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 28 September 2015


Dear Fellowship,

I am aware that many of you have recently been forced to suffer the bombardment of nauseating photos from my tremendously recuperative Spanish and Ibizan sojourn. The good news is that a blog post featuring many of those pics is coming soon - I know many tears of joy will be shed at the chance to re-live some of those beautiful sunset and beach shots over and over again so I'm happy to oblige... smile emoticon
Meanwhile I'd like to tell you about a friend of mine, Louise Shaw . Lou and I have been friends since we were 11. The usual story - she was good at maths and sport, I was useless at maths and sport so I immediately hated her. She was also in a cool gang being cool and probably skating to school in fluorescent rollerblades every day whereas I was shuffling around in my Clarks shoes being miles from cool with my massive ginger bouffante, wearing Girl Guide sweatshirts on non-uniform days, and wondering whether lacrosse, clearly the most pointless sport ever, was invented simply to torment gingers with no sense of direction.

At some point though, I eventually stopped judging Lou for being smarter, better at sport and cooler than me, I forgave her for her part in convincing me to Immac my non-existent sideburns aged 12 on a school trip to France, and despite our shaky adolescent start, we became firm friends. For the last 30 years, Lou has been in my life and this year, her support has been as unwavering as the previous 29.
Lou has always been a superior long distance runner to me, despite my attempts to mirror her achievements at school. There were only 2 occasions I beat her in the 1500m, once when she "had a knee injury" (sure) and the second when I sat on her heels strategically all the way round the track, surging forward at the last minute to overtake and beat her to the line - still my greatest sporting achievement since winning the Under-14 Non-Team Singles Tennis tournament, or as some jealous runner-up said 'the best of the rest'. Hmm. 
19 years ago, Lou ran the London Marathon in the time it normally takes me to run a bath. In a month's time, she will take on the New York Marathon in aid of Cancer Research. She is running for me, in memory of both our fabulous dads and with the eventual hope that less of us will have to start or join Facebook groups like this one in the future. 
I know not everyone will be able to sponsor Lou but if you can spare a few quid, then that would of course be sensational!
I have fallen upon my sword and agreed to take on the hardship that is being there to greet her at the Central Park finish line - prepare yourselves now for the onslaught of NYC photos... smile emoticon
Lou, you're my Forrest Gumping hero. Despite being clearly mad as a bag of frogs.

VC x

Friday 11 September 2015


Dear Fellowship,

A year in the life of the Bouff...yikes.

I'm posting this photo with a not insignificant amount of insecure, girlish trepidation but as I wandered round a service station anonymously yesterday 'sans wig' on the way to see my Mum, I thought it might finally be time to reveal the new Bouff in all her glory to my actual pals, instead of some random West Country shoppers who probably just think I'm a trendy nan, attempting to go full (Judi) Dench.

I've not wanted to focus on the hair loss shizzle too much in these musings over the last year. The few cancer blogs and books I've read labour the point so much that it can become, I believe, pretty unhelpful to those going through and facing cancer treatment as well as to those who are not.

Yes, losing your hair is not fun. But dying is worse. It's really that simple. So you stop crying about all your wasted curl products and you suck it up. You embrace the loss of the very thing you thought defined you and you discover that a head full of ringlets didn't actually define you at all. You find that actually you kind of love the simplicity of the crop and then you find a magic wig that re-defines the very perception of cancer wigs. You even learn that many people (mainly boys, you saps) prefer the wig to the Bouff but that's ok. Losers. :)

And now the Bouff is coming back. It's poking its roots cautiously over the parapet and concluding that it's safe to re-emerge. And it appears to be coming back grey or as I prefer to call it, ice-blonde. OMG. I fear that I may end up more Supergran than Judi Dench but we shall cross that bridge (and hairdressing salon) when we get there.

But my point is this: cancer is not about losing your hair, it's about not losing your life. And way back in Jan, when the diagnosis had sunk in and I learnt that my hair would need to take one for the team, I was oddly ok with it. Because when you are here, my friends, in the swirling eye of the cancery storm, you really don't care one jot about hair.

So do not get all misty-eyed about seeing the Bouff in her former glory. She is coming back in a disguise so cunning that even Hannibal from the A-Team would be impressed. (Actually she's currently in a bag in my apartment so she's still around if you want to say hi.)

Off to google 'ice blonde crops' and get some inspiration... :)


Tuesday 8 September 2015


Dear Fellowship,

So I've been back in the bosom of my homeland for 5 days and what a tremendous 120 hours they've been.

So amazing in fact that I am currently lying under my duvet fully clothed writing this with one eye closed, in a futile attempt to rest...

The holy trinity of jetlag, cancer-related fatigue and multiple emotional reunions has ensured that, since Thursday, I have been running largely on a winning combo of adrenalin and PG Tips, neither of which, I'm guessing, feature that heavily on the agreed 'how to take things easy post-treatment' guide. So I thought I'd share my own alternative tips for taking it easy below:

1. Fly Business Class back to UK

See? I was all over the 'taking it easy' thing initially! Wrote a nice blog from the comfort of the business lounge, ordered a celebratory glass of champagne, threw it all over myself within 8 seconds, ordered another one while a flustered waiter attempted to mop up first glass without making eye contact. Wolfed down a random plate of food (because it was FREE) which included pasta twirls, a new potato, some grated carrot, a beetroot and a bowl of soup. Got on plane. Found massage button on seat. So far so good.

2. Avoid wig-related stress.

Wafted about in swishy wig being all business class fabulous for first 20 mins of flight before going to loo and casually re-emerging without hair. As you do. I avoided the temptation to run out, screaming hysterically about the G-force power of the flush having whipped my hair clean off my head because I am in fact way more mature than people give me credit for.

Instead, I strolled casually back up the aisle, as if it was the most normal thing in the world to go into the loo one minute and pop out the next, sans barnet. Flipped Wiggy up into her own private overhead locker where she lay happily for the next gazillion hours.

3. Arrive home to textbook welcome

After a 24 hour flight and approx 20 hours sleep (gotta love a flatbed), I pushed my over-laden trolley through Arrivals with a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye to be enveloped by my gorgeous welcoming committee. My niece Molly came running from one direction, my nephew Otis from another (although to be fair, he stopped short of flinging himself at me when he remembered that he was in fact a 7 year old #lad) and my remaining niece, 18 month old Lottie, was nowhere to be seen. Turns out she was having her own toilet dramas on the M4, much to my sister's horror.

There's an ongoing complaint in my family (by me) that no one ever gets to Heathrow arrivals in time to physically greet anyone - less 'Love, Actually', more 'love, do you mind meeting me out the front to save on parking?' - so we knew how guilty Marg would feel, having failed to make my arrival on time despite it being through no fault of her own.

Thus ensued some panicked chat where it was genuinely discussed at one point whether I could possibly go back through the arrival doors with a view to re-emerging 5 minutes later like some dazed and confused Stars in Your Eyes contestant. Madness. Instead I just hid behind a post, chucked out a lame 'surpriiiiiise' at my sis, Lottie burst into tears, everyone hugged and off we went. Phew. Special thanks to Mizz and Charl for embracing the predictable chaos so valiantly.

4. Laugh in the face of chronic jetlag

Or, as I like to call it, 'pop upstairs for a quick nap' at 11am and wake up at 7pm. Excellent 'laughing in face of jetlag' technique. I believe we went out for dinner that first night. No memory of it. I may well have been slumped face first in my burger all evening. I do remember being awake that night until 6am though. Good times.

5 days later, I'm really smashing through it and waking up as late as 4am. Sigh. That said, as a result of having been up most days with the lark, I have been able to already achieve my twin goals of dropping my niece at school and walking the dog down by the river of a morning. Nothing tests the mental strength of a cancer survivor like having to fill multiple doggie bin bags before 9am...

5. Hang out with 75,000 people in a stadium

Took my bro to see the England v Ireland game at Twickenham on Saturday - big thanks to my pal Tim for both sorting out the tickets in response to my blatant emotional blackmail from overseas and for shouting us a posh lunch too! We're of English and Irish descent but if I'm honest, Jon and I were less confused about who to support than we were about the rules of rugby in general. Football is in our Scouse blood, rugby is far too posh for us and Jon spent most of the match looking confused and asking what the score was and why. Nonetheless England won and I ditched Jon and the pub for a night in Teddington watching telly on the sofa with my buddy Lou. All about balance, innit?

6. Hang out with 200 people on a hill in London

Now then, regular readers of my ramblings will already be aware of one Greig Trout, the fabulous founder of 101 Things To Do When You Survive (www.whenyousurvive.com) but importantly, the Mr Miyage to my Karate Kid, the Lacey to my Cagney as I've navigated this cancery world with wide-eyes for the last 9 months. His friendship, advice and two-time experience himself with the old C-Bomb has been utterly invaluable to a cancer novice like me this year and I'm sure I'll be continuing to pick his brain (whilst turning a blind eye to his continual Whatsapp-based typos and grammatical errors) for years to come.

September is the month when Greig passes the 5 year mark since his last duel with the cancery troll which puts him officially and brilliantly into long-awaited remission. To mark this awesome occasion, his family, friends and followers of his 2 year blog headed to Richmond Hill on Sunday to celebrate.

What a truly tremendous day it was - the sun came out, old friends turned up, new friends were made and I got to finally put some faces to the names of people and friends of Greig who have been so generous in their support this year without even knowing me! I shall wait to see if the Fellowship numbers start to dwindle now they have finally met me in the flesh....

For me, Sunday marked the beginning of the next chapter of my life and firmly closed the door on the last several months. There were so many awesome people, young and old, who have faced and continue to face far tougher challenges than me that just chatting to them on the day reminded me once more how delighted I was to be simply sitting on the grass with my good pals taking it easy and soaking up the afternoon sun. Plus I won a raffle prize which helped....

An awesome day organised by an awesome man for an awesome cause. Nice work, Troutster - you absolutely rock. :)

Blimey - so much for scaling these posts back!! And this only covers the first 120 hours of my UK trip! This is what happens when I put 'rest' instead of 'lunch' in my diary - those who keep telling me to rest have been warned....

Right, off out to pick the niece up from school and shout 'Pair Device, for crying out loud!!!' at my deaf hire car for the 79th time.

Thanks for reading this far, Mum! :)

VC x

Wednesday 2 September 2015


Dear Fellowship,

O.M.G!!! Happiness is finding out that your friends and family have clubbed together and upgraded you from Economy to Business Class...waaaaaaaah!!!

I am completely blown away. Individual shout outs to Lyn Connerty, Liz Connerty, Magz Connerty, Jon Connerty, Charlotte Hickson, Diane Barnes, Miriam Haddu, Zena Birch, Louise Shaw, Philippa Collier, Pipa Unsworth, Athena Mandis and Liz Saunders - you are all bleedin' legends and I love you all for your ridiculous but beautiful generosity...amazing.

Regardless of the flat bed, extensive movie collection and free cheese that now awaits me, I cannot explain how grateful I am to not have to hang old Wiggy off the tray table in front of me or have the predictable awkward convo with the bloke sat next to me asking where the blonde flicky-haired glamazonian went...

Currently at the airport waiting to board a 24hr flight home. It's been the busiest week on earth so I've barely had time to contemplate this trip or even really celebrate the end of treatment! Thank you to Cathy Walters, Jez Clark and Matt Furlong for helping me turn my messy flat into an Airbnb 5* review-level show home. You have each helped prevent me from curling up into a wailing ball this week when faced with emptying out yet another cupboard...love you all to the moon.

Champagne is kicking in clearly - lots of love for everyone right now. Am getting all teary-eyed about reaching London and finally seeing my amazing friends and family after 9 long months - avoid Heathrow Airport at 7am Thursday - it will be flooded...

But before I settle back into my flatbed (swoon), I just want to say thank you to everyone in Oz who has looked after and out for me this year. Having no family around to help out and support me could have been a tough call in January but I honestly wouldn't change the decision to have my treatment here for a second. They say friends are the family you choose and this year, that has never been truer.

Thank you for every call, card, present, dinner, text, Gold Class movie and walk on the beach. Thank you for always laughing at my inappropriate cancer jokes and for not freaking out when I whipped the wig off at random intervals. Thank you for showing me how lucky I am to have found such good and generous people on both sides of the world. I couldn't have got through the last 8 months without your rallying cries so thank you for always having my back and making me excellent cups of tea. You are all sensational.

My flight is being called so you are all saved from further champagne-induced ramblings!

Australia, I will see your beautiful face in 10 weeks. UK, I'm coming to get you. Stick the kettle on...

VC x

P.S Please note awkward selfie taken in Business Lounge, 30 seconds before I spilt entire glass of champagne over myself. I now have a 24hr flight to board, stinking of booze. So rockstar right now. :)