I may be wearing cotton but don’t worry, I’ve got a matching fan in my handbag to complete the look.
Penny lives in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire. She is 48 years old and was diagnosed with breast cancer at the beginning of lockdown, 2020. You may have come across Penny before by reading her blog post about the unusual things who got her through cancer treatment.
Spring Clean, Skincare and Cotton Clothing.
Spring is my favourite holiday and my favourite time of year. I love to see the blossoming daffodils, tulips, the endless roast dinners and relaxing with a chocolate egg. It doesn’t get any better than that, for me.
It’s the wonderful feeling of a new beginning, a new start. Winter has washed away the colour and our mood, leaving us bare, then Spring arrives with pops of colour all over the place and a feeling of hope. Spring is al about change. The days become longer and that feeling of optimism surrounds us all.
So, it seems funny to me that I was diagnosed during this time last year. I don’t dwell on the fact that I was diagnosed in my favourite season, because Spring is all about change and my life was going to change. Typically, Spring reminds me of the time I returned to the UK after living abroad, I was always glad to be home on familiar UK soil. Spring represented the beginning of that excitement, however Spring 2020 was going to be a very different for me.
There is no good month to receive a cancer diagnosis, but I always look at the positives and believe that there must be a silver lining even within the most difficult of situations. Spring would be the start of my chemotherapy. As the months passed, the seasons reflected my mood going through the endless rounds of treatment. Some days I felt so good and full of Spring energy and other days I felt that I just needed to sit in the shade and let the treatment do its thing.
By the time December arrived and I had finished my treatment, I needed to rest in the warm, let winter pass and wait for the new chapter that Spring would bring: recovery.
Having a tidy, organised environment is important to me. My friends would describe me as tidy and fairly organised. When I was diagnosed, my home and garden was going to be a place full of calmness; my safe retreat, my escape, my relaxing place. I needed that feeling of putting the key in the door, feeling glad to home after a day of scans, hospital appointments and chemotherapy. I had always felt that about my home but it was more important that ever that I felt calm in my environment. Let’s face it, with lockdown beginning, I wasn’t going to be going anywhere for a year.
Getting the right atmosphere effects how you feel, the colours you paint the walls, the food you eat, the flowers you grow. I think it all plays a part in our recovery and healing. I like to faff, if I’m honest. If faffing was a full time profession, I think I could qualify and, let’s me honest, I had time to faff all a wanted. I could spend a morning moving house plants about and spend the afternoon putting them back. Day done. The cancer experience felt like dropping a deck of cards that you struggle to pick up as they keep falling. It was organising and keeping control in this way, which made that process easier for me.
I also brought a large diary which I kept on the kitchen table. I would highlight dates as I went through treatment, because your head spins and it can be hard to keep track and stay in control sometimes. The last thing you need is to be remembering what day you need to go to the hospital because you didn’t write it down or save it on your phone.
The things I needed to change in my environment suddenly became a priority. It wasn't something I could put off anymore. Maybe cancer brings an urgency to change. I'm not sure.
The first thing I reorganised was my skincare.
This was my first priority, because I thought that treatment would take its toll on me and I would need some nice nourishing skincare in case of side effects. I didn’t think what I using was prior to my diagnosis would be enough, and more importantly, I wasn't sure if I would be good for my skin to use ordinary products during this time, or if I required specialist skincare.
So, I started looking online and came across Jennifer Young. I found that they came recommended on many charity websites.
I ordered a trial size and that was it, I was hooked. This was the first positive change. Luckily I didn't experience many skin-related side effects of treatment, but I wonder if that would have been different, had I not been using specialist skincare from the beginning.
I started to look at lots of different aspects of selfceare, from the deodorant I had used, to the vegan lipsticks and products with no harsh chemicals.
I placed baskets of little luxuries all around the house. That provided self love for me, another change. I started caring less about doing house work and ironing went out the window (not literally). Instead, I starting listening to audio books and lots of comedy. I would also lie on the living room floor on a regular basis, just listening to my breathing. It was wonderful. I was doing something for me. Before all this, I would not think to run a bath, mid week, at 1 in the afternoon on a Tuesday, lighting candles and adding beautiful natural bath oils before now. It feels great, almost if I am doing something naughty, but in reality I am spending some time on myself.
I also indulged in the Spring Sunshine Collection this Spring, to add some self love to this recovery period. The oils were like sunshine in a bottle.
Next on the list was reorganising cupboards
I started to really look at what I was going to cook and which things in the kitchen I could lay my hands on easily. Don’t get me wrong, I had always cooked and eaten well before diagnosis, but this was about cooking with a totally different agenda. Top of the agenda was ME. I was on on my own menu every day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I got a local carpenter to make me some extra space and racks in cupboards so I could reach things conveniently.
I labelled boxes and placed dark chocolate in baskets at the bottom of the cupboard so that I at least had to bend down to get the chocolate. A little bit of exercise before a treat and all that, I thought.
I cooked with different oils including walnut and sesame and arranged them all together. I displayed nuts and pumpkin seeds in nice glass jars.
The next re organisation was clothing.
My wardrobe was long overdue a chat, “do I really need to be looking at you on that hanger anymore? You have been on that hanger too long and have never moved off”. Never did I think breast cancer would be the driving force behind a wardrobe revamp.
I started to question and look at what I wanted near my skin and of course, the flushes of heat my body was experiencing with treatment and beyond, meant breathable clothing was going to much nicer.
So, out went the bright coloured polyester tops and in came the cotton. Now, don’t think cotton is for women of a certain age (even though I am a women of a certain age). Cotton can still look beautiful, classic, and more to the point, breathable. I thought that if I was going to suffer, then at least I would suffer in a nice sundress with a fan as a matching accessory.
I placed clothes on the bed and picked them up one by one and said "If I can replace you with a bright cotton colour, you are leaving my wardrobe. Sorry."
Everything changed last year and I learnt to just go with it, which of course, at times wasn’t always easy. I would be lying if I said it was, but I knew that the small changes I made could uplift me, make it a little easier and bring a smile to my face and that was worth changing.
So now that Spring is around the corner, I will embrace the change it brings.