What does it mean to be ‘Inspirational’?

I’ve been thinking about the word ‘inspirational’ for the last couple of days. A close family friend, who sadly passed away on Tuesday, was nothing short of inspirational. Although I doubt that she would have called herself so. Helen was dealt a shitty hand, in that she was diagnosed with stage four (terminal) breast cancer in May of last year; at 37 years old.

Helen swallowed the bitter ‘cancer’ pill with great strength and dignity, and after a short interlude (to reset her sails), she pulled up her big girl knickers and cracked on with life. She embarked on a gruelling regime of chemo followed by platinum therapy in an attempt, not to rid herself of the ‘Big C’ – that wasn’t an option – but to give herself as long as possible with her husband and three young children.

She bravely documented the trials and tribulations of living with secondary cancer on social media, all the while encouraging us – her family and friends – to rethink cancer while getting to know out bodies, because early diagnosis is the key to survival! She also set about raising funds for her local hospice – the Hospice of the Good Shepherd – in Backford, Cheshire. A charity cricket match and family fun day took place at the end of August, followed by other fundraising opportunities that in total raised well over £10,000. I’d say that’s pretty inspirational….

I know that none of us know how we’d react in certain circumstances until we are literally faced with them, but its a thought I’ve pondered since Helen’s diagnosis. Would I have the courage or the energy to share my story? Would I be motivated to engage is selfless acts of fund and awareness raising; using myself as an example of what can happen if symptoms go undetected. And all this while undertaking a punishing treatment regimen.

I guess the very real answer to the question is…. I’m not sure I would!

Helen’s selfless attitude in the face of true adversity has led me to look a bit deeper into the meaning of the word ‘inspirational’ and whether it is becoming somewhat overused in today’s society. I think its fair game to say that seeing pictures of a toned girl or guy on the internet may have inspired most of us to grab our trainers and go for a run – it may even have led to the people in those pictures being described as ‘inspirational’ – but it doesn’t carry quite the same weight that some inspirational folk might have over others.

Someone who puts the well-being of others so highly on her agenda, despite her own ailing health is, for me without a doubt, inspirational (even if she wouldn’t have used that word to describe herself!). I hope that if the ‘Big C’ ever comes knocking at my door that I will be as selfless, determined and strong as Helen.

Big Love,

Mammahannah xx

 

 

 

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The Importance of Laughter…

Yesterday… the day before today… Tuesday 19 January 2016. It seems like a lifetime ago, except that it was only yesterday.

At around 14.30 my Sister’s name lit up my mobile phone screen. We were due to meet up that evening at Chester Racecourse, at a party to celebrate our wonderful friend Helen, who last year received the devastating news that at 38 years old she had terminal breast cancer. It was to be her ‘final fling’; a chance to bring together family and friends for one final momentous knees up, and in true Helen style, everything was planned meticulously. So I thought nothing of my sister calling (even though she rarely calls me at work)… She was obviously calling to finalise arrangements for that evening.

Sadly I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I’m heartbroken to have to convey the tragic news that she was actually phoning to tell me of Helen’s passing. In a cruel twist, our friend was taken just hours before being able to attend her own party. Beautiful, courageous and inspiring Helen was gone…

But not one to rest on her laurels, Helen had thought of everything, including the possibility that she might not be around… Hence, she’d instructed her husband to make sure that the party still went ahead, even if it was without her! It seemed incredibly surreal to get ready – black tie and cocktail dresses – to go to a celebration so soon after being given such desperately sad news, but it was Helen’s wish, and that simply couldn’t be ignored! She had promised an evening of ‘fun, laughter and entertainment’ and that’s exactly what we determined we were going to have.

Victor Hugo stated that “Laughter is the sun that drives Winter from the human face” and on this occasion, he couldn’t have been more right! Yes, there was an outpouring of grief – tears by the bucket load in fact –  at the loss of a truly wonderful woman, but there also existed a very real feeling of comfort and togetherness. Laughter bounced off the walls of the Long Room as guests exchanged stories and fond memories of Helen, and smiles and bonds were created that made everyone feel just a little bit better about life in that moment.

I left the party feeling calm – serene even – and made myself a promise to let out a good guffaw on a daily basis; even when circumstances dictate that I don’t really feel like it! Yes there will be (and are) times when life seems so cruel and unfair, but Helen’s plight has really highlighted for me how important it is to live life to the fullest, to make sure I fill each day with love, happiness and laughter. I hope we managed to achieve this last night for Helen…

Shine bright beautiful lady… like a diamond!

Big Love,

Mammahannah xx

 

 

Read this: Monday to Friday Man

The Monday to Friday Man

 

What do you do if you’re 34 and recovering from being jilted two weeks before your wedding day?

While friends are marrying, having children and moving to the depths of the countryside, Gilly Brown finds herself alone in London with just her little dog Ruskin for company. It’s time to move on, so, on a friend’s advice she looks for a lodger, a Monday to Friday one, and finds handsome television producer Jack Baker. Gilly falls for Jack’s charm and is transported into an exciting social whirlwind of parties, dining out and glamour.

When Jack is introduced to Gilly’s family and friends, it’s only the attractive and eccentric Guy, the newest recruit in the dog walking group, who isn’t quite so convinced about Jack’s intentions. As Guy watches them grow closer, his suspicions of Jack and his feelings for Gilly deepen. Is Jack so perfect after all… and what exactly does he get up to at the weekends?

This book was recommended to me by a friend as a fantastically lazy holiday read and it didn’t disappoint! Monday to Friday Man by Alice Peterson is an enjoyable and easy read; perfect for relaxing under a parasol with. That’s not to say its devoid of  substance or grit; it tackles a couple of  very difficult issues, and does so well.

I loved the characters in this book particularly the  dog walking group who are, to all intents and purposes, a vibrantly diverse bunch! But in spite of their differences, the friendship that exists among them is strong and caring, especially towards Gilly who is herself a loveable character. I can see many thirty-something women relating well to her experiences – I know I did! It reminded me of a time when all my friends were settling down and getting married; while I was stumbling from one disastrous relationship to another. I understood how Gilly was feeling – that time is running out for her; and felt Alice Peterson addressed this exceptionally well.

Monday to Friday Man is not a frivolous read by any matter of means. Gilly has to deal with the death of her younger sister and the subsequent abandonment of her and her twin brother by their depressed mother. These poignant episodes are depicted by a series of flashbacks, which are neatly interspersed between the in-the-moment eventualities.

Overall Monday to Friday Man is an entertaining book about friendships and relationships. It is also about following your heart and not worrying about the things in life you can’t change. A wonderful motto in my opinion! This book will make you laugh and it’ll make you cry… but only if you read this!