Welcome to my new monthly roundup for the start of the new decade – January 2020!
For the last couple of years I’ve posted separately every month about my blogging journey and my favourite finds.
But given that I’ve launched a new business and that this is the start of a new decade, I’ve decided to merge my blogging updates along with what I’ve been up to, what I’ve enjoyed, been grateful for, bought or been inspired by every month. Basically a quick snapshot of the month.
So let’s kick off with the topic I’ve been discussing on social for the past year – my health!
Over the last 11 months or so I’ve been posting (mainly on Instagram) about my ‘BC Diaries’ (breast cancer stories). I’ve literally covered every angle – how my treatment is going, what decisions have been made, how I’m feeling, how it’s affected my life etc…
It’s been a little bit like therapy for me talking (and writing) my way through treatment, but I was delighted to discover that I’d unknowingly been helping other people along too.
I started to get messages of support, positivity and encouragement. People would send me private messages about how I’ve helped them – either they had recently been diagnosed, had a friend or family member who’d had cancer or had a scare. It was as if a light bulb moment had gone off in my head – I got pleasure from knowing that I’d helped others and it was a great feeling; I felt like I had really found my purpose and I knew that in some way, shape or form I’d have to incorporate helping others into my life. And that’s what I’ve done – but more on that later.
But for now, let me give you an insight into where I’m at health wise; January started off better than I could have imagined because on 31st December 2019 I finally finished my treatment! Woooooo-bloody-hooooooooo!
It’s been a long slog since the beginning of last year with an operation, followed by six months of chemotherapy and then a month of radiotherapy. Surprisingly though, it feels like time has passed quickly and, most of the time, in a bit of a blur. And as I sit here typing this, every now and then I catch a glimpse of myself and can’t help but marvel at how quickly my hair is growing back. I’ve come a long way, I’ve learned a hell of a lot and I’m not looking back.
My adjuvant treatment (the medicine I’m taking following my treatment) is fairly complex – there’s the daily tablets (3 in total), followed by monthly injections at the doctors and six-monthly bone infusions. The side effects of my chosen adjuvant treatment are, aside from the usual aches and pains (and the sweats!), that it goes on for a very long time (10 years) and the treatment is more invasive, but heck – I’m here. And here is where I’m planning on staying.
I’ll still continue to write about my treatment from time to time on the blog – and on Instagram. And if I can help just one person…even if it’s just to remind others to check themselves from time to time…then it’s a good enough reason to carry on.
Given that I LOVE blogging and have done so for the last four years, I’d dread to think what would happen if I lost my website or it got hacked. It’s a worrying situation. Years ago, I met a lady called Jo at a BritsMums event. Jo always stuck in my mind as, when I got talking to her, it was the first time that I’d heard about the dangers of websites, blogs etc getting hacked.
Jo runs a company called Geek Fairy Design Studio – she builds websites and she helps people (including bloggers) sort out any troubles on their blog. Put it this way, if it’s anything techy that you don’t understand, Jo is your girl.
Anyway, I recently contacted Jo as I’d downloaded the pro version plugin of BackupGuard on my site, but it wasn’t actually backing up my site and I kept getting a ‘timed out’ error. Jo came along and had a look at my site. She managed to download plugins she thought I needed, updated my site and then informed me that my site had been hacked! Yes! Hacked. It petrifies me if I’m honest, as I could have lost everything. Now I’ve got extra security measures set up on the site and I’m now looking at a regular backup plan that works.
Jo also taught me a few new things, one of which is this….if you visit a particular website and like the look of it, you can see what WordPress theme they are using (if they’re with WordPress) by visiting whatwpthemeisthat.com – and also what main plugins they use.
In terms of blog work, I’ve had a plethora of opportunities come my way this month – all at the same time it seemed. In fact, for January I posted a few sponsored blog posts including the London Bridge area, a review of Body Worlds and a night’s stay at Flitwick Manor, which I highly recommend.
I’ve got a couple of things in the pipeline in terms of sponsored work, but I’m definitely a lot pickier on who and what I choose to work on, which is a positive step in the right direction for me.
The monthly community magazine that I launched last year with my business partner has continued to go from strength to strength. There’s always room for improvement (lots of it) and we’re also potentially looking at expanding this year too – so there’s great things to look forward to.
We’ve managed to take a step back and examine where we’re going, where we want to be and how we’re planning on getting there. We’re lucky enough to have families that are happy to chip in with helping us and advising us – it’s always great to get other people’s opinion. We're also lucky that we have different skill sets that complement each other which is hard to find sometimes when you work in a partnership or with others.
We’re also looking at setting up new systems and goals – which will hopefully mean we keep up our enthusiasm and motivation, plus have something to aim for. If we don’t have a goal in mind, how are we going to make sure we get there?!
Talking about setting goals…remember earlier when I mentioned that I had found one of my focuses in life; helping others? This year – just because I can – I have decided to bite the bullet and do things that throw me out of my comfort zone.
First up I’ve managed to bag a podcast interview on my breast cancer journey – and my advice to others going through a similar journey or how people can help support those dealing with it. I’m hoping that it will be information and perhaps even a bit educational who knows?
I also pitched for a guest speaker role at an annual conference event in March – and landed the gig. I’ll be chatting about the tools, systems and apps that I’ve used to enable me to work more efficiently, particularly when I’ve been time poor and feeling like I couldn’t cope. I’m also hoping to land a third guest speaker role towards the end of the year – heck, if I can get through two performances I can get through three, four or even five.
A few months ago I was introduced to a book called ‘The Miracle Morning’ – it was something I mentioned in one of my Favourite Finds posts, and I’ve (so far) managed to keep it up.
You see, since being diagnosed (and overcoming) breast cancer I’ve realised now more than ever before that it’s crucial to look after myself.
Where once I would think I was invisible and could survive on a few hours’ sleep a night, now I have learned to listen to my body and respond favourably to the signals it gives me.
Reading the Miracle Morning book – and following the general principals means that I get a precious hour to myself in the morning.
And during that hour I follow six aims – Silence, Affirmations, Visualisation, Exercise, Reading and Scribing – or SAVERS in short. The hour is broken down into 10 minute slots and I spend 10 minutes on each of the above activities.
By the time the hour is up, I really feel that I’ve allowed myself the self-care and attention that I deserve. I wake up calmer, more focused and with a spring in my step. Of course it means that I now have to go to bed a little earlier to deal with the early mornings, but I’d rather that than try to stay up all hours.
The 2020 goals
I haven’t made any New Year resolutions this year. Well, I kind of have but I don’t like to call them resolutions, I like to call them plans and goals. If I don’t manage to achieve them, I’m not going to get hung up about it – and if I do, then great!
One of my aims is to get some ‘time out’ every week. So in terms of rest and relaxation I’ve been doing a few things.
On Sunday nights I relax with the TV. I love telly but I don’t watch it every night as I’m usually working. On Sundays I’ve been enjoying SAS: Who Dares Wins on the telly. It always puts Sunday nights into perspective. It might be the start of a busy week, but at least you’re not outdoors freezing your backside off while someone screams in your ear to work harder, faster etc… I always feel quite smug watching it in my PJs and curled up under a blanket with a cuppa.
Every week I’m aiming to cook from scratch or bake something. Yes it takes time, but I find it quite relaxing creating something new. So far I’ve made things like winter chicken stew; Salmon with sesame, soy and ginger noodles; chicken, tomato and basil pasta and (Quorn) chicken casserole in the slow cooker. I think VIP is slightly bemused by the whole set up as he knows I’m a novice when it comes to cooking, but at least I’m giving it a go!
I’m also enjoying more reading. I do love reading but when you read (and proof) for a living, reading for pleasure gets put on the back burner so I’d rather watch the telly to unwind. However, I also like learning and given that I want to do more learning this year, I’ve decided to expand my mind and read lots more self-help and business books. So I finished the ‘Miracle Morning’ book at the end of last year. I then came across a book called Shine by Lorraine Kelly, which I’m currently reading. After that I’ve got ‘Secrets of Six-Figure Women’ (Barbara Stanny) and ‘How To Fail’ (Elizabeth Day) lined up. I’ve got a client who’s equally passionate about business books and learning. He has recommended a book called Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World – and Why, which although isn’t a business book as such, offers a different perspective on the world and gives you plenty of food for thought. So after I’ve run through my other books, I’ll be borrowing that from him.
I’m going to be more mindful of the lifestyle choices I make (what I eat and my exercise regime). I’ve made a list of all the foods that are really great for my body that I love and I’ve signed up for a 12-week (GP referred) fitness scheme to get me back on track. I have to get back on track as I’ve signed up for a 5K obstacle course this June to raise money for the charities that helped me when I was ill.
Finally, I’ve made the decision to get out and see more friends this year. Work, family commitments and things like exercise plans etc can all get in the way of seeing friends and catching up and I think that’s really important. The friends I have are wonderful; they really are and that’s why I choose them wisely. They’ve seen me through my ups and downs last year and I owe a lot to those who checked up on me, messaged me, took me out and kept me staying positive. And that’s what friendships are about isn’t it? Just being there for each other, ready to lend an ear, celebrate that victory, offer that advice and pass you the tissues when you need a shoulder to cry on.
Reflecting on last year, there’s been many a learning lesson. Above all, I’ve learned to live in the moment (most of the time) and enjoy it. I now take pleasure from the small things in life and I treasure my family and my circle of friends. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today – and for that I’m eternally grateful.
So how’s your 2020 looking so far? What new goals have you lined up? And are you trying to be more mindful/grateful for the things you’ve got or accomplished, rather than always ‘chasing the dream and never being quite happy? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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