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 25 July 2015


Dear Fellowship,

Below is my 'smug / loving my own work' face. Some of you may recognise it. Today I started my 5 week floristry course. Please stop laughing.

No one finds the idea of me doing a floristry course more hilarious than me but this is the sort of thing I do nowadays. 
I don't drink anymore, I get more annoyed with inanimate objects than people, I haven't sat behind a desk for more than 6 months (and I'm not even sure I could find it since the office move), I have no idea what my password is and now I'm doing a floristry course. I'm not sure I could actually pick the 2014 VC out of a line-up right now.
Today, as I watched Limpy hold these flowers together, perfect the 'spiralling' technique and hand tie a beautiful posy with a flourish, I got a bit emotional. And not just because I knew I didn't have the right bloody vase for it back at the gaff, although that did bring a tear to my bouquet-loving eye…. 
Six months ago, I woke up post-surgery to discover that I'd lost the whole use of my right arm, thanks to the pressure of an extra rib no one knew I had on all the nerves that supply the arm. 
Six months ago, I couldn't brush my teeth, open a door or even pick up a pen with my right hand, and not a single one of the numerous specialists I badgered and threw money at could give me a straight answer as to when or, more ominously, if it would return. 
I've said to lots of people since that day that if I'd known my surgery would result in no right arm for over 20 long weeks, I'd have probably headed straight to chemo without passing Go. 
I look back on those 5 months now and find it bizarre that I didn't feel more panicked at my arm's uncertain future. Certainly, I had my moments - kicking off in Jervis Bay when I couldn't tie my bikini, crying silent tears of frustration at dinner in the Hunter Valley when I had to wait for Matt or Jez to cut my food up for me and the embarrassment of my awkward one-armed hugs all stick in the mind. But on the whole, I largely just seemed to accept it was gone for a while and would re-appear when it was ready. Very Zen Master of me, I know…
In May, after weeks and months of Groundhog Day-type mornings when I'd wake up and see if I could lift my right arm off the bed without help from the left, Limpy finally started to stutter back to life, completely without warning. 
Every day since then has brought with it more and more progress and every day I still revel in wins as tiny as holding coffee or turning my house key in the lock. I have many theories as to why it re-appeared and I'm sure my neurologist, naturopath and physio would all take some credit, but the truth is, we will never really know and to be honest, I don't really care. 
The arm is still a bit weak and feeble - holding and pouring stuff needs a lot of work so my tea-making skills aren't what they were (some people will argue they never existed in the first place), my hand is still numb and I think chemo and radiation have slowed progress a bit but every time I hold a coffee or hand-tie a posy (one happens more frequently than the other), I'm beyond grateful. A sentiment I didn't expect to feel much at the beginning of this year but which has actually turned up more times in the last 7 months than I care to remember. 
Radiation is going well - 9 down, 21 to go and feeling good, with no major fatigue or signs of sunburn as yet although I'm told the first two weeks are fine and then it starts to take a toll. We shall see. Either way, I've got just 4 weeks to go till we're done and as always my eye is firmly on the final prize. 
The Bouff is definitely growing back albeit entirely upwards like a tray of out-of-control but enthusiastic watercress so it's still not ready for human interaction, unless you Skype me at 7am (gotta love a UK time difference) when I can't be bothered to sit up, let alone hat up. I'm not lazy, people, it's fatigue…

Right, gotta go get these ridiculously well-presented flowers in water and pick the wig up from the dry cleaners…

VC x
p.s The wig's not really at the dry cleaners. It's at the hairdressers. Life is good when you can literally drop your hair off for a wash and blow dry… 

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