Breast cancer lesson number 95: It’s time to put yourself in the picture

You may find this hard to believe if you’ve not met me before, but I have never liked having my picture taken. I was the child plagued with ‘red eye’. Not tilting my head in a weird way every time I see a camera takes a huge amount of effort. And, a selfie was, up until I started this blog, something everyone else did. They say the cameras never lie. In my case, I’m not sure they’ve ever told the truth!

Lying in bed after having spent the evening running round the Chelsea Flower Show last night, however, I started to realise that maybe a life always behind the camera isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I will never be a fan of the sea of phones that seem to accompany every single event nowadays. (I still wish people would spend more time enjoying the moment and the experience of being at an event and less time plotting their locations for Facebook and telling everyone else how much fun they’re having. They’d certainly have more fun if they put their phones down for a second.) But, I do believe a great photo is a powerful thing. It doesn’t just capture a moment, it captures the happiness and joy felt in that moment.

Looking back through my catalogue of show garden pictures this morning, there was something missing. I had photos of my favourite flowers, the wonderful potting shed artisan garden with its beautiful back story and some of the stunning details I spotted along the way. But there was no sign of Duncan and I enjoying ourselves. I will always remember that we did, but I don’t have a face smiling back at me confirming that fact.


Not any more!

With a weekend of Bank Holiday adventures in front of me, starting with a day on the Orient Express, I am determined to change my perspective – and I encourage you to do the same!

Stand out from behind the camera and be part of the memory making. Time is precious and photos are the perfect way to remind us of that fact every day (especially when we’re in them). Some of us may be afraid of life in front of the lens. However, I think we should be more afraid of not having it pointed in our direction, even just once in while.

May you all enjoy your lovely long weekends – if you’re lucky enough to live in the right country to have one!

PS: I had my first photo bombing experience on Wednesday night at the wonderful ZSL safari gala dinner! Here’s me and my lovely colleague. I won’t forget that 🙂 


Breast cancer lesson number 94: How to get more from active treatment

Cancer treatment is like being signed up to run a marathon race with no training. In short, it hurts. But, just sometimes, days like today are sent along to remind us that there are plenty of pit stops along the way that are actually rather enjoyable. As long as you know how to find them that is – and make the most of them when you do!

On annual leave, you’ll usually find me tucked up in front of a log fire with a glass of wine or strolling along the Dorset Coast path. The UK is our oyster and we do our best to enjoy it. Today, however, I spent the day with my arms in the air for a really good cause.

While most of you were commuting to your desks, I was on my way to the wonderful Haven charity in Fulham to take part in an exercise video. By exercise video, I don’t mean raising a sweat (although I did have a few too many hot flushes). By exercise video, I mean a series of exercises designed to help those who have had lymph node surgery manage the risk of developing lymphoedema (or arm swelling). Ok, so it might be the world’s most sedentary exercise class and I am not about to give Nell McAndrew a run for her money. But that didn’t make it any less important.


Although I don’t think I am destined for life in front of the camera (I dread to think what my exercise face looks like and I waffled a bit on my vox pop at the end), it was a really wonderful day. I met a fantastic team dedicated to getting the medical side just right and also informing people about the latest thinking surrounding lymphoedema. No longer are we supposed to rest our affected arms and wear preventative compression sleeves. Exercise (within your limits) is the answer to ensuring we all have a really good base from which to get on with daily life. Managing the risk of lymphoedema isn’t about focusing on what you shouldn’t do, it’s about making a few adjustments to life so that you can keep doing everything you love. Saunas may not be top of the list, but everything else is pretty much up for grabs.

I also met some pretty special ladies, all at different stages of their treatment. With their positive spirits and colourful characters they were great film buddies. It will certainly be interesting to see the final cut, that’s for sure. Don’t expect a screening!

Never did I think that three rounds into chemo, I would be described as the fit one. It’s also strange to think that my hairless self (albeit in a hat) will now be immortalised, a DVD reminder of the fact that even when chemo piles on the side effects, you can still come out smiling.

Amusingly, I got a few odd looks on the tube. It seems a cancer patient with a hair loss cap, jeans and a t-shirt presents no challenge to onlookers. Dress her in leggings, trainers and yoga tops and suddenly she becomes an enigma. An active sick person. Does she deserve a seat or a round of applause? After what feels like about a thousand arm raises, I think I’ll take the seat thanks.

The great thing about today is it doesn’t end there. I am just doing a quick dress change before making my way to ZSL London Zoo for a safari gala dinner.

Take that cancer!