Becks in the City

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Category: Life After 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…

Exiting Safe Mode

Exiting Safe Mode

One Year-ish After my Cancer Diagnosis

I have not written a blog in what seems like forever. Life has simply taken over. In all honesty, I have not really had a chance to sit back and reflect on the past year. The truth is, I have not rested and taken stock. Even when I was recovering from my operation this time last year, I was busy thinking about my business and how I would continue to grow it when I was better. What I have been through is ginormous and maybe it will take years to fully take stock and get my head around what happened. But for now, I will attempt to look back in order to grow forward. 

The short version: I’ve lost and gained friends, I’ve fallen out with and made up with close ones, had a bout of depression, felt lost at times, started to dance again and my daughter started school.

The ‘Okay let’s put a little more effort in’ version:

I’ve settled on being a pesca-vegan – a fish eating vegan (no eggs and dairy) and currently that works for me. I had planned to become an all-out vegan but the limited eating out options are more than I can handle. Like really, I went to an event where I was literally given a dry bowl of cucumber and lettuce for lunch!

My daughter and I have a very special relationship, every day we tell one another just how much we love each other. The other day she told me that when she is older and she is married, she will make sure that we (as in me and her) share a room and her husband will have another room. She makes me smile every single day.

 

 

My visits to the hospital are far less frequent, but they still happen. In fact, I am due to have my first mammogram since my diagnosis. I don’t think about it in any detail. I have learned to take these things at a step at a time. I will think about it on the day. I suppose that’s a good thing, as I’ve learned not to worry about the negative possibilities because if or when they come, I will deal with them in that moment.

I suppose the biggest change in my life now is that I have a part-time job. This is huge for me as I have been anti-employment all my life. I have shouted from the rooftops about the joys of being self-employed. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t given up my businesses, I am still very much in business but I also now have a job working in arts and criminal justice. And do you know what? I love it!  Amongst other wonderful stuff, I enjoy being a part of society, having workmates, being able to go to a Christmas party, having the support of a manager and a whole organisation and having more resources to make a bigger change in the world.

My place of solace has been the gym. I have learned that my body is phenomenal. I now have a new level of super power that I didn’t know existed. I can run faster, pump harder, endure for longer. Even when I think my body is tired, she is set on completing the gruelling workout. I have grown a strange fondness to bootcamp, where tossing tyres, and dragging prison-like weights is actually enjoyable.

My body image. That’s an interesting one. I’m still learning about her but I know I love her. I find myself experimenting with clothes as I learn how to compliment my new shape. I am far from perfect but somehow this hourglass shape has come out of nowhere. I can wear tops that happily circumvent my new curves. I’m allowing myself to be braver with my choices, especially as I realise that I am in the prime of my life.

I guess this post has no flow, other than the order in which this stuff is exiting my brain and entering the screen. I suppose in a way that reflects how my life has been over the last year or so. I have just let it all happen albeit it in safe mode. What I mean by that is that I have just been functioning at a very basic level, enough for me and my daughter to get-by, just like the computer does when it is in safe mode. But I think I’m ready to move on now, I’m ready to be braver, to allow myself to dream, to permit myself to have some real fun and encourage me to celebrate this wonderful life. I’m ready to press ctrl-alt-delete and restart afresh.

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.

 

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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.

Train Your Brain to Get What You Want

Master Neuroplasticity

 

 

“Among other things, neuroplasticity means that emotions such as happiness and compassion can be cultivated in much the same way that a person can learn through repetition to play golf and basketball or master a musical instrument, and that such practice changes the activity and physical aspects of specific brain areas.”

Andrew Weil

 

Neuroplasticity in its simplest form is the art of training the brain to rewire itself. You can liken it to scratching a record. If you mildly scratch a record, it will continue to play for the most part as normal. However, if you continue to scratch the record, eventually it won’t ever play the same. This is similar to how the brain works.

 

Why is this relevant to self-love? Because this proves that you can change the way that you think and your brain will help you do it on a cellular level! This is pretty remarkable. Think about it, many people say things such as ‘It’s just the way I am, I can’t change.’ The existence of neuroplasticity, instantly disproves this theory. You can rewire you brain to change right now!

 

Many people who are overweight for example, have a subconscious limiting belief that they can’t lose weight. Even though they might see other people do it or even if they have lost weight in the past, they hold onto the fact that they just simply are not the sort of person to lose weight or if they do, keep it off. However, by altering that limiting belief to ‘I can lose weight, keep it off and feel fabulous’ they start to scratch the record. For this belief to stick, a major level of reinforcement must take place and the necessary action must happen.

 

This process must be repeated and repeated often. You can’t say this new belief once and expect miracles to happen. That’s just not how it works. You must say it daily (your daily affirmation) and take the necessary actions such as research foods that encourage weight loss, buy the right foods, workout, drink lots of water etc…

 

 

Task:

  1. After having completed the previous exercise, write your new belief down and place it where you will see it regularly (a bathroom mirror is a good place).

 

  1. Whenever you see that note, repeat it three times (or once if you are in a rush but at least once a day).

 

  1. Write a list of actions you need to do on a consistent basis that will bring you closer to having what you want. Make sure they are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timebound).

 

  1. Put these actions in your diary and carry them out!

 

Change only happens if you act on a consistent basis. I am going to keep saying this until it sticks!

 

Do not fall into the trap that you will always be the way you are. This is hugely disempowering. Think about how wonderful you will feel once you have changed a limiting belief that has held you back.

 

You have the power to change it but you must take action. Acknowledge those limiting beliefs and work the power of neuroplasticity. Your biology is already designed for you to be successful but you must take charge and make it happen. This leads me nicely onto the next point. You must take responsibility for you!

*****

This is the kind of stuff we will be covering in my workshop ‘How to Fall Fabulously in Love with YOU’ on Saturday 26th May 2018 in Birmingham UK. Click here for more details. 

NB: This blog has been take from my free E-Book: The Pocket Guide to Self Love which can be obtain here. 

 

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

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.

 

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.

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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