I Will Use My Voice

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My sexuality is not something I decided on. It’s not a lifestyle I chose. I was born this way. My parents embraced my sexuality. They never questioned my choice of gender I associated myself with or thought that the gender I chose to date was a phase I was going through. They let me be me. In fact no one ever blinked an eye when I held hands in public, kissed the person I loved, dressed like a woman, flaunted female assets or when I had a crush and when I wanted to marry someone. 

No one blinked an eye because I am a straight woman. I have the ‘luxury’ of being accepted by society for who I am, the body I am in and the gender I chose to be in love with. Sadly, a huge percentage of the world’s population doesn’t have this luxury. The LGBTQ community fights every day for acceptance, to be understood and viewed as ‘normal’. The fight for equality. They fight for rights. They fight to have their love officially recognized. They suffer persecution. Judgement, radical views, hatred and violence. 

I am lucky and fortunate to be raised by two humans who taught me that everyone was equal. No one was better than me. No one was worse than me. That you love with your full heart. You treat people with kindness. You understand differences in others as qualities not negatives. You learn from others, not destroy them. 

I cannot fathom the hatred that oozes from people – who speak with venom and act with ignorant rage. I cannot comprehend how people can draw a line at who is worthy of life and who isn’t based on how and who they love….. LOVE. People are being denied their rights, brutally and violently attacked – verbally and physically for love and at its very worst – killed, murdered, their life taken from them for who they love. How is this right? How can anyone make the decision for someone else? How can one person decide for a total stranger that they don’t get to live their life because they lust and love in a way that isn’t what they feel is right? How are we in a world that hates so passionately that they witness murder and are not just satisfied in the death but rejoice in it. 

I am not gay. I cannot fully understand how it feels. I cannot begin to pretend I know what it’s like to be judged, questioned, degraded, victimized, hated or murdered for my sexuality. What I can do is pledge to be humane. I will support. I will fly the flag. I will speak out against injustice. I will love. I will stand hand in hand with the LGBTQ community. I will be a voice for change. I will be all that I can be for those that have had their voice silenced. 

Love is love is love is love. And I choose love. 

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I’m not a “Mommy blogger” 

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When we told people I was pregnant, friends and family who were parents told us how amazing being a parent was. How fulfilling and incredible it is. I may have rolled my eyes at times. Cliché after cliché of parents lamenting about how great kids were. We wanted to create a human but I don’t think either Joel or I would say we were children people. We don’t dislike children. We just don’t gush. I didn’t get it. I knew instinct would kick in and I would love my own. But I couldn’t understand how sleepless nights, no down time. No quiet time, expenses, messy houses, messy children, human whirlwinds could make you happy – as in, gushy happy. I just knew everyone said it so it must be true. I was (kind of, somewhat) a believer. 
  
Flash forward to today. Liv is 20 months old. Her and I are in Miami. Mummy and Daughter trip. 

We have had a fun few days. She’s an incredible human to be around. Cliché bias but I love her company. When she takes her nap or goes to bed I’m happy for some ‘me’ time but I also can’t wait for her to wake up as I miss her. 

  

We had a few minutes of quiet time as we drove on the freeway and from the back seat… A sweet “Mummy?” I reply and she says “are you happy?” I don’t know why she asked or what made her ask but it was so sweet and thoughtful and it hit me how this baby that we created understands emotion and feelings and cares enough to ask me. A selfless question. Wise beyond her years. Actually. She’s too young for years. Wise beyond her 20 months. She goes on to tell me “Mummy makes me very, very happy”. 

And there you have it. Cliches backed up. 

Fulfilled. 

A love like no other. 

This tiny human. My best friend. My travel buddy. My heart. 
And with all the sickly sweet gush-iness in the world…. It’s time for me to go to bed because the sooner I sleep the faster it will be morning and I can hug her again. 

Being a parent is amazing. I’m in the gushing club with a life time subscription. 

 
  
 

My Life Bundle – PTSD

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My Life Bundle – PTSD

My domestic abuse at the hands of my now, ex-husband, was so many years ago, I can’t remember exactly how many. Maybe 8. Maybe 9. Possibly 10.

I’ve built a happy, successful, wonderful life. I’m married to this amazing man who is a great husband; we made what I, with full bias, know is an incredible child. I am surrounded by friends, family and have a fulfilling job. I have ‘it all’.

Part of my life bundle is PTSD.

I escaped my abuser a long time ago but I still haven’t escaped the trauma. That, may, last a lifetime.

I mentor women, young and old, in how to survive abuse. I talk about safety plans, protecting yourself and your children, the court and legal system in the U.S., and how to find the right kind of therapy. Because, sadly and unfortunately abuse doesn’t end when you leave your abuser.

I coach women through life after abuse. I’m experienced in it. I suppose you could say I’m a subject matter expert.

As I lay awake at 1, going on 2am, my heart is still racing. My breathing, hard yet fragile at the same time. I’ve found my outlet to make myself calm; I write.

Fifteen minutes ago I was curled up in the fetal position, shaking,  my husband’s protective arms wrapped around me for safety as I brought my breathing back down from extreme panic levels.

Sixteen minutes ago I was fully entrenched in a horrific nightmare or night terror. Crying in my sleep. Screaming in my sleep. Shaking in my sleep. Sometimes all.

This is an occurrence he knows only too well.

He’s woken to me in tears, other nights screaming for help or begging my night terror visitor to leave me alone. Tonight, it was me gasping for air.

This is how, together we have learned to handle night terrors.

Trauma after domestic abuse is a major part of what survivors deal with. Just because someone leaves, it doesn’t mean their ordeal is over.

Night terrors are just one aspect of PTSD.

However many years beyond the abuse I survived, however many therapy sessions I’ve taken, however much I mentor and coach other survivors, I still carry this memory and this trauma. I carry this burden. I am not alone.

Please help victims of abuse. Please recognise abuse. Please stand up to abusers.

Please don’t give up on supporting someone just because they have left their abuser.

Life goes on. Trauma goes on.

 

 

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Information:

If you, or someone you know needs help please contact the domestic abuse hotline (US) for guidance, contacts and safety plans on 1-800-799-7233 or 0800-2000-247 in the UK

Don’t hesitate to call 911/999 in an emergency – know that is always better to be safe and protected.

 

Join me/follow me:

Twitter|Instagram|Spotify|LinkedIn|Pinterest|: @LondonGirlinDC

Snapchat – @LondonGirlinLA

When The Doctor Calls 

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It’s Friday afternoon and I’m at a work holiday party, chowing down on some low iodine approved salad and guacamole (my pre radiation diet is in full effect) and my phone rings. It’s my endocrinologist’s office:

Office: “Lucy the doctor has received your latest blood results and he needs to see you much sooner than scheduled”

Me: “Oh. How much sooner. I have radiation therapy next week. Should it be before then?”

………..
Generally I’m a pretty calm person. My husband always goes worst case. I go best case. We meet in the middle as a perfectly balanced pair. I’m calm. Well. I was calm…..

…………

Office: “I’m not telling you to drop everything but he needs to see you as soon as possible”

The conversation went on where I’m identifying if this is a literal life and death situation of if I have a day or two to find a time open in my calendar, normal work life. Shift some meetings. Skip a lunch, work in another hospital appointment for this thing called cancer. Turns out I need to go immediately. 

My heart is pounding and I’m trying to stay calm. There are plenty of perfectly reasonable non scary reasons he could need to see me right away…..right? I call Joel.

Engaging my most hopefully, calm voice and ask him if he can drop everything and meet me at the doctor for some urgent non discript news.  

Next I call my Mum. Same calm voice. Same conversation.

“Yes. I’m fine. I’m sure it’s nothing. Yes. Just spoken to Joel. He’s coming. OK. See you soon. Love you” 

As I gather my things and on my way out, two friends see me in the hallway, we had plans to go out that night to celebrate promotions and good times. They hug me and one says “no matter what, tonight we drink champagne to celebrate everything is fine or we drink champagne to get you through this. Your army is assembled and ready to battle”. – My friends are amazing. They get me. They know what I need and they just hold me up. I’m sure they noticed me holding back tears because my mind was racing all the while I’m saying “I’m fine”. My standard response these last few months. 

………..

There are those days when an hour flies by. There are days when an hour feels like an eternity. This day an hour felt like an eternity. 

My Dad has told me recently how I just handle things. I’m calm. I’m logical. I take everything in my stride. Even with everything going on these last few months. I remain practical and focused. 

This day I was like a duck in water; calm above the surface, kicking like hell to stay afloat under the surface. I’m not afraid to admit it. 

My logical side said it was nothing. My emotional side was racing. Blood work results. What could be urgent in blood work results? Remember my best case vs Joel’s worst case? This day, this Friday afternoon I let myself go worst case. As I drove to meet Joel. As we walked through the hallways of the hospital and as we held hands and waited and waited and waited to be called by the doctor in the waiting room…. I psyched myself up. I ran scenarios and plans through my head. To me. Worst case. The blood work. My worst case. The logical worst case was leukaemia. I sat in that waiting room. Holding Joel’s hand. Chatting about everything and nothing to keep our minds off things, my worst case was saying the words in my head so that when they came out of the mouth of the doctor I was already ready for it. I would breathe. Swallow. Nod and say “OK. What’s next?”. 

The door opens and the doctor calls my name. Joel squeezes my hand and in we go. Before we even sit down the doctor starts talking. My body tenses up. Here we go. I’m ready. 

“Lucy, my dear. I received your lab results today…”

OK….

“We need to lower some of your medication. It’s too high. I wanted to see you sooner rather than later”

I’m sure. If you were in that room with me last Friday you would have heard the exhale of carbon dioxide from my body. You would have seen the tension in my shoulders flood out of me. The weight lifted from me. From Joel, and as he immediately messaged my Mum and Best friend, miles away, I’m sure their relief was audible too. 

When I relayed this story to one of my friends here in DC on Friday evening, she said 

“I am so sorry that you experienced that moment, and you live with that fear. Sending big hugs, love and relief your way.” 

 That text, in that moment made me realise the huge change in my life, that I’ve been brushing off with “I’m fine” – the change that she recognised. That my mind went to the logical step, that my mind took me from my best case to worst case. That cancer. As mild as it has been. As uncomplicated as it has been, has changed me to look at a worst case as the possible option for my life. A fear I would not wish on anyone. That fear that so many people every day live with as a reality. 

My heart hurts for every adult who hears those words and every parent who hears those words about their child. 

Last Friday I was a lucky one. 

For everyone fighting that realisation. That truth. My every inch of being is in pain and sorrow for you. 

Life is too damn short. Life is unfair. But as I sat back and looked at my daughter this weekend, at my husband and parents and my friends. I, as ever recognise how wonderful life can also be – to have this love and light and strength around me to hold my hand, hug me tight and keep me going even when I’m hiding my emotions and fear – as we sat down to dinner Friday night. My army assembled – we said a toast to friends and good health and we laughed so hard we cried. It takes a village to get through life’s ups and downs and I have a pretty incredible village.  

Next up: Full body scan and radioactive iodine treatment (radiation) on Wednesday. 

Ask me how I’m feeling. I will write you a blog

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It’s curious to some people that I share so much on social media, so I’m sure it’s even more curious that I would tell you that I’m an introvert. I really hate attention. I hate being in a room full of people. A happy hour or cocktail reception is an Introverts hell. I’ve been told I’m anti social. But I’m not. I like talking to people. I just don’t enjoy certain situations. I hate making small talk. I so wish I could charm a crowd. Be the belle of the ball. I just can’t do it. I want to. I will work out how long I have to be somewhere before I can leave and how I can fill that time before I can leave. 3 minutes to go to the bathroom. 6 minutes pretending I have a call to make or an email to send. A minute getting a drink and 2 minutes deciding what to drink to really stretch it out. I take refuge in the fact that I’m not alone in this feeling and I also have great friends who will help me work in to a conversation so I don’t feel quite so awkward.

With that in mind it really surprises people that I would share my life to hundreds and thousands of friends and strangers on social media.

Last week it was confirmed that I have/had an aggressive form of thyroid cancer that had in fact  spread to my lymph nodes. 8 to be exact. All of which were removed. Thanks to a great skilled surgeon.

When the doctor told me the results I wasn’t surprised or shocked. I was resolute. Strategic. What do we do next? How do we do this quickly? How do we stop any further spread? I left with a plan that I was comfortable with. That I could understand.

I realised quickly that the results did not make me emotional. I can handle it. There’s a plan. I called Joel and my parents and gave them the facts. No emotion. I’m ok. Calm. Relaxed. Plan. Goals. Expected outcome. Steps. I like steps and plans.

That evening I had to go to a happy hour. People I haven’t seen since the surgery. Introvert kicks in on full power and I’m awkward walking in to a crowd. Questions like “hey how was your day?” A wholly innocent question. Questions with such a weight on an answer. There’s a socially expected answer and there’s the truth. A colleague approaches “Hey. How was your day?”  In my head my answer I’m toying with saying is “I found out two hours ago I have an aggressive form of cancer and they aren’t totally sure if there’s any left inside of me so… I have to scan my body and take radioactive iodine. My day was a little tough”. I run through the potential reaction to that answer and I can’t handle the response. I can be calm. But not when faced with others. So my answer is “fine thanks, yours?” As I smile. A fake smile. Knowing it probably shows all over my face.

I share my life to hundreds and thousands of people because it’s easier to be an open book behind a screen than one on one, this is how an introvert (with a craving to write) handles cancer.

Thank you to everyone who has reached out the last week or so and of course my incredible family. I wouldn’t be where I am without you and without your love, care and consideration.

The scar has nearly healed but the journey isn’t over yet. This week brings me blood tests, scans, more results and more plans. Along with a full work schedule of presentations, decks and deadlines. Funny how the world still turns  even when you feel like you have to stop, hold your loved ones and breathe. It all keeps turning. Whether you want it to or not.

Ask me how I am. I will tell you I’m ok.  Ask me how I’m feeling. I will write you a blog.

An almost healed scar

An almost healed scar

Schrödinger’s Cancer 

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It’s Saturday morning. 3am and i can’t sleep. Normally this would be typical but annoying. Today it’s a good sign. It means that the exhaustion of last week’s surgery is hopefully coming to an end and I will be back to ‘normal’ soon.

Let’s start with I had no symptoms.

Liv had kicked me in the neck during a tickle attack in August and it hit in just the right spot that gave me discomfort for longer than it should. I brushed it off but Joel insisted I saw the doctor.

The doctor saw nothing to worry about but sent me for a scan just in case (I rolled my eyes. Thank you for another medical bill for nonsense – but today I’m so grateful). The scan showed a ‘small nodule’ on my thyroid. Sounds so harmless.
They felt it needed a biopsy.

The surgeon doing my biopsy almost cancelled as the nodule was so small. (I rolled my eyes again – another medical procedure I didn’t need that was now roped in to. Again. I’m glad it happened). A week later, the biopsy showed abnormal cells.

Now I began to worry. The biopsy got sent to a geneticist, it’s no longer a cute little nodule. Now it’s being called a growth and I’m realising this is now a thing.

Another week goes by and genetic testing came back ‘suspicious’. Everything pointed to possible cancer and needing to get this growth out.

A few weeks passed the growth was renamed a tumor. (That’s a scary word) and I was ordered to have my lymph nodes scanned for possible spread.

That same week Liv was admitted in to the ER, with a Lymph node infection and growing abscess, and there we stayed for 5 days. Watching her, so worried for her as she went through surgery to remove the abscess in her lymph nodes. Everything for me goes on hold while we focus on her. The coincidence doesn’t go unnoticed as we both do battle with our lymph nodes.

Liv is out of hospital and thankfully healthy and I get back to business. Lymph nodes scanned and deposits found in lymph nodes next to the tumor. The doctor says “it’s highly unlikely this is benign” – it looks like cancer is spreading in to my lymph nodes.

I’m laying on the hospital bed. Joel holding my hand. Me saying to him “I’m going to be fine” because what else would I be if not fine, but in my head, shit just got real.
All this testing. All these doctors. I really might have cancer.

In the world of cancer this is no big deal. This is the ‘best’ cancer. This is cancer ‘light’. Something I’m humbled by when I think of loved ones who have been taken by this evil disease after years of fighting and torture.

We prep for surgery and agreed on removing the half thyroid with the tumor. It was the right thing to do. We didn’t need to do any more. Take out the bad half. Test it. See if we need to go back in for the rest. Positive. Only half is a good sign.

Two weeks later. Game day. I’m gowned. IV’d and ready to get this over with.
Ten minutes before going in for surgery the procedure  was up’d to full thyroid plus a bunch dof lymph nodes and “looking incredibly like cancer”. I looked at Joel and I signed on the dotted line. There was nothing to say. It had to be done. Take it all.
So here we are. One week post surgery.
A gnarly scar running across my throat held together with glue!

I’m laying right in the centre of limbo. I simultaneously did and did not have cancer last week. Schrödinger’s cat world.

Another week until testing comes back with results.

If I didn’t have cancer it was all a clever rouse on my body’s part to trick multiple doctors, surgeons, geneticists, pathologists and a couple of endocrinologists. If it is cancer; well then it’s gone and outta here before it got to throw down big time.

My sharing like this is not for sympathy or concern. It’s because you just never know what life will throw at you and how you will handle it. But what matters is that fate or God or whatever you may believe in caused the string of events to occur in the way they did that got me in front of that surgeon. I  say Joel and Liv have probably saved my life. That’s an incredible thing.

I’m thankful for pushy doctors every time I rolled my eyes.
I’ve learnt in the last week that thyroid cancer is the fastest growing diagnosed cancer in the world. But also the most treatable.
I’m so grateful that my friends didn’t look at me with pity. My friends rolled up their sleeves and said “what can we do?” And that’s what I needed. From the flowers to the toilet plunger on Saturday morning (thanks Jojo) to taking me out for lunch, the hundreds of texts and messages from around the world, friends and our au pair, Maddy helping with Liv, and my team at work picking up what I dropped to focus on this. We are so grateful for the support.
To my forever wonderful parents being my cheerleaders and late night virtual hospital visitors keeping me company in the wee hours and my incredible husband. My amazing husband, with the countless issues at home, Liv’s unexpected surgery a week before and with me to worry about – he’s held us all together.
With or without cancer. I feel like the luckiest woman in the world. Without love. There’s nothing. They all keep me going.

Who knows what could have been.

Here’s to next week.

The Third Trimester Blows…. Sorry. Blues

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Let me preface this rant with my disclaimer that hopefully will keep the Mummy/Mommy hate mail from coming my way and hopefully lead more to an ‘amen sister’ at the end of this….

I love my unborn daughter – she’s a 2 year project where I would be told I couldn’t get pregnant, my Husband and I suffered multiple heart breaking and physically awful miscarriages (for the most part – other than a few close friends and family, in silence – because you don’t talk about those things) and was told pretty much it wouldn’t ever happen….. so I/we 100% cried tears of joy last November to see that little smiley face on the pregnancy pee stick.

Making a human is absolutely incredible. The way your body just does it’s thing to nurture something from the size of a poppy seed to a 6+ lb baby astonishes me.

I cannot wait to hold her in my arms and to watch my amazing husband become a father. Just the thought alone is causing me to shed a hormonally charged tear just writing this.

I’m happy to become a mother. I believe in the miracle of baby making and I feel lucky and dare I say it, blessed to be able to conceive.

However, here’s where I’m going to get to my point….

In the last 24 hours alone I have experienced (a kind way of saying it) the following pregnancy related ‘joys’:

1) nausea
2) hot sweats
3) cold sweats
4) dizziness/feeling that I may pass out talking to people in a business setting
5) incredible heart burn followed by
6) incredible belching (or the other end if bystanders and I are not lucky)
7) congestion so bad that it causes
8) horrendous snoring that could cause divorce.
9) extreme tiredness which is made worse by
10) inability to stay asleep more than 2 hours at a time
11) baby kicks to lungs that feel like you are a personal punch bag that are at best distracting.
12) baby kicks so hard during the night you can’t stay asleep.
13) skin so stretched and warm that it’s itchy. Everywhere. All over – think mosquito bites and skin al fuego – remedy… none!
14) bodily fluid issues I won’t mention but you can google them (note to self: delete all search history when pregnant from work devices – that crap is embarrassing)
15) round ligament pain – commonly known as holy crap shooting cramps in your sides around the baby.
16) Kim Kardashian contenders for swollen puffy feet – mostly resembling sharpei puppies strapped to what were once identifiable as my ankles. (Oh how I miss my heels. Or any shoe not a flip flop)

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The infamous Kardashian feet

17) the ravenous desire to eat followed by
18) once food is provided – no desire to eat whatsoever.
19) Breast pain that makes you want to squeeze like crazy. But of course you can’t. You’re in a meeting silly. You can’t grab your boobs in a meeting.
20) being so rotund and massive you cannot get yourself out of bed or a comfy seat in any glamorous, classy way or sometimes at all.
21) diaphragm and lungs so squished by growing bundle of joy that climbing stairs, walking or merely laying down leaves you out of breath or feeling like an elephant is sitting on you.

And lastly but by no means least:

22) my personal pregnancy favourite – waking up in the night unable to breathe because stomach acid has risen while you sleep and found it’s way in to your breathing pipe and you are choking yourself to potential death and flailing around in bed gasping for oxygen, trying to sit up but you can’t (see #20) and panicking that this is your final living moment. Fat. Pregnant. Sleep deprived. Cranky and a beached whale. Can you easily get back to sleep after this happens? F no. (See #9 & #10)

Reminder: That is in the last 24 hours alone. There’s more. I’ve just been fortunate to only deal with the other stuff in that time period.

So yes …. As people have told me – I wanted a baby, carrying a baby is a miracle, a blessing and all that jazz – I agree – whole heatedly. Third trimester pregnancy blows. And I’m not ashamed to admit it. And I am done feeling shamed to say I’m not enjoying it and that I feel great. There is an underground movement of pregnant women who all feel the same way but it’s so taboo no one says it out loud. I’m saying it out loud. I’d shout it from a roof top if only I had the energy and lung capacity to climb to a roof top.

I’m sure there are women who have wonderful easy pregnancies. But I am not one and I’m no longer going to smile sweetly with my pregnancy ‘glow’ and say it’s all A-OK. Cos it really sucks there’s no get out of jail free card. There’s no “ok I’m done” quitter option. This is the real deal. And not just til she arrives but the rest of my life. I’m going to need that village they say it takes to raise a child.

My mother has many times said to me “one day, when you are a mother you will understand” teenage me rolled my eyes. 30 something me says “Mummy you were right – please help”

Time to go. It’s 4am. I’ve been awake since 2am and need to rebuild my pillow fortress. Pee. And I’m suddenly starving….

5 weeks 2 days to go. Wish me luck!

 

Aww Shar pei or my feet?

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