Categories
Cancer

[CANCER] A Life Update

I met with my oncologist about 3 weeks ago, and life has continued to be cancer-busy, as I’ve continued to try to get my head round what has happened to me (not sure this will ever quite happen!). Since then I’ve met up with a few friends, been to see my parents, and then a couple more things ‘cancer related’ (aside from my regular treatment infusion).

Dentist

Who knew that cancer treatment could have such an impact upon your teeth .. .well, several people, which is why there’s a campaign seeking free dental prescriptions alongside the other prescriptions that we get. It was time for my checkup, and I noted that my teeth feel more sensitive – it appears that my gums are receding somewhat – likely just another lovely side effect. I’ve been recommended to ensure I use a good sensitive toothpaste, make sure I time for 2 minutes, use floss, don’t use mouthwash, and put toothpaste on neat during the day too. I may get prescribed some fluoride-intense toothpaste…

Solo Travel: Munich

Life feels like it has become very much work or hospital (maybe with house/decluttering), and in those attempts to try and work out what life might look like whilst #BusyLivingWithMets! So, on receiving an email from EasyJet with some cheap deals, and having vaguely thought about Germany (though not specifically Munich), I decided I wanted to challenge myself to do what I used to enjoy a lot – going somewhere on my own that I’d never been to (and where I don’t really speak the language, despite a couple of years of learning German at school)… Considering that I’ve got quite stressed just going through airports for ‘easier’ trips, after booking this seemed a bit of a crazy idea (but ironically not asking for special assistance aside from going through the special assistance security lane – where I’m not sure if it was my prosthesis or my port that kicked off a full-on pat down)…

I’d remembered to download many episodes of Silent Witness to my iPad, and found my hotel close to the central train station – then realised had forgot my adaptor so ended up exploring nearby shops (lots of toiletries shops for some reason – which don’t sell adaptors), then back with some snack and early to bed. Both days I didn’t leave the hotel until 11am (and didn’t bother booking breakfast because 1) was quite pricey, 2) didn’t want to have to be down by 10am), then walked (looking for Pokemon/landmarks) with frequent stops and random meandering. The full day was back in bed with more snacks by about 5.30pm, though the final day had to stay awake for the flight (which thankfully was on time). The only ‘attraction’ I bothered paying for was the Olympic Tower (9 Euro) – and would have paid for the Rathaus, but the lift was broken (and no, I’m not climbing many steps):

Returned shattered, but felt that had done my mental health a great deal of good! Need to get making that ‘life list’ …

Return to Work

Monday I ‘returned to work’ (working from home still most of the time), plus an appointment with the GP to get enough medication to take to New Zealand – and she wants to see me post NZ to talk longer term trying to manage ‘the new normal’. Like most people with secondary cancer will end up living to a certain extent scan-to-scan – NEAD can last for years, or can disappear overnight.

Anyway, took about 3 hours to delete all the emails I didn’t want, leaving about 300+ to deal with – by end of the week still hadn’t got to the bottom of them! So the whole week was actioning emails, with a visit to work to fill in the ‘Return to Work’ paperwork (at which point I found out what a phased return was supposed to look like) – nicely interrupted by a fire alarm just as I’d asked what a ‘PEEP’ was and whether I needed one (personal evacuation plan).

I’ve found returning to work quite overwhelming and emotional – talking ‘longer term’ and realising that treatment is never going to stop, and that the fatigue may not improve, I’m not entirely sure what I’m capable of any more, and I’m just shattered after 2.5 years of ongoing treatment (cognitive overload is the polite way of putting it … ‘headfuck’ the less polite way). Having said that, I have managed to keep going with a decent amount of work in between (it never feels like enough).  I’m hoping that occupational health (Monday) and chats with some others in management may help find a way to allay some anxieties. I picked up the Macmillan brochure on work and cancer too – and online there’s a downloadable guide on questions to ask.

Some information I’ve been sent re managing energy:

Lymphoedema/Lymphedema Clinic

By Friday, I was beyond it and had (surprise-surprise) done more work than I should have, so slept a lot. Lunchtime I had an appointment with the Lymphoedema clinic to see how I’m responding to the pressure-support. These appointments always seem to be on time – and she was very happy with what my arm is doing. In fact half my treatment arm is actually SMALLER than my right-arm (which as I’m right-handed doesn’t make sense)… So, she said it could be that it flared up because of all the extra treatments and that we caught it so early, that maybe with continued moisturiser and massage it will be managed without the sleeve. Suggestion is to try for a week without and see what happens … either way I shall be wearing for the flight!

Whilst we were chatting, she (along with most medical/psychological personnel – and TBF, most of my friends) thinks I try and do too much/beat myself up too much. She mentioned that there was a Macmillan Centre over the road, so I went over there for a good chat, came home via Sainsburys (rock and roll) and crashed out.

SO – anyway – for those who are interested, you’re kind of up to date!

Categories
Academic

[LIFE/ACADEMIA] Writing Scholarship in New Zealand with @VaughanPark

For years I have wanted to apply for a Residential Scholarship at Vaughan Park (above Auckland, New Zealand), and it appears that my research bid below, has led to me being awarded a scholarship/writing retreat for March/April 2020.

I decided to go for it after a conversation with my Head of Faculty, who came to visit me the week of my secondary diagnosis. I mentioned that once I realised that I wasn’t yet dead, my biggest sadness was the impact that this was likely to have on my ability to travel. We (semi-jokingly) said that I should look for trips to do with work, and then work would be responsible for those costs. I then decided in the ‘life is short’ frame of mind, and knowing that I’m not doing any face-to-face teaching this year, this seemed the perfect time to give it a go. So, after further conversations/support of Head of Faculty and Head of Department, off the bid went.

So now we’ve ‘just’ the logistics to prepare for … and just praying that my oophorectomy – which I had already expected to have had by now, and am still waiting a date on, is at the very least before Christmas… so I’ve plenty of recovery time before a long flight. My oncologist agreed that I could take a short break from treatment (unless it can be done in New Zealand (which apparently has great healthcare) but obviously can’t do what I might otherwise have thought about – stay on a bit longer for some extra travel (thankfully I have been before).

I hope I might be able to see some old friends, although they may have to come my way as who knows how much the fatigue will have lifted, and obviously I am going for work. I anticipate that I’m doing public lectures at Vaughan Park, Laidlaw College, and Victoria University in Wellington – that seems plenty.

The Bid

Bio: Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, where she was previously employed to research faith in a digital age, and aid with digital literacy in the church. She has a particular interest in digital culture and the third sector, especially faith organisations, having worked with most national UK churches and a number of Christian charities. She has written widely on discipleship in a digital age, and her 2017 breast cancer diagnosis has led to added research on identity, social media and cancer. Treatment made physical engagement with church challenging, so the online space has literally been a Godsend.

Trained as a mass communications historian, Bex has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst  (Lion Hudson, 2014) alongside a number of book chapters and academic papers, and regularly judges digital awards.

Bex enjoys international travel, including two months travelling around New Zealand on a Magic Bus in 2007, before working as a tour leader for Oak Hall holidays in 2008. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, including a range of devotionals, most recently for BBC Radio 4 (http://bit.ly/Radio4LentCancer) and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.

Project: In 2014, Raising Children in a Digital Age (http://j.mp/digitparent), was published to positive reviews, and I would like to work on developing the second edition at Vaughan Park. The book was published by Lion Hudson, who are Christian publishers, keen to allow Christian authors to make a difference in the wider world.  The Financial Times described it as ‘sensible’ in a sea of scare stories, whilst a 14 year old, initially scathing at the idea that her mum would learn anything, read it and said ‘oh, she knows what she’s talking about’. Individuals at conferences have come up to me and said it has changed the conversation with their children, whilst youth leaders have said that my work has shaped youth ministry around digital over the past few years.

Other work is emerging from this work, exploring practical theology and media literacy, to resource the church and wider Christian community. I am currently developing a funding bid to ensure that churches have good policies for youth and children around social media, from which an academic paper will emerge, which will support my research impact. Over the past five years, I have continued to engage in a lot of media work around children and digital (http://drbexl.co.uk/press/), watching the conversation change, and it is time for a second edition. A 2014 book in digital terms is ‘prehistoric’: the book was written on principles so it would be a case of identifying and updating case studies, and adding more material on the big topics of screentime, addiction, mental health and gaming.

I would also be looking to further discussions with Stephen Garner, Academic Dean and Senior Lecturer in Theology, Laidlaw College, about publications and resources around the area of discipleship in a digital age. Stephen is the co-author of Networked Theology (2016), written with Heidi Campbell from their collaboration when she was a Vaughan Park Scholar. I would be developing further work I led on The Big Bible Project: http://archive.bigbible.uk/home2/archives/, and have published here: http://bit.ly/SurvSocFaithSocMedia. Stephen is also keen to have me give a public lecture at Laidlaw College, and introduce me to other scholars in our shared research areas, and there would be an opportunity to explore faith and media in the bicultural and multicultural contexts of New Zealand.

I am friends with Heidi Campbell, Cherry Hamilton, and Andrew Graystone, all previous Vaughan Scholars, and they speak enthusiastically about the experience. After a challenging two years (and ongoing) cancer treatment, and an uncertain long-term prognosis since my secondary diagnosis, a time of mental and spiritual space within a supportive Christian community, alongside space to think and work, would be a powerful restorative.

Summary of Expected Outputs:

  • Work on a revised version of book;
  • Thinking about an associated academic paper;
  • Present some talks on faith, media and digital life;
  • Develop collaborative partnerships;
  • Enjoy a refreshing and restorative rhythm of spiritual life and community.
Categories
Life(style) Media & Press Media - Audio

Interview with @BreakoutR re #TFBloggers

On Tuesday I was interview by @andydmitch for Breakout Radio

We are a non-denominational Community Christian Radio Station based in the Weardale and Wear Valley area of the North East of England. Our focus is around the needs of the area and communicating the Gospel message through this intimate and accessible medium.

BreakoutRadio

Listen here – less than 10 mins (MP3)

Categories
Life(style) Media & Press Media - Text

Cartooned up for #TFBloggers

Tearfund-bloggers-cartoon-square2DW

And how cool is it to have someone create me in cartoon form…

Tearfund-bex-lewis-text

Though there are comments re similarity to a certain TV character:

Free Vector Scooby Doo VELMA0021291

And here’s the official press release – available to chat if anyone would like to.

Categories
Academic

Value of Time Abroad?

You know me, I love my travel, and really think it has contributed much to the person that I am (becoming). ThirdYearAbroad.com is bringing case studies together of the value that studying abroad can have. I think it doesn’t matter what course you’re on, or if you’re past formal study… it’s good to get a different persecutive!

They may have gone on to work as everything from a brand manager at Boots to a human rights activist in Sumatra, a broker for a yacht company in Monaco, a researcher at the Dachau concentration camp memorial site and even an interpreter for the Miss World competition.

Yet all these graduates agree that the skills and confidence they acquired during a year abroad as part of their degree played a crucial role in their subsequent careers.

Read full story.