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 31 January 2015


I tied this bikini myself. With one hand. Skills. 
Dear Fellowship, 

So we are now playing the waiting game, it seems. And I'll be honest, I doubt that anyone who has ever met me, been a passenger in my car or even stood in a queue for a burger with me would identify patience as one of my more obvious virtues. For various dull reasons that I won't bore you (or myself, again) with, I am not seeing the oncologist till the 9th Feb. At that point, I'll discover exactly what I'm looking at treatment-wise and timeline-wise. So a fairly full-on meeting about treatment and timelines. Let us therefore call this T-Day, if you will.

My oncologist is called Dr Rachel Dear - everyone has said she's terribly good which is great because no one wants a rubbish oncologist but her name is presenting some challenges to my overthinking brain. Am wondering how many times I can legitimately call her 'Doctor Dear' without just sounding like I'm being patronising. That said, god knows why but I actually referred to her as 'Rach' the other day to my Physio so I probably need to find some acceptable naming middle ground, before she starts pumping me full of poisonous toxins with a vengeful look on her face.

Talking of toxins, I am now heading into my 4th week of being booze-free which is somewhat alarming. My neurologist mentioned that alcohol was a nerve toxin and as I am refusing to give Limpy any more excuses to take extra time off work, I have embraced an alcohol-free existence. Oh, my good grief. I miss wine. I am officially a Dry January loser but with a grumpy instead of smug face. I am also juicing every morning. With kale. Yep. I don't know who I am anymore - I might actually be turning into Delta Goodrem. A one-handed version. God help us all. The exquisite irony that I'm writing this in NSW's Hunter Valley wine region surrounded by glorious vineyards is not lost on me...

Meanwhile I am trying to keep the mind and body occupied and more importantly away from Google which is a challenge when in possession of Sydney's most active imagination and overthinking mind. Of course, just when I've managed to avoid Google successfully, I invariably get a call from TMI (Too Much Info) Debbie, the Breast Cancer liaison lady from St Vincent's who means well (despite asking me how I'm feeling "within myself" all the time), but normally smashes me over the head with more random info than I could ever need or want. Much as I'm looking forward to the day when I will want to rent a jazzy wig from their extensive wig library, that day is probably not today. And just as an FYI, there is unlikely to ever be a wig library card in the Connerty wallet. There will instead be hard cash flung at that particular situation, if and when it arises.

This week Debbie hit the jackpot and managed to blindside me by congratulating me on some results I didn't actually know about, namely that I tested negative for the HER2 gene. I was on the phone to Dave about 8 seconds later, being all British and mad, "oh hello there, sorry to bother you, what a nuisance I am, terrible weather we're having, sorry silly question probably, so sorry forgive me I know you're busy but what the SHIT is the HER2 gene?? What does negative mean? And why is TMI Debbie relaying this to me?! Sorry for shouting."

Turns out not having the HER2 gene means my cancer is less likely to recur and I also won't need to have the drugs that they stick you on for 12 months if you're HER2 positive. Dave was typically Dave "no point telling you about something you haven't got that you won't need treatment for, is there?" He's right as usual, damn it, but I'm taking it as a win anyway...

So another week and a bit to go till T-day - have an EMG on Tuesday with the neurologist which is a nerve testing /electrocution thing to see whether Limpy is faking it or not. To my mind, the arm is not much better, I'm just becoming better at coping with it -a veritable left-handed ledge. Tied up my own bikini today (it involved using my teeth to hold one end - thankfully, no witnesses as everyone else on wine tour so fine) and even my signature is looking like the real deal. Did have a small issue in the week as I tried to hurl a bin bag full of stinky cat litter into the spring-locked refuse chute with disastrous consequences. Technique was flawless, execution less so.

This was flawless (and importantly, theoretical) technique: Pull chute door down with left hand, grab bag with left hand, swing bag up into chute before it slowly springs shut. Bin bag full of stinky cat litter slides down chute effortlessly. VC walks away with smug face.

This was actual execution: Pull chute down with left hand. Grab bag with left hand and initiate swing motion. Realise chute is closing quicker than anticipated. Jam useless right arm into chute door to act as wedge. Realise right arm has as much wedge-like power as jellyfish and left arm is holding bin bag, thus floppy right arm from elbow down now trapped in chute door. Decide in panic to fling binbag towards chute in hope it will slide down effortlessly anyway. Moment of brief elation as bag hits chute door only to fall away at last minute and catch on the sharp metal side of chute door instead. Watch in horror as bag splits down the side, spilling its entire catty contents all over the tiny bin room. Consider running away and / or moving house in next 15 minutes. Instead remove Limpy from chute, go back to flat, get dustpan and spend next 20 mins sweeping up cat poo and litter. With one hand. While trying not to be sick.

That EMG cannot come soon enough, my friends. Limpy's days are numbered.

Love (from the Hunter Valley!), 
VC x

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