GUEST BLOG BY THE INSPIRATIONAL ALEXA
“I like this picture because of me and the world around me. I look at the picture and do not care about my funny hair, my long arms and huge hands, my grin, my funny trousers. I see my friend taking the picture on a warmish day, I can hear her laughing and I feel safe.”
I am Alexa. I relocated from Germany to London, my favourite city, in June 2012. In 2014 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a mastectomy, followed by 6 cycles of chemotherapy and 3 weeks of radiotherapy, all at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, near to my new home in Chalk Farm. For at least the next 5 years I am on Tamoxifen.
My friends and family wanted me to return to Germany for treatment but I decided not to. I could not stand the thought of living in a guest room while I was ill and feeling down. I wanted to be surrounded by all the things I love, including my new life in London. For every chemo cycle one family member or friend came over to help out for a few days and after they flew back home I had help from friends and colleagues from London. They brought me cooked food, laughter and distraction. It was in this time that I realised that some colleagues turned into real friends.
From Facebook and 52 Lives I came across your Facebook page and bought one of the 101 Things-Hoodies. Please find attached 2 pictures where I wear it:
The first picture was taken by my friend Birgit. I go to see her and her family in Felixstowe, Suffolk regularly. I went there and because the weather was quite nice I wanted to see the port of Felixstowe. The best place to see it and have a good overview is from the Fort Felixstowe.
I like this picture because of me and the world around me. I look at the picture and do not care about my funny hair, my long arms and huge hands, my grin, my funny trousers. I see my friend taking the picture on a warmish day, I can hear her laughing and I feel safe (It´s maybe because of the walls surrounding the fort).
I also like to look at the other people/strangers in the picture. The girl in the right corner seems to thing “What is that crazy lady doing?”. And other visitors do not notice me at all, they just do what they were coming for, to visit the fort.
Sometimes it is such a good feeling that, although my life changed and shifted so much during the last 15 months, the world has not changed much and people keep on doing their things without knowing me or my story.
In the second one you can not see the logo well but I am getting something I always wanted to get, a tattoo. I never knew what design to get and where on my body to put it but when I was diagnosed with cancer I knew it before I started treatment. It is a “C” around my ankle, starting as a black dark letter, turning into a bird swarm.
One of the birds is red symbolising a hot spot in my pelvis, doctors found in a full body scan after my diagnosis which could be a metastasis. I always loved birds. So I hope to turn something really scary and horrible into something beautiful.
THE TROUTS TAKE ON BERLIN
I’ve wanted to visit Berlin for such a long time and I got the chance earlier this year but as it was for work I didn’t get to see anything at all.
So when the Pharmaceutical company Roche asked me to go and speak at a conference over there I cheekily asked if they wouldn’t mind delaying my return flight home so I could do some sight seeing.
My mum has always wanted to go to Berlin so I asked her if she fancied coming to meet me and when I told my brother we were going he also jumped at the chance. Sadly my dad couldnt make it otherwise it would have been a complete family affair.
We don’t often go on trips like this as a family so this was a rare treat.
I met so many amazing German people on my trip I immediately fell in love with Germany without even going there.
There is so much to see in Berlin. It’s not the prettiest city in the world but it’s packed with character and it’s history is beyond belief.
The highlight was without doubt spending some quality time with my family. We ate, we laughed, we chatted and we walked….a lot… but In-between all of this we also saw some incredible sights.
Here are a few which make Berlin a worthy addition to your anti-bucket list:-
There are parts of the wall located all over the city but our favourite part was the EAST SIDE GALLERY which consists of a mile long stretch of all which is the worlds largest open air mural collection. Over 100 paintings which help describe the nations euphoria when the wall finally came down. It’s quite surreal to think that this wall once separated an entire city.
The idea for this incredible gate was conceived when the artist visited the Acropolis in Athens. It’s amazing in the day but even more incredible at night. At the weekends illuminations are projected onto the gate which literarily took my breath away. Have a look at the video further down on this page to see it in action.
It is difficult to describe how it feels walking through this maze of concrete blocks but you cannot help but feel moved by it. The memorial covers the area of a football pitch and consists of large concrete blocks at different heights designed to to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.
As I walked through in silence it was hard to grasp how 6 million people could have been murdered for doing nothing more than being Jewish.
This incredible building is the used as the German seat of Parliament. It’s been burned, bombed and damaged throughout the years but it’s risen from the ashes and is a must when in Berlin.
The famous glass dome is something of architectural genius and blew us all away. You can walk right up to the top.
Best of all were the 360 degree views of Berlin from the roof.
THE JEWISH MUSEUM
Both heartbreaking and inspirational. This incredibly designed museum is an education in Jewish history.
It’s is packed with real life artefacts each with their own story. Many of the stories are heartbreaking but one which warmed my heart was that of jeans maker Levi Strauss. See pic to read story.
We stayed in Berlin in for two and half days which was a good amount of time to see the main sights.
There is still so much more to see and do so maybe add on a day or two to fit it all in.
THE MACMILLAN PROFESSIONALS EXCELLENCE AWARDS
An immense honour to be the closing speaker at the Macmillan Professionals Excellence conference and awards ceremony last night.
This ceremony is used to recognise the amazing work of teams and individuals across the country and celebrate all that Macmillan Cancer Support stand for.
To receive a standing ovation from anyone let alone from such inspirational people was a truly overwhelming experience…..as was meeting Strictly Come Dancing legend Gethin Jones who hosted the event! My true Strictly geekiness was fully unleashed on the poor guy!
Hearing of the projects and services that have been implemented by Macmillan to support families affected by cancer never ceases to inspire me.
I can’t emphasise enough just how lucky we are to have a charity like Macmillan Cancer Support this country.
Amazing people doing life changing things.
A VISIT TO NUMBER 10
At number 10 today discussing all things Kindness! Exciting times ahead for the School Kindness Project.
Donald Trump, we’re ready to convert you!;)
I’VE GOT SOEMTHING TO TELL YOU
Some of you may remember I recently filmed a TV show with Amanda Holden and my wonderful parents Alan and Phyllis.
The show is called ‘I’ve got something to tell you’ and involves people disclosing important things to those close to them.
This was a surprise for my parents where I wanted to thank them for everything that they have done for me. They are an enormous part of why I’m still here today.
I’ve put them them through a lot since my first illness as a child and when I was approached to take part in this show I thought this would be a lovely way to thank them.
I must confess about a week before we filmed the show I thought I may have made a terrible mistake. I asked myself if this was something I should do on national television and thought about cancelling.
I am now so glad I didn’t pull out of doing the show. We never really talk about what it was like for my parents when I was ill, especially when I was a child so maybe it takes something like this for it all to come out.
The show aired last night and it had me in tears hearing my mum and dad speak about how they felt when I was diagnosed.
Cancer and illness doesn’t just affect the person going through it but also all those close to that person.
I firmly believe that my parents went through a much tougher time than me when I was unwell.
For those of you who watch the show you will see that they are the most amazing and loving people in the world.
I am so proud to call them my parents.
To all the carers out there, you are all amazing and deserve the same support as those fighting illness. Thank you for all that you do. I hope you know just how much you are needed and appreciated.
I’ve Got Something to Tell You is available on sky and cable catch up on the W channel.
HAMILTON ISLAND AND THE GREAT BARRIER REEF
Seeing the Great Barrier Reef was one of the first things I added to my list back in 2012. For years I had stared in awe at photos of this incredible reef in my National Geographic magazines. I missed out on ticking this off my list when I was last here in Oz…but not this time!
Thing No.21 on my list was initially to ‘Dive’ at the Great Barrier Reef but I had so many varying opinions from my vascular doctors about whether or not it was safe to dive with my blood clots I decided I wouldn’t risk it so Thing No.21 became – Snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef!:)
To achieve this particular thing on my list, Jaime and I ventured to Hamilton Island which is one of the 74 awe inspiring Whitsunday Islands located right in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.
We were on a bit of tight budget this year, so we booked just two nights in a self catering apartment. Eating out costs a fortune in Australia, so doing it this way saved us loads of money. To be honest though, when you have a view like we had, you don’t really want to go anywhere else.
As you will see from the photos, the island and apartment views were breathtaking. Everywhere you look is a picture perfect view. It was such a surreal feeling waking up in the morning to the view of the emerald green waters and cockatoos sitting on the balcony railings. We were both in heaven!
Hamilton Island is pretty small but to help you get around there is either a free bus service or you can hire a golf buggy which we did for a few hours on the last day. So much fun!
We hadn’t done any research before we got there, so to see the reef we went with one of the on-island tour operators called Explore and did a half day snorkelling trip to a stretch of reef about an hour away. This was great fun and the company were so friendly but I must confess we were both slightly disappointed as we expected to see the brightly coloured coral we had seen in all the magazine photos. We thought this lack of colour might be due to coral bleaching which is a result of rising sea temperatures but it turns out the reef we were taken to was just pretty deep and as a result quite dark. It was also quite cloudy which didn’t help either.
It was of course still stunning but just not what we expected. The fish however were bright and beautiful and floating there and letting them swim around us was just incredible.
The reef stretches for over 2300km and is filled with so much beauty and diversity, so this is a definite addition to your list. An amazing experience and to share it with Jaime made the whole experience a dream come true.
FIGHTING CANCER IN STYLE
Jaime and I got a chance to put our glad rags on recently for the annual Topic of Cancer Purple Ball.
Such a fun night packed with magicians, auctions, West End and TV stars, choirs, great people and of course one of my heroes, Nigel Lewis-Baker MBE who is the chairman and heart of this wonderful charity.
Nigel co-founded ToC, to raise money for research into immunotherapy and to support those with cancer.
Nigel was diagnosed with incurable advanced prostate cancer in 2004 and he’s still here 12 years on helping change the lives of others. Incredible!
Immunotherapy has been described as a ‘game changer’ in the fight against cancer and I firmly believe that it is the future of cancer treatment.
For more info visit – http://www.topicofcancer.org.uk/
A wonderful night for a wonderful cause. A huge well done to my fellow trustees for such an amazing night.
Hope to see you all there next year.
I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by a wonderful guy in the states called Lee Silverstein who is a fellow Wilms and bowel cancer survivor. Lee is the first person i’ve ever spoken to who has been through the same experiences with cancer as I have.
Lee now interviews people from all over the world who have experienced bowel cancer, as a way of helping and inspiring others through this all too common and awful disease.
His podcast, the Colon Cancer Podcast has helped thousands of people so far so please check it out when you get a chance. It’s a lot more fun than the name suggests!:) It can be found on iTunes and android.
I hope you enjoy this interview and it helps you in some small way. It pretty much covers everything i’ve learned throughout my experiences with illness and 101 Things To Do When You Survive.
Interview starts 10 minutes and 15 seconds in.
AND THE NAME OF MY BIKE IS……
Firstly, a huge thank you to everyone who sent in suggestions for the name of my new bike. I absolutely loved hearing the reasons for the names you put forward.
At the weekend I took my lovely new bike out for a spin in the beautiful Richmond Park (one of my favourite places) and I thought about what to call it throughout the entire ride. The name ‘Flash’ was immediately eliminated after a little girl overtook me on a trike! Chris Froome I was not!
It had been a couple of years since I’d been on a bike but I absolutely loved it. The sun was shining, the deer were out in force and I didn’t get a puncture! Result!
On Tuesday I plucked up the courage to cycle on the busy roads of Hampton to Bushy Park the so i’m slowly getting over my fear of cars…kind of… I’ll have to keep working on that one.
So without further a do…..
There was one name in particular that popped up a few times in your suggestions that made total sense. ‘Angel’, the name of the event (Angelride) that inspired me to buy this bike and also one of the greatest experiences of my life.
A lovely woman called Sandra Holland then came up with the name ‘Gabriel’ and I thought YES! The archangel Gabriel and also the name of one my favourite songs ‘Gabriel’ by Lamb. If you haven’t heard that song then please do check it out. One of the most beautiful songs you’ll ever hear with lyrics that will make your heart melt.
So gang there we have it. The bike that I will use to cycle both the length of Britain and across the USA is called ‘Gabriel’ or ‘Gabe’ for short.
Thank you so much for the inspiration. Fingers crossed Gabe will also miraculously sprout a couple of wings to help me up those hills. Judging by this weeks performance, I think I’m going to need it!
TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR THOSE WITH PRE-EXISTING MEDICAL CONDITIONS
If you have any type of pre-existing medical condition including cancer and need travel insurance then these guys are the people to see.
Because of insurancewith I was able to travel the world at an affordable price with all my ‘conditions’ covered!
Check them out and if you can, please share and take a moment to vote for them for the British Travel Awards. CLICK TO VOTE
They deserve all the publicity and recognition they can get for enabling those with disabilities to travel at an affordable rate.
Visit their website here – insurancewith