Linz was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer and the BRCA1 gene just after turning 38, and she’s passionate about bringing people together to help deal with cancer. In this post, she writes about her first Shine event: a weekend away with Shine North East in the Yorkshire Dales.
The weekend was full of promise: I was coming to this event as a newbie, all the way from Edinburgh to gate-crash a weekend of ‘folk like me’. The setting was a lovely holiday home called Springwood Cottage near Huddersfield, and the background music was the soundtrack from ‘The Greatest Showman’. The idea was simply for a group of young adults with cancer to share a cottage for the weekend: no plans, no itinerary, no rules, and no barriers. All just pitch up, pitch in, and enjoy ourselves.
I had come across Shine Cancer Support only a few months previously, just by doing a search on Facebook. I am a member of various cancer support groups on Facebook and Twitter, but aside from a lovely lunch ‘tweet up’ in Manchester a few months back, I had not actually engaged much with other people going through cancer treatment. There certainly isn’t much for us ‘in-betweeners’ aged 20-50. Talking to people online is great but meeting up in person is so much better! In total there were going to be 17 of us on this weekend – all walks of life, all different types of cancer and associated treatments. All in all, a lovely bunch of people who are much more than the ‘cancer tag’!
After getting there, two of us went for coffee and cake as we waited to pick up some of the group from the train station five minutes away. Finding the train station was easy but finding my way back to the cottage each time meant a little detour… oops!
Friday evening was a relaxed affair, introducing ourselves and getting ourselves set up in the rooms. The location itself was amazing as we had our own hot tub, as well as a rooftop patio! For some, the thought of sharing rooms with strangers was possibly a little odd at first, but actually it all turned out grand. Dinner was spectacular, and after a few drinks of own choosing we all attempted the icebreaker of making ourselves a cardboard crown with various craft materials. Some people are exceptionally talented in this area. I am clearly not!
It was really interesting to talk to people about what cancer they have/had, and the treatment plans and side effects/consequences of treatment they experienced. It was also good to hear about their personal lives, both pre- and post-diagnosis. To be quite frank, I am at that stage where I question everything about my life, who I am, and what I want to do now. For a little while I had become quite insular and cancer was all I could focus on. But even more important for me over this weekend was actually to see and hear how other people live their lives post-diagnosis and treatment, in terms of families, holidays, adventures, and work.
Given that this was very much a weekend where everyone pitched in and helped, it was almost like an episode of ‘Big Brother’ without the cameras…! In a non-threatening, non-competitive way, of course!
Saturday was relaxing, too. First off, two of the women produced a spectacular cooked breakfast. I honestly don’t think I have eaten so well anywhere!
Afterwards, a beauty therapist visited to offer sessions ranging from facials and massages, through to reflexology, for those who were interested. Some of us decided to take a few cars over to the nearby town of Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, which is where ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ was filmed. There was actually a folk festival on that day, and it was great to soak up the atmosphere and find a wee secluded beer garden, then search for ice cream. Other people in the group opted to walk around and soak up the wonderful weather that we had that weekend too.
Later that night, after another amazing dinner, most of us sat down to watch Eurovision and play some games. Many of us also took the opportunity to jump into the hot tub and let any lingering strains and tensions melt away…
Sunday morning saw another spectacular cooked breakfast before some of us took a gentle meandering walk up the road. A Sunday roast completed the weekend for me, before I headed home into the sunset…
Overall, it was a great weekend, and I feel that I have made some new friends that actually get everything I have experienced and inspire me to get through the post-treatment slump. It was also not all about the cancer! We laughed and joked, and I even managed to use some of my professional skills to help others, too.
If you’re ever thinking about coming to an event like this one, then I would definitely recommend it!
I’d like to say a HUGE thank you to Shine North East network leader Rachel, who organised the whole weekend. She’s a special and wonderful person who is spectacular and lovely and kind. Thank you for letting me come! I know how much effort it takes to organise an event like this, and that makes both Rachel and Shine very special indeed.