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 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!