Becks in the City

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

Category: Stress Free Lifestyle

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.  

 

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

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.

 

 

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