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Aftermath

I’ve been trying very hard to concentrate on moving forwards recently. I’ve been distracting myself with work and a wedding and love and all of the great things that have been going on in my life, but sometimes the darkest bits of cancer creep in when I don’t want them to, and it’s a case of no longer being able to escape it.

I’ve been so open about my experience . From writing here on my blog, to writing for Red magazine (out next month – exciting and terrifying), deciding to take part in the Breast Cancer Care fashion show and all of the press that entails, preparing for my first Boobettes talk and taking my top off to be photographed for a national magazine (New!) half naked with the artist formerly known as boob hanging out for all to see. I do all of these things because I think it’s important to raise awareness of the reality of cancer for younger women. I do all of these things because I think it’s important to spread the message. I do all of these things, but sometimes it comes at a bit of a cost.

My mental health has always been volatile and in the aftermath of cancer this hasn’t changed. It has neither got worse, nor improved. I’m perpetually hard on myself for everything in my life. I spend a lot of my days consumed with anxiety and warding off dark thoughts that often pervade my sunny exterior – but often only when I close the front door and find myself at home, in my safe place. And talking about all of these cancer type things, and living in the midst of all of these things is so important for the mental healing I’m working on, but it’s also sometimes completely overwhelming. Yesterday I cried for the first time in a while. I cried because I’d eaten too many chocolate fingers. I cried about cancer, I cried about the fact I only have one breast, I cried out of fear for the future, I cried for all the other people in the world I know and love or have spoken to who are going through cancer treatment or have been through cancer treatment. I cried for all of the women in the world who have developed secondary breast cancer and know that ultimately, the disease I have survived for now, will kill them. I cried out of sheer exhaustion.

Because even on the days when I’m sunny and shiny and positive, I’m constantly fighting being tired. Cancer treatment makes you tired for a long time after it has finished. I’m also constantly fighting a battle in my head. I’m embarrassed that I’m still so tired, even though treatment finished six months ago. I feel like a failure when I see other people who’ve been through treatment or are going through treatment smashing life, doing all of the great things, without being shackled by a need to hit the hay at approx 9pm every night. I think “I should exercise more, I should eat better. I should try not having as much sugar. All of these things would help me”.

Should. That word should, I think, is the curse of our generation. It’s what makes us apply unnecessarily high amounts of pressure to ourselves, meaning who we are is squashed under a weight of expectation that is preventing us from being who we really are.

I’m frustrated that I’m not right and fine and back to normal again. But what even is normal, you know? And the “normal” I was before cancer (actual LOL) is a normal I can never go back to. You can’t go backwards to who you were yesterday without going through cancer, so how on earth do I expect myself to go backwards to who I was before my body tried to kill me? Apparently, in true Alice fashion, I’m expecting too much of myself and I’m being hard on myself when I don’t meet my own expectations. But what’s that about? DUDE. Stop it. You’ve had a pretty tumultuous 18 months. And even if you hadn’t, why are you expecting yourself to be some kind of superhero? In the words of Jessie J, and many before her, it’s ok not to be ok.

I think the pressures we experience as a result of living in the world we live in, make us all guilty of expecting too much of ourselves, and that hasn’t changed for me, just because I have had cancer. It’s not worse, it’s not better. It’s just different. Life in the aftermath of cancer is a whole different kettle of fish but with the same old challenges of life before cancer even crossed my mind.

I’m taking the day today. I’m staying in bed for a while. I’m not going to check my emails. I’m going to try and stay off social media (not in the least because I don’t want to be inadvertently exposed to whoever was kicked off Bakeoff last night). All of the work I have to do today is done. I’m going to recharge and replenish, because that’s what my soul needs.

If that’s what your soul needs, I recommend you do it too.

I want to be fine. I want to be great. I want to have put cancer behind me and moved on. But it doesn’t work that way. I need time. That time might be weeks, months, it might be years. Decades. I just have to accept that’s what I need.

I’m pretty lucky, but if you know someone who has gone or is going through cancer treatment, ask them how they are. Really ask them. Look them square in the face, tell them you’re ready to listen, and get them to talk to you about their feelings. Even if you can’t understand, and I hope you are never able to understand, because understanding comes at a big cost, ask them. It’ll be good for them to talk. Because you can almost guarantee they’re feeling a bit lost, a bit overwhelmed, a bit tired and a bit like they need a hug. But they will almost never ask for it, for fear of feeling like a burden.

Oh. And I got married a few weeks ago. That was nice. This guy is pretty great, you know. I’m thankful for him every single day. But don’t tell him I told you.

Writing About Cancer

I read a really great article not so long ago by Caroline Crampton, a journalist who had cancer when she was younger. She said she had made a conscious decision not to become a cancer writer, because cancer was part of her past, not part of her present. She said she felt that there we so many other people out there who wrote about cancer so eloquently, she didn’t want to add her voice to the choir – they were all doing it so well, she hadn’t felt the need to participate until the NHS England announced cuts, preventing blood cancer patients from getting second stem cell transplants changed (read about that here).

This article got me to thinking, not just about the fact that we need to make this kind of treatment available to those who need it, but about my decision to write about my cancer diagnosis, treatment and the aftermath.

I hugely respect Caroline’s decision not to write about her cancer. It was literally never a question for me that I would do it, but there were times when I wondered if putting it out there was a terrible mistake. While I’ve been incredibly keen to keep other aspects of my life and my health out of my blog, writing about cancer became my way of processing things. Often times I sat down with my phone, my laptop or a scrap of paper and I’d find myself reliving part of my treatment in tears. Tears which, when retelling the story, with an alternative perspective, I allowed to come out. My incredible counsellor tells me that telling the story in a way in which other people can understand it is a huge part of the healing process.

I made the decision to put this all in the public domain because I was in the fairly privileged position of having a platform on which I could do that and I felt that if something good could come out of my shitty experience, I’d be glad to do it. I didn’t know that it would.  I I felt that it might. I’ve heard from people who’ve found a bit of solace in my words when they were going through a tough time and my blog brought my wonderful friend Kate into my life under decidedly shitty circumstances. Those things made it worth me writing about cancer.

But then I think about my future. I want to be a writer. I love to write. But I don’t want to become a cancer writer. A person who writes solely about cancer. I shouldn’t need to. The tumour has gone. I’m still here and I’m alive. What can I write about other than cancer? How can I create space for the other things I know about and understand and how can I prove myself to be an authority on them, when so much of my life is still mixed up in Cancer-town? How can I persuade people that my words are worth reading?

My career has undoubtedly changed course as a result of my cancer diagnosis and this blog has given me a portfolio of work which, I hope, shows that I’m alright at putting a sentence or two together. That I can do so in a way which is interesting and engaging and hopefully sometimes funny and moving but I still find myself wondering how I can grow and develop. Now that cancer is in my past, what can I write about moving forward? How can I actually say cancer is in the past, when it never bloody is? What can produce the same passion and determination and drive that writing about cancer did? What can I write about that won’t make people go “OHMYGOD IS SHE NOT OVER THAT WHOLE CANCER THING YET?” *nb – no one has actually said that but it’s a genuine concern that I’m just boring everyone to tears.

The answer is that I truly don’t know. I have my fingers in some pies (as one should have often – literally and metaphorically) and I’m trying to move forward but it’s hard to know where to go.

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Tumour Has It

A letter dropped through our postbox this morning. From the NHS. Addressed to me. I presumed it would be about my impending appointment to pop along and see my surgeon and have my new medical photographs taken (as weird and as funny as it sounds). Alas, it wasn’t an appointment about my boobs this time. It was a letter to tell me it’s time to go and have my cervix checked out.

Women aged 25 to 49 in the UK are invited for cervical screening every three years, but recent information released by Jo’s Cancer Trust have shown that one in three women aren’t attending their regular check ups. Whether is through busy-ness, or fear or apathy, I’m not sure, but one thing I am sure about is that we need to get out of the habit of putting things like this off.

Right now, I can literally think of nothing worse than having a test for cancer and having to wait until the results come back. I’m still pretty traumatised from all of the drama I had when the assisted conception team tried to get my coil out before I started treatment to protect my fertility in case chemo ravaged it completely. I won’t go into details cos it’s a story for another time, but all I will say is they spent about 50 mins trying to get it out, and failed. While I was reminded of the chapter in Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues “Because He Liked to Look at It” it was not a pleasant experience for anyone, least of all me.

So yeah. I get that revealing your lady parts to a doctor is not a particularly nice thing to have to do but, and I understand that having a test for cancer can be a bit scary and a bit overwhelming –  but it is imperative. And actually it’s not all that bad. Sounds like a stupid thing to say but the more relaxed you are, the easier it is. It’s a bit uncomfortable but it’s much, much better than the alternative.

According to Jo’s Trust “cervical screening is 80–90% reliable and can prevent 60–80% of cervical cancers. This means that seven out of every 10 cases of women who would have developed cancer of the cervix can be prevented.” Sounds like a pretty useful tool to me. And it’s like always say when I’m talking about checking your boobs, knowledge is power. You owe it to yourself to get checked out, because a healthy cervix is a happy cervix, right?

I recently met a pretty special lady called Karen. Karen and I are both part of an organisation called Trekstock, and we’re both lucky enough to be in the group of people classed as “young adults with cancer”. I know right, what an awesome and elite group to be part of!

Karen was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014, aged 25. Since her diagnosis and treatment, she’s dedicated a lot of her time to raise awareness of cervical cancer and gynaecological disease. At the moment, Karen’s doing this through her one-woman comedy show Tumour Has It. As we speak, she’s up in Edinburgh performing this show to the masses at The Fringe. Billed as an “honest and hilarious tory of her cervical cancer extravaganza” told “through comedy, storytelling and a poem to Svetlana the Tumour”.

But Karen wants MORE. And I want MORE for Karen too. She’s determined to keep telling her story to new audiences and has turned to Crowdfunding in an attempt to raise enough money to keep her show going around the country when she gets back from Edinburgh. She needs £££ for venue hire, production costs, marketing and promotional materials (including a badge that says the word “vagina”). Her target is £7000 by 26th August.

Here’s a little to do list of things it’d be great if you could think about doing off the back of this post.

  1. BOOK YOUR SMEAR TEST. ATTEND YOUR SMEAR TEST WHEN CALLED FOR SCREENING
  2. Go and see Karen in Edinburgh if you’re there*
  3. Remember that a healthy cervix is a happy cervix, and help Karen raise awareness of cervical cancer and gynaecological disease with her show by helping her Crowdfunding Campaign. There’s a video all about it right here. Find out more about the show on Facebook.

I saw “No More Stage 3”, a comedy show by Alistair Barrie about his wife’s run in with breast cancer the other week and at the close of the show he said “Always keep laughing. Because if you stop laughing, you stop living, and then the cancer has won”. This is very true and applies as much to Karen’s show as it did to Alistair’s. It’s also just a really good motto for life. You can swap out “cancer” for other words including “depression” “terrorists” “Conservatives” etc.,

I’m off to book my smear appointment right now, fear be damned.

*Another of my friends Katie Brennan is at Edinburgh Fringe as well, performing her show Quarter Life Crisis, so go see that too, yeah? Because I can’t and I’d like to live vicariously through you. K, thanks.

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Food for the Soul

I’m a firm believer in doing nice things for yourself. Sometimes I buy myself flowers if I’m feeling a bit low, or I’ll drag myself through a couple of sun salutations if my body is feeling heavy and tired. When my mind is clouded, I’ll try and get out for a run, in the hopes feeling my heart beat faster and feeling my lungs stretch beneath my rib cage will help me figure out what’s going on in my brain. But for my whole life, the solace I have found in reading offers my soul hearty and healthy food like nothing else.

Reading is my sanctuary and always has been. My family joke that one day I’ll have so many books the walls will start to fall in, but until then, I’ll keep buying books and devouring them a page at a time. And I’ll keep noticing and being grateful for the way they impact on my life long after the last page has been turned.

I found comfort with Harry Potter when I was sick. When my brain was too tired to take in the intricacies of a new story, I pulled Harry Potter from the shelf and put the words on like they were a warm and familiar coat. I barely had to read the words to know what was happening, and returning to them in my chemo-addled state was like coming home after a long time away. JK Rowling’s words offered me safety and a chance to escape from what was going on around me that I’d never truly needed before.

The words of Mary McCarthy in The Group and Marilyn French in the Women’s Room helped me establish a big part of who I am as a woman, a reminder of what people went through before I was even part of someone’s imagination. After reading these, I went through a stage of reading fiction set in 1960’s America, demolishing Revolutionary Road and Light Years, then moving on to London pre and peri-war fiction in Norman Collins’ sprawling novel London Belongs to Me and Patrick Hamilton’s three part 20,000 Streets Under the Sky. These make up some of my favourite books of all time – and any time anyone asks for a book recommendation, they’re the first I turn to.

A Little Life; Where’d You Go Bernadette; We The Drowned; The Blind Assassin; The Secret History; The Goldfinch; The Luminaries; The American Wife; White Teeth; Americanah, We Need to Talk About Kevin; My Friend Leonard; The Goldne Notebook; The Belljar. All of these and so many, many more have stayed with me long after I’ve returned them to the shelf.

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I get anxious if I’m reading a book I don’t enjoy. If my soul doesn’t have a place to rest, it gets fractious and I feel consistently on edge if I can’t sink into the paragraphs of something that makes my body and brain a better place to be.

While fiction offers me a kind of quieting, non-fiction grants me a view from a different perspective. Though I wanted to, I couldn’t get on board with the essays of Marina Keegan in The Opposite of Loneliness, whose talent was unfairly cut short. I felt it was clear that she hadn’t reached the level she really could have done with just a few more years – and the fact that she hadn’t been able to reach her potential left me on edge. Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist (current read) offers me a chance to examine someone else’s truth – someone whose life has been so very different to mine – and have it impact the way I carry out my day-to-day. Reading Girl Up by Laura Bates, about 10 years too late, made me wish someone had been able to hand me a manifesto for living like that when I had been 16. How different would my approach to my late teenage years have been if I had a bible like that leading the way? How much sooner would I have found myself comfortable saying “I am a feminist” had a writer like Bates given me the understanding and the permission I thought I needed to do so? I can’t wait to read Ctrl Alt Del by Emma Gannon when I’ve reached it in my “to read” pile and I’m building up to reading When Breath Becomes Air. Bryony Gordon’s Mad Girl is somewhere in transit on it’s way to me as we speak.

I tried to join a book club once. It didn’t go well. I didn’t like anything we read. I was critical of the characters (I just didn’t care about them), I was critical of the writing (I’m really judgemental, OK?!), I was critical of the storylines (I found them tiresome and dull). Then I recommended stuff that I loved and everyone else hated. I learned that probably, I should sometimes keep my opinions to myself, and, while sharing literature is one of my absolute favourite things, I also realised I’m a much better solitary reader than I am at reading in a pack.

Words have such an incredible power and this power is so often undervalued and underestimated. I’m reminded of that old expression “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” and I think this is naive and simplistic. Words can hurt and they can move and they can create and they can provide support and show passion and tell stories that have been previously silenced. Words are powerful and I never underestimate my privilege to be able to pick up a book and read it, let alone enjoy it.

So I want to talk more about books and words and what I’m reading. So…stand by, I guess.

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Cancerversary – One Year On

Up until a few months ago, I never even realised a “cancerversary” was a thing. But that was before I found myself immersed in the cancer community. People mark different days for their cancerversary – the day they had surgery, the day they had the first biopsies and scans, the day they started chemo, the day they finished chemo, the day they finished treatment all together…

For me, my cancerversary seems to be the day I got diagnosed. And believe it or not, we’re coming up to a year since I sat patiently in Lewisham Hospital, watching the 10 year memorial service of the 7/7 bombings. One year since the kindly surgeon in the big bow tie sat in front of me and said “you have cancer”.  One year since I said “I have breast cancer” out loud for the first time. One year since I had to tell my family, three hundred miles away, that the lump I’d found was, in fact, something to be worried about.

One year since the course of my life changed. If not forever, then temporarily at least.

I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to process the last year over recent weeks. I’ve found that, as I’m moving further and further away from my active treatment, I’m gradually coming to terms with what I’ve been through, even though I thought I was all over it before. I keep having weird flashbacks to things I’ve definitely repressed – like when my boob began leaking on the way into the office and I had to rush to the hospital to get it checked. Or when my hair fell out and I told myself it was ok. It actually, really wasn’t OK. The day I laid in the anaesthetics room waiting for my surgery, more scared than I had ever been about anything in my entire adult life but trying desperately not to cry. Trying desperately to keep my shit together.

I’ve had nightmares about cancer coming back, I still feel sick when I think of the chemo going into my veins, I have pain where my boob used to be. My body is still covered with reminders of the ravages of treatment.

Throughout treatment I was determined to make it to Glastonbury Festival 2016. I was diagnosed just a few days after we got back from Glasto last year and it quickly became my marker for recovery. I remember hearing a woman talking about her breast cancer treatment behind me in the queue for the toilet on the campsite. I wanted to turn around and hug her, tell her how incredible she was, tell her I was waiting for results and I didn’t think it was good news and I was terrified but trying to still have a good time.

Glasto this year was such hard work. Not only ‘cos of the mud (you probably heard about that though right?) but three months after finishing treatment and with the cloud of post-cancer fatigue lingering, schlepping, or rather sliding, across Worthy Farm was pretty tough. I saw barely any music this year and spent the majority of Saturday sick and sleeping in our tent. But I was so, so grateful to be there. I loved seeing all the gloriously happy and smiling faces of the other festival goers. Loved dancing into the early hours of the morning in the silent disco with three of my favourite people in the world. Loved singing along to Adele at the top of my lungs, despite the fact I’d felt horrendous for most of the day previous.

Cancer is a motherfucker. Treatment is a bloody bastard. But it’s doable. And on the days I wonder if it was all worth it, I think I’ll remember sitting on Worthy View, looking out over the festival site having dragged myself through cancer treatment and know that it was worth it.

On 7th July, I’ll be spending the day with the love of my life and eating dinner with some of the people who made my treatment so much more bearable. I’ve no idea how else I’m going to mark it. I might get a tattoo. I might go to the theatre. I might run a 10km. If it wasn’t so hot, I’d be tempted just to sit in the house in my onesie and take stock of everything. Suggestions on a postcard for how I mark it.

What a bloody year, eh?

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On Bravery

I read this post on The Pool on the Everyday Bravery of Being a Woman a month or so ago and I wanted to send it to all the incredibly powerful and brave women in my life to remind them that even if they don’t feel brave, they are. They’re often just brave for existing and doing stuff that people have told them that they shouldn’t or wouldn’t be able to do.

So what makes a brave woman? I asked a few of my friends and the internet what they thought made a brave woman and who they considered to be brave and loved the truly varying nature of their answers.

One told me her Nan was the bravest person she knew, because she ditched her cheating husband in a time when it wasn’t socially acceptable to do so, and went on to raise two incredible daughters on her own.

Another told me that people who escape abusive relationships are brave. Another explained that her sister is brave because she isn’t afraid to work hard and get what she wants from her life. People who stand up for what they believe in, doctors working in horrendous conditions and impossible circumstances. Taking the path of least certainty. Another told me that they consider bravery to be “a lifelong condition” that is determined by the experiences of your life and not what you do in one specific situation.

One of my friends is an incredible journalist in the US who works her arse off to educate people on the racism and discrimination that is still prevalent in the USA. People aren’t always nice to her about it, but she doesn’t back down. She stands her ground and she’s making the world a better place. Every time she tweets or puts something on Facebook that I can’t possibly understand because of the life that I’ve led, she makes me think about things from an entirely different perspective. Speaking out and putting your neck on the line? That’s brave.

I obviously didn’t know them but the women who fought for our right during the Suffragette movement were the definition of brave in my book (and this is particularly poignant as we approach the EU Referendum). They were arrested and beaten and chastised and ridiculed simply because they wanted to be afforded the same rights as the men of the country, the other 50% of the population.

Joan Clarke who worked on and cracked The Enigma Machine with Alan Turing and changed the course of the second world war entirely, during a time when women were completely disregarded in the fields of mathematics, science, medicine, engineering. That was brave.

Amelia Earhart – the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932, aged 34. Can you IMAGINE the sheer stones it must have taken her to do that? God, I don’t think I’d want to do it, let alone in the 1930’s when she, and the other 98 women she worked alongside, was aiming to advance aviation for women.

I came across Maud Wagner the other day, the first known female tattoo artist in the USA who cropped up circa 1907. ERM. Can you imagine the shit she must have gone through to express her art? I know people who are shirty about women having tattoos now, over 100 years later. Yep. BRAVE. Rosa Parks for her simple but enormous act of staying sat on that bus seat. Katherine Switzer who defied Boston Marathon organisers in 1967, completely disregarding the fact that her genitals didn’t meet their entry criteria.

I recently discovered the rather magnificent Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) who writes about her fights with depression and anxiety with a candour and humour I’ve never known before (srsly, if you haven’t read Furiously Happy, you absolutely must. It is equal parts sidesplittingly, snortworthingly hilarious and desperately tender and poignant).

But bravery isn’t just about flying across the world and breaking down boundaries and moving things for forward for the women of the future. There really is an abundance of every day bravery in our lives.

I know women who have lived and survived through incredible hardships and have come out remarkably unscathed. I’ve watched people I love deal with terrible loss and get up the next day and carry on with a life that will be forever changed. I know doctors who tell stories about saving lives in road traffic accidents like it’s no big deal. I know people who have picked up their lives and moved across the world in the name of their career, leaving everything they know behind to follow their dreams. I know women who have started their own businesses and been incredibly successful despite growing up in incredibly deprived areas of the country and leaving school without a single qualification to their name. I know people who have struggled with dyslexia but spend their days teaching kids who live with similar issues.

There are little flecks of bravery everywhere in our lives. Isn’t that nice to think about? Isn’t that special? I bet you, like Marisa Bate says in that piece in The Pool, have never called yourself brave before, but you’ve said it of your Mum or your best friend or someone you’ve read about in the news. So maybe you should think about something you’ve done that’s been brave in your lifetime. Maybe you’ve started over alone after a brutal break up, or you’ve upped sticks and left your hometown. Maybe you’ve suffered abuse, or you’ve stood up for a friend who has been on the receiving end of a heavy dose of sexism. Maybe, actually, just getting out of bed was brave today because you’re surrounded by the darkness. That’s still bravery.

The world feels like a pretty dark place today, given the news that’s been flowing out of Orlando in the last 24 hours. I guess I just wanted to put a little bit of love and light out there.

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So. What next?

OH HI THERE. Yes, I’m back. I’ve been going through a bit of time my counsellor and I have been calling my “restoration” period, so I decided to take a step back from blogging while I did that, but I’m here now and I’m keen to get my finger out and start writing for you folks again.

It’s a bit of a weird time for me (LOL – the last ten months have been so normal, yeah?) as I shift from cancer patient back into the real world. I’m feeling less like a broken toaster these days, but some days, I do wake up and feel like I’m not really functioning that well. It’s quite hard to know where I’m going to position my blog, now that my cancer treatment has finished. Obviously, I’ve still got quite a lot to say, but I don’t know how interested anyone will be in reading it if it’s on a different subject.

There’s still plenty of breast cancer related stuff going on my life – I’m now officially a Boobette for the incredible CoppaFeel! so I’ll be going to schools, workplaces, WI’s and anywhere that will have me to talk about the importance of self checking and my story. I’ve somehow ended up being a model in the Breast Cancer Care fashion show in November. I’ve got my first post-treatment mammogram coming up where my good boob gets squashed and scanned to make sure there’s no nasty business hanging around in there, and I’ve got all the usual scanxiety associated with that as a breast cancer survivor. I still have a surgery to deal with next year (and the build up while I figure out how I’m going to fatten myself up enough so my magnificent surgeon can make me a new boob out of a tummy tuck – queue a three week trip to Sicily for gelato, connolo’s, pizza and pasta).

I have humongous visions of setting up my own charity to offer support for younger women affected by cancer but back in the real world, I’m trying to establish myself as a freelance social media consultant, copywriter and journalist. I’m pitching feature ideas, offering social media strategies, tinkering with my new professional website and discovering the new world of lunches when you can’t just dash to the Pret that’s five minutes walk away. Because there isn’t one. And this can occasionally lead to disasters. Please note, bulgar wheat with bacon lardons and feta, while sounding fairly delicious, is all of the weird textures.

I’m still checking my boobs obsessively every day (YOU DON’T NEED TO DO IT THAT OFTEN) and I’m still trying to come to terms with the person I am after cancer. I’m still figuring out my style now that I care what I look like again and I’m still eagerly awaiting the resurgence of my eyebrows. I’m writing more creatively and I’m just trying to figure out my new normal. Some days that’s easy. Some days it feels overwhelming and suffocating and impossible. I feel like I have the opportunity to do something incredible and if I don’t, if I waste this opportunity, I will have failed. Which feels like quite a lot of pressure on the days my brain wants to tell me I’m a failure and I’ll never amount to anything and I should just give up and crawl back into a hole in the ground, and I’m foolish for ever thinking that I can achieve anything. But that’s just when The Blues are rearing their ugly head and Anxiety Alice is out in full force.

And then there’s the anniversary of my diagnosis coming up. Which is weird. I was struck yesterday when an accidental photo I took of Chris and I on holiday in Cornwall last year popped up in my On This Day on Facebook (I so think there’s a post in the torment of timehop to be written somewhere. Watch this space). I had cancer then. But I didn’t know it. And I look so carefree and happy and healthy and I have so much hair. And so much has changed since then, but so much has stayed the same too. But I, we, have both been through so much. Someone on Twitter said to me when they look at pictures of themselves just before they got diagnosed, it’s like looking through a telescope, and I absolutely agree. I was that person once, and I still kind of am that person, but I’m so very different at the same time. It makes me feel a bit sick if I think about it for too long.

So I suppose what I’m saying is this. I’ll keep writing my blog. Sometimes it’ll be about breast cancer stuff. Like being a proud Boobette and (hopefully) not falling flat on my face in The Breast Cancer Care Show and dealing with scanxiety, and prepping for surgery. About my mission to make life easier for young women with breast cancer.But there might be some other stuff too. About my thoughts on life, love, London. Stuff that I want to write that no-one else fancies publishing. Writing this blog, particularly during my treatment, has given me more faith in my writing ability than I’ve ever had before, and that’s largely down to you people reading and commenting and nominating me for awards and just telling me you believe in what I’m doing.

I hope you’ll stick around to see what happens next…