The ‘C’ Word

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My family.

No, not that C word, I’m talking about the dreaded C word, CANCER! It was June last year when I heard the following four dreaded words leave my father’s mouth, “Girls, I have cancer.”

It was a normal Friday afternoon for myself and my three sisters. We just got home from our shopping trip in Victoria Square and headed straight up to my room to do the usual fashion show that consists of showing each other our latest purchases from that day (I know typical girls). Mum and dad were away to get “their heads showered” which is understandable as there is only so much ’girl chat’ dad can keep up with in a day. They arrived home shortly after us which is when we were called downstairs for ‘a talk’. I don’t know about you, but when we ALL get called downstairs it’s normally because someone has done something wrong. Immediately we all start asking the question “Oh for goodness sake what have we done this time? who hasn’t emptied the dishwasher?”

Anyway, downstairs we went, and sat nervously on the sofa awaiting our lecture (I was really hoping it wasn’t going to be as long as a lecture in uni). After what felt like a decade of silence, mum finally says “Girls, your dad and I have something to tell you?” Uh oh, what on earth could this be about? ‘they’re getting a divorce’, ‘Mum’s pregnant’? (I was really hoping it wasn’t this one, three sisters stealing my clothes is enough, never mind four sisters doing it) ‘they’ve won the lottery’ (that would have been nice, no more university fees for me) all thoughts I had but never once could I have predicted or prepared for why we were really sat here together.

And that’s when it did, when you don’t predict it, The C word! A word I never thought I would hear, I never thought it would happen to our family. “Girls, I have cancer.” A ‘normal’ day for us quickly turned into a not so normal day. After we all had a quick cry together, due to the initial shock of the news we wanted to get the facts and find out the prognosis. Thankfully, mum went to the hospital with dad and was able to give us this information, dad was also there but as a typical man he was able to retain about 2% of what he was told.

Dad went to get his tonsils privately removed as he was complaining of having a sore throat for over a month. During this operation the doctor found a cancerous growth, one that they couldn’t remove there and then as it was too far on. He was told he would have to endure radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but the prognosis was good (I don’t know if it’s just me, but the words radiotherapy and chemotherapy are scary). Dad was already at stage 3 which was a shock as he obviously didn’t expect anything was wrong bar having tonsillitis. So, here is where I plea that if you feel like something is wrong, even a small thing like a throat infection please get it looked at as it really can be a matter of life or death.

Our family was very matter of fact about the situation and to receive any form of sympathy is very rare (unless of course you break a nail – that’s MAJOR). Therefore, once we got all the facts, we took a very matter of fact approach and instead of dwelling on the negative news, we all remained very positive. Dad was also able to retain a positive mental attitude throughout the duration of his treatment which again encouraged us girls to be positive about the situation. However, I do think this backfired on him as he really didn’t receive any sympathy from us at all, actually if anything it got worse for him. Even when he had to be admitted to hospital and fed through a tube, we all made light of the situation and he was still the brunt of all our jokes.

I guess my life lesson to you from this situation is that no matter how hard you think it is, how hard you think it is going to be or how hard the news seems at first, you can get through it! It’s true what they say, and as cliché as it is, ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ even if you can’t see it at first. I promise you that eventually it will come through. Throughout this difficult time, as a family we relied on each other for support, and although at times it was tough, we all stuck together and as a whole it brought us closer together and strengthened our already strong family bond. I know this may not be the case for you but there is always someone willing to listen and help you through tough times.

Dad’s personal catch phrase is “Living the dream”. Anyone who asks him how he is, the response is always “Living the dream” (I mean how could he not, he has four beautiful daughters and according to my mum a beautiful wife). Together as a family, I’m glad that he is still able to live the dream and to live it with us makes it that bit better.

The photo on the left: Now you can put a face to the name, this is ‘Dad’ when he finally completed his radiotherapy and chemotherapy. 

The photo on the right: My family (Minus Lucy – getting us all together is a very rare occasion) at Dad’s abseil for cancer. Yes, this was the one-time mum didn’t pick out his clothes and he did wear the costume the rest of the day.

Molly Stevenson is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Instagram – @molly_stevensonn; Facebook – Molly Stevenson; LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/molly-stevenson-4bb39115b/

 

How NOT to backpack around Brazil

Ever heard of the phrase “life’s too short”? Of course you have, (Everyone has that pushy friend that says it when they want to get you to go out). Thankfully, this blog is not about going out (partly because there wouldn’t be much to write as I don’t remember) instead I’m going to tell you about my trip to Brazil and give you advice on how NOT to backpack.

Julia my friend from work managed to convince me to go backpacking around brazil this summer for 5 weeks by reciting the line ‘life’s too short’. I thought about it, and agreed, after all, travelling for 5 weeks is a lot better than working for 5 weeks. So, on the 4th July we set off on our travels.

We arrived in Rio after a 13-hour flight from London, we were so excited to finally be in Brazil and believe it or not, we had an amazing flight.

Top tip – Board the plane last. Honestly you will have the best flight ever (although the food is still going to be gross) if you’re the last person to board, you are able to see what seats are free, and if you’re extremely lucky like we were, you’ll get a whole row to yourself to sprawl across. This definitely made the flight more bearable.

I have a few Do’s and Do not’s that I would like to share with you all.

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Photos from our first week in Brazil. Believe me that backpack is a lot heavier than it looks.

Do make sure to book your accommodation in advance. Do not walk around on youfirst day, with an 18kg backpack for 3 hours. Believe me your legs get tired and if you’re anything like me you end up very hangry.

Do find out exactly where your hostel is and make sure it is legit. Do not walk up and down the same street 40 odd times to find out the hostel you’re looking for had actually closed down 3 years ago. Duhh.

Do get your phone unlocked before you go away so that any local sim card will work. Do not leave it until you arrive in Brazil and find out you can’t get a local sim card that will work. After going around five phone companies trying their sims in our phones and having no luck, we accepted that our phone bills were going to be sky high (sorry mum).

Do check the dates that certain attractions are open. Do not travel for 30 minutes and arrive on the ONLY day they are closed (typical).

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I did not enjoy the train as much as picture one would lead you to believe. Picture 4 was rough.

Do download the Uber app and get Ubers absolutely everywhere. They are so cheap and convenient. Do not try and navigate yourself around Brazil without a map and just hope for the best. Believe me, before we discovered just how handy and cheap Ubers were, our journey to get somewhere was at least 5 times longer.

Do make sure you plan your trips well and have a way home. Do not get stranded at the top of Christ the redeemer. There are no taxis that can get you home and it’s a very, very, very long walk down.

Do make sure that you have a good time when you go out to a bar and stay sober enough to make it home, with your belongings is a bonus. Do not get too drunk and lose your purse in an Uber. Yes, this did happen to me. Caipirinha’s are not your friend, they may taste delicious (especially the raspberry ones) but they are dangerous. I finally got my purse back 2 days later, after many calls to Uber.

Do make sure you travel around and get to see all parts of Brazil. Do not book an 8-hour bus journey when you are hungover. 8 hours feels like 80 hours.

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A few pictures from our time in the Amazon. it was AMAZING.

Do go to the Amazon, it is one of the best places in the world. We experienced so many things here and I couldn’t recommend it enough. Do not book a ‘floating’ hostel. Yes, floating hostels are actually a thing. Our Uber driver dropped us off in the middle of the amazon forest and told us ‘we had arrived at our destination’ all for us to get out of the car and find an empty warehouse. He quickly sped off so we were stranded with no 3g, wifi or signal. Eventually we made it Bear Grylls would be proud.

Do make your own meals in hostel kitchens, it makes it a lot cheaper. Do not give yourself food poisoning, especially when you do it 6 hours before your flight. This might be a case to too much information but I’m glad aeroplanes have toilets.

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Picture one is the dish that gave us food poisoning (bet you aren’t surprised).

Do check the weather forecast before going to sugar loaf. Do not rock up on the one and only day it seems to be lashing down.

Do make sure you have enough time between your connecting flights. Do not leave yourself one hour between the two flights. We were travelling home on the day that British Airways had an absolute nightmare. Once we landed, we couldn’t get off the plane for 40 minutes therefor had 20minutes to sprint through the airport to get to the other side to board your plane and find out you’ve also lost boarding pass for the second time in a day.

Yes, we were only away for five weeks and yes, we had quite a number of disasters, probably too many. But do not regret my time travelling? No, not at all. I had the most amazing experience and after all ‘life’s too short’ so make the most of it while you can.

Thanks for reading and please do learn from my mistakes.

 

Molly Stevenson is a final year BSC in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at – Instagram: @molly_stevensonn ; Facebook: Molly Stevenson ; LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/molly-stevenson-4bb39115b/.