Thursday, August 20, 2015

Swapping the Big Sea for the "Big C"

One of the hardest things to deal with when you get cancer isn't the disease itself. It's all the bi-products. It's loosing your freedom. Freedom to choose, freedom to be who you are and freedom to do what you want - when you want.

I am the epitome of a free spirit. My life choices have generally come from a sense of never wanting to conform to stereotypes and restrictions and one of my biggest loves has always been and always will be the water and the ocean. For as long as i can remember, I have wanted to be in the sea, on the sea, under the sea, surrounded by the sea, live by the sea .... you get the gist!

I have engaged in as many activities as possible that ticks those boxes. Diving, waterskiing, windsurfing, stand up paddle boarding and my favourite of all - surfing. These have all been stolen from me for the time being. I moved to Brighton back in 2011 for this very reason and finally found the place I live now, which looks out to the sea and is less than 100 metres from front door to pebbles. Up until June, this was my utopia.


I couldn't have asked for more. I planned a summer of swimming, surfing and SUP. This has been reduced to a summer of watching others do the same and feeling beyond envious. It feels a bit like it has all been put there as a massive wind up!!


Luckily my little bundle of fluff has come to the rescue. My very own beach pup honey. She forces me to leave the safety and comfort of my sofa three or four times a day - and where do we go? The beach of course. I walk along as close to the surf as possible, breathing in the sea air, tasting the salt as I inhale. 

When the tide is out, I kick my flip flops off and feel the feel the soft sand between my toes. The best time of the day is first thing in the morning, when no one is around and i watch my crazy puppy charging around after the gulls and taking in the same sights, sounds and smells that I do. She is a true surf pup.

So for the time being, all I can do hope this all goes away as quickly as possible and carry on dreaming of the day I can grab my board and my wetsuit once again and be reunited with the love of my life!


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Reach For The Stars

So I took a sabbatical from my blog! Truth is, I have found the last ten days the hardest of all. I'm not sure why. Perhaps the realisation has started to set in. Perhaps its because I move further away from my "toxic friends" (the ones I discussed in a previous blog) or perhaps the second round of chemo has hit me harder than the first. Who knows, and I guess the reason is as irrelevant as the solution is crucial.

With so many crazy and jumbled thoughts going through my head, I couldn't extract the creativity for love or money. Maybe it was a touch of writers block? As with all things creative - painting, drawing, writing, baking, sewing, writing music ..... the key factor is "inspiration". And last night I found the inspiration in the most magical way possible. 

Anyone who knows me, will know I am a girl of extremes - and this spills out in to everything I do. This extends to the weather and my particular obsession with storms. I LOVE THEM! They are exciting, beautiful, unpredictable and dramatic. Last year I was lucky enough to witness one of the most stunning storms I had ever scene - right on my doorstep here in Hove. I even miraculously captured some incredible picture (see below).  However, the storms have been some what lacking this year, disappointingly so. 

I'm also fascinated by the skies .... the sun, moon and stars and how they all influence every aspect of nature. We are massively disadvantaged here in the South of England. Light pollution is a massive problem and we rarely get the chance to see more than a sprinkling of the stars that are in our galaxy. And with the climate we live in, more often than not, cloud masks everything else.

Last night however was one of those nights that everything came together in perfect harmony. The impending doom of a mega storm has been felt the last couple of days. The static in the air almost making the hairs on your arms stand up. Now add in to the mix "The Perseid Meteor shower"Made of tiny space debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle, the Perseids are named after the constellation Perseus.  

Despite promises from the weather men of blankets of cloud, come 10.00 pm the skies were bright. So I headed out to the beach and lay there in the fresh sea air, staring up at the skies, with the waves crashing on the shore and the ominous darkness of the storm encroaching from the south - lit up frequently by sheet lightening on the horizon. 

As I lay there contemplating life, I witnessed the most incredible shooting star. It illuminated the sky briefly -  but in that brief moment I felt that nature shared one of its most intimate secrets with me.  And yes ... I 100% made a wish upon a star. But that is between me and nature as we exchanged a mutual respect that goes beyond any imagination.And as I sit here writing my latest entry, with the skies darkening in anticipation of the next tempest, I feel invigorated again. Clarity for me is still illusive - however, I don't feel it is a million miles away any more and for now, I will just keep writing, because that is the next best thing! 

Lucky photo number 1!

Lucky photo number 2!

Professional photo of the same storm in July 2014.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Penny Drop Moment

Something is happening at the moment, which hasn't happened for a very very long time. I am having to confront things I don't want to - Face My Demons if you like. And I do not like it ... ONE BIT.

I have always been very spontaneous, very headstrong - and very bloody minded when I want to be. But I do believe I have fundamentally very good values and an appreciation for people and feelings. Too much sometimes. And I live my life by these values.

I'm definitely no victim, and I don't ever seek sympathy. But the fact remains the same, that many aspects of my life have been "challenging". Even harrowing in places. But up until a penny drop moment I have had today - I thought I had learnt from these experiences and dealt with them - enabling me to be a better person.

In fact what I have now realised is that at best, I have brushed over them, At worst I have completely swept them under the proverbial carpet - never to be seen again. And I had devised a number of coping mechanisms to help me do that - dating back to my early teens. They are genius solutions and can be used individually - or all at the same time ........

  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • "Other" recreational diversions
  • All night benders
  • All weekend benders
  • The occasional week bender
  • Intense work regime
  • Move county/country/continent  (a little extreme you may think, but it has served me well!)
Let's evaluate the options  - THESE ARE NO LONGER MY OPTIONS!!! So this has now left me with a void. A huge gaping abyss full of a lifetimes worth of buried shite. The solutions are simple. Number One .....Deal with everything head on. But that's a harsh one to do right now, on top of trying to get my brain around the illness. 

But every day I get more clarity, everyday I move further from my old life and everyday I get closer to my new life. I can't help but grieve for the things that I have lost. They have been a constant companion to me for 25 years of my life. It genuinely feels like I have lost a bunch of friends. Its not going to be easy breaking a quarter of a centuries worth of hard wired thinking. 

But I gotta take the positive out of this. If this cancer had not occurred - I might still have been doing the same things in ten years time. I wouldn't have dreamed of a life beyond my list of toxic companions. But now I have the opportunity to do things differently and I am gonna grab that opportunity with both hands and never let go and never look back. 

And in the meantime, while I deal with what I need to physically and mentally - I will carry on with solution number two .... JIGSAWS. Oh boy, that's rock and roll for you!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Coffee Time

It's funny how you see things on TV, or hear about them on social media/radio/word of mouth and they don't really register - until it affects you directly.

Macmillan Coffee Mornings is on of those things. The advert has registered with me, but it was vividly brought to life by a wonderful lady I met by a beach hut the other day, while taking Honey Nut Nut for a walk.

Maxine was selling raffle tickets for an upcoming fund raiser. She explained that her husband had been diagnosed with cancer and wasn't sure how either of them would have coped without the incredible support from MacMillan.

Having only just started my journey, I can already concur that MacMillan have been amazing. From the advice they give, through to their numerous publications, to the people on the end of the phone, to the nurses that talk you through every aspect of your treatment and your feelings.

Having bought my raffle tickets, I returned at the weekend to be confronted with what can best be described as a mini festival! It was an amazing atmosphere and wonderful to see just how many people had come out to support Maxine.

I now have an open invite to go and have lunch at the beach hut, and will be taking Maxine up on her kind offer in the coming days.

There are some horrid people in the World. But, there are also some amazing people. And as bad as getting cancer is - the plus side is, that you really get to see just how amazing the human spirit can be :)

If you want to find out when Maxine and her scones will be making an appearance again - then drop her an email. Great location, great view, great people. #GetInvolved

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Kindness of Folk

Having a bit of an emotional day today. Might be the drugs. Might be the tiredness. Might be the realisation.

That old saying "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" is - in my humble opinion a load of old bollox. Diversely the sticks and stones and punches and pain, I can get over. Its made me a strong person. All those idiots that think aggression and physical intimidation is the way to gain love and respect - poor misguided fools. But its the words that hurt me when I was a kid. Its words have hurt me as an adult. You see the thing is they stick. In your head your head for a long time.

But equally the same rule applies when the words are nice. They are healing, soothing and can fill a person full of positivity and enough light to chase away dark clouds and thoughts

And boy of boy, do I have some lovely people around me. Mostly friends old and new - and then there are the hidden ninja's that pop up and take me completely by surprise. So i don't forget any of the niceness in the white noise of social media, I thought I would log all the positivity to refer back to when I have a day like this :)

"Remember that you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and more loved than you will ever know!!" Beck G

"So today has finally arrived. First day of chemo for Hannah Louise Garber. Wishing my beautiful daughter all the love in the world. Onwards and upwards." My beautiful Mummy

"So its been talked about, ignored, analysed , fretted over and pretty much everything else in between but today is the day that it all starts to get fixed. The unknown is always a scary prospect but it is a well-trodden path, they know what they are doing and it will all be good at the end. Looking forward to getting my number 2 back to the point where the first thing you will point out is that I am the number 2!!! Good luck and the very best of wishes for today and the rest of the journey. xx" Chris H

"My big brave H! We're with you all the way Hun xx" Mark B

"I had no idea Han, tonnes of luck lovely lady - be strong and fight only the way you can! PS absolutely loving the new hairstyle, totally rocking the look xxxxx" Jen R

"Hi Hannah .... This really sucks but if youare as strong willed as you were as a kid u will def kick its arse ... Sending you a thousand trillion positive thoughts and love my oldest friend xx" Suzanna P

"You got this! Sending you lots of healing energy and light." Thomas D

"Love you lots thinking of you today x x x x x x" Gracie Lou

"Hannah Louise Garber you know what this means xxx Thinking about you today, loving you always, big hugs baby xxx" Georgia M

"Stay strong gorgeous lady. This too will pass xxxx big hugs and kisses xxx" Michelle M

"Kin hell. Well I pity cancer messing with you! Stay strong. Xxx" Richard W

And Luke Cooper - I may not know you, but your random message tonight made me smile ALOT. Thank you. It's a vipers nest out there and people like you make all the hard work mean something x

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Cup Of Tea And A Biscuit Dear?

Well ok .. It wasn't quite like that, but it was totally bloody surreal. I arrived early at The Royal Sussex Cancer Unit in sunny Brighton this morning - off the back of a bad nights sleep and a good long dog walk down the beach to clear my head. Everything felt like it was in slow motion - Like I was wading through a bog. Every step forward felt laboured and sticky, as I wished the "terrors" would quite frankly f*ck right off. 

Sitting in the comfy chairs, listening to the lovely nurse Anna running through what I could expect from chemo, the side affects, the duration, the numbers to call, having the canula inserted, more blood tests, another ECG and then finally the commencement of the meds - it finally ceased being someone else and became me.

My dear friend who has metaphorically and literally held my hand since the beginning of this strange, unexpected journey was there for the duration. It's not been easy accepting help. I've never wanted or asked for help. I'm independent. I'm strong. I'm Hannah Garber - truth be known, it's been nice having that support. Knowing someone else other than me, has my back. 

So now I know what to expect, I'm totally ready for the fight. As one of my old friends said to me today in a message ... "Kin hell. Well I pity cancer messing with you! Stay strong"! ... And that's what I plan on doing. I've said it before and I say it again #FuckYouCancer

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Best Things In Life Are Free

There are two things in life that i really love. The sea and animals.

Nothing makes me happier than being on the beach or in the water. Doesn't matter if its sunny, windy, raining or freezing cold. Something changes inside me. I love watching the waves, I love the smell of the sea air, and I love the feeling of sand beneath my feet. I've lived in some beautiful places and always been close to the sea - Isla Mujeres - a tiny island off Cancun, Lanzarote, Devon and now Brighton .... well Hove "Actually"! I live a stones throw from the beach and can sit on my sofa and watch the sea - which I do for hours!

Recently, I did something that I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember. I got a dog. She is the most perfect little creature. A little white bundle of fur, with teeth as sharp as needles. She is a clever little thing. At fifteen weeks, she already sits, lies down, stands, walks and gives me her paw on command.

So now, I have my perfect life. Or it will be once I am through the biggest challenge of my life. It's these two things that give me focus and get me up in the morning. It's these two things that are stoping me wallowing in misery and it's these two things that keep me positive and stop me from drowning - metaphorically speaking.  They are exquisitely entwined as Honey (the puppy) has now fallen for the charms of the beach as well. 

My favourite time is early in the morning, when no one is about and the tide is low. It's a special time and I cherish it. 

The best things in life really are free :)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Internal Warfare

Today is a day to vent. I've been upbeat about this shitty situation on the whole - externally and internally. But today has not been a good day.

For some reason it's been the hardest day to deal with and the darkest day. I don't feel that I can express myself properly to the people I am closest to. I want to scream. I want to cry. I want to run away. I want to feel free again. Not from them - but from this feeling that's making me feel sick with fear and in-trepidation.

I hate that I am making them sad and I hate that I am putting people out. I hate that they are having to be around me at the moment. I'm so worried about them being upset, that I am holding it all back. Which is fine when you get head space and breathing space, but when that doesn't happen it creates this massive feeling inside me, that I am loosing control and loosing my independence - which doesn't sit comfortably with me.

This "thing" is doing things to my brain and I don't like it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Hair Raising

One of the most defining things for me so far, has been the realisation that I am going to loose my hair. Seems such an insignificant and superficial problem, compared to what is going on with my body right now.

In modern society, we are so lucky to have made the medical advances we have, and to be in a position where diseases like this can be cured. But instead of being overwhelmingly grateful, our first thoughts turn to  - "What am I going to look like with no hair" or "People are going to stare at me and think I am a freak when I have no eyebrows or eyelashes".

I've have really battled with this since my diagnosis. I'm not particularly vein, but I am very self conscious, after years of put downs by dick head ex boyfriends who haven't got anything better to do than pick on other peoples appearance (mine specifically) to make themselves feel better, rather than face their own shortcomings as human beings (and I mean that in the loosest sense of the word).

So having had my chemo confirmed as starting next week, I took the bull by the horns today and said "FUCK YOU CANCER". Instead of waiting unceremoniously for my hair to fall out, I've chopped it off! And do you know what - I feel bloody great for it! There is no getting away from the fact it is still gonna come out in chunks, but the transition is done now, and its going to be a whole lot easier to get my head round (no pun intended) when I do have to shave it off.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Time For Change

I'm feeling mighty proud of myself. I am seven days in to a total lockdown on booze, fags and caffeine. Under normal circumstances, I would expect to to be feeling the benefits of a new healthier lifestyle. But these aren't normal circumstances and this is no normal health kick.

The fact of the matter is, that it has taken this - a short sharp dose of reality to make me look at my life and to realise that I just couldn't continue as I was.

To put it in perspective, I turned forty just two months ago. Many women my age, have been married (or had steady relationships), bought houses, had kids, held down jobs and found reasons to quit all the the things that should be experimental in your teens, fun in your twenties and non existent in your thirties.

Not me! Drinking and smoking are amongst the vices that appeared in my life before I had even hit sweet sixteen - and have stayed with me as a constant companion since then. I have worked solidly and worked hard, since I left school at eighteen. I took a leap of faith two and a half years ago to become self employment and have generally lived my life at an accelerated rate for as long as I can remember.

I have done many things that I am not proud of,  but equally I am also proud of what I have achieved. I have demons that I run from on a daily basis, and perhaps this is why I have never taken stock of my life or stood still for even a second, for a fear that they will catch up.

But they have caught up with me and now I am squaring up to them full on.

Taking the positives from this situation is the only thing I can do. I am going to come out of this, with a healthy body, a healthy mind and a totally new outlook on life. One that isn't polluted with chemicals, poisoned with the fears I have from my past and a new inner strength that will help me succeed in being the person I have wanted to be for a very long time. Amen to that :)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Truth Hurts

Since my last blog, it's been a rollercoaster. Six weeks ago, I was plotting World Domination for my DJ Agency and my PR business. Now I find myself faced with the prospect of six months or more of total shite.

My fears were unfortunately confirmed 7 days ago. Diagnosis - Classic Hodgkins Lymphoma. A PET scan this week has confirmed that it is "Stage 2". Meaning that although the cancer is extensive in my neck and chest, it is, as far as they can tell contained in that area.

My initial relief that at least there is a diagnosis, has subsided and left me feeling everything from angry, to devastated, to total disbelief that this is actually happening.

One of the worst feelings I have at the moment is the one of letting my family down. I've always felt invincible. Overall I'm a healthy girl. Never really been sick. In fact, prior to now, a chipped ankle and pleurisy are the only two things I have had to endure. The constant reminders of the dangers of smoking, drinking, late nights, no sleep, working too hard and eating properly have - by in large fallen on deaf ears and now I feel like the people I love more than anything are paying the price of my complacency, by being the ones that have to pick up the pieces.

I remembered last night that a programme had been on TV a few months back. It was a BBC adaptation of a book called "The C Word" by Lisa Lynch. At 28 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and decided to write about her experiences. Well it has certainly inspired me to get back to my blog, as I think this is gonna be my best outlet for my feelings. This is not about whether it gets read by one person, 100 people or no one. But it may serve as a good source to tell my friends and family how I feel without having to "tell them how I feel".

Sadly Lisa passed away in 2013, but she certainly lives on and touches the lives of hundreds of thousands of sufferers. Me included. Book purchased today. I am looking forward to reading this and gaining knowledge of what lies ahead.

Bless ya Lisa - thanks for inspiring me to start writing again.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Third Person Perspective

I'm a week further down the line after discovering some pretty scary lumps on my neck and feel like I am having an outer body experience - looking in on someone else as they go through the motions.
Having also discovered a large lump on my left breast - I now have the additional worry of a mamogram this coming week - something I am not relishing the prospect of. 
I consider myself lucky to have had no major medical procedures in my life time. However, this did not prepare me well for the biopsy this week. I literally vibrated in fear at the prospect of the needle being stuck in my neck. But the anaesthetic did its job and I felt nothing other than an uncomfortable sensation as they took three samples to be sent for analysis. 
I hope this week yields good news but my instinct is nagging away at me. Let's hope it's wrong for once. 

Honey Nut Nut - It's Bath time!

can't believe I've already been with my new mummy for two weeks! We are having so much fun together! Everyday is an adventure!
This week I discovered water and had my first bath followed by a blow dry which made me look like a total fluff ball!
I also got to hang out with two of my mum's favourite pack! I really love the small one - Ollie! He's my size and we played races! 
Next week I'm going back to the vets which means I can go out and play! First stop will be the beach!