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, 13 June 2015


Dear Fellowship,

So it was my birthday this week. I might not have mentioned it. I like to keep these things low-key. 
Not really. I bloody love my birthday. Let's be clear - I am not one of those types who prefers their birthday to waft gently past un-noticed while I sit in a corner, grumbling to myself about the extravagance of it all. I like the occasion to be marked, acknowledged and ideally celebrated in some over-the-top way. 
My 40th became known as the Festival of Forty, largely as the birthday celebrations (mostly just me celebrating - everyone else lost interest after about 8 seconds) dragged on over several months in many forms across multiple continents. Sydney, London, Fiji and even Tasmania all got a birthday nod. And rightly so, quite frankly. Life begins at 40 and all that..
This time last year, six of us popped over to Queenstown in NZ for the weekend so I could have fulfil my birthday wish to be snowboarding up a mountain on the big day itself. The boys were less delighted when I left the lights on in the car all day (although I didn't actually admit this to them at the time obviously) and drained the battery, thus leaving us to be rescued from the top of Coronet Peak by a passing skier and some jump leads. Oops. Still, it was my birthday and it was an adventure so it was fine. And we got to see a lovely sunset at the summit, which I know they all secretly loved. 



This year however, I actually considered doing very little, what with potentially being all tired, baldy and ‪#‎chemoface‬. As an aside, #chemoface is my new way of quickly explaining to people why I'm going to be late, why I'm not going to be doing something I may have previously agreed to or by way of explanation when I have damaged their beloved Jeep etc (sorry, Chris). Noone dares argue with #chemoface in a text. #chemoface always wins. I shall almost be sad to see it go. 
Anyway, based on the solemn beating I took from Chemo #4, I figured that on my birthday (day 7 post-chemo #5), I might feel fairly average so maybe this was a good time to finally embrace the notion of just letting the day gently pass by without too much fuss. Like grown-ups do apparently. 
I mentioned this plan in passing to my friend Greig, who has beaten cancer twice and is one of the few blokes I know who unapologetically loves his birthday. And with good reason - when you have punched a life-threatening illness in the face, every birthday is a giant balloon-laden reminder of just how hard you can punch and therefore your punching prowess should always be celebrated as loudly and as inappropriately as possible. Greig was of course utterly dismissive of my 'I might just ignore it this year' plans and thanks to him, I realised somewhat gratefully that from this year onwards, I will never ever have to explain why I am having loud, inappropriate and drawn-out birthday celebrations at an age where one should really just be popping down to the local Harvester for a nice meal, average chat and an early night. 
So thanks to the handsome and long-suffering man-slaves (Jez, Matt & Chris), my girls Robbo and Rookey (they're indeed beautiful generous ladies even though I've just made them sound like they both drive a Ute and drink pints) and the fabulous surpriiiiiiise-organising Connerty clan back home, I had the most delightful of birthdays despite it being broken up sporadically by power naps which are swiftly becoming my new favourite thing. Plus a whole heap of gorgeous love, birthday cheer, beautiful flowers, gifts and comedy video messages that I've rudely not properly thanked any of you for yet. Thankyou letters will be in the post once Limpy gets his act together. Until then, I'm afraid I'm pulling the old #chemoface card…

Birthday sunrise

Lovely birthday slaves

Birthday cakes by House of Clark

Unique Fellowship candles by Hutwoods
 I'm now emerging from my Chemo #5 cocoon like a grumpy ginger butterfly after 10 days of keeping my head down and out of trouble. I went full-OCD on the drugs which seems to have worked and there was certainly no dragging my sorry ass to hospital with a raging fever this time around, thank God. That said, I sensibly avoided climbing any bridges in the rain this time too. Noone can accuse me of not learning anything on this merry journey. 
I've noticed I'm getting a bit more lethargic but I don't actually know if this is the old cumulative chemo shizzle people bang on about, whether it's just the white blood cell count dropping like a stone again as expected this week or whether just seeing the finishing post in sight is making me dip my head a bit. Who knows? Maybe it's just post-birthday old age. Either way, in just 10 days, we shall wave goodbye to our chemo pal for good and await the return of the ringlets! Wahay!
I am of course already planning my chemo exit outfit though am slightly worried that wearing an inflatable gold crown, a sequinned sweatshirt with a picture of a unicorn on it and massive ice gloves may do little for my burgeoning reputation as a future fashion blogger…ho hum. We shall see. 
Finally, this time next week, I will be a fully-fledged true Blue Aussie - my citizenship ceremony is at lunchtime next Friday. I am convinced I will trip up the stairs on the way to get my certificate, the wiggage will fly off and land on the Mayor, the Town Hall will erupt in chaos and I will be front page news so please cross your fingers for the event to pass entirely without incident. I know many of you will now be feverishly hoping for the opposite.
Til then, big birthday love from an older and wiser
VC x

Did I mention it was my birthday?? 

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