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 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. 😊 

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?”

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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. 

 

Blowing Darkness a Goodbye Kiss

Thailand 2007

Bangkok 2007

I am my own angel but never knew it! I wrote this poem back in 2007. Ten years ago! I wonder if I had followed my own advice to the letter, if I would have still been diagnosed with breast cancer? Perhaps I felt I was too radical at the time and was just being a conspiracy theorist.

I don’t support everything I wrote back then. For instance, I no longer eat meat and I am very respectful of medical professionals in general. Their knowledge, skills and understanding around cancer, saved my life. However, I know there is a lot of truth to the research I did. What I am saying is, that when profit-making is connected to our health and well-being, there has to be adequate levels of supply and demand. We just need to be informed so that we remain healthy individuals and not merely bodies from which our illness make corporations billions of pounds yearly. 

Read it, and take away what you need.

Blowing Darkness a Goodbye Kiss

by Rebbecca Hemmings 2007 (c) 

Recently I made a decision

If you let it, the system will kill you

And I’m not ready to go, so

I’m on a natural tip

No more cows’ milk; its Soya all the way

The taste is an acquired one

But preferable to decay

 

The caffeine that used to get me hyper

Has now all but disappeared

Recent reports say it causes stunted growth

Now I’m not the tallest person in the world so

I guess the damage has been done

But bun that cos I’m more informed now

We’re eating goat, we’re savouring  lamb,

Yamming foul, consuming ham

Cancer causing carcinogens

Make your blood cark, it’s dark!

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Now I’m not preaching

I suppose I’m just teaching

Blowing darkness a goodbye kiss

Breaking news; ignorance is not bliss

 

I’d be lying if I said I don’t eat meat, Chicken is the one!

Giving that up ain’t no easy feat

I have to work on them one by one

But the levels of consumption

Have seriously depleted,

One more step to getting the pharmaceuticals defeated

 

Cos you understand that don’t you?

It’s important you understand

If we all lead a natural lifestyle

We’d be taking money from the man

You understand?

They make billions from the tablets, and the medicines we digest

They don’t want you to get better

“Take these pills and get plenty of bed rest”

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Now I’m not preaching

I suppose I’m just teaching

Blowing darkness a goodbye kiss

Breaking news; ignorance is not bliss

 

Yeah I did it, I got a colonic

My system needed to purge

I was turning bionic

Cos what had happened was

My system had overloaded

With the chemicals that had invaded my flesh

I started to imagine me eroded

The monosodium glutamate and the starchy Acrylamide

The mercury and the arsenic

Not forgetting the sulphur dioxide,

Box-side!

If the chemicals were black they’d be up for attempted murder

But their in their nice bright pretty container

Buying them seems to be a no brainer

 

Now I’m not preaching

I suppose I’m just teaching

Blowing darkness a goodbye kiss

Breaking news; ignorance is not bliss

 

So I’ve taken my body back from the powers that be

Giving her what she deserves

To be treated nicely

She likes it, so in return she pays me back

With energy, sprite and immaculate health

And a body to be proud of

I’m telling you boy, I love my new self.

Can’t say I don’t miss certain things

Coco bread and pattie

I have to put them to rest

But at least I know the black stuff

Will find it harder to reach my breast

 

We wonder why we’re all getting fat

Well we all know who has a hand in that.

Just stop the wheel, and get the hell off!

You and your children are in danger

Don’t  tell me seh me never warn you

When your body becomes a stranger

Treat your body right and look after your own

They rely on you not knowing

How do you think the Stock Exchange has grown?

 

Don’t take my word for it, do your research

But I’m telling you

You will find, if you search

Well time for me to go now,

Go drink some herbal tea, its criss

But before I go, please acknowledge this

                                                                                   

I really wasn’t preaching

I suppose I was just teaching

Blowing darkness a goodbye kiss

Breaking news; ignorance is not bliss

 

You can see me perform this on Youtube here

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thrive Urban Food Festival

21230912_10155830679126564_3784113278662208686_nGiven that I am now on a mission to prevent the return of my breast cancer and ensure disease never reaches the body of my daughter (and anyone else that will listen), I was more than happy to accept my friend Petra Foster’s invitation to The Thrive Urban Food Festival. The event took place at The Bond which is a canal side, hip and trendy events venue in Birmingham, UK on 3rd September 2017.

The event’s copy promised: a courtyard streetfood market, a market hall, fitness sessions, wellness classes, high profile speakers and panel sessions throughout the day. It certainly delivered upon it’s promise and the fact that it was family friendly was a major selling feature for me.

Personal highlights include: the live cookery demonstration from blogger Niki from Rebel Recipes. She made a Cauliflower and Peas Stew with a  coconut chutney. Of course, we got the opportunity to taste the results of her labour; it was very flavoursome -especially the coconut chutney. It’s the type of dish I would make on a cold autumn evening. Vegan comfort food.

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Mindfulness for Children was a session run by Meraki Workshops. On arrival younger children were encouraged to colour in sheets which encouraged mindfulness and self- awareness. At age 4, my daughter was a little too young to understand the concept of the brain and its functions (although they were beautifully described). However, I loved watching how engrossed the other children were as they created their glitter jars, shook them and watched the particles settle like the thoughts in their mind when they indulge in moments of stillness. 

By far my favourite aspect of the day were the talks. Particularly that of Nutritional Therapist & Health Concierge Daniela Lawler. She led a session on children and nutrition. It was packed full of information that could serve people of all ages such as: The fact that many people in this country (and especially those with darker skins), lack Vitamin D. This prevents the body from absorbing calcium. Without it, we are susceptible to a wide range of health difficulties including: diseases, cognitive impairment and asthma. It got me thinking about it being a possible cause of my cancer.

Also, Potassium Sorbate, Anthocyanins, citric acid, acesulfame and sucralose are all on the label of the popular children’s drink: Fruit Shoot and they are also E numbers. She stated that manufacturers have gotten around the loophole of having the list any E numbers by calling them by their other chemical names. Shocking! 

She packed so much information into the session that there wasn’t time remaining at the end for questions (though she spoke to individuals outside afterwards). I honestly did not mind though, as I thought the knowledge she shared was  valuable and eye-opening. If I wanted to know more, I could do as she suggested and the research documents she would send for being a new member of her mailing list. 

Other smaller (but just as significant) features of the day were: being convinced that I could eat and like pecan nuts by the charming gentleman of True North. I tasted the Almond Pecan Crunch and consequently brought a pack. 

Cakes & Ish sold a mouth-drooling mushroom curried pattie. I had to track them down on Facebook to find out where I could buy more.

The £10 (worth £20) goody bag sold by Thrive was well worth money. It was a great way to try a load of new and exciting P1020832snacks, teas and other nutritionally kind products without having to rob the bank to do so. As, I have to be frank and say that I found some of the prices in the market hall substantially higher than I felt necessary. The Salted Caramel Coconut Peaks by Inspirational and the Maple and Cinnamon Roll protein balls by DC Wholefoods were delectable and very energising! I will be buying more! 

So well done Thrive Festival, you have found yourself a repeat customer. I look forward to the next event! 

 

It Ain’t Over ‘til I Say it’s Over!

I have started to speak with a cancer psychologist about my thoughts with regards to having had cancer. In my first session, she explained that it is only now after the cancer has gone that I am beginning to experience the shock of the entire experience from diagnosis to surgery. In order to process it healthily, she has advised I face what I am feeling instead of masking it. In this blog, I am attempting to do just that. So, I apologise now for it not being one of my most positive reads.

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Chemtrails

It’s been a month since I was told that I am cancer-free. I can’t stress enough how much of a relief that is. It’s amazing! But there is a caveat. I know this because I keep hearing Cancer’s voice creeping into my thoughts: “It ain’t over ‘til I say it’s over” she warns menacingly. The worst thing is, I know she speaks the truth.

I know exactly what she means, because I have already seen the evidence. What she means by ‘it’, is the horror and terror that reigns at the mere mentioning of her name. I may have gotten a green pass for now but being a new member of the Cancer Community, I am seeing online friends from all over the world still doing their utmost best to oust her from their lives. I watch the updates praying for a great outcome for them but with each tale of metastasis, further chemo treatment and trips to Mexico to find a cure, I get extremely fearful. I am terrified at the thought that cancer is surreptitiously steaming through their cells like a submarine carrying a ballistic missile. The damage she can do is uncontrollable. She takes away lives, loved-ones, hopes, dreams, aspirations, new families, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters. I could go on.

…and I feel all of this.

Every time I see the TV adverts begging for help to find a cure, every time I hear someone new gets a diagnosis, every time I feel a twinge in the place she was removed, every time I see someone living an extremely unhealthy lifestyle, every time a person feels awkward around me because (I assume) they can’t deal with the notion of me having had cancer, every time I crave sugar and indulge but then wonder if I am feeding some undetected cancer, every time I see a chemtrail, every time I see my daughter frown at the vegan meal I made for her because she would prefer chicken, every time I hear of someone’s cancer returning

I feel it.

She makes me feel it!

Every time.

So I guess, until I find some other evidence to counteract the narrative, she is right: it ain’t over ’til she says it is.

Bangin’ Joints & Cancer

I remember about 2 weeks before my mastectomy surgery, I was getting ready for a party. It’s was my friend Petra’s 20170520_220419 40th birthday so it was a big deal. I was looking forward to celebrating with her. I knew there would great people, tasty food and some bangin’ joints (just to be clear that means ‘extra good music’, not any other kind of joint). I hadn’t been out for a few months prior to this night and I was particularly keen to release some tension on the dance floor (I love to dance) as the last few weeks had been considerably taxing mentally.

I had put on my favourite white shorts playsuit, pulled my hair up into a curly bun and was applying my make up in the mirror. I had DJ Milktray playing in the background. He is a motivational DJ from London who knows how to hype up the airwaves. I was swaying whilst applying the finishing touches to my mascara. My mood was that of excitement and ready to par-tay! “You look good” I thought to myself and I admired the image staring back at my entire being.

Then it was if someone had yanked out the plug from my mp3 player, switched the bedroom light off and a shone a harsh spotlight under my chin. You know the kind of lighting that shows up every bump, lump and blemish? For the first time, I looked at myself seriously as all those wonderful feelings fell to the floor like a broken vase and were replaced by a hunk of dead mass in my insides oozing with the pains of my current situation. “…but you have cancer”. For the first time in 4 weeks, it had finally hit home. I had cancer; it was very real. It whacked me like a mallet to the head.

Officially Cancer-Free

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Posted on Facebook on 23.7.17

It has taken a while to post this as I have been getting my head around the news. Of course I am happy, relieved and grateful but I am also very conscious of how lucky I am. I don’t know why I have survived and others have not. Also, as I can never be classed as ‘cured’ I cannot act as if things go back to normal. I can never go back to my pre-cancer utopia.

What I do is understand that I have been blessed and that my creator clearly has other plans for me. Equally, I will be doing my best to become cancer-educated and share those lessons with those who wish to listen.

I have been given an opportunity to review my life and where I’m heading. Having been faced with my own mortality, I am so much more aware of the need to embrace my life fully. Not to do so would be disrespectful of those who wish they have the opportunity I do. So, there it is, I am cancer-free. I just wish all those affected by it, were/are able to say these words. Thank you to everyone that has sent their thoughts, cards, flowers and have prayed. I continue to recover physically and emotionally but for the first time in 3 months, I can start seriously planning for the future again.

I am blessed.

Thank you God! ❤️❤️❤️