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

Thursday 17 November 2016


Dear Fellowship,
It has been more than two months since my last post and to be perfectly honest, I have wondered many times whether that might be it for the old #fotr. A slow but inevitable drawing of the Fellowship curtains triggered by the dawning realisation that I really can't and more importantly don't want to keep playing this cancer card forever (except to get out of stuff I don't like, such as burpees and speeding tickets) and that maybe it's the right time to withdraw gracefully into the shadows, like an ageing, silent film star. More emphasis on the ageing than silent, I fear..
But here's the thing. Last year's musings were, for sure, largely driven by the need to drag as many people as I could muster on the old cancery 'journeeeeeey' with me so that I wouldn't feel quite so like a bald Bridget Jones singing ‘All By Myself’ on the sun-drenched streets of Surry Hills. But I also came to realise that the sheer act of writing it all down was a decent way to process the frankly ridiculous situations that I found myself in last year.
And so now I find myself facing something of a conundrum. Because as of 6 weeks ago, I officially became a 43 year old cancer survivor at drama school in London doing a full-time Masters in Stage and Screenwriting. I own a puppy and live by the river in a cottage that would not look out of place in Midsomer Murders. I can light a fire. On my own. Today I even ordered firewood. I am virtually Bear bleeding Grylls. I commute into London with my 16-25 Student Railcard and I have an app called Unidays that I shamelessly use to drag student discounts out of every retailer in town. I scare my fellow students by reminding them that I was graduating as they were being born and that when I was last at uni, There. Was. No. Internet. 

So in many ways, it feels a bit like what I’m currently doing is even more ridiculous than that time a burping metaphysical hairdresser in Bondi chopped all my ringlets off and sold me a swishy wig for two grand. And I'm itching to write about it because a lot of this shit is comedy GOLD. 
But it’s also absolutely terrifying. And when it’s terrifying and unknown and a bit mad, it’s very easy to get lost in a world of ‘what the devil am I doing here? Where are my flip-flops and where's my green juice? Where are my beach and my boat-based weekend jaunts?Where are my Aussie maaaaaates? Where’s my job?!’ (That last one is blatantly untrue - I was born for this student life). 
Anyway, last year, I thankfully worked out quite quickly that sitting quietly inside my little curly head, over-thinking stuff like a pro wasn’t the ideal way to approach life in a rational, non-hysterical, non-screechy way and so I’m going to try to follow my own example and thus control the over-thinking by occasionally over-sharing on this very page. Ugh. Horror. 
Plus if I’m honest, I’ve come to the damning realisation over the last 5 months (I know!!) that I’m as useless at Skype’ing my Aussie loves as I used to be at Skype’ing my UK ones. The time difference is still baffling to me. So hopefully this way, when we do eventually speak, we can skip the ‘how’s student life?’ formalities and go straight to the good stuff…
But otherwise, apart from it being really quite cold indeed, all is well back in the land of Brexiteers and warm beers. I have my family quite literally on my doorstep, I've assembled a motley crew of specialists / slaves to tend to my every medical whim, I’ve bought not one but two Flump-like bobble hats for this approaching winter and am currently writing a play about a man who decides to better himself by going to university at the age of 43. It’s called Educating Peter. I think it’s going to be a big hit….:)
No such thing as a new idea, right?

VC x
#rotr (return of the ringlets, obvs)

Wednesday 24 August 2016


Dear Fellowship, 

Because there ain't no selfie like a 'Happy end of treatment-versary to me' selfie! 

Today is a big day and not just because I intend to walk up the 4 trillion steps in the sweltering heat to our Amalfi villa without crying, swearing at my sister, hiding in a bush or throwing up on myself. 
Today marks a full year since I waltzed out of Sunburn Sue's office with a wig in my hand and a spring in my step, hopefully never to return. 
It marks one year since I cried like a loon and let my scrambled eggs go cold because of an 11 minute video of the best and most heartwarming friendship-based content on t'web. 
And it therefore also marks my being one-fifth of the way towards the old official 5 yr remission marker that we cancer survivors like to keep a watchful eye on from time to time. 
You may have gathered by now that I quite like a milestone, and this date, along with the original D-day on Jan 2nd, is the date that I will always put a nice tick next to on the calendar before quietly going about my much more important business of (this year) taking nauseating pictures of Italian sunrises, seascapes and Aperol spritzers.

So one year has passed - the wig's gone, the eyelashes, curls and arm have come back and I've now got more freckles than Bieber's got birds but other than that (and a low-key overseas move, quitting of job, renting of idyllic cottage in riverside hamlet and imminent student life), everything pretty much has stayed the same. 
So Happy Anniversary and thanks for gritting your teeth and counting to ten every time I triumphantly brandish the "but you must do this for me - I've had cancer" card. One day, I will stop. But not quite yet...
And most importantly, Happy 1st Birthday to my favourite Aussie/ Zimbabwean, Thomasina Dobson. I couldn't think of a better, brighter, happier little soul to share this date with!

Ciao for now (so Italian, me)
VC x

Friday 24 June 2016


Dear Fellowship,

And so, after 2,942 days, 491 leaving lunches, 2 jobs, one extra passport, more weekends away than I can remember, a tussle with the big C and the discovery that 'short hair, don't care' is totally a THING, here endeth my 8 year-long Aussie adventure. For now. Because nothing is forever, right? 

Moving to Oz in 2008 with a backpack, a hangover and the mantra 'it's ok, if it doesn't work out or if it's too hot or full of spiders that will KILL me, I can always go back and live with Mum' was quite frankly the best and most ridiculous act of spontaneity I have ever performed. Until now, probably. 

More Connerty tears have been spilt in the last few months than during the whole of last year and whilst I like to blame the hormone drugs nowadays for any overt display of sentimentality, I must concede that leaving my beautiful second home and the very greatest of new and old friends feels like a squadron of tiny Navy Seals with heavy backpacks are abseiling down my heartstrings...

There's no question an adventure awaits but what a goddamn adventure it's been. 

Thank you to all my awesome pals who have tolerated my tears and tantrums over the last few weeks and quietly helped me lug crap out of the flat without complaint while I shuffled about, sulking like Kevin the Teenager. You are all phenomenal. 

And thank you to my crew in the U.K and the U.S who, over the last 6 months, have been patiently responding to my frequent 'OMG. Have I gone maaaaaaad? Waaaaah.' messages with an eye roll and "You were always a bit odd. Book the flight, loser". 

So for now but not forever, I'm off on a little trip. To London for a bit of drama school action via Singapore, Cambodia, India and Spain. It should be fun. There will be stories. And drama. Lots of drama. 

All that remains is to post a slightly smuggo selfie and bid my Aussie life adieu - get your spare rooms made up though, one day I'll be back and I have no intention of paying for my bed and board....
Big Aussie love,
VC x

Thursday 5 May 2016


Dear Fellowship,
So it's a whole year since I wrote that first article for Mamamia so I thought I'd write another one for them - my current output of one article per year feels very achievable.
And so here it is, up and on t'web accompanied by the most eclectic bunch of photos (chosen, I might add, entirely by them) ever!
It's a blatant and unapologetic re-hashing of my previous anniversary post from Jan but as you know, it's not entirely out of character for me to bang on about the same thing over and over again...
VC x

Monday 14 March 2016


Dear Fellowship, 

So perhaps because I am now fully immersed in the Julius Caesar / Cupid / Greek god phase of my ringlety re-growth, it came as no surprise to find myself stumbling across a quote the other day by my good friend in a former life, the wise old Greek philosopher Socrates. More surprising is that I wasn't wearing a toga or gladiator sandals to go with my haircut when I read it. 
He said "The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old but on building the new." 
Then I spoke to my good friend Miriam Haddu on Saturday night via Skype and once she'd spent 20 minutes patiently listening to me moan on about all my ongoing aches and pains while I held my iPad above my head from my 'lying on floor because it's better for my achey back' position, she said "Well, what do you expect? You can't just go back to your old life or expect your poor body to simply sort itself out like it might have done previously. Everything has changed, so take your vitamins, eat some vegetables and stop sulking." 
She's like a modern-day Socrates but smarter. And better-looking.
So I've officially given up fighting the old. I've given up expecting my poor old musculoskeletal structure to simply return to its former invincible Northern monkey glory overnight, and I'm now attempting to do the daily rehab without rolling my eyes, take the hundreds of vitamins without gagging dramatically, knock back the nutrients without a murmur and focus on building the new. 
And talking of change, this seems like as good a time as any to announce that big changes are indeed afoot in my little world.
Of course they are. I'm not one to rest on my cancery laurels. I think it was always going to be tricky for me to return to the life I lived pre-cancer and just crack on almost as if it had never happened. I have much admiration for those who do but having last year off allowed me to not only recuperate but have a bit of a re-think about what I might like to do next.
And thanks to some wise counsel and encouragement from this here merry band, I think I've found it. At least for a year - I don't like to over-plan and over-commit, as many of you already know.
So (deep breath), in October 2016, after 8 tremendous years in Oz, I will officially be back in the UK as a student at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Yikes. 

Pastures new - Royal Central School of Speech & Drama
I'll be doing a 1 year full-time Masters in Writing for the Stage and Broadcast Media, hanging out with little Benedict Cumberbatch types half my age and trying desperately not to be the weird creepy mature student that no one invites to the pub. Yes, we all remember him / her from our uni days...
It's been a long process from the seed of an idea in October (thank you to Philippa Collier for planting it in NYC) to applying for the course in November (thank you to Mizz and Athena Mandis for their invaluable application-filling advice) to submitting some written work from Thailand in Jan (thank you to Caroline Reik for enabling me to write in the most beautiful of surrounds and being my audience of 1) to a midnight Skype interview to finally being offered a place in early Feb. 
I also need to thank my workmates at ZO for being so fabulously understanding and supportive when I resigned merely 6 weeks after I'd returned! Not many employers would hold a job open for over a year and then put up with said returning employee grumpily shuffling around the office on a daily basis. I believe it's called going above and beyond the call of duty, so thank you to you all but especially to my long-suffering team of Sarah Reynolds and Daisy Gunn.
But really, most thanks goes to all of you for encouraging me through your positive feedback to keep writing. Last year could have been really quite the shocker but having this Fellowship outlet allowed me to rationalise instead of catastrophise and more importantly, re-discover a passion that I'd long forgotten. And who would have thought a year ago that I'd be writing this particular post?! Funny how things turn out...
I will be heading back to the UK mid-June hopefully via a stint in SE Asia somewhere en route (all travel advice and recommendations gratefully received!) so plenty of time to get some lunches in and wave goodbye in style to my Aussie contingent! But as sad as I'm sure I'll be to leave, I'm very much looking forward to finally seeing my UK friends and family for the first time in eight years without the pressure of an impending flight to catch! 
So that's the latest news - I don't like to make my life particularly straightforward but then who wants a straightforward life anyway?
VC x
My second, beautiful home..

Wednesday 9 March 2016


Dear Fellowship,

Blimey. Officially a whole year since the 'Night before Chemo' post. Where has the time gone?!
Just a quick one to say thank you to all those who sponsored me ahead of the Cancer Council's Relay for Life event on Saturday. Astonishingly I ended up as the event's 7th top fundraiser with a massive $1100!
The actual speech seemed to go ok. Those who witnessed me speaking / hiccuping tearfully in Henley in October will be pleased to know I held it together like a pro this time, people laughed (with me) in all the right places and no cabbages were thrown so that, to me, is a win.
Thanks to the Jervis Bay crew for enduring the procrastinating agony that is me writing a speech and patiently sitting through the practice run-throughs. Special thanks to my pal Nikki Rooke who insisted on coming with me for moral support, seeing immediately through my false "oh no it's fiiiiiine. I'd rather do it on my own anyway.." protestations in a heartbeat. And thanks to Cheryl Ayres for giving me a lectern and a microphone and inviting me to babble on nonsensically next to her for a good 7 minutes... :)

So openly calm. So secretly petrified. 

Candlelight Ceremony of Hope

Meanwhile, on a completely different note, here's a link to a piece I wrote about a trip we took up to Scotland and the Highlands that's taken my friend Greig Trout literally months to publish because he couldn't decide what photos to use. Such a hard job. Sigh. Anyway, you should all go to Scotland immediately. 

Please note photos taken are taken during my Jean-Paul Gaultier phase. I am of course now happily embracing the 'Julius Caesar' stage of hair re-growth. Long live the Bouff!

Monday 29 February 2016


Dear Fellowship,

Now I was going to start this post with 'When have I ever asked you guys for ANYTHING????' and then I remembered that the last post I wrote was in fact to ask you for hard cash. Hmm. 
To be fair, that cash was for a very deserving little boy and both his parents and I were properly overwhelmed and hugely grateful at the sheer generosity of total strangers. Much of that generosity came from this here totally fabulous Fellowship so I must say thank you to each and every one of you that donated - so far over 6500 pounds has been raised which is completely amazing!
So on the subject of such staggering generosity of spirit, time and cash, let me simply mention that this Saturday, I will be partaking in the annual Cancer Council Relay for Life event in Sydney. This is my fundraising plea and there are a few reasons you should sponsor me: 

1. I have known about this for 3 weeks but forgot to set up a fundraising page ‪#‎cognitivefatigue‬ and now I am panicking about being the worst cancer-surviving fundraiser ever. 

2. I have, somewhat terrifyingly, been asked to speak at this event in front of hundreds of people as a cancer survivor. This is terrifying both for me ("do not swear, do not swear") but also for those innocent folk who are currently unaware of my enormous capacity for chat. My speech needs to be 3-5 mins. LOL. I think we all know how that will work out. Anyway, it will be quite awkward if the speaker who rambled on for 20 mins at the Candlelight Ceremony before no doubt falling off the stage in the darkness is then exposed as a fundraiser without funds. 

3. There is some walking involved. Lots of walking. Apparently through the night. Which should be interesting. Luckily, it gets dark at night and therefore I plan to dress all in black like a cancer-surviving ninja so no one will notice my repeated unauthorised pit stops. If you sponsor me, I promise to stop less and potentially even moan less about my bad foot.

It would be tremendous if I could reach my little goal of $500 to help other little cancery faces just like mine, so if you can help me get there then that would be just fabulous.
Lastly, special thankyou to Cheryl Ayres for inviting me to join her Relay team and for also bravely putting her own reputation on the line and suggesting me as a fellow speaker. I fear she may live to regret at least one of those decisions...


VC x

Friday 12 February 2016


Dear Fellowship, 
Best Valentine's surprise ever - 'Tales from the Fellowship of the Ringlets' is now in print!! 
It's something of a limited edition right now - limited in fact to one copy, so that makes it literally one of a kind! Priceless, in fact! I may have to get contents insurance on the flat! 

Massive shout-out and enormous thanks across the seas to my little Welsh pal Nicola Daniel for spending her days and precious time secretly doing this when she should have been tending to the needs of her perfect new daughter, Cassie Valentine! 
Seeing it all written up like this is fairly overwhelming, not least because I've realised how much I MISS that GODDAMN wig *sob* but also because I've been dithering about over the last few weeks, wondering whether to write FotR up properly or just leave my cat litter'd memories languishing in the bowels of t'interweb for people to eventually stumble across. I am going to read it by the pool this weekend in the Hunter Valley and see if I get bored. If not, then we may just return to this publishing quest...standby for my Amazon rating of my own inane ramblings! 
Whatever happens, this is frankly one the most sensational, thoughtful and fabulous gifts ever. If the internet ever collapses (which it eventually will do, probably under the weight of the Fellowship posts), I now have a proper book to remind me of the cancery madness of 2015. 
Love you, Davey-Daniel, you Welsh legend. You have made my year (all 6 weeks of it)!! 

Have great weekends, all... 


VC x

Friday 15 January 2016


Dear Fellowship, 

Let me be very clear - there is generally no excuse for posting a smug-faced picture of oneself wafting about on a boat at an age when one should really know better. No one likes a show-off, even a ex-cancery-faced one. 

But today is an important day and so the normal rules do not apply. And to be fair, I do love a boat-related photo. Today was my 12 month mammogram and ultrasound, the first actual scan I've had since treatment started that has officially confirmed the ongoing absence of Lumpy, Lymphy and their merry gang of thieves. 
I didn't realise quite how anxious I was about these scans till I started properly hyperventilating like a freak this morning and almost threw up into a bin outside Darlinghurst XRay. All class. 
I haven't wanted to previously and still don't want to shout 'woohoo, cancer-free!' from the rooftops because that kind of chat makes the fate-tempter in me a bit nervous but I'm not sure Dr Dave was quite ready for the bear hug I sprang upon him when he nonchalantly told me everything was fine an hour ago.
So yes, everything is fine. Phew. Dr Dave is happy. My boobs are delighted and loving their own work. And I have stopped holding my breath and no longer want to throw up into a bin. Which is good. And this photo is the best one I can find right now that accurately portrays my current happy face and relieved mind. 
So the first of hopefully many annual scans is done and I'm officially a massive ex-cancer-faced show-off with two working arms and a ginger tan, wafting about on any boat that'll take me at an age when I should know better. 
And I'm ok with that. :)
VC x
P.s I also feel like an actor who keeps coming out from the wings for another encore. Will totally understand if you've all now left the Fellowship, pushed off home and there's just a bloke in overalls sweeping up at the back...

Saturday 2 January 2016


Dear Fellowship,

So here it is. Skidding in at the eleventh hour. The 2 Jan anniversary post. The one I've personally been looking forward to the most. The one where it's exactly a year since GP Jacqui slid her chair over to mine at 9.04am and uttered the immortal 'it's not good news, I'm afraid' words. The one where I finally get to quietly celebrate stepping over the 2015 finish line into the relative calm of 2016. The one where I get to look back on the last 12 months with wide eyes, aching limbs, a dubious haircut and think ' what the beejaysus just happened?'
I wrote an article for Mamamia back in May about 6 lessons I'd learnt since being diagnosed with breast cancer. It was the abridged version - even at the time, I secretly had way more than 6 lessons under my belt but time, audience interest level, word count and a deadline dictated that I reined it in slightly. 
I've been thinking about the content of this particular anniversary post for a while and after much deliberation and procrastination, I'm going to attempt to articulate and share some of the most valuable lessons I've been taught over the last 12 months. Maybe one day, they'll help someone else to navigate these cancery waters...

1. Friends and family are everything. 
They say friends are like walls. Sometimes you lean on them and sometimes it's just enough to know they're there. And if friends are like walls, then family is the cement that holds everything together. So build your walls well, lean on them enough to leave an indent and you'll find your Fellowship.

2. It's good to talk. 
A friend of mine, shortly after I'd been diagnosed, told me that if he ever got cancer, he would disappear into his flat and not tell a soul. I kind of understood this in a 'man retreats into man cave' type way but it can be a lonely old trip, this cancery shizzle, so why make it lonelier? There's safety in numbers and I've found that the more open I've been, the more open people have become. Or maybe they're just smiling sweetly at me and thinking 'where has all her decent non-cancer chat gone?' Believe me, I wish I knew...

3. Never judge those who seem to disappear for a while.
 But never forget those who turn up every day and help pull you through the storm when you can't see your hand in front of your own face. They're your tea-makers, your temperature-takers, your bad day maraca-shakers, they're your best people so keep them close and occasionally smother their stoic little faces with kisses.

4. It's not all about me. 
What??? Madness. But being the friend or family of a cancer patient is the hardest gig in the world. Even harder than working in a media agency. True story. I know this because I've been the friend, I've been the family and now I've completed the cancer trifecta and done a stint as the patient so I'm officially qualified to comment on this subject with authority.

5. Write it down. 
My friend Becca, another beautiful cancer-kicking mentor of mine, told me on Day 2 to keep a diary. You don't have to publish it anywhere, she said, but I guarantee you'll forget stuff so just get it out and get it down. 51 posts and 12 months later and here we are. And thanks to Bec's sage advice, I will never forget how I trapped my dead arm in a bin chute, threw 4 day old cat litter all over myself or shot up hormones in a bridal ensuite. Good times..

6. It's good to wallow sometimes. 
Cry yourself a river. Lose your temper. Kick a plant pot. Send inflammatory and irrational texts to people you love and who (hopefully) love you back. Slither down a wall in dramatic fashion like a 1980's Joan Collins character, sobbing hysterically. You are not Gandhi. Or Oprah. Nor should you attempt to be. And to be fair, even Gandhi probably had days when he angrily threw a flip flop at a passing cat. What's important though is that once you're done, pull yourself together and go for a latte / walk / green juice / lie-down / delete as appropriate.

7. Make plans. 
Dream big. Imagine the future. Chuck some mad ideas around. But don't beat yourself up if that entirely reasonable idea you had about renovating a rundown chateau in France with one arm and a dog falls by the wayside for a while..

8. Work the short hair. 
It's a goddamn badge of honour. As I approach the Slim Shady phase of my hair re-growth, every day starts with a sigh of bouff-related exasperation. But every exasperated sigh is then followed by a quick reminder that it wasn't too long ago that I thought I would be forever condemned to managing a Benjamin Button style combover. Be grateful that you are not Benjamin Button and work the crop like a pro.

9. Look on the bright side. 
And then the dark side. And then the bright side again. Try to remember that there is always someone worse off than you who's probably moaning less than you are. But sometimes at 2am in the dark when you can't sleep and you think your hair is never going to come back or that your hand will always be numb, there will probably be no one worse off than you. IN. THE. WORLD. And that's ok. At least till morning, when it's time to man up again.

10. Gossip is good.
I don't like my overflowing jug of secrets to be empty. No one with cancer just wants to talk about cancer and we hate it when people don't want to bother us with their dramas because they're supposedly not as important as the whole cancer thing. We of course reserve the right to raise an occasional 'is that it?' eyebrow at your 1st world problem but that is our prerogative as the cancer patient. Suck it up and make me some more tea, princess.

11. You have more strength than you think. 
Mentally. Physically. All of it. But not because you choose to put on a cape every day and become some sort of superhero cancer-fighting warrior legend. There is no 'shall I wear my 'brave' face or my 'weak as a kitten' face today?' type-choice for any of us caught in this cancery web. You turn up, get your head down, get on with it, hopefully make it through the day in one piece, with limbs intact and repeat. The human spirit is a resilient and impressive beast. Test it and see for yourselves.

12. It's ok to ask for help. 
It's also ok to just ignore everyone for a while and submerge yourself in 19 back-to-back episodes of Suits. And sometimes it's ok to just howl at the moon and eat Pickled Onion Monster Munch till your mouth goes numb and your teeth fall out.

13. Try not to overplay the cancer card. 
Do as I say here, not as I do. I am the shameless and unapologetic mistress of the overplayed card and the cancer-related hashtag. ‪#‎cancerface‬ ‪#‎chemoface‬ ‪#‎radiohead‬ ‪#‎chemobrain‬ ‪#‎cancerfatigue‬

14. Prepare for your new life 
Your new life as a raging hypochondriac. Or, as I prefer to call it, a super-vigilant, boob-checking cancer survivor. It's a fine line.

So there we have it. A year in the life. The maddest sabbatical I'll ever take is finally at an end. Phew.

All that's left to do is to thank you all for being such tremendous walls and cement to this ringlet'd fool this year. The Fellowship is one of the greatest things I've ever accidentally done, so thank you again for coming to the proverbial party and for staying to clear up afterwards. You're all welcome back anytime.

Happy belated New Year from Ko Samui! :)

VC x
P.s it's still 2 Jan somewhere in the world, right? :)

Sunset from our balcony at Kamalaya, Koh Samui. Average. :)