Friday, 27 July 2018

Our first year with Jessie

Can you believe that we've had Jessie for a whole year? Although it sometimes feels as if the last twelve months have flown by, I find it quite difficult to remember what life was like without our furry whirlwind.

I thought I'd summarise Jessie's first year with us by talking you through some of her main milestones...

We picked Jessie up from Pembrokeshire on Friday 21st July, 2017. She'd travelled over from Ireland on the ferry with her siblings earlier that day so she was completely exhausted and very confused when we first met her. It took us two hours to get back to Penarth and she slept peacefully nearly all the way home. 

We brought her home and let her explore our kitchen and the garden as she got used to her new surroundings. She was a little apprehensive on her first night with us, but she soon made up for her shyness by being a stereotypically inquisitive and slightly destructive pup. Jessie made herself at home in no time and we were immediately smitten (and very tired). 

In the blink of an eye, Jessie had been with us for a couple of months and had turned six months old. She'd started to calm down a bit by this point, and we were actually able to watch TV for a whole hour at a time without saying 'Jessie, no!' every two minutes. She was also enjoying her walks a lot more at this age and was getting more confident and playful every time she stepped foot (or paw) outside. 

Jessie's next milestone was her first Christmas! She wasn't a big fan of the festive season at first because she wasn't allowed to play with the Christmas tree decorations, but she quickly got into the swing of things. She came along with us to Neil's parents' house on Christmas Day and to my parents' house on Boxing Day, and she absolutely loved being spoilt rotten with all her new toys and treats. 

A couple of weeks after Christmas, Jessie celebrate her nine month birthday and I (again) couldn't believe how quickly the time was going. We were marvelling every day at her increasing fluffiness, and it's fair to say that her little chest was magnificently Corgi-like by the time she reached nine months of age. 

Jessie started her first season at the end of March which meant she unfortunately celebrated her first birthday right in the middle of it. She still had a lovely time and had lots of presents from us and both sets of grandparents, as well as a doggy birthday biscuit from Pets at Home. We'd had Jessie for nearly nine months by this point and I was getting a little more obsessed with her every day. 

And, just like that, Jessie's 'gotcha day' came along last weekend and she's been with us for a whole year. She was spayed the day before her first anniversary with us so we weren't able to celebrate much, but we'll make up for it once she's completely recovered. 

If you'd have told me ten years ago that I'd have my own dog one day and that I'd be celebrating all her milestones with blog posts and puppy cards, I'd have laughed in your face. How times change, eh? I love celebrating all her little milestones and I wouldn't change Jessie for the world. 

Here's to the next 12 months! 

(Yes, Jessie is most definitely the boss of everything.)

Friday, 20 July 2018

My 2018 Disney character meets

After writing a more personal post last week, I'm back to posting about a combination of two of my favourite things... holidays and Disney!

I'm not massively in to character meets which means they're not my biggest priority when we go to Walt Disney World, but I do try to fit a few in around our other plans.

I absolutely have to meet Pluto every year because he's my favourite, and I also pledged to meet Goofy on this year's trip before we left. I didn't have any others in mind at the beginning of the holiday so just decided to wing it whenever I saw a short queue.

It's become a standard tradition for me to meet Pluto in Epcot on our second full day. He's always got a short queue at his Epcot spot and the cast members there are always so lovely and enthusiastic. I wore my custom-made Pluto ears from Closet Geek for this meet, of course!

A few days later, we were leaving Hollywood Studios after a flying visit and happened to see Daisy and Donald Duck at the entrance. Donald had a massive queue but Daisy's was much shorter, so I quickly got in line as I'd never met Daisy before. We happened to be very colour coordinated which was a happy coincidence.

Towards the end of the holiday, we'd booked fastpasses for the Character Spot in Epcot as the attraction fastpasses were thin on the ground for that day. Neil didn't use his fastpass as he hates meeting characters, so I braved it on my own. I assumed I'd only meet one character and was trying to figure out how to choose, but I actually got to meet Goofy, Mickey and Minnie which was a lovely surprise. I would definitely recommend getting a fastpass for this experience as the standard queue length was around 50 minutes. The meets were slightly rushed as there were lots of people behind me chomping at the bit, but I still had a decent amount of time with each character.

I did go on a hunt for Donald in our last couple of days as I was on a mission to complete my Sensational Six collection, but I unfortunately didn't come across him for the rest of our trip. He'll have to go on the list for 2019.

Who's on top of your character meet list?

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!