Saturday, 26 August 2017

Breast Cancer Now

I admit that I get angry when I think of all the amazing women I have known who have had to face a Breast Cancer diagnosis and all of their families who face it with them.  I could write about so many inspirational women but this post is specifically about Claire and how she used much maligned social media to make a difference to her support team and to women across her community.

Claire's Army

Claire is a mother to four children with an already complicated busy schedule across two different schools (now 3!) as well as running her own photography business.  She certainly did not have time to have cancer!  

As is often the case, friends were keen to offer support but did not know what to do.  After a few difficult experiences of trying to arrange childcare, Claire set up a Facebook group called 'Claire's Army'.  

You had to request to join the group thereby making a clear statement that you wanted to help.  Claire would then post requests for any help she needed such as collecting prescriptions; childcare; shopping or information about school trips/activities. The members of the group could easily see what was needed and also when a need had been met by another member.  

Claire's Army saved people having to say 'no' to Claire when they were unable to help.  It also saved Claire having to ask several people individually in order to find someone who could help at a time when she feared becoming a burden.  Like so many strong and capable people, Claire was not used to needing help and was never comfortable asking for it.  It also allowed Claire and her husband to update us all en masse rather than being inundated with phone calls/emails/texts at the end of long days at the hospital.  It was such a great idea and one that I believe should be widely shared!

Wokingham Gossip Girls

Claire is also part of a team of 8 hard-working volunteer admins for a local Facebook group called Wokingham Gossip Girls (WGG).  Claire has used this group to spread awareness of Breast Cancer and encouraging all 17,000 members to #checkyourboobies.  

One of her most memorable posts was accompanied with this striking photo. She wrote:

'Having chemotherapy and losing your hair?  It's hard.
Having a mastectomy and losing your breast? Pretty difficult to get your head round.
Being free from cancer? Priceless!!!
Last week, shortly after this photo was taken, I had a mastectomy as part of my treatment for cancer.  One in eight women will get breast cancer - and men get it too.  Our best defence is finding it early and getting it treated.  
Please check your breasts regularly for lumps, bumps, dimpling, discharge or anything that looks odd and get it checked out.  

It has taken some courage to share this photo to try to spread awareness.  Please support me by sharing this post on your own page to encourage your Facebook friends and family to check themselves.  Who knows?  If we share this post enough we might just save someone's life.  WGG Check your boobies!'

Claire reminds the 17,000 members of WGG to #checkyourboobies monthly so it reinforces the message that people should check every single month. She accompanies her post with this helpful guide to checking your breasts.

Breast Cancer Now

Breast Cancer Now is the UK’s largest breast cancer charity, created by the merger of Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer and is on the fortycubed list of 40 charities that I will be fundraising for over the next year.  If you would like to make a donation you can do so via this link.

The fortycubed challenge is about so much more than raising money for charity.  It has given me an opportunity to celebrate and honour some amazing people like Claire and to raise awareness of symptoms and the charities working hard to support those affected.  Please use social media positively to continue Claire's campaign.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

The story so far


Over £7k already raised!

Thanks to generous donations, a sponsored run, a Carozel jewellery party, a Little Reds Pizza Raffle and a Jamberry Nails Party over the last month, the total raised so far has broken the £7,000 barrier.

The next major event in the fortycubed calendar is the Charity Gala Dinner. Over 320 tickets have already been sold!

Thank you so much for all the encouragement and support as we raise awareness and funds for these amazing 40 charities.


The full list of the 40 Fortycubed Charities


Thursday, 17 August 2017

Beat Eating Disorders

'Eating disorders are actually serious and often fatal illnesses that cause severe disturbances to a person's eating behaviors. Obsessions with food, body weight, and shape may also signal an eating disorder. Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.' 

Reality check

I think that most people have a complicated relationship with food.  For the bulk of us in the UK today our biggest concern is not 'will we have enough to eat?' but how can we manage not to eat so much sugar and fat that we slowly kill ourselves through the health consequences of overeating.  

I know people who have had eating disorders and I know many people who have escaped the diagnosis and continue to suffer the mental and physical symptoms.  I have friends who believe they can manage their weight through bulimia. I have caught friends throwing up in restaurant toilets while their partners sit just a few feet away completely unaware.  I have bumped into anxious parents in the supermarket who quietly whisper that their child is anorexic and needing professional help.  When a relative was in hospital a beautiful, young dancer was put in the bed opposite her.  She was not allowed to go home until she started to eat again.  To the majority of people who encountered this lady, her life looked nothing less than fabulous.

The eating disorder, even if well hidden, is often completely life consuming. For some, they find that every choice they make is ruled by their disorder. Deciding what to eat, who to see, where to go, whether to accept an invite to a friend's house. At its worst, this can inhibit someones ability to study, work and socialise, leaving that person completely isolated and locked in a vicious cycle with the disorder. 


Mental illness with a physical impact

Mental Health is a thread that runs through a number of the fortycubed charities, notably through Mind and Place2Be but for the majority, mental health will be impacted by whatever challenge an individual is having to face.  Eating disorders are often hidden from friends and family until the physical result has reached extreme levels.


I have fought to protect my daughters from the unrealistic portrayal and expectations of women in the media and I am very grateful to the Body Image Movement led by Taryn Brumfitt which is taking on this challenge on an international scale.  

'The Body Image Movement (BIM) was founded on the belief that your body is not an ornament but the vehicle of your dreams. BIM believes that everyone has the right to love and embrace their body regardless of shape, size, ethnicity or ability.  By traveling the globe the BIM is working to put an end to body loathing and spread the message of body loving.'

The BIM produced a documentary film entitled 'Embrace' to spread their message and several people who feature in the film have a history of eating disorders and offer their experience and advice to viewers.  

No Filter 

I've recently read Grace Victory's book 'No Filter' where she shares (among lots of other things) her relationship with her body over the years and her experience of eating disorders.  I will be making sure my daughters read her harrowing but inspirational story to help educate them for their own sake and to arm them with information that will help them look out for their friends.  

Role of Beat 

Beat is the UK’s eating disorder charity. Its vision is an end to the pain and suffering caused by eating disorders. 'We have been a champion, guide and friend to anyone affected by these serious mental illnesses since our founding in 1989 as the Eating Disorders Association, giving sufferers and their loved ones a place where they feel listened to, supported, and empowered.' 

Beat offers helplines, message boards, online support groups, helpfinder (to find local services) as well as running regional projects.  If you would like to make a donation to the work of Beat please do so via this link.

Know the first signs!

Beat offers a quick checklist to help concerned friends and family look for indicators of an eating disorder:

Hips - Do they have distorted beliefs about their body size?

Lips - Are they obsessive about food?

Flips - Is their behaviour changing?

Kips - Are they often tired or struggling to concentrate?

Nips - Do they disappear to the toilet after meals?

Skips - Have they started exercising excessively?

Beat advises : 'If you’re worried someone you care about is showing any signs of an eating disorder – even if they’re not on our list – act quickly and get in touch. We can give you the answers and support you need to help them on the road to recovery as soon as possible. Don’t delay. Visit' 

To support the work of Beat, please consider making a donation here.


Saturday, 12 August 2017

Cancer Research

I don't believe that time heals but I believe that you get used to living with the pain.  

I remember driving home from the hospital where my mum was gradually dying from ovarian cancer and looking at all the other people going about their lives as if it was just a normal day.  As they walked along the road or sang along to music in their cars I envied their freedom; their ability to plan and look forward to the day, weeks and months ahead. I was hanging on to each moment, almost holding my breath knowing that nothing could prepare me for the next chapter of life I was about to face.

I now realise everyone carries burdens and that no-one is completely free from worry or sadness but, in the main, people make the choice to carry on living.  

I was reading this morning about how important it is that we talk about these times of trouble and how we learn to carry on:

'What happens when we sweep our true stories of grief and loss under the rug and don't share them?  All the incredible true stories of hope get swept under there too.'

In times of suffering and pain there are always lessons to be learned and opportunities to grow.  There is always hope for the future.

Who hasn't been touched by cancer?  

I am so grateful that in many cases it is not the death sentence it was once was but the road to recovery is rocky and frightening.  So many of my friends have been through this, are going through this or are in the period of 'limbo', while they wait to find out what the next chapter of life holds for them. 

Of the 40 charities I have chosen, 9 are directly related to cancer.  Cancer Research made it onto the fortycubed list when I undertook the Shine Marathon which involved walking 26.2miles throughout the night across London.  It was not the first time I have undertaken the Shine challenge but I don't plan to do it again!  This was another Blister Sister event and between the 3 of us we successfully raised £1,244.98 for Cancer Research which formed the foundation for the fortycubed fundraising.

The Cancer Research table at the fortycubed Gala Dinner was the first table to sell out.  We will be continuing to fundraise for Cancer Research over the coming year.  If you would like to make a donation please follow this link.

Friday, 4 August 2017

The Triple - Pounding square pizzas!

1. Pounding the paths of Dinton Pastures for Daisy's Dream

Christine will be taking on a 10K run next week as she raises money for Daisy's Dream as part of the fortycubed challenge.  Please sponsor her if you can! You can learn more about the charity and why it is on the fortycubed list here.

2. Squares for the sisterhood 

Aunty Ann has been knitting like crazy for Freedom from Fistula UK.  These squares will be given to a woman recuperating after a simple operation to fix an obstetric fistula caused by complications of childbirth.  As she recovers in hospital she will be sewing the squares together into a blanket which she is then able to take back home with her as she embarks on her new life as a healed woman.  

3. And a Pizza Raffle for Prostate Cancer

I am so grateful to my fabulous friends at Little Reds - the Authentic Wood Fired Pizza Company for their ongoing support.  They have supported Prostate Cancer UK for several years and are holding a pizza raffle to raise funds for the cause as part of the fortycubed challenge.  If you are attending The Ollie Young Foundation Fun Day in Wokingham on 13th August it is certainly worth finding out more about the Little Reds Pizza Raffle from their Facebook page.  

Thank you my lovely friends and family!