World without cancer

Some days chocolate is a necessity. Real friends know when.

Let’s face it, Facebook has redefined what we mean by ‘Friends’. You know when someone asks if you know so and so, and maybe you reply, ‘Well I do know her/him, I mean she/he is my friend, well my friend on Facebook that is.’

Does it mean anything?

I’m one of those people who have in the past accepted every friend request on Facebook, only to regret it days later when my News Feed is filled up with Farmville requests or some other Jewel type annoying games. Well I think they’re annoying anyway. That’s not what I want to use Facebook for. Or announcements about what you’re watching on TV right now. No thanks, I’m just not interested. And it amazes me how the most banal comment can attract 28 comments. I just can’t do trivial. I mean I love to engage with real lives, and lives lived in joy and delight. And I do enjoy ‘normal’ now a lot more than I ever thought I could. But sometimes I feel that my world is filling up with trivia that doesn’t enhance it, and anyway, really how can anyone have 1,159 friends? Or 159? Maybe 59 at most? If you are seriously going to engage with them and have meaningful conversations as well as some fun. By the way, I don’t know the right answer. I hate those Facebook messages that go ‘post this if you’re really my friend, let’s see who is paying attention’, because what I think is well, no actually, if you’re really my friend – TALK TO ME.

So, I’m one of those Facebook users who does cull their Friend list. Yup, I unfriend people. And you know when I unfriend someone with 2,543 friends, I know they won’t even notice. If I wrote on their wall, would they even notice? And when I get a Friend Request, I respond with a message, ‘Do I know you? Have we met? Do we have something in common?’ Because I’m not interested in becoming ‘friends’ with someone if we don’t have something to talk about. I mean, real friends, that is people I know in the flesh, I interact with them, I chat, heck I even have lunch with them sometimes. And I am careful who I spend my time with. Because I know that time is limited. I feel that more keenly now. No, I’m not being a miserable cancer patient who’s predicting doom and gloom that will result in my early death. That’s not what I mean. I also know that I have less energy now too, and the energy I do have I want to spend it wisely. Not waste it. I can’t. It would be unfair on myself.

What I mean is, that doing this blogaday has shown me something. It has shown me how deeply affected I am by the conversations I have when they are real. Continue reading

The story of Being Sarah

Today it’s exactly one year since we launched my book. You can see a 90 second film of me reading from the book here:

One of the questions people often ask me is, ‘How did you write a book?’ Well, it takes a long time and a lot of editing… and for me a lot of anger and determination. I wanted my words to be heard. So I thought my readers might be interested in the story of how my book came into being. And, fortunately for me, my good friend Rach over at the Can-Do Women blog has already written this, so I’m going to let her tell the story of Being Sarah. Many of you will also know Rach as the snarky and opinionated voice of The Cancer Culture Chronicles.

We did this interview on a Skype conversation in January 2011, the first of many hours of talking together which has led to a deep friendship, despite the 3,500 miles that separate us. You will hear more from Rach during the following month.

Thanks Rach for this and all our conversations. 

“Today I’d like to introduce you to Sarah Horton, author, artist, entrepreneur, blogger, filmmaker, activist and an all-round highly accomplished and creative Can-Do Woman. I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah through my other blog, The Cancer Culture Chronicles, an insider’s view of living with breast cancer in today’s society. I found Sarah’s story to be so incredibly inspiring, and I am delighted to be able to spotlight her achievements here today on the Can-Do Women blog. Here is a part of Sarah’s story.

Being Sarah

22 February 2007, day after diagnosis.

In February 2007, at the age of 43, Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer. To hear those words uttered is a moment so terrifying and raw, that one barely has time to think, let alone be able to string a sentence together in any cohesive manner. Yet, that’s exactly what Sarah did.  Despite being paralyzed with fear (or perhaps “despite” should be read as “instead of”), Sarah began to write in earnest.  On the day after her diagnosis she took a leather-bound journal, had her husband Ronnie take a picture of her at their kitchen table, and  began compiling her thoughts, lists of questions for the doctors, research for treatment decisions; anything that seemed relevant to the horrifying road on which she was about to embark. Continue reading

When I ran for charity

Speke Hall run, Bugruns

2 October 2011, start of Speke Hall run

Yesterday morning I ran a 10K. It took place in the grounds of Speke Hall in Liverpool, a nearly 500 year old manor house near the river. No charity fund raising, just me, running. For the sheer pleasure of being able to. It was a humid damp day, but it was fun to do this with friends, and go for breakfast afterwards. There’s a one minute film of the run here.

Runs are often done to raise money for charities by people who’ve been treated for cancer. Me included. Last year, one of the goals I’d set myself was to run a 10K, and raise money for charity. The charity I’d chosen was Yes to Life, who had helped me during my treatment for breast cancer, and I wanted to say ‘thank you’ to them, and raise money for them so they can continue to help other cancer patients.

In November 2009, I had my sixth surgery following my beast cancer diagnosis in February 2007. I’m pragmatic enough not to say it was my last surgery, or that have finished my treatment and surgery. I’m still on prescription drugs, I still have regular check ups with various doctors, I still have minor surgery to finish my breast reconstruction. But, as far as I know, for now, I have finished the major treatment, and the major surgeries. For now. Continue reading


Summer camping at Hill Holt Wood with Ronnie.

I’ve just been away on a short camping trip with Ronnie in a beautiful wood in Lincolnshire. We had one night alone and then spent the next two days with a group of people from Hackney Community Transport who we’ve been working with over the last seven months on their ‘social enterprise champions’ project. A fabulous experience. And it didn’t rain!

Back at home, and I’m going through my emails and there is one titled ‘Sad news about Jane Smith’. No, Jane Smith is not her real name, but she could be one of thousands of women like me, who’s being diagnosed with breast cancer in their early 40s.

I know immediately that she has died. Of secondary breast cancer. Of course, the email does not mention that, it says she had ‘a long illness’. We are spared the details. I feel so many mixed emotions. Including anger. Continue reading

“What we love, we must protect.”

Sunday. I’m on the train from Liverpool to London. This time last year I’d just had my sixth surgery as part of my treatment for breast cancer.
This time last week I hadn’t found the funding for the trip to Brussels. And I felt deflated and momentarily thought, ‘Oh that’s it I’m not going. Oh well, I don’t mind.’ But I did mind. There are some things you have to do.
And so with only seven days to go before the event, I ask my friends for help. I ask on Facebook, I ask my email list – can you give me fiver to get to European Parliament? And they do. I raise over £400. So I am on my way. Thank you everyone.
I could do a million other things, but I’m not, I’m choosing to do this one single thing – to get to Brussels.
Monday. Eurostar. Brussels. It is starting to snow now and it’s very cold and windy. The European Parliament is enormous. The list of participants shows people from a range of European organisations working in health and cancer, plus six MEPs. I introduce myself to Sandra Steingraber, the American environmental scientist who’s had cancer, who we’re here to see, and I give her a copy of my book.
In European Parliament
In the seminar room and it’s like every picture you’ve ever seen of a European Parliament room. Translation booths all around it, NL, IT, ES, DE and so on illuminated in big red digital letters. Microphones and headphones at every seat. Even the cups and saucers have the European flag printed on them.
Sandra is introduced by the Finnish MEP Sirpa Pietikainen. Then Sandra talks about the new study of epigenetics. That some chemicals can alter the expression of genes, so they create a pathway to tumour formation. She talks about her experience of being a cancer patient. The long walk from the car park to the hospital. I’ve been there. Different hospital, same sense of isolation and darkness.
She says we can’t change our ancestors but we can change our environment. It’s rational. She says, “What we love we must protect. That’s what love means.”
In the panel discussion I ask a question. I speak as a patient, as a person who feels that change must happen, so what can I do? Sandra says it’s all about policy. Changing policy. That our governments must protect us and we have to have carcinogens being de-normalised by governments.
Sandra Steingraber

And yes, this is a good event. But it makes me realise how slowly things change, how slow it is to get legislation changed. Science to policy.

Tuesday. I travel back to London and then to Liverpool. 53 hours away from home, 20 hours travelling and three hours in the European Parliament.

When I get home I receive an email telling me that everyone was very impressed with my determination to get to Brussels. And that everything has repercussions. That it will make a difference.
It’s good to be part of change.

You can see this blog post as a short film (three minutes) here:

“What we love, we must protect.” from Sarah Horton on Vimeo.