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

Friday 10 July 2015


Dear Fellowship, 

So this particular post is coming to you from about 39,000 feet up, as I push off to sunny but freezing Auckland for a weekend of fun, friends and fine wine. The fun and friends better be bringing their A-game because sadly, the fine wines of Waiheke Island will have little to offer this chemofaced teetotaller. I know. Me. Teetotal. Madness. It's the vineyards of the world I feel sorry for.

Aussie passport debut!
Seemed only fitting that I get in a trip to New Zealand just before radiation with Sunburn Sue kicks off on Monday. The last time I got on a plane was to my beloved Queenstown just before things got all egg-freezing, ringlet-chopping, chemo-serious, and that seemed to set me in pretty good stead for the coming months, so I'm thinking a quick recharge of the Connerty batteries in NZ and some quality time with good people is perhaps the perfect way to prep for the final 6 weeks of this cancery tale.

Low key Kiwi weekend pad 

Jez's 30th in NZ

Hard to believe chemo is now done and dusted - this final round was pretty good with no major dramas. I now have about 4 stubborn eyelashes valiantly hanging on for dear life and trying to do the job of several times their number, namely to protect my delicate eyes from the elements, bless 'em. In all honesty, they should just give up - my eyes are watering constantly which is very confusing for everyone. Is she crying? Why are her eyes so puffy? Has she been punched in the face? Why is she wearing shades indoors?

On that note, I took Jez to see Les Miserables the other day as part of my ongoing mission to inject some culture into his life - entirely his own fault for recently admitting much to my horror that he'd never heard of Fagin and thought The Artful Dodger was a rapper - and I essentially cried all the way through it, thanks to my 'sorry, we cannot cope with any level of light or darkness so we must send a tsunami of water down your face immediately' eyes. The downside was that after 3 long hours, I looked like I'd gone ten rounds with Tyson, however the upside was that lots of Les Mis superfans nodded at me indulgently on the way out, clearly mistaking my chemo face for 'I've seen this fifty times, am in love with Jean Valjean and still cry like a loon every time' face.

Apart from the ongoing puffy crying face and a weird numb toe ('ah yes that'll be the neuropathy, side effect of the chemo, can last aaaaaaages" said my oncologist helpfully when I mentioned it), I'm in pretty good nick, I think. Am giving the Bouff a little reassuring "this is now a place of safety, feel free to come back anytime you like" pep talk every morning to encourage its speedy return and I think it's working. That said, really must stop visiting my friends' newborn babies and getting competitive over who has more hair...

Had my radiation simulation day last week where you essentially pop in and they measure you up so that they make sure they hit the right place. What I didn't know (probably because I didn't read the leaflet beforehand) is that they also tattoo you by sticking ink in a syringe to mark 4 points in the skin, presumably so they can line the machine up accurately to laser me while they pop out for a cup of tea. So now I have 4 tattoos which in my mind means I'm virtually a Hells Angel, which is nice. Anyway Sunburn Sue and the team are all very pleasant - I plan to inject their daily lives with 20 minutes of quality radiation banter, they will be begging me to leave by August 21st...

So yes, August 21st is my final day of radiation and the day when nearly 8 months of cancery madness will draw to a close, save some badass hormone drug that I'll worry about at a later date. I've been told numerous times in the last few weeks that aside from a bit of sunburn, this daily radiation will bring the fatigue that I've been warned about from the beginning, so I've downloaded Season 4 of Suits and got my loungewear and Uggs on standby.

With that in mind, along with my raging cabin fever and plummeting Qantas points, I'm heading back to the UK for a couple of months from early September to hang with the fam, enjoy the delights of my sister's spare room, walk my niece to school, take some strolls along the river and ideally see the end of the Great British summer.

Hoping I'll also get to see many of the UK members of this merry Fellowship who, despite being so far away, have been so predictably tremendous in their support this year. Apparently I hear the Rugby World Cup is also on - what good timing!

So we bid a fond farewell to #chemoface, give a big Kia Ora to #radiohead and brace ourselves for 6 weeks of sunburn... :)

VC x

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