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

Monday 24 August 2015


Dear Fellowship,

And so, exactly 7 months and 22 days after we began this crazy tale, we finally draw it to a close. Gulp! 
and we are done… :)

Today was the last day (I might have mentioned it once or twice along the way) of my cancer treatment plan that will hopefully mean we have seen the last of Lumpy, Lymphy and their merry band of cancery thieves for good. 
Apparently it was Oprah who once said 'Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down'. 
To be honest, this analogy doesn't really work that well for me because everyone who even vaguely knows me should be aware that I would totally get a cab if my limo broke down but let's roll with this hypothetical scenario for now. Let's imagine a world where there are no cabs, no Uber app and no man-slaves to drive me around. Horrifying. But if that world existed, THEN I would probably be forced to get a bus. If I couldn't cancel the meeting or appointment at the other end obviously. 
I digress. 
What I'm trying to say in simple terms is that I'm so, so glad that each and every one of you is on my metaphorical bus. Even if it is a bus so big it wouldn't actually be able to take a corner at speed without tipping over. 
The video I watched this morning coordinated by my amazing baby sis so beautifully and that so many of you contributed to warmed the cockles of my ginger heart. Once I'd stopped ugly crying (deleeeeete those pics), it reminded me once again how lucky I have been and still am to have my own bigger and better band of merry thieves behind me. 
The Fellowship of the Ringlets was really just an admittedly tremendous title for a Facebook group back in January but over the last 7 months and 22 days, it has become absolutely the finest sort of Fellowship. I'm grateful to every one of you for agreeing to get on the bus, without you really knowing how bumpy the ride, how far the destination or whether there were even toilets on board. (This analogy is getting out of hand.)
I have also been wondering / overthinking over the last few weeks about whether or not I should gracefully bring this Fellowship group and these musings to a close now that treatment is complete or continue to write. 
Today I proudly join an illustrious and impressive group of people who have emerged victorious from their own cancery tales and as I said in my last post, the road ahead now becomes about getting back to 'normal' when my previous normal may realistically no longer exist. 
That, in itself, feels like a pretty rich subject for me to tackle and address over the coming months or maybe it's just an excuse for me to post endless photos of me having a lovely, recuperative time in Ibiza. Ho hum...I shall work through this and let you know smile emoticon
But for now, I shall crack on with the post-cancer part of my life, which today involved clearing out my kitchen drawers in preparation for a myriad of Airbnb'ers over the next 2 months. No time for champagne in Sydney today! 
I wanted to end this post with a simple thank you to all of you for the last 8 months and I found this quote from a trusted source regarding what a fellowship truly means:

"You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin - to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours - closer than you yourself can keep it. 
But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends. 
Anyway, there it is. We are horribly afraid but we are coming with you. Or following you like hounds."
J.R.R Tolkein, The Fellowship of the Rings 

Thank you all for following me like hounds.

VC x
P.s link to the vid below - waaaaaaaaaaaah!!! xxx
Password : cancerbye

Pre-radio coffee with the man-slaves


Breakfast Team

Sunburn Sue
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Thursday 20 August 2015


Dear Fellowship,

28 radiation blasts down, 2 to go! The finishing line is finally within touching distance...yikes. 
As these last few days have crept ever nearer, I've noticed that I've been increasingly pinballing between a sense of massive euphoria that I'm nearly done followed by a heart-stopping little panic at the thought of having to re-introduce myself back into normal society. 
The merry-go-round of treatment and specialists and dramas and drugs over the last 8 months, whilst overwhelming at times, has also unwittingly provided me with a little protective cancery cocoon. It's strange and even a little sad to think that from Tuesday, I won't have to traipse up to the hospital, skinny latte in hand, for my daily dose of radiation from Sunburn Steve.
I've got quite used to sitting in the radiotherapy waiting-room, reading my book or watching eye-wateringly bad infomercials for life insurance on TV. I've also met some good people over the last 6 weeks, some of whom are dealing with far more dire situations than mine - if you want to get some perspective on the important things in life, then a radiotherapy waiting-room is the place to hang out, kids. 
I've become so used to being monitored and checked and prodded and MRI'd and asked how I am that I feel almost institutionalised by the non-stop care I've received this year. Imagine, if you will, Morgan Freeman in Shawshank Redemption, finally being released from prison after 25 years and standing on the street, wondering what to do next. I'm a bit like that, but with less bouff. And younger. And more importantly, not a murderer. 
Rubbish analogies aside, I'm definitely hitting what I like to call the Hysteria chapter of this cancery tale. This is the part where rationale goes out of the window and batshit crazy VC turns up, shouts a lot and then sulks in the corner, rolling her eyes like a pre-pubescent teenager.
This week I had to go for my final visit with Dr Dear to chat about the lovely hormone drug I have to take for the next 5 years. Unlike the radiotherapy waiting room where there's no phone signal so I am forced to read a book or watch adverts for life and funeral insurance, there is more phone signal than you can shake a stick at over at Dr Dear's place. As it turns out, phone reception, access to the internet and a 30 minute wait during Hysteria Week are not a good combo. 
To give you some context, this week I have largely (and wholly irrationally) been stressing and obsessing over the rate at which my hair is growing back. It's been 7 weeks since my last chemo sesh and my hair is definitely growing back. Bless the Bouff. It's been through a lot this year. It's coming back very blonde (or grey, depending on my optimism levels) but it's coming back. These are the facts. However, I relay this information to you from the cosy Armchair of Common Sense that I'm now thankfully relaxing in. 
Earlier in the week however, while languishing in the Rollercoaster of Negativity at the peak of Hysteria Week and sitting in Dr Dear's chemo waiting room surrounded by people wearing beanies, I became convinced that actually it wasn't growing back at all. And as a result of it not growing back properly, I would clearly be forced to spend the rest of my days wrestling with a transparent and thinning strawberry blonde combover, looking like a horrifying cross between Donald Trump and Benjamin Button. I would never enjoy absent-minded ringlet-twirling again, I'd be forced to wig up forever and I would definitely never find a willing father for my frozen octuplets. 
So, faced with this hideous prospect, I'm ashamed to say I broke my own golden rule and frantically googled 'how long till hair grows back post-chemo?'. Oh dear. 30 minutes and multiple forums later with the unwanted advice from the likes of Janice in Colorado and Helen in Northumberland ringing in my ears, I was resigned to my inevitable fate as a 42 year old woman with permanent male pattern baldness. Blimey.
5 minutes later and I was slumped in a chair in Dr Dear's office with my arms folded, sulking about my male pattern baldness while she told me all about the side effects of the hormone drug I have to start following the end of radiation. Normally, I tend to zone out during side effect chat but this time I was listening intently and waiting for her to mention 'hair thinning' - Janice in Colorado on the Forum of Doom had informed me that this hormone drug also causes hair-thinning, just to add to my Hysteria Week woes, so even if the Bouff comes back it will drop off instantly.

Finally Dr Dear finished the side effect chat, at which point I triumphantly brandished my 'a-ha! you missed out hair thinning!' card. She looked at me like I was quite mad, at which point I confessed I'd spent 30 minutes Googling like a madwoman in her waiting room. There is nothing a medical professional hates more than a Googler but good old Dr Dear hid it well. Even when I whipped old Wiggy off and forced her to give me her honest opinion on my hair growth, she gently reassured me that all was well and that the Bouff is clearly and slowly but surely on its way back to the Connerty head. 
Hysteria Week has now thankfully drawn to a close but it's made me very aware that as the final day of treatment approaches, the real test will begin. Navigating the treatment itself and keeping a calm head over the last 8 months has been challenging but holding a steady course and staying mentally on top of my game now I'm 'fixed' will,I think, be the true test. 
My acupuncturist (yes I have one of those now too) asked me this week, while he stabbed my numb foot repeatedly with needles, if I thought this year had changed me at all. Initially I said no. I told him that I felt the same, this year hadbeen utterly surreal, my perspective on certain things had definitely changed but fundamentally I was the same person. Then I went away and thought about it some more and now I'm not so sure. 
You can't submerge yourself entirely in this cancery world for months on end, look behind the curtain, see all there is to see, experience all there is to experience and then walk away, unchanged and unaffected. 
That doesn't mean I have to or want to spend the rest of my days talking about cancer or thinking about cancer or writing about cancer but it does mean that, thanks to this mad year, I don't sweat the small stuff as much as I used to. It does mean that I value family and friendship even more than I did and it does make me nauseatingly grateful for the smallest things, such as being able to hold a pen and write my own name again!! Wahay! 
On Monday, after my last radiation, a few of us will have a little celebratory breakfast and wave goodbye to the last 8 months. There will most certainly be tears as I'm welling up even thinking about it (!) and we will draw this ‪#‎radiohead‬ chapter to a close. 
Special thanks to all those tremendous friends and family who got me through Hysteria Week, and shout out to my buddy Lou whose wise words (and gorgeous daughter shouting 'I wuv you Vicki' in the background of our call) got me back on the straight and narrow. 
See you at the finish line, my friends. Phew. :)

VC x
P.S As you can see from the pic, I'm so nailing this floristry shizzle...

Monday 3 August 2015


Dear Fellowship,

So today we have officially reached radiation halfway house - 15 rounds down, 15 rounds to go and as Sunburn Sue said this morning, the countdown can now commence! 
Not wanting to tempt fate but I'm faring pretty well with the radiation, despite my sunburn-prone, factor 30-loving Celtic complexion. Had my Monday morning check-in with Sunburn Sue this morning which went well - I shall miss my weekly catch-ups with Sunburn Sue.
She once described me to an MRI colleague on the phone while I was sat in her office as "Connerty, 42, right breast, dead arm, sharp as a tack" and, having basked in the warmth of her high praise, I have wanted to continue to impress her with my feigned sharpness ever since. I also want that entire description added to my business cards but I'm not sure work will go for it...
For the last couple of weeks I've had no physical indications whatsoever that I'm even having radiation, to the the point where I've started wondering whether Sunburn Steve has actually switched the machine on or not or whether this is all just an elaborate wind-up. However, the fact that he ducks out of the room quicker than a rat up a drainpipe once I'm all set up makes me think that he probably knows where the ON button is. I do find myself lying there for 6 long minutes slightly unnerved by the thought that this treatment I'm willingly exposing myself to every day has people literally leaving the room, slamming the doors and running for cover. Yikes. 
This morning, in my efforts to further gain approval from Sunburn Sue and avoid her slightly disappointed face when I tell her each week that I'm still fine, I proudly showed her a bit of redness on my chest which I, being British, of course blamed myself for:
"Look at this Sue, it's all my fault, sorry, I had radiation the other morning, then I applied some moisturiser and now I'm so sorry but it's gone a bit red. Sorry".
Sue was unashamedly delighted and proceeded to wave my apologies aside, saying that in fact it was she who really should apologise for giving me radiation in the first place. So I then graciously accepted her apology for giving me radiation. Meanwhile, the intern who was witnessing this bizarre apologetic exchange just sat there, looking confused about why everyone in the room was so sorry. 
Sue was so openly thrilled to finally see physical evidence that her precious radiation was hitting exactly where it was designed to hit that I wondered if she'd actually had a discreet word with Sunburn Steve about whether he was indeed switching the machine on properly or not. And with that, she gleefully typed 'Level 1 skin damage' into my records and off I went in search of some super-strength Aloe Vera lotion...
As this cancery chapter draws to a close in exactly 3 weeks and as I literally limp towards the finish line (thankyou, numb foot), I've started to become more aware of the overall physical toll this year has taken on the Connerty body. Currently, I feel a bit like Rocky Balboa after ten rounds - battered, bruised and knackered but ultimately pretty happy to be emerging from the ring relatively unscathed.
Until this year, I'd successfully managed to evade any real illness dramas or broken bones throughout childhood and adulthood. I tore some knee cartilage about ten years ago, defending myself from a tiny, angry teenage kickboxer - long story but he was clearly in need of some parental discipline and a good roundhouse kick...
Then I tore some ligaments in my ankle falling down some stairs just a few weeks later - who switches ALL the lights off during a pub lock-in for goodness sake? But other than that, I've simply looked on sympathetically and somewhat smugly as my siblings and friends fell out of trees, tripped over tennis nets, landed awkwardly going up for that easy ball etc...
As a result, having been genuinely shocked in January to discover I wasn't in fact invincible, immortal or superhuman after all, I've spent most of this year being initially aggravated, then amazed and ultimately humbled by the sheer resilience of my own little body in the face of surgery, dead arms, numb feet, ringlet loss, hormone injections, egg-freezing, icy gloves, chemotherapy and now radiation. Every step has at times seemed insurmountable but every time, whilst I've been grumbling away about needing a rest and a cup of tea, my body has just ignored me, rolled with the punches and got on with the job. 
So I might well come limping through Heathrow Arrivals doors in exactly a month's time, all wigged up with a wonky arm but I guarantee that, despite being squashed into Economy for 24 hours, I'll still be the happiest compression sleeve-wearing, sleep-deprived fool on that plane...
Special thanks this week to my favourite lads for an awesome weekend away in the beautiful Aussie spa town of Daylesford - not much beats great chat, log fires, pub lunches, long walks, ceramic chickens, cheeky reds, winning the 3rd Ashes Test and sitting in a hot mineral spring with a bald girl…. :)