Friday, 13 July 2018

Two years on... learning to live with it

A year ago from now, I wasn't in a good place.

Two years ago, I'd just received that fateful letter and had no idea what kind of nightmare was hurtling towards me. Fast forward twelve months to last July, and I'd sunk into a very low place mentally which was just as traumatic as the diagnosis and surgery itself.

I did start to feel much better in October/November last year, but it was a slow and sometimes frustrating process. In October, I blogged about how I shouldn't be feeling guilty about my state of mind and also berated myself for not being more open with people about what I was going through. Ironically, now that my mind is clearer, I can see that I still felt guilty and was trying to justify myself to... myself. I still felt angry that people were skirting around the impact of my diagnosis and surgery even though I desperately needed to talk about it, and I shifted that anger onto myself for not being more honest about my feelings. My mood deteriorated in December for a number of reasons, so 2017 finished just as negatively as it had begun.

I'm pleased to report that, so far, 2018 has been a lot better than the previous two years. It had a rocky start as I was still trying to get through my low patch, but I managed to turn things around. I forced myself into a few situations I didn't think I could handle, and I did handle them. This made me feel stronger and made me realise that I'm more determined and resilient than I give myself credit for.

I'm not going to pretend everything is brilliant all the time. I still have days where I want to scream, cry, withdraw, or all three at once. I had an unexpected 'I hate everything this cancer has done to me' meltdown as recently as four days ago, all because I had a call from the hospital about yet another appointment I need to arrange. Some triggers still hit me like a punch in the stomach, particularly when I'm not expecting them, and I think they always will. However, on a 'good' day, those triggers aren't as all-consuming as they used to be and I'm able to take a deep breath and try to focus on something else.

I can pinpoint a few things that have helped me to feel better over the last few months:
  • Spending time with Jessie, my beautiful Corgi puppy. She makes me smile every day and makes everything seem a little bit better with one wag of her tail. 
  • I started a new job in March and I absolutely love it. Although leaving the place where I'd worked for ten years was scary, it was 100% the right decision for me and gave me the fresh start I needed. 
  • I've been trying really hard to practice mindfulness. I've let this slip over the last couple of months so need to pick it back again, but I think it's made me more aware of my downward thought spirals and how to combat them.  
  • Even though the funding for my support group abruptly came to an end a few months ago, I'm still in touch with the lovely ladies I met through the group. Speaking to people who 'get it' makes all the difference in the world. 
  • As I mentioned earlier, I've forced myself out of my comfort zone and pushed myself into situations I know I wouldn't have been able to handle last year. Even though these situations were difficult at the time, they're enabling me to slowly build up that 'milestone' bank. 

Having said all that, some things are still very distressing and I suspect they always will be. I now have check ups at the hospital every 6 months rather than every 3 months, and I think people are starting to see them as a formality as time goes on. This obviously isn't the case for me. My anxiety levels still peak a few weeks before each appointment and stay high afterwards if I've got to wait for any kind of result. Also, this might sound incredibly ungrateful, but being given the 'all clear' at these appointments is quite difficult to celebrate. Cancer has taken something irreplaceable from me and all the all clears in the world won't bring it back. But on the plus side, those good results do give me a sense of relief to cling on to until the next appointment looms. 

Every twinge, ache or slight abnormality makes my heart feel as if it's beating out of my chest. I suffered with health anxiety for years before my diagnosis, but this is on another level. I no longer have that tiny voice of reason telling me that it's very unlikely to happen to me, because it HAS happened to me. And as I've said in a previous post, that uncontrollable fear that 'it's back' is hideous. I had an MRI scan after my last check-up because the doctor was slightly concerned about one of my symptoms, and I nearly drove myself mad during the three-week wait for results. I no longer believe that 'no news is good news' as my initial diagnosis took so long to be confirmed, so I morphed into a massive bag of nerves as time went on. Thankfully, the MRI scan showed no evidence of recurrence so I can breathe easily until the next ache or pain comes along. 

Taking the good and bad into consideration, I do feel so much better than I felt this time last year (and two years ago, for that matter). I've worked really hard on helping myself as much as I can, and I do feel as if I'm making slow progress even if it is a tough slog at times.

I finished last July's blog post with a very stark statement: 'Cancer may have left my body ten months ago, but it will never ever leave my life.' Although that statement is still true and will always be true, I do feel as if, one day, I'll be able to learn to live with it. 

Friday, 6 July 2018

Walt Disney World shopping haul

There are only two things that provide a quick fix for those unrelenting Disney holiday blues. One is booking your next trip, and the other is making the most of everything you bought while you were there.

I blogged about my holiday shopping wishlist a couple of weeks before we left and I managed to pick up most of the things I wanted to buy. It's also quite fair to say that I bought a few extras. We received a $200 gift card with our holiday booking which was a great bonus, so lots of the items in this post were bought using that. Free money!

We also had some productive trips to the many shopping outlets outside of Walt Disney World, but I'm just focusing on my Disney haul for this post.

Two of my favourite purchases! A little Dooney and Bourke bag and a Mickey Mouse topiary charm for my Disney Pandora bracelet. 

I bought some lovely clothes this year, including a baby pink spirit jersey which was even prettier than the rose gold one I'd coveted beforehand. I also bought a pin for my office lanyard, and I couldn't say no to these two pairs of amazing Disney Parks ears. 

I bought some practical items for the house including fridge magnets, a new mug and bowl, and several pens (which I definitely didn't need but just had to have). I also bought a beautiful Dumbo necklace, just to go with the continuing Dumbo theme. 

As per my wishlist, I bought the special edition Flower and Garden Festival Minnie Mouse. Look how pretty she is! I also bought Figment, Dug, and a Tramp costume for Duffy. I wasn't supposed to buy any more costumes for Duffy but it was $10 in an outlet store so I couldn't resist.

We spent a long time over several evenings in the fascinating Art of Disney store and eventually decided on this beautiful Dumbo sketch and a Mickey, Minnie and Pluto postcard for our newly redecorated bedroom. 

We bought a new Minnie Mouse collar and tag for Jessie along with some Disney toys. The pictured toy only lasted a day before she broke it, but her squeaky Mickey waffle is thankfully still going strong. 

Have you blogged about your Disney hauls recently? Send me your links, I'd love to read them! 

Friday, 29 June 2018

It's cocktail o'clock at Walt Disney World

This post isn't entirely about cocktails, but I love to alliterate.

I've already blogged about my favourite snacks, quick-service restaurants and table-service restaurants from this year's trip. As those posts were obviously very food focused, I decided to write a separate post all about the drinkilicious beverages we tried at Walt Disney World this year.

Most non-alcoholic drinks at your resort and at the parks are included on the Disney Dining Plan as a snack. Each person gets two snack credits per day on the regular Dining Plan, so these drinks are a great way to use up your credits as well as quenching that humidity-induced thirst. 

You also receive a free refillable mug as part of the Dining Plan which means unlimited soft drink refills at your resort for the duration of your stay. 

As well as all the free non-alcoholic drinks, the Disney Dining Plan recently announced an exciting upgrade.  Your table-service credits now include one alcoholic drink along with your main meal and dessert. We like to have an alcoholic drink with our evening meals and have previously just paid the extra for them, so this was a welcome addition for us. 

Here are my top ten non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks from this year's holiday. Enjoy! 

We had two LeFou's Brews from Gaston's Tavern this year. They're absolutely massive and great value as a snack credit on the Dining Plan. 

We visited Dockside Margaritas in Disney Springs many many times. The cocktails are really tasty (I always order the Rum Runner) and the outdoor seating area boasts this amazing view. 

I ordered the 'It's Showtime Mojito' at Planet Hollywood. I was expecting it to be a bit watered down but it was actually very potent! 

South Sea Breeze cocktail at Nine Dragons in Epcot's China pavilion. Always a winner.

I don't even like tequila as a general rule, but this Frontera Margarita from Frontera Cocina was pretty spectacular. 

Night Blossom from Pandora: The World of Avatar. Basically a huge tumbler of colourful slushy sugar with edible beads on top, so obviously I loved it. 

No visit to the Flower and Garden Festival is complete without a Violet Lemonade. 

We love wandering around Epcot in the evening with either a Prosecco from Italy or a glass of wine from France. 

My standard cocktail order whenever we go to Shula's Steakhouse. Blueberry Martini! 

Glow-tini at the Yachtsman Steakhouse. You'd have thought the lure of this cocktail was all in the souvenir glowcube (some of it definitely is), but it does taste really good too. 

What are your favourite drinks at Walt Disney World? I'm forever on the hunt for tasty (and instagrammable) beverages! 

Friday, 22 June 2018

My favourite meals at Walt Disney World

After blogging about my top 5 snacks and top 5 quick-service restaurant last week, it's now time to salivate over my favourite table-service restaurants from this year's holiday.

As we were on the Disney Dining Plan again this year (read more about the plan here), our table-service restaurants came in two categories. The majority of restaurants at Walt Disney World fall into the standard category and are worth one credit per person. The remaining restaurants have the esteemed 'signature' label and are worth two credits per person as they're generally more expensive.

After much deliberation, I've chosen my top 5 standard table-service restaurants for 2018...

We discovered Animal Kingdom's Yak & Yeti last year and it was a firm favourite again this year. I would pay good money to eat this whole meal again right now. 

Nine Dragons in Epcot's China pavilion. Always a holiday staple for us! 

Frontera Cocina in Disney Springs was one of the new restaurants we tried this year. It was Mexican-themed and we'll definitely be going back there at some point. 

Via Napoli in Epcot's Italy pavilion is one of my favourite restaurants in the world. It never ever EVER disappoints. 

Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge was another new restaurant for us this year, and the starter alone catapulted it into my top 5. Best naan bread I've ever had, and I've eaten a lot of naan bread in my time.

Moving swiftly on to my favourite signature restaurants! Signature meals have to be planned very carefully as they're worth two credits each, and we decided to go to three this year. We also visited one restaurant which isn't on the Disney Dining Plan but is well worth paying for. All four restaurants were amazing so I'm going to feature them all, just because I can. 

I had steak at California Grill which isn't always very photogenic, but it tasted amazing nonetheless. And just look at that view from the observation deck! 

The Yachtsman Steakhouse at the Yacht Club is one of the restaurants I get most excited about since trying it a couple of years ago. I think it might be my absolute favourite. 

We went to Citricos at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa on our last evening for a lovely three course meal. Everything about it was spectacular and it was the perfect place to spend our last night. 

We always love to visit Shula's Steakhouse at the Dolphin Hotel. It's not on the Disney Dining Plan and it's pretty pricey, but it's well worth it for such an amazing meal. 

Are you hungry yet? I'll be blogging about my favourite Disney drinks next week... watch this space! 

Friday, 15 June 2018

Top 5 snacks and quick-service restaurants at Walt Disney World

I've been back from holiday for four weeks and I haven't blogged about the food yet. Can you believe it? I certainly can't, so I thought it was about time I rectified this situation.

I'm going to start by blogging about my top 5 snacks and quick-service restaurants on this trip, then I'll blog separately next week about our favourite table service restaurants.

We made good use of our Disney Dining Plan as always (read my quick summary of how it works here), although we did struggle to use all our snack credits this year. It turns out that a table service meal, quick-service meal and two snacks per day is sometimes too much food even for us. However, we spent our remaining snack credits on Ghirardelli chocolate so we felt quite smug about having so many left over.

Brace yourselves for photos of my top 5 snacks...

Mickey-shaped cinnamon bun at Animal Kingdom 

My all-time favourite Disney snack. Churro! 

Giant pink doughnut... I ate this at 9am. 

One of many trips to Beaches & Cream for our ice cream fix

Warm Wild Berry Buckle with pepper-berry gelato from Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival. One of the new things I was determined to try on this trip!  

After seeing the size of the snacks, I'm sure you can understand why we struggled to use up all our snack credits! 

We did well with our quick-service credits and managed to space them out evenly throughout our trip. Quick-service restaurants are ideal when you want a more casual meal which you can eat as quickly or as slowly as you want to, and there really is something to suit everyone. Don't be fooled into thinking you'll get a small portion though... see below! 

These were my five favourites this year: 

We tried Blaze Pizza in Disney Springs for the first time and it was goooood. 

Orange chicken at Lotus Blossom Cafe in Epcot's China pavilion.
I look forward to this every year! 

Another holiday staple for me - Mickey waffles for breakfast at The Artist's Palette 

One of many trips to D-Luxe Burger. BEST BURGERS EVER. 

Colossal breakfast at Be our Guest in the Magic Kingdom 

Are you really hungry now? I definitely am... no change there then. Keep a look out for more mouth-watering photos of food next week!  

Friday, 8 June 2018

My birthday celebrations

Another year, another birthday... I seriously can't believe it's June already. At the risk of sounding like a carbon copy of everyone else, where on earth has this year gone?

My birthday fell on a dreaded Monday this year so I decided to do most of my celebrating the weekend before. The week leading up to my birthday weekend was pretty dull weather-wise, but the sun came out just in time!

We took Jessie for a long walk on Saturday afternoon then went to Etc for an early dinner. Although I've only been to Etc a couple of times, it's quickly becoming one of my favourite restaurants for special occasions.

The sun was still blazing when I was getting ready so I decided to wear one of my brightest outfits to make the most of it.

When you take a look at what I ate and drank on Saturday evening, it's easy to see why Etc has become a firm favourite...

Lavender Fizz - a gin cocktail 

Sweet potato confit, crispy chorizo and sage 

Cauli-meflower (chargrilled cauliflower steak, spiced red lentil dhal, tempura purple sprouting broccoli, caramelised grapes and curry oil)

Etc Berry Mess 

Banana Daiquiri 

'That all looks amazing!' I hear you say (hopefully). And you'd be absolutely right. 

On the Sunday, we took Jessie for another long walk then drove to Joe's Ice Cream on Wellfield Road for the first time in years. I'd never dream of ordering a tub of plain vanilla anywhere else, but I can't resist Joe's vanilla ice cream. It tasted just as good as we remembered, if not better. 

As always, the weekend flew by and it was business as usual on Monday. I had 5 meetings so it was a long day in work, but I had lots of lovely birthday wishes and a couple of cards from my colleagues. I also brought doughnuts and cookies in to the office, and it would have been very rude of me not to sample a few for myself as the birthday girl.

I opened my presents from Neil (and Jessie!) when I got home from work, then we went to Romeo's by the Sea for a quiet meal. We were home by 8:30pm and finished off the evening by sitting down to watch an episode of Homeland, our new series of choice.

Thank you to everyone for your lovely gifts, cards and messages. I had lots of pink and Disney-themed presents and cards as always, and I'll continue to post lots of my gifts on Instagram over the next few weeks.

I'll leave you with one happy thought... 200 days to go until Christmas Day. You're welcome!