Escaping in 2018!

Every year in January, we escape! Since 2014, Shine has run a Great Escape in Bournemouth. We’ve had amazing feedback over the years from all of our “Escapees” – young adults with cancer who tell us that over the 3.5 days that they’re together that they make life-long friends.  One of our 2018 Escapees, Rosie, has written about her experiences. Want to learn more? Read on! And if you’re interested, we’ll be opening applications for our brand new Manchester Escape in May!

IMG_0451When I was asked to write this blog about my recent experience at the Escape I had to think about my answer for a little while. The first blog that I wrote for Shine nearly a year and a half ago (just a couple of months after my diagnosis) had, looking back on it, a naively positive tone to it. At that time, as far as I could see, my diagnosis and treatment had a beginning, a middle and an end – upon which I would happily return to my old life and then climb Kilimanjaro (as you do).

Well, anyone who has lived with cancer for a while knows that cancer never really leaves you and that you have to go through a period of grieving for your old life and adjusting to a new normal. In my case, my medical team are unsure if my breast cancer has spread to my spine or not and I am therefore now on treatment indefinitely.

My body and my mind have been through a lot and with that I stepped back from blogging because I didn’t feel like I had anything very positive to write about. I didn’t want to be one of those whingeing cancer patients just going on about how sh*t everything is. But the truth is it is sh*t and that’s ok. And it’s also probably a bit more relatable than sickening positivity!

So, I found myself writing this blog and in the process of trying to come up with a catch title, I Googled ‘Escape’ and the first definition that came up was ‘break free’. It made me think of a caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly which is kind of how I think of myself before and after the Escape.Blog 1

When the opportunity came to apply for the Escape, there was never any question in my mind that I was absolutely going to apply. Those I knew who had been before hadn’t stopped raving about it and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is a wonderful thing!

I was so excited when my spot was confirmed and I couldn’t wait to meet all of the other “Escapees”. I was pleased to find that I already knew some of them from Shine Camp. A private Facebook group was set up and we were also all asked to submit a picture and a short bio so that we could start getting to know each other before the big day came. This was also really useful for people who were anxious about attending because they were able to share their fears online and everybody was really supportive in return.

It took me a whole 6 minutes to arrive at The Grove Hotel in Bournemouth (I live locally), which is an awesome place for cancer patients and those with life threatening illnesses. As a group, we took over the whole hotel and brought the average age of their usual guests down significantly! The hotel staff were great and seem to enjoy this annual event which is now in its 5th year. The on-call nurse sometimes even doubles up as a bartender….nothing if not efficient!

There were about 30 of us in total including Shine staff, volunteers, and peer supporters.

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The 2018 Escapees and peer supporters before the hike

After collecting our awesome goody bags we were ready to get started. The next few days were a full on mixture of laughing, crying, information gathering, team building, soul-searching, sharing epic-ness. We had entered into a safe bubble and at the end of it, although we were all mentally and physically exhausted, no-one wanted to leave and go back into the real world.

“Life changing”, “one of the best weekends of my life”, “four of the most exhausting but brilliant days I have ever experienced”, “fantastic”, “fabulous” “wonderful”, “amazing”, “incredible”, and “uplifiting” are just some of the words that were used in our post-Escape WhatsApp group to describe the weekend. If that doesn’t encourage you to apply for next year’s Escape, I’m not sure what will!

There were a number of workshops run at the Escape. One of them was titled ‘Debunking myths’ and I think this Russell Howard video sums it up quite nicely!

Another session was called ‘Living with Cancer’. Working in groups, we were encouraged to write down all of the things that we have lost due to cancer….needless to say that those pages were full very quickly and we could have carried on. Some common themes were dignity, confidence, friends, family, control, independence, future, certainty. Is it any wonder that so many of us experience some form of depression, anxiety and/or PTSD following diagnosis? There was ‘on the ground’ emotional support offered by both professionals and peer supporters for the entire weekend and hints, tips and signposting to other organisations given for the longer term. This session was the inspiration for my #onewordforcancer on World Cancer Day.

It is brilliant to have been able to bond with so many other young people who know what it’s like to pick our way through this cancer minefield. Humour is a really important coping mechanism and there was plenty of that in evidence at the Escape. Some of us also decided we should all carry red and yellow cards for those people in our life who get us down!

Saturday night brought with it the opportunity to let our hair (if it had grown back) down, thanks to a photo booth and karaoke provided by the awesome peer supporter Richard.

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Photo booth

We were also honoured with a visit from our very own superhero Smash-It Man spreading his #smashitforshine mission. It really did have to be seen to be believed!


Smash it for Shine Man made an appearance!

Sunday involved a fun warm up, some stones (can’t give away all the secrets but mine involved guilt and being kind to myself) and a trek to Hengistbury Head. The Escape is offered free of charge to attendees but it costs approximately £1000 per person to put on, so the hike is a sponsored event to help pay for attendees next year. It’s not too late to sponsor us here. 

Before the weekend was up, there was just enough time to tell the person next to us what we appreciated about them. I was told that they appreciated my resilience in the face of changing goal posts which really meant a lot to me. Just today my oncologist said that it would be against medical advice to climb Kilimanjaro. But fear not those of you who have helped me raise an incredible amount for Shine because there are other options on the table! Watch this space….

It was then not goodbye but more like “see you later” because Shine are organising a reunion for all five years of Escapees in March.


Shelli was promised extra sponsorship if she did the hike in a Scully onesie. Done!

I would just like to take this opportunity on behalf of all of my cohort to say a massive thank you to all the staff and volunteers who are involved in this event. We know that so much behind-the-scenes stuff goes on and we really are forever grateful. Special mention to Christopher who stepped down as a peer supporter this year but remains as Chair of the Board of Trustees and an invaluable asset to the charity.

(Thank you also to everyone who let me use your photos, sorry I couldn’t fit them all in! xx)

Rosie is a member of Shine’s Dorset Network and was a 2018 Escapee. 

Shine Camp 2016 – One camper’s story!


Shine Camp is held every year in the beautiful village of Corfe Castle in Dorset. From the 5th-8th August this year, around 100 people camped out in a private field surrounded by the picturesque views typical of the area. We asked Clare to tell us about her first Shine Camp experience…


It was with the measured optimism of the British that I packed according to the weather reports. We were promised sun and, as such, I packed wellies, sourced some waterproofs, and found the numbers of some local B&Bs in case of extreme storms. The weekend of Shine Camp 2016 had finally arrived and after many hours of trying to edit my ‘I definitely need this for camp’ list the car was full and we were ready to go west. Like the Pet Shop Boys, but less stylish.

I’d heard tales of Camps past; rumours of a mystical campfire, promises of beach walks and barbecues. I’m not above admitting that I was a little bit very excited. The traffic gods were not in everyone’s favour and as we arrived in the middle of a very sunny Friday afternoon we were fed tales of people still stuck on the road. Seven hour drives from London, an unintentional diversion onto a ferry, three long days stuck in a roadside burger bar (some of those are true). The frustrations of the road were quickly forgotten however when the Friday night ‘bring your own buffet’ was revealed; with everyone bringing along a dish we had communally created the biggest table of food in the world. A brilliantly devised and delivered Pub Quiz in the marquee followed the food. I’m not going to pretend that it was friendly competition. With the prize being free places at Shine Camp 2017 it was a hard-fought contest. I believe we came second, amongst rumours of match-fixing and bribes. We’re not bitter.2

There was predictably a frenzy of tent-pitching, some more efficient than others. In our small corner of the field we created what we liked to call a tent village, a place that fostered an immediate community spirit and kicked off the three-day game of musical camping chairs, which was to become a defining feature of the weekend. The evening was rounded off with a campfire and stargazing. For those city-dwellers of us, the display of shooting stars that had been arranged in our honour was much appreciated. It was sat round the fire that it first dawned on me what an incredible event this was; I was surrounded by people who would not bat an eyelid at a cancer reference, in fact it was welcomed. Everyone who attended had an experience to share; be it as a patient, a family member or a friend. There was no pressure to talk about your story but the option was there and that, in itself, was enormously comforting. I’ve been to many Shine meet ups in London and attended the Escape earlier this year and I was reminded of the power of sharing a common experience, and of the compassion that is seemingly endless within this wonderful Shiny community.


Saturday morning bought bacon and egg sarnies, comparisons of last nights sleep, and certainly my resolution to buy a new airbed that didn’t deflate overnight. The weather was gloriously sunny (I think entirely down to my extreme wet weather preparations) and groups ventured out to enjoy the Dorset surroundings. A waterpark trip had been organised in advance so a large contingency of brave, wet-suited individuals set off to take on the inflatable obstacle course set on a local lake. For those of us who prefer a more sedate pace of life there was the chance to visit the beautiful beaches at Studland or to grab fish and chips by the sea in Swanage. For the Pokemon obsessed in the group apparently there was a gymnasium in Corfe Castle just down the road. This is apparently a big deal.


Later that afternoon Oliver Spencer, our lovely Shine patron, hand-delivered enough BBQ food to feed a small army. Which was then valiantly cooked by various people in relay. It was only then that Emma revealed the big surprise, an ice cream van from one of the sponsors of the event, Insurance With. As the realisation dawned on everyone that this did indeed mean free ice cream the gloves came off…and we queued politely like only the British do. As the sun went down on another wonderful day at camp, the Shine Shot Bar opened up. Cue several people with limited recall of the rest of the evening.



Saturday night bought the first reminder that we were actually camping in the UK. The wind was determined to make our tents into wind tunnels and the rain followed, fortunately only after everyone was safely ensconced in their sleeping bags. I personally used the opportunity to steal the duvet, blankets and most of the pillows to ensure that I slept well. I think we established that I am nothing if not a selfish camper.


Ceinwen’s Canadian pancakes (apparently different from their American counterparts in that they are ‘just better’) were a great incentive to stagger down the field to the marquee on Sunday morning. The Shine camp facilities, which had worked flawlessly all weekend, meant that cups of tea and coffee were free-flowing and those of us who had had images of camping stoves at dawn were pleasantly surprised. I then fell into my typical Sunday routine of eating and resting; it’s just how I roll (quite literally after a pub lunch, Cream Tea back at camp, and another BBQ in the evening). It was lovely to spend some downtime with old and new friends, to get to know partners and children, friends and family. The program of events culminated with Shine Camp’s Got Talent in the evening. I was privileged enough to judge the competition which included performances from our younger campers. We were dazzled by dance moves, super-impressed by singing and blown away by a bike display. My fellow judges and I worked hard to keep it professional but tiny girls dancing in tutus were pretty much the end of us all.



By the third campfire that evening the crowd had thinned out a bit, with many people heading home for work on Monday (ah, the life of a part-timer!), but a solid contingency manned that fire knowing it was our last of camp that year. We had a revealing game of ‘tell me a secret’ and caught the last shooting stars of the weekend.

Monday morning arrived and I began to regret my ‘bring everything you might need in the event of a nuclear disaster’ approach to packing. We dismantled tents, deflated mattresses, retrieved kites from cow fields, and packed away the illuminated rabbit night-lights. We then had a discussion about why I needed four illuminated rabbit night-lights, but that’s for another time. We made our final trips to the portaloo and bid farewell to the donkeys that had become firm friends in spite of their nocturnal singing sessions. We said our goodbyes to the remaining campers, exchanged hugs and phone numbers and as we drove off made promises to meet in that very field next year to do it all again.

It cannot be underestimated how much work goes into organising such a fantastic event. A whole team of people work extremely hard to make sure the weekend is as amazing as it is. I know everyone I spoke to is enormously grateful for all that hard work both in the run up to and during the campout. Particularly a big shout-out to Emma Willis, the one woman camping machine, we salute you.


The biggest Shine Camp yet!


Marshmallows by the fire

Six years ago this summer, we ran our first Shine Camp.  We weren’t even officially registered as a charity but seventeen people came. It was a great time and we decided to do it again (and again). This year, for Shine Camp Number 6, we were lucky enough to get funding through the Aviva Community Matters programme. With the Aviva money burning a hole in our pocket, we got to work planning our biggest and best Shine Camp ever.

Between Friday, 7th August and Monday the 10th, we had more than 140 people join us on a field in Norden Farm.  Walking distance from Corfe Castle, the field is part of a larger campsite which means that there are showers and a lovely camp store nearby (along with a bunch of fun farm animals!).

We started Shine Camp because we like camping, but as it has grown we’ve also found that it’s a fun way to bring our Networks together and for young adults who are living with cancer to hang out in a different type of environment.

It took us AGES to get this photo. But it's (almost) the whole gang.

It took us AGES to get this photo. But it’s (almost) the whole gang.

There are no nurses, white walls or officious receptionists – just a big marquee, a nighttime campfire and, more often than not, a fair amount of Polish vodka (courtesy of our Polish friends Jack and Magda who make the trip down South every year).

This year we had people join us from across the country. For some, it was their first ever Shine event, for others this was their fifth or sixth camp in a row!

A number of our 2015 ‘Escapees’ also joined us for an informal reunion.

Escapees at Camp

A few of our 2015 ‘Escapees’

We try to keep Shine Camp informal, with only a few set activities – one of which is a big dinner on the Saturday night.  This year we had a hog roast and veggie BBQ followed by some mammoth cakes that the lovely Lucy from our Cardiff network drove down to Dorset.


Tired and smelling of woodsmoke, we finished camp on Monday and pretty much started planning Shine Camp 2016 the next day.  As it was our largest camp ever we had a fabulous time and also learned a lot (next year, we’ll bring more pancake mix!).  A huge thank you to everyone who came out, helped out, cleaned dishes, cooked breakfast, pitched tents – and had fun.  Can’t wait ’til next year!

We would like to send a special thank you to our friends at NC Insurance for nominating us for the Aviva fund and to all of those who voted for us in the competition.

Shine Camp 2014!



In early August we held our 5th Shine Camp – it’s taken us this long to recover and write about it!

Shine Camp is a weekend of camping with friends and families in the beautiful Dorset countryside. It gives young adults living with cancer a chance to relax and connect with other people, friends and family members that have similar experiences – and it’s great fun too!

This year we had nearly 100 people at camp and still had plenty of space in our fantastic private field at Norden Farm campsite near Corfe Castle. (Check them out if you’re looking for a great camping location!)

shine camp marqueeOur fantastic marquee, courtesy of Marqco Marquees went up on a slightly grey Friday morning and proved a great shelter from the teeny tiny bit of rain we had on the Friday evening and Saturday morning.  It also looked great at night with the colour changing light show and was the perfect place for everyone to congregate over food and drinks and to hang out for a chat.

The Friday night of Shine camp is always a ‘bring and share’ supper and once everyone has decided where to pitch and put their tents up (with varying degrees of success!) we all relaxed around the marquee.  We tucked into a feast of homemade bread and cakes, salads, quiche and all round proper picnic food! Yummy!

Saturday morning we had some pretty poor weather but the sun eventually came out and we had beautiful weather for the rest of the weekend .  Clever campers packed Wellies and sun-cream!

We went from this....

We went from this….

to this - in one hour!!

to this – in one hour!!

We never really have a schedule for Shine camp – those who come can choose to hang around at the campsite or go off out for the day with friends or family.  The only part we ask people to stick around for is the group meal on Saturday night.  With a fabulous hog roast and veggie BBQ, no one took any persuading!!

hog roastP1090566


We also share breakfast in the mornings if you’re up and about when the bacon and eggs are getting cooked!  This year we had a special Sunday breakfast of Canadian pancakes courtesy of our resident Canadian Ceinwen! (Thanks Cein!)


Jeanette makes the bacon butties!

This year we also had our first ever best dressed tent competition and they all looked great!  The deserving winners were the Hart family whose home-made ‘under the sea’ theme stole the show in our Facebook vote!



A few more of the fabulous tents…..

IMG_0683untitled-2P1090535This year’s Camp was made possible by all of your incredible fundraising over the past year, as well as an incredibly generous anonymous donor (thank you!!!).  We hope you’re able to join us next year for an even bigger and better event!!



Shine Dorset New members Lunch Feb 2013!

Well we had a great start to the new year with a busy new members lunch in Dorset!

There were 15 of us including 6 new members of Shine Dorset and we had a great time chatting and eating!

Shine Dorset Lunch Feb 2013

We find that having the chance to do something normal (going out for lunch!) is a really relaxed and informal way to meet new people and Shine lunches are always popular.

For some new members, this can be the first time since their diagnosis that they have met anyone else with cancer that is anywhere near their age…It can be a really isolating experience, going through treatment and appointments at the hospital surrounded by people older than your parents.  That is where Shine helps….connecting people in a social environment with any type of cancer and at any stage in their diagnosis and treatment, even years afterwards.It’s a time to catch up with friends and make new ones.

The conversation is always varied and this time ranged from the problems with what people expect from you when you have finished treatment to prince Harry and the royal wedding last year!

So why not join us for the next Shine get together, whether you are in Dorset, London, Birmingham or North Tyneside there is a group near you!

Take a look at the website for full details and contacts…

(And for more on managing peoples expectations after treatment, check out our next post!)


Shine Dorset – new members lunch Oct 2012

We had a lovely lunch today at Frankie & Bennys at Castlepoint in Bournemouth – it was great to catch up with some existing Shine members and also meet some new ones!

It was also a great opportunity to talk about our plans for the rest of the year including starting to plan our Christmas party which will be on 15th December (book the date in your diaries now!!)

The feedback on our latest idea to host a weekly, fun exercise class has also been really positive so we are moving on with our plans to do that as soon as we can!   We are hoping to provide a weekly fun, mixed ability dance based exercise class which is for Shine members and their families (saves getting a babysitter!) Having a private class will mean that people will have the chance to meet up and chat to others as well as having the opportunity to exercise in a relaxed environment.

We all know that exercise is good for you, particularly after cancer treatment, but it can be difficult for people who have faced treatment including surgery, chemotherapy and or radiotherapy to have the confidence or ability to join a standard class at their local gym.  By creating a class just for Shine members, we are removing a lot of the body confidence issues faced by many after cancer.

If anyone has any suggestions or ideas for venues or teachers, please get in touch with Emma by emailing her at

Thanks x

Shine Dorset Coffee & Drinks 30th August 2012

We managed a quick coffee and an evening drink this week! Trying to catch people that are busy in the evenings and those working during the day.

The Flirt cafe in Bournemouth triangle is the perfect host for an informal coffee catch up and their home-made cakes are amazing! It was great to meet a new Shine member too.

In the evening we were back in Bournemouth and managed to spot a couple of planes from the air show too, 2 for 1 cocktails went down a treat followed by a visit to the air show theme bar set up in Bournemouth square.

Our social coffee and drinks events are great opportunities for our members to meet up and have a relaxed chat with people that understand their experiences. The value of that is much more than the cost of a few coffees (we bought our own cocktails!!)

We have been talking to people from across the country about starting Shine groups in their areas, we hear from so many people from around the UK who would love to have something similar in their area and we are doing all we can to support these new groups.

It would be great to see enough groups set up across the country so that any young adult diagnosed with any type of cancer has the chance to meet others in their age group to help and support each other.

If you are interested in starting something in your area, please get in touch to find out how we can help!