Squeamish warning: there’s blood in this blog however it’s a special kind of blood!

But before we get to that, let’s go back a bit. Last Sunday I was worried that I wouldn’t be well enough for chemo#11. I’d picked up a pesky infection although I had no idea where I’d got it from. It was nothing serious, unless you’re going through cancer treatment that is.

My immune system was already pretty poorly – the chemo doesn’t just attack the bad stuff in your body, it also harms good things. Now my immune system was having to fight off this unwelcome infection.

I took to my bed for a few days. I was mightily relieved that by Wednesday it had beaten the bug, not the other way around. I was healthy enough to be poisoned. Excellent.

Before I could have my chemo cocktail I needed a cheeky blood test. The permanent PICC line that goes into my arm is supposed to make life simple. The drugs can go into it and blood comes out easily. There’s no need for any nasty needles. But the blood refused to leave my veins no matter what the nurses did. They pumped and pulled and pushed my arm.

Bizarrely one of them suggested I coughed, a lot. Finally the blood began to flow. It was collected in an air-tight tube with a plastic stopper which was firmly attached to the top of the clear tube.

Then something very freaky happened.

As the nurse held the tube, the plastic top suddenly flew off and hurtled several feet across the room followed by my blood. Somehow it spurted out of the tube and left a trail of splattered red drops over the floor. It looked like I’d been stabbed.

Luckily the female patient who was wearing a pastel pink jumper and had been sitting to my left had popped out of the ward for a moment, otherwise she would have been splashed by my blood.

The nurse reckoned that my blood had sort of exploded out of the tube. She said she’d never seen anything like this before. It seemed that the blood sample had burt out of the tube of it’s own accord. So, apparently, my blood is explosive!


Actually it may well have had something to do with air pressure in the tube. Whatever it was, the hospital floor now resembled a crime scene. It was gruesome and funny at the same time.

With all my blood spilt, the nurses tried again, but I began to feel very ill. As I sat in the blue hospital chair I kinda collapsed. It was like I’d been hit over the head. I almost lost consciousness and could hardly move. My body seemed as if it had turned to stone. The last time I felt like this I was in intensive care and fighting for my life.

When one of the doctors pulled the blue curtain around the place where I was sitting and I knew THIS WAS SERIOUS. I had a oad of tests to try to work out what had just happened. I hadn’t started the chemo so this wasn’t a reaction to the drugs.

I felt ever so frightened but at least I wasn’t alone. My friend Jenny helped me to sip water as I couldn’t lift my arms.

It was feared that I might have been having a stroke but in the end it seemed that I probably fainted. Having spent days in bed may have made things worse.

Did any of this get in the way of my treatment? Of course not.

While I sat back and recovered I was attached to a drip and given all the pre-meds so by the time I felt a little better I was ready for the chemo. As always I couldn’t stop myself falling asleep. But this was a different kind of feeling knocked out. Something that was much easier to cope with. And there was no more of that explosive blood.


You know what it’s like, you’re on your way back from a long holiday or a work trip. You’re knackered, feeling a bit grimy and all you want to do is get home. You don’t want to have to negotiate an airport packed full of people also trying to do the same thing and you desperately hope that you’ll get a decent seat on the airplane.

That’s kinda what chemo #10 was like for me.

Now I’m into double figures, which is amazing, I’m more than half way through my treatment. I’m homeward bound. But the journey back is proving a bit tricky.

My chemo cable – delivering the anti-cancer drugs

I was at hospital on Wednesday with my friend Louise. When I was having chemo last year, she arranged for a load of friends to go to see Kylie Minogue in Hyde Park. The concert was very soon after my treatment finished. It was something lovely to look forward to. So having Louise there for chemo coffee made me think that it’ll be all over soon.

After last week when I got my own room, I hoped it would go just as well. Ha! I’m far too optimistic sometimes. This week was incredibly busy. There were more patients and less staff than usual.

At the chemo unit there are a number of wards where you can have your treatment. Aside from the private rooms, each ward holds about six people. Three along each side. Some people are more squashed in than others. Just like the worst seats on a plane that you really hope you don’t get allocated, I was slap bang in the middle of the smallest row. If I reached out my arms , I could easily touch the people on either side of me.

I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal but I was going to be stuck there for hours, in-between patients who were twice my age, in a chair that wouldn’t recline. As you can imagine I wasn’t in the best of moods. Luckily Louise helped to lift my spirits.

Mmmm magnesium

We’d turned up an hour early but there was still a delay before take-off as it was so busy. Once we got started I needed a couple of hours of magnesium. Watching it drip into your veins is frustrating. In a weird way, I always can’t wait to get going with the bad stuff.

Having the chemo itself took one hour however I spent six long hours in total in that horrible chair sat far too close to sick strangers.

I’m so glad that there are only eight more sessions to go. In the time it’ll take, I could probably fly right around the world and throw in a few stop offs. But I’m not going dwell on this. I know that this treatment is giving me extra time so that hopefully in the future I‘ll be well enough to go off on my own foreign travels.

No 41 on the List for Living

41) Be a model and work the catwalk

Wow the response to my List for Living has been incredible. Some people have now come up with their own lists of the things they’ve always wanted to do. A BBC friend has been so inspired that she’s in Africa right now! I can’t get over how many people have contacted me offers and suggestions. Thank you so much. As I’m shattered from the chemo, most of it will have to wait a while. But not everything…

After hearing about my list, a woman called Adele got in touch to ask if I wanted to be a model. Every year she organises Tea for Ovacome, a champagne afternoon tea and fashion show to raise awareness about ovarian cancer and funds for the Ovacome charity. Like Adele, the other models all had personal experience of the disease. I didn’t need to be asked twice!

I’d put this thing to do on my List for Living as I wanted to celebrate who I am now. Cancer changes you in so many ways. Not just medically and emotionally but also physically. It can make you ever so skinny. Or, as in my case, you go large.

When the disease came back a year ago, I was fit and healthy. But the chemo, the steroids and the not doing too much has meant that I’ve put on weight.

The clothes that we had to model were all on the small side but luckily I found a couple of dresses that I could squeeze into.

I may not look like I used to but my body has done a brilliant job in keeping me alive. Far too many women die within a few years of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Amazingly my body has beaten the odds. It manages to keep battling against the stupid cancer every time it comes back.

Compared to choosing my clothes, getting my hair sorted out was a lot simpler. My lovely hairdresser Angela offered to prepare Candice. The WAG wig was demanding some serious TLC. I left her with Angela. After cutting and curling she was beautiful again and runway ready.

As we rehearsed on the big day, Candice made herself comfortable. A couple of hundred people had bought tickets to the charity event which was at one of the fanciest hotels in London. In just a few hours they’d be watching us strut our stuff.

I have to admit that I felt like a right idiot to start with. I wasn’t exactly graceful. I’m pretty tall and so normally I don’t need to wear killer heels. However it felt empowering to be with so many strong women who had such similar stories to me. We each had two looks to model. Daytime and then night wear.

Just before the show began, I felt a bit anxious, nothing too bad but it did make me wonder why I’d wanted to do this. I think that most of us had the jitters. As we chatted nervously one of the models pointed out that we’d all been through a lot worse.

So true. This time last year I was in hospital after my massive operation, I’d been in intensive care after I came close to dying and I needed a Zimmer frame to help me get around. Now I was about to sashay down a catwalk.

We waited in our daytime outfits in a long, narrow corridor which was lined with abandoned furniture. Then one by one we headed out into the opulent room.

By the time it was my turn, it felt like my heart was beating as loud as the music. Wearing a summer dress and a big smile I walked out in front of the audience that included mum and some of my friends.

Being a model, just for a few seconds, was a surreal but I loved it. And the people watching sounded like they were enjoying the show too.

When I came off the catwalk I felt quite emotional. Backstage we all hugged each other before rushing off to change our outfits. My night time look wasn’t exactly subtle.

This time as I waited for my catwalk cue I felt much more confident.

It was fantastic doing something else from my List for Living. We all worked that catwalk although Kate Moss certainly has nothing to worry about!

We might not have been supermodels but we were something much more powerful, we were all cancer survivors.

What I like about my list is that you get much more than you bargained for. Thanks to the charity event I’ve met some very impressive women who’ve beaten cancer or like me are living well with the disease.

It also dramatically shifted my mood. In the days leading up to doing no 41 I’d been quite miserable. The relentless treatment and tiredness is tough to deal with. But that high from the fashion show is still with me.


It was a room without a view but I wasn’t complaining. Once again I’d been upgraded. I had my own private room. It came with a bed and an isolated sense of calm. Stark and clinical, it was such a contrast to the country pub where I pulled a pint from my List for Living, a few days ago.

I knew I was in for a long afternoon. My magnesium levels have got so low that I needed to go on a drip of the stuff for two and half hours before I could even start the anti-cancer drugs.

Luckily I had company. My friend Keith came for chemo coffee although it turned into chemo coffee, lunch and tea. He was well prepared. With sushi and sandwiches and cream cakes, he laid on a hospital bedside banquet.

When I’d walked onto the ward earlier, I hadn’t really looked at the other patients. In my little room, Keith kept me entertained with a laptop stuffed with movies. It felt like a lovely lazy afternoon albeit in slightly strange surroundings. I could almost pretend that I wasn’t being pumped full of poison. Normally just being there, surrounded by sick people and all the medical equipment means that you focus on the cancer. It’s hard to avoid it.

Yesterday I also had a visitor – a fellow patient from my previous lot of treatment last year. We had got to know each other quite quickly as most of the other people at hospital are about twice as old as us. My chemo sister is totally fab-u-lous. She is positive but pragmatic and ensures that she looks amazing at all times. Something that takes an admirable effort.

My chemo sister came to see me with something sweet. A sparkling chocolate cake that she’d baked herself. Me and my steroids were very happy to be taking home that beauty.

By the time I was unhooked from the drip, the ward was almost deserted. My session at the chemo cocktail bar had left me a bit dizzy and almost like I was drunk. Probably thanks to the pre-meds.

I also felt surprisingly well. I reckon that was mostly because of my afternoon with friends and the chemo-cake-therapy. Despite the hours of treatment, it had been easy to forget about the cancer. Sometimes a little dose of denial isn’t a bad thing.

No 43 on the List for Living

43) Pull a pint in a proper pub

When my school friend Miche said she had a Friday night surprise for me, I had no idea what she had planned. It was only after we arrived at a traditional country pub and she introduced me to the manager that I realised I’d be going behind the bar.

It was only last week that I popped to Paris just for lunch. I never imagined that I’d end up doing something else off my List for Living quite so soon.

It was a good way to end an awful day. The chemo is really starting to take its toll. I’m more tired than ever. I’ve changed my treatment day to Wednesdays. So Fridays are now the worst day of the week. Just because my time left is short, it doesn’t mean every single moment is brilliant. Sometimes my biggest achievement is getting out of bed.

I put this on my List for Living as I’ve enjoyed pretending to work behind a bar in the past but I’ve never actually pulled a pint in a proper pub.

Miche – the organiser of the pull!

The venue chosen by my friend was in the middle of nowhere with little street lighting. Small and quaint, the pub didn’t even have an indoor toilet! But it was full of locals, all intrigued by my keenness to get behind the pumps. The barman gave me a quick lesson. First I had a practise.

And then it was onto number 43 on my List for Living.

It felt great pulling my first proper pint. Standing behind the bar. Doing something a bit different. Totally unconnected with the cancer. What a fantastic surprise night out.

What with all the hospital visits, the sickness and the stress, it’s easy to lose sight of who you are. You’re a patient for so much of the time. It can be overwhelming and squashes the person you were before all of this.

In such a simple way, this reminded me that I’m more than just someone living with a killer disease.

The steroids may be messing with my moods but pulling the pint made me feel much more like me. I thought that my List for Living would just be a lovely way of doing fun stuff with people who mean a lot to me. Creating a whole load of special memories. However I didn’t realise that the list would enable them to help me feel better.

As I write this, a few days later, I still feel chemo shattered. I’ve done very little since but it makes me happy that I have managed to do something special.

No 7 on the List for Living

7) Go to Paris by Eurostar just for lunch

It seemed like such an extravagant thing to do – going all the way to the French capital just for a meal. But then, that was the whole point.

I never would have chosen to have this killer disease but being forced to think about your own mortality makes you stop and consider what’s really important. This may sound odd but knowing that your time is short is quite life affirming. You appreciate so much more.

My List for Living is about doing the kind of things I wouldn’t normally do or the stuff I’ve always wanted to do but hadn’t quite got round to. The focus is on having fun and spending time with the people who mean the most to me.

It felt amazing to be heading to Paris with a big group of friends. What a way to start my List for Living. This may not be number 1 but this is a great thing to tick off first. Also the ones higher up the list are so much harder to do.

As we’d travelled abroad for lunch, it had to be somewhere special.

We went to one of the oldest brassieres in Paris, the beautiful Bofinger. It’s famous for its glass domed ceiling and art deco style. Luckily my rubbish French managed to secure us one of the best tables in the place – we dined under the dome.

Lovely ladies who lunch…in Paris.
(L-R) Jenny, me, Kath, Anna, Colette, Tamsin and Nicola.

After more than three hours we were the last to leave. Now that’s the way to do lunch!

The plan was then to explore Paris but after a short walk we spotted a bar which seemed too good to pass.  On the menu was a ‘foxy lady’ cocktail. Tamsin, my friend who kindly offers to pinch me at hospital, insisted that I couldn’t pass on that either.

Later, a couple from Australia started chatting to me as I squeezed past their table. The pair had recently retired and were traveling their way around Europe.

“Hey – you girls sound like you’re having a great time. What are you celebrating?” the woman asked me with a smile.

Oh. What could I say? We’d had a boozy lunch and now it was cocktails o’clock, my brain couldn’t think of what to say other than the truth. So I told them I had cancer and I was doing something fun with friends. The woman looked shocked and held my hand. I tried to reassure her, saying this really wasn’t a sad occasion.

It was an uncomfortable situation more for her then me however I’m glad she struck up the conversation. It made me realise that I felt so alive, I was making the most of life, and yes, we were celebrating.

Considering it was only a couple of days after my last chemo I felt surprisingly well. I’m sure that if I wasn’t doing much at home I wouldn’t have felt quite so good. A big occasion always gives me a boost. Another reason why I’ m already loving the list.

The day was brilliant. I had a great time with friends. It meant that thoughts and fears about cancer drifted into the background.

The only thing we had to worry about was whether the multi-coloured macaroons we’d bought would get crushed. They did. And would we make it back to the train station in time. We did, just. We caught the Eurostar home with a couple of minutes to spare.

It was a perfect start to my List for Living. Popping to Paris proved that my disease won’t stop me from enjoying the precious time I have left.

My List for Living

Finally here it is.

There are no must-dos or should-dos. Just lots of love-to-dos.

Some people will call this my bucket list but I’m not a fan of that term. This is about living life to full while I can and not about focusing on the dying.

It was quite difficult to write as I don’t know how long I’ve got. I could get very sick soon and never properly recover. I might not be able to travel again. I wondered if I should have a short list but then I thought nah… let’s just put everything on it and see what happens.

The first five things are the most important to me. If I get to tick those off I’ll be happy. Doing all the other ones will be a bonus. After the top five, the rest of the list is in no particular order.

Deciding on what to do has been partly inspired by my original List for Living. That was the list of ten things I wanted to do after I was treated for cancer for the first time more than a decade ago. Back then I longed to live somewhere totally different. I wanted adventure, thrills and animal magic. To have a life without any regrets.

I’ve also been looking at other people’s lists. They’ve helped with ideas of what to add to my list. And what to leave off, like having a perm, trying balsamic vinegar and (this is one of my favourites) getting a pair of thigh high boots and wearing them without feeling like a hooker. I think I may have done those anyway!

Many of the things on my list are fun and quite easy. Others will be very hard to do. Some require me to live for a long time and prove the doctors wrong. A few are almost stupidly unattainable.

But I know that when I wrote my first List for Living it included dreams that I thought were practically impossible. The list led me to achieve more than I ever imagined. Now I hope that what will be my last List for Living will again give my life purpose with incredible goals to aim for.

Being told that your life will be cut short makes you realise what’s important in life. When you think about it, there’s not much that really matters apart from the people who mean the most to you. I’m going to do most of the list with family and friends. It’s a fantastic excuse for us to do amazing things and create some wonderful memories.

I may change the list or add more things to do along the way. My List for Living also has its own page on this blog so I can tick stuff off. Something I love to do and something I’ve already started. You see, I have a confession. In between compiling my list and writing this blog post, I’ve actually gone and done one of them!

Despite the speedy start, I’m sure there will be many items left that I don’t get to do. This is where my friends and family come in, again. I’ll be leaving the remainder of the list to them. I’d like them to take over my List for Living. To carry my dreams with them after I’ve gone.


My List for Living

1) Move to the countryside

2) Live in my own house

3) Get a dog

4) Play a netball game, again

5) Recover from chemo on a ridiculously perfect beach

6) See penguins in the South Pole

7) Go to Paris by Eurostar just for lunch (DONE!)

8) Visit Pompeii and drive along the Amalfi coast

9) Explore the ancient ruins in Rome

10) Snorkel on a coral reef

11) Trek in Nepal

12) Go to the 2016 Olympics in Rio

13) See the Northern Lights

14) Ride a camel across a desert

15) Drink a mojito in Cuba

16) See Stonehenge at sunrise

17) Go into space

18) Get married

19) Get my book published

20) Present a BBC Radio 4 programme

21) Hold an exhibition of my cow photographs

22) Do voluntary work

23) Run a 5K

24) Sky dive

25) Go gliding

26) Ride a horse through Hyde Park

27) Try kite surfing

28) Zoom down a zip wire

29) Surf somewhere hot

30) Go coastering somewhere cold

31) Take a speed boat down the Thames

32) Swing on a trapeze

33) Fly in a hot air balloon

34) Take a private jet over London

35) Fly in a stealth airplane

36) Be driven very fast around a race track in a sports car

37)  Sleep under the stars

38) Get a tattoo

39) Have a henna crown painted on my baldy head once the hair falls out

40) Grow my hair long, again

41) Be a model and work the catwalk

42) Learn to play poker

43) Pull a pint in a proper pub

44) Hold a party in a castle

45) Go glassblowing

46) See puffins in Britain

47) Swim with sharks

48) Sail alongside a pod of dolphins at sea

49) Catch fireflies in a jar

50) Drink champagne in one of the best bars in the world just before Christmas to celebrate still being alive.