I haven’t had as much time for posting blogs these days so this one is actually a little dated, but I wanted to post this before 2016 is out. As this year has progressed (and now rather alarmingly is drawing to a close) I have attempted to push myself to try new things and experiences. They’re not quite on par with jumping out of aeroplanes or climbing up mountains (yet!) but smaller things, that in my own way are pushing the boundaries a little.
Earlier on this year I had been attending The Haven’s Younger Women Breast Cancer support group, a valuable support mechanism which has enabled me to connect with women of my age in my local area. A few months ago, just before I started my new job, some of the ladies at the group were talking about a fashion show that the charity was putting on to raise money. They said it would be a fun way to help them and we could all have a bit of a giggle together.
Anyone who wanted to volunteer to be a model had to fill out an application form stating why they wanted to take part. I thought and thought about it – this is not normally the sort of thing I’d be up for – parading around on a stage in front of lots of people. But I thought, oh sod it, what the heck – what’s the worst that could happen?!
I filled out my form saying what a brilliant opportunity it would be to be fundraise and give something back to The Haven. This charity has been there for me in some of my toughest moments and have supported me so much over the last year (including free counselling sessions, relaxing reflexology treatments and their friendly support group). The show was also exactly one year to the day that I finished my last chemotherapy treatment in 2015. As it was a poignant date, I felt that spending it doing something positive would also feel like I was sticking two fingers up to the cancer. It would also be a lovely way to connect with the other ladies through the support group in a positive way and to have some fun!
I’ve struggled to motivate myself to get back into shape since finishing treatment and this was also a great goal for me to work towards as exercise had firmly fallen off my radar. A few weeks after submitting my application form, I received an email to say I’d been selected as one of the models! I was pleased, excited and VERY nervous.
This was the kick up the proverbial I needed and I started running again – something I’ve not done for a couple of years. Although I don’t think my creaky knees will thank me for it, it felt so good to be out running in the fresh air. It was hard, but also so rewarding to see a few pounds drop off the scales and I started to feel fitter again.
I invited friends and family to come along to the fashion show evening where there would be shopping, pampering, mini make-overs, crafts, gifts as well as a free Clinique goody bag on the night. I was touched when so many people said they would come along, their support meant so much and it was kind of them to give up their time.
As the weeks flew by I tried to cram in exercise where I could and because so many people had bought tickets I knew I definitely couldn’t back out of this!
When the day arrived, I got to the venue to discover a huge brightly lit stage with lots of people milling around. I spotted a familiar face amongst a group of ladies, another lady from the support group, and went and joined her. We then went through a dress rehearsal – I literally hadn’t given it a moment’s thought about what I might actually do when I got up on the stage (which sounds so stupid!). The organiser said “Walk to the end, do your ‘mannequin pose’ and keep walking up and down …” We had to do this for as long as it took them to read out the description we’d sent in about ourselves. I hadn’t realised that when we were asked to send this wording in, I would have to keep walking up and down the stage whilst they read it out – I’d sent in three flipping paragraphs!!
The rehearsal was amusing as the speakers who were introducing the models and describing what clothing we were wearing seemed to get it all mixed up. “This is Alice, she is 21 …” as a young boy walked down the cat walk. “This is 12-year old Jack…” as an older lady walked out. It was hilarious and certainly helped to quash the nerves, but I did wonder what on earth this was going to come across like to our paying audience?! Oh well, it’s for charity I thought to myself.
I connected with two other lovely ladies from the Haven that evening and we nervously laughed together whilst getting ready and waiting back stage to make our entrance. One of the ladies should have been in front of me in the line up, but because she’d been in the scene immediately before, she was still getting changed and wasn’t ready. This meant that as I walked out the words the speakers were reading out were about her and not me. There were big cheers from my fab friends and family in the audience as I entered the stage and I was described as “This is Shanna, she is mother to an 8-year old and is a zoo keeper…” Hilarious! I was trembling so much. This is not me, I did the best I could and exited the stage.
Some of the words that were meant to be read for me at the fashion show:
I have been utterly overwhelmed by the love, kindness, encouragement, generosity and support that I’ve received from my amazing hubby, family and friends. I am truly blessed and lucky to have such kind, caring and beautiful souls in my life – THANK YOU.
We helped raise over £5,000 that evening and whilst it was a very embarrassing experience, I was proud to be able to support this fantastic charity and was so grateful for my family and friends’ generosity and support.
After the show ended, we congratulated ourselves and swapped telephone numbers so we could keep in touch. I went to chat with my friends and family who had come along. Some of the girls had all dorned pink bows especially…so sweet of them! Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to chat to everyone who kindly came along.
That weekend we travelled up north to meet up with two lovely friends who I have met through writing this blog. The date had been in the diary for months, and after a particularly challenging week at work it couldn’t have come at a better time. The opportunity to spend time with others who appreciate the stresses of living with what is this new “normal”.
We had a wonderful weekend together catching up and sharing some laughs. We also shared experiences of the challenges we are all facing living with the after effects of having cancer. Our hubbies also joined us on this trip and it was good for them to connect and for us to all meet together. You can read Rosemary’s brilliant post about this in her blog The Superheroes of the (cancer) storm.
As we prepare to see out this year and start afresh again in 2017, I find myself thinking back to this time last year – daily trips to the hospital getting zapped by radiotherapy, starting the anti hormone treatment that left me an emotional wreck and wearing a wig having so little hair of my own.
How life has changed. This year has been challenging in so many ways – the relief of finishing treatment but then dealing with the unexpected aftermath that your mind and body is left in after a cancer storm rips through you. Being made redundant and being thrown out into the job market at a point in my recovery when what I really needed was looking after, nurturing and support. The very real and frightening ‘has it come back?’ scares and being transported straight back to that horrid memory of the year before. Scans. Needles. Waiting. Plus more time in hospital having surgery to remove the unknown mass from my lung area (which thankfully turned out to be benign).
But the best thing about this year has been getting my life back – it’s been the polar opposite of last year. Even though there have still been many hospital and doctor’s appointments, I’ve been lucky to be able to go to so many fab places and have had so much fun with my hubby, friends and family – making memories and having lots of laughs.
The icing on the cake at the end of this year has been a very kind and generous donation from a dear friend of mine to Breast Cancer Care, one of the charities I’ve been fundraising for this year. I’m absolutely overwhelmed and bowled over by their generosity and selflessness and know how much this money will benefit other ladies.