Becks in the City

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Tag: birmingham

An Evening with June Sarpong

               June Sarpong and Rebbecca Hemmings

On Saturday 10th February 2018 in the stunning Malmaison Hotel Birmingham, I sat down and conversed with TV presenter and author June Sarpong. She was promoting her new book ‘Diversify – Six Degrees of Integration’. As this topic is very close to my heart, this interview was a dream in more ways than one. June was like that fun friend you haven’t seen in years but when you do, you both pick up where you left off – catching joke!

I absolutely love the fact that she is using her platform to talk about an issue that effects so many people worldwide, yet far too often the tendency is to want to sweep it under the carpet. June didn’t have to write this book as she is already successful and I am sure this book won’t come without its fierce critics. But she knows that she has influence and she is using it well. I am humbled by her tenacity and ambition.

The night was curated by BEX Live and Sandra Joseph of Club Lady Day was filled with black girl magic and of which I am proud to have been a part.

This story is best told through photos, so browse through at your leisure.

Photographer: Gavin Telfer of Plugged Designs

“Ladies and gentlemen, can we give a warm Birmingham welcome to June Sarpong MBE!”

June and I had a stimulating conversation on the plight of the ‘others’ contained in her book.

Me: So will you be Prime Minister in the future?
June: (laughing hysterically) NO!

Time for questions from the audience.

June wanted this beautiful lady to show the room what she was working with, so she did! 

This regally phenomenal poet Janette Barratt, danced as Saxophonist Millicent Stephenson blessed us with her enchanting melodies.

June kept the audience captivated and entertained.

June with my fabulous friend and make-up artist Sabrina Gonzales aka Boujee Makeup Artist.

Sandra Joseph (curator) led a discussion on the title of her new book ‘What Do Women Really Want From Men?’

We all have Bill Brown Founder of BEX Live to thank for his little black book of excellence.

Once the interview was over, I could finally relax and full-joy the evening.

and then, the next day… 🙂

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.

The 10 Changes I’ve Made Since Becoming Cancer Free

20643275_10159506323540221_103051546048746514_oIn two days, it will be exactly 6 months since I had my breast cancer surgery – a bilateral mastectomy to be precise. It has been one big ole crazy journey and I guess one that will not end anytime soon. The reason doctors generally don’t say, ‘You’ve been cured’ and prefer the term ‘cancer-free’ is because once you’ve had the disease, you are at greater risk from getting a recurrence (though the likelihood does lessen as time goes on).

This little piece of knowledge could really depress me if I let it. I could constantly be on edge, checking myself daily for any changes, getting paranoid from the tiniest niggle or ache but I choose not to. Instead, I am seeing the opportunities to live a healthier, fuller and more fulfilling life. I am embracing the gifts cancer gave me.

My life has already changed dramatically since 28th April 17 when I was officially charged with DCIS and invasive breast cancer. As I lean into the changes that I know I need, I vindicate my spirit and choose to live life on my terms.

I am now…

 

  1. F25158435_10160085984140221_8269649721085243961_nollowing a plant-based lifestyle. Most people who know me, see that I now follow a plant-based diet. This means different things to different people but what it means for me is that I no longer eat meat or dairy but instead, my diet is filled with natural produce from the earth and fish for my essential fatty acids & vitamin B12 (although I am working on weening fish out in 2018).

 

  1. Minimising social chatter. Those who know me on Facebook or Instagram, may have noticed that I am not as present as I used to be, that’s because I have deleted these apps from my phone. Oh my gosh! This has been a Godsend! My clarity of thought has improved, I do not get anxious as easily, I am much more focused and I get more done! After all, did we not have rich and fulfilled lives before the existence of these mediums?
  1. Avoiding toxic people. You can just smell them before they enter the room. They stare at you, beckoning you into their poisonous atmosphere. I am having none of it! If I suspect you are carrying bad vibes in your aura, I’m gone to tomorrow. There is not much worse than allowing a soul vampire to suck your positive energy dry.
  1. Indulging in music therapy. My soul has been soothed with some serious vocal and musical delights this year. I have attended quite a few of ‘Reed Bass Presents’ events this autumn. I cannot tell you how cathartic these sessions have been. I have sat there, sometimes with tears flowing down my face as the melodies and the golden voices of vocalists such as Nat Chards, Ola Brown and Sapphire Sings reached my core and coerced me to feel emotions again and released the numbness I used for protection.
  1. Being mindful of my thoughts. I am not going to sit here and pretend that everything is ‘cook & curry’ (as many Jamaicans would say. Meaning ‘everything is okay’); it’s not. I have had some really dark days (and still do), when I allow my mind to think about the dire possibilities i.e. the cancer returning, having to have another operation or worse still, leaving my daughter without a mum. Or sometimes, I try and reconcile what has happened to me. Some days I still find it difficult to believe that I had cancer. It’s weird. But lately I have had to remind myself of the energies that I am attracting when I think about these things. I believe that you attract the energy you focus on the most. I want to live a life that is full of fun experiences, magical moments and lots of happiness. Therefore, I actively choose to think about the endless positive experiences coming my way, in order to think the right elements into existence.

workout-1931107_12806. Partaking in Pilates classes. I used to think holistic classes such as Yoga and Pilates were boring. As a former Zumba instructor, I was used to loud music, high impact jumping and pumping. That certainly has its place, however what has been so lovely about Pilates is that I have been able to show kindness to my body whilst still challenging it. It’s going to be a while before I can bounce (I’m still healing from the operation), so Pilates offers me a way of staying toned in a way that will not interfere with my healing. Plus, the relaxing environment and serenity leave me feeling renewed and chilled out.

  1. Not caring so much about what people think about me. I have just gone through the most traumatic experience of my life and for the most part, I was very public about it (as it helped me to deal with the enormity of it all). Compared to this, most previously little stressful events, now feel like an ant scratching a giant’s foot. They just aren’t relevant.

25182113_10160077279240221_5819973162538717592_o8. Being completely present when playing with my daughter. Prior to my diagnosis, I was guilty of utilising a double consciousness when spending so called ‘quality time’ with my daughter. Half my mind was in the activity in which we were engaged and the other half was in: work, my list of chores, who I needed to email next, etc… It wasn’t fair on her. Now, I put down my phone, turn off the TV, I actively listen to all the important words coming out of her mouth and I dedicate chunks of time when I am completely hers. What played in my mind many times when I first found out I had cancer was ‘I can’t leave her.’ So why would I choose to be here and not be present in her life now?

 

  1. Meditating. I am very conscious of the fact that stress can lower the immune system and that when it is lowered, you are at greater risk from getting a disease. So, meditation offers a great way to de-stress. When all is quiet, I sit on my sofa or bed, switch off the lights and either listen to some meditation music, or sit in silence. This leaves me feeling clear of the brain fog and much more relaxed. I have on occasion, woken up with very stiff crossed legs.
  1. Following my dreams. When I was at my mum’s house recovering for weeks on end, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I really wanted to do. For a few months after that, I dismissed those things as pipe dreams but now that I have started to seriously focus on that which I truly desire, I’m already starting to reach for those dreams. I am not saying much now but I will say: You’d better keep watching this space. 😊 

 

***If you want to keep up with my continued journey to stay cancer-free, subscribe to this blog below. ***

Zumbathon for Breast Cancer Care

“I’m a bit sensitive and don’t want to be a blubbering mess. Is it okay to come back to you by Tuesday with a reply?”

P1020859

About 2 weeks ago a long-standing Zumba colleague, Andrea Edwards, told me she and her Zumba partner Helen Challis, were having a Zumbathon in Tipton for Breast Cancer Care. This is just one of the charities that took great care of me whilst I was going through my cancer ordeal. Andrea had asked me to speak for a few minutes about my experience and to create awareness of the disease.

Though I have happily shouted from the roof tops on social media about my experience, being faced with a hall full of ladies, telling them about my experience and having my breasts stared at (because people do look – it’s natural I guess), unnerved me. I am still wrapping my head around what has happened and sometimes I do get tearful. I didn’t want that to happen in front of an audience.

However, my fear of breaking down was not realised. I did my 5 minute speech where I warned women to:

  1. Watch out for signs of breast cancer: dimpled skin, dry skin, inverted nipple, nipple discharge as well as the notorious lump
  2. Insist on getting genetically tested for BC if your mum, sister or auntie had breast cancer.
  3. Act quickly if they do find anything untoward as early detection saves lives.

 

p1020868.jpgThe event was full of joyful vibes, it was visually poppin’ and so well organised. The atmosphere was buzzing! About 200 people came adorned in their pink, reppin’ for Breast Cancer Awareness

Though I still can’t bounce due to my scars (they hurt like hell when aggravated), I did what I could. I remembered why I fell in love with Zumba in the first place. My heart nearly exploded with joy when I led my routine to Mr Vegas’ ‘I am Blessed’.

Thank you so much to Andrea and Helen for inviting me to your much needed event. You are fab instructors who clearly mean a lot to your local community, this is evidenced by the great turn out. 

In my hospital bed, about 4 days after surgery, I said to myself “I want to speak to other women about breast cancer so that this disease kills less people.”

I guess I have now started on that journey and…

…it feels right. 

 

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