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

Tuesday 23 June 2015


Dear Fellowship,

And so, 18 weeks are finally at an end and we can bid a fond farewell to the chemo chapter of this cancery tale!! Wahay! 

Crown? Sequins? Seems reasonable for Chemo #6...
 Earlier, I re-read the 'Twas the Night Before Chemo' post I wrote on the 9 March - seems a lifetime ago in some respects and yet as if it was yesterday in others. 
When I wrote that piece, I genuinely had no idea what I was really facing over the forthcoming 3.5 months and was just keen to get cracking, despite the tales of evil chemo and its effects bouncing around my brain! 
Having now gone through 6 rounds of chemo, stuck a multitude of canulas in numerous poor veins, engaged in relentless chemo banter with my weary nurses and come out the other side of 18 weeks relatively intact, I can now say that as I had hoped, the fear of the unknown was far worse than the day-to-day reality of being all ‪#‎chemoface‬
Last chemo and last evil ice mitts!
I'm very aware that chemo can knock people to the floor and so I hope that I haven't been too irritatingly upbeat over the last few months, especially unwittingly to those who have struggled perhaps more than me. 
That said, I won't lie and say it's been a total stroll in the park - chemo is not for the faint-hearted but I think I wrote previously of my strong desire to not focus on or overly share with you all the less joyous of the chemo side effects and I stand by that decision. Every time I felt pretty average, I told myself that any cancery cells lurking about definitely felt much worse, and that approach and mental image worked pretty well for me. Chemo is part of the cure, I'm lucky I'm in a position to have it available to me and so all things considered, it's ok by me. 
I hope that if nothing else, I have shown at least one person reading these chemo-based musings of mine over the last 18 weeks that having this treatment is not the end of the world. It doesn't have to break you, it doesn't have to rob you of your very physical and mental essence, it doesn't have to turn you into a weak and feeble shadow of your former self and indeed often it can make you discover that you have enormous balls of steel you never knew existed! Obviously I knew mine existed already - are you mad? Have we even met?! Do you even know I've jumped out of a plane 4 times? Admittedly all tandem jumps with someone way more mentally on the ball than me but even so... Jeez. 
There are of course a gazillion people without whom this last 18 weeks would have been so much tougher and I count every one of you that has read these posts (or even pretended to when they were really long) and flung love and support at me since the very start of the Fellowship in this elite number!
I have been lucky enough to have amazing friends accompany me to every chemo session without a word of complaint and believe me, there are seriously better places to hang out than chemo wards of an afternoon. I have had beautiful friends and family fly from the UK just to hang out with me and fuss over me for a while, there are legends here in Oz, the UK and scattered around the world who have taken my breath away with their endless gestures of love, from cooking me dinners to sending surprise cards, flowers and gifts to just being on the end of whatsapp, texts, facetime and the old-fashioned medium of telephone when I needed them and sometimes even when I didn't realise I needed them. 
A cancer diagnosis is not great but it has absolutely opened my eyes to how fundamentally awesome people are and the last 6 months have genuinely been, in the stolen and paraphrased words of Charles Dickens, the worst of times but also the very best of times. Who would have thought?! 
Special thanks to Team Cheem #6, Jezza, Matt and Cathy for taking time off work to come along to the Grand Finale and drinking celebratory champers with me in the park afterwards - never have 4 champagne-swigging vagrants looked so well turned-out! Love you all. 
My fabulous Team Cheem #6

Celebratory sparkling wine in the park…all class. 
And now my thoughts turn to Sunburn Sue and the 6 weeks of daily radiation ahead. Meeting her next week to discuss the plan which I'm assuming involves lasering the shit out of me with hardcore radiation. Yikes. I should probably read the pamphlet they gave me first...either way, I'm heading into it the same way as chemo - it's part of the cure so bring it on! 
Forgive the sentimentality but I shall end this chemo chapter if I may with a little quote from my favourite track by the great man Frank Sinatra which I think sums up the last chemo-tastic 18 weeks quite well...I've left out the opening verses about 'the end is near / final curtain' etc for obvious 'hopefully it's not' reasons but the rest says in a few verses what I've struggled to articulate about my chemo trip in a whole page...

.....Regrets, I've had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.
I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.
I've loved, I've laughed and cried.
I've had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.
To think I did all that;
And may I say - not in a shy way,
"Oh no, oh no not me,
I did it my way".
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows -
And did it my way! 

Replace the 'man/ he/ himself' bit with the female equivalent in the last verse accordingly - my balls of steel are very much metaphorical...
Going dark for a few days as always to ride out this last wave - see you on the flipside, my fabulous Fellowship kinsmen! 
Over and out! :)

VC x

18 weeks - start to finish...

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