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

Saturday 30 May 2015


Dear Fellowship,

So here we are again, with Chemo #5 now just around the corner on Tuesday. Let us call this one Chemo the Goddamn Penultimate. 
The way I feel about these 2 remaining chemo sessions reminds me of the first time I ran City2Surf in Sydney back in 2009. That makes it sound like I'm running it every year - I've only done it twice to be honest, both times reluctantly, unlike some lunatics I know who seem to see it as the equivalent of a light jog to the shops. 
On race day itself, I was trotting along quite nicely and somewhat loving my own work ("look at me, I'm the kind of perky fool who just knocks out a quick 14k run of a morning") when I hit the accurately-nicknamed Heartbreak Hill at the 7k halfway mark. I'd been warned about the perils of Heartbreak Hill beforehand but true to VC form, I'd ignored all friendly advice and chosen to make up my own mind about how to tackle its delights when I got there. 
I started to run up it with the same gusto of the previous 7km but found myself effectively running on the spot for 2 minutes like Scooby Doo before coming to an abrupt and confused halt. 
All my so-called training and technique instantly went out of the window, my legs turned to concrete and being at the exact halfway point meant I couldn't even turn round, jump in a cab and sneak off home. The anguish of having to keep going for another 7km when all I wanted was to lie down in the nearest hedge and give up was horrendous. 
In a way, this current stage of the old chemo road trip reminds me of staggering, sweating and swearing my way up Heartbreak Hill that day. The legs are starting to get tired, doubts are creeping in and the old confidence is getting knocked a little bit by this unpredictable and unfamiliar part of the course. 
To be fair, Chemo #4 was the first round of this brand new drug and dear Dr Dear did warn me this one had a bit of a temper. She wasn't wrong. 
The good news is that being the ever-attentive cancery scholar I am, I have as always learnt some important lessons this time around.
1. When your oncologist says 'take all these preventative painkillers per day', do not think 'gosh, that seems like an awful lot of pills. I'll just wait to see how rubbish I feel and then I'll take some just when I need them'. Chemo is not a tricky hangover. Take them ALL.
2. Chemo is not a fan of Coco Pops. I'm not even sure I am. Pretty sure they're not on the chemo-approved breakfast list. But I'm glad chemo made its feelings clear before and not during that nice helicopter ride over the Harbour with my mum and bro. Could have been messy. Coco Pops now in bin. 
3. Chemo does not consider you to be any sort of hero just because your climbed the Harbour Bridge in the rain. Neither does the wiggage. The wig sulked. Chemo got its own back the following day. But my bro and I did get a lovely sunset photo out of it so every cloud...
4. Do not ring your your oncologist and say 'is it ok if I pop to a remote island in Fiji for a few days next week?' two days after chemo with a compromised immune system, low white blood cell count and expect her to give you a positive and affirmative response. No Bula! time for VC just yet.
5. Just because all the experts merrily assure you that this new chemo drug will take your remaining baby bouff hair as well as eyebrows and eyelashes doesn't mean it will. Unicorn Tears: 1 Chemo: 0. 
6. You are never too old, too big or too cool to be tucked in by your Mum, especially when you feel a bit average. Even if you're under a massive king size duvet which can't actually be tucked into anything. Thanks for trying though, Mum.
But I digress... One of the best things about doing City2Surf that day was the unmitigated joy and relief I felt when I finally turned the corner down into Bondi and could actually see the beach and the finish line in the distance. 
So with that in mind, as much as I'd like to sometimes dive into the nearest hedge and press the 'pause' button on this chemo shizzle for a while, the very idea of reaching my final session and metaphorical Bondi on the 23rd June is enough to get my head down, elbow chemo in the ribs and press on up that hill for just a bit longer! 
Thanks to my mum and Jon for getting me through Chemo #4 by hook, by crook or by some of the worst movies iTunes has to offer and big love to my sis Liz, my gorgeous niece Molster and my favourite lads for providing the perfect Jervis Bay-based tonic beforehand. Let us never speak again of that freezing cold 90 min dolphin-watching trip, where not even a single lonely fin was spotted...
And finally, a massive thanks to so many of you for reading and liking and sharing that article I penned last week!! According to the Debrief Daily website http://www.debriefdaily.com/health/diagnosed-with-cancer/, it's been shared over 2,800 times so far which is unbelievable really and in no small part down to the Fellowship for smashing it out there for me. So thank you again. What a sensational bunch you are and how very lucky indeed I am. 
As always, see you on the flipside of Chemo the Penultimate - in the next three weeks, I will have a birthday, become an official Aussie and we shall astonishingly have just one more chemo sesh to go!! Wahay!

VC x

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