Friday, September 19, 2014

And So There Must Come An End

Blogger's Note: This piece was featured in UK The Huffinton Post today and thought it fitting for all of us who have battled cancer--Marcy Bruch
Charlotte Kitley

Charlotte has blogged on The Huffington Post UK since 2013 and sadly passed away on Tuesday 16 September from bowel cancer. She wrote one final post that she wished to share with all of her readers. We are honoured to offer it to you here.
I've always been a good planner. I like lists and tick sheets, to-do notes and objectives. I'm very good at starting things, but honestly, I am also easily bored and quickly lose interest once the original excitement passes.
I haven't had the luxury of being allowed to be bored of having cancer. It isn't something you can just give up if you don't fancy doing it that day. There isn't a switch you can chose to turn off one day from the next. At least not for me. From my first day as a cancer patient, I have attended every test, scan and appointment. I have tried every treatment offered, from the standard medical therapies, to eating oiled cottage cheese, having acupuncture and juicing kale. Cancer has become our life. Holidays, haircuts and helicopter lessons have all been timed around good or bad chemo weekends. Danny and Lu, unwittingly as innocent by-standers have had their childhoods protected but also dictated by my various regimes. This is all they have ever known and, I hope, have still managed to turn out to be pretty good, well-rounded, loved and treasured children.
The innocence that we have protected them from has now had to be revealed. Following my birthday, I started to feel 'unwell'. We 'popped' to hospital where the usual set of tests were carried out. Unfortunately, when combined with a recent scan, the results were nothing short of devastating. We were no longer looking at a month by month action plan with a couple of months buffer at the end. I was given days, perhaps a couple of weeks to live. I wasn't expected to leave the hospital, but somehow, have managed to pull it out of the bag at the last moment and return home, to spend what little time I have with my darling children and loving husband.
As I write this, I am sat on the sofa, relatively pain-free and busy doing my little projects, sorting out the funeral and selling my car. We wake up every morning, grateful I can have a cuddle and kiss my babies.
As you read this, I will no longer be here. Rich will be trying to put one foot in front of the other, to get by, a day at a time, knowing I will no longer awake next to him. He will see me in the luxury of a dream, but in the harsh morning sun, the bed will be empty. He will get two cups from the cupboard, but realise there is only one coffee to make. Lucy will need someone to reach for her hairband box, but there won't be anyone to plait her hair. Danny will have lost one of his Lego policeman, but no one will know exactly which one it is or where to look. You will look for the latest update on the blog. There won't be one, this is the final chapter.
And so I leave a gaping, unjust, cruel and pointless hole, not just in Halliford Road, but in all the homes, thoughts and memories of other loved ones, friends and families. For that I am sorry. I would love to still be with you, laughing, eating my weird and latest miracle food, chatting rubbish 'Charleyisms'. I have so much life I still want to live, but know I won't have that. I want to be there for my friends as they move with their lives, see my children grow up and become old and grumpy with Rich. All these things are to be denied of me.
But, they are not to be denied of you. So, in my absence, please, please, enjoy life. Take it by both hands, grab it, shake it and believe in every second of it. Adore your children. You have literally no idea how blessed you are to shout at them in the morning to hurry up and clean their teeth.
Embrace your loved one and if they cannot embrace you back, find someone who will. Everyone deserves to love and be loved in return. Don't settle for less. Find a job you enjoy, but don't become a slave to it. You will not have 'I wish I'd worked more' on your headstone. Dance, laugh and eat with your friends. True, honest, strong friendships are an utter blessing and a choice we get to make, rather than have to share a loyalty with because there happens to be link through blood. Choose wisely then treasure them with all the love you can muster. Surround yourself with beautiful things. Life has a lot of grey and sadness - look for that rainbow and frame it. There is beauty in everything, sometimes you just have to look a little harder to see it.
So, that's it from me. Thank you so much for the love and kindness you've shown in your own little ways over the last 36 years. From the mean girls in the playing fields who pushed me into the stinging nettles aged six to the bereaved husbands who in the last week have told me what their wives did to help prepare their young children and everyone in between. They and you have all, in some small way helped me become the person I have been.
Please, now use that love for me and pass it to Rich, my children, family and close friends. And when you close your curtains tonight, look out for a star, it will be me, looking down, sipping a pina colada, enjoying a box of (very expensive) chocolates.
Good night, Good bye and God bless.
Charley xx












Sunday, September 7, 2014

Making Peace With Your Body

As breast cancer survivors,  I am pretty sure there is one thing we all have in common--body image issues. Our issues about our bodies are very different from the women out there who believe they can never be thin enough.  Our angst goes beyond trying to camouflage a tummy bulge. Back in the day, I was horrified at the point in my life when I crossed over from a size 6 dress to a size 8. What I would do to have that problem now!

For us breast cancer survivors, striving to maintain a thin and toned body is only part of our self-image equation. We must make peace with the map of scars on our physicality that will mark us for life. When a new man sweeps me off my feet, I must come clean about how I beat this disease called breast cancer so there are no surprises. Lucky for me, baring my soul to a man before I bared my body has had no bad consequences. In fact, I believe my whole survivorship story elevates my appeal to some guys. 

But still. There is no erasing those scars. They will always be there. It is ironic that all the plastic surgery I got through breast reconstructive surgery has made me look a hell of a lot better in clothes. When I go to parties,  there have been women my age that have had a few too many drinks and blurted out: "How come your boobs are so perky?" I just give them a serene smile and reply: "It's my reward for battling breast cancer."

That's when I look at those women and weigh in: Saggy boobs versus scarred boobs--you be the judge. That's when I realize that when you get to be in your 50s, there is no way in hell you are ever going to rock a bikini like you did at 25--whether you had breast cancer or not. In middle age, we all have something going on with our body that doesn't look so hot. Before I had breast cancer, I had not one surgical scar on my body. But I did have some oversized boobs that I believe only made me look dumpy. That problem has since been solved. With my clothes on, today my boobs look mighty fine.

Now if only I could get back into a size 8.

Friday, September 5, 2014

My Memories of Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers and me at the Fashion Accessories Benefit Ball in 1998
I had the good fortune to interview and meet Joan Rivers during my tenure at Accessories magazine. I was working on a feature article about QVC and wrote a sidebar story on her entitled: "Can We Shop?" The minute I got on the phone to interview Joan, I couldn't stop laughing. For every answer to a question, she fired back fast and witty one-liners. My colleagues peaked into my cubicle to figure out why I was practically giggling on the floor.
No doubt about it, Joan was funny. But she had a whole other side the public never knew. The very week the story was published, she sent me flowers, a piece from her jewelry collection, and a signed copy of her latest book. Two months later, I met her at the Fashion Accessories Benefit Ball (pictured here). When I introduced myself, she reached out to shake my hand and said thank you for the press coverage once again.
I've interviewed plenty of high-profile people in my life, but none of them exhibited as much thoughtfulness as Joan Rivers. I was truly impressed at how she never took her fame for granted. She touched me with her gratitude and inspired me with her grace and style. RIP Joan Rivers. You were a remarkable survivor who epitomized class.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

To Be Broken Is No Reason To See All Things Broken

To all of you out there currently battling cancer, remember this quote from Mark Nepo who battled cancer twice and survived: "To Be Broken Is No Reason To See All Things Broken."

Read his book on his journey beating cancer and rising from the ashes of the disease:
The Book of Awakening.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Out Of My Hands

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I felt this overwhelming sense of powerlessness. Previously in my life I had never so much as had a stitch or spent one night in a hospital. Then suddenly within a year, I was dealing with the incapacitating effects of chemo, coping with the pain of a mastectomy and feeling exhausted from radiation.

Before getting cancer, my only health problem was high cholesterol and being overweight--all things that I could control by eating better. But this cancer thing was not going to go away by simply going on a diet. The scary part was that even with all the treatments I was going through, there was no guarantee that I would end up cancer-free.

I realized half of what happens to me is simply out of my hands. So I might as well accept that as serenely as possible. We can't change it, so just shrug your shoulders and get on with it.

That said, we might as well seize what we can control to help get a positive outcome. For example, none of my doctors told me to eat better and exercise while I was battling cancer, but common sense tells me it can't hurt. Plus, when you feel as though your life is spinning out control, it helps when you are doing your part to manage the chaos.

Even today as I walk through life cancer-free, I am reminded of all things that I cannot control and realize the choices I make throughout the day can at least make some difference. After surviving cancer, it becomes more important to exercise your choice to build a better life.

Blogger's note: Reposting a post from a couple of years ago by popular request.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Samantha Harris's Double Mastectomy Choice Will Impact Lives

Samantha Harris, who once co-hosted Dancing With The Stars and is currently an Entertainment Tonight correspondent, has announced she will have a double-mastectomy after learning she has breast cancer.

Samantha is only 40 years old with two little girls--ages six and three. She represents the growing trend among younger women that are getting diagnosed with breast cancer. On ET last Friday night, she started sobbing as she read an email of support from a breast cancer survivor on her iPad.

Samantha Harris
I couldn't help but jump on to her facebook page and add my own encouraging comment. I told her I was six years cancer free, that I had chosen the most radical treatment route to battle breast cancer, and I believed that choice saved my life. I assured her she had made the right decision and before she knew it, life would be back to normal. I also suggested she use her fame to raise breast cancer awareness. By doing so, she could potentially save many lives.

Every time high-profile celebrities step up to the spotlight and announce not only that they have breast cancer, but have opted for a double mastectomy, I can't help but give them a huge shout-out on this blog. 

They help take the fear away from women who are faced with losing their breasts. They give them courage to choose a radical approach that will give them the best shot at surviving breast cancer. Not every women in the same shoes has that kind of the power.

My mother used to tell me, when you have the power, USE it. I am so happy Samantha Harris and so many other high-profile women of her generation have chosen to go public with their breast cancer battle. It is a growing epidemic among them after all.

Thoughts and prayers to you and your family, Samantha Harris. Trust me, you will do just fine.



Friday, February 21, 2014

Introducing Trash To Treasure DIY Decorating!

After four months, my website, www.trashtotreasurediydecorating.com has finally gone live!


The mission of this website is to inspire others to think twice about buying something new and reinventomg what they already have.

My tagline? Rescue. Repurpose. Restyle.

It is also targeted to flea market, tag sale and thrift shop addicts like me that are always on the hunt for junk that they can turn into upcycled gold. If that's what you are into, do please checkout my website.

I not only cover diy projects, I document how I am refreshing one room at a time in my home.

Thanks for your support!

www.trashtotreasurediydecorating.com