Becks in the City

Sing with me :"From yu wake up dis marnin, you's a winner!"

For the Cancer Patients of the Future

Me, my daughter and mum at The Race for Life Sutton Coldfield in 2014. Little did I know I would get breast cancer 3 years later.

Last year I was diagnosed with breast cancer. To tell you it was a shock is an understatement. I was only 40 years old, healthy and very fit. As a result, I received a unilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. I am very pleased to say that today I am cancer-free.

I am very aware that I am at risk of getting the disease again but I live in hope that it was just a blip in my life and that I will go on to live for many happy years and continue to raise my beautiful daughter.

It seems as though weekly, I am hearing about more and more cancer diagnoses. It is like the modern-day plague. Cancer has blighted human beings for centuries but through research, lives have been and are being saved and prolonged. Who knows, years from now a cure might be found? It is because of the diligent work of people that came before me, that I received life-saving surgery. It is a hard pill to swallow to acknowledge that had I not been treated early or spotted the signs early, that I might not be here to tell this story today.

I would like to know I played an active role in making progress happen for people who are diagnosed with cancer in the near and distant future and that is why I am running the Race for Life.

I would really appreciate your support (no matter how small). If you would like to do so, please visit my fundraising page.   

Thank you xxx

In loving memory of Erica Durant 22.9.81 – 12.3.18 xxx

Chasing Dreams

Can I be honest with you?

This last year has been the toughest period of my 41 years. When teaching Zumba, I met quite a few ladies who had gone through Breast Cancer (some, unfortunately are no longer with us). I thought I vaguely understood the challenges of the disease; I had no idea. With numerous surgeries, limited movement, feeling depressed but still having to take care of my little girl, it was A LOT to deal with.

Don’t worry, the story gets better. As you may know, I am usually a glass half full kind of girl. I have challenged myself back to a place of happiness with lots of ‘be kind to myself’ moments that include, Afternoon Tea in a prestigious London Hotel, weekend breaks and a recent trip to Costa Blanca.

I have taken the time to focus on aligning myself with my purpose which is to help others live happy, healthy and successful lives. That has led me to making the announcement I about to make.  Taking my experiences as: a business woman of 20 years, a motivational fitness instructor, a student of personal development and of life, I have now officially been trained as a Life Coach!

I am bubbling with excitement as I have already helped some amazing people reach their goals. Given my experiences my specialist areas are: coaching single mums who want to start businesses and working with people who are overcoming major adversity in their lives.

You can read much more about my coaching here. I really would just like to take this time to ask you a question. Currently, I have space on my Elevation Coaching programme for one more person: who do you know who is ordinarily a go-getter, perhaps a single mum or who has just come through major adversity who at this moment, is facing the challenge of transitioning to her latest goal?

Please do put her in touch with me for a FREE chat.

This is indeed a very exciting time for me as I am yielding to my life’s purpose and it feels wonderful.  I am committed to sharing these positive vibrations, so I ask you: What steps can you take today towards chasing your dreams? Go on, make a comment and name your prize. Write it into existence.

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to this blog (look up and to the right) to be stay inspired. 

 

 

 

 

She Made Me Do it!

My changing body image, post breast cancer surgery.

I met a stranger last year. She arrived not long after my breast cancer surgery. Though I didn’t know her, I felt comforted by her presence. She knew of my torment, she understood my trauma and vulnerabilities. Being the guardian she is, she immersed her being into mine to shield me, to guide me and to make me invisible when it all got too much.

You see, my body image has been a huge deal post-surgery. I’m even reluctant to type this again but ‘yes’ I am referring to the uniteral mastectomy followed by reconstructive surgery. I actually have an improved body (by many people’s standards) since the operation. Many women pay for similar types of surgery to the one I had to save my life. But getting used to the new version of me has been far from plain sailing.

You would think that I would be flaunting this new edition of Becky at every opportunity. Nope, I have felt extremely uncomfortable with my new body and unwilling to be nothing but modest. Why? Because I didn’t know this body or what to do with her. Also, I have told the world about my cancer and the consequent surgery, eyes are watching, minds are intrigued and tongues have questions. Plus, my size, my shape and the types of clothes that suit me, have all changed. Just a few months ago, I waited in line at House of Fraser for a considerable amount of time with the wrong sized bra until at the till, I remembered that my cup size had changed and consequently left with nothing; bewildered by my mistake.

This has been my new normal. Not knowing what is normal.

My stranger encouraged me to cover myself in black. Black has shrouded my being to become a hidden mass of nothingness. It allowed me to surreptitiously tip-toe through crowded rooms unnoticed and unbothered. It hugged me close when I felt vulnerable and needed an anchor to hold tightly. My stranger had my back at all times. I honestly can’t imagine how I would have got through this without her.

However, sometime during the last few weeks, I woke up ready as usual to share my sadness with my BFF but she wasn’t there. I searched frantically for my partner in solemn silence but she had disappeared.

Vanished without a ‘See you later!’

But strangely, it felt okay. It was weird, but instinctively I understood that her time with me was complete. I had entered a new phase. Someone or something else had arrived.

Almost a year since my breast cancer diagnosis, my spirit has been usurped by another form of newness. Again, a foreigner has entered my space. She has no name but she is quite different to my first stranger. I am still learning about her but I know I am feeling her vibe. She is playfully provoking and enjoys challenging me. I oblige wilfully to her dares (though curious) as secretly, I like the direction in which she is nudging me. She has only been around for a few weeks but already I see her influence manifest in my intentions and actions.

I wish you could see her or feel her vibe but as I do not even know her name and my naked eye has never witnessed her presence, I cannot show you the evidence. What I can do however, is share with you a few images for which the only fitting caption is: ‘She Made Me Do it!’ These were taken on a recent much needed break to Benidorm on the Costa Blanca, Spain.

My instincts tell me that you might be hearing a lot more about what she has prompted me to do in the near future.  

 

Red Peas Stew Recipe

One of my go-to vegan dishes has been this Jamaican classic. It’s taken me a while to find the particular ingredients and quantities to make this the succulent, tasty, feel-good recipe it has become. I have posted pictures of various versions on social media and people keep asking me to share the recipe. In fact, my mum and sister asked me just last week.

Now before I tell you how I responded, you need to know that I spend a lot of time writing for my business. A good 60% of my week is filled with writing proposals, reports, blogs, plans etc… So, when someone asks me to write a recipe, it just feels like work that I don’t want to do when I am chilling out.

Last week, I replied to a request from my mum and sister with a voice note detailing the ingredients. My sister was quite aghast upon realising she still had to write the recipe down.

But in the spirit of generosity and sharing, plus it’s the end of the week and I haven’t had to do that much written work in the last 24 hours. I’m feeling generous. So guess what?

You get a recipe, you get a recipe, in fact you all get a recipe!

Happy Friday everyone!

Ingredients

 

Cooked Red kidney beans (a whole tin or equivalent)

Pimento (I prefer whole but you can use the grounded version)

A sprig of thyme

Rosemary

Black pepper

A clove of garlic

1 Scotch bonnet pepper (deseeded if you prefer less heat)

Salt

Tomato ketchup

Coconut milk

Plain wholemeal (white) flour

Water

 

Method

 

  1. Cover the kidney beans with water in a pot to boil. There should be at least 2 inches of water above the beans.

 

  1. Add the scotch bonnet pepper, thyme, rosemary, pimento, garlic, salt, coconut milk and boil for ten minutes.

 

  1. In a bowl mix water into the flour to make a dough that is sticky but pliable, if there is too much water, you will not be able to mould the dumplings.

 

  1. Create spinners (dumplings) by rolling the mixture between your two hands.

 

  1. Add the dumplings to the pot.

 

  1. Leave to cook with the lid on for 20 minutes.

 

  1. Remove the lid, add the tomatoes sauce and leave it to reduce and thicken.

 

  1. When your happy with the thickness, serve with vegetables or rice or bulgar wheat or anything else that takes your fancy!

 

Enjoy!

Strategic Objective: Stay Alive! When Positive Thinking is not Enough

Always look on the bright side of life.”

“Wake up and smell the roses.”

“See the glass as half full instead of half empty.”

These popular sayings are designed to help us to get out of our ‘funky’ states, to awaken the go-getter within us and help us live peaceful happy lives. Believing in such sayings and adopting a positive mindset can and does help people through life’s small challenges as usually, those who think positively have a problem-solving outlook on life. This is a wonderfully useful trait to possess, but positive thinking alone has its limitations.

Looking back now, it was a pretty green way of looking at things but thinking positively was my default way of dealing with life in most instances. I often chose to see the good, hardly ever focusing on the negative and took a very optimistic approach to life. This was how I wired, I believed in this even before I started reading the Anthony Robbins, Dr Phill and Jack Canfield self-development books. Being this way, served its purpose on many an occasion. I still do lean towards a more favourable outcome in most instances, but now I am wiser.

Positive thinking can do the very opposite of what you want. You see, if you always believe only good can happen, you then become blind to (or choose not to see) the not so great stuff that takes place. I am hesitant to use the word ‘bad’ because the word conjures up something that is negative and has no use. I believe that uncomfortable or painful (more useful words) situations are there to teach us something.

I am talking about problems that cause deep angst, extreme pain, worry and hurt, such as: dealing with the loss of a business, becoming bankrupt, losing a baby, coping with the end of a relationship, struggling with ill-health, facing severe self-hate, facing a cancer diagnosis etc… You know what your pain is. Whatever that pain is, it is there to tell you something, if you will just listen.

It was clear to me from very early on after my cancer diagnosis, that I needed to take control of my thoughts and go beyond believing that as long as I adopted good thoughts, everything would be okay. This was too damn important to switch off and become blind to my predicament.

My business mind clicked into place as soon as I knew what I was dealing with. I kept at the forefront, the vision: I want a future with me in it. I then had to (with the help of the surgeons) create an effective strategy that was robust and had a high chance of success. I did my due diligence in between hospital appointments and researched the hell out of DCIS and invasive ductal carcinoma, with and without metastasis, with and without chemotherapy, with and without radiation.

It was important for me to do the risk assessment, know what the possible hazards are and have plans put in place to tackle any unfortunate outcome. I created a business plan for my life and my possible untimely death.

I believe people create their own luck by great preparation and good strategy.

Jack Canfield

This was strategic thinking working its ass off! I had kicked its predecessor ‘positive thinking’ to the kerb. I needed a method that was realistic in its assessment of the moment, forward thinking and laser focused on the goal.

My leadership skills faced their ultimate challenge. Keep Rebbecca alive!

Interview with June Sarpong

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My Version of Beautiful

The Best Birthday Yet!

26th February 2018 was my 41st birthday. I’m not shy in stating my age, in fact I am proud. I would happily shout it from my roof top, if I could access it.

This time last year, even before cancer reared its ugly head, I was not in a great place. Though my business was in great shape and doing the things I had always asked for, I was stressed and overworked. Honestly speaking, I would have preferred to spend my birthday in bed rather than with my friends and family at a restaurant bringing in the big ole’ 4-0. I was just so tired!

Then came the diagnosis in April 17. Two blood spots, alerted me to the fact that something was up. Had I not seen those breast cancer signs, as my doctor at the time said, I might not be here in a year’s time. Did you get that? If I had ignored those tiny droplets of blood on my nightdress, I might be dead today!

Whilst I have shared parts of my journey publicly, I certainly did not share it all. I tried to be as uplifting as possible. Not just for others but for me too. I needed to hang onto hope. I needed to know that I had a future. But there were some seriously dark days (particularly before the results of my operation), when I just didn’t know what the future held. It was awful! I had never been in a position where I wasn’t able to plan for the future. 

As a result, I felt beat-down, unwanted, melancholy, terrified, overwhelmed and defeated by life.  

Cut to a year later, I’M ALIVE!

Life now feels: surreal, beautiful, humbling, happy, expectant, positive, peaceful and gratifying. It can be likened to a scene I saw today from the movie ‘The Shape of Water’, where two lovers (albeit one is a humanoid amphibian) embrace as they gently float underwater. In that moment, nothing exists but the love they share which is all encompassing and enchantingly beautiful.

Today, I feel nothing exists but the new version of my life which houses: my much-matured sense of self-worth and compassion, the people who matter most, the here & now and the exciting vision I have of my future.

The celebration is lasting almost a week. Yes, although the date has passed, it’s still ongoing. Much of it has involved quiet reflection and checking-in on where I am. Sunday 25th February was the highlight as I gracefully enjoyed high tea was with my soul sisters Rachel and Toni at the Café Royal Hotel in London. The photo speaks for itself about the opulence and regal decor. We even left with a gift of a Diptyque candle – oh the fragrance! I had a day I know I truly deserve. One fit for a queen!

This birthday epitomises the outlook I now have on life. No, it won’t be perfect but for every single moment that I am on this earthing taking breath, I am going to do everything in my power to ensure it is my version of beautiful.

Therefore, every day is my birthday in my mind.

 

An Evening with June Sarpong

               June Sarpong and Rebbecca Hemmings

On Saturday 10th February 2018 in the stunning Malmaison Hotel Birmingham, I sat down and conversed with TV presenter and author June Sarpong. She was promoting her new book ‘Diversify – Six Degrees of Integration’. As this topic is very close to my heart, this interview was a dream in more ways than one. June was like that fun friend you haven’t seen in years but when you do, you both pick up where you left off – catching joke!

I absolutely love the fact that she is using her platform to talk about an issue that effects so many people worldwide, yet far too often the tendency is to want to sweep it under the carpet. June didn’t have to write this book as she is already successful and I am sure this book won’t come without its fierce critics. But she knows that she has influence and she is using it well. I am humbled by her tenacity and ambition.

The night was curated by BEX Live and Sandra Joseph of Club Lady Day was filled with black girl magic and of which I am proud to have been a part.

This story is best told through photos, so browse through at your leisure.

Photographer: Gavin Telfer of Plugged Designs

“Ladies and gentlemen, can we give a warm Birmingham welcome to June Sarpong MBE!”

June and I had a stimulating conversation on the plight of the ‘others’ contained in her book.

Me: So will you be Prime Minister in the future?
June: (laughing hysterically) NO!

Time for questions from the audience.

June wanted this beautiful lady to show the room what she was working with, so she did! 

This regally phenomenal poet Janette Barratt, danced as Saxophonist Millicent Stephenson blessed us with her enchanting melodies.

June kept the audience captivated and entertained.

June with my fabulous friend and make-up artist Sabrina Gonzales aka Boujee Makeup Artist.

Sandra Joseph (curator) led a discussion on the title of her new book ‘What Do Women Really Want From Men?’

We all have Bill Brown Founder of BEX Live to thank for his little black book of excellence.

Once the interview was over, I could finally relax and full-joy the evening.

and then, the next day… 🙂

Did Stress Give Me Cancer?

                           My state of mind prior to my diagnosis

 

I had cancer, right? The question I had to ask myself is: why was I able to get cancer? What was it about the conditions in my body that enabled this disease to take hold of my healthy cells and ultimately lead to me losing a part of my body? So, I embarked on a journey of research. I wanted to know how to prevent recurrences in the future.

Back in prehistoric times, stress was an essential part of human biology. We were vulnerable against the elements, which could cause natural disasters and we were also at risk from being taken down by predators. The body has an inbuilt system that helps us to avoid being eaten, attacked or destroyed. When in danger, the body has physiological responses such as pumping more blood to the heart and/or the muscles. These responses then help us to either run for our lives or stay and fight. The body can even enhance the immune system to help prepare wounds quickly. It’s the well-known fight or flight response. However, our bodies were not designed to endure long periods of stress. Consequently, what happens when the body experiences long-term stress, it takes its toll on our immune system.

This is the scientific bit now. Stay with me as this is important!

Corticosteroids are hormones which are made in the adrenal cortex.  What does that mean? 

Essentially, steroids (naturally produced in the body) reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system. You may have heard of synthetic steroids being used for a variety of reasons such as reducing pain for people with arthritis and lupus. They can also help with hay fever and eczema. The fact that they help to reduce inflammation, makes synthetic steroids useful for the body (these steroids are not to be confused with  anabolic steroids which are often used by body builders to gain muscle mass).

However, as I said, corticosteroids also lower the immune system. The immune system, when working correctly, is our friend. No scrap that, it is our life-saver. It fights infections on our body’s behalf by using leukocytes (also known as white blood cells). There are different types of white blood cells such as T Cells, and B Cells. T Cells can also be referred to as killer cells as they destroy antigens (foreign substances that invade our tissues and subsequently lower our immune systems).

When experiencing chronic stress (stress over a long period of time), corticosteroids are released into the blood stream. This in turn, lowers our immune system and we are prone to contracting diseases that our cells struggle to eliminate. With cancer specifically, T cells are usually our soldiers that go out and destroy the rogue cells.

 

T cells have the important role of assessing whether cells are healthy or potentially harmful; if a harmful antigen is detected, T cells spring into action and trigger an immune response, activating other immune cells to immediately target and kill the pathogens. This also leads to the development of antibodies, which recognise pathogens with the same antigens if they are encountered again in the future, meaning they can be rapidly targeted.”

Breastcancernow.org

This begs the question, what the hell happens to T-cells when cancer rears its ugly head? Why do they not kill the cancer cells like they are supposed to? From what I can see, there is a lot of debate around this area but one thing most clinical professionals seem to agree on, is that it is because cancer cells are clever. If the cancer cells sense danger, they can change the way they look or even become invisible to the t-cells so they cannot be spotted and consequently destroyed. If cancer wasn’t such an evil, destructive beast, I might hold it in admiration and marvel at its genius.

In my quest to identify why I got cancer, finding out of these facts concerning the immune system’s response to stress, makes a lot of sense to me. I had let stress become a part of my family. It took up residence in my body, made itself at home and wreaked havoc and I let it. I let it because I didn’t think it was much of an issue. Everyone gets stressed, right? I thrive off tight deadlines and pressured environments, that how I get stuff done. Maybe if these occurrences were occasional, that would have been fine. There’s nothing wrong with having a little stress occasionally to help you get stuff done. But to have it show up daily, from the moment you wake up ‘til when you go to bed, it’s a problem.

It is scientifically proven that it can harm you physically. I’ve only spoken about how stress affects the immune system in detail, but like I say it can detrimental implications to the rest of your body too. Why do many of us not take this seriously enough? 

So, did stress give me cancer? I can’t prove it – no one can but I strongly suspect it had a significant role to play in me contracting the disease. 

 

This blog is an excerpt from my forthcoming book: The Gifts that Cancer Gave Me

June Sarpong, No Way!

Yes way!

Tonight, I get to sit down with the amazing June Sarpong and interview about her new book: Diversify. Yes, it’s her Birmingham book launch which is taking place tonight at the Malmaison Hotel. Just in case you don’t know who June Sarpong is, she is the British TV presenter who became famous for her role on Channel 4’s T4 programme and  MTV. She’s also been a Loose Women panellist, has interviewed Tony Blair, co-hosted Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday celebrations with Will Smith, yadda, yadda, yadda. She is amazeballs!

June is a massive role model for many, including me. She has managed to navigate through some seriously rough terrain to break through and become a success on British TV. Through reading her book I have gained new insights into Miss Sarpong, such as: her passion and dedication to put diversity heavily on the agenda. She doesn’t have to do this, she is already successful but she cares and this is evident in her actions – I love her for this!

Plus, I didn’t know about her debilitating car accident at the age of 15 that nearly left her paralysed for life. The resilience she gained from being hospitalised for a year, absolutely must have helped her push through other tough times in life.

Massive respect goes to her for advocating to make poverty history. It’s a gigantic problem in society and we need more people with power and influence to talk about it and act!

Also, I could totally relate to her imposter syndrome (when you feel like a fraud) whom she names Agyness. I was surprised to learn that this was something she feels at times, given all her success, but she admits that it can and does still rear its ugly head every now and again.

The biggest lesson I have learned about June is just how concerned she is about the ‘othering’ of key groups of society, of which I am three: black, a woman and working class. At times it was difficult read as the words in black and white force you to face up to the problems that we deal with daily. But equally it offers hope and encouragement for better times ahead. Plus, the very fact that June herself shares the same ‘others’ as me, yet has defied the odds and smashed it, is hugely motivating.

I am truly blessed to have been given this opportunity, especially since I have not really been out and about in large crowds (where I know lots of people) since way before my cancer diagnosis in April 17. Tonight, I put on a brave face, my fancy shoes and take a massive leap back into society. What better way to do it! I am excited, ready to be inspired further and I definitely will be back to tell you exactly how it went.

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