Four weeks on from my operation and the reality is that this is who I am now. What I feel about life will never be the same again.
I am absolutely comfortable with my body and all of its scars and perfect imperfections of life. It’s taken me years to feel this way but I am thankful for my body and the journey that it has gone on for me, the battle scars that it has and what it will continue to do for me. The resilience of my body astounds me and I am PROUD.
My journey now is not really about what I look like but how I feel and learn to cope with a different way of life, how I grieve, laugh, change my day to day and what I do to help others. I guess this is why I’m sharing this picture of what my reality is…. rather than having it hidden behind a patch all of the time.
These lyrics from one of my very favourite songs, ‘Grow’ by Frances arecomforting and uplifting, and I have found solace in listening to them. If you can find it, give it a listen:
“Don’t put your eyes down You’re not to blame I know there are stories You can’t explain But if I should find you black and blue And aching from crying, I’ll wait with you
Grow, grow Oh, so you know it all Then it’s gone Grow, grow You know I’m here holding on Tying up your loose ends And your drifting esteem Grow, grow If you never try, you’ll never know
I’ve left you a white page by the door There’s no need to ask me what it’s for I wait by the front step for your return And hear every story of what you’ve learned
Grow, grow Oh, so you know it all Then it’s gone Grow, grow You know I’m here holding on Tying up your loose ends And your drifting esteem Grow, grow If you never try, you’ll never know”
One of the main differences between me and Mr Me-myself-and-eye is that he is a planner and I am….. well…..not really a planner…. some would say ‘impulsive’…. some would say ‘an iPod shuffle brain’, others just role their eyes and say ‘ffs, not again’…. I love randomly booking things, just to see what happens…. Impulsively booking the Glencoe marathon for his 40th birthday present…. which turned out to be the year that they had the biggest storm in about 10 years….in which we were camping….. A little break in Skye when I was 6 weeks pregnant and vomming everywhere… not really realising that it would take us two days to get there and two days to get back. Anyway, I think that my impulsive nature is what he loves and hates about me, I like to think that it balances out his meticulous planning of EVERYTHING and he balances out my puppy like nature where I want to do everything and try everything RIGHT NOW!
So anyway…. back in December I was scrolling through some up and coming races, casually thinking about potentially entering a 10km or something. I had just started to run again after tearing my knee ligaments and I thought that a 10km would be a good distance to start with. All of a sudden ‘The Calderdale Hike‘ caught my eye (I had two eyes back then…) ‘An undulating 26.2 or 36 mile hike around the beautiful Calderdale Valley’.….. Click. PayPal. Entry. Done. Yep, I had entered it, only the 26 miler, I didn’t want to be too crazy and I had entered a team of 4. So within a space of around 2 minutes, I had gone from thinking about a gentle, flat 10km run to a challenging, hilly, long distance hike, with a team that I didn’t have.
It turns out though that I have friends who clearly know me and don’t really bat an eyelid (no pun intended) when I send a text along the lines of….‘What are you doing on the 13th April 2019? Fancy a little walk with me….?’ So there we were, the team, comprising of Anna Hobbs, Katie Marriott, Jacky Burton and me. legends.
This however was before ‘eyegate.’… To be fair to my team mates, they did leave it a week or so after my diagnosis before they sent the hopeful text…
“Soooo.…. this walk in April….. you are not going to want to do it…. are you….?” When I responded with, “We are absolutely going to do this blooming walk and I am going to guilt you all into doing it.” the reality hit that we were actually going to be hiking 26.2 miles… over Calderdale, self navigated…. with the only person who claimed that she could read a map now only having one eye. (A claim I clearly made to ensure that the other three would enter)
So fast forward to 0630 on Saturday 13th April and there we all were, ready and waiting to set off to Sowerby Bridge to walk a heck of a long way with non of us having walked over 10 miles for a long time and the self titled ‘navigator’ compromised.
They give you a kit list of essentials that you need to take with you in case you get lost: Map, compass (that you must be able to use…errrrr….ok…. harking back to Geography 1996) waterproofs, bivy bag etc… and snacks. I literally do not know what I was thinking on the morning of the walk when I decided that it would be a good idea to pack some quinoa and wholegrain rice in a large Tupperware box, that was as dry as a sandy beach with no flavour. The Tupperware itself took up most of my rucksack along with the 8 dry tuna sandwiches, 4 liquorice bars, Soreen, nuts, dried mango, approximately 10 billion snack cereal bars and a packet of Pom Bears…. I mean it seemed as if I had packed for a week away, not a leisurely 8 ish hours in Calderdale! I was pleased to see that the rest of the team had also over packed on the food front, with Katie not letting on if she had water or sauvignon blanc in her camel back… (I also felt a bit daring and folded my map THE WRONG WAY – telling everyone that they were NOT allowed to tell Mr Me-myself -and-eye that I had dared to do it…
The walk started from the cricket ground at Sowerby Bridge and at 0800 sharp we all started with the lure of the bar opening at 3pm to return quickly and the only rules, 1) No running and 2) Make your way HOWEVER you wish can between check points. At that point I think that we were slightly optimistic that we had a chance of coming first team as we powered off down the road and over took a few people…. that was until we turned the first corner and saw the vertical climb that was in front of us. I like to think that I am reasonably fit, but dear lord, I was not even a third of the way up what felt like the Dawn Wall and I was wheezing and dripping in sweat… oh crumbs, this did NOT bode well for the rest of the 25.8 miles.
After the first rock hard climb…. the first down hill…. the slight panic of getting lost (thank you Mr Me-Myself-and-eye for uploading the GPX file onto a new fancy OS App on my phone as I clearly had no idea how to read an actual map) and the next 4 gradients that were ridiculously steep and unnecessarily long, we climbed up to see the most stunning views.
Utter bliss and soul food and cementing in my mind that Yorkshire really is part of my DNA and I really couldn’t think of anywhere else I would want to be.
As amazing as the views were, we still were only 6.4 miles into the hike and had a looooonnngggg way to go. Anna ‘big right’ Hobbs (she is who I box with) set the pace, striding out with no messing around, whilst us other three almost had to trot to keep up with her (actually, it is a good job she set the pace, had we left it to Jackie, we would still probably be out there meandering along, chatting, making a few daisy chains on the way…)
After skirting through Mytholmroyd (I mean you can’t fault Yorkshire on their AMAZING town names) we headed out onto the Mary Townley Loop (I don’t know who Mary Townley was/is, that’s defs a google question) with the words of a fellow hiker in our ears, “It’s a bit bleak up there” Crikey, he wasn’t bloody joking! Blowing an absolutely hoolie for over 6 miles, we all just bunkered down and cracked on, with Hobbs stopping to collect some litter, can’t fault her, it’s a terrible habit.
I think that the most scenic part of the route was crossing the M62 on the slightly swinging bridge and then skirting pretty much between the M62 and some sewerage works… does sarcasm come over in written form? The blisters were starting to bite and we were all getting a little bit hangary (well I was, the others seemed to be able to cope with being hungry) We had a formula one style pit stop for Katie to plaster up her blisters and to refuel. Having decided that quinoa and rice was possibly not the best decision for a marathon walk, I opted for the dry tuna sandwiches (made at 0530 that morning) and cashew nuts which was just the boost that I needed. Once blisters we sorted and food was consumed, we cracked on, nearing the 20 mile marker, keen to get back to the pub and celebrate with a pint.
Back onto the Calderdale way (or could have been the Pennine way…. I literary have no idea) we caught sight of some walkers ahead Hobbs strode off to make sure the she could see them so we didn’t have to navigate anymore.
For me this part was the most difficult part of the walk as the moorland was covered in beige grass and the light was quite flat and the ground was really uneven and so I couldn’t really make out where I was putting my feet. Cue me getting very frustrated with myself and getting annoyed at the fact that I couldn’t do something as easy as just pigging walking…. it was a good job I was on my own as I was swearing like a trooper with tears stinging my eyes, just generally being very pissed at the world. What was also really strange was that all the death defying drops and slopes seemed to always to be my left, just to make the walk a little bit more interesting for me as to whether I would fall to my death or navigate through.
After this part, we could feel the finish was in our grasp… we could taste the beer…. cracking on through Rippondon, we had collected a few other walkers and runners and we were having a lovely old chat, until we came to a hill that I am going to re name…. ‘That f***ing hill’ In my head, I thought that this was the last push for us all and so I cracked on up the hill, sweating, wheezing and swearing all of the way up (I neglect to mention that I was still wearing my artic feather and down coat -suitable for -2 degree temperatures – which I had refused to take off for nearly the entire walk because I wanted to prove to Mr Me-myself-and-eye that I really did need to take it with me because it was going to be cold. This was after he scoffed at my choice of walking attire) So sweating like a trooper, read faced but triumphant, I made it to the top and turned and watched as the others stormed up the hill. High fives all round as we glowed in the glory of conquering the hill….. then I looked at the GPX route….”Oh f*** it” I think were the exact words that came out of my mouth….. “We’ve come up too far, we needed to have turned off the path approximately 1/2 mile down the hill…” Now I didn’t hear any of the others swearing at me and I didn’t see any glowering looks (I do only have one eye remember) but I would NOT have blamed them if they were all doing that behind my back as I set off back down ‘That f***ing hill’ to where we needed to have turned off….
Once we were back on the single track road we swung down hill for about half a mile. (not before passing my absolute favourite sign post of all time)
We came out at the bottom of Sowerby Bridge recycling centre (pictureqse as you can imagine) and all we had to do was turn left and walk up the hill to the end….. obviously though we thought that going the longer way (and adding an extra mile onto the walk) was what we definitely wanted to do…. we wanted to triply make sure that we deserved the beer that we were going to have. So we turned right and went a convoluted way back up to the cricket club with Katie having pulled a muscle in her thigh and in a huge amount of pain (she is however as hard as nails and I believe she said something along the lines of, “If I’ve had three kids, I can cope with my thigh being on fire” like I said, nails.)
Finally we were back! We had bloody done it! The feeling of finishing was brilliant, relief from all of us as we had all pushed ourselves out of our comfort zones and the beer was lush.
We all had our own stories and reasons for wanting to complete it, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just because I had asked. For me, it was another thing to show that I was not going to be defined by what was happening to me. To prove to myself that I can and I will do the things that I love to do and to say ‘screw you’ to cancer and all the utter shit that it brings. It sounds silly, but I also wanted to do it for my friends and family who are going through some pretty shit and dark times at the moment. I was thinking about them all a lot whilst walking and gieving for what they are going through.
Walking and being outside is such a soul lifting experience and a basic, uncomplicated thing to do. Yes it was tough at times, but to spend 8 hours with three of the most incredible, inspirational, funny women I know was an absolute privilege and I would do it again in a heart beat….. now where are those painkillers….
I know I’m being frustrating and I’m sorry about that. This is my first time on my own in a busy city centre trying to order a hot chocolate In a trendy cafe with only 4 1/2 senses and 2 of them are overloaded with the music, chat, coffee machine noise and strange smells. On top of that my arms are full and my bag is heavy as I couldn’t bring myself to pay another 10p for an extra bag to live with the other 70 billion under my sink.
I’m struggling to hear what the guy is saying over the music and trying to tell him I just want a bog standard hot chocolate with actual cows milk (shock horror) and scrabbling around for change and you standing on my left close enough for me to smell your perfume and tapping your bank card on the counter and tutting at me is adding to my stress.
I don’t expect concessions from you or even for you to understand, but maybe just take a moment to look at the person in front of you to see that I’m doing my best and I’m not trying to make you late. I know I don’t know your story and I don’t want to assume you are just being impatient, but after feeling like I was winning coming into town on my own, I now feel disheartened that I’m not going quick enough….
Dear lady in a rush, I hope you get to where you are going to on time and next time, I’ll make sure I go somewhere where being a bit slower is acceptable…. maybe the m&s cafe….
Captain Corne x
P.S…. Dear lady in a rush, I then went to the park and owned the balance beam/seesaw…. my 7 yr old watched and waited until I got it and cheered me like a trooper even though she was desperate to go on it…. maybe there is a lesson there for us all… 😊
In a true reflection of life, this blog is not only about the things that I feel I am achieving (although I am super proud of those things) but also the things that I feel that I am not quite there with yet!
RUNNING – I have actually been running a fair bit and twice on my own…. I have had an altercation with a hedge and a wheely bin (it was them not me…honest Gov’nr) and a few near misses with dogs insisting on running up to me on my blind side and nearly tipping me into Roundhay Lake but generally it’s been ok. I still feel drunk when I run and my brain is desperately trying to make up the missing data from my left eye (think about when your iPad screen stutters when the WIFI isn’t very good and you’ll kinda get what I mean) but drunk running isn’t too bad!
PARKRUNNING – Is this now a verb? I’m not sure, and I’m also not sure what the deal is for full block capitals of ‘parkrun’…. Anyway, parkrun is my Saturday morning fix, I often head down on my own to my local one at Roundhay park and enjoy and hour so or catching up, running and sometimes coffee. I mentioned before that despite having run one of the very first ones outside of London, I lapsed for a few years but now I could not imagine my life without it…. Oh and the added fact that I have just been appointed one of the new non executive directors of parkrun UK is pretty cool…..I actually can’t believe that it has taken me so long to write that as I am pretty darn stoked about it! Anyway I thought that this Saturday we would enjoy a lovely family parkrun together. I imagined running with the kids, highfiving, laughing, smiling, skipping and crossing the line as a family, thankful that we could all run together…. this is what actually happened…
I decided on Friday night that it would be a good idea for the kids to cycle down and for me and Mr Me-myself-and-eye to run down to the park for some added family/warm uptime…I did not anticipate that the kids would actually sleep in on Saturday morning (literary the FIRST time in history) which meant quickly ramming toast into their mouths whilst hollering to get their shoes on and get out of the door otherwise the whole world was going to end.
Getting to parkrun (actually in plenty of time) and child number one claiming that she couldn’t run because she had a tiny blister on the top of her foot (from climbing a rope the day before) which hurt too much to run and she was just going to walk across the grass to meet me a various places on the course….. that was fine (I didn’t mind that apart from the fact that she actually pretty much ran like a whippet all over the park, proving that there was actually nothing wrong with her foot AT ALL). Child number two then had a meltdown because I took his gloves off to take his fleece off before putting his gloves back on (What a careless and stupid thing to do mummy) and that was COMPLETLEY the wrong thing to do and I had essentially ruined his life by doing this.
I had not anticipated the amount of people that were going to be there and promptly started to panic as soon as we arrived thinking that I wouldn’t be able to do it with all of the people, until the wonderful Alex Wu said that she would run with me and actually despite the congested start, people knocking past me on my left, having the feeling that I was going to run into people in front of me and the shock at being shouted at to keep left for the faster runners I did ok, I think it was Alex keeping me talking that helped! I may have to think about which quieter parkrun to do to get a faster time though, or enlist a team of bouncers that can run around me, protecting me as if I celebrity!
Whilst child number one was frolicking around the park living her best life, child number two started the run but only managed 1.5 laps before he said he couldn’t survive the rest of it because he couldn’t breath, this is despite Mr me-myself-and-eye telling him to stop running for about half a lap before because he was crying (we are responsible parents, honest!) Child number two was then beside himself because he couldn’t finish the run….. like a trooper though Mr me-myself-and-eye forfeited his run so I could finish mine (we actually fell out about it and I went off in a strop to finish the run, but I like the thought of the other version better…)
Child number two then did not want to ride his bike home and it took a bribe of a babychino and a chocolate croissant to get him back on his bike and home again, which, to be fair to him he did do.
So not QUITE the return to parkrun that I had anticipated, I am totally going to go on my own again next time!
CLIMBING – I have been climbing TWICE! This is a BIG thing for me. I used to climb when I was younger and my body wasn’t quite so broken, dabbled with it again between being preggers, and then hurt my back for about 2 years and then my knee (Jeepers, i sound like a permentley injured person!) and then had just started back climbing before #eyegate…. when I say I ‘climb’, I really mean that I just about made it to the top of what I was going up. I’ve never been very good, just quite determined…. my daughter can whizz up a climbing wall on the hardest grades with no fear at all whereas I break out into a cold sweat as soon as I get 5 foot off the ground. However, last week, Mr Me-myself-and-eye and I took our daughter climbing at the Leeds Climbing Wall. She climbs for an hour and a half on a Wednesday and it just felt like a long time to be waiting for her, so I harnessed up, Mr Me-myself-and-eye sorted out the belay and I climbed! Oddly, the cold sweat fear that I normally have wasn’t there…. I just climbed, not bothered at all about falling (which I did) and nailed a couple of tricky climbs. The strangest feeling was trying to work out how far up each hold was for my hands and feet and it was the same perception that I had when I walked on the flagstone pavement for the first time where I was picking up my feet too high…. the only difference was that I was doing it with my hands AND feet. I have to admit that I cried when I got down to the bottom of the first climb, relieved that was pushing myself to do it again. I then went climbing AGAIN with my lovely buddy Hels Bels and then spent the next two days in agony as my shoulders and arms were on fire and would not move above waist height.
BOXING – I bloody love boxing and started to go to the FABULOUS Tigers Gym in Meanwood with my friend ‘Big Right’ Hobbs….. It is a proper boxing gym, gritty, down to earth with a reminder on the bins not to put bloody tissues in them…. (you can imagine my face when I went there for the first time…) It is run by hard as nails Michelle Sutcliffe who has so many world titles and wins under her belt, that there is not enough room to list them, and her hubby, who are also two of the best people I have ever met. Kind, open, honest and do not hold back if you are not doing something correctly.
Having only been boxing for a few months before hand, I was really nervous about going back, mainly because I was worried about smashing my friend in the face by accident if I couldn’t work out where the pads were that she was holding. Michelle and her hubby (I don’t know his name even though he has told me before and now I feel rude asking him!) were awesome, asked about what had happened (which is actually quite nice as generally it has only been children and taxi drivers who have ever asked me about why I wear a patch….. nobody else asks… it’s like the elephant in the room, it actually makes me chuckle…) and then got me straight back into it with no concession at all (which was the same for ‘Big Right’ Hobbs whose punches nearly knocked my shoulders out of joint…) It was exactly the tonic that I needed and I don’t think that I have punched that hard before…. I think I may have a tiny bit of pent up aggression and tension….
Despite all the things that I CAN do and are continuing to do….. I do think that I have to address the balance and mention a few things that I haven’t been able to do this week…
Order a pair of trousers off the internet the correct size…. they were two sizes too small after having misread the sizes online (the writing is so small!) and I could not even get them over my ankles.
Put the correct amount of sugar in banana bread that I made (and sadly I didn’t even question that I was putting in too much) The kids bloody lapped it up though and then were literally bouncing off the walls afterwards.
Find a tiny grey part of one of the kids toys that they dropped on our grey kitchen floor and rolled under the table….. I think I’m just going to give up on that though…. we’ll find it when we move I’m sure.
Know when the ‘eye’ is open or closed as I can’t feel my eyelids on my eye…. very strange sensation and a bit annoying as I am often saying to Mr Me-myself-and-eye “Is it open or closed?” in an over panicked manner.
Successfully navigate my way around the supermarket without taking out a few grannies whilst doing it…. child number two came with me today, it was really busy with people in a rush, which didn’t do my nerves any good and I pretty much ended up letting the 6 year do the shopping, so for the next week we will be eating Pom Bears, Soreen, oranges and yoghurt…
Work out what is going on in my kids heads….. I think child number one is dealing with everything ok, and I do talk to her a lot about it and ask her questions etc… but child number two is being quite tricky and his behaviour is at times unmanageable with really big meltdowns. I can’t work out if it’s to do with me (like the whole world revolves around me) or if he is in a growth spurt, or if there is something else going on. It’s not the best feeling to have, thinking that there is something going one that I can’t help him with…. I think maybe we need some time just me and him together doing something fun…. any suggestions would be gratefully received!
So, there we go, it’s all swings and roundabouts, but I do think that at the moment, the swings are outweighing the roundabouts…… which can only be a positive thing….. Oh and a wonderful lady on Facebook called ‘In the Blink of an Eye’, made me some super cool eyepatches and so now I have one for every day of the week!
This weekend was the first weekend in the last 6 or so weeks that things felt relatively normal. When I say that, I mean that things weren’t defined by what was happening/had happened to me. The kids were relaxed and happy and I felt that I could really spend quality time invested in them rather than worrying all of the time about what my future was going to be.
A highlighted list of the relatively ‘normalish’ weekend:
Walking in the glorious sunshine of Roundhay park
Spending time with the big child in the park together on Friday after a long old week.
Being reunited with Lady Venning for ‘run club’ – She did do slightly better on the ‘watch out there is a tree root front’
Enjoying a BBQ at a friends house that I haven’t seen for a while and loving every minute of their company.
Going ‘out out’ to a rather delicious ‘Jane Lawson Loves’ supper club (which my dad claimed was a posh way for saying going out for dinner…. I have to agree there.) In my fancy pants new patch.
Watching the chiblets do their first cross country relay and bursting with pride as they gave it their all around a muddy field in Miggy park.
Seeing the chiblets wanting to be just like ‘mummy!’
Trusting Mr Me-myself -and-eye to take me on a ‘fun’ Mothers Day run which pretty much replicated the Barkley Marathon route (was it a blessing that I couldn’t see the 30 ft drop to my left hand side as I was running along…?)
So as you can read, a normalish weekend (there was a lot more ‘normal’ stuff, but I’m pretty sure that you don’t want to read about the contents of my shopping basket, or the intricacies of how I managed to change the under sheet of a top bunk with one eye (which is a tricky enough job with two eyes!)
I thought instead I would think about this journey in my personal life and try and equate it somehow to my professional life. I’ve mentioned before that I run a small not for profit organisation called Mini Mermaids where we are striving to grow a generation of girls (and boys) that are brave, fearless, kind, leaders, not afraid to take risk, comfortable in their own skin, able to make mistakes. We do this through a combination of movement and activities (we use running as it is the most accessible thing for anyone to do) and a curriculum which encourages open discussions and thought provoking activities to enable children to look at themselves in a different light. Throughout our programmes, we break each week into themes which encompasses the whole body. I use the themes often to check in with myself, to see how I am feeling and I thought that I would share them here:
Head – What I see and hear from everyone around me is love, support, sometimes sadness but an overwhelming sense of ‘we’ve got you’ This is invaluable to me and I am thankful every day for it. Darkness isn’t great, both in terms of physically and emotionally. I can’t see very well in the dark at all and this is impacting my life. I’ve always loved soft lighting and have lamps galore in my house, but I now need to have the bright overheard lights on quite a lot of the time, even in the day, which does affect how I feel about my home and myself. It is a huge physical difference for me. Running in the dark is not an option and even when it is cloudy (today was wet and cloudy and the light was really flat) I struggle to differentiate the different levels of the pavement and roads. Again, I feel that this has a huge impact on my life and it actually makes me really cross. When I started to watch Line of Duty on Sunday night, I very nearly stopped watching it as I felt that there was no point as I wasn’t getting the full experience of the programme. I do appreciate how silly and superficial it all sounds, but these are the things that buzz around my head. The darkness is also a time where my emotions take on a life of their own. I thought that I had a grip on my insomnia but after two relativity ok nights , it is back with a vengeance and I find myself grieving over my eye and wishing more than anything that I could have the sight back and questioning why it has happened. What had I done in my life which meant that I deserved this. These are thoughts that I can supress in the day but in the long dark nights, not so much.
Heart – How I feel about myself… well this is really hard. After spending a lot of my teenage years and 20’s full of self loathing and placing my self worth on my weight, I had come to the point where I loved celebrating my body and all that it had done. All the stretch marks and wobbly skin are a sign of my two chiblets, the wrinkles on my face are a sign of experience and a full life, all of the other scars and imperfections have a story. My body has run marathons, been out dancing until dawn, travelled the world, had two kids, endured many highs and heartbreaks. The eyes though, they are so important in a person, they hold so much emotion, and are the first thing that people notice about somebody. At the moment I can’t have my eye uncovered at all, as it hits home that I can’t see anything and that is actually worse that wearing a patch….. I’m not sure how or when that is going to stop. It may never stop and I may be Captain Corne forever.
Hands – I love helping people. Whether it’s through work or volunteering or stopping to check that someone is ok when they look like they are upset. So when the tables are turned and people are offering me help, I sometimes find it difficult to accept it, whether it’s because I think that I am fiercely independent and don’t need any help, I am not sure. I am trying to accept more help though and I love the amount of people that have messaged me saying that they are happy to run with me! I promise I will take you all up on that!
Belly – This one is difficult as whenever I lose control over something in my life, I automatically become uber controlled over what I eat. I know about it and I am super aware that it happens and I am really trying not to do it. I know my body needs nourishment to heal and repair and it also needs to feel relaxed and happy. Some super wonderful friends have made some beautiful food for me (who doesn’t love someone else cooking!) and so far I have been able to stay pretty relaxed and eaten food that makes my body and heart feel happy.
Legs – What have my strengths been whilst on this journey. I have been open and honest about my feelings and I haven’t felt shame if I have needed to vent or cry (again this has been made possible by my wonderful community) I have kept my sense of humour (even if the doctors did not crack a smile) I have met and connected with some amazing new people who are going through the same as me and we have been able to support and help each other. I have laced up my trainers and gone running, to show that I can still be me. I have got up, got dressed and faced the world in some form every single day when all I wanted to do was put my head under the covers and hide from everyone. I have become an expert in plucking my eyebrows with one eye (try it, it isn’t as easy as you think it is)
Feet – What are my goals?…. well, I am going to continue to get up every single day and face the world. I am going to continue to be as open and honest as I can be about what I am going through, cry when I need to, get angry and pissed at the world and then thank my lucky stars at how fortunate I have been. Raise as much money as I can for Ocumel UK and raise awareness of Ocular Melanoma and…. most importantly, I’m going to continue laughing, loving, shouting, dancing, swearing under my breath, singing, running, banging my head against a brick wall and enjoying being a mum to my two monkey brains.
Have a great rest of week and be kind to yourselves folks!
I am aware that the title of this blog ‘running through cancer’ alludes to the fact that there may be some reference to running somewhere…. and I have realised that this isn’t the case and in fact there has been very little reference to running. So I thought that I would write a little bit about one of my favourite things…. running!
Running has always been ‘my thing’ whether it’s been running at a competitive club level (I’m not talking the Olympics here, I’m talking locally to Leeds) where I ran reasonably quickly and had some great occasions with my blooming wonderful club Valley Striders (the team silver at the West Yorkshire cross country is still the highlight of my running career!) to running on a treadmill at my local all female gym when I was a student in Liverpool, to running the 3.2 mile loop from my parents house around the fields of Arkendale when I had moved back home after a messy breakup…. it’s always been the constant in my life and it has never mattered if I have run quickly or slowly. It’s where I sort my head out, I solve the problems of the world (and promptly forget them when I step foot inside the door) it’s where I take stock of what is going on in my life, and yes, sometimes, its how I escape from the incessant noise that seems to come from having children and being the only person who can find ANYTHING in the house (including the tiny plastic dinosaur that was bought 5 billion years ago and played with once and promptly forgotten about, but must be played with RIGHT NOW)
I used to get comments from people (which I think that all runners get) like ‘what are you running away from’ ‘Your knees will be knackared by the time you are forty…’ (actually my knees are remarkably ok, it’s the rest of my body that is broken!) ‘You must really hate your life with all that running you do’ ‘Why can’t you just sit down like the rest of us and chill out?’ I normally reacted with some form of excuse like ‘oh well, if I run I can eat cake!’ but actually what I should have said was that I run because… I really like running…. simple….. I like it…. in fact I would go as far as to say that I love it! Yes my relationship with it has gone through many ups and downs, BUT it has always been there, ready for me to go back to it whenever I have needed it… with no judgement…. (yes I am well aware that I am referring to running as a person!)
So yes, my name is Hannah and I am a runner (jeez, it feels goooooood to have that down in print!)
I remember many significant runs in my life, here are the (shortened) highlights:
I was 7 years old and my dad was a keen runner (this was the 80’s, so think short shorts and tight t-shirts….) He had signed us up to do a local 5km fun run (in the times before parkrun….. can anyone actually remember those times?!) Well I can hand on heart say that it wasn’t fun and it certainly wasn’t a run and we came last.
19 – Thinking it would be a great idea to go for a run on Bondi beach in Aus in the hottest part of the day with my friends… most likely hung over…. we lastest approximately 6 mins 23 seconds before we collapsed on the beach in a heap of unfit, beer swilling travellers.
22 and my first Leeds 10km with the awesome Tony Audenshaw cheering me on with team Emmerdale (we were all runners at Emmerdale!)
24ish and my first Marathon with Virgin Active Road Runners (now the mighty Hyde Park Harriers) in Amsterdam and the PARTY afterwards!
32 – First run after having my second baby. It was sheeting down with sleet and rain and freezing. I was 3 weeks post having my second C-section and struggling with everything at that time. My mum came over, took both my kids off me and said “Go for a run” my mum is not one to ignore so I did. I pulled on my huge maternity, full cotton tracky bottoms, my large full cotton green ‘Coronation street 50th’ t shirt (not sure how or why I remember that) and shuffled around the corner for 10 minutes, my trousers and t- shirt soaking up every single drop of water that was out there….. I felt bloody AMAZING after I had done it and that I could TAKE ON THE WORLD! – **thanks mum!**
So the reason why I am sharing all of this is because I know that I am going to forever remember my first run after this f***ing rancid time that I am going through. I have been having a pretty tough time, feeling very low and panicking about what was going to happen in the future (and something that I didn’t write before was the statistics of it re- occurring later in my life which are pretty scary) I had thought that maybe I should go to the doctors to see if there was anything they could prescribe… I then thought back to the times when being outside and running have really helped me and I decided that I was going to try and go for a run first before I went to the doctors. My friend was meant to come with me but she unfortunately had to go into work (she is having a proper shitty time at work at the moment, so I am sending out huge love and positivity to her) I had three options, I could not go at all (not really an option as it was a glorious day), I could try and find someone to run with (but I think everyone was at work) or I could go on my own….. ok….. sooooooooooo i’m going to do it, I am going to go for a run on my own….. nothing too crazy, or too far…. just a little trot to see how I feel…. So I did…. I put on my trainers and stepped out of the door and from THE SECOND I stepped out of the door, my heart sang, that’s the only way I can explain it. I WAS STILL ME! This thing, this event, this shit that I was going through was not going to define me as a person. Running was still there, it still had my back, it knew what I needed to do (yes, again I know it is not a person!) I ran and I ran and I ran and I smiled and I high fived people and I greeted everyone with an over the top (good morning!) Now baring in mind my perspective is all out of whack and I struggle to walk in a straight line, I imagine I looked a tad odd, running around Roundhay, swerving, grinning like a loon and requesting high fives from random people!
Once I had finished my run (after running far too far) I was completely done in, my eye was really sore…. but…. I felt incredible….. like nothing could bother me…. like I could have gone into parliament and sorted out Brexit there and then (bit topical!) It was incredible what that run had done for me and how it made me feel. I’m not remotely thinking that this is the end of my journey or just because I have been for one run that I am all fixed and can crack on with everything, but I do know that that part of me hasn’t gone, that I can still be me and run and that is invaluable.
Today is Friday and I feel like this week has been an emotional rollercoaster, I have had so many visitors and well wishes that have been so gratefully received and I am overwhelmed at the love that I have around me. Thank you doesn’t really express how I feel about you all and every single message, facebook post, tweet, messenger message, knock on the door, card, flower, food and chocolate that I have received has reminded me of how bloody amazing human beings are.
Have a great weekend,
Lots of love,
Captain Corne xx
As much as I am a positive person, always trying to see the best in every situation, yesterday, the reality of what has happened really started to bite. I’m pretty sure that this is completely natural but it actually took me by surprise as I thought that I was dealing with it all quite well and I was going to get back to normality no problems at all.
The day started as usual with the craziness of having to get the kids, dressed, fed, teeth brushed, hair brushed… ok, the last one never happens…. and then out to school. I then went on my daily walk, up to get a hot chocolate from Chapel Allerton, sorted out some admin type stuff and then saw my lovely NCT friend Sarah… she is an absolute blast and has a very similar sense of humour to me and we just hit it off from the first day we met on an overly warm summers day in 2011, 9 months pregnant and faced with an NCT instructor who claimed that giving birth wasn’t painful…. I beg to differ on that front. It was after she left that I started to notice a shift in what I was feeling. I can’t even explain it, I was watching Queer Eye on Netflix and I just started to feel really really sad, worried and anxious. What was I going to do as time went on and ‘life’ started to get back to normal? How was I going to cope? The fact that something pretty life changing had happened in a matter of weeks and I don’t actually think I had had time to process it properly….
Sheffield hospital and the NHS have been amazing and have simply saved my life and this is no reflection on my treatment at all, but I do feel a bit spat out of the system….they saw the problem, dealt with it, the job has been done…. I now have to work out how to deal with everything else. When I came out of hospital, I was armed with leaflets which are given in a sort of pack, around eating healthily if you have cancer, how to talk to your kids about cancer, numbers to ring to sort out free prescriptions and numbers to ring to talk to someone, which are all really informative…. but everything was quite general about cancer…. nothing really about eye cancer…. I have the OcuMelUK Facebook group which is great with practical advice, but I started to feel very overwhelmed over where to start getting other help or who to talk to…. do I deserve any of this?… is what I had/have really proper cancer? What if I am taking up the time of someone who is really needed somewhere else…?’ I am a really proactive person and I like to think that I am resilient, but I am finding these thoughts quite frightening… It’s especially frightening at night time when my thoughts and imagination just go wild. I’ve been having some quite vivid dreams and have woken up in tears a few times crying out for help.
The daily adaptation to only having one eye is a constant struggle. I know that everything will adapt but there is no time frame on this. No one can tell me that it will take a few weeks, months or a few years…. Mr Me-myself-and-eye (who has been absolutely remarkable over the last few weeks) has been bathing my eye twice a day since the op and last night, he had to open up the ‘eye’ to clean it. This was the first time that I had had the experience of my ‘bad eye’ being open and me not being able to see anything. My reaction wasn’t great as the reality hit me of not being able to see. I felt frustrated, sad and an overwhelming sense of grief in the pit of my stomach which I am still struggling to shift. Sleep last night was brief and the tears have been aplenty today so far. I actually wanted to hide away today and not get out of bed at all but I am super grateful to Liz who took me out for a walk this morning, Holly for bringing round enough food to feed the family for a week, Hels Bells who took me for a hot chocolate and my mum, who is superwoman. Fact. I know that this phrase is banded around too much these days, but I am blessed to have such amazing people in my life who are around whenever I need them. (you all know who you are) They will hold me up, dry my tears, listen to my waffling even when I feel that I am breaking.
So I think that I am in another stage of grief and loss. I have contacted the Robert Ogden Macmillan centre up at St James’s hospital who I am going to visit tomorrow and despite me saying that I would be going back to work by the end of this week, I have decided to take a bit more time to process and understand what I am going through. As a very wise woman said today, ‘You are so good at taking care of everyone else and making them feel empowered and ready to take on the world, you need to do that for yourself.’
And from one of my all time favourite films:
“I saw the sun begin to dim
And felt that winter wind
A woman learns who is there for her
When the glitter fades and the walls won’t hold
‘Cause from then, rubble
Can only be what’s true
If all was lost
Is more I gain
‘Cause it led me back
Captain Corne xx
So today was the first time that I have been properly alone since the op. 5 days post ‘eye removal’ and Mr me-myself-and-eye returned to work, the kids are at school and it is just me, trying to manage my jumbled up feelings and emotions. I knew that my gorgeous friend Hels Bells was coming over with Krispy Kreame donuts at some point, but I had the morning to navigate through first.
I know that I have mentioned it before but the strange perspective that only having one eye brings is really disconcerting. I will get used to it and my brain will adapt, but at the moment my brain is still in the ‘what the f**k is going on!’ phase. This morning i walked. It felt a bit more monumental than yesterdays as I walked down to my office in Chapel Town (approx. 2.5 miles away…. shhhh don’t tell Mr me-myself-and-eye) This walk meant navigating quite a few road crossings, pavements and the well known ‘Chapel Town gauntlet’ where you never quite know where the cars are going as ALL indicators in ALL cars seem not to work here. I kept doing that thing that babies do when they are learning to walk and pick their legs up a bit to high when they are walking up steps, or misjudging the down step and their feet hit the floor before they are prepared which leads to an off balanced stumble… there was a fair bit of stumbling and laughing at myself. The flag stones on most of the pavements are unequal (I may write to the council about that) and so I had to look down pretty much all of the way to make sure that I didn’t trip over any corners, but by doing that I almost walked into several people…. I think that having my patch on excused me a bit….people looked at me in that odd ‘I wonder what she has done’ kind of way…..I had started to walk with my headphones on, thinking that listening to a nice podcast on a glorious sunny day may brighten my spirits, but soon had to stop as it was really disorientating having two of my senses not at 100%. Each time I had to cross a road, I stopped and checked every single way about 50 times, just to make sure that I hadn’t missed a rogue cyclist, mobility scooter or a grey car (I don’t know why, but the grey ones are always the hardest to see) I did make it to my office…. went inside…. listened to ‘woman’s hour’ and then caught the bus home…. not a huge achievement for some, but it made me feel like Dicky Rock, it was something that I had done on my own!
It’s not just the walking that has a different perspective but also how I see myself. Sounds strange, but at the moment when I look in the mirror, what I see is very distorted…. it’s like I am looking in one of those funny fair ground mirrors… the top half of my body looks long and thin and my bottom half looks…. well….. short and like my arse has exploded on each side…. again I know that this isn’t the reality but it isn’t the best thought in the world and it is making putting on bottoms quite tricky as I have no concept of what they really look like…. I mean it’s not as if this is a major tragedy in the grand scheme of things, but it is going to make shopping for trousers very annoying…. When I looked at my jeans this morning, I got really frustrated and wanted desperately to rip the eye patch off and to be able to see myself properly! I think that I may have to audition my friends to see who can be my ‘jean buying’ friend who can be responsible for me buying a flattering pair of jeans… (cripes, if Mr me-myself-and-eye reads this, he will probably choke on his coffee as he thinks about the 50 billion pairs of jeans that I own and how I definitely DO NOT need to buy any more…. EVER.)
I also found the application of makeup a tricky experience this morning… again, not life threatening and to be honest I barely wear the stuff but this morning I wanted my remaining eye to look a little bit less like it had shrunk into the mashoosive bag that is a permeant fixture underneath it. So I got out my mascara and eye liner and tried to apply…. mascara, tricky but manageable (after applying it to my nose at the first attempt) eyeliner, bloody impossible…. I needed to close my eye to apply it to the top lid…. errrr how the heck is that meant to work then? They don’t tell you these things BEFORE extraction do they?! (yes I appreciate that Dr Salvi had more important things to think about) I did attempt to apply the eyeliner but then gave up as I was starting to resemble Alice Cooper…. I stuck with the mascara and I think I may have to You Tube eyeliner application….. oh dear lord, wtf…. please can someone come and slap me in the face if I every actually do that…
In other news, I now understand what the hospital meant when they said do not make any important decisions for 24 hours after surgery….. I somehow ordered 100 or so toilet rolls which were delivered yesterday…. I must have been panicking about Brexit post op… and I had 10 pairs of ‘fashion’ glasses delivered today from Claire’s Accessories…. two reasons why these are useless… 1. Because they are children’s sizes and 2. I actually wear glasses and have a very nice pair that allow my to see properly out of my right eye which I will start wearing again once my patch comes off…. and so there is absolutely no point in me owning 10 pairs of glasses that I can’t see out of…and don’t fit. The irony of my new earrings does not escape me either….
As far as Saturdays go, yesterday was pretty rubbish. I had an appointment with a nurse at 9.15 which meant that parkrun was out of the question (a weekly ritual for me) and it meant that the kids missed out on their cycling/running fix, which, if any one knows my two chiblets, knows that missing out on activities spells trouble for the rest of the day.
The pressure bandage came off which was a relief, but it did leave me with my eye looking like I had had an argument with someone who has a socker of a right hook…. it is swollen shut, very bruised and pretty grim….. I think that I prefer that at the moment though so I can get used to it before it starts to open and I see what is in there…. I don’t have a prosthetic at the moment, just a plastic ‘conformer’ which is keeping the shape of my eye…. it makes me feel a bit queasy thinking about it tbh…..
As a family, we usually spend the majority of our time outside, either running, working, walking, hiking etc… and so find it challenging to say the least when we all stay inside…..together…. in fact, we find it so challenging that on Christmas day, we decided to hike around the Cow and Calf in Ilkley and have our Christmas dinner out on the Moors…. we just seem to be a lot nicer to each other when we are all outside….. It’s not to say that I or we have to stay inside at the moment, it’s just that I am so bloody knackard that I’m having at least 3 naps during the day (this is totally unheard of for me, I never even took day time naps when my kids were born!) The kids ‘challenging behaviour’ yesterday could not even be shifted with the creation of a pirates ship in the kitchen (I was feeling so smug that I had a legitimate right to be an actual pirate….) oh and the pirates ship was made (and is still there this morning) in a really convenient place right in the middle of the kitchen with just small gaps around to navigate around…perfect for old patchy here….
So today, in an effort to be nicer to each other, we decided we needed a relatively ‘normal’ day…. so up and out to junior parkrun, the kids then went off with the Hobbs/Vennings for some form of outdoor adventures in some random woods…. I donned my bloody awesome orange Nike trainers and have been for a short ‘power walk’… which felt very strange like I was swerving around from side to side (imagine how you walk after you have had a skinful of gin…) and Mr me-myself-and-eye is doing some form of car maintenance to make sure I can drive it in the next few weeks. I certainly need a nap now…..
So slowly things are returning to normal… well to as normal as they can…. I was going to include a picture of the offending eye, but it is pretty grim at the moment so I will wait until the bruising/swelling has gone down a bit.
Oh, and just to add insult to injury…. THIS popped up on my phone on Wednesday…. ffs!
So here I am, I made it to the other side and a different adventure begins here. I genuinely feel that writing is helping me process everything that is happening so please forgive me as I ramble my way through (oh and please forgive the typing… my excuse is that I only have one eye now!)
Saying goodbye to the kids on Tuesday night was possibly one of the worst experiences throughout the whole of this. My rational brain knew that I was going to be ok, but the irrational side of me made sure that I squeezed them extra tightly and smelt their hair just in case it was the last time. An emotional goodbye and we set off to Sheffield. It was really strange arriving in Sheffield to the hospital that was pretty much closed, visiting hours had just finished and there were streams of family and friends coming out of the hospital as we picked up the keys to our overnight accommodation. A basic room where every single spring could be felt through the mattress, but very grateful that we could stay in the hospital ready for the next morning. I think that watching ‘The Great British Bake Off Stand Up to Cancer’ may have been a mistake though as my already fragile state was sent over the edge with their story of a child battling with the a dreadful form of cancer.
Another sleepless night and I was up early on a beautiful Spring morning ready for the day ahead. I’ve always said that the NHS staff are bloody amazing and today was no exception. They gave me time, they were patient with my silly questions, tears, dreadful sense of humour and random anxieties and helped calm my nerves (I was also quite pleased that Mr Salvi wasn’t wearing his jazzy socks to theatre…) they made sure that I understood what was happening and drew extra arrows towards my left eye, just to make me feel comfortable that they had the correct one….and then it was time for me to go… a huge bear hug from Mr Me-Myself-and-Eye and then the long walk to the theatre.
There are a LOT of people involved with an operation, more than I expected and certainly more than is depicted on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy… (note to self, do not take what you see on that programme as gospel as to what happens in a hospital) The theatre itself was really quiet as they asked me again to confirm who I was, checked my QR code on my wrist band… yep really, you get a QR code! and then the Anaesthetist popped in the cannula. The last thing I remember is Mr Salvi wiping the tears away from my eyes….
Coming round, I felt like I had had an AMAZING sleep, I had a cracking head ache and the oxygen mask was annoying (as was the whopping great eye mask that I had on) but I felt like I had had a great nights sleep! I must have dosed off again because before I knew it I was up on a ward (either that or I had time travelled…. I actually like to think that it was the latter) I brought the average age down on the ward by 40 years (there is a theme to me being the youngest…) and the heat was approximately a billion degrees, which was pleasant…. and just to add insult to injury I was placed by a window that wouldn’t open, so I could see the beautiful Spring day and right across Sheffield, but there was no way I could access it….
I didn’t have my phone on me to send amusing messages or mindlessly scroll through facebook and so I had to just lie there and chill out before the hubby arrived. Time passed by being offered 4 cups of tea…which were all passable, thank god, and making friends with the lady in the next bed who was 80 and had 3 children, 6 grandchildren and was one of 11 herself.
The rest of the day was pretty uneventful and I was surprised at how good I felt… It could have been because it was international happiness day, it could have been all of the positive thoughts and love that were sent my way or it could have been the wonderful drugs that I was on…. I think it was a combination of all of them!
Mr Me-Myself-and-Eye arrived with my phone and Sushi and we both sat and chatted and took some silly selfies…. it’s actually quite possibly the longest time we have spoken without being interrupted since having the chiblets….. good to know that we don’t have to do that again for at least another 7 years…. I was especially grateful when he informed me that he had packed his running kit to go for a little run the next morning and he was looking forward to his award winning breakfast in his boutique hotel that he had booked….. I had a feeling that this was turning into a mini city break for him….
My lovely nurse Rhona popped up to see me before she went home, as did my Dr who had a massive smile on his face and told me that it was his best operation that he had had in a month! Not really sure how to interpret that… did that mean he was utterly s**t before hand or had messed up a load of ops in the month before….? I had reliably been informed before my op that my Dr was ‘world class’ and the ‘best that there could be.’ Obviously that made me feel great, but also got me thinking that they must say that to everyone? They are not going to go around saying…”Well, we couldn’t get you the world’s best, so we got you the second best…. they are a little bit c**p but they get the job done…”
Once visiting hours were over and everything started to wind down for the night, I could feel the panic starting to descend. I am really good at quietening down my Siren voice in the day and pushing away negativity, making sure that I fill my heart with positivity, love, life and Mini Mermaid, but at night, Siren can get loud and wants to take over my heart and head. Hospitals are really strange and eerie at night time, it’s when the cries and pain are at their loudest and sleep isn’t really an option. The last time I had to stay in hospital was when I had my kids and the night was filled with the cries of the new lives, mumma’s walking the corridors settling their new charges and midwives and nurses chatting happily and helping feed the little bubbas. This time is was very different, the cries were from people in pain, lonely and scared and it was hard to block the sounds out, I wanted to go and help comfort people but couldn’t. In the end I plugged my earphones in and listened to radio 4, waking up probably every 30 minutes or so but feeling comforted by the shipping forecast, the world service and the classic, farming today.
So there we are, it’s done. A new stage of my life now begins. It’s going to be a bit different and at times challenging, but my cousin reminded me of a phrase I said to her when I took her out on a very pleasant 3 mile run 13 years ago ‘You’re a Corne, we don’t give up’ I am certainly going to embrace this with each new stage that this one eyed business brings… thanks Becks!