Inspirational women

Interview with Debbie Clarke – founder of DebbieDooodah

They say life is a roller coaster and it is true that we all face huge highs and deep lows in our lives. I hope you feel as inspired as I do by my interview with Debbie Clark, an award-winning yellow obsessed mindset & marketing coach helping people build businesses they love via debbiedooodah

Please tell us a little about your childhood and teenage years

Well I am an only child and my parents were quite young when they had me. I had a very glamorous mum with big golden curly hair and a dad who was always playing guitar and singing in punk bands.

It was a little hectic and I loved spending every weekend with my grandparents where we sat on the sofa and watched Dynasty and ate biscuits in bed.

I was both an introvert and an extrovert and I wasn’t a confident teenager, preferring to spend time in my bedroom reading books.

That was until I discovered drugs at 15 and everything went a little wild!

What was your first job?

My first ever job straight out of school was working in a chicken factory. It was as horrible as you would expect it to be. My first proper job was working at Boots head office on the Health and Beauty magazine, where there were no raw chickens. It was much nicer!

Tell us about your journey to becoming a mum

I was 28 when I got pregnant. My boyfriend at the time and I were travelling across Europe in a VW campervan and I reckon I fell pregnant straight away. I took a pregnancy test in Slovakia and we decided straight away that we wouldn’t stay together.

So I come back to England with no job, no money and no house. My best friend let me stay with her while I found a house I could rent.

How do you find life as a single parent and was this a lifestyle choice or just something that happened along the way?

Being a single mum is like all things in life, there are good parts and there are hard parts. My boyfriend and I made a conscious decision not to stay together because we didn’t really get on together and we’d both come from families with a lot of arguing and we didn’t want that for our child.

It felt easier to make that decision than to try and make it work, when we knew in the long run wasn’t sustainable.

It wasn’t an easy choice and there were times at the start of parenting that I worried if I’d made the right choice. But 13 years ago I am 100% confident it was the right choice.

How did you find out you had cancer

When Robin was about 8 months old I started feeling ill. I was so tired, I got headaches. Sometimes I couldn’t stand up straight after I got off the sofa. I used to feel like I was going to faint most of the time. And towards the end I could barely stay awake.

There was one time I walked around the corner to my local library and just collapsed in the middle of the children’s section on a rug and watched Robin crawl around me.

I knew something was not right. However the Doctors just said I was low on iron. I’d never had a baby and I was doing it mostly on my own and breast feeding, so I thought maybe you were supposed to be this tired.

One night at around 3am I felt like I couldn’t breathe and my chest felt really tight. I called 111 and they told me to call an ambulance. I called Robin’s Dad and he came and got Robin and I went to A&E.

They discovered I had a tumour in my chest cavity that was pressing against one of my lungs, which is why I felt like I was having a heart attack.

I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma a blood cancer that attacks your immune system.

Describe your treatment and where you are now in your cancer journey

I had 6 months of chemotherapy. It’s not that nice. You have to sit in hospital for around 9 hours once a fortnight while they drip the chemo into your blood stream.

All my hair fell out, I did some vomiting and felt pretty shitty. However I always tried to look on the bright side. To find moments of joy in the chaos and to learn from the experience.

If I could learn something from it, it would all be worthwhile.

That was in 2009. So I’ve been clear for 11 years now. For a good few years after the treatment I was extremely anxious the cancer would come back. Every cough and cold was a sign I might be ill. Plus my body took a long time to recover, my energy levels were low for years afterwards.

Everyday I’m thankful to be alive. I’m thankful for the wonderful NHS staff and all the people who helped me along the way.

Who has supported you through your challenging times? 

The best thing I learnt about having cancer is that I had an amazing support network.

My best friend Kim quit her job and came to live with me and Robin in our 2 up 2 down house. She lived in our tiny living room on a sofa bed for about 8-9 months. I can never thank her enough for that. It meant I could keep my independence and carry on living with Robin in our home.

My parents helped by giving Kim a small income while she lived with us, as I was only on income support and it wasn’t really enough to feed 2 adults and Robin and keep us warm and safe.

My friends pulled together and helped with childcare, sitting with me on those long chemotherapy days and delivering home cooked dinners.

Macmillan gave us some money towards a little holiday in Wales to have a break. And a charity called The Willow foundation paid for Kim and I to have a day out at a spa after the treatment.

What would you say to someone who has just received a diagnosis?

That’s a hard one, it feels so long ago since I got my diagnosis and everyone deals with things in different ways.

I think it’s to honour how you are feeling. You’re going to be a crazy mixed up bags of all sorts of emotions, so let them in. And accept help. No-one needs to do it alone. There is strength in asking for and receiving help.

What words of wisdom do you have for other single parents?

Get help!! I think part of the reason I got so ill was because I felt like I had something to prove. That I could do it all on my own. I only used re-usable nappies, I even went to Glastonbury when Robin was 4 months old. I wanted to do everything I had done before and have a baby.

Rest!! Get some sleep. Get your baby into a sleeping routine. I was so bad at this and it meant in the day time Robin would only sleep while I pushing the pushchair, so I wasn’t getting any rest.

And you’re definitely going to mess it up at some point. So accept you’re human and making mistakes is all part of it!

If you could recommend just ONE website which is not your own, what would it be and why? she makes the most delicious recipes!

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

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, it delves into the relationships between men and women and I saw an echo of lots of my relationships in there.

What are your hopes for the future?

That the world will become a kinder more compassionate place and Jeff Bezos will have an epiphany and realise that Amazon could become a force for good in the world and look after it’s employees and businesses, rather than a money hoover leaving behind desiccated souls.

Is there anything else you would like to say or add?

Life is what you make of it. You are in control. You only get one life, so make the most of it.


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Award-winning writer, blogger, social media consultant and charity campaigner. Social Media Manager for BritMums, the UK's largest parent blogging network Freelance clients include Firefly Communications and Save the Children UK. Works with brands on marketing projects. Examples include Visit Orlando, Give As You Live, Coca-Cola and Kodak. Cambridge Law graduate with many years experience working across three sectors in advice, media relations, events, training and project management. Available for hire at affordable rates.

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