Becks in the City

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

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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.

Dealing with Toxic People

Dealing with Toxic People

 

Many of you will know that I run a private Facebook Group (open to anyone who shares our vision) called Living on Purpose 2018. In it, we had a discussion on dealing with toxic people, we decided as a group to create a document which would help our younger females (in particular, but not exclusively) to deal with toxic people and relationships.

I feel strongly about this, as I this topic isn’t taught in school. I imagine that most parents do not speak about it with their children, so the way we often learn about these people (who are essentially hurt and consequently hurt others to make themselves feel better), is by developing relationships with them.

It is my aim to make this a conversation that takes place more frequently, not just with young women but with everyone. Perhaps when it is more out in the open these people will become more aware of their actions and change for the better or at the very least more folks know what to do when they meet a toxic being.

Pshychologytoday.com have a great article on how to spot toxic people. For now, I will give you the list we complied on how to deal with them. Feel free to add your own rules in the comments section. Here goes:

 

  1. If at all possible avoid them. Cut them off! They do not deserve your time.

 

  1. Avoid getting bogged down in detail. Often their tactic is to blind you in confusion. Stay focused on the goal.

 

  1. Choose your battles wisely. It’s not always worth getting into an argument. Toxic people tend to thrive on drama.

 

  1. However, don’t let them get away with bad behaviour. They often prey on people they perceive to be weak. Therefore, show them that you will not tolerate their crap.

 

  1. Constantly work on your self-esteem and self-worth. If you are self-assured, you won’t let others undermine you.

 

  1. Ignore attention seeking behaviour. They will often try to draw attention to themselves to lure you into their web of deceit.

 

  1. Don’t be sucked in by a sob story. There’s nothing wrong with feeling sorry for someone but it is not your responsibility to get your hands dirty and help fix them. You can’t anyway, only they can fix themselves.

 

 

The B is Back!

Saturday 20th January 2018

I’m going to etch this date into my brain. Why? It’s the first day that I have had the nerve to run since my surgery. I did it during my regular boxing training session at WBC (Women’s Boxing Club) in Birmingham. I had been eager to get back to training after my mastectomy and reconstruction surgery (for breast cancer) in June 17 but of course I waited until I got the go ahead from my clinicians. So, a couple months post-surgery I went back to boxing but running and bouncing were out of the question. I had tempted fate a few times and regretted it as my scars scolded me for inflicting friction burn upon them and pushing myself too far.

Co Founder of WBC Jason Lowe and I

Though it went against my nature to push forward regardless, I waited impatiently. Then one morning I woke up smiling because I knew my body was ready. When Jason the instructor, told me to run, I ran like an escaped prisoner. When he told me to jab, uppercut and hook, I punched like Laila Ali. All that was left for me to do was to jump in the ring, beat my chest and roar from the bottom of my lungs ‘I’m back b****s!’

Or maybe I’ve just been watching too many episodes of Housewives of Atlanta.

It feels wonderful to finally be getting back to where I was and beyond. I say beyond because since then, I haven’t been able to stop running. Last week, I ran around Alexander Stadium’s track 12 times in one morning. This girl is on fire!

One of the best female boxers in the game & co-founder of WBC Mav Akram

If you’re in Brum, female and want to get fit, let your frustration out or even fight, I strongly recommend WBC. With 3 sessions a week, a central location and only £2.50 a session, you have every reason to give it a try.

Olive Oil vs Rapeseed Oil

Last night I was speaking on Facebook Live in my Living on Purpose 2018 group about plant-based eating, and some really interesting topics arose. One such subject was around the types of oils we use to cook. In particular, we spoke about what we perceived to be the benefits (or not) of Rapeseed oil. My knowledge on it was very sketchy but what I did know was that Rapeseed oil has a high smoke point. This is a positive attribute because it means that it can be cooked at high temperatures without breaking down. Once it breaks down, it loses its health benefits and can actually become toxic and carcinogenic (cancer causing). But admittedly, I didn’t know much more beyond this.

Olive Oil has long been touted as a healthy oil but again, I could categorically tell you why. So, today I set about doing some research and this is what I found:

Olive Oil vs Rapeseed Oil

Personally, I need to be drizzling extra virgin olive oil on my salads for those antioxidant polyphenols. But as for my cooking, it has to be Rapeseed oil all the way, mainly due to its high smoke point. What’s the point having a so-called healthy oil, if it becomes toxic when heated? Which do you prefer?

Don’t Mess with My Tool Bag!

Good morning, good morning! The sun is shining and I’m feeling good today.

This is significant for a lot of reasons but mainly because, although I have decided to fully live my life, I am still human and I still get aftershock from the diagnosis 9 months ago.

handbag-1558898_1920

Every now and again, little negative Becky whispers in my ears and tells me stuff like: you’re not good enough, the cancer is going to come back, sadness is here to stay and other crazy stuff. I had a wobbly moment last night. What triggered it, I can’t pinpoint. Sometimes it’s just seeing someone struggle on TV (like last night on the program about people who stammer) or maybe an undesirable thought knocks me in my head. It doesn’t have to be anything major.

But what I really love about me now is I know how to deal with these moments. I have a range of armoury in my imaginary tool bag to whack those moments of disempowerment hurtling into space. They include: switching off social media (so if I go quiet, I might just be having a moment to chill), speaking to someone who knows how to help me lift my mood or altering my physiology in order to change my state of mind. This morning I danced with my daughter whilst eating my porridge. She loved it, as believe it or not (as a former Zumba instructor) she has not seen me dance all that much. Attending a HIIT class today was also part of my ‘getting back to my happy place’ agenda. Plus, I put on a Youtube video about listening to your heart and not your stupid brain (that’s what it’s called). All these have activities helped me to re-focus and get back on track. Now I am feeling absolutely awesome once again!

You can’t always positively think yourself out of a difficult place. What I now realise, is that you have to work a little harder than that. Being aware of the strategies you have available to you to get your power back, is essential to having a healthy mind.

I don’t ever want to pretend that I have it all sorted and that now that I’m choosing to live my life purposefully, everything is magically wonderful all the time. That is just false! I acknowledge that I will always have to face challenges, as all of us do. The difference is now, I am much better prepared to deal with them. With the power I hold in my tool bag,  almost feel sorry for any negativity that comes its way – almost

What tools work best for you?

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