In January 2015, following a routine check by my vigilant GP, I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.

As a Brit living in Sydney, Australia since 2008, I realised over the following days just how many of my friends and family were scattered across the globe and different timezones.

The Fellowship of the Ringlets was originally just a tremendous pun and the title of a closed Facebook group I created to keep those distant friends and family in the loop and worry-free.

But over 12 months, my little group somehow grew from 80 to 800+ and became a veritable band of brothers, a support team like no other and a true Fellowship in every sense of the word.

Their love, laughter and rallying cries have been the greatest tonic a little ringlet'd cancer-face like me could have wished for.

The following letters, musings, incoherent ramblings and occasional bouts of bad language are for them all.

Welcome to the Fellowship of the Ringlets.

VC x

Monday 13 April 2015


Dear Fellowship,

Below is one of my favourite photos of me and my dad. I think we were attempting to take my first passport photo - who knows what Mum was thinking, letting us two clowns wander unsupervised into a photo booth though the fact I still have the original set of 4 photos means a re-shoot probably took place…
RMC & VC - 70's selfie

We lost the inimitable RMC, his razor-sharp wit and eclectic sense of style (he remains the only man in the world who could somehow make wearing yellow trousers seem entirely acceptable in modern society) to stomach cancer in 2002. 
He would (no doubt with great reluctance) have turned 72 today and it's testament to the incredible man he was and the gaping hole he left in the lives of those that knew and loved him that 13 years feels like no time at all.
Unsurprisingly, I've thought about Dad a lot over the last few months, both in terms of wishing that he was still around to lend a comforting paternal shoulder during my occasional 'waaaah' moments but also because I've come to realise that his own outrageously high levels of style, dignity and humour set me the best ever example of how to approach this current cancery challenge. 
I'm not sure I'm actually achieving all three of these elements in equal measure right now but a girl's got to have something to aim for, right?! 
With that in mind, on Saturday night, Wiggy and I ventured boldly out to Bondi for my friends Matt, Rob and Ryan's joint birthday bash. I was a bit anxious about Wiggy's first evening engagement, especially in the presence of a bevy of twenty-something Bondi beauties whose swishy shiny hair probably hadn't spent the day casually plonked on a polystyrene head but I took a deep breath, manned up, wigged up, did a few stretches with Limpy and pushed off to the beach. 

With the boys - Wiggy's big night out

The party was sensational (Happy Birthday, boys!), the Bondi beauties were delightful and Wiggy went down a storm. Almost too well, actually. I'm sure I could feel the Bouff bristling in rage at the roots every time someone said "Oh my god, I LOVE the hair!". I had kind of assumed that most people knew that I was wigged up so when I bumped into the singer from my friends' wedding at the bar, I wasn't overly surprised when he also said "I LOVE the hair!". Things took a slightly more confusing turn when he then went on to say "It must have taken you ages to straighten it". Hmmm. 
Now, there were two very clear paths for me to consider taking at that point: 
1. Smile sweetly and agree that yes indeed, it DID take a while to straighten and walk away with dignity, style and good humour
2. Be me. 
So I leant in, shouting over the music "I haven't straightened it! It's a wig! I'm having chemo! I'm almost as bald as you are under here! I'm also boiling to death but that could just be the hot flushes from all the hormone drugs I'm on! I'll have a fresh lime and soda please!". 
Then I watched as his innocent little face froze in horror as the cancer penny slowly dropped. Ho hum. Brand new levels of awkward reached in 8 seconds with dignity and style nowhere to be seen. Must try harder next time. Sigh. 
In other news, it's been nearly a fortnight and I think I've been lucky enough to have so far escaped chemo #2 relatively unscathed again. Some people, god love 'em, do like to continually remind me it's cumulative but so far the anti-nausea drugs seem to be doing their job brilliantly and I'm not feeling too wiped out at the moment, although I suspect not drinking, not being at work combined with my little daytime nanna naps are all doing their bit. In your face, chemo! 
Somewhat more bizarre is that the Bouff, despite it now officially being Day 33, is still showing no signs of moving out anytime soon. I suspect the appearance of the wig has stirred up some competitive follicular spirit - not sure the ginger 'Annie Lennox circa 1983' look I'm sporting is a deadset long-term winner but go, the stubborn ringlets! 
Finally, my Australian citizenship application was officially lodged today, 7 years to the very day since I left the UK for unknown foreign shores with just a rucksack, my CV and a winning smile. The whole citizenship process normally takes about 3 months so hopefully I should be able to celebrate the end of my treatment in August as a fully-fledged Aussie with a brand new passport and a clean bill of health! 
More importantly, Wiggy will be immortalised in all her shiny, swishy glory within the pages of that Aussie passport for the next 10 years. Yikes. Personally, I cannot WAIT for 10 long, torturous years of shouting "For crying out loud, I'm not Jason bloody Bourne - it's a wig, you fools!!" at the confused faces and raised eyebrows of every customs officer I meet. Good times. Laden with style, dignity and humour of course. smile emoticon
Big love to my family today and Happy 72nd Birthday, Dad - I miss you, your yellow trousers and your unapologetic love for an 80's classic track every single day.


Dad and the infamous yellow trousers on the golf course

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