Tag Archives: cancer charity

#CancerConversations & becoming a Big C Ambassador

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Today I’m really excited to announce that I’ve just taken on the role of Social Media Ambassador this summer for a local cancer charity, The Big C. I’ve written about the charity countless times before in my role as a journalist in Norfolk, but now I’m going to be even more involved in their summer campaign #CancerConversations by blogging for charity and I’m so excited to be involved with such a great local cause.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love to talk. I’ve lost count of how many people have told me I have the gift of the gab, that I’m the kind of gal who could start up a conversation with anyone. Even more so, I love to listen – I love to hear people’s stories, to know where they’ve come from and where they’re going. Two traits that are incredible important, both as a traveler, and in life – these have taken me through a career as a journalist, into travel blogging and has helped me no end in my world travels. Communication is what we humans live for, and yet sometimes it can be so hard to talk about the things that it is most important to discuss, whether relating to our feelings, or even more importantly, our health. For someone who is so vocal about everything else, I sometimes really struggle to talk about very personal things – so often I am listening to the problems of others and find it tricky to slip in what I’m going through. Travelling has changed that, I’m more open than ever before about what is going on in my life and try my best not to bottle things up anymore.

Keeping with the theme of conversations, I’ll always remember a string of interviews I had a few years ago while working as a journalist in Norfolk. It started with a former teacher of mine who had been diagnosed with cervical cancer, then there was the chap who came in with his wife and their baby daughter who had just been given months to live after doctors found a brain tumour. All of these brave individuals were doing their bit to raise money and awareness of the disease whether they were going to survive or not – they were inspiring and fought the illness every step of the way. But then there were the tributes – talking to the families and friends who were left behind after several startlingly young people died of the disease very suddenly. Hearing them describe their mothers, brothers, daughters and uncles as these vibrant individuals was hard, very hard. It was heartbreaking and brought a tear to my eye more times than I can count and really made me realise how short and unexpected life can be. Even now, after years of journalism, these are the interviews that stick out the most in my mind, and in life, these conversations will stay with me for the rest of my days. Teaching me the value of every second we have on this Earth and making the absolute most of it, now that’s all I dedicate my life to after giving up life as I knew it to travel the world.imageWhen it comes to health, I’ve always been lucky and had a huge support network of friends and family I could go to about anything. This makes such a huge difference when you actually have a health scare, just knowing you have people to talk to about it, just knowing you’re not alone and being able to seek help can change your whole experience. It’s sad to think there are people out there who feel they have no-one to turn to in these situations, or who wouldn’t feel comfortable seeking the help they are entitled to, but there are so many like this. Just recently, I’ve had two uncles hospitalised in a serious condition, one of which was put on life support, and saw how our entire family came together despite being spread across three continents. The beauty of phones, email, Skype and even Whatsapp made it possible for us all to keep in touch across five different time zones and brought us closer together. But if you have no-one you feel you can turn to, it could be such a lonely and terrifying time to go through something like that. I think guys find it harder to open up about health issues so it’s essential for campaigns to help them discover the support that’s available to them.

This is why The Big C have launched their summer campaign, #CancerConversations which is aimed at those across Norfolk and Waveney who are not taking advantage of the free cancer support available to them, men in particular. The team behind The Big C said: “Chaps – don’t bottle up your cancer health issues. We can help support you through your treatment! We have a range of free services we can offer including: financial support and welfare advice, counselling services, pharmacy support and complementary therapies.”  It’s so important to get the support you need while going through something like this, I know so many people who couldn’t have coped with going through cancer alone. A lot of these services were not available when my grandmother died of oesophageal cancer around a decade ago, but even then we were grateful for any help to deal with the condition. Now anyone going through the heartache and suffering of coping with this disease, or supporting someone through it, has a wealth of free services at their fingertips! If you’re a woman reading this, why not take the time to make the men in your life aware.1563

Where can you get help?

With free support centres in Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Gorleston and my home of King’s Lynn, there are plenty of places to start if you’re seeking help. Join one of the cancer support groups to share experiences at the Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn Centres for men who are living with and beyond cancer. These provide an informal, non-judgmental, open environment where men can support each other.

A range of free welfare advice is available with a specialist adviser, helping you sort the practicalities so you can concentrate on getting better. Information on benefits, loans, housing, employment issues, travel expenses, childcare, blue badge applications, help with form filling and much more is available.

The Big C also provide a range of complementary therapies in the Big C Centres. If you are a cancer patient, you and one carer can have up to six sessions each of reflexology, massage or reiki. There are also relaxation classes and nutritional workshops available, contact your nearest Big C centre to book.

Available for both you and your family, free counselling is a more structured form of support which may be appropriate when things seem so overwhelming that your usual ways of coping don’t appear to help. Up to six sessions can be arranged for each patient and carer.

For more information about these services, contact one of the following centres:

Norwich – 01603 286112 or cancer.information@nnuh.nhs.uk
Great Yarmouth – 01493 855297 or yarmouthcentre@big-c.co.uk
King’s Lynn – 01553 818737 or kingslynncentre@big-c.co.uk
The Louise Hamilton Centre, Gorleston – 01493 453100

Click here to go to the website – and here to find out more about the #CancerConversations summer campaign

Have you used any of these services – how have they helped you? Tell me about the strangest or funniest conversation you’ve ever had.

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It’s On The Ball – Have You Checked Yours?

IMG_6818With amazing timing, I was invited to the second annual Tobi’s Ball on Saturday night – a black-tie fundraiser for Norwich-based charity, It’s On The Ball, which works to raise money and awareness of testicular cancer. It took place just days after I suddenly spotted a load of publicity for a special Channel 4 programme fundraising for cancer research and celebrating reaching the point where as many people survive cancer as succumb to it. A huge landmark in cancer research and the development of treatment, and how better to acknowledge this amazing change than by helping to raise awareness of a lesser publicised form of the disease and raising money for such a good cause? Anyone who has lost anyone to cancer, or who has suffered themselves, will know how hard it is to watch someone you love go through that. The fact that this charity in particular was set up by a group of men who had all suffered and survived the disease makes it all the more important to me, because the chairman of the charity is in fact my boyfriend’s dad. Vince was diagnosed with cancer twice – yes lightning does strike twice – but bravely fought it and won the battle both times, long before I knew him. Knowing how much my own father means to me, and to my family, I know that we are all very grateful he had the expert medical care he did and that it was spotted early enough so that he could be here today for his son and his own family.

The ball was hosted by Sprowston Manor, in Norwich, and the entertainment could be found in the ballroom marquee, which was draped with icicle fairy lights with blue lighting and was decked out with fantastic decorations – my favourite were the choice of vases filled with mini chocolate footballs, as the charity is particularly targeting footballers. The whole evening was organised with a certain level of cheekiness which really added to the atmosphere, and it was amazing to think this was only the second time it had run – it was so polished and well-organised. We luckily arrived just a minute or two before the apocalyptic thunderstorm hit, and thank goodness we did as the people coming in after us were drenched! Dressed in our finest, we were looking forward to an evening spent doing something a little bit different – the ball promised drinks, a three-course meal, a raffle, live entertainment including musicians, a singer and disco, an auction and some great speeches – not bad for £40 a ticket, especially when you know that money is all going to such an amazing cause.IMG_6804The entertainment kicked off with welcome drinks and some live music by two very talented musicians on the saxophone, clarinet and various other instruments, before wedding singer Tommy Winn, who has now proved a huge hit two years in a row, took to the stage. Kicking off the ceremony was professional footballer Paul McVeigh who compèred for the evening and talked us through everything from the menu to some great games that livened up the crowd and later, the auction. He was very popular and had a great way with the crowd, who he had in stitches for much of the night. There were lots of great ideas for fundraising games which had us competing to win prizes from bottles of wine to cash prizes, and I loved the way the donations were in built into the evening – it was really nice to donate money while having a bit of fun. After three-course dinner – which also made me chuckle because the starter and dessert were both ball-shaped – of stuffed balls, chicken and passionfruit tart with sorbet, we were all pretty stuffed, but were treated to coffees and homemade shortbread – a lovely touch!

The meal was followed by the auction, which sported prizes including a signed Barcelona football pennant, a spa package, some signed football shirts and Formula One goodies. A pretty amazing spread and really good fun to watch the auction unfold and people got more competitive and even started bidding wars on their own tables! It was really fun and probably one of the highlights of the night, particularly as they managed to raise over £3,000 from the auction alone thanks to some very generous bids. It’s times like that when, as Mark and I said to each other, it makes you wish you were rich enough to be able to slap down a grand on the table and give it all to charity – what a great feeling, to know you made such a difference to the total at an event like this! But we know we all made a difference that night, whether it was paying for the ticket, buying raffle tickers, playing the games or even having professional photos taken in exchange for a donation to the charity. We made sure we did everything and it was money well spent, plus we all had an amazing time!IMG_6813After the dinner and auction, there were the speeches, led by Vince as chairman. His speech was perfect – short, simple, but really hit you hard and I found myself welling up as he spoke of a young lad, Alfie, who I had met only a few weeks previously. Alfie lost his dad to testicular cancer, and his mum has been left a very young widow thanks to the disease. The pair both hugely support the charity, but couldn’t be there on Saturday because they were walking the streets of Norwich, raising awareness by taking part in the Stand Up To Cancer walk. Truly inspiring and, as I’m sure you agree, the perfect example of why this charity’s work is so important – with more research and awareness, the lives of countless fathers could be saved so that they can be there to watch their sons, and daughters, grow up. Throughout the evening, the organisers had also created a slideshow of photos from various other fundraisers held throughout the year which was displayed on the back wall. The night continued with a lot of dancing, chatting and great music – I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a packed dance floor for the entire evening before!

I’ll finish with a bit more information about It’s On The Ball – the charity aims to support patients and their families by providing support packs and a buddy-system to the newly diagnosed, plus there is financial assistance available to help with travel and accommodation costs for those required to travel to London for specialist treatment. They also hold several events throughout the year to help raise awareness at locations including The Forum and University of East Anglia in Norwich. While other fundraisers are held throughout the year, Tobi’s Ball contributes a huge part of the money needed by the charity – with over £7,000 raised at last year’s event and expectation that this year’s will beat that total. This year, the charity was named Charity of the Year by the Norfolk Football Association which has hugely helped to raise awareness and funds for It’s On The Ball. Word is spreading thanks to the hard work of the trustees and volunteers, but more still needs to be done. So why not get involved somehow? Help raise awareness like I am now and make a difference. Even the tiniest donation will make a difference to the work of It’s On The Ball, but there are other ways of getting involved – why not just take their pledge to check yourself, or your boyfriend, every month? Just running through their check-list for a few minutes every month could help you notice instantly if anything changes and the earlier the diagnosis, the greater chance of survival.

Vince, Anne, myself and Mark

Vince, Anne, myself and Mark

Do you know someone who has been affected by testicular cancer? Have you been to a charity ball – what was your favourite part?

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What a difference a dye makes and holding on to your hair

imageAnyone who has been reading this summer will understand how busy I’ve been, and so many things have slipped for me including the state of my hair and any kind of beauty/pamper routine. That’s why this weekend has been so lovely, because I haven’t over-planned and had left myself time to really treat myself. I took the time to host a Pamper Party for my girls, treated myself to a face mask and body scrub, and even dyed my hair! Finally! The last time I dyed my hair, a few months ago, I went all out and not only gave it a base colour of Black Cherry – to give it a really nice red colouring in the sunshine, and then added in my own bright red streaks underneath. (I used the Loreal Casting Creme Gloss with the Smart Beauty Highlights kit.) It doesn’t sound like something you should do at home, nor does it sound like it would look that great, but I felt a bit adventurous and actually just did the streaks myself one night. You can’t really see the base colour in the picture below because my room was dark, but you can see the streaks effect and I think they looked rather good for a first time effort on my own hair! I hadn’t really thought they would actually take to my dark hair so well, but was so pleased they did.

photo (10)Unfortunately, after I dyed it at the beginning of June, I then became super busy and had no time to give it  the touch up it needed. It still looked good and still held the colour well, but had obviously faded and although I still had plenty of good hair days where I loved my barnet, I had a fair few days where I wanted to tear it out because I felt it looked scraggy and messy. It’s amazing how much our hair affects us, our confidence and the effort we put into the rest of our appearance. Although my hair never actually made me feel down, it certainly affected how I felt about the way I looked in that time, but I never realised until I actually dyed it again this weekend. I went for my favourite all-over colour Black Cherry again, which  looked great in the sunshine yesterday. And although I also bought some Claret Red dip dye to try on the ends, I think I’m actually going to hold off on that and enjoy the all-over colour for a little while first. It has really made me appreciate my hair and particularly now that this dye seems to have made it look a lot healthier and fuller – it even seems to have hidden how much I really need a trim to tidy it up – so I’m happy!

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My hair has been through a lot of changes in the past few years – I’d always had shoulder-length to longer dark hair throughout school. Then suddenly, right before university, I decided to chop it all off and have a bob, which I loved and really enjoyed. But I soon realised how much effort short hair was after being forced to always do something with it and started to lust after longer hair again. You can see in my photos how my hair grew over the next few years and now I would say it is nearly the longest it has ever been. I loved having short hair, it really gave me a confidence boost and made all my clothes look totally different. I would definitely have short hair again, but not any time soon. In the between stages, I had lots of variations on fringes and long bobs, layered cuts and all the rest. In the end I decided to grow my hair out, mainly for my best friend’s wedding at which I was bridesmaid last summer. Ever since, I have continued to grow it and strangely it hasn’t annoyed me ye! I thought longer hair would get on my nerves but I love having it – particularly because it means washing it a hell of a lot less and that I have given up on brushing it. I also love that my hair has kept it’s natural curl instead of losing it with the extra weight.

Just going back to my comment about how hair affects your confidence, I wrote a feature the other day on a charity called Look Good Feel Better, for which a group of volunteers who give cancer patients makeovers to help them rebuild their confidence by showing them how to use make-up to redefine their faces after losing all of their hair through cancer treatments. It may sound trivial to some, like these people have a lot more to be worrying about, but actually, when you think about it.. so many women and girls are diagnosed with cancer and all of our society are so obsessed with appearance that the loss of your hair, eyelashes and eyebrows is a big thing. It is something that makes us feel vulnerable at a time when we are physically at our weakest, a time when what we really need to feel is strong enough to beat this thing. It is a charity that takes a woman, and helps her make friends who understand what she is going through, a charity that puts a smile on the face of a woman who has terminal cancer. It make others feel confident to stand in front of their families without a wig on for the first time, and makes others fee brave enough to tackle everyday life. Make-up and hair is more than just stuff, it is a shield against the world and when life takes that away from you, you have a right to demand it back. (Read here)

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How attached to your hair are you? How do you think you would feel if suddenly it was taken away from? Any suggestions for what colour I should try next?

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