googled until my hands ache for products and solutions to help make life that little bit easier. I am a lot happier for it and I hope, by writing about it here, you (or someone you love) will be a lot happier too.

On the menu bar of my blog, you’ll find a new section called Cancer Kit List (click here to view). I have started with chemo and will be adding surgery as soon as I’ve typed up my notes. Of course, don’t have much radiotherapy wisdom yet, because it needs to happen first!

The emphasis here is on products rather than general tips (I am already working on those for later in the year). It’s personal and is in no way backed by companies or medical advisors. But, it’s my little way of shining a light on what can be a very dark time.

If I were to pick out just 10 things from the list (putting all medicines and prescription mouthwashes to one side) to create the ultimate chemo survivor’s guide, I’d select:

  1. Digital thermometer: This handbag essential will ensure you don’t have to camp out at A&E to find out the difference between a temperature and a hot flush!
  2. Dark nail varnish: Ok, so work colleagues and friends may think you have gone all goth on them (or arty in my case). But, by painting your nails, you can both strengthen them and disguise any discolouration and chemo lines! The choice of colours is endless. You could even use them to match your mood. Who said cancer treatment couldn’t be fun?!
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  3. Extra strong mints: These little mints can reach tastebuds you thought were gone forever. I am still finding packets all over the house after stocking up mid chemo!
  4. Smoothie ice lollies: Making ice lollies in a kit from my childhood was fun in a nostalgic sort of way, but eating frozen smoothie lollies was about as exciting for me as ham on Christmas morning (and that is about as exciting as food gets for me)!
  5. A yoga bamboo turban: Whether you’re wedded to your wig or fancy tying complicated knots in your headscarves, I am a firm believer that we all need one easy-to-put-on-and-actually-rather-lovely hat. The yoga bamboo turban (made by Christine headwear) comes in so many colours and is so versatile (sport, relaxing at home, parties, work etc), you’ll wonder how you ever lived without one!
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  6. Tissues: Ignore a lack of nose hair at your peril. And eyelashes for that matter. Also doubles up as toilet paper when you’re out and about, which is most useful!
  7. Children’s toothbrush: It’s a fact that children’s toothbrushes are far more exciting and colourful than adult equivalents. They are also, however, soft enough to look after your sensitive gums during chemo. Adult ones feel like you are brushing with a twig covered in spikes!
  8. Ribena: Ok, so you may not be a fan of the red stuff (especially after Epirubicin), but now is the time to discover just what water flavourings you do like! When the tastebuds disappear, water (which is essential for flushing the system) will be anything but appetising.
  9. LIMBO: Try showering without this waterproof arm protector when you’ve got a PICC line in and you’ll soon realise that attempting to keep one arm dry is neither fun nor practical.
  10. Lightweight scarf: With temperature changes, hot flushes and skin sensitivity on chemo, you could be forgiven for thinking you need a suitcase of clothes just to go for a walk. Big summer scarves (and there are some lovely ones out there) will be your jumper, your neck protector, your sunscreen, your windbreak and your style statement. And, they fold up to virtually nothing when you just want the comfort of knowing it’s in your bag if you need it.
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Of course, there are many others (hence why I have started the cancer kit list), but these are the ones that continue to raise a smile, even though the chemo days are already starting to fade.

Every day, someone is called into a hospital consulting room and told they have cancer. Every day, someone will face a side effect of treatment for the first time and find a way to cope with it. By sharing tips and advice, it is my hope that every day in a cancer patient’s journey is one they are prepared to face.

Breast cancer lesson 137: Why I am looking for happiness in the everyday

Fifty days ago, I challenged myself to take part in the #100happydays project (click here to read more) as a way of focusing on all that is good in the world before the end of active treatment (and, as it turns out, slightly beyond).

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Am I happier as a result of posting pictures of positive moments on Facebook for the last few months? If I think about the process of finding an internet connection when away from home and uploading pictures, I would say not. But, when I think of the way in which the project has forced me to live in the present, make things happen and take note of the parts of the day that make me smile, I would argue that, even though I am still only half way through, it has already been a resounding success. I wouldn’t say it has made me happier, but rather reminded me of just how happy I really am.

When I think back over the photos that have made the cut (click here for the first 20 and see below for the following 30), I am not faced with a montage of far-flung destinations and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Yes, there are a few moments that are unlikely to be repeated (my hair is growing back so bald cliff walking is out, and I doubt my name will ever feature in The Guardian again). But, what my photo reporting highlights is that happiness exists in the everyday. It’s on the doorstop, in a teacup, in friendship, at the park and in a homemade loaf. Simple pleasures lead to lasting smiles.

On day 41, for example, I talk about a play called The Blue Bird, which is mentioned a couple of times in Gretchin Rubin’s The Happiness Project. The play is about two children who spend a year searching the world for the Blue Bird of Happiness, only to find it waiting for them when they finally return home. I think this is something we could all quite easily apply to our own lives. How quick we are to attach happiness to life’s big events, when what we should be doing is making the most of the everyday, accepting that big events are a bonus.

I may have peripheral neuropathy, sore nails, sleep deprivation and chicken fluff for hair, but, right now as I write this blog, I can honestly say I am truly happy. Cancer has taken a lot, but given me so much in return. I have looked hard at myself in the mirror and have decided that life is too short to not smile back at the reflection.

It’s true that you can’t be happy all the time (and in many ways you wouldn’t want to be). But, if you can seek out and grab hold of little moments of happiness, it will make those moments of sadness so much easier to bear.

Good luck finding happiness in your day.

Here’s a quick overview (click here for the first 20 if you missed lesson 124) of the last 30 day happy days:

Day 21: Today is a mini milestone day! It marks the last day of my zoladex implant injections. Here’s hoping this giant needle, which has created a constellation of six dots on my left side, has helped in the fight against infertility caused by chemotherapy. I am happy to have been offered it, but as the cause of lots of my hot flushes (it is designed to send you into the menopause), I will be happy when the drug is officially out of my system in four weeks time! Thank you medicine for advancing in this way and thank you nurses for making the giant needle as painless as possible (even though this hole is still bleeding as if in protest). One more milestone down! Yippee!

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Day 22: Lunch, lollies and smiles with my mum. What better way is there to spend a Wednesday (if we ignore the hospital trip and blood test that is). Three cheers for mums! They make this world a happier place – and they help with the washing! I love my mum very much and wouldn’t be smiling through treatment without her.

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Day 23: Last chemo day tomorrow looms, so what better way to celebrate its arrival than with a cake made up of pills! It’s not made of ginger (vanilla syrup sponge with buttercream instead), but looking forward to cutting into it tomorrow before Tax steals my tastebuds for one last time. Feeling happy and very excited!

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Day 24: This is it! Four months of poisoning and am about start my last three-week chemo cycle! While there are dark days to come and then radiotherapy, today is about celebrating and chemo cake. Thanks for the sign Shelley Varley! This could just be the happiest Friday of 2014 so far!

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Day 25: Green things from the garden! If you’ve never tried growing your own veg, I would urge you to start. It is such a wonderful feeling to take something from the ground and walk it metres to your plate. Chilli peppers, broad beans, courgettes and dwarf beans for dinner it is. Excited! Hope you’re having a wonderful Saturday.

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Day 26: a beautiful afternoon catching up on 14 years with a beautiful friend. I look forward to writing in this wonderful notebook when the sparkle of inspiration hits me. Thank you for you. Must get a picture next time!

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Day 27: I nearly lost my great aunt at Christmas two years ago to illness, so it has been amazing to spend this sleepy post chemo day in her company. The gift of family is a great gift indeed. She is one of life’s fighters and is making the most of the moments life has gifted her. Tired, but very very happy.

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Day 28: Inspiration is never far away if you open your eyes to the world. It might come in the form of a message on a billboard, a note through the door, or even a clipping from the newspaper. Today, it’s a pitta recipe ripped out of the Metro (apologies to the next reader). Something I have never tried to bake and now I have the recipe and the time to make it happen. Hope you’ve found something to inspire you wherever you are today.

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Day 29: There are few things that excite me more than having a diary packed with special moments to enjoy. So thrilled that this morning’s post has brought with it the date of MY LAST DAY OF ACTIVE TREATMENT. 15 SEPTEMBER here we come! Ignoring the 10 years of drugs and potential post-radiotherapy side effects, this is one day that will be cherished for the rest of my life. 54 days to go! Just need to think of a way to celebrate!

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Day 30: Cut flowers from the garden are a gift from nature. What I love so much about them is the fact you have to keep picking them to get bigger, brighter and more beautiful flowers. So, pick them I will! Applied to life, I love the idea that by getting knocked down, we have to chance to come back stronger. Who knows? I might have a few more petals when this all ends! Here’s to beautiful flowers!

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Day 31: the great British sunshine. When it shines, I find it hard to think of anywhere I would rather be. Have a wonderful weekend one and all.

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Day 32: Play! We often do so little of it, yet it always has a way of making me smile. It has been so long since I played snooker, I couldn’t even remember how to set up the balls! More play in future methinks. Hope you are all finding ways to play today.

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Day 33: Sometimes, there are just no words to do justice to the kindness of others. I think this picture says it all. Thank you so much Hannah Guy and Anne Johnson. It means more than I can say. Enjoy the mud – and great tutus!

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Day 34: Number 17 on the brighter life list is officially ticked off. Standing on top of a cliff with no hair is as liberating as it sounds! When I set out on the treatment journey I vowed to do more of what makes me happy. The brighter life list (on my blog smallboobsbigsmiles.com) is an important part of this. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, but somehow find a way to put it off, start planning it now. You can’t see round the corner, so you’ve got to make the most of the path you’re on. Enjoy!

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Day 35: it was only a matter of time before ‘tea’ made an appearance on the happy days list. For me, always best served large in a cup or a mug. Milk not optional. I gave it up for a year and remember the first time I tasted it again. It was amazing. I don’t think I will ever deprive myself if this simple pleasure again. Best drink ever!

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Day 36: arguably the best bread and butter pudding in the world. It is the third time I have eaten this particular dish (first being 2011 when I tried bread and butter pudding for the first time). With its own personal message from the chef about why he loves it, it is pretty special. Question is, will he ever divulge the recipe? Whatever indulgence you crave, seek it out. A great pudding is a little way to raise a big smile.

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Day 37: spending time with my beautiful godson. Children, with their curiosity, zest for life and innocence, are a joy to be around. I feel very blessed – even if I was quizzed on who lives down the toilet at story time!

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Day 38: the best days are the ones where you learn something new. This is a grotter on Whitstable beach. We came for the fireworks at the end of the oyster festival. We got not just fireworks, but lots of little lanterns on the beach crafted from oyster shells. It was a beautiful sight. Have a wonderful weekend one and all.

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Day 39: Time together with people you love is always time well spent. We all want more hours in the day, but what’s important is making the most of the hours we have. I know I am, and I hope you are too. Here’s to spending the day with the people who make you smile! Happy weekend one and all.

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Day 40: home and happy. I always love coming home after a trip away. I think I appreciate it just that little bit more. This time, we had some rather unexpected GIANT vegetables waiting for us. That’s base for the chutney sorted for this year. Just got to freeze them! Hope you’ve all had a lovely weekend.

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Day 41: How lovely it is to exercise in the sunshine in such a lovely part of London. I feel very lucky to have Greenwich Park on my doorstep and feel spoilt for choice with the many paths there are to discover. Beauty isn’t hard to find if you look around you with a thankful heart. In her book, The Happiness Project, Gretchin Rubin cites a play called The Blue Bird. The play is about two children who spend a year searching the world for the Blue Bird of Happiness, only to find it waiting for them when they finally return home. May you find happiness where you live.

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Day 42: Happiness is homemade bread, homemade granola and an email from one of my favourite restaurants with their bread and butter pudding recipe. I always think things taste better when made by hand with a healthy helping of love. I have decided to try and go a year without buying a sliced loaf. That means I’ll either be baking lots of bread or going without! Should be fun. Indulge your passions and you will be rewarded.

As a side note, thanks for all the pledges so far. If you haven’t already, please head to my blog to read about why pledging to buy me a drink can raise funds for a great charity (click here). Thanks.

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Day 43: Cleaning (and decluttering in general) is a great way to reengage with your possessions. This fountain pen, which was bought for me by my grandparents (they engraved it with my name, which makes it extra special), hasn’t seen the light of day in years. But today, having rediscovered it, it has a new cartridge in it and is ready to go. I think sometimes we are so busy looking for the next thing that we don’t often appreciate what we already have. I urge you to rummage through those drawers to see what treasures you can find and bring back to life! Happy hunting.

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Day 44: Today’s happy moment comes not from my first tattoo (more on that later), but from a little surprise. Duncan Sloan’s pink shorts have made it onto the homepage of the Guardian website. The Life and Style section (click here) picked up my Breast Cancer Care blog about running and we’ve made it onto the Running Blog. That means Emily Pinkerton, Fran Walker and Robert Pinkerton have made the nationals! Three cheers for Duncan’s pink shorts!

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Day 45: Utopia does exist. It’s in my TV and it is an amazing series oozing with vibrant colours that I have only just discovered. I love a great TV series addiction. Somehow, life doesn’t feel complete without one. Yes, I appreciate I am miles behind. But, at least I got there in the end.

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Day 46: not pretty I’ll admit, but happiness is feet out of heels after seven hours in them at a wedding is the best feeling in the world! I don’t think I was made to wear anything other than a ballet pump.

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Day 47: the first glass of post-chemo wine I can actually taste. Oh my, it tastes good. The only good thing about being deprived of something is the joy it brings when you get it back. My little bit of heaven on a Sunday night. Hope you’ve found yours! J xx

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Day 48: how wonderful it is to learn something new! Today it is a word: ‘Hygge’. This Danish word means ‘creating a nice, warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with the good people around you’. If we Brits had such a beautiful word in our vocabulary, maybe we too could be considered among the happiest people in the world. Here’s to a life with more ‘hygge’!

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Day 49: Number 9 on the brighter life list ticked off! Lovely walk round the Olympic park with mum and dad. Visited the velodrome and have worked out my route to the aquatics centre when I am once more allowed to swim! It feels great to be able to start ticking things off! The brighter life list has given me a focus. Hope you can find your focus too.

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Day 50: I love finding shops in London where skilled people can fix things without charging a fortune. My watch is ticking again and was actually fixed in front of me (instead of sent away to expensive battery sorting elves for weeks on end). I feel naked without my watch and I never get bored of people asking me why I am consulting my bracelet to tell the time . Time is so important. It slips by and, once spent, is lost forever. Here’s hoping ithis watch and I enjoy many new batteries!

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