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Posts Tagged ‘#cancer’

Thank You

July 28, 2016 38 comments

I think my existential ‘crisis’ is over. Yes, really! My last post was nearly a month ago and that was merely a reblog of an earlier post, with some added words to put it into current context. I raised the question about why we blog, and whether it was worth it. I said that I was working on a full post to share all of my reasoning, and I still am. But I’ve also been looking back over my previous nearly four years’ worth of ramblings and this seems to be a topic to which I keep returning! Maybe another day, then, and I’ll try to draw them all together into one composite post. Possibly….

So why am I here today? July 28th. Is it a special day in the calendar? No, not as far as I know, but it has special meaning for me. When I started this blog it was at the instigation of my counsellor, who wanted me to turn what I had been writing for him as part of our therapy sessions into a blog, for others to read. At around the time that I was going through this I met Cyd via Twitter and we became good friends. She was an amazingly creative and funny person, who had suffered much more than her fair share of the horrible things that life can throw at us, but bore it all with wit, courage, charm and determination. She was an accomplished blogger and photographer, she loved singing and dancing – she had been at stage school – and became the most wonderfully supportive follower of my blog from when it first started, giving me loads of useful advice and constructive criticism. My sparing use of brackets is entirely down to her, and you’ll find the occasional comment from her on some of my early posts. We used to chat for hours about anything and everything. Throughout this period she was ill and being occasionally hospitalised, and this took a turn for the worse when she was diagnosed with cancer. But she recovered – so typical of her! Then life played its last and most cruel trick. Within weeks of being given the all clear she began to suffer debilitating migraines, which turned out to be brain cancer. Sadly, this was one battle too many, even for her, and she was taken from us on July 28th 2015, one year ago today, at the age of just 45. It seemed appropriate to mark this and to remember her, and this is the best way I know to do it.

I’ve always thought that Cyd was an outstanding writer, especially when you consider that many of her posts were written at a time when she was unwell – and was also facing online trolling, for reasons I never understood. Here’s a brief example of her writing:

“It has been truly tiring to have to deal with all this external nonsense, but I did anticipate it. Sadly, if you don’t do things in a way that other people do, they see you as someone with a hidden motive. I have nothing hidden. I live the way I live and I do it openly. I love who I love and I give that everything I have. To get through this, I have a three pronged approach. Aggressiveness towards the cancer itself. Love intensely and focus on that more than anything. I truly live for love. Last but by no means least, stay me. Laugh like I always did, don’t ever forget myself and don’t let others forget who I really am.”

That is from the final post she ever made, in October 2014, and is the perfect example of the way she lived. Sadly, her blog is private so I can’t give you a link to it!

Thinking of Cyd today has made me wonder whether you, if you are a fellow blogger, have someone without whose advice and support your blog might not exist, or may not have developed in the way that it did. We write for ourselves, and we write for our readers. But you may well have your own ‘Cyd’ who has helped you in ways which won’t be known to anyone but you. I said at the outset that any doubts about whether I should continue blogging have gone, and that is in part because I have realised how much I owe it to myself to continue, as indeed I do to you, dear reader, and to people like Cyd who have helped me along the way. Over the past few months I have enjoyed the company here of many new readers, and have had much greater engagement with my posts than at any time since the very beginning. In return, I have been much more active in commenting on others’ blogs than I can ever remember, and I wouldn’t want to lose that sense of community. Cyd’s blog was one of the first I ever read, and it gave me an understanding of what blogging was about, and what it could be. I like to think that in these recent months I have really begun to put that understanding into practice, and look forward to continuing to do it.

I hope you can also recognise and give thanks for those who are or have been in your life and who have played a role in making you the writer that you are. In future, I’ll be more likely to think “what would Cyd have said?” about posts I write, and I hope that will improve them. Maybe her spirit can be my muse? And every time that happens, I will say a silent

“Thank you, for being there, and for having been a part of this.”

 

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New Beginnings?

December 30, 2015 11 comments

At this time of year everyone takes stock in some way. We look back at the past year and ask ourselves how it was for us, what we liked and didn’t like about it, what we could have done better, and what we have learned to take forward into next year and beyond. In doing so we have plenty of help from the media: those news reviews of the year on TV, the various end of year ‘awards’ pieces so beloved of newspaper and magazine columnists, and the (not) really uplifting montages of those public figures who have died in the past year. I blog with WordPress (other blogging hosts are available) and each year they contribute to this by providing their authors with a brief report on our blogging year. I have now had four of these and have opted to repost them here each year as a kind of record, as much for my own amusement as for yours, but they are building into a little catalogue now. I posted the latest earlier today: here, if you missed it (how could you? where were you!).

Previously I have posted these without really thinking much about what they have meant for my blog but there has been a big change this year, which encouraged me to look more deeply. In both 2013 and 2014 I received over 20,000 page views, whereas in 2015 this reduced to around 11,000. I know I’m not the most regular or consistent of bloggers but I didn’t think I deserved that! But the big numbers hide some important pieces of information for me. Since the early days I have linked my blog to the US site Blogsurfer, which has given me a major part of my traffic: in 2013 and 2014 it accounted for around 17,000 page views each year. But 2015 has seen a massive decline in these numbers, and it has only produced around 4,000 views. Turning that around gives me a large increase – from 3,000 to 7,000 – in non-Blogsurfer traffic. I have no idea why Blogsurfer has dropped off, although there have been several occasions when the site has been down, but these wouldn’t account for that much difference. I can only assume that the user numbers for the site as a whole have fallen, or that its users are fed up with me! The other piece of data that is very important to me is the actual number of blog followers. The figure shown here includes all of the ways in which I link my posts, including Twitter, which is the biggest by a distance. This masks the actual number of followers who have chosen to read what I write. As of today these reached 200, so thank you everyone. Looking back, 34 of those have joined since I started this year’s #NaBloPoMo, which makes my stated decision not to take part in this again in 2016 possibly short-sighted!

How to draw attention to yourself!

How to draw attention to yourself!

I have enjoyed much more interaction around my posts recently, which is hugely encouraging. There is nothing better for a blogger than to know that someone has read a piece, been interested by it and has felt something in it to prompt a comment. If we’re honest, writing a blog would be pretty pointless if we only had family and pets as readers, wouldn’t it! I’ve said before that I am planning some changes for my blog, and I intend to post more on mental health and retirement issues. But the past two months have shown me that I mustn’t do that at the expense of the occasional ramblings which seem to strike a chord with you. So you will still be entertained (?) by my odd thoughts on aspects of life, and by my selections of music and videos.

A fellow blogger made the point to me that her WordPress review told her that people were still reading her older posts and that she should do something about this. My reply was that the same thing happens to me and I am happy to see it. I have a number of posts that I still enjoy seeing again when I look through my back catalogue – some of which I have updated and recycled when the mood took me. In 2013 I posted No Sex Please, We’re British in response to one of WordPress’ daily prompts, and that is one of my most read posts of 2015. Tagging a post with ‘sex’ is a good way of drawing attention from search engines – and of instantly disappointing people!

My Facebook post - click to enlarge

My Facebook post – click to enlarge

The post from this year which meant most to me was Don’t Give Up, which marked my coming off anti-depressants after four years. This attracted a lot of likes and comments, both here and on Facebook, some of those from people who have been with me for the journey since I was first diagnosed with depression and then, a year on, from when I started this blog. I may post all sorts of other things but at the heart of what I’m doing here is my passion for supporting those who have mental illness, in the hope that in my own small way I can offer them some support and help remove the stigma that still, sadly, attach to those of us who have ever been diagnosed with such an illness. I suffered this again this year, from a now ex-friend who should have known better than to judge me. Wrongly, as it turned out. Her loss though, not mine. This is why I have called this post New Beginnings? – that question mark is very important, as recent followers may not be aware of this, and what I will be doing in 2016 may seem new to them. But for me it is a continuation of what I set out to do.

I have one final and very personal thought from 2015. When I started this blog it was at the instigation of my counsellor, who wanted me to turn what I had been writing for him as part of our therapy sessions into a blog, for others to read. At around the time that I was going through this I met someone via Twitter and we became good friends. She was an amazingly creative and funny person, who had suffered much more than her fair share of the horrible things that life can throw at us, but bore it all with wit, courage, charm and determination. She was the most wonderfully supportive follower of my blog, from when it first started, and we used to chat for hours about anything and everything. Throughout this period she was ill and being occasionally hospitalised, and this took a turn for the worse when she was diagnosed with cancer. But she recovered – so typical of her! Then life played its last and most cruel trick. Within weeks of being given the all clear she began to suffer debilitating migraines, which turned out to be brain cancer. Sadly, this was one battle too many, even for her, and she was taken from us in July. I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, but if I did the one for this blog would be to honour her memory and the support she gave me by doing more to support others. I am just one small cog in the great scheme of things but if I can help one person in her memory I will feel I have done a very little towards that. Cyd, I owe you that for your friendship and support.

I hope you will stay with me for the ride. Happy New Year!

Let It Grow

November 3, 2013 3 comments

Wake Me Up When Movember Ends (Again!)

MG474-MO13-Flag

Back in April I was suddenly struck by the idea that I could do something to help raise money for worthwhile charities by signing up for Movember – you know, that month when slugs appear under men’s noses. It seemed such a good idea that I blogged about it in What Do You Do For Money Honey – but now it’s time to really do something and make it happen! So I have signed up and am now starting to plead for donations. This is me:

My Mo Poster

My Mo Poster

I started the ball rolling by making a small donation, using the logic that if I didn’t support myself I couldn’t really expect anyone else to do so. Two kind people have already added to this and my total currently stands at £50. I’ve no idea what would be a good amount for someone like me to raise – I’m hardly a celebrity name known in every household! –  but I’d love to think that by the end of the month that £50 could increase to £500. That may be totally unrealistic, but every penny raised will go to a good cause.

MO13 Membership ShieldIn case you don’t know, Movember supports men’s health, specifically prostate cancer, which is where it started, but it also takes an interest in testicular cancer and mental health. All of these are extremely deserving of support and as those who know me will recognise it’s the last of these that is my particular interest. By raising funds, the Movember organisation hopes to provide active support for services for men with prostate cancer and for education programmes for them, their families and friends, and for us all.  There is a specific focus on early diagnosis, which is obviously vital in helping those afflicted to combat the disease and in giving them the best chance of overcoming it. The Movember website tells you all you need to know, whether you just want to find out more, or donate, or even to join up – it’s only three days into Movember so you won’t be at much of a disadvantage in developing a luxuriant growth! Those of us taking part are known as ‘Mo Bros’ but if you are unable to grow a moustache on the basis of being female you can also show your support by becoming a ‘Mo Sista’ – the website tells you how. If anyone would like to be my Mo Sista I’d be honoured! You will see plenty of support for Movember throughout the month. Many celebrities take part – Stephen Fry did it last year, for example.  A number of sports people also grow a Mo – and so does Joey Barton.

I hope you can support Movember in one way or another – or in more than one if you like! If you are intending to donate, I’d be thrilled if you would do it on my Movember page to help get my total as high as possible. But any donation, however and wherever it is made, will support the cause.

As an excuse to keep reminding you about this I’ll be posting regular updates about the state of my growth. If I’m lucky, I could end Movember looking like this:

Or maybe not!

Or maybe not!

Watch this space 🙂

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