As I have the attention span of a goldfish, you may or may not have noticed my JFDI series has so far contained one solitary post. In 8 months. So, I’m kinda failing at it right now! However, fret not, today it returns with a bang! Today I get to write about someone special. To me, she’s Kate-across-the-road, to you she’s just Kate. Wonder Kate. Super Kate. I’ll let you decide because I have a very special story to share that may make you weep a little but will ultimately warm the cockles of your heart, and hopefully give you a good healthy dose of JFDI.
So, rewind 30 something years and you’d have found my sister and I spending pretty much any spare time we had playing in the cul-de-sac we grew up in. The cul-de-sac where we played Mum and Dads with Kev and Ste, the cul-de-sac where we played Ant Busters. And The Queen’s Coming. And it’s in this cul-de-sac that we spent many an hour with Kate-across-the-road. Now Kate-across-the-road had something both my sister and I envied immensely. She had a bike dreams were made of. Her bike, people, had a yellow satchel on the back! Yes, you read that correctly, a little yellow plastic satchel. That we could collect grit in. Amaze. And I’m not going to lie, when we played the let’s swap bikes game? I absolutely wanted to swap bikes with Kate-across-the-road. Except the feeling was never mutual as my pink bike (translation : red bike painted with pink emulsion. Cheers Pops) had a knack to riding it i.e. to go straight, you had to point the handle bars off to the left. Or right. And the tyres had a tendency to pop at any given moment. So, needless to say, my bike was not a popular swap choice. But enough with the introduction. I digress. The point of this post is not to talk about Kate-across-the-road’s bike, however marvellous it was. But rather to tell you about the Kate of today.
I feel very humbled to have been asked to write this post to celebrate a very special day in Kate’s life. So special, I actually feel an honoury game of The Queen’s Coming is required to mark said occasion (get the bike out, Kate!). I have been asked to write this post to celebrate the end to her chemotherapy. In January of this year, Kate was diagnosed with breast cancer. Aged 35 and 3 months, just 4 days before her second son’s very first birthday. Bombshell. But in Kate’s words, she has come to realise this was, for want of a better phrase, the kick in the tit she needed to actually start following those dreams she’d always had but had been too afraid to follow. Too busy playing life safe, sticking around in the comfort zone, saving up for that rainy day. Well that rainy day arrived. With bells on. And Kate decided it was time to dance in that rain. And she wanted to share the lessons she’s learnt, to give hope to anyone out there facing the unthinkable, and to shout from the rooftops not to wait for a bombshell, but to JFDI!
Listen to your gut
There’s always, always reasons (translation : excuses) not to do something, usually wrapped up in a package of what ifs. It’s too easy to play life safe and that was exactly what Kate realises she was doing, ignoring her inner Zen warrior, who was frantically jumping up and down shouting “Do it! Be happy FFS”. The signs were all there, but she was ignoring them in favour of the “should dos”, bogged down in the Mum / Wife / Employee roles. She actually had a feeling she would end up ill if she didn’t start taking care of herself, even saying so to her husband, but she’d stopped listening to herself and was carrying on regardless. So listen to yourself. If you wanna go out and get wasted with the girls? DO IT! Want to spend all day in bed? Book the babysitter and DO IT! Your health – both physical and mental – will thank you for it.
Let it go
Before her diagnosis, Kate had started to become a fun sponge – a term lovingly cast by her husband (and Kate will be first to admit he was right!). She’d become so consumed with keeping the mother, wife and employee plates spinning she’d forgotten to leave time for the fun stuff. Anything and everything stressed her out. Spaghetti hoops on the dining room floor? Call the police! So her advice is don’t try and change what can’t be changed or spend time mulling over people or situations that are out of your control or, in reality, don’t even really matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s wasted energy. Spend time with the people you love, doing the things you love and ditch the rest. There are only so many hours in the day, so make sure you spend them wisely.
Surround self with lovely friends & family
One thing Kate mentioned to me above all else was how important and special her friends were to her and facing such a monumental battle would have been all the more difficult without them around. Her very own personal cheerleaders. Do not neglect your friendships. They are so, so important to keeping you sane when life throws you curveballs. You will probably never understand the true power of them until you need it. Don’t wait for a bombshell to realise.
Slow the F Down!
Being in the moment. I know it’s a cliché but it’s so blummin’ true. We’re often so consumed with what might happen, planning ahead or dwelling on the past, we don’t even notice and enjoy what is happening right now. What’s that all about? So slow down and smell the roses. Cliché or no cliché, it’s true.
Laugh at yourself
Kate’s social media posts have me in stitches. Usually about the trials and tribulations of parenthood but also about her cancer. One of my all-time faves has to be the photo she posted of the top of her head when her hair had started growing back with the tag line “Sunday morning trivia…. My hair growing back orrr……..hubby’s sweaty ball sack….” Kate is an advocate of not taking life too seriously and she said the comical posts helped her release her frustrations whilst also helping her avoid the need to pour Gin on her Frosties each morning. So, stop taking life so seriously and take time to laugh at yourself. It really can be the best medicine.
The word selfish is always met with negative connotations. But being selfish can be a good thing. Take time for yourself and you’ll be a much better person to be around. Caught up in her 101 roles, Kate had forgotten who she really was, neglecting the things she loved to do. Stressed out and negative, everything irritated her. She’d ended up putting herself at the bottom of the priority list and was full of resentment as a result. Probably why she inherited the nickname Fun Sponge. So, in amongst all the roles you most likely have to juggle in life, don’t forget who you are. What makes you tick. Your partners/friends/loved ones will thank you for it!
A big thank you to Kate for sharing her story and insights. A great reminder to live life to the full and JFDI! In summary, I’ll leave the closing words to Kate:
I have learnt that I’m stronger than I ever thought I could be and I know that now because I’ve had to recover from the physical and emotional effects of the last 8 months largely on my own, no one could pull me out of this situation but me and I know now that I should never allow anyone to tell me who I am or what I can/can’t/should be doing or thinking or feeling. Strength has sweet FA to do with how much you can bench press, it really is all in the mind and now I have pledged to myself that I will continue to strengthen that mind and use it to get where I want to be and not where I think I ought to be.
I plan to head out on a journey to re discover my passions – which excites me. I need to find what makes me tick and JFDI. Cliché alert but Life is too short and I have been reminded of that this year. I have no idea what the future holds, I hope Cancer has done one but it will not define me and change me in a negative way. I want to use my experience positively and get my head out my arse and look around at new opportunities. I’m a work-in-progress as I’m only just getting my health back and I still have a little left to do on that side of things, but my first hurdle is to challenge my demons of self-doubt and self-criticism, whether that be a big career change, who knows?! I may end up buying a tent and braiding hair on a beach for a living or I may just dig out my little yellow satchel and invite some mates over to play The Queen’s Coming. Either way, I plan to enjoy it. Don’t wait until a rainy day. JFDI.