Friday, 29 April 2011

Sophie in Wondercupboard

An aside: Happy Wedding Day Royal people - although I'm not the happiest recipient of messed up scheduling, since my last two chemos have now been delayed as a direct result. But romance must come FIRST! And the M c Q u e e n !

I'll admit I'm sceptical about 'alternative therapies', which isn't to say I don't think they're amazing for people, they're just not amazing for me, probably because I'm sceptical about them.

Apart from Life Mel honey, which is quite obviously amazing. Oh and juicing, which is just amazing all round. And a few other things that I'm adding to my daily regime. In fact, I think maybe I'm collecting something of a repertoire of miracle EAT ME cures to compliment my medical cure, which on reflection is a bit odd for a sceptic. But whatever helps, hey? 

The latest is Wheatgrass Juice shots, which I'm adding to my daily juices. Unfortunately it tastes, smells and looks like something at the bottom of your kitchen bin, but apparently its the most super of all superfoods, and has various health benefits like providing protein, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, nourishing the liver and kidneys, getting rid of toxins, cleansing the lymph system, etc. etc. I won't bore you any more, but basically wheatgrass is Clarke Kent in vegetable form. I get mine from Big Banana Juice Bar, delivered in frozen portions, which I defrost and add to my juice, which I then drink with my nose held so I can't taste it as much. Something I learnt in biology when we ate pears while sniffing apples. How essential those GCSE days were for our future selves.

My dad has discovered the next acai berry (that is a not-nice-tasting trendy superfood for the uninitiated) in his role as food commodity trader. Chia is supposed to be used in baking, but it's tasteless and textureless and can be added to anything (I put it in smoothies and salad dressings) it's a source of calcium, protein, omega 3 fatty acids, gives you energy, endurance, strengthens muscles etc. etc. We'll call this one Incredible Hulk in seed form. See where I'm going with this?

nb. as a disclaimer my dad would like it noted that he didn't literally 'discover' Chia. That was the Aztecs of Mexico fyi. You can buy his here

A lovely blog supporter, Lucy Brazier, sent me a gorgeous care package recently with, amongst other things, Macca Root Powder and Purple Corn Extract. I still don't quite know what these are or do, but I'm reliably informed by the packet that I should add them to smoothies and feel generally wonderful. Er, Mother Theresa in packet form? I haven't opened them yet so I don't know what other form they take...

Finally, the most miraculous of miracle cures: Vegetable Cupcakes. Yes you heard me right, Petit Pois are v-e-g-e-t-a-b-l-e cupcakes that have the power to heal me through joy and delight. Their main ingredient is beetroot in the chocolate one, pumpkin in vanilla, courgette in orange and lemon, but they taste exactly like perfect, sweet cupcakes. This is a culinary mystery, but I'm very happy someone else has unearthed it so I can buy them in Selfridges, instead of wasting time, effort, washing up liquid and various hours of Internet research trying to adapt recipes so I can still eat dessert. AND they're gluten and dairy free and low fat and low in calories. These must be Colin Farrell in cake form - delicious, should be an impossible dream , but actually you so could...

My friend Clare texted me from India recently. She is the opposite of sceptical about alternative therapy. She is also lovely, hilarious, very caring and very spiritual, so I was touched by her text, even though I was giggling inside. 

"Hey, I'm in India. There's a very good Ayurvedic cure for cancer here. It costs £90, I'm leaving soon so let me know if you want it."

I think I'll stick with chemo and cupcakes...

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Spring Has Sprung

Forget the pretty blossom floating in the 26 degree heat, or sudden invasion of pale limb exposure, I have noticed a springing forth of a different kind entirely.

I've got a habit of constantly stroking my head, when I'm at home sans wig or bobble hat. It's like a comfort thing I guess; it always feels smooth and nice and unusual, since my arms didn't have the requisite reach or competence the last time I was this bald.

When I say smooth, its not Dad's shiny bald patch smooth, (sorry Dad), rather more baby head smooth - there's always been the finest, pointless, near invisible layer of down there. But a couple of weeks ago, I was head-stroking in front of the TV and subconsciously noticed a fuller down feel. That evening DadJokes came home and also took up his head-stroking habit, saying, 'your head is so lovely and soft. I just love stroking it, its really soft.' So he must have done some subconscious noticing of his own too.

A couple of days later and I was stuck in blinking hospital again with the same zero white blood cells issue, and my mum and dad there to relieve some mind-numbing boredom. Mid sentence mum said, 'Sophie, is your hair growing? I think I can see it from here!' at which point I allowed my subconscious a bit of air and realised I had wondered the very same thing. Even five minutes before when I clocked a subtle change in the bathroom mirror - a very slight halo of dark around my head.

This is a weird thing, since I still have two chemo's to go, but since my 6th cycle, my head has definitely been getting fluffier, to the point I now have a Flintstone-esque 5 'o clock shadow where my hair used to be. Plus, actual slight stubble in patches where real hair is poking through the down. How fantastic is that?! I am disproportionately excited about it - hence the blog post - but its like a little flicker of the bulb that will light up the end of the tunnel.

When I had my first chemo the lovely nurses introduced me to Alison, who was there having her last. She gave me a bit of a pep talk, and told me her hair had even started to grow back early. 'Pffft' I thought. But here I am, same thing happening, so I wonder if its a common occurrence that some other of you folliclely challenged could be looking forward to.

Of course, it might just all fall out again a few days after cycle 7, in which case, oh well, back to the regrowth timeline I was expecting anyway. But it's certainly never had a spurt like this, so I'm wondering what my body has in store for me hair wise. Maybe even the pixie crop in time for my bridesmaid turn at Katie's September wedding? Now that would be joyous news.

I'll keep you posted. While you wait you could make the banana bread I just did. Its my best recipe yet, which isn't saying much since I hardly have any, but, perfected at last, its nearly as exciting as the whole hair business. OK, yes, most likely for me only, but at least its something to do while the weather's so rubbish. Oh wait....

3 over or very ripe bananas
2 eggs
1 cup gluten free self raising flour
1/4 cup gluten free plain flour
1/2 cup dairy & soya free marge (I use Pure, from Tesco) or 1/2 cup oil - whichever you prefer
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp rice or oat milk
pinch salt
dark chocolate chips if you want, but definitely not necessary

whisk, pour in loaf tin, bake at 180 degrees for 50 minutes. YUM

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Nail It

I need a Handover. Not like my holiday cover at work picking up where I left off - no, I mean like a makeover, but for my poor hands.

I've mentioned it before, but aside from assaulting all my hair, my eyebrows, my lashes, giving me luggage under my eyes, giving my skin a delectable yellow tinge on off days, and various other beauty challenges, chemotherapy won't let my hands and nails off the hook. Happily though, these are damn easy to rectify, or at least camouflage until the beauty assault stops.

I'd heard some nail horror stories - my bad, I looked at some forums, I did a bit of internet trawling (when will I learn?) and was less than delighted to hear my nails would either go brown, go blue, or fall off. But, and it might be down to the juicing, the diet, the Life Mel honey or just good luck, mine haven't done any of these things. I think with 2 cycles left I can safely think (hope! hope!) they won't either.

Instead they developed weird horizontal white lines, and then, I'm guessing with accumulation of treatment, worse white blotches and a funny yellow jaundice tinge to match my skin (only sometimes - that fake fake tan is still making an appearance too).

Back to the internet - the horizontal lines are actually pretty cool. They're called Muehrcke's Lines, and basically mark a period of metabolic stress on your body - that would be the chemotherapy then. I think of them like tree rings, ageing my treatment progress. I currently have 6 lines on each nail, so that works out. The white blotches are nail lifting, which I don't like to think about too hard, and instead cover with nail varnish. See? Easiest solution ever. A few forums even suggest painting nails helps, as sunlight can make them worse. I asked Pat, my chemo nurse, who rubbished it, but if painting them pretty pink is medically advantageous too, then that's a happy side effect.

I don't think these tips can hurt though, so I'm keeping up my Handover regime thus:

Homeoplasmine and several hundred applications of E45 cream per day for skin dryness and, ew, peeling.

Cuticle oil around nail bed to keep nails and skin moist too, and I keep them short all the time - but I always did that anyway. (Except when I had an illicit fling with the Vietnamese Nail Bar at the end of my road - against all better judgement or beauty editor - i.e. my own - advice. I just loved bargainous nail extensions...)

Nails Inc Air Street. This is an oxygenating rescue treatment for damaged or weak nails, with all sorts of amazing ingredients and formulas to fix poorly nails and make them basically amazing. I use it as a base coat every time I change my nail polish, or alone if I'm not wearing any.

Colour. Yey, the fun part. Nail colour is something anyone can do and any colour can be done. I'd say in this instance skip dark colours, they stain your nails further, they make them look shorter and they're a faff to put on perfectly - and who needs any extra faff? I'm a bit obsessed with pink, (seriously, I have pink saucepans), but I think I've found the perfect one: Ciaté Paint Pots in Fun Fair. Two coats easily make my nails look normal again, simple.

A much more digestible beauty solution than wig wearing, or eyebrow drawing-on, hey?

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Breast Friends

Firstly may I apologise for the terrible title of this post, it's the influence of a certain comedy genius with whom I live, and my poor jelly brain not being equipped for a better quip.

Remember that burst of 'toxic friend' articles all the magazines were publishing a couple of years ago? With practical box-offs on how to exorcise them from your life? I think I found a short cut.

Header aside, the post was born out of this: I was having a cup of tea with my friend Leyla, who was apologising for being 'crap' because she hadn't seen me for a couple of weeks. She is not crap. She has a baby, a freelance career, a wedding to plan and a life that goes on, even though mine has stalled a little bit. I know she isn't crap because she calls and texts me a lot, worrying that she's being crap. Also she went to Tesco's for me a couple of times and even took my mum once, which is a big thing, since I am practically allergic to accepting offers of help.

But it did get me thinking, this thing I'm going through does highlight the best and worst in people around me. Its not something I'm actively taking note of, or remotely looking out for, but it is quite apparent. And if I were on Facebook would result in a little bit of friend culling, and happily a few adds too. I did do that classic over-analytical girl thing and try to imagine WHY?? some people were being how they were. But now that I've mastered the boy approach of  not really being bothered, I want to reassure anyone else that for every crap person who lets you down - and there will be some casualties - there will be about 3 who will surprise you in the opposite, much better way.

Some Worsts:
I have to tell you, its not great to sit me down and tell me, at length, you're terrified you might have cancer.  I'm going to use Katie Piper as an analogy here, since I seem to be in awe of her guts at the moment, (although I hope she doesn't read this, since using her in this analogy doesn't seem the most sensitive thing I've ever done). This is like Katie going for a drink with her friend, and the friend telling her, at length, they're frightened if they walk across the street, someone will throw acid in their face and then they'll look like her. Come on people. surely there are better ears to voice your concerns to?

Actually, I'm not going to go into worsts - and there have been worse worsts - since the bests, are MUCH better.

Some Bests:
If you're not here don't be disheartened. But you should think about upping your game nevertheless...

The Wife
Everyone should have one of these. Mine is Katie Selby. I already have my other half - he doesn't need to be named on this role of honour - but my other other half needs her own tribute. She lives bloody miles away from me, has a suburban-born aversion to not sleeping in her own bed, and a fiance and a chicken to look after. Yet she looks after me like my wife would, were I a man in the 1940's. This commitment is so deep she has her own pyjamas permanently under my spare room pillow, and has cooked me more meals than my own mother. Sadly she's already engaged to another...

The Surprising Friend
I feel wrong saying 'suprising', I just mean he really stands out where I wasn't expecting anything -  but Jonny Storey, the first photographer I ever shot with for LOOK, has taken the role of surrogate dad when mine is on the golf course. He pops round for tea whenever he's passing, he fixes taps in my flat, he brings his daughter round to tire out my kittens, and he even terrifies my mum with his driving. Typical dad-like behaviour.

The New Friend I Barely Know
Whereas some 'worsts' have failed me spectacularly, Alice Du Parcq is someone I have only properly met once (she's the Beauty Editor at Brides magazine), but regardless  emails me regularly with gossip updates from the beauty launches I'm missing, funny pictures of Will & Kate false nails to make me laugh, offers help from her cancer researching husband, and advice from her cancer surviving mum, and even put said mum in touch with me, who now emails me also. So I'm covered on all Du Parcq fronts, and very happy about that too.

The Work Saviours
Lucy, Gemma and Sam make up the rest of my desk at work. They saved me from my first day back in the office after D-Day when everyone else was too uncomfortable to look at me, let alone talk to me (I understand - the customary 'how are you?' doesn't quite cut it in that scenario). They cheer me up with boy talk and clothes talk and general normalcy (very tenuous description in regards to these three). They visit me in hospital and I miss them when I'm stuck at home.

The Tenacious Friend
Miriam who lives in Mallorca. That is very far away. And even though I often don't answer her many calls, she just keeps making them. (Statistically it seems offensive, but she just rings me more than anyone else, so the ratio works out!) I should really answer them more because they invariable cheer me up too, although I think they cost her quite a lot...

My Flexible Friend,
Yes I love my credit card, but in this instance I'm talking about Debbie McQuoid. Country-dwelling, but has car, will travel. At the drop of a hat, last minute, doesn't bat a lash if I cancel repeatadly and with no warning, and always proffering new and exciting tea's. She's like the volunteer at the hospital but if Carlsberg did volunteer tea ladies.

The moral of this story is, everyone should have some of these, whether they're going through a tough time or not. If you don't you should get cracking on a B(r)e(a)st Friends Acquisition List, and spend some time acquiring. And don't waste time worrying about the Worsts, who needs them anyway?

This may be hard to believe, but I actually feel lucky to be in a position to smoke either variety of mine out, and if that isn't a happy spin on this harder part of life, I don't know what is...

p.s. Apparently chemotherapy patients often get overly emotional around their fourth treatment. So cut me some slack - I'm long overdue...

Friday, 15 April 2011

From A Wig-Wearing Know-It-Almost-All

Initially I was a wig-aphobe. I didn't want to have to need one, I didn't want to go out in one, I didn't want to put one on even. This is because I was in mourning for my real hair and a wee bit sulky about my predicament, and also afraid of doing it all wrong. Turns out I was right, Claire had to sort me out in the toilet on my first outing, but nothing is easy the first time right?

First let me introduce you to my American Dreams Wig, it is called Lois (that is how you pick it out from the website, not because I have spent any amount of time giving it a human name, thank you). It costs £86.61. If you are in need of a wig, and are frightened of NHS offerings (I'm sorry to say, you should be), this is pretty phenomenal, considering it's 100% human hair. But not just that, its seriously the best hair ever. If you look on the website now you will think it's the drugs talking, but that's the one and only down point about AD - its such an amazing product, but I bet a lot of people miss out from fear of an instant Chav-over. I mean honestly - this is my one:

Since Claire is officially in charge of my head, she has dealt with all three of my wigs. The first one was good, a bit helmet head-y for me (this apparently is because it is sewn in a spiral around the crown, rather than along a parting, which looks more natural), but good quality. Although I had stuck plasters all along the inside to try and stop it rubbing. And it made me a little bit sad every time I went to the toilet at work because when I had to glimpse in the mirror, I basically saw a wig with eyes. And DadJokes just couldn't stop adjusting it or telling me to adjust it. On the bus this is not ideal.

The extent of my love and gratitude to my Lois wig is thus: I didn't wash it for, erm, I'm really ashamed to tell you this, 3 months. I was afraid I couldn't make it look the same, and there was always an occasion where I needed it so the wash had to wait till tomorrow. Horrendously gross I know, but that is what dry shampoo is for. (When I washed it the water ran grey for about ten minutes. I don't recommend taking this approach).

So now that it is getting a little hotter, and I am also in love with my ginger wig (from Trendco btw, but even with elastic cut out, too tight so I get a headache when I wear it all day. Beauty is pain according to Frenchie, so Ibuprofen is my friend), I asked Claire to cut Lois for me, but not before I asked her to get me the exact same one in a lighter colour. Shamefully I'm like that with handbags too: if you love it, stock up in all the colours before it sells out. Again, not a recommended approach.

So, some tips from an every day wig wearer:

Colour: Initially go as natural as possible so you don't get freaked out by the transition. In fact, make sure you get one way before your hair starts to go so you have 'emergency' hair waiting for you in the spare room.
When your lashes and brows start to fade, it makes you look paler and, weirdly, like a blonder version of yourself, so then you need to go a little lighter (if you have a real hair wig, you can get it dyed, if its synthetic you can get another one for hardly any money!)
If you're like Claire you should go pink, since she says, take full advantage of the situation and have the hair colour you always wanted. Granted most people are not like Claire...

Cut: Get someone to cut it for you if you can be bothered. I quite liked my Lois out of the packet, but thats because I had no hair, so suddenly a swingy, shiny, LA blowdry looked AMAZING. It did not particularly, in fact Claire was stupefied, so she cut it and then it really did. This is the best way to get your wig disguised as a non-wig.
Also, keep cutting it for fun, a change is exciting like new shoes.

Style: Human hair you can do anything to: dry shampoo, tongs, salt spray (these are my three wig essentials), bit of clay in the ends, texturiser, hairspray, irons...Just be happy in the knowledge you can style your hair really easily because you can see the back (result!), plus you can take it off at night, so you never have a BHD, and it will truly last till you wash it. Just do it more frequently than me please.

Fit: They're all adjustable, so although you don't need to worry too much, learn from my Trendco issue and go and try a few on. AD ones have a weird suction feeling when you take them off, so they really do stay in place all by themselves - so headache free.

If I've left anything out, please do email me questions. And tell me how you admire my iMovie skills too, since I am a novice who rolls around the floor in heaped praise of any kind. Thank you x

You can watch Claire working her wig magic on me, plus cameos from two very special guest stars here, if you fancy. 

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Claire Hair and Wig Tips

So while Claire, my wig angel, cut my brown one into a bob (I was feeling like a change, you don't have to think about it nearly as much when it is your not-quite hair), I asked her to do a guest post to share her vast head knowledge, and let you in on her wig secret - trust me it is worth being let in on.

But she produced some soppy drivel first, so here it is. The good stuff comes nearer the end...(I love you too Claire)

Oh and this is a TWO parter, in which I respond with my wig-wearer review tomorrow, plus a video! Fancy! Which is new for sophifeelsbetter. (Took a lot of editing and faffing around and swearing and googling, but was very good for extra smugness and self satisfaction, so fun!)

Sophie is one of my best friends. Our friend-love affair began when we met on a shoot. I was doing some serious hair brushing and she some serious beauty editing (we actually talked about boys, kittens and food mostly and teased the South American photographer about his ‘snake hips’). It was love at first gossip. 

It has now been about 4 years and I feel very lucky to be in the chosen circle. This means, going to the intimate birthday dinners, knowing more about Dadjokes than he is aware of, meeting the parents, spa dates, and hearing EVERYTHING first including, sadly, diagnosis day.  How can someone so beautiful, gifted, well behaved (most of the time) healthy-living and all over lovely, have cancer? I also felt a bit selfish about it. This is MY friend, why is it happening to MY friend, I like her as she is, I don’t want her to be ill as she’s MINE!

Funny though, I like her even more now. She has shown a strength that I never knew she had, but retained the compassion for other people and sense of humour that she always had. We even had a chortle in the chemo suite about Katie Price’s preposterous boobs. She has been refreshingly honest about everything and this blog has people not just calling her, but calling ME about how wonderful and inspiring my friend is.
Another privilege of being in the chosen circle is getting to see Sophie without her wig on. I like it. When it was first shaved she could totally get away with it – she has a really good shaped head, in my expert head opinion - in a Natalie Portman kind of way (Demi Moore, not so much). As it started to thin and she felt she looked more ill, I just saw Sophie. I never think of her as an ‘ill’ person, more of my friend who is feeling a little delicate so we are extra nice and drive her to more places. On another note, her pretty head is very soft and I sometimes sneak in a stroke. 

So from the bald and onto the wigs. Soph had an emergency one after the first head shave, which was lovely, but not quite what she wanted – she felt too ‘wiggy’. Because I use them on shoots all the time, I stepped in and began a nationwide chemo-appropriate wig-hunt. Finding them comfy and realistic enough for someone to wear every day is an altogether different business. 

I saw them all; expensive ones, cheap ones, synthetic ones, afro ones, party ones (these would be my personal choice) and eventually found my winner. ‘American Dream’ are, you’ll be pleased to know, very affordable. (They go up to £158, compared to the £3-400 you'd be paying for most.) They are real hair, seriously fantastic quality and Sophie said the most comfortable ever (though it turns out she was wearing the first one back to front, the spaz). It also has a small rubber skirting around the edge, which holds the wig in place without having to use, tape or glue, perfect.

Another thing with wigs is you shouldn’t expect to get one out the packet, sling it on and look fantastic. I suggest you book into a reputable salon and get it cut and styled to your liking. (Just go in wearing it and get them to cut it dry). I would always recommend a real hair wig, this way you can style away to your heart's content and if and when it needs it, just give it a jolly good wash. American Dream also have products available to keep the wigs it in tip-top condition.

I'll pop back on here from time to time with more wig chat and tips, but in the meantime, please keep reading, as this truly is a wonderful insight into the world of one of the most wonderful people and perfect friends anyone could possibly have.

I mean after all she is MY friend.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The Better List

I mostly haven't written this post yet because I was using my addled mind to try and think of the opposite to 'bucket'. As in Bucket List. Since the list that I am forming is diametrically opposite to that kind.
Basically the English language doesn't work that way, so the simpler, catchier, and more appropriate 'Better List' is born.

My mum was laughing at me recently because yet another one of my excitable sentences started off with 'when I'm better...' She told me to add it to the list. So here it is, partly for posterity, mostly for necessity - because if I don't write it down I'll forget, and then there would be a lot of food I wouldn't be eating in a few months, which frankly would be a full blown tragedy. Yes, most of it is food based...

In order of priority:

Pizza Party for 1
Since maybe day 2 of my help-myself-with-healthy-eating diet plan, I have been deeply craving pizza. Above anything else. I think about it maybe every 12 seconds, which I think is the equivalent of boys and their bits, that's how serious it is. Of all the pizzas in the world I would go to Lombardi's in New York, but since I am somewhat grounded for now, I choose Pizza Express. Fiorentina, extra pepperoni, with CHEESE (mmm cheeeeese). Warm chocolate fudge cake with ice-cream. Then my body will go into shock and most likely make it reappear, but I shan't care because I'll be in pizza bliss and will have skipped the calories (KIDDING, I just smacked my own hand for saying such a thing, so you don't have to).

Get Tipsy
I'm like one of those cartoon characters who hallucinates everything like a steaming cooked chicken. Except I hallucinate wine. Ice cold, condensation on the glass, Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc. My lovely parents are taking me and DadJokes on a wine tasting weekend in France when I'm better. I'm sure again it may result in anything from partial paralysis to vomit, since I haven't touched a drop since November, and I am already a lightweight by nature, but I won't be spitting it out like you're supposed to, let me tell you.

Roast Pork Belly at The Easton
The greatest Gastro pub ever? It's in Clerkenwell if you're interested. I went there for organic roast chicken as a better-week treat. Very good, but the rest of the table had their famous pork belly, and the food envy was enough to require a mild sedative. I told you there was a lot of food on the list.

Spend a lot of money on amaazing new underwear
This will have to wait till I'm MUCH better, but it's good motivational incentive.

Country Living
For a weekend at least. Take my best friend and respective boyfriends, hire a car, borrow a dog, drive to the Cotswolds, hire a cottage (this bit comes first), go for walks, hang out and yes, eat anything. And drink wine!

Ottolenghi (it's in Islington - this is turning into a Zagat Guide) Chocolate Baileys cake with a latte. Oh and a Starbucks caramel latte, how I miss walking with the takeaway cups.

Throw a Party
I'm not a very comfortable party host, but what better reason to celebrate can there be? Certainly more worthy than 'I was born on this day, come and toast ME'. There will be a guest list of my favourite people and everything. If you would like an invite, start sending presents...

P.S. If you happen to buy LOOK this week, you will see the source of my Tuesday blushes: I thought the little mugshot in Test Factor was bad enough, but a 3 page feature on me and my little blog? (This is what I was having the painful photoshoot for too). Sort of proud and cringe all at once. Pringe.

Photo Jac Dumont- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Don't Scare The Milkman

Aside from the fact no one has a milkman anymore - which is a sad state of affairs - I do dread the doorbell. I can't buzz people into my flat, I have to go to the big front door and let them in myself. There are a lot of ASOS, Outnet and Sainsburys deliveries, understandably, which I am obviously not going to wig-up for, so they are invariably greeted by a bobble-hatted, browless pyjama monster. I'm still not used to it, but I don't really care that much either. 

My friends on the other hand are a different and slightly more upsetting matter. I have a close circle of trust. Those permitted to see me in all my naked glory (not literally - I mean hairily), are few and specialised. My Mum, Dad, Sister, Dadjokes, Katie and Claire. I even wear a hat to the hospital. This is mostly to spare others, I just don't want to see the metaphorical Milkman Eyes in people I know. All in my head most likely, but you'll know by now what I'm like about the pity thing, so I keep it to a minimum.

Today my lovely friend Gemma sacked off her Sunday in the sun to come and hang out with me. I've been looking forward to this for about 2 weeks, as is the manner with all my (rare) plans, but it wasn't until last night that I realised, since D-day, she has only ever seen me at work, or out. Such is the proficiency of my master beauty skills, she actually has no idea what I look like. This is such a weird concept considering how close we are, but nevertheless, at ten-to-her-arrival time, I feel as if I'm embarking on a blind date.

Should I warn her first? Of course she'll know its me, I live at the correct address after all, I fit that description. But the physical one? Not so much. I don't mean literally of course, but my frame of reference is my 3 year old niece Poppy, who eyeballs me warily whenever she comes round and sees me in another weird hat. 'Auntie Betsy, why are you wearing a hat?' 'Because I'm cold.' 'Ooh, I'm cold too.', so we both sit there like idiots in respective sun and baseball caps. She did just about know I was Auntie Betsy though, but only after close and disconcerting inspection.

In the end I send two blathering texts. 'Honey, don't freak out when you see me, cos I can't be bothered with makeup etc and you won't recognise me.'


'And I look like a sick person, so don't be sad either.'

Then I actually felt a bit sick (but I did have chemo less than a week ago), and put my wig on and off twice, before I had a word with myself and realised I am an idiot.

The thing is, I am a sick person, but I'm really quite proud of the camouflage skills I've acquired through work, through Look Good...Feel Better (seriously, if you're going through this, get to a workshop - invaluable). And if I feel like I can't be bothered to keep it up in front of my good friends, then that makes them very good friends, and I'm very happy about that.

Gem texted me back by the way.

'I am coming to see my FRIEND, with or without hair and makeup. Will be with you ASAP xx'

Sometimes you just need to be told.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Ah, that'll be the chemo brain

Of all the side effects, physical, visual, real or imagined, I'll take the one that turns me into a cute, ditzy idiot, since that always seems to be hugely advantageous for cute ditzy girls in life in general. Long before this most recent of sufferings, I suffered a very different kind. Four years of singledom. I am sure it was down to my floor-sweeping GCSE results, owning of own flat, and non-blondeness. I realise this is grossly unfair to many women, but I get my disillusional comforts where I can.

Luckily DadJokes overcame the extreme fear of being with a wildly intelligent and successful woman, but I always secretly envied those girly girls whose hair gleams and who are perfectly comfortable with their geographical knowledge of Britain: 'Ireland is an island, so that's how you know.' Cute right? It always seemed to work in my circle of friends anyway, I've even seen this character trait as a pre-requisite on Take Me Out.

So, I'm about ready to take advantage. Hair colour is not an issue for me right now, I can live under the guise of being a blonde (I should point out I'm not a pigmentist, some of my very best friends are blonde. And very clever, but not for the purposes of this post).

Next I welcome chemo brain, I thought it was a made up thing (not so, it has a proper name and everything! 'Mild Cognitive Impairment') I mused at how nice it would be to let a To Do list into my life. Little did I know this would be as necessary as breathing, and not nearly as easy. In essence, my brain has turned to jelly. At times it's funny, at times convenient (I'm pretty sure I can't get into trouble for missing deadlines at the moment). For other people I'm sure it's frustrating, Katie is not only picking up my slack at work, she has to keep a to do list for my to do list as well as her own. She really does this.

But mostly, quite funny. My proudest moment was telling my best friends boyfriend not to forget his Viagra for our plans that night. Cute! I've made it! I meant caffeine pills or something to keep him awake, but you can see where the fog set in, aww. As I write this I'm having to Wikipedia words because I can't think of the right one. If that isn't cute and ditzy I don't know what is.

So once again, a happy bonus. Just like pregnant ladies can happily eat for two for a few months, I can embrace my dwindling brain cells. I can't be told off by Sacha in the chemo suite for rendering a brand new Sharps Box redundant by closing it completely, out of curiosity. I can't be held accountable for potentially ruining someone's holiday by warning them I went there and it was DISGUSTING, and I can't possibly be of sound mind enough to realise the potential in this situation for some tourettes-esque mischief. Did I just say that? That'll be the chemo brain...

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Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Sophie Ill's TV Burp

It's not the proudest claim I'll ever make, but TV, particularly Sky Plus or whatever kind of recording device you can have, is a godsend with this amount of sofa convalescence in my life.

But none more so than this week. I may be slightly behind the times - this is the fault of Sky Plus too. Knowing it's sitting in my 'To-watch' box, means I don't feel the same urgency to get the viewing under my belt on time. Plus there's no essential office discussion urgency to partake in the next day.

But yes, I digress again. Katie Piper, My Beautiful Friends. What a massive inspiration. I'm sure you already know her story; beautiful, well brought, up model child in every sense, attacked by a stranger who threw acid in her face. Two years on and she's built her own successful charity, The Katie Piper Foundation, aiming to help other burns victims who are struggling with their appearance and disfigurements, but the funny thing is, this girl is gorgeous. It's not funny haha, but when you see the episode I did, where she meets Dublin house fire victim Emily, (wow, what a toughie, that many years of severe disfigurement to deal with, and she has), but the difference in their attitudes is astonishing. It is apparent, in contrast to Emily, why Katie is as gorgeous as she is. Attitude mostly, a lot of smiling, some very adept makeup application and beautiful hair, bones, genes, of course. but yes, mostly attitude.

This girl has been through a LOT, her story puts mine into perspective. She will live with her visible scaring forever, and in just a couple of years she's already come to terms with it and has a 'hey ho' outlook that we could all learn from.

I think I was supposed to watch this, because the very next day I was told I would in all likeliness need a mastectomy. And thinking of Katie made me feel a bit better about even that. She also managed to make poor Emily feel better by the end of the episode by, you guessed it, making her look a little better. Some clever cosmetic tattooing, makeup, a bit of a 'do, and Emily was out on the town, full of beans and even eyeing up the local boys. What a difference a new happier perspective makes hey?! Katie even says "Whether cosmetic or luxury, be it lip tattoos or anything else, the big difference things can make to somebody physically and in their mind should not be underestimated.' A LGFB crusader if ever I heard one.

If you're not familiar, go to her website, it can't fail to make you feel better, and there's some good tips on there too. Look at me, a day after the M-blow, and hey ho, I gots to do what I gots to do. Her outlook in a nutshell is this, and it applies universally.

"It's a bad situation yes, but it's all about what you can make out of a bad situation."

At least I'll be able to hide my scars under some fabulous clothes. Outnet birthday sale, here I come...

Just a touch on the other viewing pleasures.

That terrifying Phelps family on Louis Theroux, Americas Most Hated Family In Crisis. such quote, "I rejoice when any man or woman dies from breast cancer because that is gods will. Thank god for breast cancer."

My thought: with all the shootings in America, why is this woman still spouting such poison on the sidewalk with no body armour? Brave, stupid, evil lady...

the gently and hilariously anti-WBC

Finally in happier news, original #TOWIE hater (that is twitter talk for The Only Way Is Essex of course), DadJokes, has now let it into his heart, and even calls me in quick so I don't miss a minute. Then pauses it for running commentary about the real reason for Lyd's true upset with Arg because Mark has planted a seed of doubt etc. Awww, another happy day chez Sophie...

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