There’s been a name change

I’ve gone for a name change which, may seem an odd thing to do but I felt it was needed.  I tried blogging some time ago when I was recovering from breast cancer, I called it ‘Life in the Pink’ and the idea was that I would talk about getting back to some level of fitness after cancer.  I wanted to inform and inspire other women who found themselves in the same boat as me, fearful of how long we had left and what the quality of that life might be.   I wanted for us all to feel that there was life after the grueling chemo that had robbed us of our health, self-worth and every bit of bodily hair.

After months of people looking at you with fear in their eyes that said “Please don’t drop down dead in front of me.” or “Jeez, I hope to fuck that cancer isn’t contagious!” you can’t wait to break away from the Cancer label and get back to being just you.

Funnily enough, I had never realised how much chemo had taken out of me until I made a video of the winter snowfall. I walked from my back door, around the house to the front gate, recording the huge, yet gently cascading flakes that had quickly shut off the lane.  Later, when I played it back, instead of seeing the winter white carpet and the twittering of birds as they nestled down in the cover of a holly bush,  I could hear my commentary interspersed with wheezes and gasps as I made a short, stumbling walk to the gate, look like Sir Hillary’s Everest attempt.

That day made me see that my Oscar-winning act of cheeriness that I had adopted for my family and friends,  had also completely fooled me!  It was also about this time when I accepted that all my whining about “shops making clothes so much smaller these days,” were a load of crap and that again, without me noticing, my 18 months of laying on the sofa and yelling at day-time TV had allowed me to gain nearly two stone! I had (for those who remember her) turned into the infamous Waynetta (but without the ‘faaags’.)

From here began the slow drudgery of getting back to some form of fitness which, I had intended to share and hopefully, at the same time, try and bring a few light-hearted moments to what is a shit time in anyone’s life. I wrote a few posts but didn’t seem to be reaching anyone and having no clue about how to attract people to my blog site and having no followers, I took the healthy road to fitness alone. Skip forward and yeah, I did it! I’m nowhere near as fit as I used to be but for a 61-year old, I don’t think I’m all that bad!

And now here I am again, wanting to share and hoping that I might motivate and inspire people who want to get fit, get healthy or maybe just have a bit of fun with no ridiculous or unreasonable goals. (Ha, says me who has just entered for, not one but two, triathlons next year!)

So, to kick it off I have changed the name. As I said, my blogging started life as ‘Life in the Pink’ but as I already had Twitter and Instagram accounts as Wiggy’s World and as it’s a play on my name, Wiggy’s World seemed the obvious choice.  However, when I searched for Wiggys World it came up with a variety of things I’d rather not be associated with, Worm Farming being one of them! So now it will be known as Slippers and Lycra – Slippers because many people seem to think that Slippers are what women of my age are supposed to be wearing and Lycra because that’s mainly what I want to wear and do wear most days.

If you’re reading this post – thank you, thank you, thank you. I really hope you will come back and share your story with me and how it’s going. Whatever age you are, whatever your goals or dreams and how to overcome our own limitations and how others perceive what we should be, rather than what we want to be.  All comments and especially any tips are always appreciated.

Howard and Marina – in search of the cycle paths.

IMG_2390 - Copy  (OK, so we look a pair of doofers here but we get better!)

I have to say that, for me, bike riding has had many highs and lows! I love being out in the fresh air but the ‘Bum Burner’ that I mentioned in my previous post, ‘Saddle to Saddle’, has continued to inflict horrendous pain in my Lady Garden area.  So much so, I intend to dedicate a whole post devoted to the female cyclist’s ‘Lady Garden‘ and how to tend it.  Now, although I haven’t hit the ground at anything like the speed and velocity that I have done from a horse, I have managed to elegantly face-plant myself into the mud and grass that had been so generously and judging from the heat, quite recently, decorated by bovines and canines! Add to this my deep-rooted and justifiable fear of traffic (or rather, some ridiculously vindictive drivers) I was keeping well and truly clear of all roads and instead opting for the tracks and bridleways along the river bank.

I believed that, aside from the occasional fridge, settee and black bin bags full of lord only knows what,  its varied terrain of long grass, deep rutted holes and sandy banks to negotiate, it would offer a great training ground. However, when the rain came I quickly learned that it is extremely difficult or, in my case, nigh on impossible to cycle through deep, wet sand.  I stuck at it for a while but as my legs whizzed round 50 to the dozen and my bike painstakingly edged forward an inch at a time, I began to wonder just how the hell I was going to squirm my way out of this stupid London to Paris challenge I had set myself.

Thankfully, all that changed the day I discovered cycle paths! The husband had insisted that I needed to get out on the road.  “What, an actual road, in actual traffic?!”  Either the man was deranged or, I had totally misled lied to him about my cycling prowess!  We had tried the roads before, a brief trip that produced throat burning screams from my lungs and saw me purposefully steering into grass verges and a ditch in my desperate bid to avoid the traffic  (actually, it was only three cars but that’s three too many for me!) Despite this, he was prepared to go out with me again and as much as I hate to admit it, I knew he was right. I squashed my helmet tight onto my head and agreed to another attempt but only on the condition that we went in search of the mystical cycle paths I had heard rumour of.

For some reason that  I have yet to fathom, many cycle paths are not very well signposted so finding them isn’t as simple as you might expect.  – {Note here to experienced cyclists – don’t be tutting and telling me I should have just looked on Strava! At that time I had never even heard of Strava, Garmin, Komoot or any of the numerous other apps that I now live my life by!}  – Instead, taking our directions from Mr. Google, we came to a path that led off the road and onto an old farm track and not knowing what to expect of a cycle path, finding ourselves in rough, overgrown grass was no great surprise to me.  Husband however, was convinced we had gone wrong and after seeing someone whizz effortlessly by at the other side of the hedge, he had, with his usual after the fact knowledge, made a theatrical sweep of his arm and shouted,   “I told you that was the cycle path over there!”  And so began the ridiculous spectacle of the two of us pushing ourselves through the prickly hawthorn and clambering over a fence as we dragged our bikes through behind us.  We looked nothing short of ridiculous and anyone would have been forgiven for thinking they were watching a scene from Last of the Summer Wine.IMG_E3751

Howard and Marina – Last of the Summer Wine 

After the removal of some ill-placed thorns and branches, we were finally able to enjoy the actual cycle path which in turn, opened up a whole new world to me! I cannot tell you how excited I was to find that the path was not only dry and beautifully maintained but also laid with tarmac, yes, tarmac! It was so easy to pedal on!  Flat, smooth and peaceful. Beautiful views stretched out before me and not a single bloody car in sight, there wasn’t even any dog poo! (well, not much)  Cheery cyclists passed us by with a wave while others cruised by offering a barely discernable nod.  I would soon learn that the ‘nod’ was the acknowledgment to expect from a ‘real’ cyclist.

So finally, I could ride with confidence. There were still many hurdles to come but I want to leave this post on the high that I had felt and my newly found optimism for the charity ride. Paris, was in my sights,  lycra clad and smiling all the way.

 

I’m One Bad, Mad, Baaaad Blogger!

What can I say? I started this blog years ago with the very best intentions. You will see a lot of women beginning to write blogs and books about their ‘journeys’ whatever that may be and in many cases, it’s the cancer journey, as was mine.

But I moved on from being sick, I’ve been doing other stuff. I’ve been making the most of every f*ing moment of that precious thing called LIFE.

As you can read in my last posts, I decided to, quite literally, get on my bike and from there I have become engrossed in all things cycling. So much so, I abandoned the blog and instead, posted my daily dalliances on Instagram. The intention was always to write these in more detail and post on here…… but I didn’t, I’m sorry. Blame it on the glorious weather and my passion for taking off for hours a day, cycling wherever the wind (sometimes actually) blew me.

I am a mad, bad blogger but if you will forgive me I’m going to try again and I hope you’ll join me.  There, I’ve put it in writing now so I have to!bike by lake at doddy

 

Saddle to Saddle

Horses have taken up the best part of my life but when breast cancer came along and tipped life on its head, I had to have a re-think. Big, strong, young horses are not the easiest things to deal with at the best of times but when you have been pretty sick and surgery has stripped you of your upper body strength,  dangling in the air from the end of a lead rope doesn’t hold the same charm anymore.

So, skip forward a couple of years and the horse saddle has been swapped for a bike saddle (here on in to be known as the butt burner!) Seriously, I cannot begin to tell you how bloody uncomfortable the butt burner is in comparison to the soft, well-worn leather of a horse’s saddle. Over time, the horses saddle warms and moulds to the individual form of both horse and rider and after a couple of hours, you can feel as though you’re sat on a giant marshmallow. Your toes are toasty inside your boots and even your severely unflattering hard hat has warmed and melted to your head. At the end of a horse-ride it’s hard to slide off when really, all you need is a back rest and you could happily sit there all day. However, I can confirm that this is definitely NOT the case with the butt burner. The longer you sit on that narrow piece of steel, covered with a patch of leather that has been cured and hammered into a rock hard hide akin to another layer of steel, it continues to further ingratiate its way into your most precious of nether regions. Your head may be looking and feeling cool in your bright neon helmet and your feet may be cosily enveloped in your snazzy bike shoes but you’re not likely to appreciate any of this as with every bump and pothole the butt burner bashes the hell out of your tush!

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Cycling for me was something I only ever did when I needed to travel the few hundred yards to the shop for bread or milk but couldn’t be arsed to walk and felt too guilty to drive. Bikes took on a more important role in my life when on a deluded whim (I seem to have a lot of those) I decided to have a go at a triathlon.  Hailing from Yorkshire, it was obvious that the ‘Brownlee’ spirit would run in the blood of many a true Yorkshire Lass so age and ability never really factored into my plans.  I told the husband (HJ) of my idea and I was both surprised and delighted when he (not having been on a bike for about 30 years and then only to ride across a field) offered to join me.  It didn’t take very long for us to figure out that my idea was a tad ambitious and so the plan was adapted into a relay effort and after a quick call to a runner friend we had our team!

In my previous life (that’s life before breast cancer) I had done quite a bit of windsurfing (badly) some water ski-ing (really badly) and a bit of scuba diving (actually – surprise, surprise, quite serenely!) all of which had led me to believe that I was quite obviously, a very good swimmer….as it turned out, I wasn’t!  After trying and sinking in  front crawl, I took to youtube  for some swimming lessons (who needs water?!) but after discarding any further attempts at front crawl, I instead, managed to improve my breaststroke technique just enough to avoid a flash crowd of well-meaning spectators, diving fully clothed into the pool to save me from my apparent drowning.

While I was doggedly splashing my way up and down the lanes of our local pool, HJ had taken on a whole new persona. There was no more falling asleep in front of the TV or complaining of backache, instead, he was transformed, as if by magic, into a lycra clad superhero, speeding through the country roads as though on a mission of derring-do.  Within a few weeks of haphazard yet dedicated, trial and error training, we were ready. and on a sunny September day, along with the ‘Athlete’ of our team, Gibok, we managed to complete our first ever triathlon. Not only did we complete it but considering our ages and inabilities, we also managed to achieve very respectable times. OK, so we were in the geriatric section but at least we weren’t last!

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Anyway, back to the bum burner.  I’m sure you’ll all be wondering, “Why bother riding the bike if it’s nothing but an instrument of torture?”  Well, the answer to that is even more torturous than the riding of the bike. In another of my, ‘moments of delusion’ I signed up to a charity bike ride but not just any bike ride. Having only done the occasional short ride, I could have gone for one of the local 10 milers or a nice, steady park ride but no, I had to sign up to cycling from London to Paris! That’s a whole ruddy 250 ish miles, all to be done in just three days!  Delusional or not, I’m not just doing it for the hell of it, I am hoping to raise lots of money for Women’s Cancers and thankfully, I won’t be alone, there will be another 249 ladies doing it with me.

I say thankfully, as I will need to be surrounded and cosseted by other riders due to my innate fear of wobbling along the main roads. Aside from the potholes, stone walls and ditches that are to be avoided, there’s the risk of my shorts being caught on the wing mirror of a passing car and doing several miles at hair-raising speed with my bum exposed to the world!  Therefore, my plan is to be somewhere in the middle of the bunch, trailing slightly to allow me to coast effortlessly along  in their slip stream, (another delusion) or, as a last resort, I’m thinking of doing it in fancy dress, I’m thinking a Mr Blobby suit should afford me all the protection I need.

Originally, when I signed up, the image I had in my head was a gentle peddle with a few like-minded ladies eating croissants and admiring the scenery of the British and French  countryside.  However, it now transpires that in order to complete the challenge in the three allotted days, I am going to have to get my head down and my knees going like the pistons of a V8 engine!  There really is no hope for me is there?IMG_1864

Thankfully, the event is not until next year so I have time to learn to ride a bike in a straight line and hopefully, stop screaming every time a car passes.  It’s not going to be easy but I’m hoping it’s going to be fun. I’ll be reporting back with my progress of  cycling tales and training fails and I hope you will have a giggle with me along the road from London to Paris ( garlic and onions optional.)

To read about me and why I am taking on this challenge you can find me here –

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Joanna-Wiggins1

 

True Grit

 

I remember when I first heard the word ‘cancer’ it was in 1964 and I was seven. I was brought up on cowboy films and it was probably from here that I developed my love of horses and an affinity for the underdog, the under-dog being the ‘Injuns’ over the ‘land stealing cowboys’.

John Wayne’s ‘True Grit’ was one of my favourite films and his character, Rooster Cogburn, was one of the few cowboys I liked. He was the unwilling ‘good guy’ and I thought he was funny with his black eye-patch and the way he rode his horse, reins between his teeth and a rifle in each hand. He was a big man and a big star so it came as an equally big shock when he announced that he had cancer. I believe it was John Wayne who first coined the phrase ‘The Big C’, that was his way of demeaning and trivialising the disease.

 JW

I would occasionally hear my parents discussing John Wayne and his cancer but I had no idea what cancer or The Big C was. In fact, I wasn’t actually sure if it was something bad that he had, or something bad that he had done but whatever it was, cancer was something to be avoided.

Years later, I was to get my own Big C. Have you ever heard the phrase “Gripped with fear”?  you see it in novels but I have always thought of it as nothing more than that, ‘a phrase, an expression or saying,’ until that is, a couple of days after my own breast cancer diagnosis. I had already gone through the initial shock and was in that numb place while you are waiting to hear what the next stage will be. Pretending to the world that I was fine,  I had overheard a conversation that had nothing to do with me but they said that word – , cancer. Suddenly and without warning, I was quite literally, ‘Gripped with fear.’  it felt like a big iron belt had been strapped to my torso, tightening around my rib cage until I couldn’t breathe. This unexpected and excruciating pain terrified me, I was convinced that I was about to die, right there, right then. Obviously, it was some kind of panic attack, lasting for just a few minutes but a few minutes of absolute terror. On reflection, it was as ridiculous as it was terrifying. Ridiculous that I had been scared half out of my wits by a word, a simple six-letter word, C -A- N- C- E- R.

So here’s my idea, why don’t we find a new name for ‘It’.  I reckon that if we dilute its name, we can dilute its grasp on our conscious and our lives, at the same time diluting its power.  Years ago, a cancer diagnosis was a death sentence but today, with earlier detection and better care, it is not the killer it once was. Yes, it still takes far too many lives but we can’t allow it to carry the same stigma of old, a stigma that can cripple you with the mere mention of its name.  Being positive and confident can play a huge part in both the mental and physical journey  but if cancer has a head start by stabbing you in the back with its bayonet of fear at the mere mention of its name, then it has already taken the first battle and depleted half your army.

Some people have been known to name their tumour, these are good war tactics, ‘be-friend the enemy’. But why not go a step further and make the enemy sound weak and insignificant, making it appear to have no place in our thoughts. Let’s call it ‘Who?’ or ‘What?’ (the question mark would form part of the spelling) A recognised facial expression should also be adopted  when using the word, so whenever it is used in a sentence, the eyebrows should never be lowered but always raised in cheerful surprise and the glimmer of a confident smile must begin to form on the lips of both those using the word and of those hearing it.

Maybe we could call it ‘Blip’ implying  a short break in normal service. Or how about ‘Jester’ as in clown or comedian, a thing to be laughed at and not taken seriously. Because that is what we all need to do, laugh in the face of cancer. Make it shrivel with shame and slink away in ridicule back to its own dark corner.

John Wayne was a big and imposing character, a man not to be messed with. However, let’s not forget that John ‘Duke’ Wayne was actually christened Marion Morrison. Yes, Marion!   Somehow, I don’t think anybody would have been scared of a cowboy called Marion. The big man himself tried to deflect from the word cancer, referring to it instead as the Big C.  We are consistently being equipped with more and better weapons to fight the fight so maybe now  is the time for us to come up with a new and completely different name, one that will show that nasty, devious disease that we are not afraid of it.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I know this is a war that many will not win and there will be those whose battles, though bravely fought, will be futile and it is for these people that we should join forces, take the reins between our teeth and with all guns  blazing, show cancer that we too are made of ‘True Grit’

jw3