Sunday, 23 September 2018

My Quest From Flab To Fab

As I write (type, iPhone notes) this, I am halfway through an all inclusive trip to Ibiza where I have indulged in a fair amount of carby goodness. 
This, however, is not the problem. The problem is that when it came to laying on the beach and basking in the glorious Ibiza sun, I refused to remove my coverall , or my playsuit or my shorts. Every day I have sat on the beach I’ve refused to be just down to my swimwear, and when asked why by my twin, my answer was simple : I hate how I look.
This has come as a surprise to me, as when I was prancing around in front of my mirror in Leeds in said swimsuits, I felt chic, confident and was praising the surgical gods for my enhanced cleavage which looked glorious with no padding or support. 
As soon as I hit the beach however, my entire self confidence shrivelled up and I chose to wear extra layers. Even as I write this, I’m assessing my remaining swimwear for what I can wear to be the most covered on the beach and not melt in the heat. 
I tried to put it down to “well I don’t want to burn so I have to keep this top / these shorts / this playsuit on for the good of my skin”, but the reality is a month away from the gym and countless bags of gnocchi and filled pasta have wreaked havoc on my body. I’m also hugely guilty of skipping meals in favour of black coffee when I’m in a hurry, which has resulted in me picking up one too many Victoria sponge slices whilst walking past the supermarket on the way to my bus.

It also doesn’t help that I have to stand in the presence of my twin who is tiny and tanned , which has resulted in me deleting many photos that she has taken of me whilst we’ve been away. Next to her, I feel like a marshmallow - all pale and flumpy whilst she lays next to me like a Twiget - tan and thin. 
Instead of sitting indoors and crying about my current form, it’s given me a massive push to get back to the gym and start eating correctly again. 
I am in no way saying I’m overweight, or large, but for my frame which I’ve always prided myself in being a size 8, clothes starting to become too tight is not what I wanted or needed, and this has become the perfect tool to motivate me on. I’ve already done a food order for when I get back to Leeds in a week , and I am already browsing the spinning timetables for when I manage to drag myself there after work. There’s nothing quite like a sweaty , screaming individual bellowing at you to “climb your own proverbial mountain” to get you straight back in to the swing of things. 

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Top Tips For Dealing With Heartbreak

If you’re reading this post, then I can imagine one of two things. 1: you’ve stumbled across this by accident and are too hungover to click off of it so you’re deciding to keep reading or 2: the title of the post relates to you.
If you are number 2, then I am sorry this is happening to you and I hope you are not currently sat in the dark with a tub of Ben & Jerrys listening to the ‘Heartbreak’ section of Spotify as if it’s going out of fashion.
Whether we want to admit it or not, 95% of us (conservative guess) have been the victim of heartbreak in some form or other. I’m not just talking about the relationship kind which is the first that springs to mind, but any kind of heartbreak. That’s the funny thing about humans, our hearts can feel like they’re physically breaking over a variety of things depending on what you’re close to.
I can confidently say I have felt a variety of heartbreak in my (youthful) 24 years. People tend to scoff at this, as 24 Is relatively young, however I felt the unimaginable grief of losing my dad when I was 9, and I seem to have fallen in to various levels of heartbreak ever since. When I was around 17, my dog died, and I cried that much in the vets that I had a panic attack and another vet had to come in and put me in a recovery position whilst I wailed and screamed over the loss of my trusted friend and ally.
See, heartbreak can be anything. And the one we never like to discuss is often the most common – heartbreak from someone you were dating / in a relationship with / seeing / stalking on social media and found something that made your heart break. We are all guilty of it, and I am not ashamed to admit this has happened to me more than once, but I am now sat in bed watching Long Lost Families not feeling an inch of heartbreak over these boys before.
If you are currently sat in your flat deciding that you’re going on a juice detox, becoming a yoga loving goddess and are going to return to work after the weekend with a radical hair cut then this post is for you : top tips for dealing with heartbreak.

Decide what it is that is hurting
This is possibly something ridiculously obvious, however something that we all overlook. It’s like when you’re a child and a (hopefully responsible) adult asks you where the pain hurts in your leg and you point to the whole limb vaguely, hoping that someone can figure something out from your wild gesturing. It may be that you’re upset over the loss of the potential future, or the loss of a friend, or simply the loss of someone’s presence. Decide what it is that’s causing the hurt, and write that shit down.

Speak to someone
I won’t forget the day that my best friend was sat on my bed in my bedroom whilst I got ready for a New Year party and I told her I had been dumped out of the blue. I caught sight of her face in my mirror whilst I blindly shoved my contact lenses in to my eyeballs and I think her facial expression mirrored mine – what the actual chuff??? Where had this come from??
It helped having someone to talk to, because after I told her everything, and after she had finished fixing the disaster that is my frizz prone hair, she concluded “what a cock.” – Yes, what a cock indeed.

Find something to fill your spare time
For me, whenever I’m stressed I will always grab my trainers, grab my water bottle and go for a run. This was something that I would’ve never found therapeutic if it wasn’t for the fact that I had to run to train for my 10k back in July. The simple task of putting one foot in front of the other whilst listening to some questionable music is enough to clear my mind and fill my body with those endorphins which are usually so sorely lacking after a heartbreak.

Stop picking at old wounds
For the love of God, if you are currently reading this whilst also scrolling through your exes Instagram / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn profile, please stop. We are told from a young age that something won’t heal if we won’t stop picking at it, and the same goes for heartbreak. You won’t find closure in the place that caused you pain, so it’s time to unfollow the thing causing you pain and chuck it in the fuck it bucket once and for all.

If all of the above fails, I find that watching Bridget Jones Diary with a bottle of wine and a takeaway can help the situation long enough to help you get enough sleep. Heart ache doesn’t last forever, eventually you do adapt to the loss, no matter how big or small it is. For now, all you have to do is put your chin up, put your shoulders back and find your most kick arse outfit to strut around in to make yourself feel like you are #OwningIt.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Review // Pixi Glow Tonic

If you’d asked me when I was younger how I’d be spending my Saturday evenings, it probably wouldn’t have been me answered with “putting acid on my face whilst screaming at the tv at Call The Midwife”. And yet there I was one evening this week, doing just that.
I had somewhat of an existential crisis a few months ago whilst trying to decide what I want to do for my 25th birthday. And then it hit me, 25. A quarter of a century. Damn, I was getting old. I needed a fix, something to keep me youthful – think Dorian Gray and his attic and you’re on the right lines. So, when I came across the need for glycolic acid in my regime, my inner cosmetic surgery addict squealed with delight. Over the years I’ve been ‘in’ on all the fads; snake venom? Tried it. Dragons blood? You bet I was smearing that over my face like one of the Lannisters. 

With this small (but vital in my eyes) piece of information acquired, I began to browse online for various bottles and potions, keeping my eyes peeled for both the acid and the price – who on earth knew these things were so damned expensive??
Eventually I came across the Pixi Glow Tonic and decided that for £10 a bottle for 100ml, I’d give it a go; I was trying to remain youthful after all and it was a damned sight cheaper than botox which was my original first panicked thought.
This exfoliating toner contains 5% Glycolic Acid, which I applied to a large cotton pad and swept across my face after cleansing it on an evening. I won’t lie to you, it doesn’t smell great and when some got on my lip I was also able to confirm the taste matches the smell. Still, the smell disappears pretty quickly and the product works in to the skin fast so it didn’t extend my evening skincare routine by too much time.
I’ve been using the Glow Tonic for a while now and I have to say I am very impressed with the product. My skin is quite sensitive (I can only use set products on my skin without it turning in to a rash as red as a warning sign on the motorway), and I was very relieved to find that this doesn’t irritate or inflame my skin.
When I first started using it, it’s safe to say I was using far too much and was beginning to scoff (mild panic) at  the price for how long I was going to be using it for, however after a few days of using it, I realised all you had to do was dab the upturned bottle on to a cotton pad and enough product came out on its own – panic over.  
The product claims to smoothen and brighten the appearance of skin, and I can confirm that my skin does look smoother and indeed brighter since using it. I have very blemished skin underneath all of my freckles and I was chuffed this morning to notice the blemishes are subsiding which is actually making my skin look healthier and not just like I have a large mass of freckles across my entire face.
For £10 a bottle I’ll happily keep buying this product until a time (29) when I start to have another slight (large, very large) crisis about my age and need to start looking at something a bit stronger to keep my skin healthy.
Dorian Gray, I’m coming for you.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Cervical Cancer & Me

My name is Francesca, I am 24 years old and on July the 12th 2018, I found out that I have high risk cancerous cells within my cervix after going for a routine smear appointment. 
The word cancer resonated one thing for me: I was going to die. Not only was I going to die, I was going to die young from the same disease that had killed my dad when I was a child - the one thing I had prayed would never happen to me. 
My doctor handed me the report which had come back from the lab and I gripped my friends hand tighter as I finished up reading: high risk cancer cells, alongside unstable cells within the cervix lining. 
It's easy to say that you know what you're going to do in that situation, but I sat there completely unable to speak, staring blankly at the doctor and the two support nurses as they explained that I needed biopsies taken from my cervix so that they could grade these in a lab from C1 - C3. 
I looked to my friend who had suddenly become my mouth piece, nodding her head at the doctor as she explained what was about to come. 
Back in May I received my letter from the NHS inviting me to my first cervical cancer screening. My twin managed to get in for her test before me, and I text her whilst waiting in my doctors surgery "I feel sick", "I don't want to be here" and "I bet it's going to hurt" were just a few of the texts I batted to her before I was called in by the nurse. 
The test took less than five minutes to complete, and I manically chatted to the nurse after about how the test was nowhere near as bad as I expected, and that I thought it would be much worse than what it had been. My nurse told me that a lot of women didn't attend their screenings through fear of discomfort or embarrassment, and looking back now I can't help but think how outrageous a reason that is to avoid having the test done. 
As I lay on the surgical table in the hospital having biopsies taken from my cervix, I thought about how on earth I was going to tell my mum about what was happening. I looked to my friend who was holding my hand, and she squeezed it tighter as she saw my face scrunch up in discomfort as the final biopsy was removed and the acid was put in to my cervix to close up the wounds - she held my hand and I clung to her to ground me through one of the most surreal moments of my life. 
My doctor explained to me after that bleeding after was normal, cramping was normal and sickness was normal. Lucky me, I had all three for around a week, but I'd take that any day when I know that the end result was catching the cells early.
"For the next few days rest, recover and don't attend the gym" - attend the gym? Did women actually do this after having biopsies? Do they suddenly decide that they need to sweat out the cancerous cells through the power of pilates? I could barely get my trousers on unaided, let alone bust out some Barre moves to panic the New York City Ballet ensemble.
She handed me a leaflet which explained what was happening next ; my cells were being sent to the cancer lab to be graded from C1 - C3, the grading for the doctors to know how aggressive the mutating cells are.
The doctor was keen to stress that cervical cancer cells, and pre-cancerous cells are completely treatable, and I am expected to make a full recovery thanks to going for my screening test so early.
"You'll come to us now every 6 months for 2 years, where we will cut the cells out of your cervix to stop any clusters spreading, do you have any questions?" - and in that moment, all I could think of was the obvious "am I going to die?". 
That's the thing with cervical cancer, if it's caught early, it is entirely treatable.
 As I lay on the surgical table, listening to the doctor explaining what she was doing, I couldn't help but think how damned lucky I was that this was being treated early, and that it was as simple as cells being monitored and removed. My father's cancer wasn't caught in time, and the initial crippling fear of dying was beginning to disappear the more I listened to the doctor and what she was saying ; I was lucky, I was in good hands and I was going to be okay.
 I was going to be okay.
I am going to be okay.
Smear testing uptake is at a 20 year low, and the NHS are encouraging women to discard their fears of embarrassment or discomfort and to come in for a 60 second test which could extend their life by 60 years.

There are over 3,000 new cases of cervical cancer in the UK each year, and it is the 14th most common cancer within the UK. Nearly all women diagnosed with cervical cancer are done so through their routine smear test, which picks up cells early. The most common symptoms of cervical cancer are : unusual bleeding, either in between periods or after sex, pain or discomfort during sex and pain in the pelvic bones. Pre-cancerous cells do not have warning signs.
99.8% of cervical cancers are treatable (Cancer Research UK), and the sooner you go in for your test, the better your chances are with treatment. If you leave your treatment and ignore the symptoms, your chance of survival drops to 5 in 100 - all for the sake of not wanting a doctor to see parts of you that they have seen hundreds, if not thousands of times before. 
This is not a woe is me post. 
This is not a pity party. 
These are not the words I am going to be imortalised by, if you asked my friends, these would more likely be "has anyone seen my lipstick?", "how much cheese do you reckon I can eat before bed without having nightmares?" or "Does anyone want a glass of wine?". 
It is now my mission to raise awareness of cervical cancer symptoms and encourage my friends, family and loved ones to go for their tests. 
I may be down, but I am definitely not out, thanks to a 60 second test.


Monday, 23 July 2018

Going Solo

For those of you who are new here, I am not a native to the North of England, but I have called it my home since 2013, along with a cohort of individuals who I now have the pleasure of calling my friends.
Since 2013, I have faithfully trundled from house to house year after year (student year long leases are a bitch when you hate change and moving) with a growing amass of clothing and ‘cute’ mugs which range from ones with funny slogans on to a mug with an actual unicorn head and tail sticking out – like I said, cute.
It wasn’t until June 2018 that I had to actually become an adult and make the adult decision to go it alone in house hunting, moving and setting myself up. When I say it was my decision, I mean my best friends were moving to London to start a new life together (I still get sad about this, so I’ll gloss over that for now), and I had no choice but to find somewhere solo to live.
After several disastrous house viewings, one with so much mould under the window it could’ve been classed as a nuclear hazard, I stumbled upon ‘the one’ and signed the contract with outright glee on my face.
Moving day came, and my friend, her boyfriend and her baby loaded up the remains of my furniture and clothes, and helped me drag them up to the third floor room which I was now inhabiting. I made the very smart decision to buy a tower fan that afternoon, and I’m currently sat next to it on max speed, still sweating like I was in the Sahara.
I have successfully navigated how the washing machine works without breaking it, the awkward breakfast chat with my new housemates and I am yet to have anyone walk in on me in the shower after I’ve forgotten to lock the door.
I’ve managed to apply for all of my content insurance, tv licencing and general life essentials without fucking up too badly, and I am currently in bed watching Power on Netflix whilst cramming M&M’s in to my mouth and trying to think of when I will need to go to sleep to get enough hours in to not feel like I’ve been hit by a train in the morning.
If this is adulting, then I am nailing this.