How to be good

Some years ago, I read a book by Nick Hornby called ‘How to Be Good’.  (Amazon tells me I purchased it on 11 June 2002, to be precise.) The blurb: ‘According to her own complex moral calculations, Katie Carr has earned her affair. She’s a doctor, after all, and doctors are decent people, and on top of that, her husband David is the self-styled Angriest Man in Holloway. But when David suddenly becomes good – properly, maddeningly, give-away-all-his-money good – Katie’s sums no longer add up, and she is forced to ask herself some very hard questions. Nick Hornby’s brilliant new novel offers a painfully funny account of modern marriage and parenthood, and asks that most difficult of questions: what does it mean to be good?’

I remembered the story this week when I was thinking about how deeply I am striving, post-caaancer, to be a good person. To lead a ‘good’ life. Which is not about giving my spare room to a homeless person, because it’s also my office and that just wouldn’t, y’know, work. For me, being good means: being kind, giving and receiving love, maintaining mental and emotional equilibrium, going with the flow, being true and genuine, being faithful, being in the moment, choosing to fill my life with joy, forgiving myself and others, responding rather than reacting, listening, paying attention to my inner wisdom, looking after my body, being there for my friends and family, achieving my potential, being cheerful.

And not: spending waaay much time in my head, being something of a fantasist, procrastinating, being angry, cold, and hard, withholding love, shouting, being impatient, wallowing in intermittent Black Dog days, being lazy, being resentful, trying to control everyone and everything, taking no exercise, drinking unhealthy levels of wine, worrying about what everyone thinks of me, spending too much time on social media instead of playing with the children, not supporting others, being too busy for the people I love and care about, not smiling, being absent, feeling guilty, being utterly selfish. Being horrible to DH, mean to my precious babies, critical about everyone.

I am all those things, and more. Trying to Be Good requires a monumental shift in the way I am in the world. Often, I don’t think I am a very nice person. People who don’t know me well may think I’m delightful, because I’ve only ever been polite and funny and sweet to them, or they may despise me, like the poor postman whose head I bit off recently. But I know I have the potential – and certainly the desire – to be a better, kinder, gentler, more authentic, more loving and lovable human being. Connecting with the pure love and light at the centre of my being: that sort of thing.

There’s a coaching exercise called ‘Eighty Today’ where you imagine you are 80 years old, and consider what you would like your friends, partner, children, colleagues to say about you as you near the end of your life. It’s basically the same as fantasising about what people are saying at your funeral, though less morbid. I have to say, with my literary proclivities, I quite like the Gothic aspect of imagining everyone in black crepe talking in muted tones at my woodland burial, over the strains of Mumford & Sons’ ‘After the Storm’ between the oak trees, about what a bloody marvellous chap I was. No-one wants, Scrooge-style, to be thought of as not a terribly nice person to have around. I don’t want the people I love deeply (but don’t always show it), to be shouting gleefully: ‘Thank goodness that miserable old bat has shuffled off her mortal coil, let’s have a partay!’

But there’s a motivation to Being Good that is far, far more important than what everything thinks of me when I’m old, or dead, or both. It’s my belief – I might even say my knowledge – that the physical body, the emotions, and one’s thoughts are interconnected so closely that you cannot separate out what’s going on in your head and your heart from what happens in your body. My body expresses or manifests everything that I think and feel. I’ve written before about my lack of surprise at being diagnosed with breast cancer, precisely for this reason. There’s no blame attached to this, by the way: I don’t think it’s my ‘fault’, I just understand that it was inevitable. According to Louise L Hay, cancer is always connected with deep anger and resentment, often directed at oneself. Every physical dis-ease or ailment is connected to a thought pattern. Identifying and releasing those old patterns of thinking and being, and replacing them (through tools such as affirmations) with something healthier, can help to heal. If holistic stuff isn’t your bag, this probably sounds bonkers, but even Western doctors accept that numerous physical conditions, ranging from digestive and skin disorders to stroke and heart attacks, are rooted in emotional disturbance or ‘stress’.

And so Being Good could mean the difference between life and death, for me. Post-cancer existence is like being in a post-apocalyptic territory. Every familiar feature of the landscape has shifted. Finding a new reality is hard, and painful, and fraught with wrong turns. I am acutely aware of the need to make the right choices about what I think and feel and how I behave, because I really, really don’t want to go to the Badlands of Cancerville again. And as I said in June, every ache and pain and twinge in my body and bones makes me scared shitless that I have secondaries lurking somewhere. Perhaps this is just about the illusion of control, but I know I feel so much better when I am calm, and sober, and have plenty of sleep, and eat well, and get fresh air, and laugh, and am kind and loving to everyone, especially me.

Perhaps it’s not about battling to change completely, though. I Am, as Birley Shassey belted out, What I Am. Perhaps it’s simply about being a Good Enough person, like childcare guru Donald Winnicott’s concept of the Good Enough Mother. Not trying to be perfect, because it’s impossible and you set yourself up to fail, creating a vicious circle. But being a little bit kinder, a little bit more cheerful, a little bit more chilled, a little bit healthier, a little bit more forgiving. As my health creation mentor Kit once wisely remarked to me, ‘Having cancer doesn’t turn you into a Saint’.

(Or Greavsie.)

Feel the fear and do it anyway

You know that thing I said a while ago about not feeling any fear when I was diagnosed with breast cancer or throughout my treatment? Well, turns out you can only Keep Buggering On for so long before the big ol’ scary monster, Fear itself, bites you on the arse and one has what I will delicately describe as a Wobble. (You don’t want to know the extent of the tears and associated snot, frankly).

Friends who have been through health crises of their own or with children tell me this is entirely normal. It works a bit like post-traumatic stress disorder, from what I can work out. The big thing happens, you get through it (no choice: it’s happening whether you dissolve into a puddle or not, and the human pysche is astonishingly resilient), you survive. All is well. You stop being intimate with consultants and surgeons. Then, a while later, a thought pops into your head. An insidious, sneaky, betraying thought that starts ‘what if…’

Exempli Gratia: ‘What if that pain/twinge/ache/tingling/weird colour is because Something Is Really Wrong?’ The body has let one down before with a poor performance, after all. Quite dramatically too. Specifically, in my case (let’s be brave and look it in the eye, shall we?): what if that annoying ache in my back is because I have secondary cancer of the liver (rather than another bout of sciatica)? What if that discomfort under my left rib is because I have secondary cancer of the pancreas (rather than getting so excited about my new health discovery, chia seeds, that I overloaded my gut with sudden, massive amounts of soluble fibre)?

If something really is wrong, do I really want to know? Do I want to be prodded and scanned and take the gamble of a) being completely reassured and feeling like a happy idiot or b) being told devastating news that means I will be compelled to write birthday cards in advance for my darling babies and husband for the next couple of decades?

I had a quite intense session with my awesome health creation mentor, Kit, this morning, which prompted me to blog about this. She’s had first hand experience of The Wobble: she was diagnosed with ‘incurable’ cancer in 1992, is in fine fettle, and still panics before every annual check up. She reckons fear is just an acronym of ‘False Evidence Appearing Real’. She asked what the thought was that I was thinking, and where it had come from. I know exactly. It was a feature in my beloved Grazia magazine about three weeks ago. It was from the fiance of a young woman who had just died from secondary breast cancer, in her liver, after recovering from breast cancer treatment and then getting a pain in her back. He had been hoping she would make it to their wedding this month. She didn’t quite get there.

This very sad story would have given me the jitters by itself, but there is a twist worthy of the Whitbread first novel prize (ooohhh….). It wasn’t the first time this beautiful girl had been in the magazine. She had written her own story in 2010, just after being diagnosed and having her first chemo. I remember, graphically, reading her feature, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I read it in bed, just after finding the lump in my breast for the first time, two or three days before fessing up to DH and booking an appointment with my GP. I remember the gut-liquidising chill as I read it: I already knew, deep down, that I was about to follow the same path. Chemotherapy in particular, before I had any idea of what it actually entails, was one of the most terrifying things I could imagine enduring.

And so when I read that she had died, my thought  – the thought behind all of this fear over the past few weeks – was this: ‘What if my life is mirroring hers?’ Almost instantly, I started to notice twinges and discomfort all over my body, all of which also have perfectly innocent explanations. No back pain at first, but I worried so hard about it that, sure enough, some back pain manifested itself. I worried so deeply, I’ve given my immune system a bashing and am currently fighting a rubbish chesty cold – the first for years (I really don’t get ill, apart from the obvious…). I panicked about my alcohol intake. I spent an entire evening, last Friday, crying on DH as I explained why I was scared. For, like, five hours (poor sod). Hot, salty, really big ploppy tears. They just wouldn’t stop. It was remarkably cathartic, actually, because to be honest I haven’t really cried specifically about caaancer at any point.

Then on Saturday afternoon I decided to take action. I had heard rumours of the mind-clearing benefit of exercise, though as a largely sedentary, distinctly non-sporty person, I had little experience of this. Regardless. Strapped on dusty trainers and, if I can just shock you, dear reader, I went for a run. Yup, you read right. Pinchy made like Forrest Gump and just….ran. And then walked for a bit, before running, and walking again, round a quiet local residential area, accompanied by an interesting selection of tunes on DD’s borrowed Shuffle. Among the Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga and Kylie there are a fair number of Disney themes. Turns out The Climb by Miley Cyrus is a perfectly acceptable running track…

Run, Pinchy, run!

Do you know what? Those rumours are true: moving your body really does clear your head. In the stressy age of extreme juggling we live in, that in itself is far more of an argument for getting off one’s fat arse than the nebulous idea of ‘getting fit’. Kit suggested that the universe sends us loving lessons, and maybe the message embedded in my fearful state was my own need to take proper control of and responsibility for my health: my diet (already pretty good, but I have made some more tweaks and am liking James Duigan’s Clean and Lean approach. I will learn to love kale…), the amount of wine I get through (38-year-old working mum levels. You know what I’m talking about), and my lack of any exercise other than 60 kettlebell swings most mornings.

My instinct is that she’s probably right. And she’s also right that I need to pick up the phone to my oncology team and say I’m not comfortable with waiting until next February to be checked over. Being signed off for a year is AMAZING, obvs, and I’m sure my consultant wouldn’t have done so if he wasn’t entirely sure that I’m fine, but six months in, I’m also miles further from medical attention than I have been since I was diagnosed. Which may also have something to do with The Wobble.

Other action: do some yoga cat poses to sort this damned sciatica out. Stop with the chia seeds for a bit (already done; gas levels no longer on the red-for-danger bit of the dial). Most importantly, apply the four questions that make up The Work of Byron Katie to that pesky ‘my life is mirroring hers’ thought:

1. Is it true? (I don’t know)

2. Can I absolutely know that it’s true? (No)

3. What happens when I think that thought? (The Wobble)

4. Who would you be without that thought? (Fully enjoying being happier, and more myself, than I have been at any point in my life, ironically).

Then turn it around: my life is not mirroring hers. We are completely different people, with different diseases, different treatments and different outcomes. I am safe, and free, and all is well.

And a final reminder to myself and everyone else: MOVE AWAY FROM GOOGLE if you or anyone you love has a question mark over some aspect of their health or what’s happening in their body. American health forums filled with fear-filled posts by the ‘worried well’ seriously Do Not Help. Ever. Now, I must ring my oncology team. At some point.

No cheese, please, Louise

I’ve been meaning to write this post for months. I was finally goaded into action by a bit of half-arsed ‘investigation’ into using food as medicine on Channel 4’s ‘The Food Hospital’ last night. After lots of basic, sensible stuff on how changing your diet can dramatically improve your health if you have diabetes, polycystic ovaries, high cholesterol or migraines, there was a five minute segment on a young woman who had breast cancer.

It had already spread to her spine. That’s not good news: with secondary cancer you can never officially be ‘cured’. So she had done her research and come across a hypothesis that replacing dairy with soya would have a huge impact on preventing hormone-dependent breast cancer (which accounts for around 50% of breast cancers: this is what I’ve had, and it’s more aggressive but there are more tools in the bag to tackle it at the moment.) I am very familiar with this theory, because the book it’s espoused in, Your Life In Your Hands, is practically my bible.

It was written by an earth scientist called Jane Plant, whose breast cancer kept coming back, tumours popping up all over the place. The fourth time, she was given months to live, and says she felt like giving up. But she didn’t. Instead, she used her scientific background to examine research papers from all over the world. She discovered that while in the UK, one in  ten (I think this is now one in eight) women will contract breast cancer, in China it’s more like one in 10,000. As she looked into this startling discrepancy, Jane Plant became convinced she had discovered the first causal link between diet and breast cancer.

Her story, and the book’s premise that the hormones in dairy produce can cause hormone-related cancers such as breast, ovarian and prostate – is compelling. After her last bout of cancer, she was given only months to live. Nearly 20 years later, she’s still alive and kicking, and the cancer is still in remission. Jane Plant suggests that the only living beings that need and can properly digest and process cow, goat or sheep milk are baby cows, goats and sheep. She intriguingly repositions dairy from ‘healthy and natural’ to ‘poisonous junk food’. There’s a bit of conspiracy theory involving two baddies – Big Pharma and the Global Dairy Industry – but I don’t have a massive problem with that.

The book so resonated with me when I read it just before my surgery in April (having being urged to read it by two different people on the same day – I’m a big one for following little signs from the universe like that), that I immediately cleared the fridge out of all dairy products.

This was A Big Deal because I’ve had a major love affair with cheese my whole life. In restaurants, I always went for the cheeseboard over a pudding. Cheddar, parmesan, brie and Boursin were staple foods in our house. Fondue? Nom nom nom. Not to mention milk, proper butter, premium yoghurts, custard, and ice-cream. I tried to buy organic – the non-organic dairy industry is as horrific as battery-farmed chickens – but otherwise had never thought twice about dairy other than the potential impact on my hips. Dairy’s good for you, right? And a great way of getting protein into children, yes? Well, perhaps not.

Cutting out dairy was easier than you might think. For me, the book opened my eyes to seeing my diet in a whole new way. It was a no-brainer: if there is even the slightest chance that Jane Plant is right, then why wouldn’t I switch from dairy to soy? We now have Alpro soya milk, yoghurt, and desserts instead of dairy, and dairy-free spread. I don’t exactly love tofu but I do use it. I drink miso soup. I snack on those lovely dried soya nuts and use soya beans (also known as edamame thanks to Wagamama). I love cooking and haven’t found avoiding dairy is even slightly tricky.

After a few months of being strict with everyone in the house, I am now confident enough that I can resist dairy to let the kids have the odd bit of grated cheese or Babybel, and DH to have butter and proper milk in his weekend coffee (soya milk is great in tea and on cereal but curdles revoltingly in homemade cwaffee. Not sure how the coffee shop chains manage it, but I do love my flat white with soya as a weekend treat). And I do have the occasional sliver of sheep’s cheese (Manchego, Pecorino, or Roquefort), since that seems less problematic, hormone-wise. But actually, much to my surprise, I just don’t really like the taste anymore. You know the thing that Chinese people say about Westerners, that we smell of rancid milk? That’s pretty much what all dairy smells and tastes like to me, now. All cow’s milk, no matter how fresh, just smells ‘off’. I don’t think the odd bit of dairy is going to hurt, but broadly speaking, it no longer has a role in my diet.

The kids are completely cool with the new regime. DS, in particular, has benefitted: I always suspected he was dairy intolerant because he was such a collicky baby, especially on my dairy-fuelled breast milk, and his nappies were ‘leave-the-room-retching’ vile. Since the switch, his tummy is absolutely fine, and nursery have been good enough to keep him off dairy as much as possible too.

So why did that Channel 4 show get my back up? The ‘nutritional experts’ briskly waved aside the young woman’s decision to swap dairy for soya as ‘controversial’ and said it was ‘up to her, but they haven’t found any evidence to support it’. Whoever ‘they’ are. The programme also then made some sweeping generalisations about avoiding all cancers, not just hormone-dependent breast cancer, including not drinking to excess, not smoking, and eating plenty of fresh fruit and veg.

Firstly, no causal link (ie x causes y) has ever been discovered apart from smoking and lung cancer. There is no definite link between smoking and any sort of breast cancer, although of course cigarettes do contain about a million carcinogens so it’s not a great idea. The evidence on alcohol is conflicting, and personally I think the benefits of relaxing with a glass of red after a stressful day outweigh any unproven risks, especially if we recognise the extent to which stress affects our immune system, which fights off the cancer cells we all have in our bodies. Plus wine is my only vice, so the nay-sayers can f*ck off.

Thirdly, cancer apparently loves sugar, and most fruit is very high in sugar. Fruit juice is practically all natural sugar with very little nutritional benefit. Yes, we get vitamins and fibre from fruit, but personally I aim for five portions of fresh, colourful veg and legumes or pulses a day, and avoid fruit (and, obviously, other sugary) apart from the occasional treat. I’m not alone – I’ve heard a few rumblings lately about the ‘five a day’ thing being flawed, because we really don’t need five portions of fruit a day, which is the easiest way of following this rule, especially for kids.

So there we are. I’ve fessed up. I don’t watch Martine McCutcheon in those Activia ads and think, ooh, I have to have a yoggy. I can’t say I don’t sometimes hanker over a very ripe, stinky brie ooching across a cheeseboard. But if you were in my position, I bet you’d give dairy a second thought.

The year I f*cked caancer!

Do you know what you were doing a year ago today? In precise detail? Do you know where you went, who you spoke to, what they said, the expression on their face, the sound of their voice, how you felt in every bit of your body, on October 13th 2010? I do, because it was the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer. And I know quite a few people, who I love very much, who know exactly what they were doing too. It’s not quite up there in the global consciousness in the same way as hearing that Elvis, Kennedy or Lady Di had gone to the great Celebrity Big Brother in the sky (plus I am not actually dead, unless I’m unknowingly in some weird M. Night Shyamalan movie and none of you have told me). But in my small universe, it’s a Big Day. (Here’s my first blog post on the subject).

Can you believe it? Where did those 12 months go? It seems like yesterday, and yet parts of the year have felt like time was standing still. I’ve been having quite bad flashbacks for the past few weeks as The Date approached. I’m sure the memories will fade over the years, but there’s something about it being exactly a year ago that has been making me feel nauseous and tense for a while. Then, in a nice bit of universal circularity, last Friday we finally moved in to our new gaff (of which adventures, more later), bang on a year after I reported the discovery of my lump to my GP.

DH went into work late this morning so he could do the nursery and school run with me, because that’s what we did a year ago together before I had The Mammogram, and also because he didn’t want me to be by myself this morning. And probably didn’t want to pretend it was a normal day for him, either. We didn’t do a sentimental flypast of the Jarvis Centre where I was diagnosed, though: cancer tourism’s not our thing.

When we got home after depositing the smalls at their respective places of play and learning, a massive bunch of gladioli was waiting for me, with a card from DH. I was very touched – they are beautiful, and he’s seriously not an ‘ordering flowers’ sort of guy, so it means a lot. Then my mummy arrived, ostensibly to help with the unpacking, but mostly just to be with me for a few hours. And then the postman bought a beautifully-written card from my sister that made us both cry quite a lot.

I remember some moments of that day in surround sound and Technicolor. Staring at the screen with the mammogram pictures of my breasts, and it being bleedin’ obvious that one of them had a very bright white mass in the middle. My blood running cold when the word ‘chemotherapy’ was mentioned. My tummy turning to liquid. DH and I sitting on our fabulous friends S&J’s sofa, in shock immediately after getting the news, all shakily raising cups of tea in a pledge to ‘f*ck caaancer’, which became Team Pinchy’s mantra. Having to tell my sister, and my mummy. Not being able to say the raw, powerful word ‘cancer’; telling everyone it ‘wasn’t good news’ instead.

Also: feeling, for that day and the five or six that followed, that I was in a calm bubble of golden light, like I was blessed (I do know this sounds bloody weird, and I sincerely hope you never have to experience the same circs, but that’s the only way I can describe it). Feeling with absolute certainty that I would get through it, and it would be the most important, life-changing event of my life. As it has proved to be. I really wouldn’t want to go through the past 12 months again, but I promise you, I wouldn’t not have gone through it. I’ve learned so much, and changed so much inside. This also probably sounds a bit odd, but lots of people who have been on a ‘cancer journey’ say the same.

Although please, my dearest family and friends, look after yourselves cos I sure as hell don’t want to go through what you’ve just been through: far easier, as I’ve said on many occasions, to Keep Buggering On when you’re the one going through The Thing. Far harder to be powerless as someone you love goes through it.

And the 12 months since: a blur of scans, chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy, consultant appointments. Endless giving of blood and receiving of intravenous, expensive, new, effective drugs. Having to tell DD that mummy’s booby had some bad stuff in it and I would need some strong medicine. The week of worry after my radioactive bone scan, which would have revealed if the cancer had already spread (in which case: no cure, just holding off the inevitable). Exploring a whole raft of alternative and complementary therapies. Cherishing the ‘normal, normal, normal’ days. The trauma of even partial hair loss (the new stuff on my crown and neck is about four inches long now, and dark and curly. I am hoping that at some point I will have long wavy red hair again rather than morphing into a pube head…) Choosing a wig. Erasing my beloved cheese and all other dairy produce after reading Jane Plant’s ‘Your Life in Your Hands’. The indescribably nightmarish quality of the Chemo Months: the sickness, the dead mouth, the constant nosebleeds, the exhaustion. Finally getting my critical illness cover payout so I could stop stressing about work during treatment (and just about afford our forever house). The impossibility of remaining demure as I whipped my top off to be groped by an endless succession of medical professionals. The bottomless love, support, generosity and general perking up from all directions. Letting that Chinese lantern go last New Year. Feeling responsible for so many tears. The bliss of our holiday in Spain. Doing the Pink Ribbon Walk and raising just short of three grand for Breast Cancer Care. The realisation that having two boobs of different sizes is not, after all, the end of the world (tho I am looking forward to my balancing surgery at the end of January).

Discovering interesting new body facts: my Franken-nipple actually functions; I no longer need deodorant under my right arm since 30 lymph nodes were removed; the weirdness of shaving an armpit with no nerve endings in it; you don’t just lose hair on your head during chemo; my nails have dips in them that correspond to each chemo session, and there’s still two dips (fragile, splitting) to go even though chemo finished in March.

Well, what a difference a year makes. I promised DH that day that I wasn’t going anywhere, and here I am. Very much alive and kicking, and enjoying a large glass of Fortnum’s champagne courtesy of my incredibly generous and thoughtful friend B. In an actual champagne flute, now my mummy has unpacked our glassware: we’ve been drinking pints of merlot out of squash tumblers like French peasants since the move last Friday.

You’ve all raised several glasses and cups with me over the past year, and here’s another toast. Please stand and raise your hot or cold beverage of choice: here’s to having f*cked caancer good and proper. Here’s to love (so much love), and faith, and hope. Here’s to my wonderful DH and our gorgeous children, our amazing family, and our fantastic friends (that’s you lot), without whom I simply could not have got through the past 12 months. Here’s to the next 12 months, and the next, and the next…

The end of the first school year

Today is the end of term. The last day of DD’s first year at school. I know time speeds up as you get older, but this is ridiculous: it seems like a matter of weeks since I left her at the door of her reception classroom for her first full day and then cried all the way back to the car. Mind you, there was the slight inconvenience of the Big C: when I was diagnosed in October we’d barely got into the rhythm of being a schoolgirl and a school mum, and the months since have been a whirlwind of scans and new shoes, chemo and uniform, surgery and learning to read, packed lunches and radiotherapy.

All of which could have had a disastrous effect on such a sensitive soul (DD and me both, ha!) but we got her first report yesterday and I could have died of pride reading it. In the face of all that upheaval and worry (and being the youngest in the school), my extraordinary daughter has done astonishingly well by anyone’s standards. I knew she was a bright cookie and a very lovely small human, but it’s very good to know that her teachers can see everything I see in her.

All I wanted was for her to make friends, enjoy herself, love reading, and have fun, and she’s done that in spades while being ‘A PLEASURE TO TEACH’. Fab. Her teachers have been fantastically supportive all year, dishing out cuddles and, literally and metaphorically, holding DD’s hand as she took her first steps on the school journey. I’ve sent DD in this morning with some very well deserved thank you pressies.

The long-serving, warm, lovely head teacher is retiring today, too, and she will be missed. She knows the name of every child in the primary school, is always ready with a cuddle and praise, and is one of those teachers who you know genuinely loves children. So next school year will be interesting in lots of ways: my treatment will be over by Christmas, there will be a new head teacher in January, and we will be filling in school application forms for my licious DS, unbelievably. He’s not even three until the last week of August, so he’ll be starting when he is four and a week, bless his skinny little knees.

He’s settling into pre-school at his nursery beautifully, though, and will be fine. I’ve always thought that having babies in August or September is particularly tricky: the young ones just seem too little to start school, and September babies often seem bored and more than ready by the time they are finally allowed to start (not to mention that extra year of pre-school fees).

We’ve got plenty of fun lined up this summer: DD’s social diary is already looking pretty packed, including a couple of mummy days out while DS is on his full nursery days. I’ve always taken a day off to see the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, and last year took DD with me for the first time. She adored it, so we’re going again this year together (and then to ‘a little Italian place for carbonara’ as she always requests in London, bless her mini-cosmopolitan soul). And we’ve got tickets to see Kate’s wedding dress at Buck Palace, hurrah!

What DD doesn’t quite know yet is that the summer hols festivities won’t actually start for me until next Friday, when I finally finish The Month of Radio Ga Ga. Next week she’s having quite a few playdates when I’ll be at the hospital for a stupid week of five rads, two consultant appointment, one heart scan and one herceptin drip. Pfft. DD knows none of this. She doesn’t need to. As far as she’s concerned my bad booby is better, because it is. Still, we will be celebrating next Friday night: DD’s asked if we can all go out for a curry, en famille.

In other news, hot off the press (and this will possibly be TMI if you are a bloke), MY PERIODS HAVE RETURNED!! This may not seem like something to celebrate, but there was a general suspicion in medical quarters that the ‘chemopause’ – your lady bits basically going into hibernation for the duration of the treatment – may have turned into full-on menopause. And I’m not even 38 yet, so that did feel too young. I didn’t want any more children anyway, but there is something about that choice being taken away from you that is deeply upsetting. But no! Two weeks ago I felt a familiar twinge in my ovaries, and exactly 14 days later, the mother of all menstruations arrived. I actually think it’s been eight months’ worth all at once: it’s like a particularly grisly scene from the Sopranos every morning, and for the first three days it felt like wolves were ripping out my womb. But I am so bloody pleased that my body is working again, I don’t care. DH was quite emotional when I told him: the idea of having a menopausal wife evidently wasn’t high on his ‘must have’ list this year, on top of everything else.

I was feeling a bit down yesterday, probably because after the novelty of being fertile again wore off, I remembered how tedious periods are, but I have perked up considerably today, not least because I am finally officially a size 12 again and am rocking my new  black skinny jeans. Yay! (Thank you W for introducing me to Tim Ferriss and his Four Hour Body regime – I’ll do a post on this soon).

Today, the sun is shining for the first time in weeks, and after this morning’s session I will be three quarters of the way through the radiotherapy. Whoop! This last big chunk of caaancer-f*cking is almost over!

My first charity fundraising thing

Gosh, my thighs are still aching. After months of sort of enforced inactivity, I decided it was about time I did some exercise. Not randomly: me, my mum, my sis, and three friends who I met five years ago through NCT when we had our gorgeous girls (aka Team Pinchy) are doing one of the Pink Ribbon Walks this summer to raise cash for Breast Cancer Care.

There’s less than three weeks to go now until our 10 mile walk across the Sussex Downs from Petworth House on 11 June. So on Sunday morning me and my friend S left our respective broods with their jaded daddies (her DH baggy-eyed thanks to an early start from their youngest, my DH from a boys’ boozy lunch in London that lasted 10 hours. When I raised an eyebrow to the wisdom of this plan, he actually quoted my last blog post on fun back at me. Sigh.)

Anyway, we walked four and a bit miles along the river Wey from Guildford to Godalming. It was bliss. Fresh air (at times a little too fresh), sunshine, peace, beautiful views, fabulous company, being close to nature (including the paddling horned cattle that I got all excited about because I thought they were water buffalo. Idiot. I don’t think I will live that one down for a while.) We did it in under an hour and a half, so we should easily do the 10 miles in four hours – the organisers reckon it should take somewhere between three and five hours.

And we are doing brilliantly on the fundraising so far, too. We are required to raise at least £175 each to take part in the run, so our team target was £1,050. I set up a Just Giving page to make it really easy to donate, and as of today we have already raised a fantastic £1,440 – 130% of our target. Whoop whoop, girls, well done!

I’d really like to get to £2,000 (because I like nice round numbers, and because it was the year I got married), so all donations are warmly welcomed! Just go to www.justgiving.com/teampinchy. Thank you!

I’ve never done anything like this before. I always donate to the usual big charity telethons but I’ve never had a personal connection with a cause. I chose to raise money for Breast Cancer Care because the organisation, particularly through its website, has been an invaluable source of information and support since I was diagnosed. And I’m already seriously thinking about doing the charity’s Machu Picchu climb in 2012 or 2013, for which I’ll need to raise £4,000. I’ve always wanted to visit Peru, so that will be a real life goal as well as an amazing shared experience with other women who have been on the same sort of journey as me.

But first things first: don’t try and climb hills at high altitude before you stroll along the Downs etc. Now I just have to keep up the training with plenty of brisk 20 minute strolls and maybe another long walk. This neatly dovetails with my Health Creation goals: fresh air/sunshine/exercise: what’s not to like? Far better than the stinky old gym, where I cancelled my membership last week and felt a large weight of ‘shoulds’ being lifted from my shoulders.

And even though I love food and wine waaaay too much to ‘diet’, I’ve also (whisper it)  joined Weightwatchers to try and shift that final post-baby stone (2lbs off in week one, yay)! I really don’t think it matters what eating plan you sign up to: I’m just finding that tracking everything I eat is making me much more aware of unconscious snacking and portion sizes, and the impact of alcohol on my daily calorie intake (about which: eek!).

Lots of walking will also hopefully mean I feel better in my cossie when we go on holiday at the end of June. My body confidence isn’t exactly high at the moment, what with the lopsided tits and everythin’, so every little helps (At the weekend, DD asked: ‘Mummy, which is your booby that hangs down?’ Out of the mouths of babes…).

One thing that has given me a real boost this week was being included on the Race for Life dedication of someone I haven’t even met. The very lovely Kate Husbands (aka @moomi_mama), a friend of a friend, ran it in 37 minutes (a personal best, I gather) and sent me this picture of her bib.

Now, I bet her thighs are aching more than mine…