Less Lumps, More Bumps!

Constant positive outlook + cancer fighting diet + amazing worldwide support from husband, friends, family, colleagues and of course the DDPYoga warriors = a fight that cancer cannot win!

Today was a day I have been looking forward to. I haven’t been able to feel the lump myself for a few days, but thought the oncologist would probably find some of it (you know being an expert and all) in the physical examination. His words today:

“If I didn’t know why you were here, I would assume that there was nothing unusual here.”

He couldn’t find it.

Nothing.

Nada!

To top this off, the genetics results came back negative! No BRCA!

*Cue sighs of relief*

So the current plan of action that stands is:

  1. Chemo 4/4 on 26th July (next week)

  2. A break from all things cancer related!

  3. Baby to be induced at the end of August

  4. CT and Mammogram to assess the boob

  5. Consult with surgeons

And that’s where I am stopping, because we don’t know what will happen then. With the genetic results we’ve been advised that I’m no more likely than anyone else to get a recurrence of it, and the ovarian cancer risk is the same as the general population. It’s not hormonal related either, it is just one of those anomalies.

I know it’s far from over, but today has been a huge mile of this marathon that I’ve overcome. And I intend on completing this with elegance and grace… not that I’m capable of either of those things! (More like an elephant on ice skates stomping around chanting, “fuck you cancer!” instead!). I will still experience more hair loss and fatigue for a while – the fatigue is particularly hard to deal with, being pregnant and the treatment just intensifies it.

On that note, the pregnancy is going smoothly and I’m sure this little warrior is going to make us really proud parents in 6 weeks time. She’s definitely taking after her dad – lots of yoga moves and then kicking me like the double pedal on Lars Ulrichs drumming on Metallica’s song One…

I’ll be blogging very soon once we’ve moved into our new place, so in the meantime I’ll leave you with this

Every Strike Brings Me Closer to the next Home Run

To keep you all up to date, we’ve found out that my cancer is not hormone related (ie it’s triple negative) and so I’m having some genetics tests to see if I’m a BRCA carrier. It could also be another gene mutation which has caused it, or (and this is one I’m expecting – it’s just unlucky…. if I had a dollar/pound for every time I hear that, I would be so so rich!) that I am just unlucky *sigh*.

On the upside, the chemo seems to be going well; the lump has softened! It also measures a whopping 5cm x 5cm, down from 9cm x 7cm!!! And even more incredible is the baby is bouncing around and being a super awesome warrior princess for her mama! The chemo isn’t affecting her at all as the placenta keeps out these drugs. The wonders of modern medicine 😊

She is completely oblivious to what the rest of my body is doing and that’s exactly how I want to keep it. We had a 28 week scan and boy did we get a performance! From the usual waving and rolling to her sticking her tongue out and what appeared to be licking my womb lining! She knows how to make me laugh.

So the plan is:

  • 2 more chemos before the birth
  • Birth will be scheduled for the end of August ’18
  • 4-6 weeks after the birth will be surgery. What type will depend if I’m a BRCA carrier or not (could be full mastectomy if so, or a lumpectomy if not).
  • Then there will be 2 more rounds of chemo
  • and then possibly radiotherapy afterwards.

My aim is to be finished with the treatment by the end of this year, but I’m well aware my body will need more time to heal. This is one helluva journey, but I’m so glad to have you all surrounding us with love and positivity. I couldn’t ask for a more wonderful community xxx

Pregnant with Breast Cancer

I think I jinxed myself. It seems the universe or the divine being who controls it thought I needed more challenges. It has been hard to comprehend all of the emotions, information, stress and anxiety of the last few months, so I feel the need to just let it all out in the best way I know how – this awesome blog! I hope that it will help others in a similar situation and bring them some solace.

Present: I’m sat in a beautiful pink recliner chair receiving chemo. 32 years and 8 months old, pregnant at 23 weeks. I’m the youngest one here. My gorgeous rock of a husband is sat across from me and I can tell that just as much as me, he wants this first session over and done with so at least we know what to expect…

So the big question: how the F**k did we end up here?!

As many of you will concur, we have had a fair amount of poop thrown at us in our 8 years of being together – from my near deaths from peritonitis 8 years ago to losing our little baby girl Rey on New Year’s Day last year, to moving continent and having to move back for health reasons…

My friends, here is a little bit of an insight into the madness that is our lives.

Rewind to January this year, we were blessed with a little nugget of awesomeness who will be joining us sometime around the end of August/beginning of September! We knew this nugget would throw a few spanner’s into our long term plans – we had only just decided at Christmas that we were going to apply for a US green card. Things unfolded in ways we did not expect – we couldn’t get it in the 6 months we originally thought,so it looked like we’d have to move back and then relocate again, once the green card had been approved. There is so much of America we still want to see and we barely scratched the surface in the year we were there!

At 8 weeks pregnant, we found a lump in my breast, but there was no immediate concern from the doctors. At 10 weeks I took the Counsyl genetics test to check for any abnormalities with the baby. The good news – she is perfectly fine and wonderful! The bad news is that markers flared up in my DNA pointing towards something less fun growing in me simultaneously. It could have been literally anything from polyps through to a 1/1000 chance of cancer, but the test didn’t provide a definitive answer as to what it was and where, which meant a lot more testing needed doing (X-rays, pet scans, MRI, Bloods etc…) We made the decision that we had to come back to the UK, which SUCKED but needed to happen.

And I am so glad we moved back. (We’ve been blessed with some lovely weather too!)

Doctors appointments, midwife appointments, followed by tests were all organised very quickly and we found out within 3 weeks of being back that I have triple negative grade 3 Invasive Ductal Breast Cancer. Before we sat down in that room we knew it wasn’t great news – we were introduced to the breast cancer care nurse (before being given the diagnosis?!) and there were a lot of people there.

The consultant did the best thing in this situation and told me straight up that you have breast cancer, but IT IS TREATABLE.

So here’s the plan – once every 3 weeks I will have a round of chemo for a total of 12 weeks. Our little girl will be born hopefully pretty normally and I get to play mum for a short while, and then we will work out what surgery options I have to have around October. This may then be followed by either a bit more chemo or radiotherapy, but as of yet we don’t know.

In the meantime, I will be keeping you all updated with my progress on this interesting twist in the road – It may not be the most fun of adventures, but if I am to believe everything happens for a reason, I will do my darnest to help others out of it at the same time and carry on dishing out that positivity instilled in me from Rey.

Mummy’s Star is a charity I’m using to help me through this. They provide support for expecting mums who have received a cancer diagnosis whilst pregnant, and they have been fab.

MacMillan have also been great support so far through this testing time, and I know they will be in the months to come!

I didn’t see the point of keeping my long hair if it’s just going to fall out and end up in the bin, so I’ve donated to Little Princesses Trust who have wigs made for kids going through cancer treatment and they currently need hair longer than 7 inches, so why not? If I can make a little girl mike through this, then it was well worth it.

React, adapt, breathe, take action. Life certainly is 90% how you react to situations and I will beat this, and come out even stronger than I could ever imagine.

Inspiration Explanation 

(Please note before reading, that a lot of this was very hard to write, but it has helped me heal – skip on if you find paragraphs hard to read. Thank you xxx)

You are an inspiration. 

Since the biggest challenge of our lives, Haydn and I have heard this phrase from friends, relatives and people who we don’t really know who we’ve inspired in some way. I never really know how to respond, except to say I am glad and that I hope this helps you in your journey through life!

The hurdles we have scraped over in the seven 1/2  years we have been together have been tough, but we have always supported each other and kept pushing through the shit storm thrown in our general direction.

From my near death experience 11 months into our relationship through peritonitis, being told we couldn’t have kids then successfully conceiving without trying, to losing our little miracle before we could meet her properly. Then moving to America so Haydn could persue his career in DDPYoga. Who knows what’s next! (You’ve probably gathered we don’t do things by half measures…)

I guess the big thing is the fact that through all of this we have remained positive, even in our darkest hours. Our vision since losing Rey has been to spread the positivity she left us and to let it blossom. We didn’t meet our girl with cries and nappy changes (I was actually so excited by it) but I know the legacy she has left us means she is still by our sides and having an effect on the world.

We made the most out of every last moment we could experience with her – going on a “family” Christmas holiday to Hamburg whilst the kicks were still happening, reading George’s Marvellous Medicine in utero, taking advantage of seeing her on scans – my favorite was seeing her make a swipe for an amniotic needle!

We were even there for her after death and were determine to be the best parents we could be. After I gave birth, I got to hold her straight away, Haydn cut the cord. We had cuddles aplenty, and even got to bathe her. The hospital was amazing. There was a cold cot which meant we could stay with her overnight and we had breakfast in the morning with our girl in between us!

Every day we visited Rey, the hospital chaplain had her laid out ready for daily visits where we would tell stories to her about ourselves, relatives, aunties and uncles through friendship! I would sing her songs and Haydn would always read to her. We continued to do this for the two weeks before her funeral.

This was a big deal for us. Many parents don’t want to be involved with organizing their child’s funeral, but it was possibly the best decision we made. We organized every little detail. From the order of service, to the flowers, to the songs, the prayers, Rey’s coffin, her little dress we had made. My girl was tall for 24 weeks old, and she didn’t fit any of the premmy clothing at the hospital. So we had her dress made. She wore a blue and purple kimono made from the fabric left from my wedding dress. She even had little blue booties with mini pearls on the end. It was perfect.

The funeral directors told us that the funerals they remember are the ones where the family goes that extra mile to make it special and we put in plenty of mileage! The hardest. It was working out what to do with Rey’s ashes after. I know many mums experience aching arm syndrome, so we asked a seamstress to make a little heart pouch for us. This was to be put in “ReyBear” who was one of her teddies nana walden gave her. We had a little zip sewn in the back of ReyBear and that’s where she now lives. Because of this, the funeral directors now offers this service for stillborn/latemiscarrige/miscarriage parents.

Some people call us inspirations, but  in truth, all of our inspiration comes from Rey.

And with this, I hope you; my valued readers understand the blogs title – Adventures on a Rey of Light.

She is that beam of light we travel on, and it may have taken me a few months to gather the courage to finish this post, I now look forward to sharing many more adventures with you that are in the planning!

Much love to you all

Laura xXx

Distance made shorter

Hi everyone! I know it’s been a while since I blogged, there will be more soon. This one needed to come out today, and I think it will help lots of other expats living abroad.

Today was a little surreal and it’s hard to write and necessarily understand, but go with it….

This September, whilst I’m living in America, my dearest Auntie Mary died peacefully during a nap, and today was her funeral in the UK. We couldn’t afford the flights back for the funeral, but thanks to modern technology and an awesome family, I joined the congregation through FaceTime. I thought it would be weird at first, but my cousin’s wife really wanted me to be there too, and I’m so glad I was able to sort of be there 😊. I’m sure some people thought it was weird, but it felt right. And it felt great seeing my family together. If you find yourself unable to attend a family members funeral – I can highly suggest doing this!

Auntie Mary was a driving force in our family and she has been there for me in more ways than I can think of. She was so loving towards me all through my childhood, into teenage hood and into adult hood. There is stuff I shared with her as a teenager, that I would never share with my mum! I would sometimes catch the bus and come in for a cuppa just to see her and Uncle Gar, and catch up – there was always time for you and she would always make sure I’d eat! I’m so glad she got to see me marry the love of my life and  I know she would be so pleased that we have done some of the incredible things we have been able to do and will continue to do.

Uncle Gar, Chris, Andy, John, Paul, Sarah, mum, dad – love you guys to the moon and back xxxxxxx

Reigniting the Creative Spark

I’ve lost a lot of my passion for music – well at least for teaching it. Some of my students were fab, but I know I no longer want to be pulling 50 hour teaching weeks like I was in the UK. It drained me! So with our new adventure starting in America, I thought it was high time to express myself creatively via art class – and I’m so glad I did! 

I met some lovely ladies on the course, all with different backgrounds and ideas for their projects. Over a seven week course we would start to bond  over brushes and canvases, and it was marvellous. Our teacher, Emma helped us with all the little challenges we faced and gave me the confidence to put those colours on.

Here is my finished project- Durdle Door from the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, England. I used acrylic paints. 


The value of art as a therapy is second to none. It really helped me deal with a lot of the raw grief I experienced from our loss of Rey and relit my passion for creating. Whilst we don’t have a huge income, I’ve taken up sketching in the mean time. I haven’t done “art stuff” since I was 16, and I am so glad to have rediscovered this vent for creativity! Maybe this is something I should have kept up a long time ago and should keep doing for a long time to come! 

Art is something you breathe- with a different kind of happiness

(Here is the collection of pictures week by week as my painting grew!)

No political opinions are in this blog! 

I’ve voted. I’ve voted in the UK election from over the ocean. I’ve voted because I have the right to vote thanks to efforts of the suffragettes 104 odd years ago. I remember as a 10 year old learning about the sacrifices these women made in order to give us future generations a say in politics. It resonated so deeply with me, that I have voted since I was old enough. In fact it was 104 years ago to this very day that Emily Davidson died fighting for the women’s vote.

After the brexit vote, I was astonished to hear that so few of the population had taken the opportunity – and there were many people I knew! And many had the excuse of “I couldn’t find the time, I was too busy, I was working”. Gaaaaaaahhhhh!  

So with this thought in mind, I want to highlight to people that they can vote by proxy – it’s easy! You nominate someone else you trust to cast your vote in the way you see fit.  You can sort it on your phone! You don’t have to even leave the house! You don’t even need to leave the couch! 

But is it too late?

NO – YOU CAN STILL SORT OUT YOUR PROXY ON THE DAY OF THE ELECTION! By 5pm

We had to sort out ours a few weeks back, but we did it. SO SORT IT NOW!

In the words of the Beastie Boys, “You’ve gotta fight for your Right!” Now Go and Vote!

The BEST Way to Wake Up…

…Is a video conversation with your best friend to learn that her scan results for cancer shows it’s gone! 
“All clear” are perhaps the two best words we had hoped to hear for quite a while. All I wanted to do is give her the biggest hug in the world, but unfortunately a whole ocean separates us at present! The last time I saw this gorgeous lady, was the most emotional goodbye for both Haydn and I, because we so desperately wanted to be there for her, Russ and the kids throughout the experience. When we lived in Bognor, the 60 mile drive was a pain, but at least it was doable – now that is not an option. 

In this generation with the dawn of Face Time, Messenger video, emoticons and gifs to get our messages across, this has made the distance much easier. 

I have been so inspired by Lindsay’s bravery, and strength, and ability to deal with the most horrid of situations. I especially, have learnt so much from her. It’s true! Life throws curve balls (sometimes several at you all at once – in different directions!). In the last year, seeing all the personal battles that us, and many of our friends have endured, I feel we are all so much stronger than we were! We survived the darkest of days and at the end of it all, can still laugh, still enjoy what we have, and look ahead to a brighter future.

It’s easy to look back negatively and question why certain things happen to certain people: 

The “why me?”

“Why us?”

“WHY NOT THEM?”. 

Is it because we are strong enough to cope in tough situations? Perhaps in the face of adversity, some of us are more equipped emotionally than others. Maybe those we consider “lucky” who don’t endure it are possibly incapable of dealing with a rubbish deck of cards, so don’t get dealt them. Maybe we are being tested…. who knows right? 

I’ve learnt NONE of these questions provide answers and IT DOESN’T MATTER. What matters is although we can’t always prevent situations we are put into, INSTEAD we can respond in ways that then determine our outcomes.

Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.

Accepting and overcoming these challenges we face, makes us appreciate the good that follows. But it is exhausting. It takes everything out of you and can wear you down to the ground. BUT you must just get on with it. When Lindsay and I spoke about initial reactions you have, it’s hard because you have to just get through it. For her it was making sure she survived so she could be here for her gorgeous family. You just have to keep going forward and push through.

She knew it was going to be a challenge, fuck it, a full on mountain to conquer but she showed super resilience and emotional strength to push through. I can’t imagine the constant pain she went through during chemo. For sure, Lindsay is probably the strongest woman I know! 

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

We love you Lindsay! Xxx

I’ll just grab my hiking boots…

I have learned today that mountains in Georgia, are not necessarily mountains – more like hills! We spent a glorious Sunday afternoon with the Russells and Garett, hiking up Kennesaw Mountain, taking the trail from the visitor centre. It was quite a busy Saturday afternoon, but the weather and company were exceptional! 

Whilst getting parked, we were caught off guard by an unexpected b-b-bang! Obviously for us brits not really used to gunfire, we automatically assumed someone had a shot a gun. Thankfully it was a canon demonstration and reenactment taking place in the lower field. They had gentlemen dressed in civil war attire, looking like they were having a jolly, good time!

Garett led the way up the hill through the laid pavement, then onto the trail. It was quite steep in places, and both haydn and I were huffing and puffing, realising we were out of practice. The last time we did a serious walk was before I was pregnant. But at least we weren’t carrying extra baggage – poor Ronnie was carrying Ana in her new baby sack, complete with canopy – this girl is a fashionista and she doesn’t even know it yet! 


It works out that the trek is only about a mile up, but the incline does make it feel longer. However what struck me especially was the friendliness of everyone, and all the kids had great manners. Everyone says hi as they pass you, even the joggers and runners.


We got to the top and after many photos, finally settled for a while. It was perfectly stunning. The Ariel view was magnificent to observe and we could clearly see the Atlanta skyline, which was a first for us.

There were a couple of birds of prey making their presence known. One was a hawk circling around to the right of us, and he seemed fine with the sheer number of people hiking that day. So confident in fact that he landed in the tree that sheltered us from the sun. He was so close! It soon became clear his intentions were not so friendly as he made his way closer to a nest. All I can say is he’s a bird of prey – what he was doing kind of goes with his title. None the less it was a stunning bird, and I am so grateful that we witnessed him up close.


One thing we really like to do is breathe in all the beauty around us. I love being filled with the beauty of things – from birds of prey, to the city sky scrapers and beyond. This is something Rey certainly left us with was to be appreciative of the world around us. It’s lovely to pause and take note and reflect – it gives like so much more value.
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” — Maya Angelou

Beauty is all around us so be present in the moment and be happy – Anne Frank 

An evening with the Dames

One Friday, we abandoned date night for some prime time with our genders! Haydn went on a lads dinner out, I went for my first night out with the ladies affectionately known as the ThunderDames! So the title kind of makes us sound like a bunch of warrior super heroes to me, but the name in fact has origins of a completely different nature. The Thunder Dome is a hub in Atlanta for up and coming film directors and editors alike, where this little clan of guys live, work and breathe film 24/7 with every intention of bettering themselves so they can get further in their careers. 

The place has been alive now for quite a few years and the men eventually got girlfriends and wives, but still held a strong relationship with the Thunder Dome and the new generations coming through its doors. The ladies would come along to these events and could see the commeraderie of the brotherhood, so the idea was thrown about of the possibility of having a sisterhood evening every so often. And there the Thunder Dames idea was born!

My lovely friend, Lanae hosted the evening with around 8 of us attending. We had plenty of pizza, snacks and wine to go around in this makeshift cinema. The conversation was flowing and it was refreshing to discuss the arts and life in general with new faces.

This first official night focused on a film called the Secret Life of Bees. I assumed this would be a documentary with a title like that…but it wasn’t in the slightest! The film focused on a girl (Lily) who accidentally killed her mother when she was 4. She struggles with the guilt and decides to run away to a honey producers. I’m not going to give you the whole synopsis, but so you have get the concept, it takes you through her life and emotional struggles as she strives to be a stronger woman. 

   
“People who think dying is the worst thing don’t know a thing about life.”

This notion resonated deeply with me, as being strong is something I feel I must be a lot of the time. The film shows that regardless of how strong a woman you feel you must be, you don’t have to hold back your emotions, you can be open, you can talk, you can cry you can release and should be able to feel safe in showing this side. I do this most days, and I always feel better for doing it!

I really recommend you watching the film or buying the book, as it is so powerful and has a really sweet message. We all cried! I loved that at the end we discussed at length how in some way at least one of the characters resonated with us personally, and that it felt comforting to observe how they handled the situations. The characters have fine individual stories which bind them together in the most unlikely of ways and you can certainly find one that you can relate to as well! 

With Rey in our hearts always and forever xxxx