Tagged "Features"

What maternity leave? and getting back to work after cancer!

I've been writing about my story and my feelings on getting back to work post maternity and more importantly post chemo and a double mastectomy. It's been reported by Macmillan that a staggering 37% of people feel discriminated against in some way when returning to work after cancer and with it being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it suddenly feels like a hot topic. I've been working with the insightful Jackie Arnold from Coach for Executives, founder and creator of The Cancer Coaching Community and Author of hit book Coaching Skills for leaders in the workplace, to highlight some of the issues, with the aim of working out how things might be improved for both employee and employer. Here's my own story. 69tmh4itie Treatment, tolerance and treasure, that’s what my story is about. It’s not all Cancer thank you very much and neither should it have the glory of being so. Cancer can ‘go and do one’ and luckily for me, it now has. Or maybe that should be phrased as I’ve got the all clear, but then again that doesn’t quite cut it either, Because you see being cancer free or getting the all clear doesn’t actually make things all that clear, or allow you to feel completely free. It’s there forever, niggling, changing you, warning you, egging you on. You have to learn to be stronger than strong, all the time and not just you either, everyone else who’s been around you for the process, because for them it’s lurking there too. october-pink-1714664_1920 I was diagnosed on 1st April 2015. April fools day can you believe, although we were certainly not laughing. Triple Negative Breast Cancer. The aggressive one. I had that feeling even before we went in to get our biopsy results. Something in my gut was already telling me that it was going to be bad news and not for the first time either. I had Hodgkins Lymphoma 20 years earlier and as it now turns out it was the treatment given to me back then that was actually the cause of my breast cancer now. Great. See how it never really leaves you!? Life until that moment was the best it had ever been. I’d given birth to our beautiful baby daughter just two months earlier and she was already turning our world upside down with joy and wonder. An absolute treasure. She instantly breast fed and we both had no problems at all. It felt wonderful and the beginning of what I had hoped would be a fantastic spring/summer enjoying maternity leave with her and enjoying the beginning of our little life together. The brand new family we’d always hoped for. (Took us a while due to my fertility being compromised again partially due to my previous chemo treatment, but we got there with the help of IVF and acupuncture and an absolute belief!) How things changed. And with each treatment the complications, the missed new mums picnics, the sepsis, the allergic reactions, the guilt at being a tired mum, partner, friend, the double mastectomy, the implant infections, and loss of hair and change in body confidence, my mojo gradually left me and was replaced with exhaustion, a fuzz of sadness and a general mistrust. So fast forward 10 months and life is supposed to go back to normal...right? There’s an expectation to go back to work, you’re fine, you’ve been discharged, you’re ok. You can get on with life with a newfound zest, a gratefulness for still being alive. You’ve made it! But you’re not quite feeling it. The phones has stopped beeping with supportive chemo texts, the friends have stopped dropping round with cake, or pre cooked bolognaise and although you know they are all still there, you’re feeling alone. There’s an eerie sort of quiet of squeaking doors and tumbleweed, an aftermath of the C word. The pressure seems to be on to get back to normality, to the before, but to be honest you’re not quite sure how to move forward, whether you have even got the energy right now to embrace life. And what happens when we take it back to work? Of course it’s all sympathetic smiles and sorrowful looks, met with the good old positive (thank god it’s not me) distractions, a scuffling of fuss but more or less, it’s business as usual. Maybe that seems harsh and of course not everyone’s included, but a handful of takers and it’s enough to knock you off your fragile 'just trying to get back to some sort of normal at work routine' guard. It’s a them and you, not a we are a team’ anymore. It’s a, hmmm I wonder how she’ll cope now sort of a glance, not a "she’s one of the best, a real lynch pin, we definitely need her on the project” anymore. And even if it’s all in your head, does it really make a difference to how you feel? It’s your confidence you see, it’s got a slight problem. Not even a huge one, I mean you’re back at work aren’t you? But you’re different, they know it and you know it and it’s about feeling comfortable in your new skin, literally and about finding a new kind of you. It’s about seeing how that new you fit’s back into the old mould. How does it actually feel to find your old self again, only to realise that old self may not be there anymore? And the new self is different, tired, hopeful, enthusiastic, intolerant, seemingly ever so intolerant, a new one on me. yjeljpjloo And let’s be truly honest here and know that maybe you don’t even want to fit into the past anymore. Maybe you’re still working out why you did it all in the first place and if you even want to do it all again now. I mean where’s the joy in cramming yourself on a packed tube full of sweaty armpits and bland faces, leaving your new and safe little family behind all in the pursuit of some kind of alternative affirmation of life? The supposed new and improved stronger version of you? So what is it exactly that you’re trying to get back to? And what do you really want it to be? Is it harder because you feel your preferred reality might not be an option? Do you feel it won’t be supported, accepted or even allowed for at work? Is that what’s really holding you back? I mean how can they possibly understand what you’re feeling? Why would you even want to show your colleagues your vulnerable side after everything you’ve been through. Maybe you really can’t even face talking about it anymore. You just want to be left alone without being prodded and injected and felt sorry for. So how on earth do these worlds come back together? How do you go from losing your hair, despite gruelling cold pack treatment to getting back to sitting, striving, positively, upright across a boardroom with complete focus on the tasks ahead, all the while giving off a certainty, a knowledge, your confidence, knowing that you can even outdo what’s being asked and expected of you? And why does it have to be from being given the all clear, to immediately back to being 100%? From zero to hero in less than 30 seconds? Why not at least 30 days as a minimum to help you re-evaluate your role, your position and your career, to discus this with what your company needs or even allow you to change your career path altogether? Let’s say you felt supported to be allowed a ‘transitional phase’ of getting back into the work swing? An opportunity to design a plan to give you the balance you want and need? And how would that look both for you and your workplace? How can you get your company to listen your concerns and back to work scheme ideas, without seeming incapable, a burden, or for them to lose confidence in your ability? What’s already in place to allow this to be a return to work phase that’s mutually beneficial? Is there any support already on offer from them and what additional help is out there to make the process as smooth as it can be with the right goals in mind? It’s a daunting thought, you’re already tired and intolerant and you know that approaching this the wrong way with the wrong person could seriously throw you over the edge and make you want to literally slam the towel at them. It’s time to use that survivor mode and just go for it. We all know its f#ck cancer, so why not f#ck worrying about not being 100% ready or needing some return to work or career help? Why should you be ashamed? image2For me, well I’m gradually getting there. I’m getting to know my body again and enjoying time feeling like I’m coming back to life, giving more back to my family and to myself.  I’ve been lucky, my treatment is over and I can now make choices as to how my future will look, to see my beautiful daughter grow up with an amazing family and network of supportive friends all around me. I’m giving myself time working freelance and planning my future career. One that allows me a better balance, let’s me do my dream job of producing, writing, styling and vlogging (coming soon) and of course spending more time with my amazing, amazing daughter Lux. That right there is my absolute treasure! Oh and as for my intolerance? Well I think I kinda like it. It’s a good way to help you get on with it and maybe something I always needed a little more of. A new spark to live life, I mean really live it and love what I do. My 5 tips for getting back to work post treatment. AND PLEASE DO LET ME KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE COMMENTS BOX ABOUT YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE. I"D LOVE TO HEAR HOW IT WAS FOR YOU! 1 - What is it you want? First decide what you want, what you really, really want. Really explore this and don’t be afraid of what you find. It might be working less, going bigger, actually making your dream job a reality, or changing your old role for one that fits your time and skills better. Whatever it is, embrace it. You’ve earned it and you’ve got this! 2 - Don’t go back too soon Make sure you pick the right time for you and your employer. Be realistic and give yourself time to understand your limits but also make use of any new skills. Then just go for it. Once you get going you’ll realise that all your knowledge, performance and wisdom hasn’t actually deserted you after all. 3 - Be prepared Talk through with your work before you begin and build in a return to work strategy period so that both your company, colleagues and you don’t expect everything to be exactly how it was and for everything to run like clock work from the beginning. Find out what systems your employer already has in place and how you can make that work for you both. 4 - Don’t be afraid to ask for help There is no need to be embarrassed by what you have been through and that you are not 100% back to ‘normal’, or full strength. Give yourself a break and just be honest so everyone knows where they stand and you can remove some of the pressure. Don’t expect too much of yourself. You have been through a major change both physically and mentally. Find out what else is out there to help you outside of the workplace be it counselling, coaching, support groups, alternative therapies, even new courses and of course regular exercise will help enormously too. 5 - Add in you time Set up a plan for if it all feels too much. What would you do if you had to leave work for your sick child? Make the plan for yourself too, for if you need more time out even than planned. Book regular sessions to keep you going, exercise, counselling, coaching, whatever you feel you need. Let’s face it flexible working isn’t a new thing these days, it’s the norm, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. You could reduce your daily hours or delay your start time to allow you to build in these sessions as part of your working day. For a copy of Jackie Arnold's book Coaching Skills for leaders in the workplace, click HERE. THIS IS NOT A SPONSORED POST
Read more →

Double Mastectomy, what you didn't know you couldn't do

breast-cancerlogo Things I knew I wouldn't be able to do after a double mastectomy... Lift heavy objects i.e. full kettle, large pans, laundry basket, filled baby bath and heartbreakingly my 8 month old daughter for at least 4-5 weeks Go swimming for at least 8 weeks in case of infection Drive for a few weeks Run around like a blue arsed fly Pull myself up for the first few weeks (Hooking your hands behind you knee and using it as a lever works well) Swivel side to side Sleep on my side or any other position other than on my back and slightly elevated. Crazy dancing or jumping jacks! Generally live life as before... at least for a while... Things I didn't know I wouldn't be able to do after a double mastectomy... Flush the toilet (Unless sensory) Chop vegetables Slice bread (Thank god for pre cut) Pull a heavy door open Push a heavy door or swivel door open/round (I have to go backwards, bottom first) Push down the seat on the tube Hold onto the suspended handles on a tube or bus Push my daughters buggy around, up a kerb, onto a bus or train.. Pull drawers open Push drawers closed Push lids onto my daughters milk/water bottles Pull lids off my daughters milk/water bottles Shake my daughters milk bottles (presumably I wouldn't be able to mix cocktails either) Open Jam jars or other stiff jars... and tight twistables... Open or close sash windows Use push down taps! (Quite irritating when you have a handful of soap)\ Shake the duvet cover Make the bed in fact Move furniture such as pulling out heavy chairs at a table, or push them back in as before. And many other little push pull actions of everyday life... So as October pulls to an end (October is breast cancer awareness month for those not in the know) and without wanting to harp on, just because it's something I've been through... please do have a check of yourself and be aware of the signs. Catching it early can make a huge difference so it really is worth it! breast-cancer-symptoms-2 #breastcancer #breastcancerawareness #October #cancer #mastectomy #life #monmum #chemoqueen #royalmarsden PLEASE SHARE xx
Read more →

Top Baby essentials for new mums

When I was still pregnant I definitely took 'nesting' to my very own level of organisation, researching for those must have items and ultimately online shopping for things I was certain me and new baby would definitely 'need'! Having had Lux our beautiful daughter 7 months ago I can now honestly say that I bought a lot of crap I or we as a family didn't need and also missed a few things along the way that we did or could have done with. So I can now share with you what I consider to be the top baby essentials every new mum should not be without. I have and use all these items everyday. Obviously you may have your own tastes as to which brands or designs of these items you like, but these are the exact ones we have, use and love! top items monmum   top items 2 monmum
  1. Philips Avent 3-in-1 Steriliser currently on offer at Mothercare for £39.99 (bargain £20 off) - this steriliser is absolutely brilliant. I use it every day without fail and it takes only 6 minutes to sterilise everything. Easily fits x6 large Dr Browns bottles plus extras. You can also make it smaller if staying away for the night which makes it super easy to transport. I love this!
  2. Dr Browns Bottles. These bottles are fantastic. I had to emergency wean Lux of the breast due to starting chemo and she would not take any bottle to start with. She would push the bottle away... I was thinking, sh@t how the hell am I going to get her to take a bottle? Surely she is too young to be able to push a bottle away at 2.5months old? I felt terrible. I had tried about 6 different bottle types when after hearing good things about Dr Browns bottles for colic and so on, I thought I would give them ago. Success!!!! I do think that every baby is different but at the time it really did feel like Dr Browns had saved my life... or at least reduced my guilt at having to swap Lux from the boob to bottles. Also highly recommended for babies with colic. Newborn starter kit available at Mothercare.
  3. The Sleepyhead!!!! This is genius! Forget a moses basket, forget all these other luxurious carry baskets and easy cots, this is brilliant and so many of us mums have bought these and recommended them and recommended them again... Lux hated her moses basket and many mums I know also could not get their little ones to sleep in their various sleep pods until we all got our lovely shiny white sleepyheads. Now I know what you're thinking, you're thinking I could actually just roll blankets and tuck them neatly inside and around the moses basket to create the same feeling for my little one, and yes, actually this is very true... (I did have the same thought) but in all honesty not to mention realistically when it's 3am and the blanket has come unraveled or you're off to overnight at the grandparents, will you really have the energy for this? Can you actually be bothered? In my view it's the best £99 I have ever spent and all I needed to do on sleepovers is grab the sleepyhead handle and a large muslin as a cover and off we go... Super easy, super sleepy baby! Everyone's a winner! Get it from John Lewis here.
  4. So the grandparents (in-laws) bought us this super Summer Infant baby monitor and I absolutely love it. I looked at quite a few and I know the motorola gets quite a good press, but I found the battery life died quite quickly and the signal is often more distorted than the Summer Infant which shows me a really clear picture both day and night, comes with a touch screen, adjustable monitor and a night light. The only thing I would say is that it does say the temperature is about 4 degrees warmer than it actually is. Maybe there is a fault with mine, but I haven't worried about changing it, I just minus 4 degrees from the temperature gauge. Get it from Amazon.
  5. Oh Tommee Tippee I thank theeeee!!! This is the best thing in the whole world!! So I didn't have one form the beginning. I was told about them by two friends who said, you should get one they are brilliant and I thought, hmm do I really need another gadget to take up yet more room in my kitchen? The answer is YES YES you Doooo!!! And so eventually (why I did not do this sooner I curse myself for still) I got one. and It's made such a huge difference to my days. I was told this would make things easier for me - which is truly what I do need right now given everything, but this tommee tippee perfect prep is as it says in the tin, absolutely perfect. No more boiling and cooling, no more jumping startled from a little nap because you've just remembered that in fact you've forgotten to boil the kettle and your baby is about to wake screaming any minute.. Nope! Lux now has ver very own, what we like to call Cappuccino maker, which produces the perfect temperature bottle in just 2 minutes. (If that). THIS you must get!|!! YES! Currently on sale at the amazing price of £60 from Amazon or Asda.
  6. I love Weleda, they are really lush. My sis bought me some of their products in a lovely little 'for Lux' gift pack and I have to say it's oooh sooo gooood! It's natural with no nasty stuff in it and it also makes her skin (and mine when I borrow it) super soft!!! Like a baby's bum hah! You can get it from health stores or boots or waitrose do it too!
  7. Lucky number 7 is for the boobies and nothing but the boobies! This ladies is the only thing that works! Get it - even if you're not breast feeding, but mainly if you are! It's fabuloso!!! When your boobs get sore (and if you're expressing as well as breast feeding then they definitely will) apply this totally awesome, nothing else like it, Lansinoh Lanolin Nipple cream and away you go... Saved!  Get it from Boots or John Lewis. Sometimes cheaper on Amazon. (not the easiest name to remember though)
  8. This Medela Swing Maxi Double Breast Pump is considered to be the best Brest Pump on the market. I started with a hand held one - who was I kidding? Like you have the time and energy for that in the first few months...nope! My advice, either rent an 'industrial' one (not cheap) or buy this double whammy and get it done in half the time. Remember you're going to be expressing at all sorts of random times (whenever you actually have 10 spare mins) so get something to help you get it done asasp. Then plaster your boobs with the Lanolin nipple cream!! I got my dbl pump from Amazon but John Lewis sell them too.
  9. We all need one of these! Can't leave the hospital without one, so unless you're planning a home birth, this is one thing you can get in advance! We got one that worked with our buggy and car, which is usually the best way to go :) Love our confetti Maxi Cosi Pebble! Ideal!
  10. On the go a lot? Even if you're like me and you buy one or two changing bags (that I am fed up with using now) so forget all that stuff about this is going to be the bag that I will carry every day for a year excuse stuff to get that really expensive one, because trust me, you won't! I have three, yep, three and actually I am now very bored of them all and in fact, I've never used one of them because it's too big, (which was the selling point originally) so if you just use any nice bag that you have and then maybe plonk one of these super duper, I use this every day, skip hop, pronto changing stations into it, you my friend are done! JL sell them and JoJo Maman Bebe too.
  11. This little number is genius! I've been stopped a fair few times and asked where I got my curtain from - It's by Farg Form and it's ideal, clips onto any buggy and comes in blue, pink, grey or green. Forget muslins clipped on with pegs! Look cool instead and get one of these! I bought mine from the baby shop who are super lovely and offer great customer service too!
  12. Isn't this nursing pillow by smallstuff.dk awesome? I hated all those fluffy, babyish designs that most of the nursing pillows come in, or white, I mean why white? Get's dirty super quick and looks terrible! So I got this über cool blue stars one (and yes I have a girl- wooaaahh) I can't actually remember where I got it from but I found it here in two other colours and in navy from Dubuy dk.
  13. Muslins Muslins everywhere! You'll be needing these and lot's of them! I have about hmmm 20 odd and I still feel like I could do with more.. My faves as many of you will agree are from Aden and Anais an american brand (run by an Australian lady called Raegan Maya-Jones)  - Lovelyyyy!  I think I got mine at John Lewis but Amazon  sell them too.
  14. And in at number 14 (I know I know it's a random number but what can you do...) It's the lovely Farg Form ( and yes I do like my Scandi stuff rather a lot) Changing mat that I have in the nursery. Mine actually is grey printed with white sheep and not with the clouds (I do have the clouds on my FargForm buggy curtain and blind) but I love the clouds one too and I also love how it curves on the outer edges. Looks rather good in the  nursery even if I do say so myself! And so that's it - there we have it - my top 14 defo must have new mum and baby items that we have at home and I personally, honestly really wholeheartedly would and do recommend!! Amen!
Read more →