Becks in the City

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

Category: cancer (Page 1 of 2)

I Can’t Say ‘You will be Okay’

Tonight I’m feeling sad.

It bees like that sometimes.

As much as I would love to say that every day is a great day, every day is not. Whether I like it or not I am part of the cancer community. Because I shared my story widely I get a lot of new people (those with cancer and those who have friends or relatives with cancer), contacting me for advice or I see their stories unfold on social media. I happily provide whatever comfort I can, but what I cannot do, which cracks my heart; I can never tell them that they will be okay.

I remember when I was still waiting for my operation last year and I spoke to one of my dear Zumba ladies who had been through breast cancer. I asked her about her experience, which she gladly shared to try and help ease my worries. Hers was a story of success and I needed to follow that path – in my mind. But she never said the words I really needed to hear ‘You will be okay’.

How could she?

I mean, I can never know if I will ‘be okay’. I can never say it won’t come back. I can never say I am cured of cancer as officially there is no cure. So, for now, I stick with the euphemism ‘I am cancer-free’ as opposed to the it will probably come back version ‘remission’.

All I can ever say to anyone who is experiencing cancer or who is taking care of someone with the disease: take care of you. Those words really helped me and still do. Part of the reason I still write this blog is it still provides a therapeutic outlet for my thoughts. Do what works for you. Wrap yourself in comfort, embrace your being in pure loveliness, get lost in a world of pure self-indulgence. Make yourself a priority and find a place to channel your thoughts, be it to a friend, on paper or to a professional.

And when you find yourself getting lost in distractions like: Facebook, mindlessly flicking through the TV or anything else, stop what you’re doing and allow yourself to feel.

Even if that means you feel sad.

RnB Concerts, Sunflowers and Ghosts

Sam in the Movie Ghost upon seeing his body after mugging

Do you Remember Sam (Patrick Swayze) from the classic movie Ghost? Do you recall the scene where he and Molly were walking down the dark cobbled street when they were confronted by bad guy Willie Lopez with a gun?  Willie fatally shot Sam after a short fight. When Sam stood up from the road, he chased Willie, but he was long gone. Sam then turned around and called Molly to tell her the guy had gotten away. It was then that he was stunned by the truth of his situation in vivid colour. What he saw before him was Molly crying over his lifeless body in the middle of the street. He had become a ghost.

In the last 12 months or so, I often think about this scene as that’s how it felt to realise that I had had breast cancer. I was living like a ghost between worlds. Like Sam in the beginning, although shocked by the traumatic event, I believed I was still the same person as before. Not only that, but the reality and impact of the diagnosis did not kick in until after my operation, just as Sam did not realise he what had happened until he saw the scene laid bare before his eyes.

I now know I was in survival mode and in an intense state of shock. My cancer experience has impacted my every living thought, even when I thought (still think) everything was back to normal.

Case in point:

This spring I entered a Facebook competition to win a book bag from Dorothy Koomson’s publishers: Penguin. It was to celebrate her book ‘The Brighton Mermaid’ being published. I was so chuffed that I won it as it was a small triumph in my arduous road to my mastectomy recovery. On the postcard that came with the bag was a polite request that I take a photo of me, the bag and the book (when I had purchased it). That was in April. I felt so awful, as I didn’t buy the book (until now).

I didn’t buy the book because I already had another book: When I was Invisible (also by Dorothy) that I had brought to the hospital with me last year June and I still hadn’t finished it. To be honest, I had a little pile of books begging me to pick them up on a daily basis. But I would just look at them knowing I should embrace them but physically feeling like there was a concrete wall between us.

At times I would force myself to open the pages of Dorothy’s book, but the truth is I really struggled with it. I didn’t understand why because it wasn’t boring, the vocabulary wasn’t incredibly difficult. I would find myself reading about 2 pages a month of a 466-page book over a 15-month period. I was so disappointed in myself and had started to entertain the thought that I was no longer ‘a reader’. Readers are leaders, books help broaden horizons and expose you to new worlds and all that. Was I really at risk of losing all of that?

Well, last week, something magical happened. One quiet evening, I ditched my phone, switched off the TV and attempted to read it again. This time I got so engrossed in the book that I read the remaining 400+ pages in 3 days! The book was incredible! The plot line kept me gasping for breath and begging for the main characters to… (well I won’t say anymore as I don’t want to spoil it). I was so overjoyed; it was a massive achievement! I had overcome a serious mental block that had been preventing me from reading like I used to.

I attribute my being able to read and enjoy the book finally to my new-found acceptance of my cancer experience and the end of the survivor’s mode stage. I’ve been through the shock, the denial, the depression and sadness and now not only am I accepting of my experience, I am in a new soulfully joyful place. I guess I am where Sam reached once his death was avenged and he was finally at peace.

In this place, I find joy in a littlest of things from growing and naming our

Our sunflowers: Keisha and Lily

sunflowers ‘Keisha and Lilly’ (gifted to us by my dear friend Iris) and enjoying old RnB concerts on Youtube like I was actually there, to taking my daughter on the train to visit somewhere new or simply getting my nails done. I don’t believe that’s it’s any coincidence that two people in the last few weeks have commented on how happy I seem lately.

So, following my personal triumph, yesterday I jumped on the train and skipped straight to Waterstones. I went shopping for a new book.

I don’t think I need to say any more…

Living on Purpose with my Daughter

Unless as a parent, you have faced your own mortality, you will never really know what it feels like to imagine your child outliving you. Whilst in my hospital bed last year June (having just received a mastectomy and DIEP Flap reconstruction), I made a vow to ensure that NO MATTER WHAT, I was going to fill our lives with joy and happiness. I was clear that this would come in the form of visiting new and interesting places, going to live music, dance, theatre and sports events, playing together whether in the home or out and generally just partaking in life.

My sister Tiffany brought my daughter and her cousins to see me run this year’s Race for Life. For those who do not know, the Race for Life is a charitable event where women run to raise funds for Cancer Research UK. It is so important to me that not only do we enjoy the time we have here on this earth but that my daughter also sees me actively participating, contributing, giving back. She is beginning to understand death the impact that cancer can have. She is also starting to understand what it means to give back.

This weekend was full of firsts for my daughter, beginning with the marriage of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle. My daughter was so happy that someone who has a brown mother like her own, could actually become (in her mind) a princess. That’s huge! Then the following day, she witnesses her mum run with 1000s of other women to raise funds to (hopefully) stop people dying from cancer. These are the moments I dreamed of sharing and now they are coming to fruition because I made a conscious effort to make it happen.

The Race for Life ‘One Love’ team led by Tarah (first on the left)

I hope parents reading this, do not wait until they are faced with own mortality to truly live life on purpose with your children and mark the ‘wow’ moments. You do not get yesterday back but tomorrow is yours, plan it wisely.

 

*********

This Saturday sees me leading my first workshop based on the concept of living purposely in Birmingham UK. It’s called ‘How to Fall Fabulously in Love with You.’ If offers a rare opportunity for the you to indulge is self-reflection and discover how to become happier, more confident and more successful through valuing and honouring yourself. It is going to be fun! Book tickets here now.

How I Coped After my Cancer Diagnosis

I inhaled.

“You have what is known as Ductal Carcinoma Insitu and a small amount of Invasive Ductal Carinoma which is spreading.”

On 28th April 2017, my consultant diagnosed me with breast cancer. As you can imagine for a 40-year-old, relatively healthy fitness instructor, this was quite a shock. I breathed a slight sigh of relief thought when I heard it was treatable, as in my mind, surely that must mean taking some medication and all would be well. However, my alarm bells deafened me, when I heard that my options were limited to cutting out the cancer with a mammoplasty or slicing off my entire lady lump with a unilateral mastectomy.

“Like really? There’s no tablet to take?”

That thought actually appeared in my mind, like in real life. Oh, the days of pre-cancer innocence!

One of my first courses of action, was to get as much information as I could about the treatments. I needed to know that it would be okay. That was a curse and a blessing, as Google is filled with the delightful and the most damning of outcomes. As was Youtube. I had moments where I would close my laptop sobbing as I learned the breast cancer lady whose videos I’d been watching had passed. I had seen way too many “Goodnight Angel” comments. 

But then I also viewed some great encouraging videos of women who had gone on to do some wonderful things with their lives such as: set up a holistic businesses or go travelling, years after their treatment.

 

My daughter couldn’t stop kissed me when she saw me after my surgery.

After gathering my research and weighing up my options, I decided that a mastectomy was best. Why? I felt it would offer me the best possible chance of getting rid of all the cancer cells. At the fore of my mind was: my daughter needs her mum.

 

I quickly learned that I had to put a pair of blinkers on, as I had chosen to announce my diagnosis on Facebook. At the time I thought I was purely doing it to get people to watch out for the signs of cancer but later I realised that it was also a coping mechanism. This news was huge and I needed a large amount of comfort and support. I certainly did get that with over 9000 thousand views and hundreds of comments. With that came lots of well-meaning advice via private messages but I knew I had to stay focused and do what I deemed best for me.

I spent a lot of time with my family and we kept busy in between hospital appointments. I would indulge in intricate colouring-in books for adults, cooking, plaiting hair, planning, reading and playing games with my daughter. I would keep myself busy so that I did not spend too much time with my own thoughts.

During those long nights when I was alone in bed thinking about the possibilities, I would find it difficult to fall or stay asleep. Often when I did drift off, I would wake up with my heart-pounding trying to quickly forget the night terror I’d just had. It felt as though nightly, I’d fallen asleep with a hideous demon hanging from my ceiling growling over me. I was frightened and though I knew I had support, I felt lonely. Lonely because I knew ultimately, I had to walk this journey alone and no one knew what would the outcome will be.

WhatsApp statuses and Instagram were my outlets for my pain and offered some relief. I would post usually a positive quote such as “It’s all about good vibes, big goals, amazing experiences more happiness…”. At other times it would simply be an expression of pain via a beastly image I found on Pinterest.

Of all the mediums of comfort and pain release, writing my blog has been by far the most cathartic. It was there that I could be apologetically honest without having to look in another human’s eyes where I could get caught up in their sorrow and have to pretend I was stronger than I felt.

It was there, I could let the feelings stick to my webpage like Velcro and release themselves from my soul.

It was on my blog that that I laid to rest the old version of Becky, the pre-cancer, naïve, everything will be okay in the end Becky. And that needed to happen. Sometimes things aren’t going to be okay and I become stronger once I accepted this truth.

Through my blog I grew into a wise and resilient woman.

It’s been almost a year since my diagnosis and whilst it has been tumultuous, it has helped me to focus on areas that needed attention such as: building my self-worth, removal from environments and people that drained me and asking myself what I really want to do with my life.

Part of that thinking is what has helped me to complete my training as a Life Coach and launch my life coaching service. I know what is it like to live through very dark days yet still want to live the life you know you deserve. If you are stuck in that place, let’s have a chat.

Contact me at: www.becksinthecity.co.uk/contact

 

A cancer diagnosis is difficult but it is manageable. My advice to anyone who has been recently diagnosed: take care of YOU, put YOU first and be kind to YOU. Caring for yourself, especially when you have cancer is not a treat, it is a necessity.

By the way, on 19th July 18 I was declared cancer-free.

On another note, I will be running the Race for Life for Cancer Research UK on 20th May. I would really appreciate your support by way of a donation. Every little really does help. You can donate here.

Thank you for reading. xxx

 

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. 

 

 

 

 

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!

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.

 

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

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?

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