Lately I have been posting quite a few ‘then’ and ‘now’ photos on my social media accounts. It’s not because I think I look more beautiful when slimmer (as some have alluded to). It is because I have totally ‘wowed’ myself as I honestly never believed I would be as fit and as healthy as I am today.
Recently, I found an old body analytics sheet from 2017 – the year of the diagnosis and the year I stopped eating meat and dairy. My body fat percentage was 42%! Today it is 32%. This has shocked me to the core. I have lost 10% body fat in the last 2 years. The figure still isn’t as I’d like as apparently my ideal lies somewhere in the early 20s. Also, I now run regularly! I never used to be able to walk on the treadmill for more than 5 minutes!
Seeing my body fat loss, sparked off my search for more ‘then’ and ‘now’ photos.The ‘then’ photos are from my biggest days which lie somewhere between 2009 – 2013. All the ‘now’ photos have been taken within the last month. So, this blog is a short one really and is definitely quite a selfish one because I plan to keep coming back to this page, to constantly remind myself, how far I have come.
Oh and if this inspires you too, fantastic! 🙂 No really, I hope that you too might be inspired to make healthier lifestyle choices. Our lives depend on it.
….La la la la la la la – Becky’s that girl la la la la la la la!
Excuse me as I indulge in the rapper Eve’s classic chorus with my own twist.
I’m feeling kind of sweet right now. A big contrast to this time two years ago when I was psyching myself up for the big op. At the time I couldn’t imagine the future. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t make any plans, I had no view of what my life beyond that moment might look like. I didn’t know if the operation was going to be successful. I had read stories about doctors operating to rid the body of cancer, only to find huge tumours that had been previously missed, and were too far gone to be dealt with.
But boy has time moved on and my outlook changed! I have been extremely fortunate, and I don’t let myself forget it. I had cancer and now I don’t. Now I am working very hard to stay cancer-free. So, what does that involve? I’ve spoken about some of this stuff before and so I won’t go into great detail but generally:
I try as much as possible to stay in positive environments and around uplifting people (I am surrounded by some wonderful souls who help me do this).
I have eliminated all meat and most dairy from my diet.
I take a vitamin D3 supplement every day.
I do not drink alcohol at all because it there is evidence that alcohol increases your chances of getting breast cancer. You can read more here.
I stay prayed up – yeah I’m a God chick, who knew?
Probably the biggest change I have made is to my workouts. As a survivor I have it etched in my brain that working out 5 times a week decreases my chances of getting a recurrence by 40%. Check out what the NHS is saying about that here. The International Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation states: “ Physical exercise has repeatedly been shown to prevent recurrence among breast cancer survivors. The findings of these studies suggested that high physical activity levels are associated with a significantly decreased risk of breast cancer mortality or overall mortality. Breast cancer patients with higher physical activity levels may have improved prognosis with a lower risk of recurrence and death than sedentary survivors.”
I can’t ignore the evidence! If working out 5 days a week lessens my chances of getting cancer again by such a huge amount, why would I not get with the programme?
I’ve been on it! Helped by my fellow cancer survivor friend Rachel, we have been killing it in the gym and at home. Rachel lives in London and me, Birmingham. We hold each other accountable to our workouts and eating via Whatsapp on a daily basis. I also take part in boot camp and power bag classes at Alexander Stadium with the ball-busting Martin and militant Steve. These guys are amazing and know their stuff, they push us to our limits! With incredible results.
More recently, I have discovered running. Let me tell you now, I do not love running in the slightest. I really would rather not run. However, I am getting better with each circuit around the track, I know it’s great for my health and on an egotistical tip, it is shaping up my body a treat! I have been averaging 1-2 runs a week alongside my other workouts. However, I recently saw gospel artist Kirk Franklin on the Breakfast Club and he said he ran 20 miles a week! He is nearing 50 and looks incredible. This has inspired me; if he can do 20 miles a week, I can at least up my game to 9 miles by increasing my runs to three times weekly.
Anyway, this blog is turning out to be longer than planned. I simply wanted to report on how wonderful the exercise and general healthy lifestyle has made me feel. I was looking back at some old photos of me and I wondered: if I had known back then how delightful and fulfilling it would feel to live such a healthy and fit lifestyle, would I have done it sooner? The answer would be: ‘Most definitely yes!’ I feel confident, beautiful, healthy, fit, inspired, youthful and hopeful. I am what Michelle Obama describes as ‘Becoming’ at the ripe old age of 42 and I love it!
So, when I see my new reflection in the mirror and remember what it took to get me here, I am not coy to reply to the imaginary Eve in my head:
We are Jenni and Rebbecca; we have both had breast cancer and are still here to tell the story. Recently, we have been talking and thinking about the community. Many more are dying of cancer than ever before (1 in every 2 people will get diagnosed with cancer). We simply wish for people to visit their GP if they have any unusual symptoms such as: abnormal bleeding, lumps, sudden weight loss, unusual rashes, etc. You can read more about symptoms here.
Therefore, we have teamed up to raise awareness of this disease. Today we begin with our first joint blog on our relative experiences.
Jenni Harris – From Darkness into Light
On 15th December 2017, I received a telephone call that disrupted my norm, I was diagnosed with Her2 positive breast cancer. I was 52 years old, fit healthy and I was not aware of any family member who had ever been diagnosed with breast cancer so this was a real curveball.
Even when the consultant was talking to me the words just did not make any sense as I didn’t have a lump”.
The reason I had initially sought medical advice was because I was getting a shooting pain in my breast whenever hugged someone.
When it first happened approximately 6 weeks before I ignored it which sounds crazy now, so let me put some context around it.
I had been working out in the gym a lot so I thought I may have pulled a muscle or something plus I was slap bang in the middle of my menopause so lots of things were changing and not necessarily for the better.
However, it was when I noticed some swelling in my breast that I decided to go and see my GP. Following my examination my doctor told me to get dressed and that there was nothing for me to worry about. I have no idea why but, it was in that instant that I thought for the first time “I am worried”. Luckily for me I had the courage to say what was on my mind and I asked for a referral.
What followed was the most difficult year of my life it felt like I was in a nightmare that I could not wake up from. But even on those dark days I had hope. I prayed a lot during my treatment which consisted of 3 weekly chemotherapy treatments that lasted for 6 months.
I had a unilateral mastectomy and 9 lymph nodes removed and mentally this was difficult but, I understood that it was saving my life. This was followed by 15 sessions of radiotherapy. I am now awaiting a reconstruction.
I still have a way to go but I hope everyday that I will be here for a while. I am back in the gym and I am serious about how I nourish my body these days.
“Has cancer changed me?”. Ask me again in 12 months but, for now I want to raise awareness in the Black & Asian communities, and I was thrilled when I approached Rebbecca that she said “YES”.
Rebbecca – Did I Really Get Cancer?
On 28th April 2017, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 40 years old, fit, healthy and had no known history of breast cancer in my family. How did I discover something was up? Well it wasn’t a lump (like is commonly reported in the awareness campaigns). One morning I looked at myself in the mirror and I noticed a tiny droplet of blood on the upper left section of my night dress. I looked around my body and couldn’t see where it came from so I ignored it. Luckily for me, four week later it happened again. This time upon my investigation, I saw it had come from my nipple. I knew that under normal circumstances, nipples don’t bleed. The doctor had later told me that if I hadn’t gone to the GP when I did, I would have been dead in a year.
That discovery consequently started me on massive journey of upheaval that I had never imagined I would travel. I had a unilateral mastectomy with a DIEP Flap reconstruction. The surgery involved cutting me from hip to hip to take out fat from my stomach to make me a new breast. It took three months for me to recover from the surgery. I had to balance the running of my education business, my 3-year-old (at the time), my home, my bliss, my mental health. To say it was tough is a monumental understatement.
However, I am now 18 months post-surgery and I am cancer-free! Suddenly, I feel as though, not only my head, but my entire body has been elevated out of deep water. I am on safe ground and I am renewed. I can look back without asking: “Why me?”, “Did I really get cancer?” or “Am I going to die soon?” Now I am making positive changes to improve my health and to avoid getting any type of cancer in the future.
I can say with certainty that cancer has changed me, for the better. I don’t pussy-foot around now, not with people, not with work, not with my health. I have a quiet determination to not only live a better life but equally to let people know that cancer can be preventable. So, when Jenni asked me to join her in spreading awareness of cancer amongst Black and Asian communities, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.
Last night I was speaking on Facebook Live in my Living on Purpose 2018 group about plant-based eating, and some really interesting topics arose. One such subject was around the types of oils we use to cook. In particular, we spoke about what we perceived to be the benefits (or not) of Rapeseed oil. My knowledge on it was very sketchy but what I did know was that Rapeseed oil has a high smoke point. This is a positive attribute because it means that it can be cooked at high temperatures without breaking down. Once it breaks down, it loses its health benefits and can actually become toxic and carcinogenic (cancer causing). But admittedly, I didn’t know much more beyond this.
Olive Oil has long been touted as a healthy oil but again, I could categorically tell you why. So, today I set about doing some research and this is what I found:
Personally, I need to be drizzling extra virgin olive oil on my salads for those antioxidant polyphenols. But as for my cooking, it has to be Rapeseed oil all the way, mainly due to its high smoke point. What’s the point having a so-called healthy oil, if it becomes toxic when heated? Which do you prefer?
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.
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 awesomeonce 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 Ihold in my tool bag, almost feel sorry for any negativity that comes its way – almost.
In my bid to help people live happy,healthier lives I am setting a challenge called ‘Meat Who?’ In order to take part, you must be a member of the ‘Living on Purpose 2018’ Facebook group (see details below).
The challenge is to simply not eat meat from 9am on Monday 15th January 2018 to 11:59 pm on 19th January 2018.
There are already lots of people who have signed up to the group who are taking part in the challenge, so you will have lots of support. I and others will share plant-based recipes, motivational messages, videosand lots of encouragement.
There are many benefits to eliminating meat from your diet or reducing the amount you eat which include: disease prevention (including cancer, diabetes and heart disease), an improved immune system, weight loss, it’s money-saving (vegetables and pulses are generally cheaper than meat), helping to save the planet and reducing cruelty to animals. Whatever your reason taking part, you will definitely benefit.
The aim is that after the challenge, you are able to have at least one meal a day without meat, thus reducing your level of consumption and consequently improving your health.
Don’t eat meat
Avoid fish (as much of it contains heavy metals) but if you really can’t, then just eat it! Eliminating meat alone is a massive move.
You can still eat animal products such as dairy and eggs. Though if you are working on becoming vegan, try to reduce the amount you consume.
Living on Purpose 2018 is a Facebook group. The aim of the group is to encourage you to find fulfilment, encourage healthy living and to help you to live life on your own terms.
Photo credit: Gavin Telfer
It has been set up by me, Rebbecca Hemmings of www.becksinthecity.co.uk 2017 was the year the severely shook my core after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m lucky, after having a bilateral mastectomy, I can now claim that I am cancer-free. Many people have been denied the blessing that I have, so I feel compelled not waste the gift of a second chance but instead choose to live on purpose. It’s scary, its risky but most of all, it’s exciting!
It’s a place to set shiny new ambitious goals, share articles – recipes – quotes – ambitions, to be brave and to feel the fear and do it anyway. I share exclusive videos, blogs and posts designed to motivate, inspire and help you to work on becoming the best version of you.
I invite you to do the same. Use the group to be inspired to live your life purposefully. Go beyond merely making wishes, set your intention, make a plan and start taking steps towards finally making your dreams a reality.
This morning I awoke with an appetite for American fluffy pancakes. As with many dishes, these days I am having to rethink how I cook without eggs and dairy.
Just in case you are wondering why I no longer eat these: Eggs have been associated with an increased risk breast cancer, read more here. Dairy too would increase my chances of getting a breast cancer recurrence as can be seen from this report. Whilst, I would love to be eating the once enjoyed dairy and egg based pancakes I once did, I love my life much more.
One aspect I am really loving about this plant-based journey is that I am constantly being introduced to new foods. I was given a bag of brownteff flour from a friend yesterday. Teff is a grain grown and widely used in Ethiopia. It has a huge range of health benefits including: balancing blood sugar, being gluten free (though if you wish to make this dish gluten free you will need to eliminate the white flour), assisting digestion and elimination due to its high fibre content, being low fat and it actually tastes really good. Therefore, this formed my main ingredient for the pancakes.
This method of making pancakes was pretty much a trial and error job. Don’t be put off by the vinegar as you won’t taste it at all. As an acid, it is added to produce carbon dioxide. It reacts with the baking powder to help the pancakes rise. I might add a little more baking powder next time to help them become a little fluffier, but other than that, I am proud of my accomplishment. I ate them with maple syrup and seasoned baked beans (made with onion and black pepper).
You don’t have to be vegan or consciously living a plant-based lifestyle to give these a try but you will most certainly gain from its benefits.
2 tbsp brown teff flour
2 tbsp white flour
1 tsp white wine vinegar
A dash of vanilla essence
1 tbsp coconut sugar (or any sugar you like)
1-2 tsp baking powder
150 ml almond milk
2-3 tbsp Rapeseed oil
Makes 6 – 8 pancakes
Mix all the dry ingredients together
Add the milk, vinegar and vanilla essence and mix thoroughly
Add rapeseed oil to a skillet of frying pan
Use a ladle to add the mixture in oval shapes to the hot oil
As soon as you see the edge of the pancakes begin to harden, turn them over