Let’s talk about breasts urged Sarah as she asked for my help in promoting her efforts to help other women. She has a strong story speaking to women, of all ages about what a mastectomy is and the unseen challenges faced by those who have this surgery. Mastect Expect is bold, different and a breath of fresh air to those on the google mission to find more information about breast cancer surgery. Sarah was a woman I wanted to know more about and I hope you enjoy hearing about her journey.
Breasts

Please tell us a little about your childhood and teenage years?

Change is not something new to me as moving house almost became a bit of a hobby in my teenage years! I was born in the Midlands and lived in Sapcote, Leicestershire for the first few years of my life. We then moved up to Cheshire where I attended primary school and the first two years of secondary school. At Lymm High School we had swimming lessons and were asked who would be interested in joining a synchronized swimming team, about 8 girls put their hands up, including me. At this stage of my swimming life I could have passed as a synchronized swimmer with the amount of splashing and time spent underwater, however this was when I was attempting to swim a simple length of front crawl. My enthusiasm to join a synchronized swimming team was probably one of shock to my coach and in my first few sessions I would receive the sympathetic, ‘bless, at least she is trying’ look. However, with resilience and a lot of time spent in a swimming pool it became a huge part of my life. As a teenager when peers went shopping or to sleepovers I would be training. I had fantastic opportunities and have a collection of medals ranging from bronze to golds that I will treasure forever.

At 13 we then moved up to Dumfries, Scotland where apart from the first day when I cried and refused to speak to the deputy head because I was petrified of moving school, all went well. We then (we have moved a lot) moved to Amersham in Buckinghamshire when I was 15 and ready to sit my GCSE’s. With a quick, ‘oh my goodness your entire History coursework is on the highland clearances, that is not quite what we study in England’ panic, I started my academic studies at the Amersham school. I went on to get good GCSE’s and strong A-Level grades which enabled me to study at the University of Portsmouth.  

 Please tell us about your first job?

 My first job out of university was at Chesham Park Community College as a cover supervisor. Nothing quite like being fresh out of university and dealing with hormonal teenagers on a day to day basis! This sparked my passion for working with young people and helping then reach their potential. I gained qualified teacher status through the GTP programme and have not looked back since. 8 years on and I have seen the school change in to an academy, worked with a whole host of fantastic teachers and also seen many young people achieve great things. As expected I have also witnessed teenager behaviour at its best and at its worst, I have learnt the meanings of words which I am sure are not featured in the oxford dictionary and the craze of ‘flossing’ is something I cannot get away from.

 What  health issues have you faced?

 Regarding health issues, I am starting to believe that walking over three drains or a mirror smashing may bring bad fortune as it does seem to follow me around. These have ranged from being accident prone to unforeseeable issues. Asides the usual childhood knocks I have had a sneaky cyst on my ankle which was discovered on an xray after my trampoline skills were much to be desired. This turned out to be benign but did result in a plaster cast for what felt like years. As I have got older I have faced a few issues but I am not a dweller. The obvious and recent one is my genetic predisposition to breast cancer. Breast cancer has always been a feature in my life, with women from both my mother and father’s side of the family being diagnosed. After the death of my auntie I explored genetic testing as I did not want to continue to feel like a sitting duck. At the time (2007) genetic testing was not as advanced as it is today so I was instructed to come back in a few years where there may have been more options. Following this advice I returned a few years later to find out that I was ‘NICE high risk category’ of developing the disease. The advice given to me was to have risk reducing surgery in the form a double mastectomy as soon as possible and then have my ovaries removed after I turned 35. A lot to take in! Following this I had my double mastectomy and reconstruction in August 2016 at the age of 27. I refer to it as a hurdle in life. I knew it was going to be difficult to get over it but if I worked hard and stayed focused, then it was achievable.

Breasts

 Who has supported you during your challenging times?

 During these more challenging times I have had amazing support from both friends and family. I am not one for grand gestures of affection or what I would describe as ‘mushy’ comments but throughout the mastectomy process my husband was incredible. He helped me with the practical bits like changing, washing and brushing hair but he also helped me laugh and feel chirpy when the odds were against it. My family and friends cooked, helped me get through significant amounts of chocolate, helped me chuckle and get through lots of movies! Horror films whilst you still have drains in is not advisable, jumping with fright isn’t ideal when you’ve got sore boobs and alien like tubes coming out of you. My Mum moved in for a week post surgery to help however in a bizaare (but funny looking back at it now all is ok) twist of fate, I was admitted back into hospital for that entire week due to an infection!

What led to you setting  up Mastect Expect?

 Before my surgery I was a keyboard warrior trying to find out what to expect from the surgery. I was looking for practical advice to help manage my expectations but also help me prepare. After my operation, I decided to start documenting my experiences and from there, Mastect Expect was born. I started to build a website, which was a challenge as I wouldn’t put myself under the heading of tech savvy. However, the more people I spoke to, the more it became obvious that a central go to resource focused on mastectomy surgery and recovery was needed. The practical advice rather than medical jargon was freshing for women because it gave them a place to ask questions that were not necessarily suitable for their surgeon or on the radar for their surgeon. Following the launch of the Mastect Expect website I started to get emails from women across the globe. This spurred me on to continue to blog my experiences, update the website but also build a presence on social media so I could reach others that could benefit from Mastect Expect.

Breasts

Why do you feel it is important to talk about serious health issues with humour sometimes?

 You only live once, and there are always going to be obstacles in life, you can either face them with doom and gloom or you can make the best out of a bad situation. I use humour for lots of reasons, my first is that it is a natural position for me, I am very much half glass full. The other is that I believe it can help encourage people to engage and talk about things that they might find difficult. Talking about mastectomies can be difficult, whether it is about yourself or a loved one, people can find it awkward to talk about boobs, giving a bit of humour can help put people at ease and make them feel more comfortable with asking questions. I very much believe it is better for someone to feel like they could ask a question rather than the anxiety build up inside of them. In addition, people worry, which is natural, giving a bit of laughter can help make them feel better about a difficult situation.

 What do you want to change via Mastect Expect?

I want Mastect Expect to be able to support women on the mastectomy journey. I want people to feel comfortable talking about mastectomies and be able to find down to earth practical advice. It is very easy to come across horror surgery stories or medical jargon that makes no sense to the everyday person, but why isn’t it easy to locate friendly useful advice that will help put anxieties at ease? Mastectomy surgery is daunting, it can be frightening and it is the unknown. If someone breaks their leg or has a cold, you know what to do, but what about a mastectomy? I want to give people confidence in their mastectomy journey, whether it is their journey or the journey of a loved one. It does not need to be the area of the unknown, it can be known using Mastect Expect and knowledge can help people, families and friends in feeling supported and ready to embark on their next hurdle in life.

If you could recommend one book to a woman, what would it be and why?

 Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. As you read about Eleanor’s life, you see that she doesn’t fit with what would be considered the ‘norm’. As a reader you become invested in her life and as she goes through her routines and her thoughts, you start to relate. Everyone has part of them that can relate to Eleanor Oliphant and she makes you feel good. She makes you realise that everyone is different and that is ok, you almost become her cheerleader as you want everything to turn out well for her.

If you could recommend one website other than your own to a woman, what would it be and why?

A topical website would be tickingoffbreastcancer.com as it’s a fantastic hub of links and knowledge about all aspects of breast cancer.

 

3 Little Buttons
Cuddle Fairy

Dating comes in a variety of guises. Many people are looking for long-term relationships or even marriage. Others are happy to enjoy a relationship in the short or medium term. Then there is no strings attached dating. This means dating with no special conditions, restrictions, obligations, or arrangements that must be met.

Who dates in this way?

I don’t think there is a real answer to this. I think no strings dating might appeal to anyone depending on where they find themselves in life. Unless they had a deep religious or moral objection to no strings dating, a lot of people might find this an attractive dating option. After a relationship breakdown, I found myself doing no strings dating for a while which was quite out of character. So I guess it is a case of never say never.

When do people take up no strings dating?

Younger people may take up no strings dating. Very few of us start off our dating adventures looking for a serious commitment straightaway. People have played the field in their younger years for generations. It helps them to work out what they find attractive in partners and to refine exactly what they are looking for. I think so long as people are honest about what they are doing there is no problem with that.

Life brings curveballs our way. We might lose a loving relationship and that might come as a surprise to us. I thought I was in a committed relationship and discovered my other half was in a relationship with someone else whilst I was away for the weekend. It was a shock and put  me off giving my heart to anyone quickly again. That’s when I decided to try no strings dating. It was not really my thing but I guess it was a milestone as I healed from the hurt of my previous relationship. It might work in a similar way when a marriage comes to an end via divorce.

The saddest situation if when someone loses their loved partner through death. It is devastating when anyone we love passes away but perhaps particularly when we have shared our lives with them in the most intimate of ways. I would always advise anyone who has gone through such loss to seek grief counselling to help them navigate their way to a new and meaningful life. Having said that, some people will choose to put their toe into the romantic waters again via no strings dating perhaps out of loyalty to their partner, a wish to have companionship without a deep and long-lasting commitment or for their own personal reasons.

My dad did not choose to date at all after the loss of my mum. This did not surprise me although I sometimes worried that he was lonely but then mum was pretty irreplaceable. He threw himself into the lives of his children and grandchildren and that worked well. However, many older people do not have family living close by so why should they give up a romantic life altogether? I would have struggled if my dad had taken on a new relationship but I guess happiness has to be the key if you truly care about someone.

Benefits of no strings dating

I don’t think I could do no strings dating for long. Perhaps I fall in love too easily or perhaps I just could not be bothered to make the effort involved with dating on a no strings basis. Having said that when I did do it briefly I enjoyed meeting new people and having fun together whether that was talking, laughing, dining out or something more. It helped me to realise that just because my ex-partner had decided I was not good enough, that did not mean that I was unattractive to other people. I have one friend in particular who has spent a lifetime mainly doing no strings dating with the occasional longer-term relationship. We are all different and must make out own romantic choices. There is a liberation I guess in not having to constantly report back to someone on where you are going, what you are doing and who with.

There are other reasons to get involved in no strings dating including if people are looking for a marital affair for themselves. This is not my particular cup of tea but then I have a particular religious background that disapproves of such things. However, who am I to judge and I have heard it said marital affairs can even be good for the existing marriage. I struggle with that idea but can see some benefits of no strings dating at the right time for the individual.

 

I have got back to listening to music again recently particularly in the evenings. I am doing my best to discover more modern artists as well as reliving the Eighties of course. With this in mind, I am tempted to try the Rag and Bone Man album.

My husband was the first person to introduce me to the Rag and Bone Man. I had not heard of him and thought it was a joke. Coming from the North of England as a child a rag and bone man was the person who came round buying and selling all manner of things. My husband said the Rag and Bone Man was a singer and my teenage son confirmed this telling me he was worth listening to.

I am impressed that the Rag and Bone Man album went into the charts at number one straightaway. Reviews are intriguing saying how Rory Graham’s debut album is an interesting mix of modern and classic music. It sounds like a fusion of blues and vintage sounds that I like but with the addition of hip-hop and a pop attitude.

I am also impressed by people who don’t just sing but actually write their own material too. I like the fact that Rag and Bone Man does not fit into a cliché of a pop star in looks or material. It is great that he has succeeded as a recording artist but also as a live performer. He seems to have the knack of being popular across the globe which is a feat many a musician never quite pulls off however famous they become in their own country.

As for my first impressions of Rag and Bone Man, it turns out I was not that far off the mark after all. The name comes from a memory of watching Steptoe and Son on the television.

Are you a fan of Rag and Bone Man?

 

 

 

 

When your precious feline goes missing, nothing can describe the heartache you feel and the questions that run through your mind. Where they could be and what is causing them not to come home, push past the panic and focus on carrying out these helpful steps to increase the chances of reuniting with your missing moggy.

Lost Cat

How Long Have They Been Missing?

While your cat may have a routine that they stick to on a daily basis, there will be times when you think they are due to arrive home but end up a few hours, days or even a week late. On the evening you notice your cat is missing, check all their favourite hiding spots or any new ones in both the home and garden they could have got themselves into.

Follow this up with a walk around the neighbourhood calling their name and armed with a handful or bag of their favourite treats, the noise of your voice or the rattling treats is a good way to attract their attention. If there is still no sign in or around your home, place an object of theirs outside to attract them back and keep an ear out or leave access for them to get back in the house.

If they still haven’t arrived home by the morning or you can’t see that they might have returned over night only to take off again in the morning, move on to asking around the neighbourhood.

Ask Neighbours to Check Hiding Spots

Cats can be sly and often nip past us before we’ve ever noticed their presence, this leads to them getting shut in garages or sheds of surrounding neighbours more often than not. Ask your neighbours to check anywhere your cat could have been shut into by accident or if they have seen it since you noticed they were missing.

Make Some Missing Posters

Put together some missing posters with as much information as possible regarding the cat’s appearance including size, colours, eye colour, breed and any specific defining features – attaching a clear photo where possible. Include your contact information clearly on the poster so anybody that does sight the cat can get in touch and let you know.

Lost Cat

Notify Local Vets/Animal Sanctuaries

After putting up your missing posters in your area and surrounding area, contact your vet and local animal charity i.e. Cats Protection, RSPCA, independent sanctuaries. This way if your cat has been picked up, they know that it is missing and can get in touch with you. Your local council keeps records of any cats unfortunately found on the road after an accident so get in touch with them in case they have any information.

Ask It to Be Shared in Local Social Groups

Social media is wonderful tool for keeping people in touch faster than ever before, ask some of your local groups, whether on Facebook, Twitter or others to put up the notice of your lost cat so people can keep an eye out. Also share your missing posters round local shops and notice boards to get as many eyes on the picture as possible.

Hopefully in the meantime your cat will have made their way home, however if not, keep looking and keep placing food and water out for them if they do come back overnight. You can also place some of their bedding outside to attract them back home.

Preventing Your Cat Going Missing

Cats can get themselves into all sorts of trouble due to their curious nature and they are particularly active at dawn and dusk. Avoid letting them out at this time of the day so to prevent them wandering off too far following their hunting instincts. As per legal requirements, your cat should be professionally microchipped with your up to date information so if they are picked up, you can be contacted promptly.

While most vets won’t recommend your cat wearing a collar, if you choose for them to wear one, unlike personalised dog collars, cat collars come in a specific snap-away design that will release if it gets caught. This protects cats from accidents or getting caught up when they are climbing or running through bushes, etc while including your contact information on the attached pet tag.

It’s a horrible feeling when your cat goes missing yet such a joyous one when they return. There have even been stories of cats returning years after going missing so if you don’t hear anything, try not to despair and keep calling for them in the evenings when they are most likely to be active and around.

Making the most of your budget on a holiday in Spain effectively means you can create more magical memories for less money. I remember a family holiday to Spain with my parents many years ago. We were joined by my Auntie Margaret and Uncle Cyril and my cousin Sean. There was tension sometimes as my parents were keen to spend whereas my aunt and uncle were keen to save as much money as  possible. So I thought I would suggest some ways you can save money on a holiday in Spain such as those available from Holiday Gems online.

Dates

If you go to Spain in the school holidays, you will pay more and you may find the resorts are annoyingly busy. As a home educator, we really can benefit from taking breaks outside of school holiday periods. That is not possible for everyone but if you can travel out of season, it is worth considering.

Packing

Firstly remember you probably don’t need designer luggage. Is it better to have that or to have money available for a special day out whilst you are away? Ensure you know the size and weight restrictions for your luggage set by the airline. Excess charges can really hurt your wallet. Bring your own plastic bags to take your liquids through security. Take items that you love with you such as salt, pepper, tea bags, washing powder, dishwasher tablets and bin bags.

Research

In the olden days, my Dad used to do as much research in the library about our holiday destinations. Nowadays if we are savvy we can use the Internet well in advance not only to check out places we want to visit but also special discounts and deals. Yes, you might have to sign up to email newsletters but if it means saving some pennies and pounds it might just be worth it.

Food and drink

You can easily spend way too much money on food and drink. On days out you can make your own picnic rather than relying on food outlets. Not only will this save you money but you can tailor the picnic to your family’s food preferences and cater for any allergies and special diets. If you do go to a restaurant lunchtime eating tends to be cheaper and look out for the menu del día. As for drinks try the local wine and draught beer or cerveza de barril is cheaper than bottled beer. Ask for tap water rather than laying out for expensive mineral water. If you see servicio incluido on a bill, you do not need to leave a tip.

Getting around

Walking is free and often results in you finding hidden gems as you go off the beaten track including cheaper cafes, restaurants and bars.  If walking is too much for you or family members, ensure you look into travel passes. Check out any special provision for older people, younger people, disabled people and students.

Other places where savings can be made include car hire and fuel costs, banking and the use of technology. It’s back to doing that Internet research before you go. Finally ensure you take out travel insurance and get your free European Health Insurance Card.

Do you have any tips for making the most of your budget when on holiday in Spain?

 

My Random Musings