She said ‘Yes’!

She said ‘Yes!’

Breast cancer survivors: Jenni & I!

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.

Meat Who? Challenge

Challenge_ Don't eat meat for 5 days15th Jan 18 - 19th Jan 18In 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, videos and lots of encouragement.

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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.

Rules:

  1. Don’t eat meat
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Have lots of fun trying new tastes

Link to the Living on Purpose Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/156099701701648/

About Living on Purpose 2018

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.

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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. 

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. ***

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.

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! ❤️❤️❤️

Becky’s Cancer Diagnosis – The Movie

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INTERIOR – hospital waiting room with mum. The doctor has just told Becky that her condition is likely to be non-cancerous.

ACTION!

NARRATOR (who is really Becky):  I shared with my mum what had been happening. She told me that she had had one of these appointments and it turned out that she had intraductal papilloma which was removed and she went on her merry way.

(Becky exhales)

Yet another signal that I am okay. Most of these conditions are hereditary right? My mum had the benign condition, I was likely to have that. I’d already consoled myself with the fact that no members of my family had ever had breast cancer, I was fit and generally very healthy. Of course I didn’t have cancer. Why was I tripping?

I heard my name called again, I knew this was to go and see a different radiographer that would scan my breast. I expected that because younger women have denser breast and that made it sometimes difficult for mammograms to get a true picture. The room had a bed to my right and a couple of screens to my left on which held my mammograms images. The Radiographer got straight to the point:

RADIOGRAPHER: On your right breast all is as we would expect. However, on your left breast you have what we call microcalcifications. What we will need to do is perform a biopsy. We will place two titanium clips inside you so we know where we went in. This will make it easier to find the spot.

BECKY: Titanium clips?

CUT!

NARRATOR (who is really Becky): Now, I’ll pause the action there because it was a lot of information right? Yes, it was. Consciously my brain wanted to tackle the notion of these titanium clips in my breasts that apparently wouldn’t go off at airports. However, I was stepping over the injured woman in the road to get the bus driver who was trying to help her. Cognitive dissonance.

“In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values.” Wikipedia

‘I don’t have cancer’ vs ‘this woman just told me she saw microcalcifications in my breast.’

…and ACTION!

BECKY: So do I have a choice as to whether I have these titanium clips?

NARRATOR (who is really Becky): If this woman was a non-clinical traditional Jamaican grandmother, she might have kissed her teeth and tell me that I would be lucky to have a titty in a few weeks, never mind a couple metal clips. But as luck would have it she wasn’t. Although she displayed a little annoyance at the ignorance of my question.

RADIOGRAPHER: No, you don’t have a choice.

NARRATOR (who is really Becky): I managed to find the words to ask about the microcalcifications. I read just a few days ago that microcalcifications in the breast are sometimes cancer. I remember the word because I thought it was weird that calcium was connected to cancer. Wasn’t calcium the good guy? You know the one we all told we must drink more milk in order to get enough of? I later learned that calcium is the wonderful stuff we all need to make our bones and teeth harder. However, when it is in soft tissue, it hardens and therefore becomes deemed as abnormal. I now know that if my immune system was strong enough it would have fought this abnormality and the cells would most likely not have not reproduced to become cancerous.

I asked “ I know that calcification can sometimes means cancer, so if it’s not cancer, what is it?”

Radiographer: Well, if it wasn’t cancer these white spots we see on your image would be clumped together. Your cells are not clumped together.

FLATLINE (SFX)

CUT!

My 3 Month Cancer Whirlwind

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This was taken as I was making my 2nd cancer diagnosis video for Youtube in early May 17. 

The last 3 months have been a whirlwind of stress, upheaval, lessons in controlling my mind, my diet and my environment. They have given me time to focus on what is truly important in my life – my daughter and family are everything! 

I have been enlightened greatly and have had much time to reflect on what I have learned and experienced as a result of my breast cancer diagnosis on 28th April 2017. 

  • I have learnt how important it is to keep only positive people in my circle.
  • I have shared my most private and most detrimental moments with the world (with no regret – it’s for the greater good). I know that already it has prompted people to go to the doctors and get things checked out. Yay!
  • I have experienced the true love of a family that is intensified when crap happens.
  • I have learned to stay calm when minutes before your surgery, you are being told “You have a 50/50 chance of making it through the operation as we have just rediscovered your heart murmur and your heart may not be strong enough to deal with the pressure”.
  • I have learned that not everyone can deal with your cancer diagnosis. Whilst others become selfless in their pursuit of making you comfortable and cancer-educated. Unfortunately I have had the displeasure of discovering those who get excited at the thought you could die (always check who you are sending texts to).
  • I have felt the power of healing through my body as my recovery is amazing even the doctors.
  • I am learning how to make my body nutrient abundant and thus a hostile environment for a recurrence.
  • I discovered this week that I will not have to have chemo (as it came back on the cards).
  • I have experienced the full force of my creator who clearly has other plans for me and I cannot find enough words to show my gratitude. Trust me, I will not let you down. 
  • I know that my perspective, my need to help others and belief that I have much more work to do, has helped me to deal with this whole situation emotionally and spiritually. 
  • I have learned that cancer is on the rise – nearly 1 in 2 people will now get some form of cancer in their lifetime. 1 in 8 will get breast cancer. I now know that causes are closely linked to our diet and environment, yet we are being told more about finding cures over promotion of prevention. 

I am now 5 weeks post surgery and almost 3 months post diagnosis – the enlightenment continues…