Adventures In Cravate Noire.

I distinctly remember proclaiming with unashamed envy – as my husband bought a new suit for the occasion – that I wanted to be invited to a black-tie dinner. I’d never been to one.

I knew the sort of thing I’d wear. A dress, of course, full-length perhaps – or backless. I’d wear the highest-of-heels and big big earrings.

The new suit buying was a couple of years ago now, and so the recent invitation came with less than perfect timing – between chemo cycles, on a date when several layers of concealer will most certainly be required.

But, I'm invited! And whilst initially disappointed about being unable to ‘do’ the event as I had previously imagined black-tie to be. I realised it was, in fact, a challenge!

A chance to wear something completely different, and so the quest for The Outfit has very much begun. For glam flats, I can walk in. Sleek lines – tailoring, and more sequins than Saturday-night Strictly.

I’m feeling ready to pop my black-tie cherry. Whether I’ll make it past 10.30 p.m., is, unfortunately, a less certain matter. 

Sar x


 Shiny, merry and bright

Lace me up, strap me in

Click images for links to items. 


It Takes Two, Baby - Me and Deliveroo.

‘What are your hobbies?’ He asked.

My mind was blank. Is it OK to say Instagram? Probably not.

Wearing my new red coat with everything, and Deliveroo are what I seem to be spending a lot of time doing. Naturally, I lied and heard myself say, ‘reading and going to the cinema.’ 

I do like the cinema – but having been twice in 2017, it doesn’t feel like that meets quantifiable ‘hobby’ proportions.

‘And what about your hobbies before?’ 

Maybe it’s the word ‘hobby’ that’s the problem for me – images of boys (and sometimes *ahem* fully-grown men) huddled in Games Workshop painting little figures, and looking like they could be having the best day of their lives.

Swap hobbies for say, interests, and it feels… more open.  My interests ‘before’ included french martinis, travelling and running (I didn’t mention the french martinis – as there didn’t seem much to be gained by adopting a full-disclosure policy at this point).

The exchange about hobbies was part of an assessment to determine my suitability for some sessions with a Neuro Physiotherapist at a brain and spinal injury charity. It involved forms, questionnaires and talking about what had brought me to the centre – what happened during the operation – life ‘before’, and what it is like now.

‘You have experienced a trauma,’ he concluded.

The word hung heavy in the air.

‘It has been a funny year,’ I replied.



We moved on to the physical assessment.  Without the cast, that I have to wear to stabilise my ankle and left foot, walking is much more difficult – my deficits at their most exposed.

He commented that ‘the (left) foot quickly fatigues.’

The neurological pathways have not yet fully remapped. I’m working on it – putting the pieces back together, but no one can say how long it might take or if ‘it’ will ever fully repair.

I remind myself – during assessments like this – how far I’ve come.

My balance, walking, and ability to shift my weight in different directions were evaluated using fancy pieces of kit. I’m excited to have the opportunity to try out cutting-edge equipment and think it will be really helpful for me to make further progress.

One of ten recent appointments, and coinciding with my 7th cycle of chemotherapy it has been a busy couple of weeks.

During the quiet journey home, I thought about the word he’d used – ‘trauma’ and found myself in tears.

A year spent in waiting rooms where you are one-of-many can be numbing. The departments are filled with countless disorders and scars – the treadmill of treatment a distraction of sorts.

I hadn’t given myself permission to acknowledge what it had been.

I thought it too indulgent. When, much to my surprise – that day at least – it was exactly what I needed to hear.

Sar x

Three Cleansers To Make You Feel Clean And Smug.

I was a late developer on the skincare front – only taking it remotely seriously when I got to around 28, and read in magazines that I should already be doing my utmost to slow the ageing process before it was (shock horror) too late. Since then, I've amassed several shelves of lotions, creams and the like. I have a fairly steady skincare routine. But, well, I can be unpredictable. I'm not always in the bathroom when I say I will be – too tired, or there's something good to watch.

Glowing goddesses suggest keeping products next to the bed, so there's no excuse for not applying at bedtime – but, you really do need a sink when it comes to properly cleansing, and in my experience simply having things by the bed won't make you (me) use them.

Cleansing, with water, requires a certain effort, and sometimes there simply aren't enough hours in the day. I am generally converted to finding pleasure in taking 5 minutes – with the bathroom door closed, to massage my face clean. More time in the bathroom also warrants making it a nice space to be in – building a stock of flannels and muslins, along with some easy on the eye storage solutions.

I've been using this trio regularly for the last 12 months, and they are now in my ever-growing ‘empties’ pile.

Post-cleanse (is that a thing?) my face feels shiny and new. I rest my head with a smugness similar to telling colleagues you've been to the gym or for a swim before work – you know, *casually* dropping it in at the opening of a meeting, and feeling like you've never been a better version of yourself. 

Clean and smug. A winning combination, if ever there was one.

Sar x


CLINIQUE take the day off cleansing balm

This isn't budget by any means, but one pot lasted me twelve months – you really only need a smidge. It's a proper balm, providing enough slip to get a good massage on and removing makeup like a dream. There’s not a lot to say about the scent which whilst mild and completely inoffensive, is hard to describe. 

The Body Shop camomile sumptuous cleansing butter

I like this one A LOT. The price is reasonable (as is the whole camomile range), and it smells divine. It has more of a 'buttery' texture, and is quite solid in the tin – but once warmed in the hands is perfect for both massaging the face and removing makeup. Leaves skin moisturised and soft. 

LUSH ultrabland facial cleanser

 

Harder to categorise, Ultrabland isn’t a balm (or butter), but is thicker and more ‘cream’ like. It’s a good one for sensitive skins as it doesn't have much of a scent. I've found it to be a reliable everyday cleanser, particularly during breakouts. The black pots are pleasingly sleek and minimal should you be thinking about bathroom styling opportunities!



Pimp your bathroom. 

Rose gold basket - H&M Home. Soap dish - Orla Kiely. Flannels - Primark and Ikea. 

Today Would Have Been My Wedding Day.

For the last week our phone calendars have been flashing up with reminders. I’ve responded to emails requesting finalisation of the tapas dishes we wished to be served. 

Today was our wedding day. Except it isn't, won't be – because we’re already married!

Despite the diagnosis, we'd intended to stick to our plan of a small wedding in a city that held special memories. The venue, date and catering were all sorted.

But then, well, the awake craniotomy didn't go as planned. There was the errant left arm, hand, and that learning walk stuff which shifts your focus a bit. 

Having been wheeled by a porter from my ward (at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust) to the small Christie unit there in January, awaiting a CT scan and radiotherapy mask fitting, and cannula-ed up – we nodded our mutual agreement.

Let’s just do it.

There were formalities to sort out – giving notice and the like – but apart from that it was simple.

We grappled with guilt for a few weeks, I mean could we really not invite anyone? The truth was that it was what we really wanted, and so yes, we did have the guts (and the T-bomb for backup should we need it).

The biggest challenge was finding something to wear. The crutch, and drop foot – I didn’t want to marry in trainers.

I relied heavily on internet shopping and went on mad online sprees, returning most of it soon after it was delivered.

In the end I wore what looked like a trouser suit, but technically wasn’t, and ordered a nude strap for my foot because wearing black under white trousers was most certainly a no no.

Matt looked ever so dashing, and we were coordinated in grey (independently chosen – I add, and surely a good sign if one was needed!!).

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What you doing this weekend? Oh, nothing much.

We went to the Register Office in an Uber (how else!). A champagne breakfast was followed by an unhurried lunch, where we were served by a waiter that couldn’t quite decide if our tale of having just got married was a joke or not.

Four weeks into chemoradiotherapy I’d consequently peaked by mid-afternoon. Sneaking across the city, (seriously though  how would I explain my limping around in a very white suit on a grey Saturday to friends/family/colleagues) we spent the evening listening to Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, and caught Meet the Fockers on the sofa (such an underrated comedy classic in my book!).

Quite unsure how I would respond to treatment, yet it wasn't about that. We did it for the hell of it!

Devoid of grand expectations, the words we exchanged were weightier.  

We were married, and the big room felt small.

Sar x


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Photography - Let Love Flourish, Trousers and Jacket - Zara (similar still stocked)

Top - Lace and Beads (similar here), Shoes - ASOS (now sold out), Nude/beige foot-up - Ossur

Wig - courtesy of the NHS


See You On The Other Side.

There’s something very human about acknowledging dates – it just feels right, and so it was inevitable that I would feel the need to mark twelve months since my brain tumour diagnosis.

Having written about that day before, I decided to get someone else’s perspective. I asked my very good friend (at short notice – sorry!) if she’d share her thoughts, and luckily she agreed. 

Here's what Kate said about what she remembers most from the last year.... (contains *all* the feels... and literally the nicest of words... I promise I didn't pay her much). 



On getting the news

The words brain tumour are scary, no doubt about it. When someone you love has their life change in such an intense way, your life will change too.

In the lead up to your appointment I was definitely convinced that the seizure that triggered it all was a one off anomaly, so when I got your text ‘It’s bad news’ I was not prepared for what was to come!

I remember clearly that you were like I will call you later, and me thinking no you will call me now bitch, I wasn’t waiting! I left work at lunch time and rang you and you told me you’d got a brain tumour. I was in absolute shock, but the conversation we had was so matter of fact.

I feel like we talked about you having a wax, and that you had gone for lunch and then we hung up and I burst into tears.

On finding the right words

The whole thing has been a tough experience obvs, but I felt a bit like the pre-surgery portion was like walking a tightrope. What was appropriate to say? We text each other basically every day, but I was struggling with should the texts be more brain tumour or bake off?!

You’ve always been a tough nut so I didn’t want to push a load of oh shit brain surgery chat, but then I wanted to make sure that you knew I hadn’t forgotten what was going on and that you were going in for brain surgery in December.  

I’ve gone through all my old WhatsApp’s to look at things we discussed immediately pre-surgery and one of them was whether you should pack tinted lip balm to the hospital and that if you were asleep when I came to see you in the hospital I’d do you a full smoky eye and dramatic eyeliner flick so you didn’t have to worry about not being on your a-game on the ward!

On the day (of surgery)

The day before you went in the last thing you text me was ‘see you on the other side, we’re nearly there xxxxxxx’ and I spent all day at work when you were in surgery thinking what if I don’t see Sarah again?! I got no work done and I had no time for anyone in the office, I was too busy clutching my phone waiting for an update.

It felt like forever, but obviously it was longer for you, and then when I got an update off Han it was like a massive weight off that you’d made it through.

On visiting

I definitely had a stomach full of butterflies when I was going to see you for the first time after surgery. I hate hospitals at the best of times but going to see your friend after surgery, not knowing what to expect or knowing whether we’d be able to have a conversation or whether you’d be really ill, meant that my head was in overdrive getting the tram to the hospital.

When I saw you in bed the first thing I thought was God what an amazingly attractive bandage! It was wrapped about double the thickness of your tiny head and you looked like an alien. A gorgeous alien obvs.

That first visit was tough because I selfishly wanted to have you to myself, and do the checks I wanted to do on you to make sure you were ok! We had a bit of a chat and I was feeling good that your brain hadn’t been frazzled, but then the physios came to give you an assessment and that was when the reality of the situation hit me harder.

It was a combo of laughing at your peachy bottom on full display as they were rolling you to your feet, and then wiping away tears when you struggled to stand.

On *weird* birthday celebrations

As I couldn't text I woke up to this AMAZE birthday picture message.

We’d already celebrated your 30th out and about Manchester with you carrying a massive orchid, but your actual birthday was spent in hospital. It’s times like that when I felt guilty, that you were living such a different life than I was, but you showed a massive amount of strength when I would have been bawling about being in hospital on my birthday. Especially seeing as we’ve spent nearly every birthday together since I was 14. Let’s not forget so smashed you were sick in your mum’s new turkey tray for Christmas!

Considering you had a head of staples and had had brain surgery days ago, you wouldn’t have known because you were always immaculately turned out. A strong lip, nails done and a misting spray at hand if you needed it.

On getting used to the 'Mitchell' look

Now I think you’d look weird to me if you had long flowing locks, but I remember the first time I saw your head in all its shiny glory it was a bit of a shocker.

We were going swimming and I came round and you were all turbaned up but then we got to the baths and you whipped it off and I was definitely internally going ‘oh my god where’s the hair gone’ for about 5 mins trying to be really casual.

But it was your attitude to it that normalised the baldness for me, you were there bold as brass in the changing room, moisturising your head (lol), giving no fucks. I don’t know whether you were thinking about it or worried about going full on bald but from that day I was in awe of how you just handled that in a matter of fact way.

Also, we have to be thankful you have a nice small good proportioned head, and that you weren’t hiding a weird shaped cone under that hair.

On the road to recovery

From that day in the hospital when it took two people to help you stand up, to where you are now is incredible. It’s not ideal of course, but you’ve gone from being wheeled about to a zimmer frame, to parading around in Insta photos with an array of glam walking sticks and box fresh orange trainers. It’s remembering where you were and where you are now when I think how much you’ve smashed it.

But worrying about surgery, treatment and the future has taken a back seat to a constant sense of amazement I have watching you succeed and overcome challenges at every turn. I don’t want to be too cheesy of course, no one needs that, but the sense of pride I have watching you adapt to your new life and smashing it at every turn is ridiculous, and I probably will never be able to sum it up properly.

Here’s to more laughs, more shrinkage of the inconvenient brain tumour, red lipstick, jumpsuits and a spa break soon!

xx

If you like it, then you really should put a pin on it.

Where have you been I hear you ask.... well, I'm back. Wearing over-sized tees with important messages - and full of vigour about how much more frequently I'll be doing new posts - back to weekly? Maybe!

Let’s move on and talk about pin badges. You can't scroll through Insta without encountering a pin badge or two... overnight these curious shiny gems have appeared from all directions.

Put a pin on it!

Brain Tumour Research issued a badge designed by milliner Piers Atkinson, earlier this year. The *fabulous* red lip is literally my shade (Mac - Ruby Woo, FYI) so it’s giving me all the shiny hard joy.

The millinery link is to their annual Wear A Hat Day – the charity are fundraising tirelessly to reduce the number of surprises found lurking under our hats.

Let's not split hairs about whether its just-that-bit-too-big to be a pin badge - it probably doesn't matter. I say, stick a pin on it and call it what you like. 

You can buy the badge here

Sar x


Enamel from another mother

Whilst we’re on the subject, I spotted a couple of boobie related numbers (above). Cute pins, and all for a good cause. Click images for links to buy. 


Fangirling my way to the neurosurgeon’s office.

Just over a fortnight ago I had an MRI scan - the results were amazingly positive. The tumour has shrunk! The chemo and radiotherapy have been doing their thing. So much so that we’ll be carrying on, past the September end date, through to Christmas, and then we’ll see.

At the Neurosurgery appointment last week my surgeon said I looked bright and well considering the chemo, and concluded that my rehabilitation to date has been “impressive”. With flushed cheeks I giggled like I’d bumped into Tom Hardy in the lift. The nice shiny apple worked a treat.

Savouring the praise, I regaled friends and family with details. I say take compliments where you can get them, but – what with the infrequent appointments and all – medical professionals are not a wholly reliable source. Better to seek opportunities far and wide because you might just need a hit in between.

Back home, I tried to get my left foot into these fabulous pony-skin, animal print sliders. But my brain couldn’t handle it (neither could my foot), and so, I was back to knowing my place. Having a word with myself, and all that.  



Since I’m keeping closer tabs on my spending, accessories offer the solace I need. Outfit making, at lower cost. Win-win!

I went a bit mad in Lovisa. They do their own version of the Insta-famous tassel earrings, plus more subtle versions (see above) if like me, you are bored of them. 

Sar x

 

No More Pret Debt.

I am being entirely sincere when I say that on finishing work before my surgery in December, I was more worried about being away from the office for up to 8 weeks, than the awake craniotomy itself.

I know. What sort of person was I? That person – the one sending not very important emails at midnight and checking my NHS-issue Blackberry every 10 seconds. I thought being off work would be terrible. I’d be bored at the very least, but above all, wouldn’t know about all those important things going on and you know, might even be forgotten!

When further treatment commenced and I focused on my rehabilitation it was suddenly the least of my worries. I discovered I can *actually* exist in the world sans work email. What a revelation! 

I held onto the notion that I might be able to work part-time during my treatment but it became clear my body had other ideas. The need to adjust the goal posts has become par for the course.

On starting chemo radiotherapy, I had visions of how I would use the time – maybe baking my own bread, fermenting vegetables (that’s a thing now) and getting on top of years of paperwork. It's with no remorse that I admit none of it has happened and it's safe to say it probably won't.

I’m lucky to be employed somewhere with a generous occupational sick pay scheme but like others at the early stage of their career have moved around quite a lot between private and public sectors. Therefore, in relation to continuous service my number of years didn’t cut the mustard for maximum entitlement. 

Irrespective of how good your workplace scheme is, eventually it will stop. Statutory sick pay (capped at 28 weeks in total) is £89.35 a week. 

I suppose the point I wanted to make here was that a long term illness will undoubtedly affect your finances eventually – the extent will depend entirely on your circumstances. There are benefits you can claim – complicated processes with very long forms.  Patience or support from somewhere like Maggies, Macmillan, or your Specialist Nurse might help.  

It’s easy with hindsight to advocate the importance of health cover and other such insurances, but in your twenties and early thirties (if you are child free) priorities are likely to be paying the bills, having some money to have a good time, and hitting up Zara once a month.

I’m slightly reformed, more frugal. No early morning Café Nero calls or £8.50 Pret stops. The drawers full of beauty products are getting used and the mutlitude of mini hotel freebies are not gathering more dust – shower roulette is happening and a surprise new scent every few days is quite a treat!

I'm out of my comfort zone (brain tumours are good for that) newly financially dependent on another, but fortunate enough not to need the spare room at my mums just yet.

There was only one thing to do on my last proper pay day. Forget being sensible and have one last big (online) shop up.

I went IN, savouring every click. 

Sar x


Let's talk about that haul.... 

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This jumper! The low back, stripes. Red detail giving it that little something! Sadly, no longer available as it was in the sale. I've linked something vaguely similar below. 

A pair of leather look trousers should be a capsule item. More 'put together' than jeans or black chinos and equally good with heels or trainers. The staple pair I've had for years from Zara have a busted zip (the month on steroids is to blame!) and I thought it was time to reinvest. This pair (River Island) have a higher waist which can hide infinite sins.  

My Insta husband has limited availability and so sometimes a vaguely green wall in a car park has to do. We're working on it. 


Jumper dresses can evoke feelings of drab work wear - function over form, but not this one. Flattering for all shapes, the ribbed grey, red and navy colour blocks mean it's winning on every front. 

Due to the cast (which helps by the way) trainers with a flexible sole are what serve me best. These statement orange/red babies were literally calling my name. I've got into my red stride now and two random in the street compliments make them almost value for money (pictured/linked below).

A colleague bought me the PUR scented candle pictured as a 'before surgery' gift. It has now taken pride of place in the bedroom (I had a candle backlog too!!). Handmade in Ramsbottom, it smells fresh and generally divine. 

Clutch pictured is old (Warehouse). Bonas (I'm going to call them from now on - you know what I mean) do great sunglasses and these cappuccino cat eye beauties were only 6 quid (pictured/linked below). 



Did you see the piece I wrote featured by the lovely ladies at Chapter W? Check it out here

All my best faces - sharing lessons in vlogging.

I popped my vlogging cherry in June. The Manchester Ted Talks Group asked me to record a 3-minute video based around one of my blog posts which would be shown at one of their monthly evening meetings.

I said yes, of course, because there was no reason to say no. I hadn’t done it before, but that wouldn’t matter.  Here’s what I learnt.

1.      It will take you much longer than you think – especially if it’s your first go. I didn’t start early (that would be too sensible) and thought I’d be able to bash the whole thing out in a day. That didn’t quite pan out….

2.      What about fancy equipment? A tripod would probably be useful. I didn’t have one so rigged up my digital camera on the combination of a ladder and stack of books. It did the job, and we all have to start somewhere, don't we?

3.      Make sure you pick the right spot - somewhere nice and quiet. I say this because one of my best takes had to be discarded due to *someone* singing loudly in the shower.

4.      It’s harder than you might think to say all those things in one take. You could spend time learning it like a script, but I had left it too late. Alternatively, you could keep recording take after take, until you get it right, but that requires a level of patience I lack.

5.      I opted to accept my limitations (and impending deadline) and record it in chunks instead - this brings with it its own challenges.

6.      If you were well versed and managed to get it in one, editing might not be required. If like me you gave up on this, then you are going to have to edit the thing.

7.      You’ll need software. iMovie might be good enough (but I don’t have a Mac *shakes head in shame*) so had to download a programme and (quickly) learn how to use it.

8.      On reviewing your footage you’ll quickly need to accept two things. The way you sound, and what you look like. You might like the face you do in the mirror but your face basically has a life of its own that you weren’t aware of. Move on.

9.      Remember the purpose of your vlog. Is it about getting a message across, or about showcasing your brand and amazing editing skills? The latter will require much more time, effort and practise.

10.  You might find watching other videos and vlogs inspiring. Someone super slick like DevanOnDeck might spur you on, or (in my case) remind you that rustic and relatable could be your niche.

Would I do it again? Well, you'll have to watch this space.


All the faces I didn't know I had (and a very important message).


Peachy.

It’s easy to get into the habit of always thinking about what’s next. We all do it – planning for holidays, new jobs, our lives all mapped out. Years in advance. I had some myself, but don’t much care for them now. We can be guilty of forgetting that the unexpected might happen – a sudden death, life changing illness, divorce. Those things happen to other people we think, reassuring ourselves, I’ll stick with my important plans.  

The line in the Baz Luhrmann song Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen) “Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else's” sums it up for me - your success is never 100% down to your own virtue and (bar a few exceptions) you probably aren’t a genius – great! The pressures off.  

I haven’t spent much (any) time wondering why I got a brain tumour, and I don’t feel angry about it. I see it as the roll of the dice, getting the (unlucky) short straw. The stakes are high and it is inconvenient, for sure, but who knows? If it wasn’t this it might be something else – not necessarily now, but in the future.

I had a bad week last week, a tougher chemo round and a general feeling like I was trying to walk through treacle. Comments from my physiotherapist “that my walking looked really fatigued” before the session had even started induced tears - the first time she’d seen me be anything but practical and positive in the six months I’ve been seeing her. Tears at having to accept the impact my ongoing treatment has on me – making walking, and my whole rehabilitation much much harder. Tears at the realisation, that when she says it takes days for the brain to fully recover from seizures she’s right.

The next day I reported the seizures to the Neuro Oncology team. Two in two days, one lasting 45 minutes and then, suddenly, I had some options. I’d start a third anti-seizure med as an add-on, and would be getting a cast fitted to my ankle to help with general stability.

After a sit down dance to Get Lucky, I was feeling (almost) peachy again.  

The unexpected can be catastrophic, but being able to deal with it - the rough and the smooth is something to strive for. There’s no formula, and I can't claim to have it all nailed down but what a privilege it is to be able to shake off the shackles of all those plans you had and see the world differently.

I’m doing every cliché in the book - blogging, painting and dyeing my hair pink.

Flying the flag and wearing the t-shirt.

And why not?

Sar x


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Let's start with the Jeans. I'd had it with skinnies really as soon as I came out of hospital. On a practical level I couldn't get them on myself and needed a lot of help, and the fact that one leg was much thinner than the other wasn't making me overjoyed. I tried mom jeans but there was something not quite right about them either. Orson from Topshop are the perfect in-between. High waisted, part mom, but straight leg and not skinny. I particularly like the subtle frayed edge which is just enough.

My sister came round wearing the 'peachy' tee and I ordered it literally 10 minutes after she'd gone. It's a good fit for a casual tee and the perfect combo of stripes and lettering. Not a lot more needs to be said.

Earrings - Topshop (now out of stock). Radio (similar still available) - John Lewis. Rose gold dish (similar still available) - Oliver Bonas. Lip Balm - Glossier (mine is 'cherry' - a marzipan dream). Sunglasses - old.


My Brain Tumour - What Happened When?

Filling each section of the hard-core type dosette box (4 sections for each day of the week, with braille should you need it!!) has become a Sunday evening ritual. Populating each section is not only quite satisfying but also helpful in thinking about the week ahead. What’s on - day by day, section by section.

Brain surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy don’t make you a very reliable friend.

You read the messages but you forget to reply. Sometimes you don’t answer your phone. You might be napping or at physio.

There’s a lot of stuff. Stuff to remember, and do. There’s appointments, seizures, exercises, and amongst all of this, there's life too.  

Seasons 1 - 7 of Mad Men to re-watch, getting into The Good Wife (from the beginning of course). Rediscovering painting and the odd lunch with colleagues and family.

There’s building a substantial collection of walking sticks. Simply serving an important purpose isn’t good enough - you want your walking stick game to be strong!

Days when you just can’t get up. Difficult conversations, and tears.

So many people being there if you need.

You are grateful. But some friends have fallen through the cracks. They bump into other friends and ask questions. Surgery was when? I didn’t even know….and what, chemo? When was that?

Even if you follow my blog religiously you might be confused about exactly what happened, when.

I haven’t been posting chronologically - that would make far too much sense, and having started this in January (three months after my diagnosis) there really wasn’t any going back then.

So, on a Sunday evening - let’s start at the beginning and map it all out.  Section by section.

Sar x

(if you already know all the details you may want to skim)


Pre-diagnosis (Aug - Sept 2016)

21/08/2016 - first tonic-clonic seizure

Sept 2016 - see a neurologist, have first MRI scan

Diagnosis and planning for brain surgery (Oct - Dec 2016)

07/10/2016 - diagnosed with ‘presumed low-grade glioma’. Start taking anti-seizure drugs for symptomatic epilepsy

Oct 2016 - further MRI scans (perfusion, spectroscopy)

08/11/2016 - agree to undergo awake craniotomy with functional mapping for resection

08/12/2016 - finish work prior to surgery. Expect to be off for approx. 8 weeks

09/12/2016 - functional MRI scan (fMRI)

16/12/2016 - awake craniotomy (surgery eventually abandoned due to positive mapping throughout. Small biopsy obtained

Recovery - 3 weeks in hospital due to severe left side weakness

05/01/2017 - biopsy results & next steps: Grade II Diffuse Astrocytoma, IDH1 Negative, no evidence of 1P/19q codeletion (now considered inoperable)

06/01/2017 - discharged from hospital

Jan 2017 - fertility preservation (post to come soon about this)

Treatment phase one (Feb - March 2017)

06/02/2017 - concurrent chemoradiotherapy (42 days oral chemo/33 sessions of radiotherapy)

Treatment phase two (April - Sept 2017)

20/04/2017 - start cycle 1/6 of oral chemotherapy

16/05/2017 - MRI scan

17/05/2017 - scan results

18/05/2017 - start cycle 2/6 of oral chemotherapy


Sheet Masks and Hospital Beds.

Going into hospital plays havoc with established beauty regimes. I did have a ‘regime’ before I had brain surgery, it involved double cleansing most evenings, serums, facial oils. The lot. I optimistically took a travel sized take the day off cleansing balm into hospital along with a couple of flannels. When I had my own little room with nearby sink, and as soon as I was able to do an assisted weight transfer from bed to chair I could properly cleanse much to my delight. One evening, making myself at home, I followed the cleanse with a sheet mask. I sent the photo below to my friend on the evening of 23rd December 2016. As mad as a sheet mask in a hospital bed might sound, no one really batted an eye lid.

The nursing team had already been through all of the products I took in with me - concealer, red lipstick, blusher and eye brow pencil and I guess I did the sheet mask because I could and because it made me feel more like me. Akin to my mum painting my nails red the day after surgery (the right index fingernail left naked for heart rate monitoring!).   With no nearby sink or bathroom once on a shared ward though, I was soon back to face wipes. Sheet masks would have been a wasted effort.

Less brain tumour and more skincare this time....

 

 

Six Special Skincare Buys


I’ve talked before about my favourite red lipstick, and how lipstick of any colour (but particularly red), can lift your spirits. A friend recently mentioned she wanted to try red but wasn’t sure it would suit her, and I thought about what I could suggest as a cheaper offering. These Maybelline Superstay 24hr DualEnded Lip Colours are in my makeup bag at all times in ‘533 Steady Redy’ and ‘310 ForeverHeather’. Given they are so often on 3 for 2 or similar deals, they work out good value and whilst they might not stand up to the 24 hour staying power claimed, they do stay put reasonably well.

Thorough cleansing really is the backbone of removing makeup, dirt and dead skin cells. I won’t cover the science of skincare products here because I’m not an expert and others do that so much better than me. Good places to start are Caroline Hirons and Sali Hughes. They will hook you up with everything you need to know (be prepared for a maxed out credit card!!).

The L'Oreal Paris Extraordinary Oil Facial Cleansing Oil is lovely to use despite its less than catchy name. It has a beautiful scent and feels luxurious. Don’t be put off by the idea of cleansing oils – I’m on the oily spectrum and whilst it sounds counterintuitive, the use of oils won’t make your skin any oilier. Always on offer this is a great budget cleanser.

A basic but effective gel cleanser is also a good product to have in your skincare stash. This Superdrug own brand B. Melting Gel Cleanser is a favourite of mine. It’s very mild, pretty much scent free and therefore good for sensitives. If you are feeling flush however, then the Clarins pure melt cleansing gel is lovely. In my opinion it is no more effective than the Superdrug version for removing makeup, but it has a much nicer scent if that sort of thing matters to you. The whole B. range is worth exploring as a way of trying new things out at reasonable prices.  

Since starting the second phase of treatment I must admit that I’ve lost my general cleansing mojo and so a good micellar is my new bedside friend. There’s no doubt that cleansing properly with one (or both of the above) would do me more favours, but sometimes motivation levels are lacking on that front. This is a good all-round micellar and one that doesn’t sting the eyes like others I have tried.

Vitamin C is well talked about for its ability to reduce pigmentation and even out skin tone. The Ordinary range is relatively new and part of the DECIEM family. I have several products from the range on the go. I’ve been adding the Vitamin C Suspension 23% to my SPF each day and do feel my skin tone has evened out and brightened a bit.

On the anti-aging front (I am 30 now after all!!), retinoids are another well talked about and important ingredient in anti-aging products that work. Applied after cleansing and before moisturiser or facial oil, prices for retinoids vary and so if you are new to experimenting in skincare this range is a good place to start coming in two strengths (the minimal packaging is very bedside table Pinterest friendly!!). I’ve found the Advanced Retinoid 2% to be slightly runnier than other retinoid products I have tried but can’t fault it on any other front. In terms of effectiveness I think it works just as well as some of the bigger boys, but time will tell. As with all of these things its best not to expect miracles overnight.

All products linked above.

Sar x