Sunday, 29 January 2012

The High Heel Holy Grail

This may seem something of a flippant post, but honestly, never underestimate the power of shoes. This all started with my original character flaw: massive worry. I'm trying to live by a new philosophy regarding this evilest of enemies; When faced with a worry, try to absolve it. So, my current one regards footwear. Aside from high-diving back in the deep end of hectic word mode, attempting to sell and buy a home simultaneously, plan a wedding extravaganza and religiously stick to my 'only drink at weekends' rule (failing), I am concerned with a gentle worry about falling off the high heel waggon.

Oh yes this is a worry of the highest order of ridiculousness, but if you've ever watched that episode of Sex In The City where Carrie realises she's spent her potential house deposit on Manolo Blahniks you'll be near understanding. Imagine that horror, then imagine such a significant collection gathering dust in favour of necessarily comfortable Ugg boots or Converse, and you'll realise the gravity of 30 odd years of heel expertise gone to ruin. What a waste. All that sole hardening and ankle straining to pretty near Victoria Beckham standard. Those piles of vertiginous desirables that carried me from desk to, well just to meeting room, tea run and canteen if I'm perfectly honest - lost to comfort-in-the-face-of-joint pain. Heel expertise is not a 'get back on the horse' kind of skill. The tolerance for awkward foot arching wears off very quickly with my level of convalescence, so now I am practically a stiletto virgin once again.

I will always prefer the elongating effect of heel height, the confidence boosting, bum lifting, attitude changing, not to mention the absence of Dadjokes favourite 'midget' or 'magoo' moniker. But with my chemo legacy hip pain still limp-inducingly present, I need a compromise. This is my worry-busting mission.

Ok yes this may sound like a very wordy excuse to spend a fair whack on some more fancy shoes, but when shoes are as important to your feeling good as a clean bill of health or a life time supply of Malteser Celebrations, there is no such excuse needed.

So, I've found them. Even before the cancer I considered it my mission in life to find shoes that were wearable for an entire day, including journey to work or even an impromptu shopping spree. Throw in a fancy label and I'm SOLD (Oh it's not just me, why else would sample sales need practical riot control?).

Acne Pistol Boots. This isn't a fresh new concept in shoes, the cowboyish ankle boot has been around for a while, I just always felt stupid/masculine/stunted/fancy-dress in them. This version is boot perfection. Slim at the ankle, mid chunky heel that's tapered for a more feminine finish, not too rounded toe and nice and plain and simple. Plus they still make your legs/bum etc look magnificent, even teamed with skinny jeans. Even better, the Topshop version is just as amazing. Fraction of the cost, more readily available, but the payoff is the lack of delicious designer label satisfaction. Personally I'm happier with my Toppers versions, since I wear them every single day without feel of battering. My designer shoe collection stay in boxes and only get pavement action when absolutely necessary. How wasteful is that? Now I need never feel under dressed for the corner shop run again!

Add to the list the impossible to get hold of Isabel Marant Wedge Hi Tops and I have officially got my comfy, exciting shoe/life balance sorted. I managed to get my hands on a pair. This can only be because of rare shopping opportunities not available to the full-time workers. I happened to be in Selfridges when a new delivery came in so I was one of those annoying people who made it sell out again within 5 minutes. Thank you painful operation for affording me that perk. This level of hype obviously adds to the desirability of said shoe, which makes it all the more perfect a find for the purposes of this post. I ummed and ahhed for 4 whole seasons, till I finally cracked and forked out a small fortune. These are colourful hi tops of Back To The Future magnitude. Unforgivingly hip hop and probably not quite style appropriate for a 32 year old sophisticated heel fan, but I've never had so many compliments or attention paid to any other thing I own. Including my fiancĂ©.
so exciting they get shared around the fashion desk at work

My mission accomplished; Cancer 0: Succeeding Style 1. Eternally comfortable, very exciting footwear that laughs in the face of hip pain.  I'd best get selling on eBay for all my less comfortable redundant pairs. (As IF...)
Acne Pistol Boot Perfection. Buy it here

Friday, 20 January 2012

Aaaaand Relax...

I have finally finally had an entire spate of good news, that includes getting test results from my cats own lumpectomy, which happened the same week as my one. So now that we're a whole cancer-free household (so long as they got it all this time...), I'm feeling a strange sensation creeping in. One I can just about recall from mid 2010, and so alien to me I can barely remember how to spell it. 'Re-laaxaychun'.

Starting with my hair. I'm being advised on a regular basis to control my worry by problem solving. My microphone head, growing at all angles and inclines, sticking up resolutely when I specifically need it to stick down, definitely qualifies as a worry. The gentle kind I am more than happy to be experiencing  granted, but still, a worry nonetheless. I'm trying to get back to a healthy level of self confidence, and rotund hair just isn't conducive.

Worry Solving Solution: Relax. The chemical version, rather than the emotional one this time. My hair angel Claire suggested a gentle treatment to help my hair grow out with some dignity. Which shamefully, in my position as beauty editor I hadn't even considered. It makes perfect sense that flat hair will behave 'better' than curly, it'll sit closer to the head and look like its following the downward rule of gravity, rather than the outward rule of post chemo regrowth.

Five minutes in a child-friendly home relaxing kit for Afro hair and suddenly my crop has gone from sh!t to chic. Now when I wash it I generally know what its going to look like till I wash it again. When I wake up in the morning, or simply get up from a horizontal position I don't look like Zoe Wanamaker plugged into a wall socket, and I don't need industrial strength product to stop my (curlier than anywhere else) sidies pinging up at alternate angles.

before                 after

Yes a trip to a salon might be a slightly safer bet if you're home-kit shy, or don't have a hair angel to hand. But I happen to know of a BOY (who shall remain anonymous) who regularly relaxes his hair at home, and if a useless boy can do it, I'm pretty sure anyone who has hair can.

We used Soft-Sheen Carson Dark and Lovely for Kids. It is a gentle (as gentle as chemically altering your hair can be), nourishing formula and it costs a tenner. Mine went on for five minutes, just like a home hair dye, then washed out thoroughly, then its ready to blow-dry. I'm now using extra moisturising shampoo and conditioner, because my hair isn't 'virginal' any more, but that's all it takes to keep it looking lovely still. With sideburns that grow in the same manageable direction at long last.

Now that my hair can relax, I'm taking its lead and making waves to apply the same rule to the rest of my life. This includes Glow Yoga (I'll report back soon), wedding planning (other peoples mega-stress is my fun downtime) and finding ways to sate my extreme chocolate craving without actually eating chocolate. I love a new challenge...

Claire Hair Relaxing Tips

1. When the product is on, keep combing or brushing through or you'll end up with it stuck in one parting or style.

2. Keep the product on for slightly less time than the instructions recommend. You can always re-do it if you haven't relaxed enough, but if it goes too straight, there's no going back. And too straight just doesn't look like natural hair anymore.

3. Don't use on bleached hair or put it directly on the scalp. I'd wait till you have a couple of inches hair growth.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

A Side Effects Text Book

In my formative years I was a collector of bouncy balls (by my own choosing), postage stamps and spoons (those were my grandfathers preference) and stickers (me again).
In my early thirties I'm acquiring quite an impressive collection of something a bit less tangible and much more varied. If ever there was a side effect printed on a Tamoxifen leaflet, I am very likely to be experiencing it. In fact, even things that aren't printed on there, but on further research are always likely caused by Tamoxifen, can be added to my collection.

Another problem is I'm a Google-phobe when it comes to anything medical. I would rather wallow in my imagination than look up some nutjob Internet theory on how my aching toe means definite metastatic disease, caused by buying apples that come in plastic bags or putting my bed 90 degrees from the window. So I'll go a good few weeks worrying about said toe before Katie invariably looks it up and tells me it is Tamoxifen induced. (Metaphorical example; An aching toe is just about the only thing I don't have.)

So far my impressive collection consists of:
Aching joints. Or joint, since its just the one hip, but by gawd is it annoying. Before my scans it was terrifying, but now I know my cancer is contained to my nit (non-tit, remember?), its been demoted to annoying again. Serious enough to warrant an occasional 'rude boy bowl' that embarrasses DadJokes no end, and, deep breaths, makes me avoid high heels. That is serious.

Concentration issues. A testament to this is the four half written blog posts I have in production at the moment. Also the need to re-read the same paragraph of my book 3 times before I can move on. But that could equally be because its a sh!t book.

Bad eyesight. After squinting at one too many no. 38 buses I went to the optician, and sure enough, dry eyes and potential retina issues are to be expected for the next five drug taking years.

The Wobbles. A collective term that covers everything from getting disproportionately irate at the lack of order in the spice rack, to crying at Hollyoaks.

Hot flushes that would make Madonna admit her age and go into retirement. The worst part is the late night duvet battle. He wants it on I WANT IT OFF OFFFFFFFFF GET IT OFF.

Desmond has no such issues

Er, WC happenings, or not happenings as it were. Gillian McKeith would not be impressed...
I'm still waiting for the promised levelling out as my body gets used to the drugs, but since I am not a seasoned tablet-taker, I'm not sure how long I'll have to squint and sweat before my body cooperates.

In an attempt to tackle 'The Wobbles' I admitted defeat and went for some extra help. Now, I'm all for anything that will magically make me feel better, but I have a funny feeling about anti-depressant drugs since at my all girls school, a Prozac prescription was seen as a sign of extreme coolness, depth of character, and a ploy to make Mr Willis from Physics fall in love with you. I'm not sure where the reasoning comes in, but mental illness was thought to be veeery attractive in my fifth year. I couldn't get my head around it then, and still now am more prone to go the psychological route of learning coping mechanisms, than taking a pill.

When you cry at Hollyoaks, psychological care is maybe not enough, and faced with my recurrence fears being realised I signed up for some magic pills. Um, if being too tired to blink and too despondent to put effort into saying words is helpful, then I can do without thanks. The 'these tablets may make you feel worse before they make you feel better' warning on my particular leaflet did of course refer to me, (text book), but when I was still waiting for the feeling better part three weeks later I gave up and went back to good old fashioned family cuddles and Michael McIntyre on the telly. MUCH better. The good news scan results must have helped too, but I realise if I can avoid tablet taking, I will. I'm no Jennifer Saunders, although I'd love to know what she's on such that she raves about it in the papers.

My alternative therapies include retail, feline and social, so while I recover from my latest op I'm looking forward to a lot of the aforementioned, just to get me through you understand. 'Scuse me while I open a new tab; The net-a-porter sale is calling...