A f*ck it attitude, a feast and a fantatsic fundraiser

I’m so sorry that it’s been such a long time since I’ve posted anything! It’s been a very busy few weeks/ months! So where to start…

Ok maybe I should just get the worst over and done with… so the last I think I told you about treatment was that I had finished radiotherapy for my head and I was going to have a head MRI just to see that everything had gone to plan. I’m pleased to report that (touch wood) that all came back ok and it seems the radiotherapy is working it’s little magic ion/radon (I really have no idea what particle it is) backside off! So that’s a bit of a relief! However… and I know you were probably waiting for that bit because I am me after all… I also had a routine chest X-ray.

I’d kind of been struggling at college since the beginning of April, I was just feeling quite tired, coughing a lot and I was really quite breathless! Just getting to and from the train station was tiring me out (I did suggest to my parents that I should get a Segway but you can imagine how that went down!). Sorry, getting off topic. So after an X-ray up in London I always have my oncologist appointment with Dr Strauss and she is fantastic. She’s always been straight with my family and myself about treatment, cancer, side effects, etc. and that’s what we’ve always wanted. She’s been my oncologist from the very start and I couldn’t have hoped for a better Doctor!

So the X-ray, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew I’d had a few problems but to be honest I thought it was probably just a chest infection! However, that wasn’t the case. We sat down in Dr Strauss’ room and she immediately asked me how my chest was feeling. I explained to her what was going on and she didn’t look surprised at all. She then listened to my chest and I sat back down in the chair. She said there’s not really an easy way to tell you all of this but the bottom of your left lung has collapsed (the lower left lung is where the tumour is, in which I had to have the chemo for and radio for). She then went on to say that there was sign of tumour growth on the left side and also on the right side. And that the lower left side was blocked from a tumour. Well that explained a lot… and all this time I thought I had a cough not a collapsed lung!

Ok, think you’ll agree, not great news. Dad and I were both a little stunned. Dr Strauss said radiotherapy was out of the question however there was one chemo left that we can use but to be honest ‘it’s no miracle worker’ and she said she would be more worried to give it to me in the thought that it might make me weaker and give me more chance of infection then actually do anything for the tumours.

So I think we pretty much decided then and there between the three of us that chemo wasn’t worth it. Dr Strauss gave me all of the necessary paperwork to look over in case I changed my mind and she said come back next week, we’ll do some CT scans and discuss any other possibilities.

So that’s what we did, over the week, as a family we discussed the option of chemo and we put a lot of thought into it! Although at the end of the day, it was my decision. But you know what, I didn’t feel qualified! I know it’s my lungs and my life but I really was pretty 50% / 50% for a while! How do you make a decision like this at 19?!

So we went back the next week and the CT scans confirmed everything that Dr Strauss had said. We decided on no chemo and I was supplied with a double bag of medication – yes double bagged because there was that much! They even asked me for ID and to sign some statement!! But it’s ok, I didn’t have to pay 10p for my bags (sorry, thought I’d try to lighten the mood with that one!). So yeaaaahhh… I have loads of medications and I still have appointments up in London with Dr Strauss every 3 weeks or so, just to check in but other than that I’m not on any treatment for my lungs.

I know it’s not a nice subject but I’ve always been honest with you guys! I haven’t been given a time or anything – Dr Strauss literally said ‘how long is a piece of string’, which completely makes sense, No-one knows what can happen! We are in contact with the local Hospice and we’ve had a few conversations as a family up there which I’m sure you can kind of imagine the stuff we’ve spoken about.

And, you know what, I’m ok with discussing it all, I’m not going to curl into a ball and pretend it’s not happening, what’s the point in that? To be honest the thought of having to go through chemo for a third time was a little terrifying. And yes, I am happy with this decision, I know there’s going to be good days and bad days but I have so many good friends and family surrounding me that I feel pretty ready to take this on. I’ve been to college a few times and I’ve started just doing things I want to do, which quite honestly is eating loads of food, have fun days out with friends and family and just enjoying my life! How many people get the opportunity to just do whatever they want?! Whether I’m ill or not I’m gonna grab onto that firmly with both hands!

Anyway… I always was a strong believer of getting the worst bit over and done with first! Kind of like eating all of your peas before you eat the nice stuff on your plate for dinner. Sorry to any pea lovers out there!

Right, I WENT TO THE FAT DUCK! And it was bloody amazing! I went with my friend Kirstie, her Dad and his Girlfriend and I think we all had an incredible time. The restaurant it’s self was actually pretty hard to find. It’s in Bray, in Berkshire and it didn’t really have a sign or anything, just a woman standing outside what looked like a pub in a Victorian dress! We followed her in and stood in a mirrored room for a minute or so and then we were taken through to the dining room.

We started our meal with a small liquid nitrogen meringue, flavoured to a cocktail – I had Pina Colada. It was just like cold, pina colada air in your mouth, crazy! We then went onto a beetroot macaroon with a horseradish filling, which again was so light but the flavour came bursting through!

 

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The Macaroon

 

Next was a dish of a smoked salmon royale with a pea consommé and an artichoke sorbet. That was followed by a soup, this one was a real eye opener to me! It was a rabbit and mushroom soup that was served in a little clear teacup. The left half of the soup was cold and the right half hot, however, they both had the exact same consistency and flavour! Not going to lie, I was pretty mind blown!

Next on the list was a box of cereal… so I always remember my Nan and Grandad buying these little variety boxes of like 8 different cereals and you’d always eat coco pops first and cornflakes were always left last! So this was a similar idea but with completely new ‘cereals’. The cereals were flavoured as tomato, bacon, black pudding and the milk poured on top almost solidified to enhance that kind of salty, greasy fry up kind of texture – ok, I’ve made that sound disgusting but it was actually really good!

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Our cereals with our toy to build!

Our next adventure was sound of the sea! The waitresses brought out a huge sea shell for each of us with headphones in it playing ocean noises. And then a postcard was brought out to me, now beforehand Kirstie had been sent some questions through from the Fat Duck and one of them was what is your favourite childhood memory. I lived in Cyprus with my Mum, Dad and Brother from the age of 5 -9 and I said that’s where all my best childhood memories are. So on this postcard it had a picture of Cyprus and on the back it was addressed to me and said ‘Childhood in Cyprus’. So I was pretty in awe of that!

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Anyway, the dishes…the first dish had a sea foam with pickled herring, pickled octopus and samphire, and it was definitely fishy! The next were three little ice creams! The first a celery and watermelon rocket lolly, the second a smoked salmon, avocado and horseradish twister lolly and the third, a crab ’99’! Next on our seafood stop was a jellied crab sitting in a rock pool like plate. The waitresses poured over a crab consommé to melt the jellied crab and reveal some caviar and flaked crab!

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These are the ice lollies.

We then moved onto a forest theme, the first dish was a mushroom and truffle dish with lots of different textures but predominantly these flavours – now not being a mushroom lover this didn’t really hit the spot for me but the presentation and work that had gone into it was incredible! We then had the ‘Mock turtle soup’. This came in a clear teapot in which we had to dunk golden tea bags into a clear beef consommé which we then poured over what looked like a quail’s egg (actually an artichoke jelly) with some pickled vegetables and some smoked ham pieces. This was a fantastic dish and the beef consommé had such a rich flavour! Then a tiny toasted egg sandwich was served.

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Next we were given our ‘menus’. The starter was a cuttlefish cannelloni with textures off peas, the main was venison, which was so succulent it was almost melt in the mouth! The dessert was a selection of textures of dessert wines and grapes, I really enjoyed this! The textures of cold sorbet and a biscuit crumb with a caramel shard was perfect! Next we were served 5 little whisky jellies which varied from strength, well I ate them all so I think I might be a new whisky convert!

The light above us then changed to a night-light colour, to show we were reaching the end of our meal. We were given fluffy spoons that smelt like talcum powder and the dessert was served after we all had a malted milk meringue. The dessert was a malted milk crumb with meringues, a caramel filled marshmallow and a goat’s cheese sorbet and it was delightful!!

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Here is our dessert.

The last course was called ‘Kid in a sweet shop’ which was fantastic, a tiny little Doll’s House/ sweet shop was wheeled out and opened up to reveal lots of little drawers. So like I said before we had been asked a few questions and one of them was what is your favourite fruity flavour: Strawberry, Raspberry, Apricot or Blackberry. I said strawberry and was served 4 little strawberry sweets, some you could even eat the wrappers from! They were all lovely!!

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We had such a fantastic evening and even got to look in the kitchens at the end! We didn’t get home until about 1.30 am but I think it was worth it!

On Friday 22nd April we had our annual Teenage Cancer Trust Dinner! It’s always such a great night with friends and family and this year we determined to go bigger and better!! We managed to get the most amount of guests we ever had and this year we had some really generous donations of raffle prizes and auction prizes. I think we were all willing to really push it this year!!

I was in the pastry kitchen this year but I did sneak off for some peeps of what was going on in the main kitchen and the restaurant a few times – I’d decided I wanted to be a bit of a photographer, well that was my excuse and I was sticking to it!! We were really highly supported this year and with some new ideas like the ‘photo booth’ and Teenage Cancer Trust coloured pick ‘n’ mix sweets on the table, I think our guests were suitably wowed by the evening! With many saying it was the best menu and dinner that we had held!!

I think I enjoyed it most this year with many of my friends and my Boyfriend, Will’s friends being there too, it really was a fun night! I did a video this year instead of a speech which I think really took the pressure off! Also I was worried if I did a speech I would just cough all the way through!!

We managed to raise just under £5500 which is the most we’ve ever managed! This means over the past 3 years we’ve managed £15000!! I couldn’t be more thankful to all of the Chef’s, students and other fantastic people who helped out, and of course everyone who came to support us! The meal tends to sell out really quickly so this year I had some friends ask if there was a way they could donate to Teenage Cancer Trust so I have set up a Just Giving Page… feel free to take a look! Thank you so much to everyone who has already donated!

https://www.justgiving.com/Emstoasttoteenagecancertrust?utm_medium=email&utm_source=ExactTarget&utm_campaign=20160506_70371

Here are some photos from the evening:

So that is me for know, I’m sure you’ve had enough of me prattling on! I’ve already started the Bucket List but I think I’ll save that for my next post, hopefully I’ll have done some more by then too!

Over and out! For now!!

The Student of the Year Awards

Back in December (after my first brain operation) I went in to college to say hello to everyone, get up to date with gossip and eat lots of food! I was wandering around talking to the Chefs and my friends when one of my Chefs gave me a certificate and explained whilst I was away on radiotherapy I had been nominated by my College for the national student of the Year award.

I was really honored and a bit speechless! It was lovely to know that my Chefs thought that highly of me! I didn’t win (I’m sure out of all the entries it was a bit of a long shot!) But as it turned out, I had been highly commended at the awards along with 9 other students from up and down the country.

So on Monday 1st February I attended an award ceremony along with my Chef lecturers and my Mum and Dad. And the ceremony was only at THE HOUSE OF COMMONS!! I know! So we headed over there, none of us really knowing what to expect and after an airport security type of entrance (which is always fun when you have a long titanium tube in your leg!), we were in!

The entrance itself was a big hall which wasn’t actually that impressive but once we got past that bit, it was incredible! Elaborate paintings on the walls and rows of statues down the halls. It really was an amazing sight! We were then taken through to another room where we were offered canapes (which became a game after a while of ‘who can eat the most canapes?’) and drinks. After a small speech about the students and the Association of Colleges, lots of photos were taken! We spoke to many people in the room and it was really cool to be in the presence of so many MPs and incredible students.

I think we all had a fantastic time and I really enjoyed myself and ashamedly got a huge amount of selfies!

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My Big Ben selfie!

I am very pleased to report I am back at college now and back in the pastry kitchen, eagerly trying to get on top of all of the work I’ve missed! I’m determined to finish this course! Our latest project has been chocolate work and that’s something I definitely enjoy!

We have our annual Teenage Cancer Trust Meal coming up in a month or so at the college. It’s always a fantastic event so full steam ahead towards that!

Ding Ding… Round 2!

I’d like to start off by saying thank you everyone for the such supportive responses that you gave me to my last post. I know it was a hard hitting one and I was a little bit more matter of fact then I sometimes can be but I think sometimes you’ve just got to be honest when you’ve had a bit of a tough time and it made me feel like a real weight had been lifted! So thank you for embracing it so well!

So I spent a nice peaceful Christmas at home – I don’t think I went to London once for an appointment – I promise I wasn’t boycotting hospitals or anything! I just didn’t get any hospital appointment invitations which I was really quite happy about!!

I even managed to get to some kind of even keel over Christmas! I had the staples pulled from my head which really wasn’t as bad as I expected (and I did keep them, I’ll let you decide for yourself if that’s a bit weird or not. For what it’s worth I think I’ve already lost them, well you can’t blame me, I’d only just had a brain tumour removed, I can’t remember everything! 😉 ).

I even managed to get into college a few times, do some Christmas shopping (well no one was going to stop me doing that!), meet up with lots of friends, had regular physio on my arm which was getting noticeably better everyday and even made the desserts for Christmas day!!

It really was a nice Christmas and new year! It was a slightly busier festive period than usual but sometimes it’s nice to do something completely different and it was a lot of fun! I made a chocolate orange tart, red velvet cake and white chocolate log! Considering I only have one and a half working arms I was very impressed with myself! Although because (again apologise but blaming brain surgery because I’ll take any old excuse!) I stupidly forgot to take photos!

So I had a few appointments lined up for the beginning of the new year and the plan was to get back to college. But of course it never runs smoothly does it?!

So on Monday 4th I went up to London for an appointment in London, I felt fine – I’d had a handful of seizures over Christmas but I thought maybe that was all just part of the moving on with brain surgery thing but things just got progressively worse over the week. My arm started getting weak again and my left leg started to feel quite unresponsive too! After the local physios coming around on Thursday they really weren’t happy and an emergency MRI was booked for me on Friday 8th.

Friday to be honest was a bit of a shit day. I woke up and just knew I felt wrong. I was struggling to walk, my left arm was just floppy and I was a bit of an emotional wreck. We went up to London on a train and after falling on the train we decided to get a taxi to the hospital. I had quite a nasty seizure in the taxi and once we got to the hospital I was rushed to A and E. The nurses and doctors were so on the ball that I was up on the Teenage Cancer Trust ward within an hour and I was already feeling a lot calmer knowing I was in the right place.

I’ve got to give so much credit to my Mum there. Normally I cry she cries – which is fine with us, sometimes it’s nice to have a crying partner! But she was so calm and concise through those crucial moments that it made me feel a lot better and weirdly proud of ourselves!

So I got an MRI and a CT scan done within the next few hours and by the evening my Mum had head home and Will was staying over night.

We saw the Doctor in the morning who had a brief look at the scan and said the tumour had come back.

The first thing that ran through my head was that was bloody quick! To be honest I had kind of expected that. I was glad to have an answer to be honest and it definitely didn’t hit me like a tonne of bricks this time!

So I stayed on the Teenage Cancer Trust Unit until Sunday and was taken to the brain surgery hospital on Sunday night ready for surgery with Dr Kitchen again on Tuesday morning.

I was probably just as scared this time for surgery – let’s be honest, its never something you’ll get used to but it was all a very similar procedure I believe.

I came back to the ward on Tuesday afternoon, projectiled everywhere again – this time it was a very impressive amount (sorry if that’s a bit graphic!) And then was in and out of sleep until about 6 in the evening to which Dad thought it would be highly amusing to see how far we can get through the evening standard crossword whilst I’m quite frankly off my face with morphine trying to force feed me carrot and swede (which actually wasn’t that bad!). I’m pretty sure I drifted off at 8pm and don’t remember much until the morning.

I know I didn’t have any hallucinations about giant bean bags or radiators this time unlike last time!

It was another difficult trip in hospital – like I said, its never gonna be easy and its never going to be home but I think we handled it better this time. I only had a few Teenage ‘I want to go home!’ Moments this time and I’m sure the steroids don’t help! Again, thank you Dad for putting up with my 6 o’clock tears and various shenanigans!

I had a drain in my head removed on Wednesday which unfortunately is just as disgusting as it sounds but once that was out I was free to walk around a bit and I soon found out my left leg was pretty much back normal (touch wood!) Which was a huge relief and my arm was slowly getting there too. I went down for an MRI on Wednesday night and soon was told that they couldn’t see anything on the scan. Again (touch wood) some good news!

I stayed in the hospital longer this time just to keep a closer eye on everything and I’m pleased to say (again touch wood!) No seizures for almost 2 weeks now. Fingers crossed it’ll stay that way for a while.

I managed to get home on Saturday night and felt in a better place this time I think. I was so relieved to be home and we celebrated with a massive Chinese takeaway (when I say massive I mean 11 dishes between 4 of us, we went all out!).

I still haven’t got many answers though I’m afraid – we presume that maybe some tumour was left from last time (all it takes is a few cells!) And I just wasn’t lucky enough to get it all removed the first time.

But I do have a plan. The ‘freaking lazer’ is coming back! Yes, I’m starting radio therapy on my brain in a few weeks to hopefully keep this little nasty bugger away!

After the results on my latest chest CT scan they seem quite happy with how I’ve previously responded to radiotherapy so we’re gonna give it a go in a few weeks. So yes, staying in London again for a few weeks but at least we’re doing something (and I’m desperate to go on an Oxford Street binge soon so I’m all up for that!!).

That is me up to date health wise I think! Sorry if it’s another shocker but I do have something very exciting to tell you which has kept me in high spirits recently!

I went into college just before Christmas and I was given quite a surprise! I’ve been given an award from the Association of colleges and there is going to be an award ceremony at the House Of Commons – YES, HOUSE OF COMMONS, On February 1st. So I’m really quite excited for that!

It’s always good to end on a nice note!

I wish I could say my brain is a little heavier because I suddenley got smarter but…

It has been a very long couple of weeks! I think the last time I did an update was just after finding out about the growth in my lung again and after that it was straight into radiotherapy!

So I started radiotherapy on Thursday 5th November and I was living the high life up in London! I was staying over in Paul’s House which is like hospital accommodation for families to stay in when they don’t have to stay in hospital. It’s funded by the charity Clic Sargent which are a fantastic and really supporting charity for young people and their families in my situation.

Radiotherapy really was going quite well, it wasn’t what I expected! I would literally go to the hospital for half an hour a day get lined up and have a ‘freaking lazer’ (sorry, cheeky Austin Powers quote there!) fired at my chest for about 2 minutes! It really was that simple! It didn’t really hurt either, I just felt a little sun burnt which makes sense when you think about it! The only bad bit was that I was originally meant to be having only 2 weeks of radio therapy but after a few days they said it was going to be three weeks instead – but staying up in London for another week wasn’t exactly the end of the world!

So I was cracking on with radio up until Friday 13th, which was my last day of radio until the Monday after because I got the weekends off from treatment. We were lucky enough to be able to stay in Paul’s House over the weekends too, so the plan was my boyfriend, Will, was going to come up and we were going to have a fancy weekend in London!

So I was really excited for the weekend ahead, we’d booked up for the London Dungeon on Saturday morning and Derren Brown’s show for the evening. He came up on Friday evening, we went out for pizza (which was bloody massive and bloody good!) and then decided to walk back home – which felt like miles but after the amount of pizza we’d eaten I think we both needed it! We got back to Paul’s House, turned on Children in Need and sat there eating cookies and cupcakes.

That’s when I decided I wanted to be a little attention seeking…

It must have been about 10.30pm, I sat up on the bed and soon realised I couldn’t move my fingers on my left hand. Ok, so don’t panic, I’ve just been sitting awkwardly and I’ve got a dead arm. And after a few minutes I couldn’t move my wrist, within 10 minutes my whole arm had lost movement, so by this stage I was panicking. It hadn’t gone numb or anything, I could feel it all. My arm was just kind of hanging there!

So we called an ambulance – which is quite difficult when you can’t remember the name of the road you’re staying on! But we got there in the end and waited outside Paul’s House. A Doctor’s car was there in minutes and an ambulance followed. I had four paramedics (who were all lovely and really good and calming!) standing around me a little baffled. We were all confused! They took me to the hospital with all the lights and whistles on! First time I’ve had that, so that was honestly quite fun!

We got to UCL hospital which is the hospital I’m treated under and is practically just around the corner – handy I know! Will called my parents who were in London within an hour and a half which is quite impressive coming from Herne Bay, it’s ok though, I’m sure Dad was driving very sensibly though… sorry I struggle to type that with a straight face hehe!

We sat in A and E for a good 5 hours, I went for a head CT scan and there was still no movement. I still felt fine though! I could walk around and everything I just had a very floppy left arm which was actually quite funny to play around with to be honest. We also got to meet all of the night life at a London A and E  on a Friday night which was pretty entertaining!

So we were just waiting around for any kind of news when an oncologist came around, he was quite young, he sat down, he seemed quite nervous and he said we’ve looked at your scan. We’ve found a brain tumour.

Fuck.

Ok so down side, I had a brain tumour that I had no idea about – well recently I’d been getting lights in my eyes but I thought it might have just been really weird chemo effects! The reason I’d lost the movement in my arm was due to a bleed on the brain so I was kept in hospital over the weekend. The upside, I saw the surgeon on Monday (Dr Kitchen – how coincidental is that?!) and he showed me the picture of my scan and my tumour – which was actually pretty cool to see! He said it was quite small, about the size of a walnut and it was going to be quite easy to remove!

So I went back to Paul’s House on Monday evening, unfortunately I couldn’t go home because they still wanted me to carry on with my radio therapy which makes sense! For the next week or so I was a little bit all over the place! I was on some pretty strong pain killers and they made me pretty sleepy!

I finished radio therapy on Wednesday 25th and went straight across to the Neurology hospital that evening to get checked in for my operation on Thursday. The surgeons did say they’d be happy to postpone the operation if I wanted to go home but to be honest I just wanted the little bugger out of my head!

I went down for the operation on Thursday morning at 8.30 am, I’d barely slept and I was a nervous wreck!

The operation took an hour and a half, they removed the tumour perfectly apparently (touch wood) and I was back on the ward by midday.

The next few days were tough but what can you expect I suppose, somehow they let me leave Saturday afternoon!

So that’s me up to date, I’m currently at home typing away with one hand, a nice piece of masking tape on my head and maybe about 10 staples that need to come out on Friday. Each day I’m getting more and more movement back in my arm which can only be good, I even had a cheeky thumb wiggle earlier! I’ve got to say the past week or so has probably brought on some of the hardest things I’ve had to do but I feel pretty content at the moment, to be honest I don’t think I’ve properly processed what has actually happened over the past few weeks but at the end of the day you dust yourself off and you get back up don’t you?

So this is what I’ve learnt over the past few weeks –

  1. I’m really not very brave, and I’m a really ugly crier! I have pretty much cried once a day for the past two weeks. To be fair I am on rather a lot of weird medications which I think may have something to do with it. At one point it was so bad that it became known as 6 o’clock cry time because for three consecutive days when the nurse brought round my dinner I would just sit there and cry… I promise hospital food isn’t that bad!
  2. Even with a brain tumour I can beat my Dad at table tennis.
  3. Arms are fucking heavy.
  4. You can have diarrhoea and constipation at the same time, I’d like to point out I was told this and I haven’t actually discovered this myself but I genuinely found that fascinating.
  5. I think the only reason I’ve got through the past week is from the amazing support from my friends and family. I’ve had so many people come and visit me since I’ve been home and in London and I’ve had so many lovely messages that it’s really kept me going and everyone has been so cool about everything!
  6. My Mum and Dad are awesome.
  7. Food makes me very happy indeed.
  8. I actually quite like Justin Bieber and it’s becoming a real problem!
  9. I know he’ll cringe reading this but Will is fucking amazing.
  10. You can be awake for a seizure, I’ve actually had 5 over the past 3 weeks in my left arm where I think my brain is trying to make a connection again and they are actually really odd and slightly funny!

So for now that’s it, I actually haven’t got any appointments or anything for a few weeks and as far as I’m aware the game is still the same. I’ve got a bit of tumour in my pelvis which is still stable (touch wood), the tumour in my lung should be stable after the radio therapy and I’ve just had a little brain tumour perfectly removed. So perfect that the Surgeon even made a little popping sound to explain how well it came out!

I think that’s all for now, let’s hope I can behave myself over the festive period and have a nice family Christmas at home!

The Dirty Dozen

On Sunday 27th September I was invited up to an event by Mark from Dingley Dell. I’ve spoken about Mark from Dingley Dell before, just over a year ago my family, a few friends and I were invited up to his pig farm to have a look around. We had an absolutely fantastic day and in the evening he introduced us to his family and cooked a lovely meal for us.

Anyway I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the day, I knew that it was a BBQ event, all the dishes would be using Dingley Dell pork and that some of the money raised would be for Teenage Cancer Trust so of course I was going! After speaking to Chef Allsworth and Eden (a lovely girl who also does catering at college) we were raring to go. It was a bit of an early morning, well getting up at 7am on a Sunday in our family is pretty much un heard of (needless to say we’re not church go-ers) but we were all in high spirits! We arrived at the kitchen in London at about 10 am. There were lots of students from lots of other colleges around and after getting changed we got straight to work on veg. prep. with Murray, a chef who had put a lot of effort into the event and was great fun to work with!

We then packed up and moved all of our prep to the venue where the event was being held, which was about 10 minutes away. It was in the garden of this fabulous pub called the leather bottle and the atmosphere was already great.

We set up alongside some lovely girls from a college in Cambridge, Jenny and Gemma. Jenny’s blog post about the event is HERE.

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We had a great day watching some top chef’s such as Mark Poynton, Matt Gillan and Steve Smith. We helped out on Murray’s dish which was a haggis filled naan bread, with a raw salad, pepper and tomato sauce, a green apple sauce and BBQ’d pork loin. I tried the naan and I’ve got to say it was fantastic – not that I was bias or anything!! It was also a lot of fun chatting to everyone who came down to try the pork that had been prepared and raising awareness of Teenage Cancer Trust. I think I fulfilled my ambassador role pretty well if I do say so myself hehe!

At the end of the event Eden and I went to taste some of the dishes that had been cooked throughout the day (I know, very lucky indeed!) and everything I tried was really tasty. All of the Chef’s had done completely different things with the pork and really made the pork shine. It showed me the various ways of cooking pork and using different cuts of a pig which I wouldn’t necessarily go for! It was a very valuable experience and really cool to meet some of the Chefs again!

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Unfortunately I thought I’d leave the worst news to last. I’ve been having a few chest pains recently and after a trip up to London this week it looks like my lung tumour is growing again. At the moment that’s all I can really tell you but it looks like it will be back to treatment again over the next few months. I’ve got another appointment next week so hopefully I’ll know some more then but for know I’m going to have to leave it at that.

Although on the upside I’ve found out I can now get free Costa hot chocolates from the hospital so if that’s not an incentive to go up to the hospital then I don’t know what is! Don’t all rush to come with me to appointments at once now!!

Meeting Mumford

I was contacted by a charity called Starlight not long after my first Diagnosis. Starlight help very ill children (or 19 year olds!) and give them an opportunity to have a ‘wish’. This wish could be anything from travelling somewhere, meeting someone or doing something that they would really love to do. I was lucky enough to receive a wish. Originally I had asked to go to America and visit Carlos’ Bakery which is the inspiration behind the TV show ‘Cake Boss’ but after my second diagnosis it looked like it would be difficult for me to travel so I was given the opportunity to change it.

So the Reading Music Festival was between Friday 28th-Sunday 30th August with Mumford and Sons being one of the headlining acts. Now I’m sure I’ve mentioned my love (or obsession but I think that makes me sound a bit crazy so I’ll stick to love) for Mumford and Sons before so I asked if I could meet them!

I thought it would be a long shot because they’re a very popular and busy band and they probably get requests like this all the time! But I didn’t mind if it didn’t work out because my friends and I had bought tickets to Reading and we were going to see their performance anyway! I kept in contact with my ‘wish granter’ at Starlight, Kate, and over the upcoming months it seemed less and less hopeful.

However the week before Reading Kate called me and said they had received some contact from the band and that they in fact seemed very keen to make it happen! As you can imagine I was really excited but still didn’t want to get my hopes up just in case it didn’t come through. You know how these things go! In the meantime Kate sent me something very special! I received a framed, signed Chef’s Jacket from Heston Blumenthal! This was enough of a wish for me really but then the day before Reading I received another package.

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I’d pretty much given up on the idea that I would be meeting Mumford and Sons until a courier delivered a box. In the box was a back pack with lots of festival essentials from Kate, including some very nice sunglasses and an autograph book. I then spoke to Kate and she said that it had all come together and I would be meeting Mumford and Sons!! I was over the moon and barely took in anything Kate said after that. I then rang my friends, Hannah and Lucy who were coming with me to Reading (and also big Mumford fans!) and told them what was going to happen and they could barely believe it either!

So we set off the next day in Dad’s taxi (Dad hasn’t actually got a taxi!) and arrived at the festival at 3.30 pm. We waited around for a while and then met Ceri, who was also from Starlight and she would be looking after us for the day! She took us to the VIP section where we waited for a while until we were called in to Mumford and Sons’ dressing room.

My legs were buckling and my palms were sweaty, I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous! We then met Marcus Mumford, the lead singer of the band. It was surreal and crazy, for a while I struggled to talk (I know, I was shocked too!) but he was the nicest, funniest man! We then met the other band members and had lots of photos taken. After 45 minutes of chatting and photo taking Marcus signed every piece of merchandise we put in front of him and then he went to his wardrobe, pulled out a denim jacket, signed it and gave it to me! Needless to say I wouldn’t let anyone else hold it for the rest of the day!

They then gave us side of stage passes and were rushed off to get warmed up. For a very long time we were all in a daze (I think I still am now!). The passes meant we could watch the band’s performance from the side of the stage which really was just the icing on the cake!

It was such an incredible day and one I will never forget (although I was so adrenaline fuelled that there are patchy bits – which wasn’t helped by the fact we went to bed at 3 am!).

I know they say that you shouldn’t meet your idols but if your idols are Mumford and Sons then meet them! Definitely meet them!!

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My Mum and Dad are half a century old…

Ok , again I’ve been a lazy blog writer so I apologise! I am still here I promise!!

So I’ll pick up where I left off, probably the most important part of the past 6 weeks: I had my results through from my CT chest scan and my MRI of my pelvis and they were pretty good thankfully! The MRI showed that my pelvic tumour is still stable (touch wood) and the CT showed that my lung tumour had calcified over and it had shrunk a little bit too so I was pretty pleased with that! For now I’ve been signed off and no more appointments until the end of September!

My big project recently has to be complete the decorating of my room! Not happy with ‘princess pink’ painted walls anymore (that’s actually what the paint was called!) I decided that I wanted to get all creative and redecorate. I’ve (Dad has) moved everything around to improve my feng shui because I don’t seem to have the best of luck with things… only joking! But we thought it would be nice to move the room around a bit and try and make it look a bit bigger! I went for a light green/blue on the walls and bought half of Ikea to try to bring it up to speed and I’m really happy with how it’s turned out. This is one of my walls which I have turned into a massive collage of basically my life!

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My Collage.

I’ve been working hard at the sweet shop (If you can work hard in a sweet shop?) and I’ve been discovering lots of new sweets that I’d never tried before. Toffee crumble has become the new family favourite with Dad scoffing a large majority of it! I even  managed to do a 30 hour week last week which considering my energy levels I was pretty pleased that I could push myself that much and for it to pay off.

Mum and Dad had a massive party at the beginning of August to celebrate their 50th Birthdays. We had about 80 people come and celebrate with us and it was a really cool time. Dad cooked a huge amount of food – which he still didn’t think was enough even though we had loads left. And I stupidly agreed to do ice cream for the dessert – so after a week full of ice cream and cupcake making I was left with 32 litres of ice cream and 80 cupcakes which I believe all went down very well!

Mum and Dad asked that instead of presents – if people wanted to give anything then they donated money to the Teenage Cancer Trust, we ended up raising over £800!! I was really pleased with that and a huge thank you to everyone who donated and helped made they day really special!

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Dad with his 3 litre bottle of vodka!

We went to Ireland this week with some family friends – Ann and Andy. We went out on Monday 10th and came back on Monday 17th and it was definitely a fun, food filled trip! Throughout the week we drove around northern Ireland taking in all of the sights and it was beautiful and the weather was actually beautiful as well! With one of the attractions being closed due to high temperatures – I’m not sure if 22C counts as high temperatures but hey, it’s Ireland I suppose! We visited a prison on Wednesday called The Crumlin Road Gaol which was really interesting. Our guide explained the history of the prison and some of the stories of the prison such as the executions and break-outs. We were also shown the execution room which was pretty intense and probably not for the faint hearted! I’ve heard that you can have paranormal trips around the prison in the middle of the night which I’d love to try, however I’m not sure if I’d be too much of a wimp or not? I’ll let you decide that one!

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Above is the Prison and some of the sights of Northern Ireland.

We went to lots of pubs and a few restaurants as well. One of my favourites: Cosmo, which has probably most foods you can think of and everything I tried was really good! I don’t remember the last time I ate that much! We also had a lovely meal on the Sunday before we left at a local restaurant to Dad called ‘The Parson’s nose’. I had roast beef and it was fantastic, the meat had a great colour and great marbling of fat throughout it – it was a lovely way to finish our trip!

The flight on the way out was really quick and easy, however the flight on the way back was quite hectic – that might have been my fault… Now I always set the alarms off when I’m scanned on the way through the airport because of my bionic leg and on explaining what was wrong with me the person checking me didn’t seem to believe me. It didn’t help that my bag also set off the alarms. Apparently I had a large metal item in my bag which they had to search. I’d forgotten I’d taken my bag to college a few times last term so I actually had a dessert spoon in my bag. Trying to explain that to the security guard really wasn’t too fun and joking ‘don’t you carry a spoon everywhere?’ didn’t help… Never mind – we eventually got through and got home in one piece! All in all the food, company and scenery where all spot on. Another great trip in Ireland!

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I think that brings you up to date for now and I will try to make sure my next update isn’t in 6 weeks time!

The Star Awards, A Sweet Shop and the Sixth Cycle

Again, sorry it’s been such a long time since I’ve written a post but I’m sure after I’ve explained what I’ve been up to you’ll understand!

So… I’VE FINISHED CHEMO (for the second time but let’s not dwell on that!)! The sixth cycle ran pretty smoothly, and I got quite creative this time! As I’m stuck in the hospital for about 7 hours each day for three days the activity coordinator and I raided the activity cupboard and found a ‘make your own dream catcher’ set. I probably shouldn’t be telling everyone about this, but considering I’m such a big kid, I really enjoyed making it! And I was pretty impressed with myself! It also wasted lots of time so I can’t complain.

I got home on Saturday 20th June in the evening (as high as a kite from the chemo) and on Sunday it was my 19th Birthday! It was also Father’s Day but IT WAS MY BIRTHDAY – not that I think my birthday is more important or anything hehe! I received lots of lovely presents and cards – including an Ikea voucher from my Mum and Dad which I’m going to use to decorate my room. I’m actually really excited about this because now I’ve discovered my creative flare (wow, I sound sad!) and I’m going to try to make one of my walls a massive collage of photos and posters and basically things that mean a lot to me. Anyway, although I wasn’t up to much celebrating, it was still a lovely Birthday and I’m sure I can make up for the celebrating over the holidays!

I recently won an award at college. The Campus Principal’s award for 16-18 year olds (ok, so I’d turned 19 two days before receiving the award but shhh!). I went to an awards ceremony on Wednesday 23rd June to receive the award and it was a fantastic evening! I saw some familiar faces from college which was lovely as I was quite nervous. I also met some really inspirational students and it was really cool to hear their stories and see them receive their awards. After the interval I received my award and it all went well until I returned to the wrong seat, hopefully my Mum was the only one who noticed! Then there were some surprise awards, and I then received a second award! The Principal’s award for excellence. I was overwhelmed as I had no idea! The Principal then said that after reading my blog he had decided to run next year’s London Marathon for Teenage Cancer Trust! It was such an amazing night with lovely people and I felt so grateful to have received the awards. And yes, I went back to the right seat after receiving the second award!

I went up to visit my friend, Hannah, at her University in Falmouth, Cornwall last week and we had a great time! I’d never been to Falmouth before and the town was beautiful. It’s surrounded by little shops and really cool independent restaurants. I’m sure I’ll be going back and hopefully for longer next time. In a nut shell I did lots of shopping and had a real Cornish pasty which was yummy!

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I’ve had lots of scans and London trips this week. On Monday I went up to the hospital for a kidney scan which is always the worst! I’m injected with radioactive dye (But not enough to make me a superhero unfortunately) and then over the next four hours I have 3 blood tests. Also the Picc line decided it didn’t want to work so I had to have a cannula. However it was actually a really good day! My friend Abi came up with me and we took as much advantage of our free time as we could! We made numerous visits to Oxford Street for… well more shopping! We also visited the Choccy Woccy Doo Dah shop which was fantastic! They have a TV show in which they make amazing chocolate cakes and sculptures for various occasions. I’d never been to the shop before and for someone who’s trying to lay off the chocolate a bit at the moment – it was a mistake! The sculptures and slabs of chocolate were just insane, like nothing I’d ever seen! So we couldn’t leave empty handed! We each got a praline milkshake and I seriously think it’s the best milkshake I’ve ever had.

After I had the last blood test, I was told I was allowed to have the Picc Line taken out. Now I’ve had troubles with taking the Picc Line out before but this one was so simple (thankfully). And within 15 minutes we were free and off to China Town for an all you can eat buffet!

On Tuesday I had to go up for a CT Scan of my chest. This time my friend, Robyn, accompanied me and again we had a great time. After the scan, which all seemed to run smoothly. We went to Harrods and looked around the chocolate room (there’s a theme here!) and then went to TGI Fridays in Leicester Square. I’d never been to TGI Friday’s but it was really nice! We shared chicken fajita nachos for starters and I had a Jack Daniel’s burger for main which was really juicy and yummy. It was another really fun day, I’m really lucky with the friends I’ve got!

I was recently offered a job down at a local sweet shop (so much for laying off the chocolate!) and considering I’ll be able to sit down and talk to customers quite a lot, it seems pretty perfect. I’ve got an introduction tomorrow so hopefully it will go well. Watch this space!

So I think that brings you up to date for now. For my next appointment at the hospital I should be getting back my results so I will try to give you another update then!

My Superdry Bag

So it’s been another very busy couple of weeks. I’ve completed Cycle 5 which seemed to go quite well (touch wood!) which means I’ve only got one cycle left! Woooooo!!

On Saturday 16th May my Netball club held an event for the Teenage Cancer Trust. It was great to see everyone and their families there. We had a raffle and a cake sale and lots of netball games and we managed to raise £400 which was fantastic! A massive thank you to everyone who organised it and who came!

So recently I’ve taken on a bit of a project. Well something has to keep me busy during treatment! So back when I was diagnosed with the lung tumour I wrote to the company Superdry. When I’m on chemo I have a backpack which I’m sure I’ve talked about before. It’s horrible and massive and blue and has NHS written all over it and it’s just urghhhh (not that I’m complaining or anything!). They put my fluids that I need when I’m on chemo into this backpack and I get to walk around London with it before going back to the hospital hotel. Basically it means I don’t have to stay on the ward whilst having chemo!

Anyway I wrote to Superdry to ask if they’d create me a new bag. Ok, so I played the cancer card a little (but in a classy way!) and they replied! I sent off some photos of the bag and some dimensions and within a couple of months they had designed me a bag and sent it to me! I absolutely love it. The style suits me down to the ground and after trying it out for my last cycle, it works perfectly! The nurses were also really impressed with it. So much so that one of them mentioned it to Teenage Cancer Trust at their monthly meeting.

On Thursday I was lucky enough to be invited up to the Superdry shop in Regent Street to have a ‘VIP shopping experience’. They gave me £100 to shop with in store and I got to use their VIP lounge and had a very lovely shopping assistant help me pick out some clothes I wanted. It was a fantastic experience and I got to show them the bag and exactly how I use it.

After that I had a event at the hospital for the Teenage Cancer Trust (it was a very busy day!) in which I had been asked to do some networking and then do a speech with one of the nurses about her experiences working with young adults and the TCT. It was a great success and because I had the backpack with me, we also got to show it off a little which attracted quite a lot of attention! So watch this space…

I’m so grateful to Superdry for all they’ve done, for even just responding to my email. It’s really helped me out and put a smile on my face. It’s also made me the envy of all of my cancer buddies!

This is completely off subject but I am the first catering student to be signed off this year and to have completed all of my work! I just thought I’d brag about that too..

So one more cycle left.. and then they day after I get home, IT’S MY BIRTHDAAAAAY!! I haven’t planned anything and I probably won’t be up to anything but it’s still my Birthday! It’s also Father’s day and Race for Life…

Anyway, I will let you know how that all goes and hopefully the next couple of weeks will be as exciting as these last few were!

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My first Michelin Starred Menu!

Well after the last post and the incredible night we had raising money for Teenage Cancer Trust I didn’t think much would be able to top that – but the past few weeks have been great!

On Monday 27th April I was asked to go back to my old school and give a speech about the Teenage Cancer Trust and how they’ve helped me. I’m an ambassador for the Teenage Cancer Trust now and it’s all I ever tell anyone about! We’ve even suggested that I get a badge, ‘Emily Mackay, Ambassador’ haha! Anyway, I was really nervous (because I just love making speeches!) but it went ok. I spoke to the year 9s, 10s and 11s and after throwing in a few jokes like ‘Do you know the amount of money I spend on shampoo?!’ I think I had their attention! It was lovely to go back and see that even after I’d left the school they wanted to give me so much support which really meant a lot!

I went up for my admin day for chemo on Wednesday 6th May and I had an appointment with one of the oncologists who had results of my latest CT Scan. It looks like the chemo is doing what it’s meant to be doing – I can’t really ask for more! The tumour is calcifying over which is what happens to a tumour when it is treated with chemotherapy and then hopefully a calcium shell will form over it completely and it will just die! Sorry to get all technical!

So Cycle 4 ran pretty smoothly from Thursday 7th to Saturday 9th and I was home by Saturday evening.

Since then I’ve just been relaxing and getting to college as much as I can.

This Friday, Dad and I were lucky enough to go up to London and meet with Angela Hartnett again. I don’t know if you remember but a good family friend wrote to her assistant this time last year and I was able to go and meet Angela along with my Dad and two friends last summer. She always said get back in touch when you’re feeling better we’ll meet up again, so a few months ago I did and we set up a meeting for Friday.

We went to Angela’s Michelin Starred restaurant, Murano, in Mayfair and met her at about 10.30. We had a great chat and she gave me some really valuable advice about what would be best to do in the near future, with balancing treatment and College/work. It really cleared my mind and made me realise what I want to do and hopefully (with a bit of help from her and her contacts) I can do that! After the meeting Angela asked if Dad and I would like to come back to lunch and quite honestly, how could we refuse?

We arrived for lunch at 12 and after some champagne (thank you Angela!) we started with Italian breads and hams, olives and olive oil. It was probably the best bread I’d ever eaten so that gave us an idea of what the meal was going to be like! The Head waiter had asked if we would like to choose from the menu or if we would like him to choose for us, both dad and I said we’d prefer him to choose!

For starter I had Quail with morels, hazelnuts, a cream reduction and pecorino cheese melted on top. dad had a ceviche of scallops with parma ham , peas and orange.

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For the next course I had sweetbreads (Which I was a little nervous about but it was actually really nice!) with an apple compote and dad had a crab ravioli in tomato water with broad beans.

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Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better the main course came. Dad and I had the same. Cote de beouf with a spinach and mushroom béchamel, new potatoes and watercress. The beef was cooked perfectly that you probably could’ve used a spoon to cut it, it was so soft and pink! It was also served at the table by one of the waitresses which really added to the theatre of the meal and just made it that bit better.

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After that we each had a little tiramisu which was so light and sweet, it was really perfect!

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For dessert I had the chocolate brownie with caramel sauce, chocolate crème and chocolate sorbet – there was so much chocolate on that plate but it was fantastic! Dad had a panna cotta with poppy seed tuille crumbs and a raspberry sorbet. We were also treated to another dessert, a passion fruit curd creme with a passion fruit foam, vanilla ice cream and caramel popcorn.

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All of the desserts were fabulous and a perfect way to end the meal. Dad and I definitely needed a long walk after that!

It was a spectacular day and I’m very thankful to Angela for giving us her time and letting us experience such great food and service!

Now I know what I’ve got to aim for with my food!