Sunday, 25 December 2011

Keep Calm Carry On

OK, disaster averted, Christmas is back on! Which is wonderful, with a tinge of argh, since I had put everything on hold until results day, which meant a frantic SIX HOUR shopping frenzy. In Oxford Circus. (One armed). On 23rd December, which nearly finished me off in itself.

So where you left me last I had received news of cancer refuting it's eviction notice and sneaking it's tiny little cousin in through the cat flap, to start building a home just under the scar left by the old stuff. Now I am not a good receiver of bad news. I know many people aren't, but I have reached a level of lunacy whereby I not only latch onto the negative aspects of a conversation, but also think the doctors are hiding information from me or just out and out lying. So far I believed the original ultrasound doctor could see the lump was cancerous, but assured me it was fibrodanoema so I wouldn't spend the whole week worrying about biopsy results. Also the doctor who delivered the news of my non-spread to lymph nodes the first time round was either lying, or couldn't read an MRI, since it had spread there. Then there were the several family members, nurses, phone help lines and subsequent ultrasound doctor who tried to convince me this new lump was residual scar tissue from the op, only to be told um, no wrong again - its residual cancer instead.

So you see, by process of logical progression, a series of scans to determine whether new cancer had spread this time did nothing to restore my bad news receptor. A 'we don't expect it to have spread' from the surgeon loosely translates in my world to; 'there's a chance it has spread otherwise we wouldn't do the tests, plus there's been pain in your bones and liver, yes, sure it's liver pain, which obviously means it has spread, and since the small chances in the past have become reality, then this too must follow.'

I was pretty much convinced, hence zero Christmas plans. I didn't manage to utter more than seven words a day for the week-long wait for results, and my mum actually took Christmas off the menu while we all waited for my head (or liver) to explode.

Turns out I was wrong, maybe the doctors don't use lying as part of their medical practise, and this new lump, which they think is actually just old lump having another go, is treatable. The weird bit is that this Christmas I do have cancer, just like last; I'm facing another operation and in all likelihood another bout of chemo, but I'll take that, with some brandy cream and orange quality street, in light of what I could have been facing. I'm sure I would have picked myself up and battled on eventually, but after the year my family and I have had, I would've liked a bit longer for my body and brain to resume normal service in order to deal with the new level of sh!t. As so many amazing people I know of have and do, and are having joyous lovely Christmas days along with the rest of us. I have seen Twitter evidence of this feat of extraordinariness this very morning.

So one Christmas day on, and what a difference a year makes. But in some ways, not one tiny bit...Hey ho (ho ho)...

Christmas Jumper ON
Merry Christmas xxx

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Happy Anniversary

The good news is I'm sort of tentatively working on a book born from this very blog. A few people have pointed me in that direction, and as cathartic as the blog has been, surely a book will be even more so, with some ego boosting and official 'authoring' thrown in. My agent (ooh!) has suggested I start from the beginning. Not remarkable in book terms, but since this blog hasn't particularly been chronological, I'm dredging my memory for how it happened in real time.

The first bit - the dreaded diagnosis - is basically impossible to forget. Reading the doctors faces before they've delivered the news, not really listening because the blood pumping in the ears situation makes it very difficult to hear.  I REALLY haven't forgotten. Not even a little bit, as much as I would have loved to. But JUST IN CASE, the god of sh!t timing has sent me a refresher course in the form of a shiny brand new bout of cancer. Even more poignant, since it came one day after the anniversary of my initial diagnosis, which anyone will tell you is a difficult day in itself.

So here I am again, holed up in my mum and dads house, awaiting tests, more tests and even more test results, already one operation down,  and yes, thoroughly very much absolutely um, not sure of the word here. I don't think there is one yet invented for the weird, jumbled, up n' down ness of such a quick recurrence.

The good news is it's not a massive shock compared to (EXACTLY) this time last year. I'm more p!ssed off, but that's far too mild a description. I went to a couple of weddings two summers ago, both of which broke down within 6 months. I felt a bit about them as I do about this - what was all the celebrating for then? I'd like a refund on my bar bill please, and I'll take that honeymoon contribution back as well thanks very much.

The worst bit is how tainted all the nice stuff seems now. What a waste. I don't think my dad can afford another hog roast for my new I'm All Better Party - and in actual fact, I don't want one. Scrap Christmas too while you're at it. From now on December officially sucks...


I have a little one for now: 'more blog fodder.'

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Letter Bombs

I won't go into too much detail here, since you really don't need to know the inner and outer goings on of my body on a day to day basis, but if I never have to see another one of those blue stamped NHS letters in my post cubby hole it will be too soon. Oh how they fill me with dread. So far they've ranged from 'please fill in this inpatient questionnaire' to 'you need to come in for further testing', to the point where every reading is like a postal Russian Roulette.

OK, I have planned and executed my outfit for today, I have strategically planned my day from alarm setting, to tube timings, I have left and locked up my house and picked up my post on the way out. Oh hello blue NHS envelope, welcome back to the life and times of Sophie A Beresiner. You have the potential to obliterate my entire month so now, on the 141 to London Bridge, do I open and read your contents, or do I attempt to enjoy the rest of my day with the looming dread of its contents hanging over me?

This isn't really a quandary, since I don't have the mindset of someone who can hang onto a sealed envelope and not obsess about its contents. Thus far I've received a heady mix of CC's from various oncologists and radiotherapists telling each other about the medical intricacies of my cancer. Even though I ticked the box that said DO NOT send me these letters, since I (quite correctly and astutely) worried how my overactive imagination would deal with them. I'm not sure why I'm getting them, but now I'm too chicken to put a stop to them. What if I miss out on some vital life-saving information?

Oh how I miss the days of over-inflated credit card bills and Graham & Green catalogues. I know there's something I can do about this, there must be. Short of going nuts in the Gold Label section of Tk Maxx, I'm not entirely sure what the answer is to redress the balance, but I would so like to fluff out my letterbox with normal financial worries say, and have the medical profession leave my body and mind alone, just for a few weeks at least.

Its got to a point where Dadjokes fields my mail and breaks things to me gently. He goes through some deep breathing exercises of his own, but I'm not sure if they're of the same mental space as mine, or more the 'oh lord, how am I going to sugar coat another one of these to my newly neurotic fiancé?'

It is true, we are a killer combination of Anxious and Anxious-er. Although a perfect match in many ways - hence the impending nuptials - the one place we're a bit too similar is the place not conducive to a calm after-care experience. Thus far Dadjokes' tactic is this; feign calmness, but don't succeed in fooling said neurotic fiancé, ('smeyesing' is only convincing when Tyra Banks does it), hold breath till professional/medical confirmation that initial calm stance was appropriate, break down in relieved hysteria. If this were BBC1, our dynamic would draw good viewing figures. But when its an audience of 2 cats and a sofa, drama isn't welcome on the programming schedule.

The key is of course, moi. My anxiety is a self fulfilling prophecy. So, I have a mantra, I'm trying it out for size; Don't Worry, Be Happy! (exclamation mark imperative). The thing with Mantras is they need some kind of belief system right? Or does simply repeating a phrase so many times make it true? So far, semi good. My strenuous efforts to replace 'worry' with 'happy' has seen me take up a whole load of new (and expensive) hobbies, such as excessive theatre-going and any excuse for an evening out. These things take care of the waking hours, its the nights I'm still working on. Suggestions glady received. Not drug-related though thanks. I have too many social occasions I need to be alert for...

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The trials and errors of a pixie crop

OK, I admit it. being a girl with very very short hair is HARD. Yes I've been posting and postulating about how to make it look nice and what a difference a dye makes, but I'm going to come out and admit defeat; I'm rubbish with it in so many ways. All of which I'll try to resolve, in the true manner of this blog, but by 'eck this ones a toughie.

1.  (I do love a list) My Wedding Day
This won't be number 1 priority for a lot of you, but since I am typical girl, and my every other waking thought is weddings (I work it around permanent hypochondria), it's top of mine. I want long girlish wavy, centre parted flowy hair with my big white dress. I just can't picture any other option. I have one year and counting, a year I plan to spend eking out as many inches as humanly possible. From relentless questioning of all my hair stylist friends, I reckon I can expect about a mid-ear length bob - just enough for some realistic extensions for the big day, if only I can battle through extreme urge to get it cut. It's a battle of epic proportions. Torn between extreme pride in how much its coming along and horror at the puffy sided monstrosity masquerading as a hairdo that just gets worse with every day of further growth.

Um, I failed. There were only so many times I could hear Dadjokes' gentle encouragement to sort my hair out before I cracked and went for a cut. My plan is this; keep the top untouched, then as it grows it will disguise the terrible sides and back stages. Problem is hairdressers do not seem to adhere to my plan, and yesterday I came back from a cut a bit heartbroken at the amount chopped off. To the untrained eye it probably wasn't that much. To my hyper alert state, where every millimetre of precious growth is practically obsessed over, I was gutted to see about a months worth of length sitting in my lap. I'm not sure anyone can understand how much you treasure your stupid, fluffy, long back and sides unless they've grown it from absolutely nothing. It didn't help when Dadjokes said 'oh, that much off? maybe it wasn't so bad before'.

2. Do I stay or do I Grow?
On the other hand I have never had so many compliments in my life. I'm not sure if they're pity ones from the people I know, but even strangers are telling me they love my hair. Work took me backstage at X Factor a couple of weeks ago and Jonny stopped me in the corridor with 'oooh, love the pixie crop'. Highly esteemed praise indeed. I arrived for a meeting last week at a PR agency, and the receptionist pointed me in the direction for a casting. I am 32 years old, I don't get mistaken for a model in ordinary life. All of this is making me wonder if I should stick with the crop. This would solve the (currently impossible) growing out issue, but scupper my romantically wispy wedding plans. Plus I'd need three weekly cuts, and I just can't maintain that level of upkeep. Its just not me. Then there's all the other stuff to deal with. Like...

3. Lady Leanings
I live near Stoke Newington, Lesbian capital of London. When I walk down the high street I am astoundingly blatantly checked out from all directions. It is flattering to say the least, but I can see girls looking at Dadjokes holding my hand, thinking 'poor boy, he doesn't even know.' Why am I suddenly more attractive to my own sex? Does this mean I look like a boy? look like a lesbian (what does a lesbian look like anyway?), or am just generally looking better? It can only be the hair. Either way it's not great for absolving any self-consciousness. It also means I steer clear of flat shoes and rainbow coloured knitwear.

4. Hair Envy
All of my friends and family are now viewed by measure of hair loveliness. I appreciate a gentle sheen, flowing ends and simple ability to tuck behind ears or put up in a pony. And I calculate how many years it took them to cultivate their manes. And then I go a bit green and ever so slightly snarly at how versatile and flowing their lovely locks are. Even when they take 45 minutes more than me to get ready in the morning. Even when they burn their fingers on their curling tongs. Oh how I remember how annoying that used to be. Still, it only takes me three minutes to wash and dry my hair all in. Hah.

5. Three Day Hair
Very short hair that has suddenly decided to go very curly is very difficult to style. On wash day it is resolutely puffy, no matter what exotic combination of styling aids I put on it. And I have tried nearly everything. Also Kirby grips do not grip. There is no helping first day hair for me. Second day is mildly better. This could be due to said exotic combination of products settling in to do their job properly. Its still somewhat unruly though. Day three and finally my hair looks OK. It sort of stays where I want it to, and the texture is more separated and cool. And also unclean. But I'm reluctant to wash it and start the bhd cycle all over again. Social occasions are planned around my third day hair, I just hope for minimal hugging - it leads to hair sniffing...

Since I was so recently and aggressively trimmed I'm starting again with the grow out. This time my plan is more combative, including wet look gel and a relaxing treatment. That way it might grow downwards instead of outwards. Wish me luck, there are wedding photos at stake...

the last time I grew out...

Tuesday, 8 November 2011


Whatever the opposite of a nightmare is, I keep having a recurring one, whereby I wake up (in my dream) and my hair is flowing around my jawline. Oh what a mild and pleasant surprise, two years of growth overnight. How lovely, now I can have seamless extensions for my wedding day, or even another few inches of natural growth before next December so I can look like a proper girl in my wedding dress. My dreams often traverse into reality like that. It just adds to the disappointment of waking up with my hair the EXACT same length as I left it the night before.

Seriously. It has stayed resolutely same-short for the last six weeks. I swear its just stopped growing. OK, so I'm definitely resembling more of a microphone head every day, and my ears are slightly more ticklish, but I see no physical evidence otherwise.

Same for my eyelashes. Stumpy has muscled in where Spidery hasn't been seen since 2010. Its a lash tragedy. I'm having a RevitaLash hiatus too, since my extreme post-treatment wobbly has manifested itself in eyelid eczema. Nice huh? I didn't know such a thing was possible, but my eyelids are under the weather.

Oh Tamoxifen, Tamoxifen, how you irritate my skin (I think). After months of a chemo complexion silver lining, I'm suddenly at the mercy of screwy hormones again. Don't get me wrong, I am happy to have the drug insurance deal, but I'm sad that my skin is drier and oilier all at once, downier (this is what gave Marilyn Monroe that soft focus effect apparently - I'm in good company), and generally unpredictable.

This being SophieFeelsBetter, guess what? I have a solution. It's not revolutionary, but its damn effective. SK-II Facial Treatment Clear Lotion swiped over after cleansing (twice) has restored my skin to a nicely settled state. No outbreaks for 4 weeks and counting. Miraculous Aqueous cream keeps the sore eyelids at bay, and a dab of Aveeno Positively Ageless Eye Serum round the outside I'm hoping counteracts the extra drying effect (that's how wrinkles are made) but it's not aiding my lash growth. I'm like an Angry Birds enthusiast, urging them on with mental facial straining, as if leaning my whole phone to the right will make my bomb bird travel further. The same doesn't work for the lashes either. They've stayed at half a cm since they came back. In their glory days I could add a whole 10mm onto there.

Every mascara drop in the LOOK office is lucky to make it to the beauty cupboard. Don't tell my team but they may be missing some crucial new launches, since anything lengthening or volumising surreptitiously sneaks into my handbag instead. Here are my findings:

Clinique High Lengths - good for coating every lash and separating the stumps, but doesn't quite do its eyebrow tickling job as yet. This is my everyday mascara at the moment.

YSL False Lash Effect - ah, the mascara of my 'before'. I love this stuff. It really gives, well, a false lash effect. But for some reason (and I'm always going to blame the tamoxifen for this), it imprints on my top lid these days so I look like a sweaty panda. With stumpy lashes.

L'Oreal Lash Architect - it has different sized bristles around the brush which is really good for coating the little lashes - my forte - but again, not quite enough. Still stumped.

The only option left is actual real life falsies. I'm racking up some serious practice these days, I'm almost quite good at applying them. Only almost mind, so I'm relying on my fool proof method. Cut the end quarter off and stick that in the outer corner. It's easily elongating, enough to make my eyes MUCH prettier, really hard to f*ck up, and totally observes the TOWIE anti-drag laws of false lashdom.
Urban Decay do an excellent set or four mini bits of lash, that's four whole comfortable photo opportunities and no need for scissors. Well worth the £11...

On the hair front I had a chat with the Philip Kingsley Trichology Clinic. The good news is my hair is doing very well. The bad news is it is growing back at a good rate, and I'm doing all the right things to make it grow faster, but I'm just oblivious. For oblivious read horribly impatient.
If you're interested, special shampoo apparently makes no difference - (mentally I am still attached to my Nioxin, it might be mythical but so is Santa, and look at the positive influence he has on life) - protein is the key. Basically your hair shuts down to protect itself, so when it feels it can happily grow again it does. I need some hair happiness. Maybe a Missoni ornamental comb? That would for sure make my hair happy. My pocket not so much...

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Tricks Of The Trade

(Dear Dadjokes and mankind in general. Prepare to be bored on a par with me having to watch back to back football while there's perfectly good The Hills reruns on MTV)...

Its nice to feel useful. Even though I write for the UK's biggest selling fashion weekly, proffering tips and tricks on everything beauty, I sort of don't believe anyone reads them. I've been sat on the tube beaming at someone who's reading my Tried & Tested page (there's a picture of me on it every issue), thinking they'll recognise me and maybe even compliment me on my expert knowledge/black and white photo. Hasn't happened so far, and since that photo is decidedly out of date and resplendent with flowing brown waves, I'm not holding my breath it'll happen any time, well, ever.

So the Look Good...Feel Better editors day was, aside from lovely, tiring, charitable, a bit tough in parts, (not least on the old vocal chords) also something of an ego boost. People paid money to come and chat to me. Ok so they got an amazing goody bag pay off, and maybe that was (majority) incentive for most, but still, a whole twenty minutes of me chewing their ear off about double cleansing and where to put their eyeliner was I hope twenty quid well spent. I realise the Irish one off the X Factor will be able to add at least a zero on that figure for her PA's, but I'm on the cusp...

I met 15 (lovely) women, and I said the same things to a lot of them, at their request, so it seems you lot have common concerns. Since not all of you could get to London in September, I may as well repeat myself one more time. And for free too! It is almost Christmas after all...

A Lesson In Liner:
When my lashes fell out, my face saviour was eyeliner. Varying between black liquid when there are some still there/growing back, to grey or khaki soft kohl or gel when nothing at all. Having worn glasses till age 27, I am resolutely rubbish at doing my own makeup. Glasses wearers who don't own those hotel magnifying mirrors will understand. So here's my trial and error trick:
Start in the middle of your eyelid. Groundbreaking, I know. Hold your lid taught, hold your liner brush almost parallel to your lashes, and draw a line from the middle to the outer corner. Its MUCH easier to control shorter strokes.
The inner corner is harder, so instead of drawing a line, press one instead. By this I mean open your eye a tiny bit, hold the brush along your lash line (or lack of lash line in my case) and press it onto the skin. Repeat till you reach the middle and voila, a perfectly linered eye line. (see how I sound like a beauty editor?)

Double Cleanse
It doesn't matter what face wash you use - and I can't recommend one for everyone since we all have different skin needs - wash it twice. I think of it like the first round cleans off the dirt and the second round cleans your newly exposed skin. Whether this is scientifically correct doesn't matter, it works. And although its an extra step to add to your already boring before-bed routine (I treat mine like a child who has to eat their broccoli), my skin has gone from unpredictably hormonal - I blame the Tamoxifen - to back to it's juicing, chemo bonus glory. Since you ask I use Ren Purity No 1 Cleansing balm when my skin's feeling dry, and Olay Daily Facials Cleansing Milk when its really dry. Yes dryness is my post treatment legacy.

How To Fake An Eyebrow.
Flicky lines. The trick is flicky lines like you're mimicking actual individual hairs. Remember how yours used to grow and draw them in that direction, starting from the top of your nose. Try very hard not to make my mistake and underestimate the distance from eye to brow. I spent my brow less months of chemo with a   very serious expression, born of nothing but my own artistic doing. Not only was it a surprise to see my brows grow back half a centimetre above my best estimate, I finally could express that sentiment too. The wonder of eyebrows...

Skip The toner
Unless you have serious grease issues - which I challenge anyone on chemo drugs to maintain - toner is the evil best friend to your skins needs. It dresses up as a positive influence in your skincare life, but secretly its sapping all the goodness out of everything. Adding is better, so either go for a nourishing spritzer like Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic, or even a serum like this one which may sound faddy and unnecessary, but will actually prep your skin to make moisturisers work harder and your face look all round better. Which is what we're going for lets face it.

Blush Is Best
For everyone, I don't care how old/fun/makeup shy. Blusher is face Viagra. It is basically the key to faking good health and my ticket to avoiding consolatory stares in the IPC elevator for the last 9 months. Something with a very slight shimmer, and a colour that's not too pink or too bronze is best. I just so happen to have developed the perfect one in our LOOK makeup range. Handy that. There was an opportunity, I took it... Look Beauty Make Me Blush in Flush.

OK men, you can tune back in again now...

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

A Theory Of Fun

I apologise for my lack of posts, I've been very busy negotiating the Nemesis of emotional roller coasters - may have been apparent from my recent uncharacteristic rantings - but also packing my social diary full of FUN to counteract. This was advised by a medical professional by the way so I'm passing on the wisdom. So far this week I have seen my beloved family, Shrek the Musical (awesome), Matilda the Musical (dumbfoundingly incredible), and have yet to fit in Britney at the O2, a sleepover, 2 dinner dates and, oh yes, and work. In a week.

I think the problem is fun has been such a rare commodity over the last year or so that I'm like a chocolate addict after lent, hoovering up every offering that comes my way.
All this fun comes at a cost. my flat is neglected which is not conducive to polite gatherings, so I go out to see all the people I've also neglected instead, which means chucking my clothes in a pile before flopping into bed to get up to go to work, which means more mess and less time to sort it into the zen-like abode required for proper relaxation, and guests. How did I go from being a sick Stepford Wife to a well chore-a-phobe in the space of a few months? The good news is Dadjokes can't renege on his offer of making it legal, since the wheels are very much in motion. He will just have to learn a few more skills in the kitchen...

Conclusion: Fun is hard work. On top of the work work, this back to real life business is a challenge. Not mentioning the residual fatigue I'm determined I don't have, but if I quietly reason with myself mid-yawn in the upper stalls, well, I do.

There are rules (this is me we're talking about);

No drinking till weekends
This means less toxins day to day, a childlike excitement for Friday evenings and no adding a hangover to the midweek fatigue equation.

Scheduled Dates with the TV
Thank the lord of down time for TOWIE and MIC (but shh)

In Bed By Midnight
This is not a self imposed rule but a bodily imposed one. My eyelids do not physically stay open past 23.55. If at home a chemical reaction occurs between the sofa cushion and kinetic pull to the duvet, and the time frame is reduced to 20.45. Rock and roll...

Roll Up Shoes
Yes you heard me, flat shoes that roll up in my handbag. I am ashamed to say my post docetaxel legs are not friends with my beloved high heels. They spasm ache most of the time, and I very tentatively think heels might make it a bit worse. My YSL pencil heels cannot be looked upon for cold turkey purposes, I am having withdrawal symptoms from my Camilla Skovgaards, so I wore them out last night, spasmed all through the second half and hobbled on the cobbles till I could hail a cab. Expensive.

Install an Early Warning System
I think mine is malfunctioning at the moment, but it is important to detect signs of excessive candle burning. These include eye bags (I've been piling on Creme De La Mer The Concealer - so effective I failed to notice the excess baggage), an increased coffee intake (I didn't touch the stuff for a year and now I'm up to nearly 1 a day), and failure to adhere to the story lines on TOWIE or MIC...

As with most things in life, I need a balance. My plan is this: Tidy, fill the fridge, Skyplus some horror movies, and have the girls round more often than not. Maybe then I can push my bedtime to 21.30 for party season...
the most fun I've ever had in my life

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

A Holiday How To

Aside from new records in watermelon consumption and excessive wine use, I feel I've achieved something this holiday. Back in April when I mentally planned a trip to light up the end of the tunnel, and make use of my neglected summer wardrobe, I was looking down the barrel of a proposed lumpectomy. A month on and the news of a more drastic, bikini scuppering surgery put paid to my holiday plan until reconstruction, with a party taking it's place. I just didn't want to feel uncomfortable on the beach or by the pool, otherwise I would have had a mini break mid chemo, complete with both boobs, but minus any hair whatsoever.

The new news of a year to two wait for a complete pair make me adopt a f*ck that attitude and challenge myself to a normal-in-the-face-of-asymmetry beach holiday ASAP.

After buying my two Mouille one shouldered bikini tops in a Morphine daze, I was feeling a little more confident so went on with that general theme for the rest of my holiday attire. Let me tell you, camouflage dressing is a hell of a lot easier in winter when high necks, sleeves and totally covered backs are de rigeur. An obsessive daily visit to the holiday section on Asos quickly told me that a hot Greek climate would be a little more tricky.

First I filtered out all the right side asymmetrical pieces, (they'd require support, show radiotherapy 'tan' and highlight weird flat plane where hill should be). Backless, spaghetti strappy, cleavage revealing, low cut anything. This left not much, but just enough to get slightly excited about packing. I bought a two-tone floaty one (left) shouldered dress that could be adjusted to suit. Plus a bandeau crop top thing to put a comfy in. I later learnt that the bandeau does not adhere to usual laws of strapless bras and requires a complete two anchors to hold it in it's rightful place. but the dress was worth the constant repositioning of left 'tit'.
A simple high necked, sleeveless dress from CiCi with a dipped hem to draw attention below the waist. A black silk jumpsuit that yes, is backless, and even a bit side-less, but is also black so disguises my wonky abnormalities, a heaven-sent left shouldered beach playsuit from River Island, and finally, a waterproof prosthetic.

I've been too busy to book in for my official prosthetic fitting (for 'busy', read 'chicken') so am making do with comfies on a day to day basis. I'm convinced that smaller chested ladies don't really need much more, but you can't really get them wet, and my goal here was NORMAL, so swimming and sunbathing must prevail. I went on and got a beanie baby boob (not it's real name, but certainly it's inspiration). The idea is that the tiny beads shift and mould to a natural shape; it was the cheapest option, so I followed the sizing guidelines and bought a '3'. In hindsight I should have tried it at home first. Instead I massacred my old, useless, normal bikinis and cut out their innards to make pockets on my new ones. I then sewed, packed, flew for 5 hours, went straight to the pool, resplendent in beanie boob, and freaked out DadJokes with my disproportionate left bosom, where vacant space used to be. There followed a frantic Cypriot search for needle and thread (Fred?Fred? What is this Fred?), and an evening spent emptying my boob of two thirds of it's contents before it almost matched up to my real one.

Those in the know (i.e DadJokes) might be able to tell, if they really looked out for it, but it is now day 5 and I've been sun lounging and sort of swimming with the best of them (not sure lying on a Lilo counts), undetected and not too hot either. (In the temperature sense, I'm confident I'm considered hot in the swit-swoo sense, since 98% of Cyprus' tourism clientele are as wide as they are old...)

So, after extensive scientific trials at the Almyra hotel, I can confirm that frilly, one armed bikini tops are the key to moving undetected among the 'normals'. One armed swimsuits, not so much. I sewed a pocket in one of those too, but there's something about the expanse of material under the boob line that highlights the imperfection.

My conclusion is this: Take the lead from your own wonkiness and apply to your wardrobe. A-symmetry is the best form of flattery when it comes to beach holidays, and if you can throw some bonus frills into the mix, even better. I'm happy to say I genuinely forgot about the issue a bit more than than was medically advised, since my radio tan managed to deepen even through the Factor 50. The last few days I resorted to carrying a hotel flannel round to drape over my armpit at any hint of sun. Not the best pool side accessory, but you can't have it all.

The lengths I will go to for the benefits of medical research are boundless by the way, I'm willing to test my 'normal' bikini theory in such far flung places as Mauritius or Bora Bora if anyone should feel the urge to utilise me...

Thursday, 6 October 2011

A Postcard From Paphos

I'm blogging from my third day of a looong awaited holiday, where I promised myself no work (which includes blogging) but I've unexpectedly reached the pinnacle of tactlessness and my sensitivity threshold has been breached and if I don't write it down I might implode. It was during a massage you see...

I've tweeted about how a few solitary comments from slightly, let's say mentally compromised well wishers, took my fragile post treatment state, smashed it on the floor and directed raging bulls from Pamplona to the studio in N1 where I was shooting that day, to trample over it. Since then I seem to be an inadvertent collector of shit-scary comments.

The first went like this via email: 'oh, you have the same kind of cancer as me, what a relief to find someone else in that 5-10% bracket of people who won't get better and lead a normal life.'

Eh? I should be more intelligent than to take on board the ramblings of an insensitive nut job, over the medical professionals who have thus far omitted that important information. But I've already blogged about how intelligent goes out the post- treatment window in favour of irrational and jelly-like.

Having deleted the rest of the email, finished up a private breakdown in the studio toilet and tweeted my angst to receive countless cheery responses (thank you thank you), I bolstered myself back up and set off for the wonderful Katie Selby's wedding weekend of joy.

Granted it was an emotional day, so maybe I was already a bit taut when one drunk guest came to tell me how she 'nearly shaved her own head' (tip: this is along the same irritating lines as 'I have perfect vision, unlike you speccy four eyes, but I'm going to wear those plastic dummy frames because they are cool'. But x 1000). 'It's because my mum had breast cancer like you, and just finished radiotherapy like you, and thought it was all clear like you, but it wasn't and now it's secondary so all very tragic.' Um, yes, VERY tragic, but in what realms of possibility does this sound like a conversation I want to partake in? She was drunk enough to be forgiven, and not even notice my abrupt departure mid sentence, which just left DadJokes to pleasantly deal with the tail end.

My next collectors item was procured at the Look Good...Feel Better Beauty Editor day at Selfridges. An otherwise amazing experience, this year somewhat dampened by a hijacker, who hadn't paid £20 to have a time slot with me, but came to tell me she had breast cancer in her late 20's, nowhere near as bad as mine and was I on Tamoxifen? (Yes), well be careful of Tamoxifen, because the side effect is cervical cancer. OK thanks for that. I think this must be what it's like for pregnant women, I bet they get all sorts of motherly strangers feeling their bumps and proffering stories of horrific childbirth.

So then came my holiday. The culmination of all this shittiness, my reward at the end of treatment, my treat where I'm testing out the powers of the miracle bikinis, the chance to escape from reality and rest properly for the first time in ages.

So while I was looking forward to my first Cypriot massage, I didn't expect the 50 minute barrage of jabbering advice, and horror stories I was presented with.
My therapist was a loon of epic proportions, and since I was doubtless a captive audience, it made perfect sense to relaaaaax me with tales of lymphodeoema and her own mums mastectomy and subsequent demise ('it's the operation; as soon as you let oxygen at it, it'll take over your liver'). She finished with an impromptu 'clinical' lymphatic massage which frankly terrified me and bloody hurt too.

I think I'll avoid putting my intimate medical history on those spa forms until I'm a bit more on the mental mend. The view from my sun lounger is certainly helping, as is the lack of wifi and email avoidance. No offence dear emailers, 99% of my inbox is amazing, so at the risk of sounding a bit Dear John, it's not you, it's me!

Unless you're one of the aforementioned idiots of course...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iSad RIP Steve Jobs

Location:Pathos, Cyprus

Monday, 26 September 2011

Is it just me? or...

So this might be one of this posts where I do a bit of off loading and blather on about how I'm really feeling, in the hope that it will be a common theme among a portion of the online population.

I'll be honest; I'm struggling a littlest bit. I'm three months post mastectomy. 2 weeks back in full time employment, 10 months fully fledged cancer patient. About 5 weeks neurosis about what I'm supposed to do now. I understand this isn't anything new, I'm expected to be a bit flummoxed at this stage, but seeing as this is just me and I'm not so au fait with the rest of the afflicted world, I'll put it down on virtual paper so I can at least record my mini meltdown for the benefit of hindsight.

The problem is this; everyone is so happy I'm 'back', and they can relax into me being me and normal life again, that I think it's easy to forget what a sh!tter it's been. And so they should too (by they I mean everyone who loves me, my colleagues, employers, etc), since it is technically behind us. But while they were all struggling through emotionally, I was very intently focused on doing what I was told and getting on with the treatment. It's only now that I'm resuming normal service, that I'm really thinking about it properly. You could say I'm slow on the uptake. Its a bit frustrating, I don't like being last in class. So herein lies the problem.

Part of me wants to forget it, but a bigger part of me can't, and the result is a pretty pessimistic jelly type hypochondriac who is so aware of my own mortality that I'm a bit afraid of crossing the road these days. Silly isn't it? Inconvenient it certainly is; There are several roads to cross to get from my front door to the desk that I so want to be sitting at every day, so I can do the forgetting part of this deal. And that's another thing. I'm impatient to get back to the old, forgetful me, so I've filled my days with an abundance of work and weddings, ignoring my body's minor protestations and shoving sensible thoughts about napping or deep breathing to the very bottom of my to do list. Until today that is, when I failed to concentrate on anything, spent a quarter of the day with my forehead on my desk, and finally acknowledged my shaky legs on every trip to the toilet. Damn it, I am not immune to after effects after all. Those blinking radiotherapy and post-treatment leaflets were right. Normal life will have to wait a little while longer.

I hope that I will get it back. Pessimism is not a happy part of my character, and I'm sick of not being as happy as I think everyone else is. You could say jealous even, but I realise there are a lot of blows that come with being a cancer survivor. Not least the one that sees you develop a fear for your future. I hope I get braver, I hope I stop thinking that every twinge is something sinister, and reluctantly washing my scar in the shower in case I feel the start of something that shouldn't be there. You see? Mental.

Most of all if I live my life that way then technically I'm not much of a cancer survivor, since it's somewhat ruined my life regardless. I'm not quite at a point where I believe my own philosophy yet, but I'm certainly getting there.

Apparently I should plan something nice for myself every day. That is a lot of nice to fit in. Any suggestions gratefully received. But they need to be centred around sleeping a lot and getting someone else to do all my chores. Now that would be nice...

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

So He Says...

Since my fiancé (how grown up) pretty much has his own fan base these days, I'm posting this guest blog even though it's been lost in the depths of inaccessible malfunctioning hard drive for the last month or so, along with all my photos and iTunes. Lesson learnt: back up back UP.

Much like the hair thing I had issues about how DadJokes would deal with me wonky boobed. I'm sure this is a common wobble among women having mastectomy's so I asked him to write about it and hopefully be a bit helpful. Of course after the lovely response from the hair piece I was never sure if he was saying what he thought we wanted him to. Turns out there was a marriage proposal on the cards from way before then (cheeky bugger been planning it for 6 months!), proving men do actually think this way, so I'm satisfied that women with one boob can still expect diamonds. LOVE I meant unconditional love, of course...

To be quite honest, I wonder if anyone really thinks about what the other halves go through when it comes to a horrible situation like this. Quite rightly so too, after all, this is much more about the ‘victim’ (oops she told me I’m not to use that word, sorry).
I however, think of the grief of the person
with the patient as my mind wanders sitting in busy waiting rooms. I can fully relate to the anguish on their faces and am pretty confident I can read the thoughts and questions spilling out of their heads. In this case I felt I could read them like tangible sentences.

So I’m in the waiting room, waiting to hear if Soph would lose her breast, and I’m thinking: What can I possibly say to make her prepare for this? What will I say to her after surgery? Pre-cancer life was happy happy, will it ever be the same for us again?? I’m sad for her, it’s so unfair, but is it wrong for me to feel like it’s my loss too? It's a tough one. I never really thought it would come to this and in the end I decided that Yes I’m scared for what’s coming next, but I will be strong.

It’s impossible to imagine what it feels like to lose a part of your body like that. Especially a part that makes a woman so very much a woman. And dare I say it, a part lusted after by the large proportion of the opposite sex since puberty – that I
do know about. I’d imagine this is a big part of what makes it upsetting for Sophie and it's that very thought that helps me know how to remain strong and be supportive throughout.
I recall standing bedside as Sophie had a small metal marker inserted into the core of the tumour, so when the chemo shrunk the bastard completely, doctor's would know exactly where it had been.
I felt semi-confident that the long treatment, albeit hard work, would eradicate this mess and the mastectomy fear would be nothing but a bad dream. As you followers of this blog will know - the Chemo did not quite do its job, the tumour was an aggressive Grade 3, so the inevitable decision 8 months down the line was to remove the offending boob. F*ck.

I think by the time the surgery had come around, we were both looking forward to getting the alien out of there, desperate to in fact. Our strong desire to get rid of a whole breast should give you some idea of how painful this whole saga had been. It was going to be a relief.

I continually spluttered as much positivity about the actual deed as I possibly could, I wanted her to be assured that there was no shame in being left asymmetric, that it was medically the most positive action to date and that I loved her and found her beautiful no matter what. In fact, I was the first person to step up and take a look at it moments after she had woken up post op. "Ah ha" I said with a smile "it's so neat and clean and tidy, well done, it's over, it's all out".

In truth, I was preparing myself to have to lie about it, but honestly it didn't faze me. There were times I worried it would, but happily and genuinely it really didn't. The sheer relief that she had woken up from the surgery seeming fairly calm and collected was insurmountable. I’d expected a breakdown so monumental it would require roadside assistance.

 I hope Sophie believes me when I say I don’t see her any differently to how I did before. On the contrary she’s a far stronger and more inspiring girlfriend, with a greater perspective on life.
An insensitive colleague of mine recently said ‘if it was me I'd feel like a freak.’ It was only because I know there’s nothing further from the truth that I didn’t jump over the desk and rip off one of his testicles to see who the freak was then. Don’t think HR would have taken too kindly to that though…

 So, I can happily say we are on the way back to some sort of normality now, in fact the other day, I caught myself singing out loud to cheesy 80's music. Club Tropicana drinks are freeeeee….. Not remarkable until you consider the fact I haven’t done that for 8 months. Meh, the mastectomy is the mastectomy, it will always be there for us but it really doesn't get in the way, quite literally of course!
The two of us are lucky that we can talk about our thoughts, fears, insecurities and underwear needs, so she’ll always have someone to help her clear the hurdles that come her way.

 I will love her whatever happens, should she one tit or not... sorry,
want it or not.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, 9 September 2011

Beauty Editors Day

We beauty editors do this thing every year where we go to Selfridges for a day, sit in a personalised directors chair in the beauty hall, and meet readers who want to test our beauty expertise/get giggly and nervous in the presence of such magazine celebrity/get free stuff in their goody bags. Or annoyingly tenacious PR's who take up a whole slot to try and pimp out their products. Not a great move when you consider this is a charity event, with all proceeds going to the wondrous Look Good..Feel Better, and there are people who genuinely get excited about twenty minutes of our time (how lovely is that?!) but can't book for said PR's being weirdly pushy. And they're always rubbish products because good PR's know that is not great conduct, and getting an editors back up does not good business sense make...

Last year I had 20 mins with a lovely young woman who had come across the editors day event while reading a waiting room mag, in hospital receiving treatment for cervical cancer. I was completely floored, in awe (I get like this about women who have had babies too - massive respect for that feat of terrifying endurance), touched and shocked. She was so young! And seemed so normal!

Not too long after it was my turn, - I most likely had it already as it happens - so I know that she was in fact young and normal, and went through a crappy time but had a nice 20 minutes of beauty pampering and gossip to fill her diary a little

This year I feel completely differently about the whole thing, since I can seriously and properly relate to all the women who come to see me, even the sick or recovering ones (its for anyone by the way, we get lots of lovely LOOK fans too). And if I can't exactly relate (we get some perfectly healthy 73 year olds on occasion), I'm ecstatic to be doing it for a charity that means so much more to me personally this time around.

So, if you fancy a ticket, or know someone who might, here are the details:

Where: Shiseido counter at Selfridges Beauty Hall, Oxford Street, London
When: Thursday 29th September
Time: 12-19.00
How to book: Call Selfridges on 0800 138 8140
Cost: Tickets are £20, with all proceeds going to LGFB - and for that you get a goody bag worth much more, a little makeover if you want one, plus a glorious chat with moi - that is serious value for money people...

And also, because they're so lovely and realise not everyone lives in London, Shiseido have given me a few skincare starter kits and fragrances to giveaway. I need some kind of a competition...hmmm. Best competition suggestions win an amazing Shiseido skincare starter kit? How about a simple RT? First five win...  but @i_love_lipstick me in, so I know you've done it!

Sunday, 4 September 2011