Bench with Tish

Another visit to my bench… this time to meet up with my lovely friend, Tish.

Sadly we couldn’t stay long as it was so cold and Tish finds the cold during treatment too much.. quite rightly really!  We toasted our lovely friend Kerry with pink bubbles… only sorry that Kerry is no longer here to join us ;-(

IMG_1122 IMG_1124We did then wander away and find a superb Italian cafe to purchase some delicious hot coffees!

Birthday bubbles on my bench

A friend I’d met on my trip to La Manga for Joanna Hall retreat came to visit.  We then met up with another friend, Maria, for a wonderful Italian meal at a Balham restaurant.

This morning, Elizabeth suggested that we celebrate my birthday with a breakfast picnic and bubbles at my bench in Berkeley Square.

Loved it… so loving having my bench that I can share with so many friends.

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Birthday Day

It’s difficult sometimes to get together with people who have busy careers and a family… so it’s not often that Helena and I manage to catch up properly… ie without small people or husbands around.

So we decided many months ago that we’d celebrate eachother’s birthday in style.  Firstly we met up in Berkeley Square to see my bench.

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Look they’ve even added a Christmas tree to the view from my bench.

IMG_1065Then we headed off for an uber treat… lunch at The Square.

5 Dec 2011Followed by a cocktail or two with MC at Soho House

IMG_1083 IMG_1096That’s just how a day should be!

Bench with MC

I’ve visited Berkeley Square many times since the call from my Godmother to say the Council have advised it’ll be there v v soon. It never is. I must look like a loon wandering around the Square looking and reading all the plaques.

Today though I could be heard making quite a loud squeal as I noticed a new bench, in the location that had been requested, with a brand new shiny plaque… On closer inspection it was mine!   Yes it was mine…  I never thought this would happen.

My wish to have a bench in Berkeley Square has happened.  And during my lifetime.  My wish to spend time with my friends and family or on my own enjoying my favourite place is happening.  Why did I ever want a bench as a memorial bench for you to visit after I’ve gone…. now you’ll just have to meet me there for a coffee or bubbles.

12 Nov 2011

(Yes I’ve obscured the words on the plaque – you’ll have to visit to read it!)

When I’d finally stopped squealing, I called a friend, MC, who I was shortly due to be meeting up with for tea at Sketch.  Barely able to get the words out, I managed to persuade her to divert her taxi to Berkeley Square as I wanted to show her something.

Here she is… on my bench….

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My Bench

Several months ago my Godmother put in an application for me to have a bench in Berkeley Square. You may recall that I mentioned that I’d love one in a few blog entries on herehere… and here

I had a call from my Godmother to say that the application for the bench is nearly finalised. They’ve told her that it could be there within the month. Honestly my heart raced when she told me.. I can’t believe it’s actually going to happen.

If we’d looked at my bucket list and had to mark them down in the order of ease to complete, this would definitely have been bottom of the list with a ‘wish it would happen but know it probably never will’ marked against it.

So to think that soon there will be a bench in Berkeley Square with my plaque on it, for everyone to enjoy, is totally amazingly, fantabulously, brilliantly brilliant. I think I shall have to have a ‘bench opening party’ with perhaps a ribbon to cut and a glass of champagne to enjoy when it’s finally there.. I do really hope that you will all take a few minutes to go to Berkeley Square, seek out my bench, sit, enjoy and share my little place of calm with me.

A New Year…

As we make our way into a new year and a new decade, I figured there should first be some reflection on the year just passed… but that would be the sensible thing to do…

Sensible Bit

2010 was a year of enormous change for me.  I was recovering from the operations at the end of 2009, adjusting to the new AD (after diagnosis) me and reevaluating my life and its purpose.

I learn’t such a lot of about myself, my resolve, my strengths and also my weaknesses.  I finally unwrapped a number of mental boxes and worked through them – some good, some not so good but all needed to be reopened.

I would give back cancer in the blink of a fly’s eyelid (which is pretty fast!) however because of my diagnosis I have viewed things differently, I’ve pursued different dreams and goals; I’ve met some incredible and inspirational people; I’ve cried, a lot; I’ve treasured laughing more often; I’ve seen people thrive and also seen people die from this disease; I’ve realised and acknowledged the fragility of life; I’ve said ‘I love you’ more often (and meant it); I’ve appreciated the little things; I’ve learn’t not the sweat the small stuff; and a whole heap more.

  • What I haven’t done is learn’t to wake up every day and NOT think about cancer. What I haven’t done is remember that just because I was diagnosed it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to come back.
  • What I haven’t done is learn to put me first.
  • What I haven’t done is lose the weight that I gained when I was poorly.
  • What I haven’t done is get myself fit and healthy.

So, the trouble with a blog is that I stated in ‘ink’ what I was going to do in 2010:

My 2010, in no particular order…   I’d like to do more fun stuff.  I’d like to travel more.  I’d like to catch up with my friends more often and to meet up with those of you I’ve not seen in a while… some of you for a very long time.  I’d like to lose weight.  I’d like to love.  I’d like to have a laugh – a real laugh, a laugh that sneaks up on you and almost makes you pee your pants!  I’d like to go to the opera.  I’d like to go sit in Berkeley Square.  I’d like to learn more and put into practice NLP and coaching techniques.  I’d like to see H&B have the best wedding day ever.   I’d like to eat some really really good sushi.   I’d like to hug and be hugged.  I’d like to hang out in some of the old haunts with my friends and dine in style with others.  I’d like to prepare some fantabulous meals and share them with my friends.  I’d like to always remember that there is no such thing as failure – just that you can learn from all experiences.  I’d like to be living in my own house again.  I’d like to remember what it’s really all about.  I’d like to finally create the art installation I’ve been dreaming of.  I’d like to see the NHS system have a code for recording Phyllodes Tumours.  I’d like to feel loved.  I’d like to take breakfast at The Wolseley, take tea in Sketch, champagne at The Soho House, eat a degustation menu at The Square and closing drinks at Mortons (foodie friends apply here!).  I’d like to feel appreciated for the job that I do.  I’d like to hear Celeste, Martha, Evie and Naomi call me Auntie Anna (or I’ll accept HAuntie HAnna).  I’d like to always remember that life waits for nobody.  I’d like to make a difference.  I’d like to have less clutter and be more organised.  I’d like to put in the application for a bench in Berkeley Square.  I’d like to support others the way that they’ve supported me.  I’d like to label up all my photos and to file my paperwork.  I’d like to put all the vinyl into a digital format and be able to listen to it on my ipod.  I’d like to remember those who are no longer with us by recalling funny stories and kind memories.  I’d like to jump on a plane and not know where I’m going.  I’d like to make someone I don’t know, smile!  Most importantly, I’d like to remember how to live again.

So did I do them?  Well, probably like most of our New Year resolutions, I did MOST of them (and Phyllodes is in the NHS system!).. there are still a few that I’m going to put back on the list for 2011 though and even a few of them that I’m going to repeat as I loved doing them…  so here goes:

I’d always insist on doing more fun stuff, travel, catching up with friends and laughing until I pee myself!  Berkeley Square is always on the list… if I could possibly do it, I’d build myself a little glass shelter and live in Berkeley Square listening to the sounds of life around me and watching life go on, whilst reflecting on lives past. My brother is building me a shed and an art shed for the garden – art installation should surely be finished by the end of 2011.  I’m off for a drink at the newly refurbished Savoy – I wonder if it still retains it’s old world charm, at all?  I must lose weight and get fitter.  And the biggest and most challenging of all, I want to stand at the podium and welcome 500 survivors and co-survivors to the first annual event for anyone affected by breast cancer in the UK.

Every day the enormity of the task in hand looms and I wish I wasn’t alone in doing this.  I would love help so if you’re able to lend me your expertise for free and because you believe in the event and the value of the event then please do get in touch.  I would love anyone who has any experience with hosting events, marketing or PR.  We would also appreciate any donations – you can donate onwww.LivingBeyondDiagnosis.com.  We would also value some introductions to any corporate or personal sponsors for the event too.   The 3-day event for 500 attendees will cost an estimate of £250,000 which is no small feat in the current financial market however this equates to £500 per attendee and I believe will help them face their future, so it’s a small cost in the scheme of things.

Silly Bit – you knew there would be one!

Just before Christmas my boiler decided that luke warm water was the way to go… talk about attention seeking – Ooh I spoke quite firmly to it as facing luke warm bath or intermittent shower wasn’t on the agenda for long!  Anway, I eventually called in British Gas – and yes I had cancelled the British Gas heating cover only a few weeks previously in an effort to save money!  A delightful young salesman from British Gas eventually turned up (4 days late) to tell me that I needed a new boiler at a mere cost of £2,700… a tad rich when I have no income and hadn’t planned on this outlay!  However during this inspection for the quote (I use that term loosely as am sure they just picked a figure out of the air)… I suddenly realised that he’d need to look at each radiator etc so rushed into my bedroom to remove an offending article from my dressing table (now get your minds out of the gutter!!)… I am referring to my silicone half boob that I now wear in place of the tissue removed during the two operations!  Those of you who have seen me dressed wouldn’t notice but just call me 1.5 boob Wallace!  Or at least I think I moved them (there’s a spare!) but after his visit, I was due to leave the house and therefore out of my surgical bra (much less pain wearing this!) and went in search of a halfboob.. I can’t find either of them anywhere… and believe me I’ve looked. At first, it was distressing and then the more I thought of it, the more it made me giggle.. the thought of Mr British Gas with a fetish for silicon halfboobs.

This led me, as it has for much of my ‘journey’ to Facebook and posting an update on my ‘wall’ which said:

OK everybody.. Try not to laugh… My silicon halfboobs have gone missing! I tidied them away from top of dressing tble when British Gas popped round to give me an outrageous quote for replacing my boiler (still no hot water chez moi) and they needed to measure each room. I wasn’t wearing them as was kitted out in my post-surgery bra… I now can’t find them… anywhere…

Shall I call British Gas & see if the engineer has a halfboob fetish?

I told you not to laugh!!! (hehehehe)

You will be pleased to know that my Facebook friends didn’t let me down… there was quickly a trail of comments including one from my sister-in-law’s account “this is Joe to much inforpanchon”  OMG I’d forgotten that my nephew used her Facebook account to play Farmville!  When this update came in I was midway through leaving a voicemail message which, as you can imagine, ended up simply being me giggling like a schoolgirl and saying I’d have to call back later.  The phone then rang and it was my nephew who said “sorry but I also laughed”!!

Some of the other comments:

  • I hope British Gas haven’t used them to insulate the boiler
  • Hehehehehe… sorry!! It will probably turn up in the daftest place
  • We actually have these things for dinner – here they are called “Kartoffelknödel”. Maybe a hungry German came along..
  • lol Know the feeling!!Ha ha I only needed one so if i lost it…like i did on the dance floor!! lol I’ve always one back at home as a replacement!!!
  • Nope, i’ve looked and they’re not here, babe
  • [Me] Sorry can’t stop laughing now… my nephew was logged in as my niece (Tori) and spotted this update and posted the comment! Just as i was leaving a VM for Sam (sorry Sam your VM is just be giggling like a loony)…
  • Hmmm AND my meeting’s been cancelled so might just put post-surgery bra on and be done with it!
  • I would do that semi regularly. I ordered 2 new boobs and a spare! Got three of them in the mail one day (big expense, I know….) and had a laugh with my husband about trying on all of them at the same time…..
  • that is so funny!!! Xx
  • [Me]  Funny bit is.. I still can’t find them!! I’m really starting to think that either a) Mr British Gas has taken them or b) they’ve left home and eventually I’ll be receiving postcards from my halfboobs on their holibobs!
    PS Sorry JoeJoe (nephew) if this is too much information
    PPS Sorry Sister-In-Law that you had to explain to JoeJoe what a silicon halfboob was (I’m in big trouble!!)
    PPS Am still laughing and v pleased it’s caused some level of amusement!
  • i am having such a bad time thank you so much for making me smile on a day when i can’t stop crying x
  • ….or should that be holiboobs?
  • Ok, am here and back for a minute before mother in law dinner:- have to say that Jordan is selling her boobs on ebay….just a thought and don’t shoot the messenger but ..

And a few days later, I provided this update:

British Gas man must have ‘borrowed’ them. Still ‘no’ sign of them anywhere! New halfboobs ordered!

Or will they appear wrapped up under the tree?

And a few other comments along the way, checking in to see if my halfboobs had been found (and even my nephew calling to ask… oh and then asking his mother what a halfboob actually was!)… You see the lesson I learn’t from posting this, is that although some may find it a little tragic that I wear a silicon halfboob, all can, (perhaps after a sharp intake of breath), find the funny side.  I have and I’m so pleased that this gave some a little giggle.  You see if I’ve learn’t one big lesson from being diagnosed with cancer, it’s that laughter is terrifically important and sometimes you have to dig deep but you can always find an edge upon which to laugh at any situation – it’s helped me enormously.  I’m sorry if this sounds irreverent or offensive to anyone… perhaps it’s just my coping mechanism but… try it.. smile and don’t stress the small stuff.

FYI – New silicon half boobs arrived in the mail this morning!! Whoohoo 2011, all present and correct!

Welcome 2011

I shall end today’s missive with a message to you all.. embrace the New Year and the New Decade with a smile and a care for others.  Enjoy every moment and if it’s not a ‘good’ moment, change it – you can!…  Happy New Year xxx

Wishing you all a healthy, wealthy and happy 2010

Before we close the door on 2009, I’d like to briefly reflect.  I started the year in Australia with some dear friends.  I discovered NLP and qualify as a Neuro Linguistic Practitioner, attend NLP groups and became an Affiliate of the Association of Coaching.   I spent time with my Mum before she passed away in August and understand more about her past and be able to share with her some of my dreams for my future.  I was diagnosed with a rare cancer, Phyllodes Tumour (Cystosarcoma Phylloides).  Although I, of course, wouldn’t wish to re-live my 2009, I’m grateful for the experiences and learnings that I gained from my 2009 and for the changes in my views, priorities and outlook this has given me. 

Before we move on, I would also like to say a truly heartfelt THANK YOU to all of you who listened to me, shared my journey, held my hand and supported me.  I’m incredibly thankful to have such special friends and family (new and old, near and far). 

I believe that in life we all have choices and should try everything, at least once, to see if we like it… I can honestly say that I’ve tried cancer and I didn’t like it much, it just didn’t agree with me, we’re not compatible.  No, it’s just not for me.  I know I don’t have the receipt but I’m sending it back to wherever it came from.  So for once you don’t need to bother trying it… I’ve done it for you… take it from me, you won’t like it… tick that checkbox and move on!

Now to move on… ‘fession time.  I’m not one who has ever written a long list of resolutions, simply because by the time I get to write them down, I’ve usually already broken them… so I have a wish list or a list of goals to achieve in the coming year…

My 2010, in no particular order…   I’d like to do more fun stuff.  I’d like to travel more.  I’d like to catch up with my friends more often and to meet up with those of you I’ve not seen in a while… some of you for a very long time.  I’d like to lose weight.  I’d like to love.  I’d like to have a laugh – a real laugh, a laugh that sneaks up on you and almost makes you pee your pants!  I’d like to go to the opera.  I’d like to go sit in Berkeley Square.  I’d like to learn more and put into practice NLP and coaching techniques.  I’d like to see H&B have the best wedding day ever.  I’d like to eat some really really good sushi.   I’d like to hug and be hugged.  I’d like to hang out in some of the old haunts with my friends and dine in style with others.  I’d like to prepare some fantabulous meals and share them with my friends.  I’d like to always remember that there is no such thing as failure – just that you can learn from all experiences.  I’d like to be living in my own house again.  I’d like to remember what it’s really all about.  I’d like to finally create the art installation I’ve been dreaming of.  I’d like to see the NHS system have a code for recording Phyllodes Tumours.  I’d like to feel loved.  I’d like to take breakfast at The Wolseley, take tea in Sketch, champagne at The Soho House, eat a degustation menu at The Square and closing drinks at Mortons (foodie friends apply here!).  I’d like to feel appreciated for the job that I do.  I’d like to hear Celeste, Martha, Evie and Naomi call me Auntie Anna (or I’ll accept HAuntie HAnna).  I’d like to always remember that life waits for nobody.  I’d like to make a difference.  I’d like to have less clutter and be more organised.  I’d like to put in the application for a bench in Berkeley Square.  I’d like to support others the way that they’ve supported me.  I’d like to label up all my photos and to file my paperwork. I’d like to put all the vinyl into a digital format and be able to listen to it on my ipod.  I’d like to remember those who are no longer with us by recalling funny stories and kind memories.  I’d like to jump on a plane and not know where I’m going.  I’d like to make someone I don’t know, smile!  Most importantly, I’d like to remember how to live again.

So hold on tight… I’ve got a lot to achieve in 2010!

Finally, a few ‘borrowed‘ words… 

Yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is a mystery.  And today?  Today is a gift.  That’s why we call it the present.  ~Babatunde Olatunji

Why be saddled with this thing called life expectancy? Of what relevance to an individual is such a statistic? Am I to concern myself with an allotment of days I never had and was never promised? Must I check off each day of my life as if I am subtracting from this imaginary hoard? No, on the contrary, I will add each day of my life to my treasure of days lived. And with each day, my treasure will grow, not diminish.  ~Robert Brault

Mum’s funeral and the lump

Mum’s cremation and thanksgiving service is arranged for today. Fortunately during the final months I had been able to discuss with Mum what she would like so when it came to the arrangements it was easy. I knew that we’d got it right. We even managed to get ‘Look on the bright side of life’ playing at the end of the service (as requested). I can totally advocate telling someone what you’d like in advance. I’d like my body to be given to medical science – they might be able to find a reason why this cancer attacked me! If not, cremation please but don’t bother with the expense.. spend it on a party! Ashes to be scattered in Berkeley Square, London and a bench to be placed with a simple plaque to identify it… you’re all invited to come sit and enjoy my favourite peaceful place… I just love that place.

I digress. On the morning of 20th as I’m getting ready for the day ahead. I’m nervous and scared that the day will go OK and get dressed in lots of colour (No Black requested by Mum!). I felt a little pain in my right breast and on rubbing the pain away discover a lump. Now I have to confess I don’t (as suggested by all the health organisations) check my breasts regularly so am not sure when the lump arrived or if it’s got larger quickly etc etc. I texted a friend in a panic (it was 6.07am) “Ohmygod, stupid question to ask a boy but do glands play up when upset? cos I’ve found a lump in my boob…“. He replied with “EVERYTHING plays up at times like this, Stress and trauma cause all sorts of things. Forget about it for today and tomorrow and see how it is after the weekend. 95% of boob lumps aren’t anything, but if it’s still there next week share it with your doctor”.

I then put this to be the back of my mind in the hope that he was right and would deal with it if it hasn’t gone in a couple of days. Besides I had to get on with my mothers cremation and memorial service… I’m too young to lose a parent let alone have cancer… and we don’t have cancer in our family, so of course it must be hormonal or emotional or just something random… maybe I’ve bashed myself and it’s just a bruise.