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 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

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