Becks in the City

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

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How to Act Around Someone with Cancer

Okay, maybe I should rephrase that, as I cannot possibly speak for everyone who has cancer. It should read: ‘How to Act Around Becky Knowing She has Cancer’

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My sister Paula & friend Petra showing love & support before my operation.

Dealing with other people’s reactions to my cancer diagnosis, has been one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Once I made the announcement that I had been diagnosed with breast cancer, people started doing some really strange things and I found them remarkably interesting, yet confusing.

Many friends have said to me, that they just did not know what to say to me, and I get it. I have been around people who have had terminal cancer and I spluttered to say ‘I don’t know what to say. I honestly didn’t! These people were dying and in my mind, I couldn’t possibly say anything that would add any value to their precious remaining days. 

However, I do not have terminal cancer. I am not dying from the disease. I have/hopefully had (still awaiting results) early stage breast cancer. Yet people still find it difficult to know what to say or how to act. I have been around some of the most wise and confident people who have turned into meek mice upon seeing me.

Therefore, I felt it necessary to try to help people who just cannot find the right words or just do not know how to act when they see me. I have created a list of dos and don’ts. They are based upon the support I need (and have received) as well as some of the responses I have already experienced: 

Don’ts (please)

  1. If you are a good friend of mine or a relative, please do not rely on what I put on social media as a way of finding out how I really am. As much as it might look like it, I don’t share all the details of my wellbeing on Facebook. When you do not contact me, as much as my logic might tell me otherwise, it often feels as though you don’t care.
  2. Please do not tell me about your friend who had breast cancer and died. Without seeing my medical notes, you do not know exactly what type of breast cancer I have. Telling me about your friend dying really does not fill me with any encouragement. What I need more than anything is hope and encouragement.
  3. If you are not a good friend, please do not ask me intrusive questions about my treatment. If I wanted to share that information, I would. Please respect my personal boundaries.
  4. Please do not assume that all cancers are the same or have the same result. There are lots of cancers, some a lot more detrimental than others. They do not all result in death.
  5. Everyone who knows me, knows that I had breast cancer, so please do not stare at my chest area when you see me. I post pictures on social media; you are welcome to look at those at your leisure. It’s uncomfortable for both you and I when I catch your eye.
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Beautiful flowers & balloon sent to me from my Aunt Diana.

Dos (please)

  1. Send me a text or a card to say you are thinking of me every now and again.
  2. Send me flowers with just your name. It tells me that I am in your thoughts.
  3. If you are a good friend, I invite you to ask me about my condition. I actually want to talk about it, it’s therapeutic.
  4. If you are someone I only know through social media, it is fine to post a heart, a kiss or a comment such as ‘I hope you are doing well.’
  5. If you see me out and about, it is perfectly fine just to ask “How are you?” and upon receiving my short reply, “I am not too bad thank you,” you are welcome to talk about something else that makes you feel much more comfortable.
  6. Please feel free to engage me in conversations that have nothing to do with cancer. I am much more than this disease and would like to talk about other topics. I am a whole person with many different interests. 
  7. Please do crack jokes and have fun around me. My natural default is to laugh; it’s great for my mental and spiritual wellbeing. 
  8. Please, please please, become cancer conscious for yourself and your family. Understand some of the tell-tale signs and be brave enough to go the doctor to get it checked out. Applying this knowledge could save your life. It saved mine.

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With all that being said, I know that 99% of people who I interact with only have good intentions and act according to those intentions. Therefore, if you have done or said any of the above ‘don’ts’ or anything else I may have found uncomfortable, do not worry. I have not been offended; I have had to learn that the fear of cancer makes most people a little wobbly – understandably.

Thank you very much to everyone that has reached out in love. I appreciate it very much and it really has helped me to feel positive and hopeful for the future.

Thank you

Becky xxx

The Gifts Cancer Gave Me

14990943_10153839119141809_216730187256305489_oI am not angry that I got cancer; I am not upset. This is not to say that I am joyous and happy. Instead I am grateful for the gifts it has given me.

My attitude is similar to that of Sophie Sabbages’, author of The Cancer Whisperer and a stage 4 cancer patient. She believes that cancer comes into your life to tell you something about how you have been living and if you listen to that you can live an extraordinary rich life. I believe that I have been given an opportunity to reflect on my life and change it for the better.

First and foremost, it is important for me to say that I realise how fortunate I am to be in my position. I have been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. Although anything could happen in the future, the prognosis for someone in my situation is very good. I am likely to go on to lead a long life (provided I don’t die of something else). I can’t express how much this knowledge truly humbles me as it could has so easily have been a very different story for me. I can only thank God for my situation and try my best to live the greatest possible life, as I imagine most other cancer patients blessed with the same opportunity would.

Things were very different pre-diagnosis. I was stressed, very stressed. I was earning a decent income (for once) from my arts education company but you know how it goes: with more money, comes more problems. Those problems included: taking on more and more work (to ensure I never go back to a life of poverty), managing people, running my Zumba class, balancing my work and personal life, being a single mother and everything that comes with that, blah, blah, blah. It was a lot! Every day I woke up feeling an immense amount of mental pressure. My only outlets were being around my daughter and family and working out… and boy did I work out!

Now that I am being forced to reflect on everything, it is a chance for me to rid my mind and body of toxicity, to pursue the dreams I have always had, to be happy, to spend more time with my daughter, family and close friends.

It is prompting me to eliminate the fear of a lack of abundance, other people’s negative motives, phobias, failure and so much more.

It offers the opportunity to nourish my body with the best live natural foods, to calm down on the exercise and treat it with less intense yet enjoyable physical activities.

It presents the pleasure of spa days, detoxifying saunas, music therapy, singing and dancing for joy, days in the park with my daughter, therapeutic Vitamin D in fabulous sunny climates. 

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Zumba Convention 2011 with Ollie and Natallia in Orlando, Florida. One of the best rips of my life!

 

It promotes more time to read, learn, teach, inspire, motivate and share my learning to those who need it most.

Therefore, I do not regret the fact that I contracted cancer. Rather, I am grateful for the gift that this dis-ease has given me. It has awoken me from my slumber and is allowing me to start again with a full appreciation of the richness life has to offer me, with the horse powered motivation to pursue it.

Thank you cancer.

The Deed has been Done

19388543_10159228637360221_9179923231520847629_oPosted on Facebook on 19th June 17

So the deed has been done. I have had my op to rid my body of breast cancer. It happened last Wednesday. All is well; recovery will be lengthy. Please respect my wishes by not asking intrusive questions as all is still new and I share what I feel comfortable to share. But just so you know I have had a bilateral mastectomy with a diep flap with immediate reconstruction (feel free to Google).

My beautiful daughter can’t show me enough love

I share all this to say: Don’t ignore the signs of any potential cancer. If something isn’t right, get it checked out. Don’t let fear, a busy schedule, ignorance or whatever stop you from potentially saving your life.

Post Surgery Walk of Success!

25th June 17

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I’ve just finished my 3rd post surgery walk. I am feeling so accomplished as 3 days after surgery I was only able to venture 5 metres before breaking down in a fit of tears as my mind was so sure my body could walk much further. The nurses had quickly wheeled me back to my bed and that was all the walking I was able to do that day. I hadn’t anticipated how much surgery would dissipate my lung capacity.

Well today (just 8 days later) I just walked over 100 metres! The body is so amazing! I look forward to the day when I can return to the gym 😊. I can’t believe this dramatic series of events has become my life.

The Smiling Spectre

Ghost NurseWhen your veins are pumped full of morphine and your body is still recovering from seven hours under general anaesthetic, plus you’ve just had a lifesaving, (never mind life-changing) operation, it’s difficult to concentrate on any one thing. It was Day 2 or maybe Day 3, post-surgery (my brain is still fuzzy).

I was lying in bed, enjoying the privacy of my sunny single room in the newly built Queen Elizabeth Hospital thinking about everything and nothing at the same time. One could say: I was just minding my own business. When to my right and to the bottom of the bed, I noticed the drawn curtain by the door, shift. In floated in a smiling face. Above the smile were cainrows that went all the way back. Her complexion was brown and greying like unwatered soil. Her short and stocky body looked neat and tidy in her hospital attire. She was proud; I could tell by her puffed out chest. The smiling face was looking in my direction. My first instinct was to return it, as that’s what you do when someone beams at you, but why was it that I felt my body stiffen?

Now this was strange, as I had become accustomed to meeting unknown people almost on an hourly basis as the medical staff would come in to check my vital signs and the progress of the surgery. There were new people all the time. What was different this time? She was a health care assistant after all, I could tell by the uniform. She was being friendly. So why did I feel so uncomfortable? Could it be the way she stared at the plastic board above my head as she said my name out loud, questioningly “Rebbecca Hemmings?” almost as if she knew me or of me? Was it the crazed look in her eyes as her plastered grin pinned me to the mattress? Or was it the way her dancing body betrayed her clasped hands as they tried to give off an air of control?

“Rebbecca Hemmings?” She repeated. I lay still and silent; “It’s a rhetorical question,” my brain reasoned as it tried to quell the cacophony of thoughts dashing about trying to make sense of this moment. Her raised healed, shiny black plastic loafers walked past my bed to the window. She pulled the curtains and looked outside from the fourth floor to the beautiful landscape basking in the unusually hot temperatures in south Birmingham, all the while that Cheshire cat grin fixated on me like a loaded weapon.

“Do you have an aunt called Pat?”

Silly me! Breathe out girl, relax, this all makes sense, she knows my aunt Pat. Crisis averted. You can smile back now and chill out. You’re so paranoid. What are you getting all tetchy about anyway?

“Yes I do…”

She interrupted me; I had wanted to know how she knows my aunt.

“She lives down the road, in Edgbaston?”

Instantly, the metal bars rose back up and caged me in my imaginary fortress as I answered “No, she lives in London.” My blood pressure had risen; I could feel it as I levitated towards the ceiling.

She slowly walked back across the room like an actor delivering an aside to an audience; that smile would not release me until it gently faded back beyond the curtain and disappeared into the hustle and bustle of hospital life.

That was to be the first of the Spectre’s three unnerving visits.

Cancer? Who said anything about Cancer? My Breast Cancer Diagnosis

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My blissful “I ain’t got Breast Cancer”trip to Brighton.

March/April 2017

I find myself yawning as I reluctantly peel myself from my bed, ready for another stressful day running my arts education business. As I pass the mirror on the way to the bathroom, something makes me turn back. What was that I just saw on my nightdress? It’s blood, not much, about a pea size, on my left side, midway between my stomach and my breast. “How strange!”, I think as I lift my clothing for further inspection. There’s no visible wound anywhere. “Oh well, it’s just one of those things I guess.” That was my first warning and little did I know that if I didn’t get another 4 weeks later, I probably would be dying from breast cancer a year later (as later told to me by my surgeon).

The second time it happened, my eyes shot out of my head like bread from a toaster upon passing my reflection, because unlike the first time, I could see where the blood had come from. My left nipple was oozing a brown tinged blood droplet. Immediately I booked an urgent appointment with my GP. I had to bring my 3-year-old daughter with me as I couldn’t get anyone to watch her last minute, so the doctor was very selective with her words. However, her eyes said it all – she couldn’t hide the distress she felt as she smiled and pointed to the wording on the pamphlet: 70% of people who are sent for a 2-week urgent care appointments do not have cancer. 

Cancer? Who said anything about cancer? As I impatiently waited for the appointment I went mad on the internet searching for hope in between crying and fearing for my daughter’s future. She can’t live without me, that’s not even an option. I don’t want to die, there’s so much more that I want to achieve, so many more memories to be made. What the hell is this? 

Google held me in its embrace as it told me “It’s nothing to worry about, it’s probably just intraductal papilloma which are non-cancerous growths in the milk ducts. You’ll be fine hun.” YouTube slashed me in the face whilst dashing acid on the wound as it cried: “Face it, you have breast cancer. Spontaneous bleeding from one nipple is breast cancer bitch. Your days are numbered!” 

Each day would bring a new range of emotions and conflicting stories and facts. After a week I decided enough was enough, I had to stop searching for answers or else I would drive myself crazy. So I banned myself from searching further and spent a lovely few days in a gorgeous Air B & B townhouse near Brighton beach with my daughter, family and a few friends. It did the job. I left there feeling positive and renewed with a fresh sense of hope and putting aside my fears as over-thinking. “Remember: 70% of people who are referred for two-week urgent appointments do not have cancer.” I exhaled as I looked at my daughter playing with the other children on the train journey back. I smiled and placed my earphones in my ears as Mint Condition crooned me into a blissful state of ignorance. 

The next Monday 24th April 2017, I was jolted out of my Utopian bliss as I heard the radiographer say the word: micro-calcification. I knew from my days on the net that ‘calcification’ can be benign but can also be an early sign of breast cancer. Then I could hear her telling me about having to put two titanium clips inside my breast so that they could see where they would need to do a biopsy. Apparently they wouldn’t go off at airports. I latched onto this as I couldn’t deal with the bomb that had just been dropped on me. “Well do I have a choice as to whether they will stay in me or not?” To which the radiographer replied basically “No”, showing signs of irritability at my ignorance of the magnitude of my situation. In hindsight, I imagine she was thinking “The titanium clips are the least of your worries. You possibly won’t have this breast in the next few weeks”. If she had said it, she would have been right. 

After two very painful biopsies, I was told I would have to wait another four excruciating days for the results to be returned. However, it was quite likely that I had a type of breast cancer called DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma Insitu), this is the presence of abnormal cells within the milk ducts. I knew from my reading that if I was going to have breast cancer, this was like the one I preferred as it offered the best chances in terms of prognosis. However, when I returned to get my results, I was told that I also had small invasive cancer. This meant that pockets of the DCIS had escaped the milk ducts and was now starting to spread. 

My treatment choices: have a large part of my breast cut off in a procedure known as a mastoplasty followed by radiation treatments – this would leave me with a tiny breast, or remove the entire mound in a mastectomy procedure. I chose the latter. I made preparations to say goodbye to my homegirl.

 

 

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Masterpiece  by Jazmine Sullivan

My eyes ain’t used to these rays
I’m feeling exposed, but I can’t hide no more
I can’t hide
As the sun shines on all of my glory
My flaws don’t look so bad at all
What was I so afraid of?

[Chorus]
Every part of me is a vision of a portrait
Of Mona, of Mona Lisa
Every part of me is beautiful
And I finally see I’m a work of art
A masterpiece

Oh oh oh

[Verse 2]
Who is this I’ve tried so long to fight?
Filling my heads with lies that I’m not good enough
Then I heard something in my ear
Tell me I’m perfect, now that I know the truth
Time to show and prove

[Chorus]
Every part of me is a vision of a portrait
Of Mona, of Mona Lisa
Every part of me is beautiful
And I finally see I’m a work of art
A masterpiece

Oh oh oh

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