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My Carry On Flight Essentials


My Cancer treatment

We came to dance - A long love of The Gaslight Anthem!

Do you have one of those bands that you love to go see? Those bands that if they’re touring, you’re going? Those bands that without them knowing, have become a sound track to the important moments of your life? Well, we do. it’s The Gaslight Anthem.
Let me take you back to late 2008,  it’s evening, I’m driving home from work or somewhere, in my Polo, and this song, old White Lincoln comes on the radio. And I love it. But I had no idea who it was by, and because it’s 2008 and it’s a VW Polo, it’s not a DAB radio, and then they didn’t say who it was, just went onto something else. So it was one of those moments where you have to remember the lyrics until you get home, or to a traffic light, and google it because you need to know what it is.

Fast forward a few months and  Jim and I have started dating, but you know, casually because I’m being stand-offish and dumb. And I’m listening to the GLA album, The 59 Sound a lot. And as a surprise Jim books tickets to go see them in Manchester. It was kind of our first big, on the road together, date. And even though it was just to Manchester, the first gig with someone is something you don’t forget.
(Photo from NME - we weren't that close and my camera of choice at the time was a holga!)
Then, later that year, they played Glastonbury, and excitedly we stood there in the John Peel tent and watched Bruce Springsteen come on stage with them. And the year after we saw them on the pyramid stage too.
There have been gigs just the two of us, gigs with groups of friends, gigs where we don’t remember going home afterwards. There have been surprise trips to London to see their last show as a band gigs. There have been gigs in Vancouver that just happened to fall when we were there. There have been trips to Brian Fallon solo shows on his UK tours, and another when we were in Boston. We’ve streamed new albums on drives across America, and sung loudly to old songs in small venues.

There have now been 2 gigs with a heavily pregnant Jane. She is yet to announce the name of the second child, but when he is born, I imagine he will be called Brian.
There have also been two gigs at the start of different cancer treatments for me. November 2016 saw us seeing Brian Fallon in Leeds 2 days before my first chemotherapy. This month has seen us going to his new tour, as I am about to start another slog of cancer treatment. And there most certainly wasn’t a moment, during the slow jams at the end where I shed a few tears at the ridiculously crapness of facing it all again.

And on this year’s none negotiable to miss because of cancer list, The 10 years tour of The 59 Sound. Because if any band has been there for the last 10 years of our lives as much as this one, I can’t think of them, and I’m not missing out on seeing them perform as a band again for something as shit as cancer!

Travel - Monterey to Big Sur and Highway 1

I’m going to start a little holiday series for the trip we took at the beginning of the year. Up first is our trip to Monterey and Big Sur.
We landed in San Francisco late on a Thursday night. We’d been travelling for a day and a bit due to the time differences, so Jim had booked a hotel at the airport so we could just fall into bed, which was an excellent plan. It also meant we’d be driving Highway 1 in the daytime. I’m not sure there would have been much point driving the coast road at night. So it worked out perfectly.
We set off about lunchtime down Highway 1, with Monterey as our final destination, but we'd also planned a stop in Santa Cruz on the way. It was an overcast, windy day on the coast, which made for some beautifully dramatic offshore waves. In fact, as we’d packed the bags into the car in such a hurry, I had to make Jim stop the car for me to get my cameras out. He pulled down a side road and we ended up facing the with stormy seas head-on. 
But with camera in hand, we carried on back down the highway. I spent my time staring out of the window at the stunning scenery. Just look at the blue skies and the turquoises of the sea! It was crazy too because we didn’t really see too many other cars on the journey.
Then we rolled into Santa Cruz. As with many of the trips we take, because we’re visiting primarily to snowboard, we go to these places in the off-season, so we had to make do with walking around the boardwalk whilst it was closed. But coming from rainy and cold England, wandering about with the sun on our face, was just so lovely. Plus, seeing some of the places where the Lost Boys was filmed was super cool. No vampires were spotted during the visit, but we did find a pretty epic mini golf course at Neptunes Kingdom. Canons fired, neon lights shone, stairs were climbed! And I came nowhere near to winning!
And with that, we were back on the road to Monterey. 
We stayed at the Best Western Monterey Inn using some of Jim's hotel points. It's about a 10-minute walk to Fishermans Wharf and about a 5-minute walk to Alverado Street and downtown, which was perfect for us. Plus, the room was massive and the free breakfast included a waffle bar! What more could you want out of life?

We were booked in for a 2-night stay, and we arrived, after our de-tour and frequent photo stops, at about 6pm. So, on our first night, we drove out to In and Out Burger, because it felt like the appropriate thing to do in California. We both had burgers, with animal fries. The burgers were absolutely amazing, but, I'm sitting on the side with the people who aren't into the In and Out fries. Not cooked enough for my liking! 
Once we got back to the hotel, we walked down to the Alverado Street Brewery for the start of our unofficial brewery tour! It's such a fun brewery bar. If you're in Monterey, make sure you stop by! But maybe don't sample as many beers as I had!
The next morning, on the advice of a guy we'd been sat next to in the bar, we headed down to Big Sur. We had planned to go in the afternoon, but we were told it would be quieter in the morning. The drive down there was just stunning. Literally, every turn provided us with an even more beautiful scene. 
Turquoise seas, pretty bridges, coastline that took your breath away. 

We made it down the McWay falls, which is about as far as we could drive due to a mudslide. You can't actually make it down to the beach where the falls are anymore, but there is a nice little walk around the cliff so you can see the falls and the remains of a house that used to stand there.
It's such a beautiful place. If you find yourself driving down the coast, make sure you stop for a little walk. We were told that it was a bit of a hike, but in reality, it was a wooden walkway, so less of a hike, more a 15-minute saunter. 

But just look at the colour of the sea. Honestly. Just look at it. Have you seen anything more perfect? 
On the way back, we stopped at Nepanthe, which is a stunning restaurant on the edge of the Big Sur cliffs. There are booths looking out over the sea and the menu looked amazing, but it was also super expensive (think $10 bows of chips/fries) so we just had a drink in the sun before we set back off to explore Monterey. Well, not before I made Jim stop on the way back for about another million photos.
The afternoon was spent wandering round Monterey town. We started with Fishermans Wharf, looking for something to snack on from a seafood stall before wandering our way down Cannery Row. Because I'm the nerdy book reader that I am, I still have a copy of Cannery Row, that my parents bought for, aged 12, on Cannery Row. I love reading Steinbeck. So it was fun to be seeing the place with grown-up eyes.

The one thing I regret is that we didn't have time to go on whale watching trip whilst we were there, but there was no way to fit in whale watching as well as Big Sur, Santa Cruz, and seeing Monterey. But we did see some otters in the harbour, and some seals playing off the coast by the aquarium, and a pelican and some other fun birds. 
We walked all the way from the hotel, down to Fishermans Wharf, then down to Cannery Row and back with absolutely no issues at all, so if you're there, it's a really walkable town. I love walking about places as you get to see all sorts of things you wouldn't normally. We also found a somewhat dodgy looking mini golf course, that turned out to be neon and quite a lot of fun, right past the aquarium! 
In the evening, we stopped in for a drink at the Fieldwork Brewery, which is a super cool space. I'll talk more about the beers we drank in a separate post, but the whole space is outside, with firepits dotted about. Can you imagine being able to do that in the UK? Have an entirely outside bar? Amazing. Our next stop, after we'd sampled as much of Fieldwork's beer as we could manage, was back down to Alvarado Street Brewery. We were planning on getting a 4 pack to take out but ended up staying for some food. We had a bit of a selection of starters and sides to share rather than a main meal each, which is something we do often, as it means we get to sample more things. But it was absolutely delicious. 
So, there we have, our little stop down Highway 1. 
Have you been? What did you think?

The future doesn't feel that that bright. (And it's not that Orange!)

My fear about this cancer recurrence sneaks up on me, between my flippant Instagram posts and jokes with Drs about replacing my Sternum with Bluetooth speakers, it's sitting there with a hefty weight attached to it. It hits me hard at the strangest moments.

When I'm making a 6th birthday cake for Flash. Will I see birthdays 7, 8, 9? Or when I get followed around the internet by snowboard boots ad. Will I be well enough to go next year? When friends are talking about us needing a wedding in the group, and what celebrations we've got booked in. When Jim hugs me during the slow songs at a gig and tears just appear out of nowhere. As I'm sitting on the cold, icy concrete having just fallen over, in pain, fully aware of how fragile my body now is.

I never felt that the last diagnosis was something to be feared. Small lump. Caught early. No lymph nodes involved. 

But this time, as we're waiting to see the extent of the cancer (they're discussing me at the MDT this week) and as I read more about bone mets and the average survival rates so I'm prepared, if it is that - the fear sneaks up and engulfs me in an all-encompassing way and leaves me struggling to comprehend what our future might look like!

I know being positive is half the battle. And I shouldn't think like this......but sometimes it's so bloody hard to do!

I think maybe the problem is that there is no rhetoric where by falling apart is allowed. You're diagnosed and told you'll fight cancer, battle it, beat it. And then when you do, you're expected to be grateful that you made it through even if you are essentially being held together with anti depressants and double IPA's. And then when it comes back, those fighting phrases come back out. I know. I am guilty of it myself when I talk of kicking arse.

But nowhere in there is an allowance to be, well, shitting it. To be falling apart. To just need to sit in the corner and cry for a while. Nope. You're expected to get on with life, get up, go to work, carry on as normal.

And when life is as far from normal as it could be, there is nothing harder to do! 


Not the news we were hoping for!

Well, here's a post I never thought I'd have to write.
Or hoped I'd never have to write, at least.
We've had the news my cancer is back.
Maybe it never left. We're not sure yet.
There are have been so many scans, and doctors appointments where they requested more scans, of late - CT scans, and Bone and PET scans that have made me radioactive (but didn't give me superpowers or make me glow). All these tests have finally told me that the pain I was experiencing in my chest when I did things like breathe, wasn't me just being paranoid.

There is cancer in my sternum, in the bone, eating away at it, (don't google what does bone cancer look like - trust me, it's not pretty!) It's also in the tissue around the bone too. And, for those of you following our travels earlier this year, I also broke said sternum whilst snowboarding too.

But it's not in my organs or my lungs so that's a positive!

We're still figuring out what this means for our lives, and my team are still figuring out my treatment plan. I've got to have some biopsies on the cancerous sites to figure out exactly what type of cancer it is so they can plan the treatment. We need to know whether it's the original breast cancer that has got past my initial treatment and found it's way to the bone - It's super close to the site of the original cancer so it could be, or whether it's secondary cancer. Let's keep our collective fingers crossed for the former, please. There is also talk of cutting out the bone where the cancer is, which quite frankly just sounds gross. And painful.

And whilst this wasn't the route I was planning on my 2018 taking, it's the route we're on, so after some tears, and some drunken nights, you can be sure we're not going to take this lying down. Cancer has picked the wrong people. Again!
(And it means I can legitimately use this cake topper again! So you know, silver linings!)

P.s. I'm sorry if we've not given you this news ourselves. We're still processing it.
P.p.s. if you're thinking of sliding into my DMs telling me to go vegan, give up sugar, eat kale or to push seeds on me to cure this cancer, don't bother. If my onc team suggests it, I'll do it, but I'm not taking the advice of an internet 'health expert'. I don't think turmeric will help either. K. Bye!