Cancer. It no longer defines me!

Hey lovely people,

Today is world cancer day and so thought it was apt to write this post today. It’s a topic I’ve wanted to write about for a very long time, and back in November I spoke on this at FYSOT (a Teenage Cancer Trust conference). I’m going to try and write more than what I chose to speak on, simply because lots has changed since then too. However, to start I’m going to talk about how and why I first started to loose the cancer label.

So obviously if you haven’t read my blog before you have guessed I had cancer, well technically I didn’t. It was a blood disorder called Very Sever Aplastic but treated similarly, so it was cancer-ish. For me it was an incredibly hard season of my life. I had to have a bone marrow transplant which basically strips you back to nothing, both physically and mentally.  It changes your life so drastically, and often quite dramatically too, that you loose who you are. Re-building your life after something like this, well its certainly not easy.

For me I felt like I had nothing, my life was a shell of what it once was. I had to suspend uni for a year and a half and even when I went back it wasn’t the same, I wasn’t the same. I had to adapt to my ‘new life’ and the restrictions that illness had imposed on me. I felt distant from friends, and felt that they lacked the understanding (even though they were massively supportive). I’d struggled with memory loss and PTSD and my mental health was in a mess.  The things that got me through this time however were incredible charities like CLIC Sargent, Teenage Cancer Trust, and Ellen MacArthur Cancer.

I will often say that cancer-ish whilst being the worst thing that ever happened, it was also the best, it changed everything. Incredibly I got the best help and support I could have ever imagined and I was able to rebuild a sort of life thanks to these incredible charities.

I finished treatment but walked into this sort of half life. Unable to fully live due to the complications, late effects and long journey of recovery that I was on. So while normal life was still a way off, I decided that the best thing I could do was to immerse myself into the cancer world. This had me in a place with people that understood and where expectations of me weren’t too high or unachievable.

I felt that once I finished treatment, and returned back to university that I’d moved on from cancer. I thought I was done and as much as I possibly could moved past it. After I finished uni I was pretty sick still. Around the same sort of time 3 years ago I walked through the doors at Freedom Church. I was really unsure on where my life was heading. Especially as the internship that I was doing at the time with CLIC Sargent, simply proved how unready I was for the world of work, due to my late effects.

About a year in (maybe longer) someone at my church came up to me and said I just think you really need to loose the cancer label. I was furious, I didn’t see it. I thought I’d already lost it, and was really angry about it. I’d moved on as much as I possibly could and thought ‘how dare she say this when she knew nothing about it’. I avoided her for a good 6 months, but then someone pointed out to me that if it wasn’t there how did someone else see it?

So I began investigating how I portrayed myself, and then I realised. When introducing myself to anyone I’d ask what do you do? When the question was thrown back at me- I’d respond well I can’t work because of the late effects from cancer-ish. The problem with answering a question in this way was that the questions that followed were never about what I did get to do, but always about the Cancer and the late effects I suffered. So when I realised this, I started to change the way I talked about it, simply talking about the volunteering that I did. Its was amazing when people knew more about my sailing than the days in bed I had to take. Changing how I talked about it changed everything so much so that about 6 months later one of my newer friends had no idea that I’d ever even been ill. I was no longer held by this label of Cancer-ish!

Fast forward to November when I first got asked to give a talk at first I didn’t want to do it. I wasn’t up for telling the sob story and wasn’t sure about emerging myself in a world full of people who were still living that story. With EMCT its completely different- because its about building confidence and learning a new skill, getting out of the cancer world bubble and finding yourself again. This conference however isn’t about stepping out its more about relating to others.

I decided to do it but not just to be another story where you hear about the dodgy diagnosis or moments you nearly died. But one of life change even when the odds were stacked against me. Even when I hadn’t recovered like others had, after all I still had chronic fatigue, memory issues and no immune system. I talked on loosing the cancer label and how changing my language around it changed so much. What is so amazing is that I still have people reaching out now or commenting how good a talk it was for them. By sharing insight into the small changes I made its helped way more than just me.

 

 

While I was preparing I asked God (yep I’m a christian too!) to guide me in what to write which he did. I’d never have chosen to talk so openly about my mental health without his nudge. However not only did God show me all of the areas I had worked through and overcome. Like how changing the way you speak can change so much, or that I’d defied the odds time and time again and stepped out into new things like the course I’m doing now. He also showed me all the things I still had to work on like loosing the crippling control issues I had. Speaking life and not sickness over myself, getting bigger vision for my future, and believing that I do have a future. He showed me how I’d let the fear control me, and how my health and wealth were intertwined (I’m sure at one stage i’ll explain all these a bit more).

I can now honestly and truly say that control plays way less a part of my life now, I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been and I know more is to come! Illness doesn’t define my outlook any longer (which doesn’t mean I don’t still face it- but its in a completely different way). For the first time in 8 and a half years I can say that Cancer doesn’t define what I do. That cancer label which yes will always be apart of my life no longer has a negative impact on me or my life.

I can truly say I’m Thriving not just Surviving.

I can’t wait to see what my future holds, but one thing I know for sure is I will keep going and will keep sailing as its a great opportunity to inspire and help others.

All the best

Wen

ps. If your one of my cancer friend reading this and want to know more please dm me and I’d love to talk more about what I shared. Go loose that label! thrive.jpg

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The start of something NEW!

Like always, its been a while. Sorry for that- its not that I’ve not had things to say it’s more been is it the right time to say it…. and for most things it still isn’t- but one day i’ll get round to then hundreds of blog post ideas and getting some of the things said that I’ve wanted to for a long time.

This blog post is about CHANGE! Something that I massively hate and have done for the longest time… but something feels different this time and I can’t quite put my finger on it- maybe I will as I keep typing. Stood in the kitchen of my friends house last night I said about how I really don’t like change and doing something new always terrified me yet I hadn’t felt like that moving out recently as I began the process of  moving from Cardiff to Hereford (I’ll explain more later).

Growing up I defiantly was someone who needed a routine and I was someone who was always busy- every night of the week I had something… and I also would often cram in swimming before school too… routine and business kept me going. Deciding to go to college, Camp America and University was all stepping out of my comfort zone and embracing change… but it was hard! Then after I got sick even the smallest of changes unsettled me- I remember how fearful I was when anything changed. Going on my first EMCT trip I remember telling my social worker I didn’t want to go, and returning to University seemed like an impossible challenge. I think getting ill worsened my outlook on change because my life changed so drastically in an instant… I went from a normal university life to one surrounded by drip machines and months of isolation. Knowing how quickly you can loose it all really rocked me for a long time.

Things however, have finally changed…. and although I still don’t like change but I’m learning to embrace it and run with it… and having faith is helping massively with that. Don’t get me wrong I still have concerns and I’m still nervous about the change but I also know that I don’t need to worry about every little thing. I’m putting faith into my faith, and knowing that whilst I’m unsure on how I’m going to manage financially or with the practicalities of life in a new place- this should not and will not hold me back from giving it a good old go!

I’m leaving the life I’ve built for myself in the wonderful city of Cardiff, and its hard. This city has been home for the past 9 years, its where I met some incredible friends through uni, hospital and church. It’s a place I got to call my own, a place of safety and a place where I’ve got to be me. This past few weeks I’ve said goodbye to some incredible flatmates, my stomping ground where I’ve been based for at least 6 of those years, my favourite coffee shops and favourite places and I’ve had moments of sadness in this- not knowing if i’ll get to call these places mine again… (I’m not saying I won’t be back its just if I’m back it will be different). I’m also going embracing the fact that I could be called anywhere after Academy and I’m not ruling anything out yet…

Last night on my way to my last rehearsal with church I got teary… goodbyes have never been a strong point for me, I find them hard and I will often push those I’m close to away in preparation for it (I know this is not the way to do it but its a habit I’m yet to break- so I’m really sorry if I’ve done this- its most defiantly a me thing and recognising it is a huge step for me…so please accept this as an apology). The team I’ve had the privilege of working along side at church have been well incredible… they have taught me so much, not just in faith but in skills and in leadership qualities. They have helped me transform from a broken girl who felt like I could bring nothing to one who can get stuck in, own the vision and now I’ve been training others up too. This team have been key in that transformation they have pushed me when I’ve needed it and helped me manage my health when I’ve needed that too. I honestly wouldn’t be where I am today without them and the hours of love and prayer they have given me. I’m going to miss them all massively especially Sam and Kyle who have rocked production managing and have pushed me further than I ever thought possible. Last night they gave me a lovely send off with a couple of gifts including beautiful orchid which I’ve named ‘Mac Toshi’ after the beloved big mac.

Mac ToshiThey also prayed for me which is a moment I don’t think I’ll ever forget. They spoke such wonderful words about me, from the transformation that has taken place in me, to the glue I’ve been for the team… They also prayed into my future and gave me some key things to hold for the days ahead. Yes there will be a hole in the team because I’m leaving but that will soon fill with the guys stepping up and new people joining the team. I’m going to have a huge hole in my heart for this team tho- and knowing that I’m not ever coming back to the same team because everyone grows and new people will be added and others will be sent out… it does however make me immensely proud of the team that has been built here. Thank you Production team its been a blast!

I’ve got 2 more Sunday’s in church but because i’m sailing next week, which feels immensely perfect as I did my first time trip the week before I moved back to Cardiff to start University again- now i’m sailing the week before my new course. This has meant some goodbyes have already had to happen… I’ve said some goodbyes to those who I’ve known for years and thats been tough… please make me accountable to staying in touch its something I’m not great at but hope this time i’ll do better at it. I move to Hereford on the 10th September and I’ll be taking part in a leadership course with my church called Freedom Academy… it’s a ten month programme (2 days a week) designed to grow our;

  • understanding of the Christian faith
  • relationship with God
  • sight into the role and development of leadership (insight and experience)
  • growth personally

I’m super excited and think this change feels different to others because it feels so right for me, because I now have an unshakeable faith and because I’ve learnt to embrace change not fear it! I also know its the right time for me to do something new otherwise i’d just be forming a rut and one that i’d never move on from. I’ll be living with lots of people from all over and its gonna be tough and very challenging. If you pray then i’d love prayer covering  a few things

  1. My finances for the year- I’m stepping out into the unknown until I’m there I won’t know what the impact on my finances there maybe so be praying that i’ll have enough to afford to live and pay rent and course fees.
  2. Friendships- for great bonds to be formed in and out of church.
  3. Health- for my immune system to not be effected too much with the change of environment and my energy levels not to dip as much this winter.
  4. Existing Relationships- for me to navigate the best way to stay in touch with people (I’m not the best at this).
  5. Personally- that I’m able to open up, trust and give this year my all.

I’m so grateful for all the things that have helped build me to who i am today and I’m looking forward to see the change that this year has on my life further down the line… I’m looking forward to reviewing how I action some of this and seeing how I grow. Thank-you to every single person that has encouraged, challenged and pushed me I wouldn’t be facing this new challenge if it hadn’t have been for your input.

 

A profound statement at an Ellen Macarthur Cancer Trust event….

Again I find myself in a position of having so many ideas of what to write about and not knowing what to write… one is about exiting hibernation and how that really feels and what it looks like, another about my future, one about loosing a label and another about random conversations that become quite profound and life changing as well as some others too. This post is about something profound but it wasn’t said in a conversation. It was a statement. Which I know is going to change me!

Two weeks ago, or so I got the joy of going to London to an event for Key supporters of the Ellen Macarthur Cancer Trust. I was there to talk about what the trust does, encourage people to get more involved and to thank people who were there for their support. Along with this I was there to help introduce the evening.

I had spent the morning hooked up to a drip in Cardiff hospital and the evening in a very swanky building Trinity House in London, just a stones throw away from Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. I was on my very first day of being antibiotic free (reminds me its Monday I need to take my antibiotics haa) after spending the last 5 weeks on the stronger antibiotics 3 times a day every day- rather than 1 tablet 3 days a week like I am now…. I really stood in awe taking in the Tower of London at the amazing double life I get to lead. How blessed I am to be alive, and experiencing all that I get to. The evening was amazing and it was so special to be able to share what the trust does and how much its changed me as a person and impacted my life. To see what the trust did last year please watch this The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust looks back on 2017  and to hear more about how the trust changed my life watch this… #12years12stories Part 4 . This puts it all into words more eloquently than I can typing.. (I just watched back my 12 years 12 stories and am now a blubbing mess so bear with and go watch it)….

In this video filmed about 3 years ago I said that every year I come away with something new…. I’d say this about every trust event I’ve ever attended to, its why I’m happy to go from hospital to meetings and events… I always have something to take away… 2 weeks ago I was sat in the audience listening to a group of my friends share about the impact the trust has had on them. One girl Claire Amaladoss (seriously cool name) who I’ve got to watch blossom into an incredible human and grow in faith and in leadership. She is also a very awesome trustee for the trust. Spoke and said something so profound and on point that it hit me like a train….. She said ‘We don’t pick up our lives to the full, because we know all to well what its like to have to give it all up…’ wow! I can not tell you how true this statement which she fleetingly made was so, so true. Its not only true but still very relevant to me today. The trust enables us to begin to pick up a life again, dream bigger and reach further again it rebuilds us in a way that no-one else can… but I sat there and realised I still had to do some more picking up to really live to the full again.

Recovering cancer-ish and from loosing it all is tough, it comes in waves, and isn’t something you can pick up where you left off…  it isn’t something that day one out of hospital/ remission you can physically manage to pick it all up. It comes with complications, life moves on but you haven’t. It comes with new struggles of how you manage with a life full of complications and long term follow up. A life with that lingering fear of loosing it all again. We have to mourn for the life we lost, the one we thought we were going to get and work out what sort of life we now want…. For any kid this is hard, but for one that has the dreams they have always had taken away- well that’s huge. I always thought I would be a teacher, one that fought for the kids who fall through the cracks, one that inspired a generation who had CAN’T shoved in their face and help them to realise that they truly could achieve anything. I’d worked hard, gained experience and knowledge that was set to equip me well into the future I believed I would always have. Getting sick meant I lost all this… after getting sick I got a complication that means my immune system just doesn’t work so teaching kids who carry all sorts of bugs and always get sick… well it was completely off the cards….

I hadn’t realised until Claire said it though at how fearful I was still about loosing it all. I mean I do still loose it when I get sick with the slightest bug, and it completely knocks me out- and in winter when meeting with people becomes next to impossible- but should this mean I shouldn’t live my life to the full when I can- NO! I actually need to work even harder than most to keep hold of my life in seasons where I’m ill, and push even further when I’m well to live… like really LIVE! I know I’ve still got a long way to go and I’ve already begun to action this in my life right now… I’m super excited to see what’s to come because I know  its going to be so big and so exciting. I’m obviously not going reveal what that looks like just yet but I’m really looking forward to reading this back in a year or two and crying because I’ll see just how far I’ve come- just like I was today watching the film back… at the point this was filmed I was really struggling, I was so tired and so unwell because 3rd year had taken so much out of me I had no idea what I wanted to do with my future, I spent the next year just recovering from doing the degree… now I look back and although I haven’t been anywhere near as creative or productive as I was then I do see how far I’ve come and I see how much the trust has played a part in that. Without the trust I’d never have returned to university, never walked out with a first class honours. I’d never have spent time sailing and really embracing all that this incredible sport has to offer. I’d probably still be the woe is me girl sat in a wheelchair…. I’d never have met some of my amazing friends who have really gone out and lived life to the full and I wouldn’t continue to be inspired by them and the amazing young people we support.  Like always I can not wait to get back out there this summer and see what I learn… but for now I need to prepare myself to be the encouraging voice to get people to sign up to come on one of these life changing trips as this is exactly what I’ll be doing tomorrow.

Just wanted to say a huge thankyou to everyone at the Ellen Macarthur Cancer trust you really have changed my life! I also want to say a huge thankyou to Claire, your words are always so timely and I cant wait to share with you how I respond to your challenge. To Karenza for interviewing me 3 years ago and most of all to Tom Roberts… thankyou for capturing the trust so well, and thank you for capturing that period of my life so incredibly- its now something I can look back on in awe just like everyone was telling me at the time, it is also amazing at how true it all I had to say then is still so true today.

Till next time….

Wen

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Why I don’t want a cure for Cancer.

So I’m going to start by apologising this post is in no way suppose to cause offence, or to say that Cancer research is pointless because IT’S VERY IMPORTANT and I want research to always continue! However as you continue to read this you’ll get my point. I do want a cure for cancer, but its kinda secondary to what I really want. Right now I’m not after a cure, I’m after kinder treatments first.

So, why don’t I want a cure for cancer, well you might think it’s because I’m the most selfish person on the planet, or that its because Cancer was a good thing in my life. Well yes to an extent it was.. but again it’s not my point. Years on from my treatment I look back and am amazed about how far the research has gone, the things you wouldn’t even believe. I’m extremely proud and grateful for all those who are searching for the cure for cancer. However, what those not in the know don’t often realise is that cancer is stupidly complex… its millions of different variations of a disease… So sorry to burst the bubble but one miracle cure isn’t going to cut the mustard.

So why am I even writing a post like this… well after a conversation with someone recently I realise how deluded they were about what is out there. So we got into a little bit of an argument as they believe the cure for cancer has already been found and that big pharma companies were hiding it because they wanted to continue to make money. Well to some extent yes this could be true- they might have found a cure for *A* cancer – but if that ‘cure’ is gonna kill 99% and cure the 1% would you take it? What about if it leads you to be paralysed – you’d be cured of cancer at least? I realised with this particular person no amounts of arguments were going to re-align his thinking so left the conversation with a ‘Well you can believe what you want, I just think of it differently so lets agree to disagree’.

This blog post has been on my list since the list started- but the convo I had has prompted me to write. I am so grateful to be alive. The cancer-ish (Very Sever Aplastic Anaemia-actually a rare blood disorder treated like cancer) I had, has only been treatable in my life time. One of the crazy rare complications had only had a ‘cure’ 2 years earlier. So if it hadn’t been for advances in medical science and the millions of souls searching for the cures. I wouldn’t be alive. However, as much as I would love for their to be a cure for Cancer- I really don’t want it if it means that’s the end.

I don’t want a cure for cancer, if it means there are millions of people who end up like me, or worse. Unable to get out of bed some days (yep you guessed it another blog written under duvet)… I don’t want to have to continue to meet people who get it- because they too have had their lives turned upside down not by the cancer- but by the side-effects that get left behind. I don’t want to have friends that have to exhaust all treatment options before they get placed on the ‘wonder drug’ (often still in trial) because they have to fail before its offered as an option…. because often these people have had to endure grueling rounds of treatment, that weaken them, gives them way less chance of recovering. I don’t want to have friends on a ‘watch and wait protocol’ because they need to let the disease to get worse first because treatment now would be too harmful. I don’t want to hear the painstaking cries of friends who are so fed up of being on lifelong treatment because their cancer hasn’t got a ‘curable’ treatment option available yet (of course in this case i want a cureable treatment option to be avalible and then it to be made as kind as possible). I don’t want to lose another friend because the poison that chemotherapy and radiotherapy is made them too weak, or to susceptible to infections which ultimately leads to yet another funeral. I dont want to lose another friend who survived cancer, but the effects it left them with meant they were unable to survive. I want kinder treatments, so that people aren’t just surviving cancer- but they are thriving post cancer.

I want to be able to pick up the phone and congratulate my friend who defeated the odds and now is walking into a fantastic new job. I want treatments that don’t kill, don’t come with a list as long as your arm for side effects of late effects. I don’t want treatments that mean your life as you knew it disappears before your eyes. I want treatments that mean your life can continue there is no ‘break’ from normality while you endure endless months in and out of hospital. I want kinder treatments because I don’t want more people to have to go through what myself and thousands of others have.

Yes I ultimately would love for their to be a cure, but let’s be realistic and lets be thinking about what happens in the mean time. Lets start changing the outcomes of cancer, and giving those facing it a better chance at a normal life again! The #Quest4aCure must start with kinder treatments.

 

 

I wrote this post- and paused… I sent it on to some of my friends who pointed me in the way of a new report by Bloodwise – called Childhood Cancer report- The quest for a kinder cure..So i’d say its quite apt… So very happy to share the report here- just follow the link!!!! Read the red case studies it will help your understanding! Read it all- and take on board what it says… its important! https://bloodwise.org.uk/sites/default/files/documents/Bloodwise-Childhood-Cancer-Report-2017.pdf

(Artwork at top my own)

Smashed Glass

Well it’s been a fortnight since I last blogged (This blog was written yesterday whilst i visited the Tate). In this time I’ve gone through most items on the Fatigue list- including a complete burn out which resulted in me in another form of fatigue I forgot to mention the emotional 20p fatigue where the smallest thing set you off into floods of tears. That day I cried on the phone to my mum because I really didn’t know if I’d have the energy to get out of bed the next day let alone travel for my nephew birthday. I cried over the lack of sweetcorn at the harvester, cried that I’d spent energy resting waiting for friends only for plans to change. I cried because my glove didn’t go on my hand properly- I cried that my shoes were done up to tightly I couldn’t kick them off. It was the day I realised just how burnt out I was yet it came so out of the blue I wasn’t expecting it. Anyway I did go home and celebrate my nephew turning 2, I was exhausted and couldn’t do much to help party prep but I went and had 4 days where I got the car everywhere and didn’t have to cook or think about what I wanted to eat. Boy did I need it. Anyway back to now I’m currently sat in the Tate in London in a room I would say is my kryptonite (a room filled with radios all playing different noises) artwork by Cildo Meireles titled Babel

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I’m sat questioning why I sat down and why I’m choosing this spot to decide what I write about. Answers on a postcard to why this is… I’m a little stuck on what to write about because there is so much to be said I could write about how I’m missing out on meeting Gary Barlow tomorrow because I cant be at two places in London for two different cancer charities at once. I could write about how my cruddy immune system has meant this week I’ve been poorly- or how I got to catch up with some wonderful people this week  and the things they have taught me or about labels we as humans seem attach to people or even to ourselves. I could write about the impact Emily is still having on my life he tears I’ve shed today for her and that friendship. But instead I’ve chosen something that relates to the reason I’m here in the first place and why sat at the Tate I’ve felt the urge to write.

So on my way in to the Tate this morning I was drawn to a simple artwork of the everyday a pane of glass- this particular one is shattered yet not yet broken. I stopped to take a photo questioning why this I’m about to enter a world famous gallery yet this is the thing that stops me way more than anything in the Robert Rauschenberg and I love his work.

The reason I came here was I search of peace and quite time away time to be inspired and maybe even to reignite some big dream. Yet the pane of glass is still the best art I’ve seen all day. It’s set the tone it’s spoken to me in a way I never imagined (it’s also reframed some of the artwork  I’ve seen a thousand times for me today). See this broken pain of glass is all of us, me and you at the time your trying to hold yourself together you’ve not crashed yet goodness knows how because of all theses broken fragments are evidence of just close you are to falling apart. Yet it’s beautiful isn’t it? Just how strong glass has become to be able to stay together and I couldn’t help but be in awe of how the light picked up different aspects and turn this broken window pain into a thing of beauty.

Now the reason I am in London is to help open the eyes/reframe perceptions of the amazing trustees and senior team at CLIC Sargent about young cancer survivor/patients and social media. Now you maybe thinking how is she leaping from glass to social media but bare with… We live in a world where everything is at our fingertips we can connect with anyone anywhere in just a few clicks! This week I’ve spoken to friends all across the world through social media and for that reason I think it’s great! However it’s got its draw backs to- we all present the best versions of ourselves through it and have become a world of statuses, and tweets often tweeting before thinking… However, we also look through these rose tinted glasses at our friends lives and compare ourselves to people the other side of the screen. Thanks to platforms like Facebook we have kept in touch with everyone at all stages of life, like school friends whom 30yrs ago we’d have probably lost touch with. We now we see our acquaintances who are up and coming models, or traveling around the world, buying houses and got a family on the go. We’re constantly comparing ourselves and this needs to stop. Why? Because its not always 100% real. What’s the use of posting that fabulous beach holiday photo to keep up appearances when on the inside you feel like this broken piece of glass? We also never see the full picture we have no idea that 2 mins after that beautiful photo of the family the baby isn’t screaming at the top of its lungs and sleep deprived mum has had enough. We don’t know what that loving relationship plastered all over Facebook actually is. Flipping it slightly we don’t know how Jo from down the street will feel after reading the news your having a baby when she has just had to come to terms she can’t have children. Or that 2 months earlier the couple sharing this news lost a baby. We don’t know because it’s become unsociably acceptable to share these things (although at times we wouldn’t want to either) and then sometimes we have enough and share these things only to loose followers or get into a debate.

I am sat listening to babble realising its purpose- its demonstrating that we live in a noisy and crazy frenetic time now finding a small space of peace and quite is hard to find (especially in central London). Im noticing the people who are walking around head deep in their phones, or sat on the tube refusing to say hello- yet we aren’t designed to do life alone, we aren’t designed to not have conversations with people and create bable background noise. We’re are design to make connections with other humans and do life with them (the good, the bad and the ugly).  We aren’t designed to aimlessly scrawl through post after post, we aren’t designed to post EVERY thought (we all have that one friend) yet we are designed to do life together (sometimes virtually through social media). Tomorrow in the meeting we are going to be framing how as cancer survivors we have to make choices that others might never have to and how seeing a status about being pregnant or having an amazing night out might effect us emotionally at different stages of treatment. Im not saying in any way shape or form we need to stop posting on social media, nor would I ever want someone not to post good news. However a clearer more well rounded view of normal life would be nice sometimes.

I got thinking about that pane of glass again after seeing this img_1187by Louise bourgeois. I thought about how for the glass to be fixed and made new it’s going to need people to help replace this pane of glass and maybe this glass all broken will be recycled and made into a new pane eventually. But it also got me thinking about how it’s people that help us when we’re in this place of near breaking point. I want to say how its ok not to be ok at times and need a helping hand all you need do is reach out and ask. You don’t always have to post, and your posts don’t always have to only be the glamorous you either share the real you- its your real friends that will love you regardless.

Finally some key points to this post

  • If your not ok- thats ok. Find help wether that be a trusty friend, a helpline or a family member- you will be surprised just how many people care about you.
  • Start thinking before you post- do you really need a status for this?
  • If you get annoyed by a post ask yourself what are their intentions here? Am I overthinking or are my feelings heightened here?
  • Stop only showing a one sided view of your life- make it ok to share how your feeling- wether that be through a direct message to someone or a status its ok to be human!
  • Take some time out from social media from time to time, live in the moment you never know when you might stumble across a broken piece of glass that might speak to you in a way you’d miss if you’d have been attached to your phone.

 

CLIC Sargent Takeover Day

So my day (on Friday) began at 5AM, with a ridiculously early start (earlier than I even needed it to be) but I woke up like a kid waiting for Christmas. However this mid November morning and there are no presents to open just a early train to catch so I got ready for my day and spoke to my half asleep flatmate as I left my house at 6am. Where am I you ask? I’m spending the day at CLIC Sargent HQ in London. Why? Well to take it over obviously!

The idea for today came up quite a while ago in a Participation Group meeting (I’d like to say it was probably my idea but I can’t even remember) Kate Lee (our usual CEO) Had previously taken part in takeover days at a previous charity and was also keen to see it happen at CLIC Sargent. We looked at ways in which it could be achieved and when would be best today (Friday) seemed perfect as there is a national #takeoverdaychallenge with the children’s commissioner and so plans were swiftly underway and today became a reality. So how did we hear about it?? Well it was decided that it would be offered to members of the YPRG (CLIC Sargent’s young people’s reference group, made up from people they have supported to inspire and influence the work and direction of CLIC Sargent) as it’s a big step to take both for us and the charity so this seemed like a good group to test it. So a post was put up on the Facebook group and emailed out to us all too offering us the opportunity to take part. In this post we were asked to express an interest for a role which were also listed. These roles were then allocated based on our expression of interest and so here we are taking over.

On our journey to London our Facebook group was alive- with so many exciting comments from hey guys anyone seen my company car (CLIC Sargent is a charity no-one has company cars). To hey as CEO could someone go get me a coffee. It was fantastic especially to see emails from our social workers getting involved too asking for pay rises. Definitely the best way to start any day!

takeover

We began by having a briefing about what to expect from the day and got placed into our roles (at the end of the day we will do a sort of hand over back). We then had a tour of the offices as some of the group hadn’t been before and so we could get to grips with the teams and which director was responsible for them.

My role for the day has been as the Communications Assistant I have been able to learn about the role, which includes pulling together the daily news stories and sending them out across the whole of the charity. Dealing with requests for real life stories and quotes for news stories. Helping the teams to share their messages digitally and so much more! I don’t think I’d put much thought into what a difference one role makes to a charity I think I’ve always viewed it very much as a whole (despite interning with the charity last year where I developed a good understanding of how the charity works). My tasks for the day have been to conduct interviews with the CEO Fay Turner-Paxton and advisor to the CEO Kate Lee as well as the Director of Services Pete Jerrett and the advisor of Services Dara De Burca. Write a blog post about the day and a bit for the website, and to try to make contact with some local press to send out some content about today. Hopefully I’ll find the time to fit it all in but this is just such a small nugget on what happens within the charity on a day to day basis. The time really does fly!

Once I got to grips with the role it was time to spring into action and come up with some snappy questions to ask the CEO and Director of Services. I decided to be a nice journalist not asking too many difficult questions but it went really well. I learnt a lot about what it means to be a part of the day for them all and how already having young people involved has made a difference. I asked Fay and Kate how they have found today- Fay commented that she was quite nervous about how today would go but “it’s been a bit nuts and Kate has been amazing”. Kate Lee commented about how amazingly Fay has handled all of the people coming and saying ‘can I just have 5 minuets- and I’ve spent most of the day tweeting and being on my Facebook!”. Fay says she has learnt about how busy the charity is, a lot about how the charity works and has had some really good tips about chairing meeting and how to manage people.

dara-pete-and-me

Pete chose to become Director of services because he understood what the role was and has had a lot of help and support from the services team over the past 3 1/2 years of treatment. Dara said that “Pete has already been able to point out areas within the policy reports that hasn’t been seen previously and how they could have been presented better and he has asked some really good questions which is so exiting. Pete commented that “My hope for the future is that today goes so amazingly well that everyone thinks yes- lets do a takeover week lets involve the children too and that will agree that we want more participation opportunities like this.”

I had the unique pleasure of sitting in on the executive team meeting for the first item agenda purely as an on looker and to be able to write about it- and I have to say how immensely proud I am of all of my friends. It was incredible to see them place themselves into their director roles and so eloquently  getting their points across. However, looking round the table I saw the exact same look of pride on every single member of advisory staff in the room. Rachel raising the first item’s agenda so clearly everyone got on board straight away and the moment Brad (communications manager) spoke about an introduction of a new social media platform I saw smiles across the faces of so many. I’m bursting with pride of my friend Fay who herself would admit to usually being the quite one managing the meeting, keeping it to time whiles showing she was listening to everyone’s comments by summarising before moving onto the next item. It was like she had been doing it for years! Libby (Director of income and engagement) asking questions on how it would relate to fundraising. Aimee (Director of HR) answering Pete’s question about training for staff and raising issues of bridging the generational gaps. Honestly you wouldn’t have believed they had just had one hour of prep before this meeting because it was as if it was their normal jobs.

I’ve really loved being part of this incredible day and I can not wait to be part of the developing group for the next one to be a success for other children and young people to #takeover. Just would like to say a special thanks to all of the staff and young people that took part today

CEO- Fay Turner-Paxton (Kate Lee)

Director of services- Pete Jerrret (Dara De Burca)

Director of Finance and coparate resources- Connor Grant [WFH] (Kevin O’Brien)

Director Income and Engagement- Libby Welch (Rachel Kirby-Rider)

Director of People and Learning- Aimee Jordan (Jane Cooling)

Assistant Director of Planning strategy and performance- Rachel Blackford (Jenny Turner)

Impact and Performance Analyst- Tish Annand-Beanse (Michelle)

Project manager and EA to CEO and Chair- Seren Hughes (Diane Swanton)

Communication Manager- Bradley Gudger (Sally Archer)

Communications Assitant- Me- Ceinwen Stone (Rebecca Bourley)

And to our amazing participation team Rebecca Horder and Tracey Cosgrave.