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

Wednesday 14 January 2015


Busted out of hospital for brekkie and a green juice with Limpy, Matt and Brady

Dear Fellowship, 

So 2 days post-op, I'm rocking the compression socks and shapeless gown look and it's probably about time to update The Fellowship.

As planned, Lumpy and Lymphy were successfully evicted by Dave - we are just now waiting for our pals in Pathology to confirm that no trace remains of Lumpy and that Lymphy hasn't managed to spread his wild oats too much to his neighbouring nodes.

I woke up from surgery with pins and needles in my hand and a dead right arm - let us henceforth call this arm Limpy. Dave initially put this down to the position my arm was in (above my head) during surgery and was confident on Tuesday night that it would right itself within a few hours.

Weds morning comes and Limpy is loving his new life as the laziest, most useless right arm the world has ever seen. My left arm is by contrast loving its own work; carrying Limpy around, signing forms with a flourish and happily texting away, having waited 40 years to emerge from the shadow of my glorious right hand to show me what it can do. Dave is looking slightly more concerned and when Dave looks concerned, the universe is concerned. So I'm then whisked off for an MRI to work out how we wake Limpy from his stupor.

Turns out that during the op and because of the angle of my arm, the nerve fibres in my neck and arm were compressed and as a result I have developed the solemn-sounding neuropraxia - basically this means I have a full-on dead arm which could take anywhere between 2 weeks and 6 weeks to return to normal. Oh, joy. 6 weeks with Lumpy and Lymphy's idiot cousin, Limpy. God help me.

Maintaining dignity is not something that is high on the priority list right now as I discovered yesterday when I realised Limpy was not going to be a massive help in the showering department, removal of gown department or washing of bouffante department. Enter Jaysun. With a y. We had a nice chat about the weather before I realised what he was hovering around to do, namely help me take a shower. Good Lord. Beyond all acceptable levels of Connerty and British awkwardness but we got through it. Very nice bloke though he sounded a bit taken aback when I referred to him later as my hospital man-slave. To be fair he was filling up 3 vases of water for all my lovely flowers and cutting my dinner up for me at the time so don't think I was too far off the mark...

It's been a strange couple of days overall - I think the anaesthetic is wearing off and hospital boredom and control freak frustration is kicking in. Today I cried on Dr Dave when he popped in - I flopped my useless arm at him angrily though it just slid off the bed which kind of lessened the dramatic and aggressive impact of the gesture really. Then my friend Chris brought me in my favourite juice (kale, lemon, ginger and apple, juice geeks) and I was so grumpy I didn't even say thanks. Thanks, CWS. Then Debbie from some breast cancer place came to see me and bombarded me with some scary-looking leaflets about wigs, chemo and infertility and then some bloke called Neil with an earring and lots of rings from pastoral care stuck his head round the door and said I had a great attitude. Bonkers.

But on the plus side, I've had so much lurve flung at me that it's impossible to stay too mean and grumpy about Limpy for too long. Your messages, wise words, gifts, flowers and visits have made and continue to make a massive difference every day and seeing so many of you crazy cats changing your profile pics ahead of my op completely blew me away (though I would have preferred editorial approval on a few of those pics!).

I believe it was Paulo Coelho who once wrote "Life has many ways of testing a person's will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once."

The man makes a good point but I think I prefer these words that were just sent to me by one G.Trout - "it's a tunnel of shit but just think of Andy Dufresne in Shawshank. He crawled through a tunnel of shit and came out clean on the other side. You'll be the same."

Onwards and upwards, my friends. 

VC x

P.s I just wrote all this with my left hand. Who needs Limpy anyway?!

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