Breast Cancer and Me.

Just over a month ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

When the consultant told me, it was as if all the noise had been sucked out of the room. I knew I had a lump, so I got it checked and half-convinced myself that everything would be fine. But instead, on a beautiful summer’s day, I was told that the lump in my breast was cancerous.

I remember few things in that initial blur except my mum’s shock and the consultant saying the cancer was treatable – I clung to that word like a person at sea clinging to a rubber ring.

My mind went blank after that bombshell, until I went into another room with my mum and one of the nurses and cried my eyes out. A few minutes later, I had to have another biopsy, this time to check whether my lymph nodes were affected. I cried throughout – not because it hurt, but because I was in shock. Mum reassured me that whatever happened we would get through it, but I was in a daze.

Telling my family and friends was hard – every time I told someone close to me, I ended up tearful. My dad had no idea because I did not want to worry him until I knew the results. When I told him, he gave me a huge hug and tried to hold his emotions in check. I told my brother and sister later that day and there were lots of tears, hugs and some laughter, which was what I needed in a heavy situation like that.

The whole week leading up to the second biopsy result was awful. Everyone I know sees me as a positive person but I constantly worried that the consultant would have more bad news for me. When I went back, I discovered that my lymph nodes were also affected which was not great but, weirdly, I felt relieved knowing because waiting for results when diagnosed with breast cancer (or any cancer) is the pits.

I have had many health issues throughout my life, mainly concerning my heart. Countless operations, check-ups, a heart valve replacement – I’ve had them all. You could say I’m a veteran, but that makes me sound old (I prefer to be called unique, thanks). But this was something else. All my operations took place when I was younger and – if I’m honest – I did not understand the enormity and complexity of what I was going through. Whereas now, I’m older and wiser and understand what I’m facing.

Also when I had my heart operations, they were usually the last thing and once I got over that, I was on the road to recovery. With breast cancer, the operation felt like the beginning.

My operation was due to take place within ten days of my diagnosis but was postponed (with good reason) until a week later. I had a lumpectomy and axillary node clearance, but have to undergo another (minor) operation. I’m not as worried about that because nothing compares to the nerves I felt before my first op. After that, it’s all about what comes next: radiotherapy, chemotherapy or both? I’m steeling myself to undergo both treatments.

Physically, I feel ok. Although my wound is still sore and tight, it is healing well and feeling steady. I’m mainly thinking positive and trying to be good to myself. I have had so much love from my family and friends – but it is not always easy. I wish I could magic the cancer away. I wish I could go to the gym and (if I exercise hard enough) all this would disappear, but it does not work like that. So I distract myself by writing, drawing, watching TV and scrolling through Twitter.

My cancer situation has triggered a whole load of emotions. When I got the initial diagnosis, I was very upset and surprised at how angry I was. My other health issues had calmed down so I was looking forward to a lovely summer, going out and enjoying life. Now, all that was on hold and I didn’t know how long for.

Also, this is happening during the hottest summer Britain has had in decades. Bar the torrential downpour that came a couple of weeks ago, London has had no rain since May, just wall-to-wall blue skies and sunshine. It is both amazing and unbearable.

Now, ladies (and gentlemen), I cannot stress enough how important it is to check your breasts. If you feel awkward doing so then you need to start getting acquainted with your body. If you think something feels a bit odd but not enough for you to go to the doctor – DO IT ANYWAY. Too many people choose to ignore things instead. Don’t do this. Check yourself and get checked out. ❤️

©️ G. Holder 2018

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Korean Skincare Cleansing Routine: My Verdict.

I tried the Korean 10-step skincare routine that has revolutionised the beauty world. Here are my thoughts on how it went…

Why?

I am a sucker for beauty products and love trying and buying new skincare items and finding different ways to get great skin. Although my skincare routine prior to this made my face flawless, I had been wearing more make-up recently and was keen to try out Korean-style cleansing, so I threw caution to the wind and went for it.

The method.

The 10 steps to glorious skin Korean-style are laid out below:

To start with, I cleansed my face with extra virgin olive oil almost everyday, smothering it all over my boat-race with abandon before wiping it off with a hot(ish) cloth. I then used my soap-free face wash (from a well-known brand) or my cleansing lotion to complete the double cleanse.

After that, it was onto the toner, then I gave the essence a swerve. I will freely admit that I sort of skipped that part because I am a cheap bitch and did not fancy paying over £60 for something that may or may not have aggravated my dry and sensitive skin. I am a high-street kinda girl – nothing wrong with more expensive items but high-street stores have upped their game when it comes to skincare.

Also, facial essence is quite a highbrow product and I could not find many on the high street, only online at ridiculous prices. So I used a Vitamin C skin booster as an inexpensive alternative to the essence and mixed it with my facial serum. But the strong scent of the skin booster triggered a reaction (the serum was not fragranced) so I had to stay away from that as well.

I finished off with the final three steps (eye cream, Shea butter and cocoa butter) and went on my merry way.

The result.

I was so enthusiastic when I started adopting the Korean skincare routine. It may have ten steps but it was not as long-winded as I thought it would be. I enjoyed the self-care element of it, as you couldn’t really rush yourself. You had to give yourself a bit of time to devote to your face and that practice was nice.

But I soon realised that double cleansing literally meant over-cleansing. Yes, the routine removed every last bit of makeup from my face, but a few days after I started, several dreadful dark patches rocked up on my face. I’ve had these patches many times before and now they are on my forehead and all over my cheeks and around my mouth. The irony is my face felt good and not dried out or dehydrated, but the dark areas showed up to a party they were not invited to, along with a load of blemishes and have scarred my face.

The Koreans are all about looking after their skin with more than a face wipe and, while I understand that this is beneficial, there is such a thing as over-cleansing. The whole ten-step routine proved too much for me. The glowing skin that I had a fortnight ago had gone and it was all because I over-cleansed. My skin was telling me, ‘Leave it, Gill,’ and I did not notice until it was too late.

I still think oil cleansing is a good way to cleanse your skin, especially if you have been wearing make-up all day. It purged all traces of foundation and concealer, but it also dried my skin out and gave me an uneven skintone. However, I will continue using this method, but not so often – once or twice a week rather than everyday. After all, less is more. People with oily skin would more than likely find double cleansing to be a real boost to their skincare regime but for me, doing that on a daily basis was problematic.

So now I’m going back to basics to restore my face to its former glory. Bish, bash, bosh.

Overall, I’m glad I tried the routine by I realised that a lot of these skincare trends aren’t for me. Ten steps to flawless skin is not happening via this method. I’m keeping it simple from now on.

Beggars Belief.

Another day, another example of a council showing their callous disregard for those in their region. Fresh from councils putting spikes in doorways and weirdly shaped steel straps on benches to deter homeless people from sleeping rough, now Poole council are to start fining beggars £100 for bedding down in their city centre. Where these beggars are going to find the money to pay off said debt is another matter.

In this day and age where many people are one missed payment away from ending up on the streets, this is a pretty shitty idea. The price of everything is going up but people’s salaries are often not enough to cover their rent or bills and many are constantly teetering on the edge. Whatever happened to helping residents? Because let’s be honest, that is what these homeless people are. They barely have much so how are you, dear council, planning to collect the money from them? Prise the pennies out of their cold hands?

There must be a better alternative than enforcing fines that will not be paid. How the hell are they going to pay? They have no fixed abode yet will miraculously have the funds to cough up £100 each time they are caught sleeping in a car park. It will be like a bar tab that is not resolved – and what happens then? Will that person continue to accumulate more fines until it reaches a level where it will be written off? If that is the case, surely it will be a pointless exercise and a failure for the council to add to their list.

Various people have been vocal in their criticism of the plan (which was originally put off due to the anger against it) and more than 3,500 people have signed a petition to get this new plan shelved. But it’s to no avail, as this fining fiasco is to go ahead next month. It does not seem like they will differentiate between ‘professional’ beggars and those that are genuinely in hard times either – it’s a one size fits all policy, which makes things worse and makes absolutely no sense.

Nobody wants to see homeless people sleeping rough but this is not the solution most had in mind. The government must do more than pay lip service for those in need. It should not be left to the likes of Shelter to always step in and help the homeless – this is a nationwide issue, after all.

What about helping the homeless to not be in such a situation? Give them the means to find other accommodation or something. Perhaps open up a soup kitchen for the whole year, instead of the odd one at Christmas that can barely hold the total number of homeless in your borough? Anything must be better than treating them like an empty cash machine?

I don’t know what Poole council hope to achieve from this but it is likely they will target those that actually need their help rather than this nonsense. Good luck to them trying to enforce this – maybe some good will come out of this but judging by the way it will be implemented, I doubt that very much.

So Late and So Awkward.

Time for some praise.

I finally got round to watching The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. I have been meaning to for some time but I’m terrible with most television unless it’s Line of Duty (I always watch that shit live because it is amazing). Family and friends recommend boxsets to me and I never get round to watching them. I still have an unopened DVD of the first series of Mad Men on my shelf- that’s how bad I am.

So I thought I would watch Awkward Black Girl and see what it’s like, especially as I like Issa Rae and I haven’t started watching Insecure yet (See? I’m rubbish at this).

It is absolutely brilliant. I devoured the first series in a few hours; the second one in an evening- it’s that good.

Awkward Black Girl is about a woman called Jay and how she navigates through life with her awkward self. There are many hiccups along the way (some self-inflicted, others not) but the sheer brilliance of the writing and acting resulted in one of the funniest programmes I have ever watched. I also discovered to my detriment how difficult it is to watch this show at work. The episode where Jay is at a party and everyone on the dancefloor is abruptly stopped by the DJ so they can sing ‘Happy Birthday’ had me sitting at my desk unable to laugh as hysterically as I wanted to for fear of embarrassing myself, so I ended up convulsing with laughter instead.

Not only is Awkward Black Girl incredibly funny, it resonated with me because I am definitely one of them. I thought I was the only one who felt like this but apparently not, judging by the number of comments left after each video. Most people seem so self-assured and composed, while I’m usually the muppet who stumbles and trips over her words and is constantly trying to please other people instead of myself.

Her passive-aggressive behaviour struck a chord as well. That desire to tell someone to fuck off but instead you bite your tongue and repress that feeling? That’s me every single day.

Before anyone says it’s a bit late for a review considering that it came out in 2011 and Issa Rae and Tracy Oliver have moved onto bigger and brighter things… yes, I am late to the party and nobody is more annoyed about this than myself but well, better late than never. Awkward Black Girl is fantastic, relatable and reflects my life far more than I imagined. If you have not watched it, make it a priority to do so.

Grateful.

I was sitting on the train this morning in a bit of a mood. The same old feeling of comparing myself to other people plus not getting enough sleep combined to put me in a funk. But then I suddenly thought that this is bullshit and started thinking about all the things that I should grateful for. I must admit, I’ve seen those ‘gratitude list’ ideas and was sceptical about them as I would make a list and be pissed off about something else ten minutes later- so bang goes my gratitude. But I might as well give it another go and see if it snaps me out of this funk I’m in…so here goes:

I’m alive.

It’s a beautiful sunny day- a little chilly but glorious.

It’s Friday!

I’m wearing my bright pink nail polish and red lipstick. Now this made me wonder- does this fall under the category of being ‘grateful’? Then I thought, yes it does. In some countries or in the past, I wouldn’t be allowed to rock my red lipstick or such fluorescent fingernails- I’d be branded a Jezebel or worse, so thank goodness I live in a country and a city where I could wear glitter on my lips if I wanted to…just not necessarily to work.

I got a seat on the train. Always got to be grateful for such a thing. I’ve seen people fight for a seat and it’s not pretty. Now I’ve got one, I can have a nap or read a book or observe other passengers and imagine what kind of lives they lead once they step off the train.

I’ve got a job (and a decent one at that).

Got a roof over my head. My heart breaks think for all the people in Texas and Louisiana who are battling Hurricane Harvey as I type, wading in horrific levels of water just to find shelter. People who have lost everything and have nothing but the clothes on their backs. Or closer to home, those people who are homeless in this country, so I’ll be forever grateful for such small mercies.

My family and friends. They’re all here and present, as mad as ever but that’s how I like it.

Once my bleary-eyed self has fully woken up in the morning, I usually do feel a sense of gratitude. I’m not the type who awakens with a spring in their step singing ‘Joy to the World’ but being vexed on a beautiful morning like this when there is no need to be is something that needs to be nipped in the bud. So here’s to trying to be more grateful for all the good things in my life.

Sympathy For the Devil.

Anyone expecting Donald Trump to properly condemn the Nazis and fascists that descended upon Charlottesville over the weekend is bonkers. Forget his previous robotic condemnation speech read off an autocue, he said what he really thought last night at Trump Tower.

He won’t condemn them outright because they make up a significant proportion of his supporters. But then, why would he denounce so-called white supremacy when he is one of the very people it benefits? He’s white, filthy stinking rich and (somehow) the President of the United States. But even if he wasn’t POTUS, white supremacy would still be a good thing for him because he fits the mould so how can he lose?

This man spoke as if nobody should tackle the Nazis and fascists for their intimidation and bare-faced, tiki torch-wielding hatred. Even though the ‘alt-left’ (as he called them) held a peaceful counter-protest, he actually said this at Trump Tower:

“What about the alt-left that came charging… at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? (…) There are two sides to a story.”

“There were other people in that group [the white supremacy group] apart from neo-Nazis and the press have treated them unfairly.”

What on Earth must normal, decent law-abiding American citizens think when they see their president defending far-right protesters? It sounds like he’s saying ‘yes, the far-right started it, but if it wasn’t for the lefties this would not have escalated. Why can’t you let them be great?’

Why would anyone say that? Why would you trash the fact that the ‘left’ counter-protesters were peaceful? The far-right organised and held their ‘white supremacy’ protest, intimidating and fighting as they went and Trump, the President, defended them like they were the victims.

Trump has always been a loose cannon but surely there is no way back from this dangerous rhetoric. He even described some of them as ‘nice people’. There is no such thing as a nice Nazi, you fool.

By saying this, he has given the green light to those Nazis and fascists to carry on with their reprehensible behaviour. Far-right publications have happily clung onto his words since his infamous ‘on many sides’ quote. They will be in white supremacist dreamland after this. His speech was along the lines of ‘the far right would have got away with it if it wasn’t for those meddling, left-leaning kids’ and was exactly what they wanted to hear.

What Trump said should be unbelievable but well, it’s Trump. I shouldn’t be surprised but I am genuinely shocked at what he said and the manner in which he said it. He was unrepentant and said it with feeling, the total opposite of his robotic script-reading the other day. Everyone saw how easily it rolled off the tongue for him to condemn the left and portray the far-right as wonderful people.

Oh, and to Paul Ryan and the rest of you Republicans slating Trump: you may condemn and criticise him for what he said and the whole notion of white supremacy, but he’s still president and we all know you’re not going to get rid of him when you have near-absolute power in the Senate. Until he leaves office- and I cannot see that happening anytime soon -your words are just a load of hot air.

Heading For The Brexit.

Fresh from watching Alastair Campbell and Nigel Farage squabbling on Good Morning Britain on Tuesday morning (with Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid grabbing the metaphorical popcorn), Britain’s European Ambassador delivered a letter yesterday lunchtime to trigger the start of our departure from the European Union. 

Yes unfortunately, the time has come for Brexit and for those of us who voted to remain, there’s not a lot we can do about it. We have to endure the incredibly smug faces of Farage, David Davis and the like blabbing haughtily about how Brexit will be A Good Thing (even though they don’t have a clue what’s going to happen next). 


As I wrote after the referendum was done and dusted, many Brexiteers seem to think that Britain still has an empire and we can lord it over our foreign neighbours. They think that we can swan into negotiations, demand what we want and not face any consequences for what we have voted for. They think that other member states of the EU such as Germany and France will not (for want of a better word) punish us for leaving. What a load of bollocks. 
The EU will be driving a hard bargain and will make life very difficult for us when the   negotiations begin. And when those talks are in the hands of the likes of our foreign secretary Boris Johnson, you’d be right for thinking that this could turn into an almighty shitfest. 


I keep hearing the phrase ‘global Britain’ being used over the past few days. What does that even mean? It’s just another bullshit soundbite- an empty phrase meant to have the public nodding their heads furiously in agreement even if they are as baffled as I am. If they mean ‘global’ as in selling our companies and industries off to China, Saudi Arabia and America, leaving us with no industries to truly call British then yes, they might be right.